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Sunday, January 18, 2009

[CO] 1 Year since the unsolved death of Deputy Hargrove's wife, Julia

...After reviewing the investigative findings, District Attorney Bill Thiebaut ruled that neither Hargrove nor anyone else would face criminal charges for Mrs. Hargrove's death. Eight months after Mrs. Hargrove died, Thiebaut determined that the cause of the head injury that killed her could not be identified, therefore no proof exists that any crime was committed...

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Possibilities cited in death mystery
The Pueblo Chieftain
By Patrick Malone
January 17, 2009
[Excerpts] One year ago this week Julia Hargrove died unexpectedly at age 30, leaving behind her husband of 11 years, their two sons (ages 10 and 6) and an impregnable riddle: What caused her fatal head injury? Countless hours of investigation by the 10th Judicial District's critical incident team generated hundreds of pages of investigative reports. None pinpointed the source of the fatal blow, but investigators identified a handful of possible explanations, including the involvement of her husband, sheriff's Deputy Michael Hargrove, 33. The weight of the investigation came down on Hargrove, who was questioned several times, volunteered for a polygraph examination and re-enacted his final interactions with his wife, both alive and dead, on camera for investigators without ever asking to be represented by an attorney. After reviewing the investigative findings, District Attorney Bill Thiebaut ruled that neither Hargrove nor anyone else would face criminal charges for Mrs. Hargrove's death. Eight months after Mrs. Hargrove died, Thiebaut determined that the cause of the head injury that killed her could not be identified, therefore no proof exists that any crime was committed. Thiebaut said the case remains open and would be revisited if new information surfaces. Hargrove has since lost his job at the Pueblo County Sheriff's Department, but not because of his wife's death, according to Sheriff Kirk Taylor. Rather, Hargrove parted ways recently with the department as a consequence of his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in October. Taylor would not say whether Hargrove resigned or was fired. Attempts failed to reach Hargrove at the phone numbers listed in the critical incident team documents... On the morning of Jan. 15, 2008, Hargrove awoke to find his wife unconscious at the foot of their bed. She was unresponsive and never awoke. Hargrove told investigators that he believed his wife had asphyxiated on her own vomit, having been intoxicated the night before from a belated Christmas party at Showtime, the Pueblo bar where she was employed as a waitress... But when autopsy results revealed that Mrs. Hargrove had died from a brain hemorrhage caused by a blow to the head, the investigation changed directions. From that moment through this one, nobody has been able to discern how she met the blow that killed her. "The cause of this tragic death is clearly blunt-force trauma to the head," said Pueblo County Coroner James Kramer. "Determining the mechanism by which this occurred is dependent upon law enforcement, but the medical cause of death is clearly identified." Certain facts about the night leading up to Mrs. Hargrove's demise are not mysterious, or even in dispute. For instance, she was excited to attend the Christmas party at Showtime, and her husband was not. He said so to detectives. He disliked the crowd the bar attracted, and told his wife he only planned to stay for an hour... She'd begun drinking more, but not necessarily because of the job... "My mom's a drunk," Hargrove told detectives. "That's why I hated (Mrs. Hargrove) when she becomes a drunk because it reminded me of my mother"... Witnesses [at the party] observed Hargrove's dour demeanor that suggested he didn't want to be there. His wife was seen crying soon after he left, around 10 p.m. She stayed until 1:45 a.m. and caught a ride home to Pueblo West with one of the bar's bouncers, Gary Dionese, 42. Mrs. Hargrove arrived home around 2:30 a.m., and was dead three hours later, when her husband reported that he'd found her unresponsive on the floor... But in the end, through the process of elimination, just five possible explanations remained... [Full article here]

Team is formed to probe its own
Critical incident group looks into law enforcement problems.

The Pueblo Chieftain
By Patrick Malone
January 17, 2009
[Excerpts] Twelve turns of the calendar and Pueblo County's version of all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't assemble the puzzle of Julia Hargrove's mysterious death. But it wasn't because they didn't try. An army of investigators spent countless hours interviewing and re-inter-viewing a sea of witnesses and two suspects to generate hundreds of pages of investigative reports. The 10th Judicial District critical incident team has probed four cases since its implementation three years ago. When someone affiliated with a local law enforcement agency is possibly involved in a serious incident, such as a death, other area agencies step in and lead the investigation. The concept aimed to bring objectivity to the process of investigating members of law enforcement while making the probes more transparent to citizens. When an investigation (such as last year's into Mrs. Hargrove's death) is completed, it's forwarded to the district attorney for a possible supplementary investigation and, ultimately, a ruling from the chief prosecutor first on whether a crime has been committed and next whether someone will face criminal charges... "When I came into office it was clear to me that a perception existed in our community that there was 'blue-on-blue' investigation," said District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, who took office in January 2005. "If an incident occurred with the police department, the police department would investigate its own. How could they legitimately investigate their own? "I believe there was a perception in the community that one agency investigating itself really amounted to no investigation at all. The public trust is very important to law enforcement and to all of us engaged in protecting the community. If they know we're doing the right thing, we can better do our jobs of keeping people protected"... Sheriff Kirk Taylor believes the investigation of Mrs. Hargrove's death proved that even law officers are not exempt from scrutiny. Taylor noted the lengths to which investigators went to try to elicit incriminating statements from Mrs. Hargrove's husband, Deputy Michael Hargrove. Those steps included administering a polygraph to the deputy and convincing one of Mrs. Hargrove's friends to befriend the widower and wear a wire in case he made any incriminating remarks during conversations he perceived to be private. He did not incriminate himself during those recorded visits. Another zealous bit of investigation was hiring well-known expert Steven A. Rhoads to interview Hargrove and review the rest of the investigation to generate an impression... [Charlene] Graham [chief of the investigation bureau at the sheriff's department] said despite some inroads, law enforcement in Pueblo County still has to get its message across that one badge doesn't cover for another. "We have no problem looking at other officers as suspects," she said. "If we've got somebody who shouldn't be among us, we have to address it or it discredits all of us." [Full article here]
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