Update: At a sentencing hearing that took place the afternoon of October 5, Tanner Flores was given the maximum sentence for his first-degree murder conviction in the killing of Ashley Doolittle: life plus 32 years. Continue for our previous coverage.
Update, 5:11 a.m. October 5: Tanner Flores, nineteen, has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Ashley Doolittle, his girlfriend, in June 2016. Later today, October 5, he's expected to be sentenced in the case. He faces a possible life term plus 32 years for kidnapping. As we noted in our previous post, on view below, Flores killed Doolittle near Berthoud, then transported her body across the state in his truck before being arrested in the Collbran area.
Over the course of the seven-day trial, Flores's attorney, Daniel Jasinski, admitted that his client had killed Doolittle but fought against the claim of premeditation. Had Jasinski been successful, Flores could have been convicted of second-degree murder, a crime punishable by up to 48 years in prison. But Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDonald, the lead prosecutor in the case, successfully argued that he planned the slaying.
The sentencing hearing is set for 2 p.m. today. In the meantime, the Ashley Doolittle Foundation, established after the death of the 2017 Boulder County Fair rodeo queen-in-waiting to fight teen dating violence, offers these warning signs in relation to a potentially dangerous relationship:
• A partner checking your cellphone or email without permission
• Constantly putting you down
• Extreme jealousy or insecurity
• Explosive temper
• Isolating you from family or friends
• Making false accusations
• Mood swings
• Physically hurting you in any way
• Telling you what to do
• Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex
Continue reading for our previous coverage.
Original post, 5:44 a.m. September 26: Opening arguments are expected to begin today, September 26, in the case of nineteen-year-old Tanner Flores, who's accused of killing his former girlfriend, eighteen-year-old Berthoud resident Ashley Doolittle, and driving her body across the state in his truck. But we already know Flores, who'll turn twenty on Halloween, won't face the ultimate punishment, because prosecutors have confirmed that they won't seek the death penalty.
Our first report about this tragic case was published at 5:19 a.m. on June 10, 2016, just 31 minutes after the Larimer County Sheriff's Office issued a be-on-the-lookout alert about Doolittle, a gifted horsewoman who had been named rodeo queen of the 2017 Boulder County Fair. As we noted at the time, the decision to issue such a release at 4:48 a.m. was highly unusual, particularly given that Doolittle had only been missing for a few hours; she'd been due back at 7:30 p.m. the previous evening. However, she was thought to have been with Flores, from whom she'd recently split — and law enforcers suspected he was armed.
By 8 a.m. on the 10th, Flores was located a long way from home — in Collbran, on Colorado's Western Slope. When he was taken into custody just over two hours later, Doolittle's body was with him.
Flores's arrest affidavit, accessible below, adds disturbing details to the initial information. As we've reported, the document notes that Doolittle's mother reported her missing on the 9th after her car was found abandoned near Lon Hagler Reservoir in Larimer County. The concern prompted by this discovery was compounded by information that Flores was "really down" after his breakup with Doolittle. Indeed, he'd sent a Snapchat to friends the evening before that was "suicidal in nature."
Even more worrisome: Flores had vanished a few hours before Doolittle went missing, and his father told authorities that a handgun was missing from the older man's gun locker.
Before long, deputies received information that Flores might have been headed to Collbran, a community on Colorado's Western Slope. That's where the unoccupied home of his late grandfather was located.
To confirm this information, Larimer County deputies contacted a woman who lived near the grandfather's property. She reported spotting a truck matching the description of Flores's vehicle parked in the driveway, the affidavit states.
And that's not all she noticed.
An excerpt from the affidavit reads: “She saw that the male had opened all the doors to the truck and pulled out what looked to be a bundled-up blanket from the back seat of the truck and set it on the ground. She said she was not totally sure, but she thought she could see an arm sticking out of the bundle.”
At that point, the woman continued, she saw the male — Flores — place the body-sized bundle back into his truck's cab.
That was more than enough for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office to scramble its SWAT team, which set up a perimeter around the property.
The SWAT teamers had a clear view of Flores's subsequent activities. Another excerpt reads: “The male was observed near the truck and the residence but no female was observed with him.... The male was observed throwing something in the field north of the residence that deputies believed was a rag with potential blood on it. The male was also observed with something black in his hand.”
Around 10:30 a.m., Flores was taken into custody and Doolittle's body was recovered.
During a later interview with law enforcers, the document quotes Flores admitting to "shooting Ashley in the head twice because he [was] angry with her." The location: Carter Lake, about ten miles from the reservoir where her car had been found.
At his grandfather's home, Flores told investigators, he "clean[ed] her up before returning her to the truck." He added that he discarded a bloody cloth and rug at the residence.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Because Flores was eighteen at the time of the crime, he was legally an adult, making the death penalty a possibility. At a hearing last week, however, prosecutors formally took capital punishment off the table. As a result, as pointed out by the Loveland Reporter-Herald, the maximum punishment Flores can receive is life in prison on each of two first-degree-murder charges, plus up to twelve years for felony kidnapping.
Jury selection got underway at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, September 25, at the Larimer County Justice Center, with a final panel likely to be seated today. Two weeks have been set aside for the trial.
As for Doolittle's family, they have created the Ashley Doolittle Foundation in her honor. The organization's mission is "to preserve Ashley's legacy by building awareness of and preventing teenage dating violence, while honoring her love of our western heritage."
Click to read the original Tanner Flores arrest affidavit.