West Slope prosecutors, officers stranded in London
April 20, 2010
It looks as though a group including two prosecutors and two Garfield County Sheriff’s Office deputies will be stranded in London, England, until next Sunday at the earliest.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Cheney, and the two deputies, Commander Bill Middleton and Detective Eric Ashworth, remain stranded among thousands of travelers across most of Europe.
The group spent the weekend feverishly working to obtain alternate travel plans, according to Beeson.
The airport closures are due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. Strong winds have carried ash and dust particles over most of Europe over the past week, closing most European countries’ airports since Thursday, April 15.
The group left for London on April 10, to attend the extradition hearing of accused murder suspect Marcus Bebb-Jones, 46, and to interview potential witnesses in the case, according to Beeson. The group was scheduled to return on Saturday, April 17.
Bebb-Jones is accused of murdering his wife, Sabrina, and dumping her body near Douglas Pass in rural western Garfield County, north of Grand Junction. The couple owned the Hotel Melrose in Grand Junction before Sabrina’s disappearance in 1997. Her skull was found by a rancher in 2004 by a rancher.
Beeson is prosecuting the case and heading the extradition case against Bebb-Jones and made the decision to travel to London for the hearing.
Beeson confirmed Monday in an e-mail message to the Post Independent, that he and Cheney had managed to reserve return flights scheduled for Sunday, April 25.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Phil Strouse also confirmed Monday that both Middleton and Ashworth were able to schedule return travel dates for the same day as Beeson and Cheney, “If flights aren’t unduly delayed.”
“Our revised travel plans are contingent upon air space opening up and remaining open,” Beeson said. “If the volcano increases its activity, then we may be back to square one.”
Airspace in Scotland, northern Ireland, and the north of England was scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. (BST) Tuesday, according to reports from the BBC News. However, the news station later reported that a new ash cloud was spreading to the UK, causing uncertainty for flights once again.
Beeson was hopeful that they will still be able to depart Sunday, but with an overwhelming number of stranded travelers seeking accommodations, he was concerned with having a place to stay until then.
“We do not know if we will have a hotel room after Wednesday night,” Beeson said. “We are still working on that.”
Bill Brunworth, office administrator for the District Attorney, called the delay an inconvenience but said that it did not have any major effects on the office. Brunworth said that the District Attorney’s Office is fully equipped to operate as usual in the absence of Beeson and Cheney.
“There are people who can cover everything that needs to be covered while they are gone,” Brunworth said. “We’ve got systems in place to take care of everything with them not being here.”
Beeson said that the office is in good hands, dockets are being covered, and cases are being handled in the normal course of business.
“I have been in steady communication with the office and am satisfied that all is well on the home front,” Beeson said.