Aspen police now say woman’s death was probably accidental
November 24, 2009
ASPEN, Colorado – A new autopsy report will recommend that the death of longtime Aspen resident Cheryl Ann Lurie was an accident, police said Monday.
The passing of Lurie, 54, has been a mystery since her body was found by a passer-by on the morning of Monday, Nov. 16, in an outdoor plaza located next to the library. It is now believed Lurie fell down, and her right eye struck a sprinkler head, causing her to bleed to death internally.
“While there are still a lot of unknowns, at this time we do not believe anything suspicious happened,” said Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor.
Police had considered the possibility that Lurie had been murdered, after meeting Thursday with a Grand Junction pathologist who concluded Lurie had been punched in the eye. But Friday night, the case took a turn when Pitkin County Sheriff’s detective Ron Ryan found what appeared to be traces of blood on a sprinkler head in the area where Lurie’s body was found.
The sprinkler head was within 2 feet of Lurie’s body, Pryor said.
Ryan’s discovery triggered a second autopsy, performed Monday in Denver, where Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Michael Dobersen deemed that physical evidence on Lurie’s body matched a sprinkler head identical to the one taken into evidence. Aspen police detective Chris Womack and Pitkin County Coroner Scott Thompson attended Monday’s autopsy.
The sprinkler head on which apparent blood was found will be processed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation “to confirm the type and origin of the residue,” according to a press release from the Aspen Police Department.
A number of sprinkler heads, which jut out of the ground, are in the grassy area where Lurie’s body was found, about 120 feet from the Pitkin County Courthouse, occupied by both the police department and sheriff’s office.
“Based on the totality of circumstances – the pathologist’s finding [Monday], other evidence on her body, around her body, interviews with witnesses, video footage – all of that information supports” that the death was accidental, Pryor said.
The last known whereabouts of Lurie, 54, a longtime Aspen resident, were outside of Bentley’s at the Wheeler, located at the corner of Mill Street and Hyman Avenue, sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. She had lived at the Hunter Creek condominiums with her husband, Martin.
The time Lurie died is unknown, Pryor said. A toxicology reporting is pending.
“Even though we’ve come to this conclusion we still need to be diligent in finding out everything we can,” the police chief said.
Pryor said the police department is still seeking information about Lurie, and encouraged anyone with information about her to call the department at (970) 920-5400.