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Zoey Ripple, recent CU grad shot after entering wrong house: Guilty plea, deferred sentence

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Zoey Ripple, the recent CU graduate who was shot after wandering into the wrong home, may have been under the influence of a date-rape drug in addition to alcohol, her attorney maintains. Nonetheless, Ripple -- recently featured in a 20/20 report about drunk walking -- has pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal trespassing in a deal that will keep her out of jail.

As we noted in our most recent update about this case, published back in June, the charge is a felony that carries a potential penalty of five years behind bars. But as noted by the Boulder Daily Camera, prosecutors agreed to a deferred sentence. If Ripple stays out of trouble for the next eighteen months, the conviction will be expunged from her record.

A recap from our earlier posts, on view below: Ripple entered the spectacular home of Doreen Orion and Timothy Justice on May 23 after a night spent partying. She was apparently under the impression that she was still with friends when the couple began shouting at her to leave or face the prospect of being shot. When she didn't respond, Justice pulled the trigger, sending a piece of lead into her hip. She later registered a .2 blood alcohol content, almost triple the legal limit for intoxication. However, no test was done for date-rape drugs -- meaning there's no way to confirm the related theory floated by Ripple's lawyer, Colette Cribari, at yesterday's sentencing hearing.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said Justice wouldn't be charged with a crime, since his actions fit within Colorado's Make My Day statute. However, he subsequently decided to fit Ripple with a trespassing beef under the belief that it perfectly matched the circumstances. "It simply means you entered someone's house without their permission," he told us in an interview earlier this year.

"This is sort of an offshoot of the drinking culture on University Hill, where people wander into the wrong house for one reason or another," he added. "And the charge is a way to make sure we help the person get treatment for what may be a serious drinking problem. We want to help them get that under control."

Garnett stressed that his office hadn't determined if Ripple fit this description. But, he said, "when you have a young person with an apparent blood-alcohol content of .2, that's an indication. You have to work pretty hard to get to a .2."

Despite the assertions about potential drugging, Ripple has reportedly attended substance-abuse classes, and she says she hasn't had a drink since the May night when she was suddenly thrust into the limelight. Learn more in this Daily Camera clip recorded after the sentencing, followed by our previous coverage.

Continue for our earlier reportage, including Ripple's arrest affidavit. Update, 7:08 a.m. May 30: Many questions remain in the matter of Zoey Ripple, the CU grad who was shot after entering the wrong house -- an incident detailed in our original coverage below. But we've got more answers thanks to Boulder Police's release of an arrest affidavit, seen here, which quotes her as saying that after a night spent drinking, she thought she was at a pal's house until a bullet tore into her hip.

According to the affidavit, Timothy Justice and Doreen Orion were asleep in their spectacular College Avenue home -- an abode described in the affidavit as being in a remote section of Boulder accessible by a road on a steep incline. The property is well-fenced and the surrounding area is covered with rocks, trees and bushes, with only the lengthy driveway allowing access to the residence.

Suddenly, the report continues, Orion heard a noise outside the French door of the master bedroom. She initially assumed an animal was causing the ruckus -- at least until she saw a glowing light and watched as an unidentified person entered through a sliding screen door. The couple ordered the person to leave several times, they stressed to officers, before Orion told Justice, "Get the gun," which was conveniently located in a nearby nightstand. He grabbed the weapon, chambered a round and fired toward the light, striking the intruder -- Ripple -- in the hip from a distance of about six feet.

At that point, Justice switched on the bedroom light to see Ripple on the floor at the foot of the bed, incongruously making a cell phone call. An instant later, Orion dialed a phone of her own, punching in the digits "9-1-1."

Later that morning, the reporting officer spoke with Ripple at Boulder Community Hospital, shortly before she was administered a dose of pain killers to deal with her injury. She told him she thought the Orion-Justice home was just "a step up" from the location of a house party she'd attended earlier in the evening -- an estimate that turned out to be just a little bit off (more on that later). When she entered the home, she said "the same thing I always say when I open a door: 'Hello.'" However, the response she received -- a lot of shouting and yelling -- only served to confuse her, especially since she thought she was with people she knew at a friend's house until the moment she was blasted by Justice's gun. (He isn't being charged with a crime thanks to Colorado's Make My Day law.)

Detectives subsequently interviewed a slew of Ripple's acquaintances, who said she'd attended a house party on Grandview Avenue until at least 10:30 p.m. -- after which she joined a group at a Broadway bar called the Goose. She stayed there until closing time, 1:45 a.m. Then Ripple and company headed to another house party -- this one on the 1100 block of University Avenue, about three-quarters of a mile from the Orion-Justice place -- a distance that qualifies as something more than a step. One friend said she left on foot sometime after 2:30 a.m. He assumed she was walking home, but she never quite made it.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Ripple is next due in court on June 15. Look below to see a larger version of Ripple's mug shot and the aforementioned arrest affidavit.

Zoey Ripple Arrest Affidavit

Page down to see our earlier coverage. Update, 11:12 a.m. May 29: Zoey Ripple has reportedly been arrested for trespassing after drunkenly entering a pricey College Avenue home on May 24 -- an action that led to her being shot by the homeowner.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett speaks generally about the decision to formally charge Ripple in the coming days, and notes that incidents like this one (sans the shooting) are mighty common in Boulder.

As we pointed out in our first report, also included here, 21-year-old Ripple, who graduated from CU-Boulder a few short weeks ago (she was initially identified in the press as a student), is an unlikely person to have been involved in such an incident. Her employment history includes work as a food blogger and employee at the Columbine Country Club, and her criminal history is so minor that her single offense has already been wiped off her permanent record.

