How suspect outsmarted GPS device is a mystery

Roughly 25 people are tracked at a given time with Global Positioning System ankle monitors overseen by Mesa County Criminal Justice Services.

Another hundred or so people — offenders or defendants free on bond awaiting trial — are monitored locally with the same technology by other criminal justice agencies.

One high-profile misstep last week has the technology under scrutiny in Mesa County, however.

Law enforcement and specialists through Friday had not determined how 33-year-old Dartanin Mitchell, a fugitive under investigation in an infant’s death and a suspect in two burglaries at the Mesa County Workforce Center, managed to escape a GPS ankle monitor without attracting the attention of authorities.

Mitchell failed to appear in court Sept. 26. When Criminal Justice Services staff went looking for him that same night at his home, they found his ankle monitor sitting at the front door, with no apparent damage to the unit.

Staff notes indicate the door had been left open, according to one county official.

“It was almost like he set it there for us to find,” said Joel Bishop, program manager with Criminal Justice Services.

The monitors are designed to alert Criminal Justice Services staff if someone tampers with them, such as trying to cut a plastic band wrapping around the ankle.

“We did not receive a tampering alert, and we don’t know how he could have done this without triggering an alert,” Bishop said. “I’ve never seen it happen before.”

Bishop said as of Friday, after consultation with the unit’s manufacturer, they had not determined if the incident was mechanical failure, or if Mitchell somehow deactivated or bypassed the tampering alarm. Technicians determined the unit as a whole was otherwise in working order, he said.

Criminal Justice Services staff spent much of last week testing tamper alarms for all current GPS-monitored clients in Mesa County, Bishop said. The units are made by Boulder-based BI Inc., and were purchased by Mesa County at a cost of roughly of $1,500 per unit, he said. The county has contracted with the company off and on for roughly the past decade.

“I’m comfortable enough to say we aren’t changing companies,” Bishop said.

Mitchell, meanwhile, remains at-large and is wanted on two arrest warrants.

Mitchell, a former employee of Hilltop Community Resources, is accused of burglarizing a Hilltop facility housed inside the Workforce Center around midnight Sept. 24 and stealing a van owned by the organization.

Arrest warrants were obtained Sept. 26 for the burglary and for failing to appear in court that same day on charges relating to another burglary June 3 at the same building.

District Judge Richard Gurley on July 28 reduced Mitchell’s bond from $110,000 to $15,000. Mitchell posted the lowered bond Aug. 16 and was fitted with a GPS monitor that day.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told a judge in June that Mitchell was the prime suspect in the death of his infant son, Lucius Lee Mitchell, although prosecutors did not object to the July 28 bond reduction.

Hautzinger said Friday he is waiting for a ruling on cause and manner of death from the Mesa County Coroner’s office, before making a charging decision.


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