Tag Archives: Saguache news

Naked Escapee Captured

By Kathy Bedell © Saguache Today

UPDATE to the STORY

The escaped inmate was brought into custody at 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28.

An inmate known as James “ Jaime” Stewart who was being held at the Saguache County Jail escaped on Saturday evening. As of Sunday morning, October 27 he was still at-large. According to the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, Stewart was in for violation of parole and has been known to have violent tendencies. Residents are asked to call 719-655-2544 with any information. DO NOT APPROACH the escapee.

Inmate Escapee James “ Jaime” Stewart is still at large as of Oct 27, 2019

The incident initiated the San Luis Valley (SLV) Alert System which issued voice mails, text messages and email  warnings on behalf of the Saguache County Sheriff Office (SCSO) alerting residents with the following message at 7:18 p.m. October 26, 2019:

“Attention Saguache residents: We have an escaped inmate from Saguache County Jail; he escaped within the last 10 minutes. He is wearing nothing. He is 6’1” tall, 230 pounds, brown hair, and blue eyes. He may be violent, so please do not approach. Please turn on all your outside lights, lock your doors and windows, and call 911 if seen. Thank You. Saguache County Sheriff’s Office.”

Nearly two hours later another phone voice message came into Saguache Today:

“There has been a male party who has escaped custody from the Saguache County Jail this evening, October 26 around 7 p.m. He is 6’1” tall, 230 pounds, brown hair, and blue eyes. He left his clothing around the jail, so unknown clothing description now. He has mental issues and may fight law enforcement. Please do not approach. If seen, please call 911 or Saguache County Sheriff’s Office at 719-655-2544. Please keep all doors and windows locked and call and suspicious activity in. Thank You. Saguache County Sheriff’s Office.”

As of this morning’s post (8 a.m.) no word from authorities about whether the escapee had been captured or turned himself in. However, with the temperature reported at 43 degrees in downtown Saguache during the time of the incident, residents pondered on the local social media feeds how far a naked guy could go. And with overnight temperatures in the teens, in addition to a slight trace of snow, all are hopeful to have a peaceful ending to the situation. However, neighbors in Saguache Today and residents throughout the SLV should remain on high alert.

Saguache saw overnight temperatures in the teens with a slight trace of snow.

Of course, once the initial official notification was put into motion, the keyboard commentators – and critics – got busy. And as is now the standard in today’s 21st-century world, residents in this small town of about 500 people, had a wide array of opinions regarding the situation. After all, it was the third jailbreak from Saguache in less than one year.

A prisoner escaped from Saguache County Jail on November 21, 2018 was able to elude deputies for nearly a day. Then on December 20 at 11 p.m. two inmates at the Saguache County Jail escaped at 11 p.m. but were later recaptured by the Monte Vista Police Department and a Saguache County Detention officer.

“He can always walk back in if he gets too cold and try again later since they have an open-door policy,” posted one resident. Another blogger referenced Deputy Barney Fife a TV character from the 1950s comedy program “The Andy Griffin Show,” which chronicled the challenges of wearing the badge in a small town.

However, the reality for 21st-century law enforcement in rural Colorado paints a different picture. Under the constant pressure of budgetary constraints as well as staff recruitment and retainment, Saguache Sheriff Dan Warwick holds the keys to what the fact-finders consider to be the second oldest jail in the entire state, built in 1957. It’s in poor shape and was rated as a “high priority” in 2015 by the Underfunded Courthouse Facility Commission.

And nobody is denying it. Not the residents. Not the deputies. Not Sheriff Warwick. Not even the inmates could deny the facility needs an update. But they can’t get the vote. And if you can’t get the vote, you can’t get the money.

It’s “high priority” for the Saguache County Courthouse and Jail

Even with state officials threatening for years that they will “come in and shut it down,” in addition to Saguache County being listed as a “high priority” by the state, the last ballot initiative to address the jail was voted down by the Saguache County electorate. The November 2016 Ballot Issue 1B would have provided revenue generated from a 1 % sales tax increase to be used in support of the Saguache County Sheriff Office including staff training, and the maintenance and construction of a new jail and justice center. The measure was defeated with 1,486 voters opposed and 1,170 votes cast in favor.  

Three years later, Sheriff Warwick and his staff continue to endure unsafe situations with inmates, as does everyone who uses the courthouse, from staff to the public it services. But as Saturday night’s incident tallies another score in the “escaped inmate” column, the situation has escalated public safety concerns.  

In the short term, all sights are set on capturing the inmate and returning things to safety. In the long run, stay tuned as voters can expect to address the jail/courthouse issue again on the 2020 ballot.

CLICK to Sign Up For SLV Alert Notifications – it’s FREE

That said, most San Luis Valley emergency responders agree that Sheriff Warwick made the best decision on behalf of public safety during the initial moments the community was most at risk during Saturday night’s escape. He understands that seconds count in situations like this. And with the SCSO staff in all-hands-on-deck mode, the professionals who manage the SLV Alert System were able to assist by managing the message to residents – immediately!

