Boys Gone Wild

Breckenridge has a bad-boy image, but is there truth in advertising?

Why Dietert would help two men he barely knows beat another man to death is unclear, as is much of the three men's backgrounds. Stockdale, whose last known address was in Silverthorne, has no prior criminal history in Colorado, but this wasn't Dietert's or Robbins's first brush with the law.

Dietert has been arrested in the past for second-degree burglary, larceny, underage alcohol consumption, driving under the influence, possessing marijuana, speeding and other driving-related offenses. Robbins was pulled over in January 2001 in Steamboat Springs for drinking and driving. And when a police officer came to his Breckenridge apartment last July to respond to a noise complaint, she noticed a film canister containing what looked like marijuana; when she asked Robbins whether he had any more, he showed her the closet where he was growing three pot plants. He was later arrested for cultivation of marijuana.

Robbins is the nephew of Sharon Garrison, the victim in another high-profile Summit County murder case. Sharon disappeared on September 26, 2000; her body was found 21 days later in the front yard of her home, just outside the Breckenridge city limits. Sharon's husband, Chuck Garrison, was sentenced last April to thirty years in prison for her murder. The couple had apparently been arguing when Chuck killed Sharon with a miner's pick, then wrapped her body in a tarp and buried her by their driveway.

Brian Stockdale
Brian Stockdale
Rocky Mountain high: Breckenridge mayor Sam 
Mamula didn't appreciate Vail Resorts' cheeky 
advertising for his town.
Mark Manger
Rocky Mountain high: Breckenridge mayor Sam Mamula didn't appreciate Vail Resorts' cheeky advertising for his town.

"When the Robbins family was victimized by the murder of Sharon...Brandon was there for his mother to support her," family friend Beth May wrote the court in a letter in Robbins's behalf. "I sat with the family in court on the day of the sentencing hearing of Chuck Garrison and never saw anything but grief on Brandon's face. Afterward, I went to the family's Breckenridge home and never heard a violent statement uttered by Brandon." (Robbins's mother, Carla, was present for his preliminary hearing, as were several other family members, who politely declined to comment on the young man's case.)

Steve Moran, the principal of Colorado Springs's Pine Creek High School, which Robbins attended, also wrote a letter in support of the young man. "Brandon was always a very positive individual in my school," Moran wrote. "He had some discipline issues that dealt with truancy. However, he never had any anti-social or violence issues and was always easy to talk to and befriended all those around him."

Not much is known about the man who lost his life as a result of the fight. Martell said at the hearing that she'd be happy to talk about her son when the case is over. Wieland leaves behind a wife, Katie, and their two-year-old son, Bohdan.

Last Sunday was the Sunday of Sundays; all the saloons in town were closed and their usual habituates were compelled to loaf around the streets. Miners, in from the hills, stood upon the sidewalks looking wistfully to the right or left for some retreat from a condition of misery.... The workings of law here was such as to show the sheer nonsense of such legislation for a camp in the midst of the mountains. The law was conceived in the brain of a fanatic, enacted by a body of imbeciles, signed by a doughface, and in a camp like Breckenridge would be enforced only by an impracticable enthusiast. Monday last, a mournful cuss brought in twenty-four stanzas of alleged poetry, of which the following six lines are a fair sample:

On the twenty-sixth day of July, year ninety-one,
The drinking community of this town was undone,
On complaint of the parson, by order of the Judge,
All thirsty old topers were deprived of their budge,
An eye-opener, a cocktail, a plain morning dram
Was denied the bum, the boss, and the hard-working man.

-- From an August 1, 1891, editorial in the Summit County Journal protesting Colorado's newly enacted Saloon Law.

The boys of Breckenridge have always behaved badly. Ever since Colorado's early mining days, the town has been overrun with men who like to drink and have a good time.

Before there was a town, the Blue River Valley was home to the Utes. But when gold was discovered, a rush of non-natives soon arrived. General George Spencer, an early Western pioneer, founded "Breckinridge" in 1859, naming it after then-United States vice president John Breckinridge in the hopes of wooing the administration to open a post office in town -- an undertaking that proved successful. But when the Civil War began, it became clear that the vice president's sympathies lay with the South, and Breckinridge became a general in the Confederate army. Embarrassed by their association with the politician, who was ousted for treason by the U.S. Senate, the townspeople changed the spelling of the community's name to Breckenridge.

Main Street quickly emerged as the center of social life for miners in the surrounding camps, and Breckenridge became the Summit County seat. By 1880, the town boasted approximately 2,000 residents, eighteen saloons, three dance halls, numerous gambling halls and plenty of prostitutes.

The mostly male population was prone to fighting -- over girls, gambling debts or out of plain old drunken stupidity. "About twenty years ago, two gentlemen, who were in every respect valuable citizens, quarreled about some trifle -- I've forgotten what, but it resulted in a challenge to mortal combat," reads a letter penned in the 1880s and cited by Mary Ellen Gilliland in her book Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado. "They agreed to fight with hatchets, thirty paces apart.... The evening before the fight was to come off, one of them received a letter from his mother, in which she informed him that his antagonist was the son of her dearest friend, and she hoped the boys would love each other like brothers. This letter brought about a reconciliation, and they are still living, both filling prominent positions in other states."

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