Pueblo County, Colorado
Pueblo News 1990'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 2-2-1990 – Pueblo Catholic Paper Dies – The Pueblo Catholic Diocese blames a failed subscription campaign for forcing it to stop publishing the diocese newspaper later this month. The last issue of The Chronicle of Catholic Life will be mailed in late February to 24,000 Catholic households in 27 southern and western Colorado counties, said Father Ed Nunez, who heads the diocese administrative staff. The Chronicle published its first issue in May 1988.
Colorado Springs Gazette 3-12-1990 – The Quest for Woman's Past Life Led Author to Wealthy Seclusion – Pueblo Man's 'Search for Bridey Murphy' Lives On – Pueblo – "The Search for Bridey Murphy" continues. The first publisher of the book, now in its eighth printing, hoped for a sale of 10,000 copies. The book sold almost 20 times that immediately. The story of a woman who, under hypnosis, remembered living another lifetime was the No. 1 seller in the land for 26 weeks. It has been published in 34 countries and in 30 different languages. More than 6 million copies have been sold. The search for Morey Bernstein, the author, leads to a tiny apartment in Pueblo. A millionaire and then some, Bernstein resides among people who hope to earn above minimum wage. The most visible man in Pueblo is now the most reclusive. He has dropped so far out that what part of the town still remembers him probably thinks he died long ago in some faraway place. Bernstein, now 70, does not attempt to discourage the thought. He seldom ventures out. Informed that there are those who call him the "Howard Hughes of Pueblo," Bernstein laughs and says he would like it known that he keeps his hair short and his fingernails trimmed. The most noticeable feature is that he carries only 135 pounds on a frame just under 6 feet. What meals he eats are brought to him by a woman who looks after the house he used to occupy on Elizabeth Avenue. He was married once, has been divorced for years. His former wife, Hazel Higgins, lives in Pueblo. "We're still very much friends," says Bernstein. His business dealings, still extensive in the investment field, are almost all done over the telephone or by cassette tapes. There is one Hugheslike quality. If the telephone rings late at night, it could be Morey Bernstein. Bernstein has been Page One news in Pueblo for a long time, beginning when he broke his neck in 1937 as a 17-year-old Centennial High School senior. At City Park, as seniors were celebrating their approaching graduation, Bernstein tripped and plunged into Lake Joy. After graduating from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, he returned to Pueblo to take over the family business, a highly successful junkyard. By 1951 he had been appointed a director of the Minnequa Bank, the youngest bank director in the country, he says. It didn't stop there. He remains sensitive about how the town might perceive him. He is careful to point out that he has donated two large buildings - one to the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, the other to the University of Southern Colorado Foundation. Bernstein used to divide his time between Pueblo and Miami. Now there is just the apartment in Pueblo, and he has only contempt for the two cities north on Interstate 25. Colorado Springs? "Horribly overbuilt." Denver? "It's gotten so bad I simply refuse to go there." And then there is Bridey. Always the constant, the one thing that makes him absolutely different from just another guy who made a million dollars. Ginny Morrow was the woman the hypnotist Bernstein took back to another lifetime 100 years earlier in Ireland, where she was known as Bridey Murphy. Two people one cold autumn night in 1952 in Pueblo stood at the doorstep of creating a firestorm of controversy. Bernstein has not seen Morrow since 1971, and that was for a brief moment while changing airplanes in Denver. "But it would not be right to say we're not friends," says Bernstein. "We talk on the phone, we exchange letters. Yet, to see each other, our paths have just never seemed to cross." Morrow has just returned to Colorado, after experimenting with retirement in Arizona, and she doesn't like to talk about Bridey Murphy much anymore. "It's just something that happened," she says. "When I think back about it, it's like a fantasy, a dream." If there was collusion, if it was a hoax, it's funny neither of them made much money from it, says Bernstein. Both shunned the public eye. Smart people spent big money trying to prove the deception. "But I had an impeccable reputation," he says. Money could not have been an incentive; Bernstein was already wealthy. It was at that frantic time that the seeds of reclusion were being sown. "You have to remember," Bernstein says, "that for 30 years while I was trying to build the business, I was taking someone out to dinner every night . . . sales managers, ranchers, farmers. I got tired of it. And then, when the Bridey thing came along, it just floored me. It was such an overnight sensation. Everything just goes crazy. And I'm little Morey Bernstein. I was born in a junkyard in Pueblo, Colorado, for Christ sake." The founder and chairman of the Bernstein Brothers Parapsychology Foundation, Bernstein
continues to investigate the unknown, not only spiritually, but medically. When he stepped into hypnotism, he says, he realized that the mind could be disassociated from the body. He now believes that the spirit lives on. You can't die even if you want to. "That's the one I don't like at all," he says.
Colorado Springs Gazette 4-5-1990 – Nine Burned at CF&I Steel Plant – One Pueblo Worker Critically Injured by Molten Metal – Nine workers were burned Wednesday, one critically, at the Pueblo CF&I Steel Corp. plant by an explosion sparked by water leaking into a vat of molten metal. Company spokesman Mike Kraska said the explosion happened at 3:30 a.m. in CF&I's No. 4 electric arc furnace, which melts scrap metal to produce raw steel. The injuries were caused by pieces of molten metal blown from the furnace during the explosion, he said. "The furnace is operating at 3,000 degrees," Kraska said. "They are water-cooled, and when water mixes with metal that is that hot it is very dangerous." Kelvin Mendell, 39, of Pueblo, was in critical but stable condition in Denver's University Hospital burn unit late Wednesday. Hospital spokesman Brad Bawmann said Mendell had second- and third-degree burns covering 50 percent of his body – on his head, both arms, chest and neck. Eight others were treated for minor injuries at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, Kraska said. It was the third such accident at the steel plant since 1985, said Bob Glover, spokesman for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Denver. But OSHA records indicate the federal agency did not investigate the two previous incidents. OSHA investigators are probing this accident, Glover said. Plant officials were conducting their own investigation and had not yet determined how the water leaked into the furnace, he said. On Aug. 14, 1985, eight workers suffered minor injuries in another early-morning arc furnace explosion after a water hose leaked. On Nov. 10, 1987, six workers suffered bruises, smoke inhalation and minor burns when a series of explosions occurred in the No. 3 arc furnace. A cause for that accident was unavailable Wednesday. The CF&I plant, which employs 2,000 workers, uses raw steel to manufacture railroad rails, oil company pipes and wire and bar products for agricultural use, Kraska said. The plant once employed some 6,000 workers, but in 1982 the drop in demand for domestically produced steel forced the company to shut down much of its operation. During the past two years, three of its four coal-fired blast furnaces have been dismantled. The fourth will be demolished later this year. Kraska said two electrical arc furnaces are all that remain of the plant's steel-making operation.
Pueblo Chieftain 1-26-1991 - Princess Caradja, 98, Honored By Rescued Pilots - Princess Catherine Caradja of Romania talks with Lt. Col. Bill Feder at a special reception for the Princess held at the Holiday Inn. In a room filled with veterans and wives who came to Pueblo on Friday to swap war stories, Romanian Princess Catherine Caradja, 97, talked of peace. "The question is not whether to keep world peace," said Caradja. "You - the United States - must stay free. There are dangers here. Save yourselves because that just may save the world." Caradja knows about fighting for freedom. Her one-woman campaign against tyranny in her homeland has pitted her against such formidable foes as Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. On numerous occasions, she placed the welfare of orphans and American prisoners of war above her own. "It's horrible to have seen so much," she said of herself. Still fiery after nearly a century of fighting the good fight, Caradja gives away advice as freely as she does smiles. "My only hope is you - the youth," she told a television reporter Friday. "Get up on your hind legs. We don't need a `me' generation. Love one another and obey the Lord." The Romanian princess is in Pueblo this week as the guest of honor of the 376th Bomb Group and the Pueblo Historical Aircraft Society. She will speak to the sponsoring groups tonight at a banquet in her honor at the Holiday Inn. In 1944, she became the patron saint of more than 1,400 American airmen when she saved them from both the Nazis and Communists. "She's a symbol of courage of the civilian community who gave support to our military people in trouble at the risk of endangering their own life," said Ret. Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught of Washington, D.C. Former Puebloan Evelyn Cebulski Stark, whose husband Cecil Stark flew in a B-24 during World War II, was one of the group of 40 who came to greet Caradja. "Do you know what that lady did?" she asked. "She went out and rescued injured crew members and hid them from the Germans." Accompaning Caradja to Pueblo was Dorothy Britt, the wife of one of the airmen saved by the princess. Her husband, Richard Britt, was a crew member of a B-24 shot down on Aug. 1, 1943, over the oil fields of Ploesti. He and 110 other American airmen became prisoners of war that day in Nazi-controled Romania. Children from the nearby orphanage, where Caradja cared for more than 3,000, ran to inspect the wreckage of Britt's plane, the "Chattanooga Choo Choo." Eight of the 10 crew members had fled on foot; Britt and another airman were left for dead. "Madam, one of the dead men is moving," a child reported to Caradja. She quickly organized a rescue. A hole was cut in the fuselage and a tree was cut down to be used as a lever to free Britt from the wreckage. Britt was burned from his armpits to his feet with gasoline that leaked from a wing tank. He was taken to the orphanage and nursed back to health under the supervision of Caradja. When he was able, Britt joined the 110 other prisoners of war who were living in a camp in the mountains established by Caradja to keep them from falling in the hands of the Nazis. Within months, the number of raids continued over Ploesti and the number of POWs swelled to more than 1,400. When the Germans were being driven out of Romania by the Russians, Caradja and Col. James Gunn masterminded a daring escape. Gunn, the highest-ranking POW, was smuggled out of Romania in a German-made airplane back to his home base in Italy. An American flag was painted under the fuselage to protect it from being shot down by friendly fire. Days later, an armada of 72 B-17s returned to evacuate the POWs from Romania. After the war, Caradja herself escaped from Communist rule and eventually came to the United States, where she waged a 35-year campaign to free Romania from the Communists. Why did she help the Americans? "Because, you are still - in spite of everything - a very lovable country," Caradja said. And Caradja - despite nearly a century of personal sacrifice - is still a very lovable and lovely lady. And she will be 98 on Monday.
