Pueblo County, Colorado
Pueblo News 1980's

Page contributed by Karen Mitchell, news items contributed by Pueblo County Volunteers.
These news items are being extracted from the local newspapers. They are in chronological order. To search for any given name use your browers "Find" button.



Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph - July 29, 1980 - Mafia in Pueblo? No, Says Losavio - Pueblo - Pueblo is not headquarters for a Mafia operation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation should acknowledge that fact, District Attorney Joseph E. Losavio Jr., said Monday. Losavio sent a letter Monday to William Webster, director of the FBI, and an affidavit to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations pointing out that stories about a Mafia headquarters here are false. Losavio conceded that at one time the Mafia did wield "considerable influence" in Pueblo, but he declared that is no longer so. Losavio said he had a hand in shattering the influence. However, organized crime always is attempting to reclaim its lost territory and vigilance by citizens and their law agencies are required to prevent that, he said. The district attorney said that legal wire tapping, continuing grand juries and immunity and protection for witnesses, as well as citizen support were the key elements for a community to rid itself of organized crime. Losavio is the sometimes controversial attorney for the 10th Judicial District. He has held the office since January, 1973, having been elected the previous November. Losavio was re-elected in 1976 and is up for a third term this year. Losavio made his statement in answer to a report made recently in the nation's Capitol. The FBI presented a Senate subcommittee with a map showing cities which were reported to have Mafia headquarters, or were under the strong influence of organized crime. One of those cities was Pueblo. Losavio asserted that when he met with the committee counsel and chief investigator in Washington soon after the report, neither had facts in hand to substantiate the charge about Pueblo. However, Losavio added, if the FBI does have some information about a Mafia headquarters here he would like to have it so that "my office and other local and state law enforcement agencies can take immediate action to counteract such influence." In his affidavit, Losavio said he is convinced, "Mafia influence in Pueblo is practically non-existent, and what little activity can be traced to the very few active organized crime figures present in the community is closely watched." Furthermore, said Losavio, he thinks the full story of crime in Pueblo should be told because once a community has succeeded in the Herculean job of rooting out organized crime, national law enforcement agencies should acknowledge that achievement. There has been some lawlessness in Pueblo's history, the district attorney conceded. "During the 1920s and 30s Pueblo experienced the reign of lawlessness that was typical of the prohibition and depression eras" he said. Also, a prominent Pueblo crime figure attended the infamous Appalachian meeting in 1967, the affidavit pointed out. The real attack on organized crime in Pueblo began in 1972, and it was needed, said Losavio. "The Mafia had achieved the prime prerequisites for domination of a community" – corruption of the judiciary, the police department and other governmental agencies said Losavio in his affidavit. The people of Pueblo decided to "stand up and fight this evil tyranny and to exhibit the courage to serve on juries and return convictions," said Losavio. To regain control of Pueblo from organized crime, Losavio said a judge had to be removed from office, the police department had to be cleaned out, drug traffic had to be smashed, major fencing operations had to be shattered, bookmakers had to be convicted and put out of business, prostitution activities had to be checked, pornography had to be controlled, criminal figures had to be convicted, and vigilance had to be continued against the resurgence of organized crime.



Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 9-13-1984 Toole 'Confesses' in Pueblo Area Murder – Ottis Toole has said he murdered a woman near Pueblo in 1974, the same year he says he killed a Colorado Springs massage-parlor operator, authorities said Wednesday. Pueblo District Attorney Gus Sandstrom said he is skeptical of the “confession” and has decided not to file charges against Toole. No one has ever been charged in the death. Toole is an admitted mass murderer who is in custody in Jacksonville, Fla. Meanwhile, officials in Oklahoma, where the woman's body was found, are now studying the evidence to determine whether they have a criminal case. Pueblo Sheriff's Detective Joe Antonio, who heads the major-crimes team, said Toole first confessed in November to killing Helen Holman of Trinidad. He repeated his story in January and February, when Antonio and another officer reinterviewed him, Antonio said. The 31-year-old woman was en route with her husband in separate vehicles from Trinidad to Pueblo when she disappeared on Oct. 21, 1974. Her car was found at a rest stop off Interstate 25, 16 miles south of Pueblo. On Oct. 29, her body, with three bullet wounds to the head, was found in a field off U. S. 287, just across the Oklahoma state line. Antonio and Sandstrom said Toole, who also has confessed to the Sept. 19, 1974, murder of Colorado Springs massage-parlor owner Sun Ok Cousin, for which Park Estep has been imprisoned, had some of the details on the Pueblo-area slaying right. But “there were inconsistencies in his story,” Antonio said. Antonio said Toole told him he abducted the woman from a rest stop or campground. He also was able to accurately describe the make of car she drove, the type of bullets (.38 caliber) and the area of the body into which the bullets were fired, her hair color and approximate age. “But he was way off on the roads he said he took to Oklahoma and the time it took to get there,” Antonio said. “He said the scenery consisted of plateaus and made no mention of mountains. He seemed to know something about Denver, describing the gold-tipped capitol dome. “But he said he was living in California at the time and our investigation showed he was staying with his mother in Jacksonville. “He had a vague description of clothing that was not useful.” On the basis of the information authorities had, Sandstrom said he did not believe he had a case that would hold up in court. “I am skeptical that he did this,” Sandstrom said. “In my opinion he gave us absolutely nothing except his say so that he had been in Pueblo or Colorado Springs.” Jerry Weis, assistant district attorney for Cimarron County, Okla., said he expected to see and hear the “confession,” which is on videotape, within the week. “Right now I don't know what we've got. After I see the evidence I will make a decision fairly quickly on whether to file charges against Toole,” Weis said. Cimarron County Sheriff Bob White said he had seen evidence and was going through it again before presenting it to the district attorney. He would not comment on his opinion of it. Jim Franklin, the assistant chief deputy district attorney for the 4th Judicial District, said Wednesday he has read Tool's “confession” to Ms. Cousin's murder, but added: “The information we have at this moment indicates we have the correct person incarcerated.” He said he has not heard yet from two officers representing the sheriff's office and Colorado Springs Police Department who went to Jacksonville to interview Toole about his statement.  

Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 11-15-1984 – Boys Ranch at Pueblo Needs Help – Pueblo – Unless the Colorado Department of Social Services increases its financial commitment, the El Pueblo Boys Ranch will close next spring, says executive director John Shue. Shue said the Boys Ranch, which counsels and houses delinquent and troubled boys, has been forced into deficit spending of between $5,000 and $8,000 a month for about eight months. If that continues, he said, the ranch could close as early as April, 1985. He said the agency's financial problems center on the fact that the Department of Social Services froze its reimbursement-per-resident rate in 1980. In the years that followed, El Pueblo's cost of operation rose, state regulations governing the ranch became stricter and private support dwindled, he said. Shue said the ranch is being penalized for its past efficiencies. He said the Boys Ranch board of directors and staff, unaware that a rate freeze was imminent, operated the center at relatively low cost to the state. The ranch is now locked into a funding formula that Shue described as unrealistic. El Pueblo's monthly reimbursement of $885 per resident is the lowest of any residential care center of its kind in the state. Shue said the state average for all residential child-care centers is $1,446. “Other area child-care facilities accepting children with essentially the same character and behavior profiles as El Pueblo Boys Ranch are reimbursed at a rate as high as $1,912 per month,” Shue said. “If we are not allowed to negotiate a higher rate and we close, our residents will end up in one of these higher cost facilities. Where is the logic in that?” Shue said. El Pueblo must have a rate comparable to the state average in order to continue to provide adequate services. “On one hand we are encouraged to remain open because they need our services as other facilities close due to funding problems,” he said. “On the other, we are advised that without Joint Budget Committee sanction, it would be unwise for the Department of Social Services to raise the rates, considering the state's overall fiscal situation.” State Rep. Bob Leon Kirscht, R-Pueblo, said the Joint Budget Committee will meet in December or January with George S. Goldstein, executive director of the state Department of Social Services.


