Top four bizarre Colorado-related deaths

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The death of Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, whose body was found Monday in a Denver hotel room with a pound of sodium cyanide, was certainly unusual — but it's hardly the only strange demise to have a Colorado connection. Below, find four more, including death by wood chipper and the tale of a hitman who collapsed and died after failing to strike his target. Fate can be nasty, can't it?

SEPTEMBER, 1997: The Hitman Who Hit Himself

According to the Associated Press, Rita Quam was attacked in Edwards by a man wearing dark glasses, a black wig and a fake moustache. He was later identified as Arthur Smith, a retired Chicago police officer and longtime friend of Quam's ex-husband. But after firing several shots at her, and missing each time, Smith's gun jammed — "so he tried beating her on the head with large rocks." Quam managed to survive this assault, and when a deputy arrived on the scene and ordered Smith to lie down, "he collapsed, wheezing in the thin mountain air, and his disguise fell off. Then he had a heart attack and died." Jason Bourne he wasn't.

DECEMBER 1997: Being a Fan Can Be Deadly

Okay, I know the Colorado connection here is tenuous — but bear with me. According to wire reports assembled by the Philadelphia Daily News, Missouri resident James Shivers, 60, was watching a Holiday Bowl matchup between the Missouri Tigers and the Colorado State Rams when his son Tony, 26, "deliberately stood in front of the TV." James responded by firing a shot at him with a .22-caliber pistol. When he missed, Tony grabbed the weapon and started hammering his dad over the head with it. So James went to a closet and grabbed a shotgun. This time he hit his target. By the way, the Rams won the contest 35-23. Thank goodness the elder Shivers wasn't anywhere near Sonny Lubick that day.

DECEMBER 2005: A Chip Off the Old Block

According to the Denver Post, a man and his partner were removing dead branches from a forty-foot-tall tree near a Loveland home with the help of a shredding machine when the first worker was pulled into the contraption. Anyone who's seen Fargo knows what happened next.

JUNE 2007: You Know What the Word "Flammable" Means, Right?

The Rocky Mountain News reported that the deaths of teenagers Samuel Hedemark and Christopher Fuller in a Routt National Forest explosion weren't exactly coincidental. During a party attended by about twenty people, the pair climbed atop an oil tank and began dancing. Problem was, they were smoking while they did it. The subsequent blast killed them as well as a dog they'd brought onto the tank with them. Talk about cruelty to animals. — Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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