Pueblo Chieftain 7-15-1991 - 1870 Horse Fair Proved to be Resounding Success - In 1870, Pueblo had a population of several hundred people. There was no railroad. The only way in or out of town was on foot or by horse-drawn conveyance. The only direct communication with the outside world was a single telegraph line, and the radio wouldn't be a household item until another half century. A reporter for The Chieftain who was here in 1870 was still around in 1890. He recalled a particular event, and it went something like this: Times had been dull and money was scarce. The townspeople were fond of good horses so it was concluded in the fall of 1870 that Pueblo should have a horse fair, on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12. This was held on the old race track north of the city and west of the old stage road to Denver. The horse fair turned out to be quite a success, and after the last race, everybody came back to town, happy over the result. The "boys" all went to the old Occidental saloon, a frame building which stood on Santa Fe Avenue just south of Fifth Street. Nearly every man of any prominence who lived in or around Pueblo was present, and whiskey flowed freely. The Occidental wasn't large enough to hold the party, and it was decided to have a parade. The procession went three blocks to John Jenner's grocery store on Second Street. Jenner had just received a load of cabbage, and eating of cabbage was added to the general revelry of drinking whiskey. As the evening progressed, the revelers ("drunks" might be a better term) returned to the Occidental, all the while rounding up any able bodied male who happened to be Downtown. One of the party remembered that in a corral at Sixth and Santa Fe was a light wooden house mounted on wheels, which belonged to Moore & Carlile, railroad contractors. The firm had completed a contract on the Kansas Pacific and had brought their grading equipment to Pueblo for the winter. A long rope was procured and attached to the tongue of the vehicle and willing hands soon drew it out onto Santa Fe Avenue. The interior was lighted with candles. Down on the lower end of Santa Fe Avenue stood an old adobe house. Its occupant was a woman whose reputation was not spotless. So off the crowd went to see who might be there. The revelers kicked in the door to find that a well-known cattleman was spending the evening with the woman. They were taken bodily from the house in scanty attire, and were paraded up and down the street in the conveyance that had been dubbed "the last sleeping car for St. Louis." The prisoners were taken to the Occidental, where they too were treated to cabbage and whiskey before being returned to the woman's home. "Many of those who participated in that evening reception have left the country, not a few have `crossed the range' while many are still in Pueblo and can be found among the ranks of our leading business and professional men," concluded the reporter in 1890.
Colorado Springs Gazette 1-12-1992 - Old Ways, Dirt Roads Vanishing in Pueblo's Hispanic Settlement - Communal Sense Survives Decline - Pueblo -The Hispanic people of Salt Creek were among the first to settle in Pueblo. While hard-fought-for progress has eroded some of the traditional Salt Creek lifestyle, much of the spirit and sense of community remains the same. The community is named for the creek that splits it in two. Homes run up and down hillsides as roads meander in uncertain patterns. A few homes now lay empty, testimony to the decline in the community. In the 1960s, more than 2,000 people called Salt Creek home. Only a third remain. The decline is partly a result of success enjoyed elsewhere by the grandsons and granddaughters of the pioneers who first set up home in Salt Creek. They are missionaries, lawyers, servicemen, teachers and bankers. Two are state lawmakers: Jeannie Reeser, D-Thornton, and Rob Hernandez, D-Denver. Other children born in Salt Creek settle within earshot of their parents' homes, reluctant to leave. "It's an emotional homeland for many Pueblo natives," said historian JoAnne Dodds, who works at the Pueblo Regional Library. As Salt Creek has become more modern - with paved roads, running water and sewer service - the population has declined. "In 1945 when we came here, there was nothing but poor people. There was no water, no electricity, no roads, no gas and two telephones," said Baudelio Flores, owner of the last grocery store in Salt Creek. But also at that time there were dozens of stores, he said. Progress was slow coming to Salt Creek. The first gas service arrived in 1954 when Fulton Heights School was built. In 1960, a water and sewer district was formed. But it wasn't until the 1970s that residents abandoned their wells and hooked up to a water system. In 1972, the community mobilized to campaign for paved roads. Dodds said Salt Creek was settled by Hispanic sheep-herders or agricultural workers, who found the community to be much like a traditional Mexican village. Working and living on the land was communal. Until 1927, a plaza graced the northern end of the settlement. The communal sense remains. "There is a strong sense of identity," Dodds said. "They are aware of who belongs in the community and who does not."
Colorado Springs Gazette 5-13-1993 - Cult Leader Left Debt to Pueblo County - Pueblo – The late Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh, who died in the flaming ruins of his compound last month in Waco, Texas, left a debt to Pueblo County. He hadn't paid taxes on 160 acres of prairie northeast of the Pueblo Memorial Airport since 1990. Thelma Wiley of the Pueblo County assessor's office discovered the fact late Wednesday when she was looking at a returned notice of valuation letter with "deceased" scrawled on the envelope. "I saw 'deceased,' then I saw 'Branch Davidians' on the address," she said. "Then 'Waco.' Then I saw the name 'Vernon Howell,' and realized that was David Koresh's real name. I had cold chills running down my back." Koresh and as many as 86 of his followers died in a fire at their Waco compound after a 51-day standoff with federal authorities. The agents originally raided the Branch Davidian center because they had information about stockpiling of weapons inside. The Colorado land was deeded to the sect in August 1953. Present appraised value of the land is $1,460. The Davidians paid their 1990 property taxes, which came to $33, said senior appraiser Jim Crain.
Pueblo Chieftain 6-9-1991 - Pueblo Era as Rail Center Came to an End in 1967 - Nearly a dozen decades have passed since the first Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge passenger train came tooting into Pueblo. June 19, 1872, was a date long to be remembered because it ended the pioneering period of semi-isolation for Pueblo. Puebloans still had to go to Denver to board an eastbound train but it beat making the trip on a stagecoach. The second railroad to enter Pueblo was the Santa Fe, in 1876. Like the D&RG, it provided passenger service for 95 years. The Denver and New Orleans came to town in 1882. For the next 85 years, passenger trains were operated by the Union Pacific and Colorado and Southern on these tracks. The Missouri Pacific came in from the east in 1887 and continued for 78 years. The Rock Island also provided service for a couple of decades in the early part of this century, using D&RG tracks between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. For years, Pueblo had several trains a day arriving and departing in all four directions. Then came the automobile. Most families acquired one of the machines and especially so in the western country. The railroads subsequently lost passengers in droves. In the last years before Amtrak took over the passenger service, those riders who were left felt that the railroads did much to discourage business. The D&RG trains No. 1 and 2 "The Royal Gorge" made their last runs on July 27, 1967. Several hundred passengers boarded the train at Salida for the ride to Pueblo. The Colorado and Southern trains 2 and 7 "Texas Zephyr" made their last run Sept. 11, 1967. The Missouri Pacific line was embroiled in a fireman's strike in the spring of 1966 and didn't run the Eagle thereafter. The Santa Fe canceled its regular train to Denver about that time, but continued to run a two-coach train between Denver and La Junta. The train met the eastbound El Captain-Superchief, which arrived about 9:30 p.m. Passengers heading east could board "El Cap" there and those returning from California had a ride back to Pueblo, Colorado Springs or Denver. But that, too, ended when the railroads went out of the passenger business and the government-operated Amtrak took over. Just as it was a jovial crowd that rode the first train into Pueblo, it was a jolly crowd that made the round-trip ride from Pueblo to La Junta and return on April 30, 1971. Many of the passengers were children whose parents wanted them to experience riding a train.
