Passport found in Dumpster
By John Colson
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Murder suspect Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, 46, was released from a Grand Junction Hospital on March 4 and taken to Garfield County Jail, according to a press release from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Navarrete-Portillo was transferred from Valley View Hospital to an unidentified Grand Junction hospital on Feb. 16, after he was involved in an automobile accident on Highway 133 and later told law enforcement officers he had killed his wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya, 30, earlier in the day.
Navarrete-Portillo appeared before a Garfield County district judge for advisement at 3:30 p.m. on March 4 and is being held without bond.
Navarrete-Portillo faces charges of first-degree murder and domestic violence for his alleged role in the death of his wife, whose body was found in an apartment on Cooper Place.
Local and state law enforcement authorities have been tight-lipped concerning details of the investigation and the case against Navarrete-Portillo.
What is known is Navarrete-Portillo’s arrest and subsequent hospital stay has cost the town of Carbondale about $9,200, according to Town Manager Jay Harrington. In an e-mail exchange with a reporter on Wednesday, Harrington stated “the vast majority of the costs (reflected in the $9,200 in bills) have been with the private security” firm that guarded Navarrete-Portillo at the hospital around the clock since his arrest.
Carbondale Police Chief Schilling, in a follow-up e-mail, wrote that the bill for cleaning up the apartment was paid by the landlord before the apartment was released back to the owner and the occupants.
Schilling explained that in addition to approximately $8,800 in primarily security costs, the town also is on the hook for food bills estimated by Schilling to be “between $300 and $400,” as well as the cost of plywood for boarding up the murder scene and “some overtime” that has yet to be calculated.
Authorities learned of the killing when the suspect, while being airlifted to Grand Junction for treatment of his injuries on Feb. 16, told the flight crew that he had killed his wife earlier that day and where her body could be found, in an apartment on Cooper Place.
Carbondale police did not learn of the suspect’s statement until that afternoon, and located the victim’s body during a search of the area that began at around 2 p.m.
The investigation is being led by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, in cooperation with Carbondale police, the U.S. Homeland Security Administration and other agencies.
Authorities did not report the victim’s name until Feb. 19, and the suspect’s name was not released until Feb. 24.
Police acknowledged on Feb. 27 that one possibly key item of identification, the suspect’s passport, was found in a Dumpster on Feb. 25, nine days after the murder and nearly that long after authorities reportedly had investigated and cleared the Cooper Place apartment where the murder took place.
According to a source familiar with some of the events following the murder, but who asked not to be identified, the passport was found in the pocket of a sweatshirt, apparently by an unknown man who was “Dumpster diving” at the ET Plaza industrial park on Feb. 25 at about 6 p.m.
The sweatshirt reportedly was part of a large bundle of material, some of it soaked in blood, that was cleaned out of the apartment by a painting contractor, either on Feb. 25 or a day or two before then, according to the informed source.
Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling declined to comment on the finding of the passport, referring a reporter to CBI information officer Susan Medina.
Medina, in an e-mail to a reporter, confirmed that the CBI was “aware that personal property was discovered in a dumpster following the release of the residence back to the property owner.”
Medina also reported that CBI crime-scene technicians were in Carbondale on Feb. 16 “to process the crime scene and collect evidence pertinent to the case.”
She did not directly answer a question about how the crime scene technicians missed the sweatshirt with the passport, but stated, “The CBI is confident of the numerous items of evidence collected at the scene of the crime and the significance of the homicide investigation.”
– Lynn Burton contributed to this report.