Pueblo Chieftain 9-2-1997 Remember When...? - 10 years ago, in September, 1987: The Pueblo Crusaders semipro football team withdrew from the Mid-America Football League in the interest of playing more often and against better competition. Unfounded accusations on the part of the league's front office were the last straw for management of the Crusaders; A building on North Main in Pueblo that housed Harding-Bulloch Jewelers for 33 years was leveled and converted into a parking lot. The building's previous tenant was Sterling Crouch Grocery; Alice Robertson of Mountain Vista Nursing Home in Wheat Ridge was crowned Silver Queen; A war of words was waged in the Palace of Agriculture at the Colorado State Fairgrounds during the State Fair. Proprietors of two booths, one pushing English as Colorado's official language and the other calling the English-only effort advocacy of racism, made their appeals to fairgoers. The booths stood a mere 50 feet apart; A total of 53 Pueblo public school employees, 37 of them classroom teachers, seized the opportunity to retire early. Under legislation enacted by the 1987 Colorado General Assembly, public employees at least 55 years old whose age and length of service total a minimum of 75, the one-time chance arose. 20 years ago, in September, 1977: The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board adopted a resolution dictating that 24 1/2 miles of road in Pueblo West be paved; It was announced that approximately 60,000 patrons visited Pueblo Reservoir in August, setting a new record for attendance in the month of August; Pueblo police officers were briefly absent from work as the result of a "sickout" brought on by contract disputes between the city and local police union officials; The University of Southern Colorado football team, heralded for its defensive prowess, defeated Fort Hays 42-14 in the season opener before a crowd of 2,437 at Pueblo Public School Stadium; U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland was met with jeers in Pueblo by roughly 2,000 agriculture-minded residents of 41 states when he suggested a voluntary insurance policy for farmers. 40 years ago, in September, 1957: Five orphans ranging in age from six to 11 scaled the wall around Sacred Heart Orphanage for a short-lived but daring escape; City government in Pueblo discontinued the practice of allowing banks to count parking meter proceeds. Contents of the meters instead were delivered to the city finance office and tallied before being deposited; A group of 318 Puebloans visited the site of the Air Force Academy while construction was under way. The academy would open one year later. At the time, the academy construction project was the largest west of the Mississippi River.


Colorado Springs Gazette 5-28-1988 'Most awful sound' Alerted Residents / Reminiscent of '35 Pueblo Flood - Some thought it was the wind. Others mistook the sound for a driving rain. Everyone described it as a roar - the terrible roar of a 4-foot wall of water crashing down on a sleeping neighborhood. "I was in the Pueblo flood of 1935 and it sounded just like that - that awesome sound," said Mary Banuelos of 738 W. Monument St. "That's the most awful sound you could hear." The roar began about 3:45 a.m. Friday, just after an earthen reservoir burst near a city water tank. Ada Romero, who has lived in the neighborhood for 36 years, started shaking as she looked out at the wall of water bombarding her house at 744 W. Monument St. She thought of her 75-year-old husband, Maxie, attached to an oxygen tank. "My main worry is him because he has heart failure and emphysema . . . He's on oxygen 24 hours a day. He gets excited and his pulse goes up and he has a little trouble breathing . . . I'm still shaking." The surging water was so powerful that it upended a refrigerator in an unoccupied basement apartment at 740 W. Monument. "The force of water knocked it over and it was barricading the door," said Bev Albertoli, whose father owns the damaged home. The water level in the apartment reached above the kitchen counter and destroyed nearly everything in sight. "They're going to have to replace all the appliances," said Marilyn James, who lives above the unoccupied apartment. Many residents feared that the water caused inestimable structural damage to the foundations of their homes. Ben Hays, of 709 Cooper Ave., said he watched the water enter one corner of the bottom of his house and exit the other. "You could actually hear rocks bouncing off the floor," he said. Hays drove toward the reservoir immediately after being awakened by the roar. "I just saw this massive wall of water washing over the dike," he said. I came back down and told (my wife) to get the kids up and dressed - we might have to evacuate." Hays had his home up for sale. "We ought take the sign down," said his wife, Karen. Even the youngest members of the Hays family were devastated by the flood.. "It washed away the kids' sandbox; they're not too happy about that," Hays said. Few neighborhood residents escaped the flood without loss. Molly Mullins watched the flood wash away her precious garden. "All kinds of flowers and vegetables and grass - a little bit of everything," she said. "They're somewhere down the street." She said she and her husband Ron had been working on the garden outside their home at 523 W. Monument for about two years. "We've been really going at it. Trying to get it perfect . . . The next thing you know it's gone." Residents at the top of West Monument joked that they always felt safe from flooding because they lived up the hill. "I said, I'm going to be here when the Ark floats by and I'm going to be OK," said Dona Bymaster, 831 Manitou Blvd. "The Ark floated by and I'm not OK." Bymaster spent Friday morning working on her property and commiserating with neighbors. She noted that many residents just became friends at a party last year. "That was the first time anybody had talked to each in 20 years," she said. "This morning was a time to say hello again."