Colorado Springs Gazette 6-10-1993 - Mystery Illness Ruled Out in Pueblo/Symptoms Spark Fears - Fears that a Pueblo man was suffering from symptoms like those of a respiratory illness that has killed at least 11 people in the Four Corners region proved unfounded Wednesday after doctors determined his heart muscle was inflamed. Officials at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, where the unidentified young man was taken at 4 a.m. Wednesday, fielded calls throughout the evening when reports began circulating that he suffered from unexplained acute respiratory distress syndrome, the mystery illness. A 22-year old woman from Farmington, N.M., died Wednesday in Albuquerque after she was hospitalized with symptoms like those of the mystery illness. If she is diagnosed with the illness, she will be the 12th victim. Dr. Kin Snyder, associate director of St. Mary Corwin's residency program, said admitting doctors matched the Pueblo man's symptoms to several possible illnesses, which ranged from the mystery disease to the common cold. Because one or more of his symptoms matched that of the mystery disease, St. Mary Corwin doctors called physicians in Albuquerque to find out more information. However, after more extensive tests, it was determined that the young man suffered from viral myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. He was listed in good but guarded condition late Wednesday at the Pueblo hospital. Snyder emphasized that the deadly respiratory illness has been ruled out. Symptoms include respiratory distress, swollen lungs, low blood oxygen levels and high white blood cell count. New Mexico officials on Wednesday also confirmed three other cases of the illness that had occurred previously, some as early as February and as recently as last week. Those included two from the Albuquerque area and one from south-central New Mexico. That brought to 18 the total number of cases in New Mexico alone - 10 women and eight men; 11 Indians and seven Anglos. Seven people have died in New Mexico. Researchers also said they had found more evidence that the flulike illness might be caused by a virus found in rodent droppings. Six of nine people tested have had antibodies to the Hantavirus virus, said Dr. Norton Kalishman, chief medical officer for the New Mexico Department of Health. Some strains of Hantavirus have up to a 42-day incubation period, meaning it can take that long for people to develop symptoms of the disease after they are exposed. Kalishman said six of nine cases tested for antibodies have now shown a reaction to Hantavirus. One case was negative and two inconclusive. Those tests can only confirm that an antibody to Hantavirus, not the virus itself, exists in victims. Kalishman said the Arizona patient is to be treated with ribavirin, which has been effective treating the Hantavirus. The latest cases and death, if confirmed, would be the first since May 28, when a 13-year-old girl collapsed near Gallup, N.M., and died the next day. Until Wednesday, there had been 18 confirmed cases and 11 deaths, mostly Navajos. Experts had warned all along that the disease might resurface. "Let's not get lulled into a false sense of security. There could be more exposure," Ted Brown, a New Mexico state Environment Department rodent expert, said Wednesday. The deaths include a northeast New Mexico man who had no apparent connection to the Four Corners area, leading authorities to warn the illness might be present wherever certain rodents live. "I still would say we're looking at a viral agent as the cause. . . . Clearly, Hantavirus has been identified through the antibodies, and that clearly leads to a conclusion that it's part of the illness," Kalishman said, emphasizing however that other causes are still being looked at. And he said it will take weeks to establish whether the new cases are part of the same outbreak.
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-19-1993 - Heavy Rains Trigger Flooding East of Pueblo - About 25 homes in Avondale were evacuated Wednesday evening after a slow-moving storm dumped 2 ½ inches of rain on the area east of Pueblo in three hours. Evacuees were moved to the Avondale Elementary School, a Pueblo County Sheriff's dispatcher said. The problems started about 7:30 p.m. as the storm hovered over the plains. The dispatcher said there were no reports of injuries, but the flooding was severe in some places. The National Weather Service said the flooding was caused by an extensive band of rain that was moving over the state much slower than usual. The storms were bringing a steady flow of moisture into the area, with some spots of heavy rain reported, a forecaster said. He said the ground in some areas of southeastern Colorado is becoming saturated, increasing the danger of flooding. The pattern of rain was to continue at least through tonight.
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-14-1994 - Front Range Takes a Beating - Streets Flooded; Roof Gives Way at Pueblo Mall - Torrential rains pounded the Front Range on Saturday, flooding streets from Pueblo to Fort Collins, closing roads in Denver and triggering mud and rock slides and flash floods in the mountains. Hardest hit was Pueblo, where a 14-foot section of the roof over the Pueblo Mall caved in under the weight of the rainwater, injuring a security officer. Later, a flash flood gushed through Ute Pass west of Colorado Springs. Fountain Creek rose 10 inches in three minutes and nearly went over its banks near the community of Crystola, rushing southeast through Chipita Park and Green Mountain Falls and into western Colorado Springs, where Fountain and Monument creeks meet. At the Pueblo Mall, Arthur "Sonny" Apodaca was injured when the roof of the Fashion Bar department store at the Pueblo Mall collapsed at about 3:30 p.m., said Ron Glover, mall general manager. Apodaca, 22, was injured when he was hit by debris from the falling ceiling. He was treated at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo for muscle strain and released, hospital spokeswoman said. The section of the roof collapsed as about 3 inches of rain fell in less than an hour, overwhelming the roof drains, officials said. A structural beam gave way and hit part of the store's sprinkler system, showering customers and merchandise, Glover said. The sprinklers were turned off in less than a minute, but the gaping hole let in the rain. No damage estimate was available Saturday, Glover said. Another Pueblo Mall store, Joslins, suffered minor damage when water from the storm overflowed drains and backed up a sink and toilet, said store manager Joan Skuza. The Pueblo Fire Department ordered the mall closed at 3:30 p.m., Glover said. Glover said that all stores, except Fashion Bar, were expected to open at noon today after engineers inspected the building Saturday night. He said he wasn't sure when Fashion Bar would reopen. One wing of a retirement center, Villa Pueblo Towers, was evacuated because of the flooding, Pueblo police said. The Salvation Army was taking care of those residents. On streets throughout Pueblo, cars were stranded in water-filled ditches, and debris coated the roads. "We got a torrential downpour," said patrol officer Gary Blackmon of the Pueblo Police Department. "This was incredible." Three primary roadways were flooded: Belle Plain and East Highway 50, the 300 block of South Santa Fe Avenue, and Frontage Road and 29th Street, just off of Interstate 25 and one of the main entrances into the Pueblo Mall, police said. John Valkinburg was on his way to work at Country Buffet when he got stuck in the intersection at 29th Street and Frontage Road. "The water was only a foot or so deep when I pulled up to the intersection," said Valkinburg, adding that his Plymouth Fury stalled in the middle of the intersection and became trapped as water rose rapidly. "The rain was coming so fast," Valkinburg recalled. "When the water started coming through the door, I was beginning to think it was time to get out. I decided to get out when the water reached the seats." The water was 4 feet deep, and an elderly woman whose car was floating through the intersection had to be rescued by a police officer who carried her to dry ground, Blackmon said. Steve Worley, a city utility employee, said the fast-rising water tripped a switch on water pumps, causing the pumps to turn off and allow water to fill the intersection. Farther north, street flooding was common in the Denver metropolitan area, and Interstate 25 was closed for 45 minutes at a flooded underpass at Evans Avenue. Fort Collins also reported street flooding. The Colorado State Patrol reported heavy rains triggered a minor mud slide across Gregory Street, Central City's main street, and rock slides on Colorado 119 between Golden and the gambling towns of Central City and Black Hawk. But those roads remain open. Westbound I-70, however, was closed for several hours between the Central City exit and the El Rancho exit because of a weather-related multi-vehicle accident, the state patrol said.
Colorado Springs Gazette 4-26-1995 - Branch Davidians Own Land Near Pueblo Airport - Pueblo - It looks like any other deserted prairie, but a 160-acre parcel of land about 4 1/2 miles northeast of Pueblo Memorial Airport has an interesting ownership. It belongs to the Branch Davidians. The sect gained dubious immortality two years ago when leader David Koresh and about 80 of his followers died in a fire after a standoff with federal officials at the group's Waco, Texas, compound. Pueblo County records show that the Branch Davidians still own 160 acres near the airport, but the site's future is unknown. Surviving Branch Davidian member Edna Doyle said she had forgotten about the land, which was deeded to the sect in 1953. Doyle said she learned of the Pueblo County property when a member of the Texas media told her of a May 1993 news story that said the property was at risk of being auctioned for taxes. Doyle took over the tax payments, which have run about $35 per year since 1991. She said missed payments in 1991 and 1992 indicated Branch Davidian leaders were not interested in the Pueblo County site, which has been vacant for 42 years.
