Would you believe the accusations of a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record who has been in and out of prison and in trouble with the law since 1982 without corroborating his story? Bent County, Colo., Undersheriff Tandy Hasser would and did when she arrested 68-year-old Fritz Sturges based solely on accusations from an officially identified “habitual felony offender” by the name of David Elmo Henry Jr.
Henry’s rap sheet is so long, it appears he seeks to get arrested for something every time he needs a free meal from a government-sponsored jail cell.
Contrasting Henry is Sturges, the true victim in this case. Sturges, an exemplary citizen with a spotless criminal record, is the type of individual who gives freely of his time and resources to worthwhile causes with no strings attached.
For example, this reporter discovered that in 2011, Sturges made sure, out of his own resources, that a 4-H program designed to train children in horsemanship became a reality. The program ultimately came to fruition because Sturges personally fronted the approximately $5,500 needed for the youth program. In addition, he donated his time and use of his horses and tack valued at over $50,000 for use in the program. Not only did he donate the use of the horses, but he trailered them back and forth from his ranch to the training grounds every day so the children could show the horses at the Baca County Fair and ride in the parade in Springfield. Sturges said: “I wanted to share my love of horses with children who could not afford to own their own horse.” This program was so well-thought-of that the Colorado Horse Council, Baca County 4H, Frontier Bank and Springfield Baptist Chapel cooperatively sponsored the program with Sturges. This is the kind of man Sturges is.
No Evidence? No Problem — In Bent County Anyway!
On April 19, Sturges was arrested on seven counts of criminal solicitation to commit first degree kidnapping and one count of criminal solicitation to commit assault in the first degree. On May 20, District Attorney James R. Bullock filed an information document and changed to seven counts of attempted murder, seven counts of kidnapping and one count of solicitation to commit assault on eight individuals — all without a shred of evidence, apart from the words of proven felon and serial liar Henry, who had been working as an employee of Clay Creek Ranch.
On Feb. 16, 2013, after Henry had lied about an appointment with his parole officer, Sturges took Henry’s keys from him, causing Henry to become disgruntled. On Feb. 24, 2013, an attempted theft of Sturges’ favorite horse, Homer, failed; and the horse was severely injured. Bent County failed to respond to the 911 call and, to this day, has not investigated the attempted theft and injury of the horse. Henry was the key suspect in the attempted theft.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Henry has a long list of aliases such as: Bronc, Nick Heel, Cowboy Henry, Mic Henry, Nick Henry, Dave Hill and Nic Nealy, to name just a few. To show how ridiculous the charges against Sturges actually are, his supposed victims didn’t even know Fritz was allegedly after them until they were notified by Hasser. Also, the eight people Sturges allegedly planned to victimize hadn’t been murdered, kidnapped or assaulted. In fact, Housten Gourley, one of the reported victims, was staying at Sturges’ house on weekends when the accusations were made; and he has never been contacted by Bent County.
In an interview with local investigator Dan Corsentino, one alleged victim, Jami Childers, said: “I think Fritz is a good person. If he gets away from Belinda (Sturges’ girlfriend), I don’t want him to go to jail. He was always good to us.”
Apparently, in Bent County you don’t need to have committed a crime to have your animals injured and your life ruined by false criminal charges; all you need is an accusation from anyone, even a habitual felony offender like Henry. It is important to note at this juncture that a majority of the many crimes Henry has committed involved dishonesty, including but not limited to horse theft, cattle theft, tack theft, burglary and con games.
Sturges has been accused by Henry of digging a hole on his property for the sole purpose of burying his alleged victims, then planning to use lime to quickly decompose their bodies. Henry has to be “in bed” with Hasser in some manner because this reporter easily learned from other ranchers in Bent County that it is common practice for nearly every rancher in the area to dig holes on their property for the disposal of dead livestock to keep down the stench of decay and discourage predators such as coyotes. In fact, it is the recommended, cost-effective practice by myriad farm and ranch-related websites for the disposal of livestock carcasses.
Austin White Lime, the kind that Sturges keeps on hand around the ranch and has been photographed for use as evidence against him, is actually used to control odor and absorb liquid and is a common item readily available at local feed and building supply stores for a variety of agricultural uses. A majority of Colorado ranchers use this product for the same exact reason.
Henry or Hasser or both also have to be “in bed” with Bullock, due to the fact that Bullock is not ignorant enough to prosecute a rancher for a crime that hasn’t been committed and that makes no sense whatsoever. Bullock had firsthand knowledge of the trespassing issues, horse death and injuries; and he received a request for assistance in catching the perpetrator(s) in a meeting on March 7, 2013, with Sturges, Lonye Buck and Belinda Groner.
So Why Was Sturges Arrested And Charged?
According to what this reporter has uncovered, the prime instigator behind Sturges’ arrest appears to be Hasser. There is compelling evidence to show that Hasser has been at odds with Sturges for some time over calls Sturges made to ask Bent County law enforcement to investigate vandalism and horses being killed and injured on his ranch.
Also, according to evidence, Hasser appears to not be averse to abusing her power and falsifying official documents to get what she wants or go after someone she has decided she doesn’t like.
