City to help with inspector's defense in Lofgren case

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenAugust 5, 2010
The city of Aspen will financially support its former building inspector Erik Peltonen who was criminally indicted last month in the fatal carbon monoxide poisonings of a family from Denver.

“While we regret the tragic loss suffered by the Lofgren family, we also believe that criminalizing building inspectors is a major shift in policy that should vigorously be contested by Mr. Peltonen,” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said in a statement to the press Thursday. “Given the novel issues presented in this case, it is important for Mr. Peltonen to obtain expert counsel on his behalf in this matter.” 

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. Also indicted was Brian Pawl, a Pitkin County building plans examiner and field inspector, on the misdemeanor reckless endangerment counts 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. The Lofgrens had won a vacation at the Aspen home through a charity auction down in Denver.

“I have been overwhelmed with the local support I have received,” Peltonen, a 40- year local, said in a prepared statement. “Countless contractors, architects and other building professionals, plus so many friends and acquaintances, have offered words of encouragement, and I really appreciate it.”

Last week, Pitkin County announced it would be offering legal funding to its employee, Pawl. “Pawl is firmly supported by the county as he continues to conduct his professional duties,” a county statement said. County officials also indicated they intend to coordinate Paw's legal defense with Peltonen's.
The Lofgren family

City officials said Thursday that the cost of Peltonen’s defense will be shared with Pitkin County, although “details and numbers have not been decided yet.” Peltonen was a city employee when he inspected the home at 10 Popcorn Lane but he was actually aiding the county, where the house is located. Investigators concluded the source of the gas leak that killed the Lofgrens was caused by a dislodged piece of pipe that was connected to the home's hot water and driveway snowmelt system.

Relatives and friends of the Lofgren family say they were grateful to prosecutors and the grand jury for bringing charges forward.

“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,” they said in a statement. “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.”

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

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