Neighbors of accused arsonist denied protection orders

One of the slash piles burning on Christopher Linsmayer's property on Tuesday that caused Kremmling Fire and Grand County Sheriff's Office to respond.
Courtesy Henry Meier

Following nearly five hours of testimony across two hearings, a judge has denied permanent protection orders sought by the neighbors of a man accused of arson.

On Wednesday, Judge Nicholas Catanzarite denied Tim and Laurie Pope protection orders against their neighbor Christopher Linsmayer, finding that Linsmayer doesn’t pose the couple a threat of bodily harm.

The protection order would have required Linsmayer to stay a set distance from the Popes and their property.

The Popes filed for permanent protection orders on Feb. 17. Felony arson charges were brought against Linsmayer in October after he allegedly left several burning slash piles unattended on his property in the Gorewood Subdivision in Kremmling.

In addition to the threat from the fires, the Popes cited an incident on Feb. 14 in which Linsmayer was driving on the neighborhood road and came upon the Popes cross-country skiing. Due to recent snowfall and plowing, the road was narrow and the Popes claimed they were forced into the snowbanks to get out of the way of Linsmayer’s car, which they felt was Linsmayer intentionally trying to intimidate them.

Beyond the two cited incidents, the Popes’ attorney, Deepan Dutta, focused on Linsmayer’s history of reckless burning as he argued the context of events and Linsmayer’s behavior created a threat to the Popes.

Prior to his most recent charges, Linsmayer has repeatedly been accused of illegal burning on his property.

“We do understand that what we’re asking for is a bit unusual, but this is extreme behavior,” Dutta said. “There’s a clear pattern of disruptive, unlawful and threatening behavior that has gone way beyond what is reasonable.”

Both Popes testified they lived in fear of Linsmayer’s “irrational behavior,” with Laurie Pope choking up while telling the court she wakes up at night thinking she smells smoke.

Linsmayer’s attorney, Jack DiCola, dialed in on the fact that Linsmayer has never physically or verbally threatened either of the Popes and that Linsmayer has not violated the requirements of the protection order associated with his criminal case.

The criminal protection order requires Linsmayer to be accompanied in the Gorewood neighborhood, not to light fires and not to harass witnesses. Tim Pope is a witness in the criminal case.

DiCola also argued that the fires had not gotten near the Popes’ property and that Linsmayer was attempting to follow the criminal protection order in not confronting the Popes when they ran into each other on the road.

“What (Linsmayer) did, as the evidence shows, is that he continued by them, slowly and never touched them,” DiCola said. “This claim is not the kind of thing the statute is meant to protect against. Mr. Linsmayer never threatened them with bodily harm and he’s never assaulted them.”

Linsmayer didn’t testify during proceedings.

Ultimately, Catanzarite agreed with DiCola, adding that without a conclusion in the criminal case, he couldn’t find that Linsmayer started the fires in October that made the Popes feel threatened.

“Based on the evidence, it’s not clear to me that Mr. Linsmayer has ever threatened bodily harm,” Catanzarite said. “The burden of proof is on the Popes and … the evidence to me doesn’t show any threat.”

Dutta, the Popes’ attorney, said they were disappointed in the outcome but are looking to the criminal court procedure to hold Linsmayer accountable.

“It’s unacceptable for a pyromaniac, essentially, to keep doing this and we’ve got to put a stop to it, which I do hope will happen through the criminal case,” Dutta said. “At the end of the day, what we want is for him to not have the ability to set fires on his or anyone’s property.”

DiCola did not respond to a request for comment on the conclusion of the case. Linsmayer is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for his criminal case.

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