DA in Coors kidnapping case dies

Ron Hardesty

Ron Hardesty, whose first case as a district attorney was to prosecute the killer in one of the most sensational murders of the day, died Monday in Grand Junction.

Hardesty, a Kansas native who flew Hellcat fighters off the deck of the USS Yorktown in the Pacific, battled organized crime in Jefferson County, and presided for two decades with the sobriquet, “The Jolly Judge,” was 88.

Services are to be announced.

Hardesty served as a senior judge for 10 years on the West Slope after he retired from the bench in 1984.

In 1960, headlines focused on Golden, where the head of the Coors Brewing Co., Adolph Coors, had disappeared in what became evident as a botched kidnapping.

An international manhunt resulted in the capture of Joseph Corbett Jr. in Vancouver.

Authorities returned Corbett to Golden, where the 39-year-old Hardesty, who by then had worked two years for the FBI, was preparing to take on not only his first case, but something akin to the O.J. Simpson trial of its day.

“Ron was very calm and very much into it,” Hardesty’s wife, Myrtsie, said at their Grand Junction home. “He liked to take on the challenge.”

Corbett was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 1978. He committed suicide in Denver in 2009.

Hardesty, meanwhile, served for four years as district attorney, at one point hauling organized crime figures into court and prompting a headline declaring “Dist. Atty. Hardesty Plunges into Underworld.”

After one term, he ran for district judge and remained on the bench for 20 years.

His genial demeanor and laugh earned him his nickname and he dubbed the boat he used on Lake Powell and in Alaska, “The Jolly Judge,” Myrtsie said.

Hardesty was an avid angler, hunter and golfer, who once pocketed a golf ball he found in the water while fishing.

The following day, he used the same ball for a hole-in-one, said his daughter, Brenda Hardesty of Fruita.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Hardesty is survived by a son, Jon, of Brighton.


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