Harold "Nicky" Nicholson's murder has been solved -- but Boulder County still has fourteen cold homicide cases that haven't heated up yet
This week, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office revealed that they'd closed the 1970 murder of Harold "Nicky" Nicholson. Not that the alleged slayer -- Jake Dwight Jones, Nicholson's father in law -- will be prosecuted for the crime. Investigators discovered that he died in 1979 after assuming a new identity, Larry Dean Seitzinger.
Still, this case is hardly the oldest one open on the Boulder County books. Fourteen unsolved murders linger in the BCSO files, with the most venerable of them dating back to 1911: Charles Davenport, 47, who apparently was beaten to death near some train tracks. And the next year, the body of a man who was never identified was found on the bank of the St. Vrain River, "a few miles above" Dead Man's Gulch.
Below, read more about the Nicholson resolution, and check out BCSO capsules of the other mysterious homicides:
Resolution of 1970 Nicholson Homicide Case
Case #04-6879 (original Case #0-5-481)
Boulder County Sheriff's investigators have concluded their review of the unresolved 1970 homicide of Harold "Nicky" Nicholson, 18, concluding that he was killed by his father-in-law, Jake Dwight Jones. The Boulder County District Attorneys Office has reviewed the case and concurred that there was probable cause for Dwight Jones' arrest. However, there will be no prosecution as Jones died in 1979 in Oregon and was buried under an assumed name.
Nicholson was bludgeoned to death, presumably with a tire iron on May 23rd, 1970, and his body left in the trunk of a car parked near 136th Ave and Sheridan Boulevard, which at the time marked the Boulder/Adams County line. His body was discovered the following day by a passing Adams County sheriff's deputy, who in turn notified Boulder County authorities. Boulder County Sheriff's investigators then assumed responsibility for the investigation and were assisted by agents of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Investigators quickly focused upon Jake Dwight Jones, 37, Nicholson's father-in-law, as a likely suspect in his death. Jones had vehemently opposed his daughter Diane's marriage to Nicholson, and had been repeatedly heard threatening to kill Nicholson for having done so.
Nicholson was last seen about 11:00 a.m. on May 23rd, 1970, in Jones' company, leaving the Sill-Terhar car dealership in Broomfield where Jones worked, in a 1963 Ford Galaxie that Nicholson had just purchased from Jones through the dealership. Nicholson's body was found in the trunk of that same vehicle the following day. Employees at the dealer-ship reported that Jones was absent for approximately one hour, before returning to the dealership on foot. They observed that, upon his return, his shirt and sport coat were stained with a red fluid. Jones attempted to mask the stain by contriving to spill red punch on himself, twice, within a matter of minutes. He explained that he and Nicholson had had lunch together at a nearby hamburger stand and that he had opted to walk back to the dealership afterward.
Jones' clothing was subsequently seized; a precipitin blood test conducted by the CBI demonstrated that the stains on the clothing were human blood. However, in the days before DNA analysis, investigators were not able to establish conclusively that it was Nicholson's blood.
Jones subsequently disappeared and the case languished for years, with little attention given to it.
In 2006, during an effort to re-address unsolved homicides, the case was re-assigned
to Detective Mike Wagner. Detective Wagner re-organized the case file, re-contacted witnesses, and began preparing an arrest warrant for Mr. Jones, who, to all appearances, had dropped off the face of the earth. Interviews with witnesses led to speculation that Mr. Jones, who was reputedly involved in narcotics trafficking, might be living under an alias. Attempts to locate him utilizing the usual law enforcement databases were unsuccessful.
The case was re-assigned to Detective Steve Ainsworth following Detective Wagner's promotion to sergeant. Investigators solicited the assistance of Ms. Silvia Pettem, a local Boulder historian, who had figured prominently in the investigation of the 1954 "Jane Doe" homicide. Ms. Pettem, utilizing a genealogical web-site, located a death record for Jake Jones in Curry County, Oregon. However, her research generated new questions as it appeared that Jones had been living under an assumed name while in Oregon, and it wasn't clear who was actually buried in the Rogue Cemetery in Gold Beach Oregon.
Further investigation ultimately revealed that, upon fleeing Colorado, Jones had adopted the identity of Larry Dean Seitzinger, a Boulder man who died in 1971. Jones lived under the assumed name for the next eight years before dying in a boating accident off of the Oregon coast, April 15th, 1979. Through several interviews with friends and acquaint-ances, and ultimately a fingerprint comparison using prints obtained following a 1975 drug arrest in Texas, Detective Ainsworth was able to conclusively establish that the man buried in Oregon in 1979 under the name "Larry Dean Seitzinger", was actually Jake Dwight Jones.
Detective Ainsworth prepared a summary of the case for review by the District Attorney's Office. Following review, they concluded that there was ample cause to believe that Jake Jones was responsible for Harold Nicholson's death. As no prosecution is possible, the case has been closed as "Exceptionally Cleared; Death of Offender"
Commenting upon the investigation, Sheriff Joe Pelle said, "We put a high priority on the investigation of cold cases, given the recent developments in DNA analysis and other forensic technologies. It's important to pursue serious crimes, even ones that are decades old. It's primarily for the families. The survivors need closure, and solving the case helps provide that closure".
