No death penalty decision for Thames
Giving no audible response to several questions asked by County Court Judge Gretchen Larson, 39-year-old Douglas Thames Jr. was advised Friday of a possible death sentence if convicted in the 1994 slaying of Palisade resident Jacie Taylor.
Larson set bond in Thames’ case at $2 million, which he can’t post because of his existing prison term.
“As a practical matter bond is irrelevant, but that being said, we think it’s appropriate to set some sort of bond,” Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle told the judge Friday.
Thames appeared before Larson via video conference from the Mesa County Jail. A balding Thames was dressed in a red, jail-issued jumpsuit, an indication he’s being held in maximum security.
Reached for comment after Friday’s hearing, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he’s made no decision on a possible death penalty prosecution against Thames.
Under Colorado law, prosecutors don’t have to declare their intent on the death-penalty question until after a not-guilty plea is made.
Thames is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 1989 murder of Fort Collins resident Susan Doll, who was raped and murdered inside her apartment. Thames was arrested in Mesa County in 1995 in connection with Doll’s killing.
Thames was ordered Friday to have no contact with the parents of Jacie Taylor, neither of whom attended Friday’s hearing.
Larson appointed public defenders on the case and ordered Thames to return next Wednesday before District Judge Thomas Deister for formal filing of charges.
Thames was advised of charges including first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder and first-degree sexual assault against Taylor, who was found June 4, 1994, partially clothed and floating in the bathtub of her Palisade apartment. She had been choked with a dog leash, while several of her fingernails had been torn off in an apparent struggle.
Seven family members or friends of Thames, who have maintained his innocence in Doll’s and Taylor’s slayings, sat in on Friday’s hearing. Thames has refused all media interview requests at the jail, Mesa County Sheriff’s spokesman Heather Benjamin said.
Robert Dewey, 51, served nearly 16 years in prison after he was convicted at trial in October 1996 for Taylor’s slaying. He was exonerated and freed April 30 after new DNA testing of evidence showed no ties between him and the crime scene.
The same renewed testing of evidence showed Thames’ DNA matched a semen stain on a blanket found in Taylor’s apartment, in addition to material scraped from under Taylor’s fingernails, the leash used to strangle her and bars of bathroom soap that had been inserted in her body, according to an arrest affidavit.
Thames wasn’t interviewed in the original 1994 investigation, according to the affidavit, despite the fact he lived at an apartment a few doors down from Taylor’s apartment and had a criminal record.