Likewise, the owners of the home in question -- Doreen Orion, author of the perky travelogue Queen of the Road, and her husband, Timothy Justice -- aren't the sorts who typically turn up in tales about shootings. But when Ripple stumbled into their home and didn't respond to demands to leave, Justice fired a shot that struck the young woman in the hip.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Garnett announced that Justice wouldn't be arrested because his actions fall under Colorado's Make My Day statute -- legislation with which he has a long and interesting history.

"I've been around for a while and I've always been a person who voices my opinion," Garnett notes. "I recently went back and found some clippings from 1985, and I lobbied against the statute when I was a deputy DA. I was concerned at the time that it would be used by folks involved in criminal activity -- like a drug dealer in a house who used force against another drug dealer. But the intent of the law is to maintain the sanctity of people's homes, and I think in the almost thirty years since it passed, some of the fears I had about it being abused have largely not come about. I think it's worked pretty well."

The law looks at "what a person can reasonably perceive" when it comes to an intruder, Garnett continues -- and while, in this case, Ripple was merely drunk (her blood alcohol content has been calculated at .2, nearly triple the legal limit for intoxication) rather than intent on burglary, "we concluded that these folks reasonably perceived the type of threat that lets the Make My Day law kick in."

As for Ripple, the Boulder Daily Camera reports in the item linked above that she was arrested today on suspicion of first-degree trespassing. (Editor's note: The text of this article has been changed to reflect the new development.) The count is appropriate on its face, Garnett feels: "It simply means you entered someone's house without their permission." But he portrays the allegation in instances like this one as an effort to assist, rather than only punish, the people involved.

"This is sort of an offshoot of the drinking culture on University Hill, where people wander into the wrong house for one reason or another," he says. "And the charge is a way to make sure we help the person get treatment for what may be a serious drinking problem. We want to help them get that under control."

Is Ripple struggling with such an issue? More investigation will be necessary to determine that, Garnett concedes -- but he says, "When you have a young person with an apparent blood-alcohol content of .2, that's an indication. You have to work pretty hard to get to a .2."

How often do sloshed individuals, most of them young adults, trespass in someone else's house? "We file an average of fifteen of these a year -- so about once a month or more," Garnett says.

Although, fortunately, they don't usually end up with someone being shot. See our earlier coverage for more details.

Original item, 8:29 a.m. May 25: The featured players in a Boulder "Make My Day" shooting could hardly be more unlikely: Zoey Ripple, CU student and ultra-perky food blogger, and the pair of Timothy Justice and Doreen Orion, whose saga of traveling the country for a year in a "glorified tin can" is told in the book Queen of the Road.

Justice won't be charged. But Ripple, who was ultra-drunk at the time of the incident, isn't out of the woods yet.

According to the Boulder Police Department, officers were dispatched to a very nice house on the 400 block of College Avenue (it's listed for sale at $2.75 million) at 3:26 a.m. yesterday morning following a 911 call by Orion. Here it is, courtesy of the Boulder Daily Camera:

Boulder cops say the husband and wife in question -- Orion, who's heard in the 911 audio, and Justice -- had been sleeping when they heard a noise. At first, they thought it might have been a raccoon gaining access via a nearby screen door that was closed but not locked. However, Orion soon realized the intruder walked on two legs, not four, and had entered the bedroom.

The pair reportedly shouted for the person to leave, with Justice adding that he had a gun and would use it -- and he proved it when he fired a shot in the direction of a light the intruder held while walking toward the bed. An instant later, a body fell and the couple discovered that Justice had plugged a young woman -- Ripple -- in the hip.

As you can hear in the 911 audio, Orion said the woman was cogent enough to make a phone call after the shooting. although she sounded kinda stoned. But blotto is more like it: She subsequently tested at .20 blood alcohol content, nearly triple the legal limit for drunkenness.

Ripple, a CU student listed on the university's website as majoring in speech, language and hearing sciences, is hardly a notorious scofflaw. The Camera discovered that she'd pleaded guilty to shoplifting in Broomfield in 2010, but her record was cleared after she successfully completed a deferred sentence. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as "Food and Beverage Intern Manager" at Columbine Country Club, and she's also blogged about food for the website Bite Into Boulder. Her most recent review, a June 2011 analysis of Khow Thai, features lines like "Thai food is one of my absolute top favorite foods" and "So BEWARE, those who cannot handle the heat, stray from the items on the menu with chili peppers by their name!"

The presumption at this point is that Ripple was simply so out of it that she mistakenly wandered into the wrong house and was unable to respond to Justice before he sent a chunk of lead in her direction. But in a prepared statement shared by the Camera, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett also offered compassion to Orion, whose online bio describes her background as a psychiatrist and appearances on Good Morning America and the Discovery Channel, and Justice.

"This was an unfortunate incident for the homeowners in this case, who are understandably upset by what occurred, and for Ms. Ripple, who could have been fatally wounded," Garnett wrote. "It is also unfortunate that we see a lot of incidents in Boulder where people become so intoxicated that they illegally trespass into another's residence. Luckily most of them don't result in someone being shot, but as this case illustrates, it certainly is a possibility."

Because Justice's actions are protected under Colorado's Make My Day statute, Garnett has decided he won't face charges. But at this writing, the DA hasn't definitely decided whether to pursue a case against Ripple or let the bullet in her hip serve as a reminder about how important it is to know when to say when.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Azura Lakin: Make My Day law means no charges for killing Shaun Cassidy with bottle."

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