SLV Alert has established relationships with other law enforcement agencies in the valley, including the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office. They have established protocols in place. Their scripts contain the vital information relayed directly from law enforcement officials managing the active situation. And this time it worked; it worked very well. SIGN UP TODAY!

Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and Saguache Today.com. She may be reached at info@saguachetoday.com

Moffat Blaze Destroys 3 Homes

By Kathy Bedell, Saguache Today

On Tuesday, Oct. 15 a blaze broke out in the small town of Moffat Colo., in Saguache County. According to a spokesperson from the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) in a phone interview with Saguache Today:

Moffat residents scramble to get RVs and other fuels-for-the-fire out of its direct path as crews battle the blaze set off by an explosion according to eye-witness reports. Photo: Saguache Today/Celeste McGlen

“On 10/15/19 at 4:19 p.m. Colorado State Patrol received report of a structure fire in the Town of Moffat. Baca Fire and Saguache Fire District Units were paged to the scene. Several agencies including Mosca-Hooper, Center Fire, Chaffee Fire as well as State DFPC Engines were dispatched for mutual aid. At this time the fire has been contained however is still smoldering. It is confirmed at least four structures were lost. No injuries have been reported at this time. Fire investigators are on scene however cause of the fire is yet to be determined. State Health Inspectors will be arriving on scene shortly for air quality checks. Per the District Fire Cheif anyone with lung or breathing conditions are advised to stay indoors or leave the area until air quality is determined to be regular. Anyone with issues breathing please do not hesitate to call 911 for medical assistance. ”

As officials comb through the scene for details, community reports from eye-witnesses and social media platforms begin to fill in the blanks.

“A visiting friend and I were headed over to eat at Grammy’s (Kitchen),” Celeste McGlen of Crestone explains referring to the popular eatery located off Highway 17 in Moffat. “We had just put in our order when the electricity went out.” As the restaurant’s owner and guests prepared to remedy that situation, McGlen and her friend set out towards Moffat to see what was happening.

Smoke from Tuesday’s fire in Moffat could be seen all across the San Luis Valley.

“We didn’t get too close, but it was before the fire department had arrived. There was a big scurry of neighbors. At this point the fire was burning the backside of the green building,” stated McGlen.

It’s at this point in the story, and collaborated by several independent sources, that Saguache Today is able to confirm that ground zero for the fire and subsequent explosion began at what is more commonly known as the Crystal Stix building, located at 645 Moffat Way. A well-known entertainer on the local arts scene, Crystal Stix utilizes a unique dance form that involves twirling and balancing two sticks in a rhythmic and creative way, most often to the beat of the music.

As reported by officials, the blaze would eventually destroy four structures, including three homes in all. While there were no reports of injuries, posts about missing pets continue to linger as the smoke settles and everyone hopes for the best for their furry neighbors’ return.

“We could hear the occasion ‘pop’ of what we assumed were propane tanks,” McGlen describing the scene as they were among the first to arrive. This observation also supports several reports that the fire started separately from the fuel tank, but once it made that connection, the acceleration was tremendous and rapid.

Neighbors also sprang into action by removing two big RVs which were in the direct line of the fire, just before two bulldozers arrived to open up an access point to the fenced-ff area for fire crews. Eventually, the first fire truck arrived on the scene and set up a hose to begin dousing the blaze with what McGlen described as “a small squirt,” it was doing “something, but it wasn’t much.”

Later reports indicate that it was a nearby rancher who saved the day, opening up his artisans water wells for crews to replenish their water supplies to battle the blaze. As is the case with many small rural communities, fighting fires becomes rudimentary in towns like Moffat where there are no fire hydrants or central water sources for such incidents. Ironically, the blaze ignited less than a block from the Moffat Fire Department located at 430 Reynolds Avenue.

Scenes from the October 15 fire in Moffat. Photo: Saguache Today/ Celeste McGlen

“This was the third structure fire in the past week,” reported Tina Freel, owner of Grammy’s Kitchen, a popular eatery and central meeting place for community information. While there have been no official reports about either of the fire incidents reported on Sunday, Oct. 13, for residents in the San Luis Valley, common threads from all three incidents are beginning to appear, from people burning trash during a fire ban restriction, to the less likely theory that something more sinister is afoot. As of today, investigators are on scene sorting through the clues.

But for the three families who lost their homes, displacing at least 5 Moffat residents, Freel relayed that efforts were already underway with the American Red Cross, the lead agency for assisting families impacted by the incident.

“The woman from the Red Cross said that she’ll be in touch about what residents can do to help” stated Freel, who will continue to provide some great food and community service to the town they serve. And for that, everyone can be grateful!

A blaze that brought a multi-agency fire-fighting response to the town of Moffat on October destroyed four structures, including three family homes.

Colorado journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, LLC, a media company that publishes SaguacheToday.com and LeadvilleToday.com. She may be reached at info@saguachetoday.com.