Colorado Springs Gazette 1-29-1996 – Beaten Nuns Served in Pueblo – Man With Record Charged in Slayings – Waterville, Maine – Two nuns who were beaten and stabbed – one fatally – after a prayer service in their convent had served at a convent in Pueblo during the 1970s. Mother Superior Edna Mary Cardozo, 68, who died of head injuries Saturday night at Kennebec Valley Medical Center in Augusta, Maine, served from 1976 to 1979 at the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament convent in Pueblo, according to Sister Elizabeth Madden of the Pueblo convent. Another nun, Sister Patricia Ann Keene, 68, who was in stable condition Sunday night at a Maine hospital, had also lived at the convent in Pueblo during the early '70s, Madden said Sunday. They were among four Roman Catholic nuns who were stabbed and beaten after they finished an evening prayer service Saturday when an intruder smashed the glass on a locked door, opened it and walked inside about 6 p.m. One of the women was attacked in the chapel and the other three in an adjacent part of the convent. Sister Mary Julien Fortin, 67, died early Sunday of multiple stab wounds to the face and head, said Kennebec Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Mary Plumer. Sister Mary Anna D'Giacomo, 72, was in critical condition with head injuries. Mark Bechard, 37, of Waterville, who had a history of mental problems, surrendered without resistance when police arrived. The nuns had hired Bechard to do odd jobs around the chapel. He was
supposed to start the job today. "In their compassion, they were going to give him some work," Madden said. "It's been a complete shock. It's devastating. We all know each other very closely. "They were energetic and working like people in their 40s," Madden said of the four victims. "This may be one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Maine," said spokesman Stephen McCausland of the state Public Safety Department. He said police did not know of a motive for the attacks. The officers "took Mr. Bechard off one nun he was beating," said police Chief John Morris. Bechard was using a religious statue to beat the woman, police said. Police told Bechard to drop the statue and put his hands up, "and he did exactly what they told him to do," McCausland said. Bechard, who had worshiped in the nuns' chapel previously, was also known to police. "We have dealt with Mr. Bechard in criminal matters and mental-health matters," said Morris, adding that the suspect had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1994. He would not elaborate. Bechard was charged with one count of murder, and other charges are expected to be filed by the time he is arraigned early this week, said the spokesman. He was being held without bail. Servants of the Blessed Sacrament is an international order. It now has 15 nuns in the United States, who live in Pueblo, Waterville and Albuquerque, N.M. The Maine convent's five other nuns were in seclusion Sunday. A handwritten sign taped to the inside of the locked chapel door said: "Chapel closed except for Mass. Pray for us."
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-8-1996 2 Priests Slain in Pueblo – Bodies Found Inside Rectory – Pueblo – Two priests were found slain Wednesday night in a church rectory on the city's east side. When one of the priests did not show up at an evening engagement, a friend went to the rectory of St. Leander's at about 6:15 p.m. and found the victims in separate rooms, according to Charlene Graham, deputy chief of the Pueblo Police Department. The priests were identified by Coroner Jim Kramer as the Rev. Tom Sheets and the Rev. Louis Stovick. Both suffered "multiple trauma" to the torso, but police would not be specific. The men were last seen about 3 p.m. by clerical workers. Graham said nothing appeared to be stolen. A crowd of about 100 mourners milled outside the church early into this morning, consoling one another and reciting the rosary. A 3-foot framed painting of Jesus was propped against a tree, surrounded by candles. Terri Brelsford, a 15-year member of the church, said "Father Tom," as he was known, helped her nephews get a seminary scholarhship. "I don't know what our church is going to do without them (the two priests)."
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-9-1996 Parishioner Arrested in Slaying of Priests – Pueblo Police Still Seeking Motive in Deadly Attack – Pueblo – As scores of St. Leander Church members prayed over candelight Thursday for the souls of two priests who were slain Wednesday, police arrested a 20-year-old parishioner and jailed him on suspicion of committing the crimes. Police took Douglas James Comiskey into custody Thursday evening and booked him into Pueblo County Jail on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder. Comiskey is a member of St. Leander, a parish of about 1,500 working-class, mostly Hispanic families on Pueblo's east side, said Pueblo Police Chief Ruben Archuleta. Archuleta said investigators still do not know what motivated the attack in which the Rev. Louis Stovik, 77, and Rev. Thomas Scheets, 65, were killed. Scheets had been pastor of St. Leander Catholic Church since 1990, and Stovik was a retired priest who had lived at the church rectory for three years. Deputy Coroner Kim Wittrup said both men had been stabbed in the torso, but Archuleta would not say if a weapon had been recovered. The bloodied bodies of the two men were found in separate rooms of the rectory Wednesday at about 6:15 p.m. by the Rev. William Powers, a fellow priest who stopped by to check in on his friends. Archuleta said physical evidence at the crime scene led them to investigate Comiskey. He declined to describe the evidence. Late Thursday, police literally swarmed over a house near the church, climbing onto the roof, taking pictures and measurements and repeatedly entering and leaving. Comiskey lived with his mother in the house, owned by his grandmother. Detectives also spent late Wednesday and all day Thursday combing every inch of the two-story, blondbrick rectory for blood, fingerprints, hair and other clues. Colorado Bureau of Investigation officers also worked the scene. Officers did find a trail of blood drops leading from the front door of the rectory - which is behind the church and faces north - leading to Risley Middle School to the west. All day Thursday, police had said next to nothing about the investigation. Archuleta said detectives were pursuing a "good lead," but did not elaborate. Then, at 7 p.m., Archuleta announced police would make an arrest within the next couple of hours.
"We felt the anxiety in the neighborhood," the chief said. "We wanted them to know we're on top of this. We want to ease the fears in the community. This is still a very safe community." Applause erupted among the 100 or so people gathered outside the yellow police tape surrounding the church and rectory when news of the impending arrest reached them. "They have to answer to the man upstairs. When they do that, they're in trouble," said Robert Lopez, 24, raised from childhood in the St. Leander parish community. Before the arrest, police gathered some of the 54 priests of the Pueblo Diocese at a secret location to discuss their safety. "We have no idea of the motive," Archuleta said at the time, "so we assume other priests could be a target." As news of the slayings spread late Wednesday and early Thursday, hundreds of people assembled an impromptu shrine outside the church. People lined up in the nearby Safeway to buy candles, which were placed along the sidewalk next to St. Leander, along with pictures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, flowers and a red rose surrounded by blue tissue paper and the single word: "Why?" On the front door of the church, a sign read: "No daily Mass until further notice." Arthur Tafoya, bishop of the Pueblo Diocese, said there would be a Sunday Mass. The diocese had no information about a memorial service or funeral arrangements. Ten Catholic Social Service counselors set up a crisis counseling center in the church gym, where they met with at least 200 people. At noon, about 25 mourners said the Rosary in the sweltering sun in the middle of Seventh Street outside the church. Meanwhile, downtown at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Tafoya led the noon Mass for about 100 people. Two candles glowed on the altar, and many wept as the bishop spoke about Scheets and Stovik. "These men gave their lives to build the Church of God," Tafoya said. Tafoya urged prayers for the slain priests, their families and friends, the parishioners of St. Leander – and the suspected killer. "We must pray for the person or persons who committed this traumatic crime," he said. "May they also know God's love and God's mercy." As investigators continued tight-lipped with their grim work, parishioners, friends and relatives of the slain priests poured out their anguish. "I'm like a fish out of water," the Rev. Powers said Thursday from the living room of his home just a block away from St. Leander. "I've lost my best friend." Both priests had deep ties to the community. Each worked closely on the Catholic High Initiative – a push to get a Catholic high school in Pueblo. Those who knew Scheets said he reached out to younger people, even to the point of wearing a leather jacket, boots and a wallet chain. "Father Tom would give his arm for anyone," said Carlos Arguello, 17, at student at Centennial High in Pueblo. "It's sad to see two good priests go." Stovik was described as a man who held fast to deep Catholic traditions. "He was stern but gentle," said Jeff Moore, whose children were baptized by Stovik. "He was just like a parent. He would tell you what you did wrong, why and then how to fix it." Stovik had just retired from the administrative end of church business. Even so, those who knew him said Stovik would get up at 5:30 a.m. every day to deliver Communion to the sick. And every evening after dinner, he would walk the church parking lot - kicking rocks off it so people wouldn't trip over them. "He would always give me hell for not going to church," Moore said. "He was ornery, but he was the nicest man in the world you'd ever wanted to meet." Many others, including brothers of Scheets, said the priests often would open their door to beggars asking for money or food. "He was a kind and gentle person," said Sam Scheets, brother of Thomas and an employee of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. "I know he was quite often approached by poor people and the homeless and he helped them. It's very shocking." The