Routt County cold cases
Marie Ann Blee: Gone, but not forgotten
If you have information about any unsolved crime, you can call Routt County Crime Stoppers at 970-870-6226 and remain anonymous. You could earn a cash reward. Tips also can be sent by text message. Text GFTIPS R followed by your tip to 274637 (CRIMES).
■ Routt County Sheriff’s Office
■ Moffat County Sheriff’s Office
■ Hayden Police Department
■ Steamboat Springs Police Department
■ Oak Creek Police Department
Steamboat Springs — The disappearance of 15-year-old Marie Ann Blee is perhaps Routt County’s most famous cold case.
Her missing person poster still can be found on the walls of the Routt, Moffat and Mesa County sheriff’s offices. Marie’s school picture on the poster was taken just weeks before she last was seen Nov. 21, 1979. Her parents Mona and Paul received the picture in the mail after Marie disappeared.
“She was a very happy and rather enthusiastic young lady,” Mona said. “We had just bought her a ski pass at Steamboat for her sophomore year, which she wasn’t ever able to use.”
The Blee family lived in the Meadow Village mobile home park in Hayden when Marie went to a 4-H dance at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig and to a party at the Shadow Mountain Village neighborhood.
Marie last was seen with three men: Stephen Skufca, Max Abel Garcia and Monte Doolin. They all denied being involved in Marie’s disappearance.
There have been several rather strange developments in the case throughout the past 35 years.
Doolin was convicted of telephone harassment for calling the Blees a few days after Marie’s disappearance and demanding a $5,000 ransom. Doolin would tell authorities he actually did not know what happened to Marie.
In 2001, police sat down with Skufca to question him. After two days of interviews, police said they did not learn anything important for the investigation. Skufca, who was considered a suspect in the case, died in 2012 at 51 years old after falling down basement steps. At the time, the Denver Post reported that Skufca was on parole for dealing drugs and harassment. He also was engaged.
In 1999, a task force spent a couple of years following up on Marie’s disappearance. On the task force were members of the FBI, Routt and Moffat County sheriff’s offices and the Hayden and Craig police departments. Suspicious mounds of dirt and a well were some of the areas dug up during their quest to find Marie.
A psychic even was brought in and drove around with the Blees to help identify possible places to search.
Today, the Blees live in Grand Junction. Mona is 81, and Paul is 77.
“At this time, I’m sure that she’s dead, after this long,” Mona said.
Police continue to keep the case open with the hopes of finding out what happened. Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said they have a deputy assigned to the case. When he used to work at the Hayden Police Department, Birch said they made sure their case information was intact.
“We catalogued, reviewed and actually organized every report, every note, every bit of information,” Birch said.
Current Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski said the case remains open.
The Blees said it is comforting knowing that while the case might be cold, police have not forgotten about Marie, who disappeared the day before Thanksgiving.
“It’s kind of a non-holiday,” Mona said. “It’s not really a celebrating kind of day.”
Jack and Jo Morrison: Fighting for their lives
This sort of crime is not supposed to happen in towns like Steamboat Springs, especially to people like Jack and Jo Morrison.
On the evening of March 9, 1999, the couple found themselves fighting for their lives after two masked men entered their house wielding guns and a baseball bat.
It was a Tuesday night, and Jo was making dinner while Jack watched television at their upscale duplex at 1645 Natches Way. The Morrisons saw a sedan circle their driveway, and Jack went to answer the door after hearing a knock.
Jack opened the door, saw two men in ski masks and ran upstairs after being pepper sprayed in the face. One of the guys followed Jack up to a deck, where Jack told police he picked up a wrought-iron table and hit the masked man. Jack then saw the robber had a gun, and he used it to hit Jack over the head. The struggle continued, and at one point, the robber fired a shot into the air.
Jack asked the robber what he wanted, and he repeatedly said that he wanted the safe inside the house. Jack told him they did not have a safe. Jack was not lying.
“The only thing the guy ever said was, ‘Where is your safe,’” said Jo, who moved to Arizona with her husband about a year ago.
The robber continued asking Jack about the safe, and the robber emptied the can of pepper spray into Jack’s face. Once the pepper spray was gone, the robber pulled out a bat and hit Jack on the back of the legs with it.
Meanwhile, Jo was dealing with the second robber.
After a failed attempt at calling 911, Jo saw the second robber in the doorway, grabbed a cordless phone and locked herself in a bathroom. The frustrated robber started shooting at the bathroom door lock.
“I called the police and said, ‘You guys better get out of here,’” Jo said.
The robbers left.
Once police arrived, it took them an hour to get Jo out of the bathroom because the lock had been so badly damaged.
“The police said, ‘We’re taking your husband to the hospital,’ and I said ‘Fine, I’ll be OK,’” Jo said.
At the hospital, doctors put five stitches in Jack’s head. The couple slept at their home the same night.
Police thought the crime was a random act, but they did not have a great description of the suspects other than two, averaged-size men in dark ski masks, who were possibly in their 30s. The car was generically described as a sedan.