Utilizing advances in DNA technology, the Sheriff's Office was able to successfully resolve the 1987 murder of Carol Murphy with the 2007 arrest of her estranged husband, Kevin Elmarr. Elmarr was subsequently convicted of First Degree Murder.
DNA technology was also instrumental in identifying "Jane Doe", the unidentified victim of a 1954 homicide as Dorothy Gay Howard, 18, in October 2009. While that case remains officially unsolved, Detective Ainsworth and Ms. Pettem have built a compelling circumstantial case for serial murderer Harvey Glatman having been the killer. Glatman was executed in 1959 for murder. The investigation of the case is chronicled in Ms. Pettem's book, "Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe".
The Sheriff's Office currently has 14 unsolved "cold homicide cases" (two of which are nearly 100 years old and are deemed of historic interest only). A short summary of each case accompanies this release. If anyone has any information to offer regarding any of these cases, they are encouraged to contact Detective Steve Ainsworth at #303-441-3627 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boulder County's Unsolved Homicides
Does not include crimes occurring within municiplaities
Charles Davenport, 47 yoa
December 7th, 1911 No Case # assigned, no case file exists No detective assigned/Historic interest only
Per the Colorado State Archives (#9012), he was beaten to death by unknown assailants.
Newspaper reports from the period related that Davenport was found by a telephone lineman near a culvert along the railroad tracks near Lafayette. He was nearly unconscious and bleeding profusely. Before expiring, he claimed that he had been struck by a train, but a coroner's inquest found that his injuries were consistent with an intentional beating. Further, the testimony of the train crew indicated that it was a bright and clear night and that it would have been impossible for them to have struck someone without knowing it. The case remains unsolved
"John Doe", approx. 60 yoa July 16th, 1912 No Case # assigned, no case file exists No detective assigned/Historic interest only
Per the Colorado State Archives (#9012), an unidentified male was beaten to death by unknown assailants along the St. Vrain Creek, west of Lyons.
Newspaper reports of the time related that the unidentified body of a man in his 60's was found by a group of fisherman along the south fork of the St. Vrain River, southwest of Lyons. Their attention was drawn to the scene by a covered wagon and dead horse located on the south side of the creek, a "few miles above" Dead Man's Gulch. Investigating, they found the body of the victim in the wagon. Decomposition was advanced and the date of death was presumed to be about a week before its discovery on Tuesday, July 16th.
The victim had been shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest. A .38 caliber revolver was found near his right hand. There was speculation as to whether or not his death may have been a suicide, and a coroner's inquest ruled that the man "had come to his death by his own or unknown hands". The case remains unsolved.
Dorothy Gay Howard (AKA "Jane Doe"), 18yoa
April 8th, 1954
Case #04-2822; case file re-constructed from miscellaneous documents
Detective Steve Ainsworth
The body of an unidentified, naked female was found by two college students along the bank of Boulder Creek below Boulder Falls in Boulder Canyon. She was bludgeoned and presumably died of shock/exposure. Despite significant statewide publicity, she was not identified. No suspect was ever apprehended.
The investigation was re-opened in February 2004 at the behest of local Boulder historian Silvia Pettem. A private organization provided partial funding and the Vidocq Society of Philadelphia provided technical expertise in evaluating the evidence. "Jane Doe's" remains were exhumed for examination in June 2004. A DNA profile was developed and a forensic artist completed a life-like bust of "Jane Doe" which was featured prominently in local media in August 2005; a video profile of the case and "Jane Doe's" likeness was profiled on "America's Most Wanted" in July 2006.
Jane Doe was identified as Dorothy Gay Howard via a DNA match in October 2009. Ms. Pettem and Detective Ainsworth have built a compelling circumstantial case for serial- killer Harvey Glatman having been the killer, however, the case remains unsolved. Glatman was executed in California in 1959 for murder.
Betty Lee Jones, 23 yoa
March 9th, 1970
Case #0-3-221, #10384, Tiburon Case #04-808 Detective Steve Ainsworth
Betty Jones' body was found by highway maintenance workers early on the morning of Monday, March 9th, 1970, in a field on the north side of Highway 128, just inside the Boulder County line, approximately ¾ of a mile west of the Jefferson County airport. She had been shot twice in the head and once in the torso with a .38 caliber weapon. The murder weapon, a Rohm ".38 special" revolver that was used in the killing, was recovered by Longmont PD in a drug raid in November 1970. The owner of the weapon was identified and eliminated from consideration by DNA evidence in 2006.
Detective Ainsworth has done an extensive amount of work, tracking down three "persons of interest", but has yet to establish probable cause and the case remains open.
John Curtis Patterson, 20 yoa September 29th, 1975 Case #S75-4014
Detective Steve Ainsworth
John Patterson was a clerk at the Cascade gas station, 4501 North Broadway, on the north end of Boulder. He was found dead by customers in a bathroom at the service station at about 8:30 p.m. on September 29th, 1975. The customers had heard what they thought to be someone vomiting in the bathroom; investigating, they discovered that Mr. Patterson had been stabbed in the chest and was vomiting blood.