Rev. Francis Kelley Scheets of All Saints Parish in New York City flew to Pueblo on Thursday after hearing about his brother. "He never turned anyone away," Francis said of his brother. And that, Bishop Tafoya said, might have led Stovik and Scheets to the fateful encounter. "In our violent society, clergy and religious are no longer exempt," Tafoya said. "These men dedicated their lives in the service of the Catholic Church. Sadly, they died while still carrying out their priestly ministry." Brothers In The Cloth – The two Catholic priests slain in Pueblo were raised by hard-working, lower middle class families who were devoutly Catholic, family members said Thursday during telephone interviews. And both had brothers who became Catholic priests. "I've lost a good friend," said Sam Scheets, a younger brother of the Rev. Thomas Scheets. "It's very shocking. I'm upset that he was taken like this." The Rev. Thomas Scheets – The Rev. Thomas Scheets was born March 10, 1931, in Aurora, Ill. He was one of four brothers, said Sam Scheets, 61. The Scheets boys were raised in Minneapolis; their father worked in a flour mill, and their mother was a homemaker. Thomas Scheets followed the footsteps of an older brother, Francis, who is also a priest, Sam Scheets said from his home in Jacksonville, Ill. The brothers attended seminary in Indiana while they were in high school, said Sam Scheets. Thomas Scheets was ordained on May 26, 1956, in Fort Wayne, Ind. He came to Colorado in 1975 as an associate pastor at La Junta Catholic Parish. The following includes highlights of his career, according to the Diocese of Pueblo: Appointed pastor, St. Leander Parish in Pueblo, July 1990; Appointed pastor, La Junta Catholic Parish in La Junta, July 1981; Appointed co-pastor of St. Michael Parish in Delta and St. Philip Mission in Cedaredge, June 1980; Appointed associate pastor, St. Michael Parish in Delta, August 1978. He also served on several diocese boards, including the Clergy Benefit Society Board, Diocese of Pueblo Salary Structure and Policy Committee and Finance Advisory Council. He also was a liaison for the bishop for several parishes in southeastern Colorado near La Junta. The Rev. Louis Stovik – The Rev. Louis Stovik was born Sept. 5, 1918, in Curlew, a small town in Ferry County, Wash. He was one of 11 children – 10 boys and one girl – said his brother, Conrad Stovik, 88, during a telephone conversation from his home in Washington state. The children were raised in a rural area, where their parents were cattle ranchers, Conrad Stovik said. The family was devoutly Catholic and attended Mass regularly, said Conrad Stovik, a retired sawmill worker. Four of the brothers became priests, said Conrad Stovik. Louis Stovik was ordained on June 11, 1949, in Fargo, N.D. He came to Colorado after being appointed assistant pastor for St. Columba Parish in Durango in July 1949, according to the Diocese of Pueblo. The following includes highlights of his career, according to the Diocese of Pueblo: Named diocesan chaplain, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 1988; Appointed pastor, St. Therese Parish in Vineland, July 1983; Appointed associate pastor, Christ the King Parish in Pueblo, August 1972; Appointed chaplain, Sacred Heart Orphanage and director of athletics at Pueblo Catholic High School, 1953. The Rev. Stovik held numerous other positions at several parishes, schools and hospitals. Picture caption: Sadie Martinez, left, grandmother of slaying suspect Douglas Comiskey, was planning to dine with the Rev. Thomas Scheets on Wednesday, the same day the priest was found dead, along with the Rev. Louis Stovik, at Pueblo's St. Leander rectory. Martinez, who worked in the rectory for 20 years, is hugged Thursday by fellow parishioner Leroy Garcia hours before it was announced her grandson was a suspect.
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-10-1996 Pueblo Slayings Suspect Had History of Instability – Preliminary Report Finds Two Priests Bled to Death From Multiple Wounds – Pueblo – The man accused of slaying two St. Leander priests led a troubled life checkered with criminal activity, drugs and mental problems. But those who knew 20-year-old Douglas James Comiskey couldn't fathom him committing the crimes police suspect he carried out. "I've known Doug since he was a baby," said neighbor Jean Gonzalez. "This is sad, very sad. I feel sad for Doug." Comiskey faces two first-degree murder charges in the Wednesday deaths of the Rev. Thomas Scheets, 65, and the Rev. Louis Stovik, 77, both who lived in the rectory of the eastside church. Comiskey remained in the Pueblo County Jail without bail on Friday. No motive has emerged, as Comiskey refused to talk to investigators, said Pueblo Police Chief Ruben Archuleta. Investigators and attorneys surrounding the case were tight-lipped Friday. Police investigators believe Comiskey went into the priests' two-story home behind the church sometime Wednesday afternoon. The Rev. William Powers, who lives nearby, discovered Scheets' bloody body lying face down in the living room. He said he found Stovik, who had suffered a head wound, in an office in the back of the rectory. Comiskey was arrested Thursday night – 28 hours after the bodies were discovered. An autopsy showed both men bled to death from multiple puncture wounds, said Sgt. Dave Santos, the deputy county coroner. He said a pathologist's report, still to be completed, may determine the weapon and the number of wounds. Comiskey waived a hearing advising him of his rights Friday, shortly after being assigned to public defender Doug Wilson. Wilson successfully helped defend Eugene Baylis, who faced numerous felony charges in the 1993 shooting death of two Colorado Springs bar patrons. Tenth Judicial District Attorney Gus Sandstrom asked for Comiskey's file in this case to be sealed, and District Judge Eugene Halaas agreed. Halaas went a step further and slapped a gag order on everyone involved in the case. Neighbors, former classmates and past co-workers describe Comiskey as an unemployed high-school dropout trying to rebound from bouts with drugs, crime and mental problems. Comiskey - known in the neighborhood as "Dougie" – had returned in January after a month long stay in a Denver hospital psychiatric ward. It was the culmination of what appeared to be a troubled few years. In August 1993, Comiskey was present when two friends were hit by gunfire from an Uzi assault rifle, according to published reports. Then in March 1995, he stole his mother's television set and jewelry from her home – after he had been evicted – and hawked them at a neighborhood pawn shop, earlier court documents state. He later admitted the crime, as well as telling police he started drinking alcohol when he was 16 years old and using marijuana when he was 17. The 6-foot, brown-eyed man, who loved to shoot hoops with neighborhood children, lived with his grandmother and his mother in a cream-colored bungalow across the street from St. Leander. Gonzalez, 49, has lived across from the church – and two doors down from Comiskey – for 30 years. Gonzalez said her 15-year-old son, Rafael, would often play basketball with Comiskey. She remembers Comiskey helping set up for the church carnival just last month. The manager of a Pueblo Hardees fast-food restaurant offered Comiskey a job once he was released from the hospital, but he refused because he told her he was on anti-depressant medication. "He was never violent with any of the kids," Gonzalez said. "He was the furthest person in my mind who would do anything to a priest." Comiskey also volunteered for the Boys Club, which met at the St. Leander Gym. Boys Club officials had "no comment" on his work there. "He was a nice kid," Gonzalez said. "He was pretty wild back then, but when he came back from Denver he was reversed. Like a totally different kid." Gonzalez said the change was most evident in his eyes. "His eyes were real funny," she said. "Glaring, looking eyes." Although his parents, Pat and Georgia Comiskey, divorced when he was a child, Comiskey grew up surrounded by the unyielding love of Sadie Martinez, his 84-year-old grandmother who spent two decades cooking and cleaning inside the rectory. Because of Martinez – whom neighbors described as "The Walking Saint" – the church was a part of his life from the beginning. The morning after the killings, Martinez joined mourners in front of the rectory, remembering fondly the two priests to whom she made daily visits. "I don't think she knew," said Marie Labo, 72, a longtime friend. "She was such a lovable woman." Both Martinez and Georgia Comiskey were staying at an undisclosed location on Friday and couldn't be reached for comment. Like many youths in the neighborhood, Comiskey attended East High School. Several former classmates said they most remember his action on the soccer field. In the 1992 yearbook, Comiskey is pictured on both the varsity and junior varsity soccer teams. Comiskey, who has a sister and brother, also was an avid basketball player. "He would walk in front of the house alone or with another boy, bouncing a ball," said Bob Lopez, a 63-year-old neighbor. "He would say `hi' but that was about it." Comiskey is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 19. Funeral services for the priests are tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 8-11-1996 A Call For Forgiveness – Hundreds Congregate in Pueblo to Grieve and Pray for Slain Priests – Pueblo – They came to pray for the ones who had once led them in prayer. The grieving parishioners filed into St. Leander – 350 strong – genuflected, and slowly filled the wooden pews of the 71-year-old church. The weight of grief pushed down as they gathered Saturday for the first time in many years without their leaders – the Revs. Thomas Scheets, 65, and Louis Stovik, 77. The priests were slain Wednesday just beyond the wall behind the church altar. A parishioner, 20-year-old Douglas James Comiskey, faces two first-degree murder charges in their deaths. “It still seems like a bad dream,” said John Arguello, 60. “It seems like I’m going to walk back in there, and they’ll be standing there.” To those who attend St. Leander, the church in this close-knit, mostly Hispanic neighborhood is more than bricks and mortar. It is their rock, a gathering place for 1,500 families who attend services. They are a family. And Saturday night, the leaders of the Diocese of Pueblo challenged this family to perform what most would consider a Herculean task: Forgive the killer. “What do we pray in the ‘Our Father’ – Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” Bishop Arthur Tafoya told the parishioners. “If you find it hard to forgive, look at the cross with Jesus Christ and his hands outstretched,” Tafoya said. “The whole world was against him, yelling ‘crucify him.’ And what did he say: ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.’” “He touched my life in several ways,” Dorothy Lopez, 44, said of “Father Tom.” “This leaves a big hole in my life.” Scheets had buried Lopez’s husband, married her daughter and baptized her son and granddaughter. Many residents say the church is the focal point of this lower-income neighborhood. Students from nearby Risley Middle School attended classes in the church while the school was closed for chemical contamination last spring. Children can often be found playing basketball in the gym – part of a Catholic grade school that closed in the early 1970s. Boys Club members also gather at the gym, which until recently also was the site of weekly bingo games. And every year, residents congregate in the church lot for a fund-raising carnival. That doesn’t include all the families who gather for Masses, weddings, funerals, baptisms and first communions. “It seems as though someone is always around,” said Jean Gonzalez, 49, who has lived across the street from the church for 30 years. “We are united regardless of what has happened,” said Arguello, a 46-year parishioner. “We are one big family.” The day after the priests’ bodies were discovered, Bishop Tafoya asked people to pray for the person responsible. Tafoya said Saturday he plans to send District Attorney Gus Sandstrom a letter, urging him not to seek the death penalty in the case. “The death penalty is not the way to go,” he said. “That is using violence with violence.” “I know people are angry,” said the Rev. Edward Nunez. “But they need to forgive and move on.” Nunez, now vicar general for the diocese, accepted his first assignment as pastor of St. Leander in 1975. He stayed in that role for four years. “It is important because now is really a time for the community to practice what it preaches,” Nunez said. “It’s what Christ would have done. …This is all part of loving your neighbor as yourself.” Crisis counselor Frank Dunn sat in the St. Leander gym all day Friday to talk to parishioners. Anger is a natural part of grieving, he said. “Without it, the healing can’t completely occur,” Dunn said. But Dunn acknowledged that finding forgiveness in their hearts will be difficult for some people. “The community needs to come together and talk and share their grief,” he said. “They need to share their faith and stand together.” Bob Lopez, 63, also lives near the church. He knows forgiveness would be the Christlike thing to do, but he’s not sure it’s possible for him. “Father Tom was not only my spiritual leader, he was my friend.” Lopez’s neighbor, Jeff Moore, enjoyed a close relationship with Stovik. The retired priest baptized both his children. “What (the killer) did was flat out wrong. He will pay for that come judgment day,” Moore said. “I’m angry, you bet. Something was taken from me…Priests are supposed to stand for all that’s good in the human race. To have that thrown away doesn’t make sense.” Forgiveness? “I may be able to forgive the person, but I cannot forgive the act,” Moore said. There could be many who feel as Moore does, but Dorothy Lopez feels sure she knew her priest’s heart. “I do know Father Tom would have forgiven.”
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 8-13-1996 Saying Goodbye – Pueblo Gathers to Mourn Slain Priests – Pueblo – Heather and Samantha Corral, 12 and 8, came to the Colorado State Fairgrounds on Monday dressed in their Sunday best – frilly dresses and fancy bows – to say goodbye to the priest who had baptized them. The two pretty, dark-eyed girls were joined at the Events Center by 3,800 other people from every neighborhood of this close-knit town, a community that takes family and faith seriously. They came to the indoor arena to celebrate the lives of two Roman Catholic priests – the Revs. Thomas Scheets and Louis C. Stovik – who were stabbed to death in their rectory Wednesday. They came to find solace and strength in the ancient rituals of a Catholic Mass, a ceremony presided over this day by five bishops and an arch bishop, all dressed in cream-colored vestments. But vestments, rituals and liturgy meant little to Heather and Samantha. They just know “Father Tom” won’t be there to greet them at the Spanish-speaking Mass at St. Leander Church on the city’s east side. “They’re really upset about it. They cried for days,” said the girls’ mother, Sharon, who herself grew up two blocks from the church and remains a volunteer there. “They don’t want to go to Mass because Father Tom is not going to be there to greet them. He used to tell them he was proud of them for getting up early for the 8 o’clock Mass.” But their father, Henry, said, “It’s reality. They’re going to have to deal with it.” That’s something the city of Pueblo will have to do, too, said usher and Knights of Columbus member Gilbert Pacheco. “I think in the long run, the killings are going to unite the community. Something good is going to come out of it.” Salesman Jinks Chavez, who is not Catholic but who came to the Mass “out of respect,” said the packed service itself shows how special his city is, a city where extended family ties link neighborhoods and classes. “It’s brought the community together,” he said. “I’m sure people of all faiths are here. We always got along pretty good, but this has brought us even closer together.” Across town and four days removed from the anguish, grief and anger that poured out of the community on news of the slayings, the eastside neighborhood surrounding the church was back to normal. “Last week was pure hell – not knowing who’s who, or who’s supposed to be here and who’s not. This is how it’s supposed to be,” said Irene Moore, who lives directly across from the front door of St. Leander. “People I’ve never seen before were standing in front of the church for hours, trying to keep candles lit in the wind,” said Irene’s husband, Jeff. The Moores opted not to attend the services at the State Fairgrounds; they wanted a break from crowds. “I took a ride out to the cemetery,” said Irene Moore. “Father Scheets is just 11 plots away from my grandmother.” “I didn’t want to see the bodies; I wanted to remember them alive,” added her husband. Sadie Martinez, the grandmother of the 20-year-old man suspected in the killings, Douglas Comiskey, attended the funeral with her family. “The neighborhood is really worried about her. We hope she has the strength to get through this,” said Jeff Moore. At the same time Mass was taking place at the State Fairgrounds, business carried on as usual downtown. But there were some indications the city is still grappling with a return to normality. Sophista Kats Inc., a women’s apparel store on Main Street, posted the sign “Closed Today in Memory of the Rev. Thomas Scheets and the Rev. Louis Stovik. May They Rest in Peace.” In the B & A Bootery, on Main Street, employees Phil Vigil and John Rivera considered what kind of toll the tragedy would take on the community. “The wound is never going to completely heal,” said Vigil. “People will mourn, but life must go on. We can’t let this hold the community back, you’ve got to forgive. The neighborhood’s been somber and quiet, but it will come back probably stronger than ever.” Many people said they would try to heed the advice of Bishop Arthur Tafoya, who said during the service, “In our tragedy, we must learn to love and forgive.” But that doesn’t mean they’ll forget – especially Father Tom, who topped off his all-black wardrobe with a black motorcycle jacket. “I told him he looked like a biker – all he needed was a motorcycle,” said Henry Corral. “It’s going to be hard to find someone to replace him,” said Sharon Corral. “Everyone was so used to his ways, his laughter, his jokes. He always made jokes.” Stovik was cut from a stricter, sterner cloth. Bishop Tafoya told mourners that where Father Tom would give him a quick hug and run off to other duties, “Father Stovik would look at me and proceed to give me some advice.” After the standing-room only Mass, about 200 friends, family members and priests drove to Roselawn Cemetery where Scheets was to be buried. (Stovik will be buried in North Dakota.) Among those saying goodbye was the Rev. Ron Roache. He said the priests who rode to the cemetery together in a bus were talking about how Father Tom would have reacted to the solemn Mass said for him and Stovik. “He would have said ‘Enough! Enough! Enough!’” said Roache. “Father Tom was known for his short funerals.”
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 8-17-1996 Suspect in Priests’ Slayings Arrested at Medical Clinic – Pueblo – The suspect in the slayings of two Catholic priests was arrested at a clinic where he had gone to have a cut finger treated, the Pueblo Chieftain reported Friday. The Chieftain said sources told the newspaper 20-year-old Douglas Comiskey was arrested at the Family Medical Center. By coincidence, that is where Pueblo Coroner James Kramer works as a physician’s assistant. Kramer is in charge of the autopsies being performed on the Rev. Thomas Scheets, 65, who was pastor of St. Leander Catholic Church, and the Rev. Louis Stovik, 77, a retired priest who lived with Scheets in the parish rectory. Authorities said the men bled to death in the rectory from stab wounds Aug. 7. Comiskey was arrested Aug. 9 and is being held without bond on two counts of first-degree murder. A gag order has been imposed in the case, so information about his arrest and the evidence that led to it are under seal. The Chieftain said it has learned police were alerted to Comiskey through a Family Medical Center staffer who suspected Comiskey might be involved in the priests’ deaths. Medical personnel became suspicious when Comiskey told them he had injured his hand by slamming it in a car door, then said he did not recall how he hurt his hand, the Chieftain said. A center staffer called police, according to the newspaper. The Chieftain said its sources reported that Comiskey was accompanied by his mother Thursday morning when he sought medical attention for the cut. When he was arrested, he had a bandaged hand. Pueblo Police Chief Ruben Archuleta confirmed that Comiskey “was brought in willingly from there when we started to follow up some leads.” Comiskey’s first court appearance is Monday in Pueblo District Court, where the judge will review whether bond should be set and schedule further court dates.
