Sister: Baxter was thoughtful, kind
Police investigating death of Steamboat woman whose body was found Tuesday
Steamboat Springs — Bonnie Baxter arrived in Steamboat Springs almost 30 years ago with a college degree that she never used and a deep love for her new home that she never lost.
The San Diego State University graduate cleaned houses and movie theaters and waitressed for a living, a career path that she thought was worth the opportunity to live in a ski town, her sister Diane Granich said Wednesday. “She thought it was a magical place,” Granich said.
Baxter, 51, traveled a few times with her former companion, Michael McIntosh, and their children, Jill and Rance, but she never thought twice about living anywhere else, Granich said. Baxter and McIntosh split seven years ago, and for the past five years Baxter and Granich lived together in West Acres, a Steamboat trailer park.
“She’s like a homing pigeon,” Granich said. “She always came back to this place.”
Baxter did not come home Monday night. On Tuesday, her body was found near her home in West Steamboat. Steamboat Springs police are investigating how she died.
Granich last heard from her sister at about 5:30 p.m. Monday, when Baxter called from Bud Werner Memorial Library to ask Granich if she wanted any books. Granich said that was typical for her sister Baxter was always thinking of others.
When Baxter still had not returned home by midnight, Granich said she informed police.
Jim Bolten, who rented a furnished room from Baxter, discovered Baxter’s body at about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday in the West Acres storage area, not far from the trailer where he, Granich and Baxter lived.
Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said Wednesday that Bolten called 911 with his discovery. Officers on the scene found Baxter’s body in what appeared to be a large carport, Fiebing said.
“It was fairly obvious that she had passed away sometime prior to that,” he said.
An autopsy is scheduled today to help determine the cause of death.
Fiebing said officers canvassed the area between the library and the carport, in likely areas such as ditches and roadsides, for clues that might lead to Baxter’s cause of death.
“You make sure that nothing happened between point A and point B,” Fiebing said. “We will be doing interviews to try to trace her last steps from the library to where she was found to make sure there was no foul play involved.”
Some injuries were apparent on Baxter’s body, but police cannot yet determine if they were caused by a fall or some other means, he said.
Police found no weapons at the scene and discovered no suicide notes, he added.
“There will be a considerable amount of work done to make sure that we cover all the bases so we know nothing bad did happen,” Fiebing said.
Sub-freezing temperatures on Monday night may have been a factor, he said.
Because no one witnessed Baxter’s death, Fiebing said, it will take a considerable investigation to determine if she died of natural causes. “It’s much different than a heart attack where we pretty much know what went on, and in this situation, nobody did see it,” he said.
Steamboat Springs Transportation Director George Krawzoff said he and his staff worked with police Wednesday to search buses for any evidence that might point to the cause of Baxter’s death. Buses are equipped with video cameras, but tapes must be pulled quickly and with reason, he said. “Enough time elapsed that even if she had ridden the bus, we would have already rewound the tape,” he said.
Krawzoff said many longtime bus drivers knew Baxter because she was a frequent rider, but the bus drivers on duty Monday night were new hires. “There was no reason for any of them to identify her,” he said. “We’re a dead end.”
Fiebing said the hospital and Alpine Taxi had also been contacted for potential leads.
Detective Ross Kelly is heading the investigation into her death. “He’ll be asking those tough questions to everyone who knew her to make sure that we know that we’ve done everything possible to ensure that if something did happen, we take appropriate action,” Fiebing said.
Granich said her sister was a warm and inviting person who opened her home to friends and strangers.
“She believed the best in people,” Granich said.
“This place was a shelter she offered to anyone regardless of who they were or if she knew them.”
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