A Cortez man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 31, while his wife and her three children were in the house, according to police.
Lt. Andy Brock said Cortez police responded to a house on South Chestnut Street at 10:39 p.m. Saturday for a report of a suicide. Ryan Sanzone, 26, was reportedly found dead after shooting himself with a 9 mm handgun.
It was the seventh suicide reported in Montezuma County in 2018.
Brock said Sanzone’s wife, Shanea Sanzone, and her three children, ages 9, 7 and 1, were in the house at the time of his death. Two other adults were present after the shooting, but Brock said it wasn’t clear whether they were staying in the house. He said one of the adults was Lucas Keck, listed as a registered sex offender.
Brock said police weren’t sure who owned the gun that was found with Sanzone. He said the detective’s report would be available this week.
Employees at Sanzone’s workplace, J. Fargo’s Family Dining, have planned a “celebration of life” in his honor for Thursday, April 12, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Jon Russell, Shanea Sanzone’s former husband and the father of the two oldest children, said they are safe, although he said that one child who was awake during Sanzone’s death might need counseling. He also said he was concerned about the way Cortez police handled the incident, saying they had not notified him. He also said he was concerned that no child protective services personnel were called to the scene.
Brock said the police department typically doesn’t call child protective services to a crime scene involving children unless there is no parent available to take custody of them.
A caseworker at Montezuma County Social Services declined to say on Monday whether the department was investigating the case.
Because Sanzone’s death was an “obvious suicide,” Brock said, there was no full autopsy, but results from a toxicology report were pending.
Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers said Sanzone’s death was the seventh suicide this year, compared with three by April 5, 2017. Deavers said the county usually averages about 12 suicides per year, a high rate for a county with a population of less than 30,000. According to 2015 data released by the Colorado Department of Health, Southwest Colorado – Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta, Dolores and San Juan counties – had an average of 21.1 suicides per 100,000 people, above the state average of 19.5.
“The Southwest corner is the worst,” Deavers said.
Out of the seven suicides reported in 2018, six were committed with a gun, Deavers said. Only one victim was confirmed to have been sober at the time of death, and toxicology reports reveal at least four victims were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both. Deavers said the ages of the victims ranged from the 20s into the 80s.
Montezuma County residents struggling with depression, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts may call Axis Health System’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 970-247-5245 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Axis’ Montezuma County offices are at 635 E. Empire St.