Come February 10, Simon Sue will pass his 20th birthday in the Park County Jail.
Sue, a small, dark-haired young man who used to pass his days playing chess with friends in Colorado Springs, has resided there, in the tiny town of Fairplay, since his arrest last April on charges of murder, conspiracy and theft in the triple slaying of Guffey grandparents Carl and Joanna Dutcher and their 15-year-old grandson Tony, formerly a Palmer High School student.
Tony Dutcher's throat was cut; his grandparents were gunned down. They were killed on January 1, 2001, but the suspects in their murders were not arrested until March when another Palmer High School student, Isaac Grimes, then 15, confessed to investigators that he had killed Tony. Grimes said his friend Jonathan Matheny, then 17, had killed Carl and Joanna.
And Grimes led investigators to Simon Sue who, he said, was ringleader of a paramilitary organization dubbed the OARA (Operations and Reconnaissance Agents). Grimes said that Sue claimed the OARA was a subgroup of the ruling party of Guyana, the South American country where Sue was born.
According to Grimes, he and Matheny acted under orders from Sue, commander of the group. Grimes also said he feared for his own life and the life of his family if he didn't do what Simon Sue told him to do. (Sue told investigators he was in Canada visiting relatives the night of the murder and denied being involved in the planning.)
String of continuances
String of continuances
Isaac Grimes and Jonathan Matheny have passed almost a year in the Park County Jail awaiting sentencing and a trial. The legal morass of their cases, Sue's case and the case of confessed conspirator Glen Urban, 19, has led to a string of continuances that will likely culminate in March.
On Monday, District Judge Kenneth Plotz reluctantly agreed to continue Sue's preliminary hearing, which began back in September, one more time. Plotz told the prosecutor and the defense attorney he "felt like if those cases (the cases of Grimes, Sue, Matheny and Urban) continued to piggyback each other, we'd never complete any of them." And though he continued Sue's hearing until March 19, he asserted that he would not allow another continuance based on the progress of any of the other cases.
Over the past six months, continuances have been granted numerous times in all four cases, frequently because prosecutors or defense attorneys sought testimony from Grimes or Urban who have entered plea bargain agreements in exchange for testimony against Matheny and Sue. But until Grimes and Urban are sentenced, they are not free to testify; thus the hang-up.
Currently, Grimes' sentencing hearing is set for March 12. In October he plead guilty to second-degree murder charges in the death of Tony Dutcher and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Carl and Joanna Dutcher. He faces a minimum of 32 years in prison and, at 16, will be one of the state adult prison system's youngest inmates as well as a key witness in the murder trials of Simon Sue and Jonathan Matheny.
Plotz said that Urban's sentencing presented a "unique set of problems" because of difficulty placing him in a community corrections program.
Urban plead guilty to conspiracy in the case, admitting that he provided an alibi for Grimes and Matheny and that he helped destroy a weapon used in the murder. In a search warrant affidavit that is part of the court record, Urban told investigators that Sue guided him in making up the alibi, telling him exactly what to say when questioned, "what to say, what they were wearing, where they parked, what we talked about."
Urban too has gone on record expressing fear that he would face extreme danger if he refused to cooperate with Sue.
Since Sue's preliminary hearing first began more than three months ago, new evidence has come to light and 11th Judicial District prosecutors have amended the charges against him to include tampering with physical evidence and an additional charge of second-degree burglary.
Prosecutors allege that Sue masterminded the Guffey killings, that he commanded authority over the other members of the OARA by controlling their finances and by making threats, and that he was directly involved in stealing guns and pawning them.
As the months have passed, court testimony has revealed many bizarre twists. In October, prosecutors requested that video images of beheading and throat slashing be allowed as evidence in Matheny's trial. Park County District Attorney Sean Paris asserted that prosecutors had proof that OARA members watched videos titled "Faces of Death" to desensitize themselves to violent acts.
Matheny's attorney, Elvin Gentry objected, arguing that using the videos would cause extreme prejudice against his client, but Judge Plotz ruled that the videos can be used.
What remains unclear as evidence is gathered and testimony is churned out is the motive for these murders. Isaac Grimes has told investigators that Simon Sue considered the Dutchers to be racists and ordered their killing. Sue told investigators that Isaac and Jonathan wanted Tony dead because he was a drug dealer. (The OARA reportedly opposed drug use and dealing.)
And there has been some speculation that stealing weapons from the Dutchers was the group's goal. But testimony in Sue's preliminary hearing in September revealed that only two guns were stolen from the Dutcher home when many more were present. One investigator testified that in Carl Dutcher's bedroom alone there were more than 10 guns.
Immediately following Simon Sue's arrest, a search warrant was served on the properties of Keith B. Sue, his father. The search warrant affidavit included a page-long list of weapons found at one home, including hunting rifles, Chinese and Russian machine guns, automatic weapons and handguns.
At Simon Sue's preliminary hearing in October, defense attorneys asserted there was no evidence that the guns, except for two believed to have been stolen from the Dutchers, were illegally obtained.
Simon Sue's preliminary hearing will continue on March 19. Jonathan Matheny's trial is scheduled to begin on April 1. Both face possible life sentences if convicted.
In short, vote No, No, and No.
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