3 indicted in Aspen carbon monoxide deaths

By: KUSA Email
By: KUSA Email

Pitkin County Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin told The Aspen Times that a grand jury handed up indictments last week in the deaths of Parker and Caroline Lofgren and their two children, ages 8 and 10. The family won a church auction for a getaway at an Aspen-area home over Thanksgiving weekend.

Investigators say an exhaust pipe in the home's venting system was disconnected and that meant carbon monoxide was filtering into the home almost unchecked.

Marlin Brown, the Glenwood Springs owner of Roaring Fork Plumbing & Heating, and Erik Peltonen, a now retired building inspector, face felony charges of criminally negligent homicide and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. Both were arrested Friday and released on $11,000 personal recognizance bonds.

Brown and Peltonen didn't return messages left by The Associated Press.

Brian Pawl, a building-plan examiner and inspector for Pitkin County, faces misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment. He declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Authorities did not find a carbon monoxide detector in the home.

"We hope that this does generate a lot of attention. We feel that it's important that carbon monoxide laws be enacted, but not only do they need to be enacted, they need to be complied with and they need to be enforced," Hildy Feuerbach, Caroline Lofgren's sister, told 9NEWS on Monday.

"It just doesn't make any sense and I mean, it will be with us and their friends and their community forever - the sadness, this loss," Don Mackenzie, a family friend of the Lofgrens, said. "We lost some very dear friends and it's just the more things happen related to this incident the more you feel like it's not for a loss."

The deaths of the Lofgren family, along with the deaths of two others in the winters of 2008 and 2009, prompted state lawmakers to pass a bill last year requiring new homes and apartment buildings to have carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms when they're sold. It was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.

Homeowners and apartment owners also have to install detectors if they complete any major renovations or additions.

"Certainly this communicates to contractors and inspectors: you've got to do your job and if not, you may even end up going to prison," 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said.

The Lofgren family released a statement on Monday after the charges were announced:

"The Lofgren, Rittenour, and Feuerbach families would like to sincerely thank the Pitkin County Grand Jury and Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin for their extensive time and tireless efforts over the past year investigating the tragic deaths of the entire Lofgren family from carbon monoxide poisoning after celebrating Thanksgiving in 2008. While the filing of criminal charges in the deaths of Parker, Caroline, Owen, and Sophie will not relieve our families' sorrow it will hopefully assist in exposing those responsible and holding them fully accountable. As importantly, we hope that these criminal proceedings, as well as the imminent civil proceedings and the ongoing efforts by the Consumer Product Safety Commission will send a clear message to contractors, and building inspectors and even manufacturers of heating equipment to ensure that such senseless carbon monoxide deaths are prevented in the future. Our families will continue with our efforts to make the public aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and passing laws, and ensuring the enforcement of those laws, to prevent such tragedies from every happening again."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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