Pitkin County comes to defense of indicted building inspector in Lofgren carbon monoxide case

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 28, 2010

Pitkin County is offering to bankroll the defense of Brian Pawl, its building plans examiner and field inspector who a grand jury indicted on four counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment in the deaths of a Denver family.

“Mr. Pawl has been employed by Pitkin County for the past 9 years. He is one of a select group of 'Master Code Professionals' in the country,” read a county statement issued Wednesday. “Pitkin County will be offering to provide for Mr. Pawl’s legal defense. The County anticipates working with the City of Aspen to coordinate the legal defense of its indicted employee, retired Building Inspector, Eric Peltonen.”

The Lofgren family

Last week, a grand jury indicted Peltonen of Basalt and Roaring Fork Heating & Plumbing owner Marlin Brown of Glenwood Springs with four counts of felony criminally negligent homicide, and four counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment in the deaths of Parker Lofgren, 39, Caroline Lofgren, 42, and their children, 10-year-old Owen and 8-year-old Sophie. The grand jury indicted Pawl on the misdemeanor charges only.

The Logren family was found dead in an Aspen area home over Thanksgiving 2008. The deaths were blamed on carbon monoxide — an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas — that leaked into the home.

City of Aspen officials are also considering aiding in the defense of the building inspectors but spokeswoman Sally Spaulding on Thursday evening said she was unaware of any final decisions being made.

Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley on Sunday told Real Aspen, which broke news of the indictments on Friday, that hanging criminal charges on government inspectors is “just absurd.” Owsley called the county's building inspectors “some of the best in the country,” based on his extensive experience with them in both private business and public affairs. He said the DA is “overreaching.”

Relatives and friends of the Lofgren family are supportive of the grand jury's findings.

“The Lofgren, Rittenour and Feuerbach families sincerely thank the grand jury and Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin for their extensive time and tireless efforts over the past year," they said in a press release. "While the filing of criminal charges in the deaths ... will not relieve our families’ sorrow, it will hopefully assist in identifying and exposing some of those responsible for their deaths and holding them fully accountable. As importantly, we hope that these criminal proceedings, as well as the imminent civil proceedings and the ongoing efforts by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, will send a clear message to contractors, building inspectors and also manufacturers of heating equipment to ensure that such senseless carbon monoxide deaths are prevented in the future.”

The county press release reports that Pawl will keep his job as building plans examiner and field inspector: “Pawl is firmly supported by the county as he continues to conduct his professional duties.”

“The events of that November 2008 night were tragic,” Board of County Commissioner Chair George Newman said in the prepared statement. “The Board of County Commissioners extends its deepest sympathies to the Lofgren’s family and friends. We expect a fair and just resolution to this matter.”

Peltonen, Brown and Pawl are due in court Aug. 16.

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