‘No burning issues’ for 2013 grand jury, DA Hautzinger says
A year after securing a murder indictment from Mesa County’s grand jury, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger this week signaled that the investigative body of local residents may not be given much to do in 2013.
“There are no burning issues,” the DA said, when asked during a recent interview about pending grand jury business.
Hautzinger confirmed as of Wednesday, Mesa County had yet to even select members to sit on the county’s grand jury in 2013.
By law, Colorado counties with populations over 100,000 are required to empanel grand juries, whose members commit to be available over the course of a calendar year. That work can be extended up to 18 months under special circumstances.
Grand jury meetings, which exclusively involve evidence presented by the prosecutors, are closed to the public and their deliberations are secret under state law.
Hautzinger in February 2012 told The Daily Sentinel the county’s grand jury was “likely” to be given cases to investigate.
In September, a grand jury returned an indictment against 36-year-old Billy Joe Delacey, charging him with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, possession of sexually exploitative material and misdemeanor theft in connection with the slaying of 26-year-old Luis Oliva, an escort who was beaten to death in August 2011 inside his Fruitvale apartment.
Delacey is slated to appear in court next week for arraignment.
Last year’s grand jury was presented with no other investigations, Hautzinger said.
The DA’s forecast for the 2013 grand jury term comes nearly a full year after the discovery of the skeletal remains of 34-year-old Paige Birgfeld, the Grand Junction mother who disappeared in June 2007 before a pair of hikers stumbled upon her body March 6, 2012, walking in a dried-out Delta County ditch.
While the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department re-classified the case as a homicide investigation, forensic anthropologists have not determined how Birgfeld died.
Authorities have declined comment on repeated public statements from Birgfeld’s father, Frank, calling for the investigation to be removed from Mesa County’s jurisdiction.