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Program revisits notorious Colorado murders

By: LANCE BENZEL
April 3, 2008
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    Bob Russel saw Ted Bundy slip out of his hands.
  

 

  The veteran prosecutor spent more than a year preparing for the serial killer's trial before Bundy escaped from a jail cell in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 30, 1977.

 

    "I went through some phraseology that a family newspaper wouldn't print," said Russel, then 4th Judicial District attorney who was appointed special prosecutor after the trial was moved to Colorado Springs.

 

    The real-life drama will be revisited in detail at "Murder He Wrote," a fourday program in Colorado Springs featuring some of Colorado's most notorious criminal cases as experienced by the experts who worked on them.

 

    Russel joins a panel of four presenters that also includes Lou Smit, who played a critical role in the probe into the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder and helped link the 1991 slaying of 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church in Black Forest to another serial killer, Robert Browne.

 

    The program, which begins Monday, is being offered through PILLAR: Enrichment through Lifelong Learning, a nonprofit group that provides continuing education for retirement-age people in the Pikes Peak region.

 

    A similar program has been offered three or four times previously and proved a big draw, especially among fans of primetime crime dramas such as "CSI," the "Law and Order" series and, of course, "Murder She Wrote" - which inspired the program's title.

 

    "People just love it," said Bonnie Riley, founding executive director of PILLAR. "They are intrigued there are some people who are capable of doing this to another person and intrigued by the whole process of solving a crime."

 

    That's no surprise to Russel, who retired in 1985 after two decades as district attorney.

 

    "Death is always a fascination for people," he said. "People who attend this class will experience what the case was like, what the people were like who handled the case and what it's like to handle them."

 

    Nothing is left out, including crime scene photos.

 

    "How can you have a murder without gruesome photos?" Russel said. "We have to show what murder is really like - what's the effect on the family and everything else."

 

    Other cases will include the 1975 murder of Karen Grammer, the sister of actor Kelsey Grammer; the 1982 murder of Colorado Springs police officer Mark Dabling; and the 1970 abduction and slaying of Colorado College student Anne Marie Heider. A retired police officer who serves as the Colorado Springs police historian will review a series of murder investigations from the 1920s.

 

    CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0366 or lance.benzel@gazette.com

 

PROGRAM DETAILS

WHEN: The presentations will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon Monday and Wednesday and April 14 and April 16.

WHERE: The PILLAR classroom is at 30 E. Rio Grande St.

ADMISSION: For "Murder He Wrote" is $48 for PILLAR members and $54 for nonmembers.

- For more information, call 633-4991.

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