Meeker man arrested in shooting death

A Meeker man could face a manslaughter charge in connection to the shooting death of another Meeker man last week, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson said Thursday.

Neil James Joy, 30, was arrested Tuesday following an interview with investigators. He is free from the Rio Blanco County Jail after posting a $10,000 bond and is due back in court later this month, Beeson said.

The shooting, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. Aug. 5, resulted in the death of 32-year-old James “Jeb” Berthelson.

The men, who had been drinking, were spotting for elk several miles east of Meeker and had stopped their vehicle at a gate on a dirt road, Beeson said.

Joy told police Berthelson was shooting at a lock on a chain that secured the gate when a bullet ricocheted off a post and hit Berthelson, killing him, according to Beeson.

“The bottom line was that the physical evidence from the investigation and evidence from the autopsy were not consistent with the survivor’s story,” Beeson said.

He said investigators determined there was no lock on the gate. In addition, the autopsy showed that the bullet entered Berthelson’s left rear hip and exited the right side of the front of his body.

Beeson said Joy, after being confronted with the evidence found at the shooting scene and information from the autopsy, changed his story and admitted the firearm was in his hands when it discharged and the bullet struck Berthelson.

Beeson emphasized that Joy hasn’t been formally charged and is presumed innocent.


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