First homicide in the city in almost 30 years
A Gunnison man with a long history of trouble with the law was arrested Sunday, January 6 on a charge of second-degree homicide in the death of his 71-year-old uncle who was visiting from Taos, N.M., the Gunnison Police Department announced this week.
According to the official statement, Gunnison Police made a welfare check at a residence on 11th Street at 2:40 a.m. Sunday, after a report was made that 30-year-old Zachary Hurley had gotten into an argument with, and possibly injured, his uncle, Gilbert Arthur Harrison.
“Mr. Hurley was contacted at his residence and no indications were found that the relative was there or that any problem had occurred,” the police statement says.
But more than two hours earlier, Hurley and Harrison, who had been in Gunnison visiting family for a few days, were “watching television and drinking when they became involved in an argument related to events in the past.” During the fight that ensued, Hurley allegedly strangled his uncle to death.
For several hours afterward, Hurley drove around Gunnison and the surrounding area in Harrison’s pickup truck, the statement says.
At 1 p.m., officers were called to the scene of a single-vehicle accident east of Gunnison on Highway 50, where Hurley told the responding officers the car he had wrecked belonged to a dead relative.
“Upon further comments Mr. Hurley indicated that the relative was at his residence and he had been killed earlier in the day,” the statement says. “Officer [sic] responded to Mr. Hurley’s residence and did locate a male subject deceased in the residence.”
Gunnison Police Chief Keith Robinson said upon finding the dead man at Hurley’s residence, his department called in the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to help in analyzing the crime scene.
According to records, Hurley started getting in trouble with the law when he was no more than 15 years old, getting arrested in Boulder for possessing narcotic equipment. Six years later he was charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault, violent crime causing death or serious bodily injury, third degree assault, menacing and assault on a public servant. For all of that he got two years with the Department of Corrections in 2006.
According to court records, he was paroled a year later and promptly landed himself another two-year sentence for driving under the influence. But less than two years later, out on parole again, Hurley’s father turned him into police after finding a box of electronic equipment in Hurley’s room. An affidavit says the father believed the items were stolen because his son had just gotten out of jail and didn’t have the money to buy them.
The same day in March 2009, there was a rash of incidents around Gunnison that were eventually traced back to Hurley: a drunk man on the high school grounds, a new truck stolen from a residence in Gunnison, stolen items from another truck, stolen stereo equipment and tools stolen from a car and a guy sitting under a tree by the vet’s office. For that he got eight counts of either theft or criminal trespass.
Less than a month later, police found Hurley unconscious in a field near County Road 38, not far from the car he had recently stolen in Gunnison, driven off the road, sent airborne for 92 feet and then flipped end-over-end three and a half times.
When police questioned him at the hospital, he told officers “I stole a car, I was drinking and driving and I was going way too fast.” According to an affidavit of the incident, the only other thing Hurley remembers is looking at the speedometer reading 130 right before he flipped and then “the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground,” he told officers. The car landed on its wheels and Hurley fled on foot.
Hurley applied for and got a public defender after being charged with first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft and driving under the influence and was sentenced to four years in 2009.
However, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections website, Hurley was serving a sentence that would have been up in August 2017, but became eligible to see the parole board in November 2010. No details are given about when parole was actually granted.
Just over two years later, Hurley is now being held in Gunnison County Jail on a charge of second degree murder, for which the bond is set at $150,000, and a parole violation, which Hurley is currently serving with the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC).
A number of factors are considered for the classification of a homicide in Colorado, like the accused person’s state of mind when the murder took place, how the crime played out and other complicating factors. According to state law, a homicide is classified as second degree “if the person knowingly causes the death of a person,” but stops short of premeditation or killing in the act of a violent crime, such as rape or robbery.
Unless Hurley is believed to have committed the crime “upon a sudden heat of passion,” according to the law, the charge would be a Class 2 Felony that carries a prison sentence of between eight and 24 years, followed by five years of mandatory parole.
Robinson says a case against Hurley is still being built and the statement says additional charges are pending.
This is the first homicide in the City of Gunnison since the early 1980s.
Gunnison Police are asking anyone who may have had contact with Hurley or Harrison on January 5 or 6 to contact Detective Danos at 641-8200.