Paonia man pleads not guilty to 1981 murder

A Paonia man has pleaded not guilty to killing a miner who disappeared in 1981 while participating in a national protest over cuts in black lung disease benefits.

Christopher Sorensen, 57, entered his plea to a single count of first-degree murder at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing on Tuesday. A Jefferson County District Court judge bound Sorensen over for trial and set his bond at $100,000, according to Dave Dechant, an investigator with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Sorensen is accused of shooting to death 29-year-old Anthony Yanish, also of Paonia. A jogger found Yanish’s body in unincorporated Jefferson County near the Coors plant.

Authorities have said the two men were acquaintances at the time.

Sorensen was arrested in Grand Junction last month.

Investigators say Yanish was employed as a coal miner at the Hawk’s Nest Mine in Somerset and was off for a few days in March 1981 because of a work stoppage protesting black lung disease.

He and a friend spent March 9 in Paonia and Glenwood Springs before his friend ran out of money and returned to Paonia.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department received a tip this year that renewed the investigation.

A trial date for Sorensen has not been set.


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