Looking for clues, and help
Every week in Denver, officials with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation wish they could get more staff members into the Grand Junction field office.
“We talk about it here every week, the problems a lack of resources in Grand Junction creates,” CBI spokesman Lance Clem said. “It is sparse. It’s becoming our own crisis for us.”
It’s not that crime is worse on the Western Slope than other areas, said David Linnertz, director of the Grand Junction office. It’s that his office is being asked for help more frequently as the bureau and area law enforcement agencies develop closer bonds.
The CBI has a greater presence on the Western Slope after the state built a $14 million, 38,000-square-foot building last year near Grand Junction Regional Airport. It was designed as a Western Slope hub for the bureau and to be staffed with the help`of local law enforcement agencies.
The CBI still maintains a substation in Montrose.
The new Grand Junction facility is loaded with the latest technology and laboratory equipment, as law enforcement agencies are bringing in more evidence to be examined, Clem said.
The facility has a 15-member staff, compared to 69 in the Pueblo office. But the bureau’s Grand Junction agents and the services steadily are being used more often on the Western Slope.
“I can tell you since May we’ve been pretty hammered,” Linnertz said. “We’re pretty busy all day.”
The bureau has been called upon for help with recent high-profile investigations.
The Montrose Police Department called in the bureau for an officer-involved shooting in Montrose the night of July 25, when Sgt. David Kinterknecht was killed and officers Larry Witte and Rodney Ragsdale were wounded.
In the following days, a CBI agent was called to investigate a homicide in Hinsdale County.
Earlier in July, agents were called to Rangely to investigate the slaying of a man who had been killed with a hatchet.
In mid-June, five CBI agents were dispatched to an orchard near Glenwood Springs after body parts were found in a bag. Agents helped with door-to-door interviews of neighbors and possible witnesses in what was a sprawling crime scene.
The bureau’s investigators increasingly have helped smaller police departments that are strapped for officers. Now, larger law enforcement agencies on the Western Slope are requesting help more frequently at the onset of major investigations such as homicides or complex crime rings.
The CBI housed the Grand Junction Police Department cold case team while it combed through evidence to identify and arrest 64-year-old Jerry Nemnich on suspicion he committed the 1975 murders of Linda Benson and her daughter, Kelley.
At the new CBI building, volunteers work the front desk, duties that CBI staff members previously juggled along with regular duties. Using volunteers to staff the front desk is a first for the organization, Linnertz said.
“In tight budget times, you need to do things like that,” he said.
Part of Linnertz’s job is to prioritize cases, something that largely is decided on when the next court date in a case is scheduled. Plus, he keeps an eye out for a case’s statute of limitations.
Other prioritized cases include homicides and sex assaults.
“I have to look at the personality of a case. This is a small community. Everybody knows what happened. Obviously discovery dates and court dates have to take precedent,” he said.