Grand jury hands down indictments in carbon monoxide poisonings that killed family in Aspen

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 23, 2010
A grand jury returned multiple indictments in the case of a family that died from carbon monoxide poisoning in an Aspen area home over Thanksgiving 2008, Real Aspen learned late Friday.

The 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office is planning to charge two or three individuals with criminal conduct in connection to the case, according to sources close to the investigation. Because grand jury proceedings are secret, the indictments could not be immediately confirmed by officials on the record.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin acted surprised when asked about the indictments.

The Lofgren family

“How did you hear about that? … Any indictments handed down can be and almost always will be sealed until they've all been properly served,” he said. “I'm not clear whether it would be appropriate to tell you anything at this point. If in fact there were indictments and if a source [involved in the proceedings] would've disclosed those indictments, that source would be violating a court order.”

One source said he saw one of the indictees walking with law enforcement in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse on Friday evening. He said the indictee had “turned himself in” after learning of the indictment. The indictee was not in handcuffs, the source said, but was on his way to the Pitkin County Jail to be processed. A jailer declined comment. “Call the district attorney,” the jailer said.

The Lofgren family of Denver — Parker Lofgren, 39, Caroline Lofgren, 42, and their children, 10-year-old Owen and 8-year-old Sophie — won a weekend vacation at a Popcorn Lane home just outside of Aspen. The family's friends found their bodies the day after Thanksgiving. When authorities arrived, they detected a high level of carbon monoxide in the Morningstar subdivision home, which is on the way up to Independence Pass.

Pitkin County sheriff's investigators concluded the source of the gas leak was caused by a dislodged piece of pipe that was connected to the home's hot water and driveway snowmelt system. In January 2009, Sheriff Bob Braudis said he didn't believe the tragedy warranted any criminal charges.

The district attorney's office disagreed.

At a press conference last year, District Attorney Martin Beeson announced he was convening a grand jury.

10 Popcorn Lane
Christina Capasso
A grand jury was put in place in July 2009. Because grand juries have unusual powers that allow prosecutors to present evidence from any case they desire, the jury in Aspen issued indictments in other cases — namely alleged sexual assaults involving juveniles — before deciding on the Lofgren case.

The grand jury's session is set to expire July 30.

After the tragedy, lawmakers across the country — Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County included — introduced and overhauled legislation requiring homes to install carbon monoxide detectors, which are inexpensive and similar in look and function to smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous but colorless and odorless gas.

As many as 500 people are killed each year from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

It was not immediately clear whether the indictments included misdemeanors, felonies, or both. Names were not given but the indictees are believed to be involved in the installation and inspection of carbon monoxide detectors. The home where the Lofgren family stayed was built in 2005 and, when the incident occurred, Pitkin County reportedly already had a carbon monoxide detector ordinance in place.

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