UPDATE: Bail set at $500,000 in Cortez murder case

Monday, July 24, 2017 5:05 PM
Cortez police officers take Jeremiah Damron into custody Thursday morning on North Sligo Street at East Main Street in Cortez.
Cortez police and Montezuma County sheriff deputies stopped a car on North Sligo Street and took Jeremiah Damron into custody on Thursday.

Jeremiah Damron is being held in the Montezuma County jail on $500,000 bail and a warrant for first-degree murder after his mother’s body was found beaten and burned Thursday in his backyard south of Cortez.

Damron appeared in Montezuma County District Court for an advisement hearing on Monday. Charges will be filed at 10 a.m. Friday.

A first-degree murder charge carries a minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum sentence of death.

Defense attorney Justin Bogan said that Damron suffers from mental health issues and will undergo a mental competency evaluation in the next week at the Colorado Mental Health Institutes at Pueblo.

Prosecutor Will Furse, the 22nd Judicial District attorney, argued the high bail was necessary because Damron would pose “a significant danger to the community” if released. He cited testimony from relatives and acquaintances who said Damron had talked about killing members of his family, including his mother, in the days before her death. He also said law enforcement officials believe Damron might have been on his way to “commit more violence” when he was arrested Thursday. Damron did not have a previous criminal record, Furse said, but the crime for which he was arrested was unusually violent.

“The defendant’s mother was found in a state which, frankly, I have never seen before,” Furse said.

He said evidence suggested Kristie Damron was severely beaten with a folding chair and set on fire with an accelerant.

An autopsy was scheduled for Monday, but Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers had not released an official cause of death as of Monday afternoon.

Damron, 36, was arrested on North Sligo Street by Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin and two Cortez police officers about 10:25 a.m., according to Nowlin. He said both law enforcement agencies had responded to a report of a homicide at Damron’s mobile home in the 7000 block of County Road 21.75, near County Road G, at 10 a.m. The body of Kristie Damron, 62, was found in his backyard that morning. Nowlin said investigators believe the death occurred between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Montezuma County deputies had confronted Damron the night before the arrest.

Three deputies – Xavier Brito, Bryan Hill and Andrew Ghere – contacted Damron just after 5 p.m. Wednesday in response to a report of domestic violence and assault. According to the incident report, filed by Ghere, Damron’s wife claimed he had slapped her in the face multiple times and punched her in the neck. He reportedly behaved aggressively toward the deputies when they arrived at his house, but Nowlin said they were able to “de-escalate the situation” and remove Damron’s wife and son.

The report said Damron refused to leave his residence and threatened numerous times to kill the deputies. Deputies reported seeing an elderly woman looking out the door from behind Damron at one point, the report said.

Damron’s wife reportedly said he had multiple weapons on his property and was good at long-range shooting. As Damron shouted threats from the house, deputies took cover with their guns drawn, the report said. Patrol Lt. Bryce Queen then advised the three deputies on the scene to leave because of “unsafe conditions,” according to Ghere’s report.

According to the report, Brito slowly backed his vehicle out of the driveway. Ghere also backed out the driveway, while Hill walked alongside his vehicle with his AR-15 rifle pointed toward Damron’s door. Ghere and Hill then returned to the roadside about 500 yards away, where medics were checking on Damron’s wife and son. Ghere reported that he cleared the roadside area because they might be in range from a shot fired from Damron’s mobile home. The deputies and Damron’s wife and son then went to the sheriff’s office for further questioning, Ghere reported.

Deputies were in the process of obtaining a warrant for Damron’s arrest on domestic violence and assault charges when the homicide was reported on Thursday, Nowlin said.

Agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation office in Grand Junction were working with sheriff’s detectives on the case, Nowlin said.

“The officers did a really good job,” Nowlin said. “It’ll be the best case to be presented to the district attorney for prosecution.”