His assailant took money from the cash register and 1 ½ cases of cigarettes. Two live .30 caliber rounds were found on the floor of the bathroom near Mr. Patterson's body. They bore extractors marks and indications of "light hits" on the primers, indicating that either the ammunition was defective or the weapon that they had been ejected from wasn't operating properly. There was no weapon found in the bathroom.
Fingerprints and a couple of hairs that were not Mr. Patterson's were preserved. The fingerprints have been entered into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and the hair samples will be submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA analysis. The case remains unsolved.
Christine Jones, 17 yoa September 1st, 1977 Case #S77-11572
Detective Steve Ainsworth
17 year-old Christine Jones was strangled and shot to death while washing her car beside a mountain stream, approximately 1.5 miles west of Buckingham Park in Lefthand Canyon. She had left her home (3.5 miles away) at approximately 10:15 a.m. and was found dead at approximately 12:45 p.m. Her body was found in the stream near her car. She had apparently been dumped there by her assailant. There were strangulation marks around her neck and she was shot once in the back of the head.
Several men were interviewed regarding their possible involvement, including a boy friend, all of whom were subsequently excluded as suspects.
Additional evidence has been submitted to the CBI for DNA analysis. The case remains unsolved.
Gerald Cordner, 28 yoa May 30th, 1978 Case #S78-7050 Detective Steve Ainsworth Gerald Cordner was shot to death in a farmhouse that he rented at 4631 N. 95th Street, Lafayette. He was shot twice in the back of the head. It was presumed to be a drug-related robbery. Several possible suspects were named, but probable cause was never established. The case remains unsolved.
Susie Becker, 20 yoa July 1st, 1982 Case #S82-4701
Detective Steve Ainsworth
Susie Becker's partially decomposed body was found by a couple of fisherman on July 1st, 1982. The body was discovered beneath a blanket on a slope on the north side of Boulder Canyon, west of Sugarloaf Road, approximately four miles west of Boulder.
An autopsy revealed that she had been stabbed repeatedly, but that many of the wounds were superficial. No motive for her death was ever established and no suspects were ever identified.
Margaret Hillman, 14 yoa
September 24th, 1983
Detective Steve Ainsworth
Margaret Hillman, 14 years of age, disappeared late in the evening of September 24th, 1983, after attending a party at the Heil Ranch, located northwest of Boulder in Lefthand Canyon. Her disappearance remained a mystery until the following summer, when her skeletal remains were discovered in a shallow grave at the Ranch on July 17th, 1984. Her clothing was found buried next to the body.
An autopsy indicated that the cause of death was likely blunt trauma to the head.
Two men figured as suspects in the case, but no arrests were ever made. There is a potential for DNA analysis of evidence that was recovered at the grave. The case remains
Tracy Neef, 7 yoa
March 16th, 1984
Detective Carolyn Roberts (jointly investigated with the Thornton Police Department; they maintain custody of the case file)
The body of Tracy Neef, 7 years of age, was found dumped at a roadside pullout above Barker Reservoir in Boulder Canyon. She had been abducted earlier that day on her way to Bertha Heid Elementary School in Thornton. Her death was caused by asphyxia and exposure; it was suspected that she had been sexually abused as well.
The case was jointly investigated by Thornton PD and the Sheriff's Office; Thornton PD has custody of the case files. A likely suspect was identified, however, there is insufficient evidence for an arrest warrant at present.
Vaughn Everett, 29 yoa October 29th, 1985 Case #S85-14894 Detective Steve Ainsworth
Vaughn Everett's skeletal remains were found 2.8 miles east of Highway 72 on County Road 82E near Allenspark. Cause of death was multiple skull fractures. Everett, the manager of a topless bar in Adams County, disappeared April 3rd, 1985. A likely suspect was identified, however, there is insufficient evidence for an arrest warrant at present.
Shirley Driscoll, 52 yoa
September 24th, 1988
Detective Steve Ainsworth
Shirley Driscoll died in a car fire near 245 Lynx Drive, Jamestown. The autopsy indicated that she was alive at the time of the fire and the pathologist thought it odd that she had not escaped the vehicle unless she were somehow incapacitated. The cause of death was smoke inhalation and thermal injury. No arrest has been made.
Frank Santos, 37 yoa
July 9th, 2004
Detective Steve Ainsworth
Frank Santos was shot in the head by an unknown assailant while driving Boulder-bound on US Highway 36, near Davidson Mesa. He was probably shot from a passing vehicle. No motive for his murder was ever established and no suspects were identified.
Angela Wilds, 38 yoa
June 4th, 2006
Detective Brian Zierlein
The badly decomposed naked body of an unidentified female was found by a couple of hikers near a shallow grave southwest of Lyons in the South St.Vrain Canyon. Extensive investigation led to the identification of the body as that of Angela Wilds, a transient woman who had most recently lived in Longmont. Investigators contacted nearly 100 associate and acquaintances in their attempts to identify a motive and killer. The case remains open.