Jack's Back

The state had an opportunity to lock up rapist and career criminal Jack Ainsworth for good. Now it's too late.

In 1993, Lisa Lane, an assistant district attorney in Grand County, prosecuted a drunk-driving case against an occasional local named Jack Irving Ainsworth. Late on July 4, 1992, Ainsworth had been riding his motorcycle in an isolated location outside of Grand Lake; on the back sat a young woman he'd picked up in town. They crashed--no one was seriously injured--and Ainsworth was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

The case, a boilerplate drunk-driving arrest, was not unusual. Yet something stood out about Ainsworth. "I don't dislike all defendants--don't get me wrong," explains Lane. "But I sure didn't like him. He was really a slick kind of guy; he just gave me a bad feeling."

Perhaps it was because by then Ainsworth already had introduced himself to the local DA's office, which had prosecuted him for a 1985 burglary in Grand Lake. Or it could have been Ainsworth's long rap sheet, which goes back to 1968--and includes a conviction for felony sexual assault.

In 1973 Ainsworth was convicted of breaking into a Denver apartment and raping the two women there. He received an open-ended sentence known as "day-to-life," which gives the state Department of Corrections discretion over a sex-crimes offender's release from prison. Although no one knew for sure when Ainsworth would walk, his potentially lengthy stay behind bars came as good news to Denver-area cops. At the time of his January 1973 arrest, they suspected Ainsworth of more than sixty other rapes and attempted rapes in the metro area.

Ainsworth was released from the state psychiatric hospital in 1983, after spending ten years behind bars. Getting caught committing a new crime--the 1985 Grand County break-in--took him less than two years.

One of the supposed advantages of the day-to-life sentence is that even after a convict is released, he is still technically on parole from a life sentence for at least five years, and, frequently, for the rest of his life. That permits the state to keep a close eye on former sex offenders, who have a particularly high recidivism rate. In theory, this means that if a person like Jack Ainsworth is released on parole but continues to commit crimes, the state can lock him back up based on the old conviction.

But it didn't work out that way when the state parole board petitioned a local judge to pull Ainsworth back into custody after the 1985 Grand County burglary. Running counter to the intention of the day-to-life sentence, the judge decided Ainsworth could not be returned to prison on his 1973 rape sentence. Local prosecutors appealed the case but lost again.

Jack Ainsworth's good luck in court ten years ago is relevant now, because on June 26 he was arrested again. Early that morning, he allegedly broke into a Boulder woman's apartment, covered her head with a pillowcase and raped her.

Assistant DA Lane says she heard about the arrest from a state trooper who had assisted in Ainsworth's 1992 Grand County drunk-driving collar. "We all knew he'd be back," she says.

She adds that she found herself remembering Ainsworth's twenty-year-old passenger on the night of July 4, 1992. "It made me think," says Lane, "how lucky that woman was only to be injured in a motorcycle accident."

In 1968, when he was twenty, Jack Ainsworth was arrested in Fort Collins and charged with theft. By the end of that year he'd been busted again, this time in Jefferson County on a car prowl.

Ainsworth was next arrested in February 1970, in Las Vegas, on charges of burglary and vagrancy. The following month the Las Vegas police picked him up again, and he was charged with burglary. A month after that the Denver police arrested him for theft. Two months later he was arrested again by the Las Vegas police, again for burglary, and again in August, on another burglary charge.

In June 1971 Ainsworth was busted in Jefferson County a second time and charged with burglary. Five months later the Las Vegas cops hauled him in for prowling.

Nine months after that, in August 1972, Ainsworth was arrested in Denver and charged with reckless driving and eluding police. A week later he was pulled in again by Denver cops for burglary.

It was five months later, in January 1973, that Ainsworth was arrested for the burglary and rape of the two Denver women. On June 11, 1973, he was sentenced to one day to life in the Colorado Psychiatric Hospital.

After three years in the state hospital, he was moved to a state penitentiary, where he stayed until 1977. Then he returned to the psychiatric hospital, where he stayed until he was paroled from Department of Corrections custody on July 15, 1983.

The thing that stands out most about Jack Ainsworth's recent criminal history is that, while he has never presented much of a challenge to catch, time after time he has proved elusive in court. "It would appear," says Grand County District Attorney Paul McLimans, "that Mr. Ainsworth has been pretty successful at reducing the consequences that confronted him."

Ainsworth has a particularly strong record of that in Grand County. His most consequential dodge began on July 7, 1985, just two years after his release from the state psychiatric hospital.

When he was arrested that night for breaking into a house in Grand Lake, Ainsworth told Grand County sheriff's deputies that he'd been shooting up cocaine and dropping acid, which could explain why he stole only the owner's cowboy hat, a pair of slippers and a down vest.

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