George Roloff's most recent booking photo.
George Roloff's most recent booking photo.
Colorado Department of Corrections

What Happened Before George Roloff's Daring Escape and Recapture

Yesterday, September 3, George Roloff and fellow inmate Luke Tanner escaped from the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City, prompting a statewide alert. But Tanner was soon recaptured, followed a short time later by Roloff, who'd earned a sentence of more than 150 years for a bizarre crime spree he said was prompted in part by a fear of witchcraft.

A jury found Roloff, 41, guilty just over four years ago, but the offenses that resulted in his convictions on a hefty 37 counts date back to July 10, 2011, as documented in an arrest affidavit accessible below.

Around noon on that day, according to the report, 911 dispatch in Mesa County, on the Western Slope, received a report about a man outside a Bradley Sinclair gas station in the community of Clifton. The suspect, later identified as Roloff, was said to be holding a shotgun on a woman at one of the pumps.

Randy Abeyta, an acquaintance of Roloff's, soon filled in the cops about what was going on. Roloff had shown up at his door a short time earlier and said that he needed a ride into town immediately — and given the man's frazzled appearance (he was allegedly covered in sweat), Abeyta quickly agreed.

The SWAT team that responded to the 2011 incident.
The SWAT team that responded to the 2011 incident.
KKCO file photo

As they climbed into his car, a 1980 Cadillac, Abeyta noticed that Roloff's backpack contained a shotgun, and he gently suggested that he stow it in the trunk. But as the affidavit notes, Roloff "was not interested in moving it" — and he proved it by proceeding to load the weapon, point the barrel at Abeyta's side and order him to get more gas for the Caddy.

At the Sinclair station, Roloff dismounted and allegedly demanded car keys from three separate men, menacing them with his shotgun to underscore his urgency, before turning his attention to Allison Cripe, who had driven to the station along with her mother, age 98. She told investigators she'd just finished filling her tank when Roloff approached her and said, "Give me your keys. They are not worth your life."

Cripe turned down this request, since her mom was in the car. But the elderly woman was no pushover. She fought with Roloff when he reached into the passenger compartment. Between her resistance and his inability to find the keys, which Cripe had already spirited away, Roloff eventually grew frustrated and walked off.

His next destination, the affidavit recounts, was 614 Jackson, Unit B, which was occupied by Sara Ann Hill and her three roommates. She heard a knock at the door, and when she answered it, she found Roloff rocking his shotgun. The report notes that he ordered the men with Hill to empty their pockets, then ordered one of them to fork over — you guessed it — the keys to his vehicle, promising to "kill this motherfucker to prove I'm serious" if they weren't provided.

George Roloff being held at gunpoint in 2011.
George Roloff being held at gunpoint in 2011.
KKCO file photo

Later, however, he displayed at least a modicum of understanding. "Sorry, it's been one of those days," he's quoted as saying.

Next, the report continues, Roloff ordered the foursome out of the house — but before he could drive away in one of their rides, he spotted a nearby Colorado State Trooper cruiser, yelled something about "being busted," and ran back into the house, giving Hill and her roomies the opportunity to escape.

Not long thereafter, cops heard multiple shots fired in quick succession sound within Hill's place, where Roloff had holed up, prompting what the report describes as "several hours of crisis negotiation" involving a fully outfitted SWAT team.

When talk didn't do the trick, the SWAT officers used more persuasive measures: namely gas, followed by a Taser blast.

George Roloff's 2011 mug shot.
George Roloff's 2011 mug shot.
Mesa County Sheriff's Office file photo

After being taken into custody, Roloff reportedly told investigators about "how law enforcement had been watching him for over two weeks, and we were all in it together." He added that "all lawyers," plus family members and ex-girlfriends, were also conspiring to "take me out."

He was tired, too, and understandably so: When he was asked when he'd last slept, Roloff responded that he'd gotten a couple hours of shut-eye about five days before.

When an officer asked if he was on any medication, Roloff replied that he had a prescription, but he'd run out three weeks earlier.

These last exchanges certainly raised the prospect of mental illness, as did Roloff's later comments to his attorneys about his actions having been inspired by "fears of witchcraft, spells, demonic actions and other obviously paranormal things." On three occasions after his arrest, he refused to leave his cell to attend court hearings.

The Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City.
The Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City.
Google Maps

Eventually, Roloff was analyzed twice by the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo to determine if he was competent to stand trial, and with the blessing of doctors, the trial finally got under way in April 2014. Following a week's worth of proceedings, the hammer came down in a big way.

Cut to Monday, September 3, when the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Cañon City Police Department issued releases about the escape of Roloff and Tanner, 61, who are said to have scaled the razor-wire-topped walls of the facility,

CDOC's report said that the pair had fled at around 9:30 a.m., while the CCPD put the time at 10:30 a.m. Whatever the case, Tanner was recaptured quickly, while Roloff evaded authorities until about noon before being grabbed.

In all likelihood, Roloff's sentence will be extended as a result of his extracurricular activities — not that it'll matter much. The Colorado Department of Corrections website currently notes that he won't be eligible for parole until November 2109 and his release date falls on May 23, 2182.

Click to read George Roloff's 2011 arrest affidavit.

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