For example, on Dec. 6, 2012, law enforcement officers from Bent and Prowers counties reportedly executed a search warrant at the Prowers County residence of Kim and Alden Piner. The Piners were reportedly accused by Hasser of selling stolen “horse tack,” after she allegedly searched their private Facebook page. After a thorough search of their premises, it turned out that the Piners were completely innocent. Sheriff Jim Faull of Prowers County was later quoted as stating, “… follow up investigations showed that the people in question were totally innocent and the information to obtain the warrant proved to be inaccurate.” The affidavit used to obtain the search warrant was reportedly submitted by Hasser.
In a blog post on lamarco.us entitled “Falsely Accused,” Jan Verhoeff wrote:
When I asked Kim Piner if Tandy Parrish-Hasser (a deputy sheriff officer from Bent County and the officer who had bullishly pushed the warrant through various levels of the judicial system prior to arrival at the Piner home) was on hand from the beginning, she said, “Oh yea, in a big, hateful-smug kind of way. If you were here I would show you the warrant, she lied about the vehicles that we own to make them match the description of the vehicles seen on the property. Prowers County Deputies said that they were washing their hands of this whole case, because of all the mis-information.”
Groner, Sturges’ partner, told reporters at the US~Observer of other instances wherein Hasser lied about facts in Sturges’ case. For example, the hole in question was originally estimated to be about 7 feet by 7.5 feet. That was later changed on the return search warrant, allegedly by Hasser, to be about 12 feet by 15 feet, reportedly in order to accommodate Sturges’ victims after he killed them. It’s obvious why Hasser would change the size of the hole, and it’s also very clear to this writer why she would fail to mention that Sturges has many other holes in the area where he has buried dead livestock and deceased pets in the past.
Groner told the US~Observer of DNA evidence found on one of her injured horses that died on Nov. 8, 2012, that could have incriminated one of Hasser’s friends and how that evidence was reported lost by Bent County Deputy Sam Fief in a report amended in February 2013, after Hasser repeatedly claimed it was at the CBI. Groner said she contacted CBI, and they advised no evidence was ever received.
How Does Law Enforcement Just ‘Lose’ Evidence?
So how does a sheriff’s deputy do these kinds of things and still keep her job? The answer may lie with Bent County Sheriff David R. Encinias. The following is taken directly from another lamarco.us article titled, “Bent County Sheriff Gone Rogue?”:
Law Abiding Citizens in the county feel like they’ve been targeted by specific officers in the department, for no reason. As well they should! From all appearances, the officers have chosen to focus on harassing law abiding citizens instead of doing the work necessary to put a criminal behind bars. WHY are they protecting a man who shows every indication of having emotional issues, if not dangerous insanity issues, by tormenting and harassing law abiding citizens?
The favored man in question here is another felon, named Albert Kirk Hornung.
In a companion article, the lamarco.us writer recounts the story of Ray and Penny Gonzales, who were allegedly harassed by Hornung. In the Gonzales’ story, Hornung is allowed to possess a gun and fire it regularly, sometimes toward the Gonzales’ residence without any negative consequences from Bent County law enforcement. However, when the Gonzales’ complained about what their neighbor Hornung was doing, the Bent County Deputies ultimately turned the tables on them and made Hornung the victim and Ray Gonzales the perpetrator — very much like in the Sturges story.
Why would sheriff’s deputies protect felons at the expense of law-abiding citizens, and why was a felon allowed to possess a firearm and discharge it continually in order to harass anyone? Perhaps Encinias can answer these questions.
Getting back to the false charges against Sturges, pushing this travesty of justice forward against all reason is Bullock.
Giving Bullock the benefit of doubt, on Jan. 20, the US~Observer contacted Bullock, telling him that after a thorough investigation, we found Sturges to be completely innocent of the charges against him and that the accusations came solely from a “factually dishonest, conniving, career criminal” with no corroborating evidence. At a hearing on Jan. 31, Bullock had an opportunity to drop these ludicrous charges against Sturges, but he did not and has not as of the writing of this article. Bullock also reportedly did not, as required by law, forward our letter to Sturges’ attorney.
The false charges against Sturges are so insane that a conspiracy of some nature is nearly a given. Apart from the false accusations of a career criminal, Bullock and company are relying on irrelevant circumstantial evidence in the form of immaterial statements of previous employees, Sturges’ ex-wife and neighbors who have been at odds with Sturges over horses of theirs that they reportedly owed room and board on. Again, they knew nothing of any alleged threat until Hasser informed them of one (that factually didn’t exist).
This reporter interviewed a prominent law enforcement official from a county adjoining Bent County. He called the Sturges case “the most botched up nonsense that I have seen in my career… incredibly sloppy work” and said that if he were Bullock, he would “want to end this thing as fast as I could possibly end it.”
So why doesn’t Bullock end it by dropping the ludicrous false charges leveled against Sturges? Perhaps he is bucking for a State investigation like that of his counterpart Frank Ruybalid in Las Animas and Huerfano counties, for ethics violations in the mishandling of criminal cases by him, his prosecutors and other staff. Whatever the case may be (and rest assured, we will find out), one fact we have determined without question is that Henry, Bullock and Hasser are tied at the hip.
Sturges’s trial is currently scheduled for March 24 at the Bent County Courthouse, and he is represented by attorney Karl S. Tameler.
Anyone who has information regarding corruption or unethical actions committed by Bullock, Henry, Hasser, Encinias or Marion Summers (formerly Marion Sturges, the ex-wife of Fritz Sturges) is asked to contact Lorne Dey at email@example.com. Witnesses can also call 541-474-7885. Your name and contact information will be completely confidential.