“That one was never solved,” Steamboat Police Chief Joel Rae said.
To this day, the Morrisons have quite the story to tell at a party.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Jo said. “We don’t have nightmares about it or anything like that.”
Richard “Dick” Roberts: The missing Hayden mayor
Gayle Roberts thinks she knows what did not happen to her father, Richard “Dick” Roberts, who was serving as the mayor of Hayden when he disappeared nearly 20 years ago.
“I don’t think he ran off,” Gayle said. “I don’t think he committed suicide.”
Roberts was 51 years old when on Feb. 1, 1995, he told the town’s clerk that he would not be attending that week’s town council meeting. Eight days later, he was reported missing. A search ensued in Northwest Colorado, and planes were used to look for his Ford pickup. By chance, a rancher in the Utah desert near the Colorado border found the truck, but there were no signs of Roberts.
“As far as I know, he had not been there before,” Gayle said. “It’s a really unusual place. It’s hard to find. It’s 200 miles from Hayden.”
She said the rancher spotted the truck because sunlight reflected off of it. Gayle said the truck was located in the only area with trees in a small depression. This and other information led Gayle to think that someone had put her father’s truck in the desolate area not expecting it to be found. Someone must know what happened, she said.
“I think someone put his truck where it was, so someone else knows,” said Gayle, who now lives in Seattle.
She has said her father’s home appeared as though he had just left to run an errand. A moldy pot of coffee was found, and his wallet, car keys and .22-caliber rifle were missing.
At the truck in the Utah desert, three footprints were found and all but one set of fingerprints were identified. There was no other evidence to help investigators, including those from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Roberts was about 6 feet tall, 250 pounds with red hair when he disappeared.
Gayle described her father as kind of shy but talkative.
“One of his most enduring and frustrating traits was he would start a story in the middle,” she said.
Roberts grew up in the Craig area before going to work as an equipment operator. Gayle said her dad had an interest in politics, liked being involved in the community and regularly would visit with the town’s old-timers while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.
Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski said that since taking over as chief about a year ago, his department has reviewed the Roberts file to make sure they were familiar with the case if leads surfaced.
“Our sympathies are certainly with the family,” Tuliszewski said. “They’re still looking for closure.”
As the 20th anniversary of the Roberts’ disappearance approaches, the family is hoping people will report any tips, leads or even rumors.
“Deathbed confessions or whatever it may be,” Gayle said.
Richard Leslie: Victim of armed robbery at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
People usually go to Strawberry Park Hot Springs to soak and relax, but one man had other intentions on the night of Jan. 22, 2011.
Just before 11 p.m., the man went inside the ticketing area with a gun and demanded cash from the lone employee still on duty, Richard Leslie, known by hot springs regulars as Les.
After getting between $700 and $800 in cash, the robber forced Leslie to the floor. The robber used pepper spray on Leslie and disabled the office phone before leaving.
A shuttle driver found Leslie but had to drive toward town to get cellphone service and call 911.
While shaken up, Leslie was not seriously injured.
The leads in the case eventually dried up.
The suspect was described as a white man between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall with a slight build. He was wearing a ski mask, a dark-colored, hip-length coat, yellow-and-brown camouflage pants and gloves.
Jeff Fossum: An endless search
For law enforcement officers, an unsolved case can develop into a sort of obsession.
During the summer of 2005, Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae spent his weekends — oftentimes with his family — along the Elk River searching for Steamboat resident Jeffrey Fossum, who was reported missing Feb. 29, 2005, and has yet to be found.
“Weekend after weekend after weekend,” Rae said. “It still bothers me to this day.”
Rae, who was a captain at the time, was not alone in the search. After two months, members of Routt County Search and Rescue had logged more than 3,500 hours hiking, boating, four-wheeling and probing the North Routt County area looking for Fossum.
“It was one of those cases where everyone came together,” Rae said.
The search began after Fossum’s friend reported him missing. That same Sunday, Fossum’s 2002 Toyota Landcruiser was found by a bridge leading to the Hinman Park Campground off Seedhouse Road about 20 miles north of Steamboat.
Fossum, a retired 50-year-old, had last been seen biking a week earlier.
A search dog picked up Fossum’s scent by his truck, but the trail stopped at the bridge, with the spring snow runoff churning below.
“It was raging,” Rae said. “It was almost at its peak at that time.”
Fossum enjoyed the outdoors, but he had not taken any of his camping gear and was not prepared for more than a day hike. Fossum also left behind his two golden retrievers.
That July, about five months after Fossum’s disappearance, a ranch employee found a shoe about 6 or 7 miles downstream from the bridge along the bank of the Elk River. It was identified as Fossum’s.
While there was never any indication of foul play, it still cannot be ruled out, Rae said. Neither can an accident or a suicide.
“The evidence gives some indication in that direction, but we don’t know,” Rae said.
Even after nine years, Rae still finds himself looking for any signs of Fossum in North Routt.
“You think you see something,” Rae said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve done that.”
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