Meeker rancher, 88, exonerated in ’69 death

A Mesa County jury Friday night found 88-year-old Meeker sheep rancher Nick Theos not liable on all three claims in a wrongful death lawsuit that was brought against him by the son of Meeker salesman Jim Robinson, who died nearly 40 years ago.

A six-person jury deliberated for approximately three hours, according to Dan Wartell, co-counsel for Theos, who was co-defendant along with the estate of Lois Theos. Lois Theos was the wife of Robinson at the time of his death. She married Nick Theos seven years after
Robinson died, according to her estate’s attorney, Sam Starritt.

Wartell said the verdict was delivered around 9 p.m. Friday, and Nick Theos and the estate of Lois Theos “were completely exonerated” of battery, civil conspiracy to commit battery, and wrongful death. Wartell said he, lead counsel Elizabeth Starrs and Nick Theos were delighted with the verdict after what had been an emotional trial.

“A jury of his peers said he didn’t do anything wrong,” Wartell said.

The possibility of an appeal by the plaintiff remains, but Wartell said, “We think the judge’s rulings were well-rounded, and it will be upheld on appeal.”

Matt Robinson brought the lawsuit and sought $91,000 to $161,000 in economic losses, plus non-economic losses and punitive damages.

The lawsuit claimed Nick and Lois Theos were liable in the death of Jim Robinson, who died Aug. 31, 1969, from thallium intoxication. Thallium is a poisonous element that was used in the 1950s and 1960s to kill a variety of life forms, such as insects, rats and coyotes.

Matt Robinson’s attorney, Keith Killian, said during the opening of the nine-day trial that Nick Theos frequently used thallium to kill coyotes and other predators. Defense attorneys countered during their opening arguments by saying Robinson was selling thallium to Meeker-area ranchers at the time he began showing symptoms of the illness that killed him.

No criminal charges ever were brought in the case.


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