Colorado Springs Gazette 2-9-1989 – Pueblo Explosion Kills Man at Airport Industrial Park/ Pressure Kettle's Lid Blasts Through Roof – Pueblo – An equipment consultant was killed Wednesday evening when a "giant pressure cooker" being tested at a Kaiser plant exploded, projecting its lid through the roof, authorities said. Three other workers in the Kaiser Space Products building escaped unhurt, authorities said. The explosion occurred at 6:30 p.m. in the structure at the Airport Industrial Park. The victim was identified as Robert Renkemeyer, 66, of Pensacola, Fla., said Pueblo County Coroner James Kramer. Renkemeyer was standing near a hydroclave, which is a steam-driven pressure kettle used for curing aerospace parts, when it exploded and "the lid blew off," said Kaiser President Bill Sidney. Pueblo Fire Department spokesman Charlie Stimmel said the 14,000-pound lid blasted through the roof and landed in a parking lot 50 or 60 feet away. The west and south walls of the building also were blown out. "It's impossible to know how the pressure vessel blew up," Sidney told a group of Kaiser workers who swarmed around his car. Stimmel said, "The pressure vessel had 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and was being fed 310-degree steam when it blew. Right now we're thinking it was some type of pressure buildup." He emphasized that the accident was not caused by a natural gas explosion. Earlier, Pueblo police Sgt. Robert Williams had reported that the object launched through the roof was a rocket nose cone. Sidney said Renkemeyer was a representative of the company that built the hydroclave. "It was the first time we ran it (the hydroclave) at full pressure," he said. Pueblo County sheriff's deputy Richard Bregar, one of the first to arrive at the scene, said, "What an eerie feeling . . .it just shook your whole body. I heard the explosion and saw the south walls of the building fall down." The Kaiser plant was built at a cost of approximately $5 million. Investigators said about half the plant was damaged. In addition to the manufacturing area, some of the administrative offices were damaged.  

Colorado Springs Gazette 2-10-1989 – Officials Search for Clues to Fatal Explosion in Pueblo – An investigator from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined Pueblo fire officials Thursday to search for clues in an explosion that killed a man at a Pueblo aerospace plant Wednesday. Robert Renkemeyer, 66, of Pensacola, Fla., died when a hydroclave – described as a huge pressure cooker – exploded while being tested at Kaiser Space Products. Pueblo Fire Department spokesman Charlie Stimmel said fire officials estimate the explosion caused $1.5 million worth of damage to the building and $500,000 in damage to its contents. The Kaiser plant, which opened last summer, was built at a cost of approximately $5 million. A company news release said the damage was “severe, but repairable.” The hydroclave, which is approximately 9 feet in diameter and 8 feet long, is a steam-driven pressure kettle used for curing parts of rocket nozzles, said Kaiser President Bill Sidney. It was in the final stages of testing prior to its acceptance by the company when the explosion occurred. Renkemeyer, a consultant for Bondtech Corporation Corp. of St. Louis, the company marketing the hydroclave, was assisting in the test. “For reasons unknown at this time, the lid of the hydroclave separated from the main body, releasing the pressure into the plant area, forming a shock wave much like an explosion,” said a Kaiser news release. Renkemeyer was standing near the hydroclave and was killed instantly by the shock wave, Sidney said. Five other workers and a security guard in the building were not injured. At the time of the explosion, the hydroclave was operating under pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch and at a temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The news release said the conditions were “well within the design parameters of the hydroclave, which had been tested at substantially higher pressure during its manufacture.” The release said the vessel had been operated at the same pressure and temperature levels several times during the past few days and had been operating at full pressure and temperature for more than 20 hours when the malfunction occurred. The release said Renkemeyer “was one of the world's leading technical experts in the installation and operation of pressure vessels” and had installed the same type of equipment many times. Eric Ramirez, a spokesman for OSHA in Denver, said the plant had no history of safety violations or accidents. “It was a fairly new plant,” he said. The accident was the second at the Kaiser plant in the past week, according to Pueblo Fire Department records. On Feb. 2, an employee of T&T Electric in Pueblo was treated for carbon dioxide inhalation after a piece of equipment spewed gas through the plant. Natural gas is used in the plant's autoclaves to cure carbon wrappings on rocket nozzles. Sidney said the two incidents were not related and no gas was involved in Wednesday's explosion. The plant supplies rocket nozzles for two of the three primary launch vehicles used by NASA, the Air Force and private satellite operations. It originally was built to handle a growing demand for nozzles for the SRAM missile and the small solid boosters strapped onto McDonnell Douglas' Delta Rocket. Sidney was unable to say Thursday how much the damage would affect the plant's ability to fulfill its contracts. When plans for the plant were announced in late 1987, it was to be an extension of the Kaiser Aerotech plant in Oakland, Calif. Then the parent company, Kaiser Aerospace and Electronics, won a contract to supply the rocket nozzles for Martin Marietta's Titan rocket. The Pueblo plant was designed to be a separate division of the company called Kaiser Space Products.

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