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 8-20-1996 Lawyer For Accused Priest Killer Says Client’s Rights Violated – Pueblo – While a man suspected of killing two Catholic priests was being formally charged with the crimes Monday, his lawyer accused prosecutors of misconduct and asked the judge to excuse himself from the case. Douglas Comiskey, 20, was officially charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 7 killings in the rectory of St. Leander Church. The bodies of the Rev. Thomas Scheets, 65, and the Rev. Louis Stovik, 77, were found by a fellow priest. Comiskey, as St. Leander parishioner, was arrested the next day. During Monday’s hearing, public defender Douglas Wilson filed three motions alleging the Pueblo police and prosecutors refused to let Comiskey see a lawyer for seven hours after he requested one. Such action would violate Comiskey’s Miranda rights, so named for the landmark Supreme Court decision that says once a suspect requests a lawyer, police cannot question the suspect unless a lawyer is present. Wilson asked the court to investigate possible charges against a detective and an assistant district attorney allegedly involved, and to impose a $1,000 fine on each. According to motions, Comiskey was taken into custody on Aug. 8. At about 1 p.m. he asked for Priscilla Pritchard, a public defender who had represented him in another case. Pueblo police detective Dan Shell and Prosecutor Scott Epstein ignored Comiskey’s request, the motions allege. The public defender’s office said it learned of this from Comiskey’s father, Patrick Comiskey, who talked to his son during the police questioning. Wilson and Pritchard say they went to the police station at 4:40 p.m. to talk to Comiskey but were turned away by Epstein. Epstein allegedly told the lawyers that Comiskey had not been formally arrested yet and therefore was not entitled to talk with a lawyer. They were allowed to talk to Comiskey after 8 p.m., the motions state. It was not clear whether Comiskey made any statements to police during the seven hours in question or whether such statements would be admissible in court. Wilson called for both the detective and prosecutor to be investigated for committing official oppression, a class-two misdemeanor. A fourth defense motion called for District Judge Eugene Halaas to remove himself from the case. That motion is sealed, and details weren’t available Monday. Wilson declined to talk about the motions, citing a gag order imposed by Halaas. Wilson had requested the gag order. The case file also remains sealed under Halaas’ order. On Monday, the Gazette Telegraph joined the Pueblo Chieftain in a motion to remove that seal and the gag order. Halaas halted all proceedings in the case Monday until he could rule on the motion that he remove himself, a decision that is expected in a day or two.
Colorado Springs Gazette 8-22-1996 Priest Slaying Suspect Sought Care, Paper Says – Pueblo – Less than two weeks before he was charged with the slayings of two Catholic priests, the 20-year-old suspect sought psychiatric treatment, according to a newspaper report. The Pueblo Chieftain said in its Wednesday edition that sources said Douglas James Comiskey and his mother went to the emergency room at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital in late July. He was examined by the psychiatrist on duty, who recommended that he be hospitalized, but Comiskey refused hospitalization, the Chieftain reported. Comiskey has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of the Revs. Thomas Scheets, 65, and Louis Stovik, 77. Comiskey lived across the street from the St. Leander Church rectory where they were found dead Aug. 7. Comiskey was arrested the next day at the Family Medical Center when he sought medical treatment for cuts on his hands, the Chieftain reported. Records in the case have been sealed and officials have been ordered not to talk about the case. The Chieftain said the nature of the problem that brought Comiskey to the hospital emergency room before the slayings was not known. Bill Bush, St. Mary-Corwin Hospital's outgoing administrator, would not discuss Comiskey's appearance in the emergency room.
Colorado Springs Gazette 12-25-1996 - Blazes Leave Eight Families Homeless - 3 Fires in El Paso, Pueblo Counties - Two families in El Paso County and six in Pueblo were left homeless Christmas Eve in three separate fires... In the third fire, six families were forced from their apartments in south Pueblo, according to the Pueblo Fire Department. The fire started about 2:30 p.m. in an apartment in the 1200 block of Jones Avenue and quickly spread. Fire officials said the flames destroyed six apartments, all of which were believed to be rented. Fire officials estimated that the blaze caused about $180,000 in damage. One of the residents was treated for smoke inhalation, and two firefighters were injured. Firefighter Mark Pickerel was treated for smoke inhalation, and Bill Nemick was treated for minor burns on a hand and wrist, said Capt. Bob Roberts, acting assistant fire chief. The fire was intentionally started, but the manner was being investigated Tuesday, Roberts said.
Pueblo Chieftain 3-15-1998 Pueblo Home to Political Legends Through the Years - When Andrew Royal raised his hand to take the oath of office as mayor of Pueblo in 1888, his voice still held the lilt of County Cork, Ireland, where he had been born in 1836. In a sense, Royal was the embodiment of Pueblo's young history as a crossroads community of the West. The city's politicians often came to the region for opportunity but several cast a larger shadow across Colorado. The following are a few of Pueblo's political legends: Andrew Royal came to New York City with his mother in 1848, but in a tragic twist, became separated from her and ended up in an orphanage. Adopted by a New Jersey family, Royal moved to Missouri as a young man, where he became a lawyer. He also served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Royal came to Pueblo in 1881 and purchased a local Democratic newspaper. He also operated the Southern Hotel. Having a bent for politics, he was elected to the General Assembly in 1882 and mayor in 1888. As mayor, he devoted much effort to building parks around the city. Alva Adams came to Colorado from Wisconsin and followed the growth of the railroads south from Denver. He built his first lumber and hardware store in Colorado Springs in 1872 and a second store in Pueblo after the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached the city that year. Adams was an ambitious businessman and added stores in the San Luis Valley as well. During this time, he also became active in politics and was elected a trustee of South Pueblo in 1873. In 1876, Adams was elected to the Legislature from Rio Grande County. In 1884, he made an unsuccessful run for governor, but won the office two years later -- the only Democrat elected to state office that year. Adams returned to private business in 1888, but the Democratic Party begged him to run again in 1898 and he was elected to a second term. A third victory followed in 1904, but the Republican majority in the Legislature protested his victory and voted 55-41 to give the election to his Republican challenger, James Peabody. James B. Orman also came to Colorado politics with the growth of the railroads. The railroad builder lived in Pueblo and was president of the Pueblo Street Railway as well. Active in Democratic politics, Orman was elected to the Legislature in 1880 and 1882. He was mayor of Pueblo in 1897 and also served as president of the Bessemer Ditch Co. and was active in the Pueblo Opera House Co. Party activists finally persuaded Orman to run for governor in 1900 and he served until 1903. Carrie Clyde Holly was the New York-born wife of Vineland rancher Charles F. Holly, the former speaker of the Territorial Legislature. That connection certainly helped when the young Mrs. Holly threw her Republican bonnet in the ring for the Legislature in 1894 and was elected. Mrs. Holly campaigned against vice and the "whiskey men" in the other parties. Ralph L. Carr was born in 1887 in the mining town of Rosita, west of Pueblo. Although he did not live in Pueblo, Carr worked in the region as a young man -- editing the newspaper in Trinidad and working as a lawyer in Antonito -- before becoming U.S. Attorney in Denver in 1929. Carr, a Republican, was elected governor in 1939, and he distinguished himself during World War II by defending the rights of Japanese-Americans who were being interned in camps across the West and Colorado. Carr left office in 1943 and died in 1950. Walter W. Johnson was a Pueblo native and worked as a sales representative for the CF&I Corp. as a young man in the 1930s. He later moved into education, however, and was superintendent of Pueblo's District 20 schools from 1939 to 1943. Active in Democratic politics, Johnson served in the state Senate in the 1940s and was elected lieutenant governor 1948. He succeeded to the governor's office in 1950 when Gov. W. Lee Knous resigned to become a federal judge. John E. Hill first ran and won the job of Pueblo County Commissioner in 1936, promising voters that he was young and "in the prime of life." Little did anyone know that he would hold that office for nearly 40 years. A banker by profession, Hill became a power in local Democratic politics after winning that commission seat. Known for his dry wit and his shrewd political skills, Hill presided over the county Democratic machine for decades. His only break in office came in 1956 when he made an unsuccessful effort to get elected to Congress. Reappointed to the county commission the following year, Hill won election after election until he retired in 1975. Georgia Farabaugh always said she fell in love with politics as a youngster and used her fissts to settle more than one disagreement with Republican kids in her neighborhood when she was growing up. The Pueblo native was 51 years old when she won her seat on City Council in 1949. She was the only woman on council for the next 20 years. Mrs. Farabaugh is credited with being a moving force behind the city's shift to a city council-city manager form of government. Frank E. Evans was a political "David" in 1964 when he defeated "Goliath" -- Republican Congressman J. Edgar Chenoweth, the 11-term incumbent in the Third Congressional District. Evans, a Pueblo lawyer and former state legislator, went on to establish his own bulletproof reputation in Congress by holding the seat for seven terms. He retired from Congress in 1978. Evans is credited with bringing the U.S. Government Printing Office Distribution Center to Pueblo. He liked to tell the story that he'd only been in Congress a few months when printing-office officials were called to testify about plans to establish a new national distribution center.Evans interrupted the testimony to ask why smaller cities, such as Pueblo, were not being considered. The House Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, George Andrews of Alabama, then grilled Evans about Pueblo. When Evans answered every question fully and promptly, Andrews reportedly told the printing office delegation: "Why don't you put the office in this boy's town?" They did.
