Accused shooter said he feared for his life
By Mark Reaman
Gunnison County sheriffs on Tuesday formally arrested a 27-year-old Grand Junction man in connection to the murder of two men near Blue Mesa on Monday. Zachary Baker was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder. Baker had previously been retained as a “person of interest” in the Gunnison County jail. Sheriff Adam Murdie said the district attorney is expected to be filing additional formal charges in the case soon.
The two victims were also residents of the Grand Junction area. Estefan Coronado of Fruita, age 33, and Colin Roy Williams of Clifton, age 45, were the two men found in a Ford F250 pickup truck that had driven off Highway 50 near Sapinero close to mile marker 134 early Monday morning. That is about 20 miles west of Gunnison.
According to the county sheriff’s office, a Gunnison County deputy was driving on patrol along Highway 50 about 4:15 a.m. when he noticed headlights below the road. He saw a vehicle located about 50 yards off the highway and proceeded to make sure things were okay. They weren’t.
The deputy encountered Baker outside of the truck that was pulling a trailer with an ATV. According to the Affidavit for Probable Cause Arrest report filed with Gunnison District Court, the deputy on scene stated, “Zachary was on the phone with his mother and was hysterically yelling.” The report says he was yelling at his mother that “they were going to kill me” and that he shot them. The deputy said Baker confirmed to him that he had shot someone in the truck. At that point, the deputy put Baker in the patrol car. There was no resistance from Baker.
When the deputy inspected the truck, he discovered two male bodies slumped over in the front seat “and did not detect any signs of life on either male.” Both men in the truck appeared to have multiple gunshot wounds to their torsos. The two victims were pronounced dead at the scene and relatives were informed of their deaths by Tuesday afternoon.
A second Gunnison County sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene about 5:10 a.m. He helped place Baker in a “belly chain and handcuffs” and said he observed what appeared to be blood stains on Baker’s clothing.
After realizing the gravity of the situation, more officials from the sheriff’s office, the Gunnison police department, the county coroner, Gunnison EMS personnel, members of the Delta County K-9 Corps, officers from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and employees of the Colorado Department of Transportation responded to the scene.
It was evident at the scene on Monday afternoon that the truck was heading east on Highway 50 and went off the road, down an embankment and came to rest in a field of sagebrush. A number of law enforcement personnel collected and logged evidence and the safety officials remained on scene for more than 13 hours. The vehicle was then towed to the county impound lot.
Based on preliminary evidence it appears the two victims were in the front seat of the truck and one was driving when they were shot. Murdie said the three men knew each other from the Grand Junction area. A handgun was used in the incident and sheriffs recovered the weapon.
According to the arrest affidavit, Baker told deputies in further interviews that he had known the two men for just a couple of weeks. They were supposedly on the way to Buena Vista to pick up a car and Baker said the two became “hostile toward him” along with making comments about where they could hide a body. He said when he went into a Delta gas station he left his firearm in the truck and the two men had taken it and unloaded it. But he had another loaded magazine with him and when he was given back the unloaded handgun, he reloaded it. The deputy said Baker told him, “he thought Colin and Estefan became paranoid of him, which in turn made him worry for his own safety.” It was determined by law enforcement that that the two victims were shot from the rear and had exit wounds on the front of their bodies.
The case remains under investigation by the county sheriff’s office in conjunction with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the county coroner’s office. Murdie said there was no indication that drugs played a role in the situation. Baker remains in the Gunnison County jail.
You should probably expect an NBC Dateline episode (Murder on the Mesa?) in a few years.