Judge’s absence delays murder case hearing
A four-hour preliminary hearing scheduled Friday for the suspect in the 1994 murder of Jacie Taylor was delayed because of a medical emergency involving the judge handling the case.
District Judge Richard Gurley is expected “back to work healthy and soon” after an unspecified medical event, Chief District Judge David Bottger told attorneys Friday morning.
Bottger filled in for Gurley, rescheduling the preliminary hearing for 40-year-old Douglas Thames on May 23. Bottger didn’t elaborate on his counterpart’s health.
The preliminary hearing in Thames’ case will mark the first courtroom testimony against the man who authorities now believe raped and murdered Taylor, 19, in 1994 at her Palisade apartment.
Thames, who is already serving life in prison without parole for the 1989 rape and murder of Fort Collins resident Susan Doll, was formally charged last April with first-degree murder, felony murder and first-degree sexual assault.
Preliminary hearings allow prosecutors to present a minimal amount of evidence while a judge rules on whether that evidence supports the crimes charged.
Thames was charged shortly before the April 2012 exoneration of Robert Dewey, 52, who was freed after 18 years after a 1996 trial conviction in Mesa County.
The DNA that freed Dewey also implicated Thames, including a semen stain on a blanket to which Thames and all his paternal male relatives couldn’t be excluded as contributors, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The affidavit said 99.9 percent of all Caucasians could be ruled out.
Testing revealed similar statistical probabilities of Thames’s DNA being present on soap that was found inside Taylor’s body, as well as material found underneath Taylor’s fingernails.
Interviewed in prison in February 2012, Thames denied knowing or ever meeting Taylor but acknowledged a former girlfriend of his knew her, the affidavit said.
Investigators last year learned that Thames in 1994 was living at 870 Innes Court, Unit 3, in Palisade, which is several hundred feet from Taylor’s apartment. Thames was never contacted by authorities in the original investigation of Taylor’s murder.