Colorado Springs Gazette 12-1-1999 Scars of War - Reservist From Pueblo Can Laugh Again After Battling the Pain - When Patricia Biernacki-Purvis served in the Persian Gulf, she was 20, healthy, not married, no children - "and invincible to all things." That was back when she was a young woman who loved the outdoors, who hiked, played golf and swam all the time. That was before the joint pains. And the stomach spasms. Thyroid troubles. Rashes. Migraines. Those problems, she believes, are the result of her six months in the gulf in the first half of 1991; then a corpsman in the Navy Reserves, she served at a fleet hospital in Bahrain. It was service that was sometimes frightening, sometimes boring, but service she ultimately enjoyed. "I was home worried sick and she was having the time of her life," said her mother, Sindy Biernacki. When Biernacki-Purvis returned from the gulf, she was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. That life soon took some unexpected turns. In the fall of '91, she met Corey, her husband-to-be and then a soldier at Fort Carson. They dated, fell in love, married. She took a job as a lab technician at Memorial Hospital. Her first child, Nicholas, was born seven years ago. But as life raced ahead, her health problems began to mount. She had thyroid problems almost immediately upon returning from the gulf, and other "small things that kept progressing": irritability, joint pain, rashes. "I just figured it was part of life," she said. With her first pregnancy came severe digestive problems and a growing irritability that she attributed to the pregnancy. "As time went on," though, "things were never really the same." In '95, she became pregnant again - and the problems escalated. She was suffering horrible joint pain, rashes, she felt sick all the time and was throwing up a charcoal-black bile. At 22 weeks into the pregnancy, she had emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder. Her second son, Henry, was born three weeks early. The baby was fine, but Biernacki-Purvis was still suffering a lot of pain, still throwing up, her body withering away. Doctors thought she had lupus, MS, cancer. "They tested me for everything. Nothing pointed to anything specific." And no one pointed to her duty in the gulf. But when one doctor said she would be lucky to live another six months, her family started looking for alternatives. Her mother learned about the work of Garth Nicolson, who at the time was researching gulf war illness while at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "It sounds like gulf war illness to me," Nicolson said after talking to Biernacki-Purvis' doctors. Nicolson believes one cause of gulf war illness is infection by a microorganism known as mycoplasma fermentans. At his suggestion, Biernacki-Purvis' doctors - who she says "were willing to try voodoo at this point" - put her on a common antibiotic, doxycycline. Within six weeks, Biernacki-Purvis, bedridden at the time, showed marked progress. Three years later, she remains on the doxycycline. She walks with the aid of a cane and has bad days and good - "a lot of good days," she said. But she still gets stomach pains that radiate upward, still gets rashes, still gets twitches in her right arm. At times, the vision in her left eye will zap away for an instant. She doesn't have a theory for the cause of her illness. It could be the shots: she was given the anthrax vaccine that some soldiers are now refusing to take, and she took the anti-nerve gas pill that since has been acknowledged as a possible cause of gulf war illness. It could be exposure to chemicals in the air. For all she knows, she said, it could have been the sand fleas. Through it all, she has relied on the military medical system and civilian doctors - mostly the civilian physicians. Since she had been a reservist, the Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver initially refused to see her. But that stance changed after she enlisted the support of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R. Colo. "Going through military doctors was a waste of time," her mother said. "All they wanted to do was write her off as psychosomatic." This summer, though, Biernacki-Purvis met with a VA doctor in Pueblo who, after seeing her for 10 minutes, flatly said she suffered from gulf war illness. "We almost fell over. She's the only one who has ever said that to my face." Despite her years of suffering and the battles with bureaucracy, "I don't have any animosity toward the military. It's admirable work." Her biggest concern "is that this will be passed on to my children." Still, she feels fortunate. Unlike some, she has insurance and enjoys support from her family, her church, her friends. Her husband works nights with the Pueblo Police Department, but her parents live just a few houses away and are on hand to help with the children. "She's sick and she's going to be sick for the rest of her life," her mother said, "but there are a lot of people ... who have a lot bigger burden to carry." It was her mother who helped keep Biernacki-Purvis going at one of her lowest points, a time when she wanted the suffering to end, when she wanted to die. "My mom, in her past life, I know she was a drill instructor," Purvis said with a laugh. "She basically told me I don't have a right to die." These days, Purvis said, "My philosophy is I try to maintain as normal a life as I possibly can." And there's laughter in her life, though at times from unlikely sources. "My boys get the biggest kick out of kicking the cane out from under me." And her oldest son does a "wonderful imitation" of Mom limping along. That may sound strange to outsiders, she said, and she's certainly not advocating making fun of the disabled. "But if you can't laugh at yourself, then you have a very hard row to hoe." Photo Caption: Patricia Biernacki-Purvis, center, is aided by Maj. Dick Walker and Nancy Aguilar of Veterans Affairs as Purvis prepares to lay a rose at the Veterans Memorial in Pueblo's Mineral Palace Park on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Purvis had an attack of abdominal pain the morning of the ceremony. Picture Caption: Patricia Biernacki-Purvis and her 3-year-old son Henry Purvis walk through the Pueblo Mall on Nov. 3. Picture Caption: Corey Purvis helps his wife, Patricia Biernacki-Purvis, into bed at their Pueblo home Nov. 11 after she had an attack of severe abdominal pain. Picture Caption: Patricia Biernacki-Purvis, left, gets ready to take a photo of her son Nicky Purvis blowing out the candles on his seventh birthday at their Pueblo home on Nov. 10. Patricia's mother, Sindy Biernacki, lights the candles.
Pueblo Chieftain 12-27-1999 Authority Turns Rood Building Into Apartments – The Arkansas – Our Lifeblood - The Rood Candy Co. building is about to begin a new life, but Pueblo wants to remember the old one. The Rood, 410 W. Seventh, is being converted into apartments by the Pueblo Housing Authority, and director Jack Quinn hopes to find some Rood memorabilia to celebrate the transition. Items could be used in a historical display at the building, he said. Ray Koester wasn't around when the Rood Candy Co. was producing chocolates, but did see a flat wooden Rood Candy box at an antique show in Kansas City. "I suppose there were tins as well," he said, "and we heard there were some Rood candy molds, but never saw them." The original Rood Candy building was built in 1904, and an addition was put on in 1910. All that's left of the first building is the current building's east wall, said Gary Trujillo, Housing Authority architect. The horse stables and the power plant also are gone. The Rood building was designed as the candy company's manufacturing facility and had four floors. It was used for candy-making until the late 1930s. Pueblo Junior College used it during World War II, and School District 60 later used it for a warehouse. It was sold in 1993 to a California investor, and the City of Pueblo bought it back in 1996. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, which adds to its importance and has complicated its renovation. Trujillo said the front of the building and the window openings had to remain the same. "The National Park Service and the Colorado Historical Society review the plans when you use historical tax credits to be sure you haven't altered the building," he said. "The park service passes the information on to the IRS that it is a certified project, and investors can get tax credits. "If you count Woodcroft, which burned, this is the fourth tax credit project we've done." The others are the former Central Grade school building and the former Sacred Heart Orphanage. "We added a mezzanine floor --- we had to work with the existing window openings --- to get our apartments in," Trujillo said. "It was a factory, so we had to maintain the 'factory look' inside. We left the exposed brick and the exposed joists in the living rooms, and in the bedrooms, we furred the walls and dropped the ceilings. Every apartment is different." There are 27 one-bedroom apartments, seven two-bedroom apartments and one efficiency. Quinn said DLR Management is taking applications now, and he hopes at least a few of the units will be ready to show by the end of this week. Because the project is financed by federal tax credits, certain income guidelines apply. "It was a veritable dump when we bought it," he said. "It was ready to go --- the whole (southwest) corner had caved in." The Rood Candy Co., also known as the Colorado Confectionery Co., employed several hundred people and sold candy all over the West. It was one of six wholesale confectioners listed in the 1925 city directory. The others were W.T. Clouse at 210 N. Union; C.D. Davis, 1612 E. Eighth; J.W. Eames and Co., 420 N. Santa Fe; J.R. Kearney, 2610 Court; and Smith's Candy Co., 1337 E. Evans. People who have memorabilia they're willing to share or information about the Rood Candy Co. may contact Quinn or Trujillo at Pueblo Housing Authority.
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