No DNA test for bomber

Killer of 2 denied review of ’91 case; he set off 3 blasts

James Genrich is led into the Mesa County Courthouse by Sgt. Bob Johnson of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in this file photo from Feb. 19, 1992. The Daily Sentinel/Loyd Files Research Library

James Genrich

A man convicted of murder, who maintains he’s innocent in a pair of pipe-bomb killings in Grand Junction in 1991, has been denied grant-funded DNA tests in his case after an investigation by the Colorado Justice Review Project.

James Genrich, 51, who is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole, sent a letter to The Daily Sentinel saying he learned last month from his attorney that the Colorado Attorney General’s office has passed on paying for modern DNA testing of evidence in his case.

Authorities confirmed the substance of Genrich’s letter.

“We have concluded our investigation and see no reason to question the validity of the conviction in this case,” said Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

The Colorado Justice Review Project is a federally funded program operated by the state Attorney General’s office, and their efforts contributed largely to the 2012 exoneration of Robert “Rider” Dewey, the man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned 17 years for the 1994 murder of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in Palisade.

Investigators last year started reviewing Genrich’s case, making multiple trips to Grand Junction, reviewing records, interviewing witnesses and others involved such as former Mesa County District Attorney Steve ErkenBrack.

“With the amount of work that went into this case in the law enforcement community, the grand jury and the trial, I’ve always had a lot of confidence in the verdict,” said ErkenBrack, who convicted Genrich in 1993 after a four-week trial.

Genrich was employed at Two Rivers Convention Center when a pipe bomb exploded in the facility’s parking garage on Valentine’s Day 1991, damaging cars and injuring one person.

Weeks later, Maria Gonzales, 12, was killed while sitting next to her twin sister in a family van when a bomb hidden under the wheel well exploded. One month later, 43-year-old Henry Ruble was killed when he stopped his car to pick up an object in a restaurant parking lot.

Genrich was arrested in February 1992 after a Mesa County grand jury indicted him for the bombings, the culmination of an investigation by the Grand Junction Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Sentinel, in reporting on Genrich’s sentencing on May 12, 1993, said the investigation cost more than $1 million.

The trial was moved from Grand Junction to Greeley after attempts to seat an impartial jury in Mesa County failed.

Genrich was convicted on nine charges, including two counts of murder.

ErkenBrack said the prosecution’s case was largely built on handwritten notes from Genrich referencing anger and “killing strangers,” in addition to markings on the detonated bombs tied to Genrich’s tools.

Genrich still disputes the toolmark evidence.

“My lawyer said they (Justice Review Project) supposedly redid the tool-mark tests and believed them,” Genrich said in his letter to The Sentinel.

It continues, “They would take a pair of wire cutters and make a test cut on a piece of metal and try to match the scratches they made to the scratches on the end of the wire. If they didn’t match, they would make another test cut, up to 50 or more, until they could find a ‘match.’ Using this procedure, I’m sure they could match pretty much any tool to the scratches on the wires. If my tools had, in fact, cut those wires, the very first test cut they made would have matched.”

Despite the state’s rejection, Genrich holds out hope to raise $5,000 for his own DNA testing.

“Any DNA they find on the bomb parts won’t be mine,” he said.

“That is something they won’t be able to argue with,” he said.

ErkenBrack, however, said three different tools recovered from Genrich’s toolbox — wire cutters, strippers and pliers — matched up with cuts on multiple detonated bombs from the 1991 crime scenes.

“I continue to believe justice was done in this case,” he said.


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