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Hunter charged with killing bowhunter will get new trial in Cortez

Ronald J. Morosko of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania
District Judge grants change of venue to Montezuma County; mistrial called in first trial because of COVID-19 outbreak

The trial of Ronald Morosko, a muzzleloader accused in the shooting death of bowhunter Gregory Gabrisch, has been rescheduled after a mistrial last week caused by a COVID-19 outbreak in the courtroom.

At a hearing Tuesday, Chief Judge Todd Plewe scheduled a six-day trial for Jan. 17 in Montezuma County District Court.

Plewe earlier granted a motion by defense requesting a change of venue to Montezuma County.

The fatal shooting happened in Dolores County near the Kilpacker Trail on the San Juan National Forest on Sept. 17, 2021, north of Rico.

District Attorney Matt Margeson objected to the change of venue.

“It happened in Dolores County, and a jury from Dolores County should hear the case,” he said. “We picked a jury before, and we could have done so again.”

Morosko, of Pennsylvania, faces charges of criminally negligent homicide, a Class 5 felony, and hunting in a careless manner, a misdemeanor, in the death of Texas bowhunter Gabrisch.

Morosko shot Gabrisch as the two hunted elk in the area separately. The muzzleloading season and bowhunting season overlap in Colorado for eight days in September.

22nd Judicial Districe Attorney Matt Margeson gives opening statements to a jury in Dove Creek in a case involving a muzzleloader hunter who fatally shot a bow hunter Sept. 17 in the San Juan National Forest. A mistrial was declared because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the courtroom. (WebEx screenshot)

In Colorado, conviction of criminally negligent homicide can be punished by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. A conviction for hunting in a careless manner carries a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.

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A 12-person jury with one alternate will be chosen from a pool of about 300 jurors from Montezuma County expected to be summoned for two days.

The case will be prosecuted by Margeson and Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Reed. Morosko is represented by defense attorney Kenneth Pace and Heather Little of Durango.

On Oct. 31, a mistrial was declared in Morosko’s trial in Dove Creek because of a COVID-19 outbreak among jurors.

Three jurors reportedly tested positive for the virus and were released from service. Morosko’s attorneys filed a motion for a mistrial, citing lack of jurors, which was granted by Plewe. Other court staff and an attorney in the case also tested positive.

The mistrial occurred the morning of the sixth day of a trial, which was expected to last seven days before it went to the jury for deliberation. The prosecution had rested its case, and the defense was on its second day of presenting its case.