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Update: Police identify three people found dead in Cortez home

Three family members were found dead Wednesday at 1609 Tucker Court in Cortez. Police said foul play is suspected, and there was no longer a safety concern. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Two died from blunt-force trauma; one from a gunshot wound

Amid an ongoing investigation, the Cortez Police Department released the identities of the three people who were found dead Wednesday at 1609 Tucker Court in Cortez.

William A. Sanderson, 79, and his wife, Ona Sanderson, 77 – the owners of the home – as well as Ona Sanderson’s son Linas Gasis, 46, were discovered at their residence in a neighborhood with a “quiet” reputation.

William Sanderson and another member of the family died from blunt force trauma, while the other died from a gunshot wound, according to a Cortez police news release issued Monday afternoon.

Jan 21, 2022
Update: Neighbors react to 3 deaths in Cortez home; investigation continues

Patrol Lt. Rex Brinkerhoff said Monday afternoon that police were unable to specify who received which injuries, and what firearm was found at the scene. It’s unclear whether the firearm was responsible for the gunshot wound to one of the family members.

Foul play is suspected, Brinkerhoff previously told The Journal.

The Cortez Fire Protection District responded to the home first, after being called to check for a potential carbon monoxide leak at the residence. Cortez police officers then entered the home after receiving a call from an unknown family member requesting a welfare check after not being able to reach the family, Brinkerhoff said Friday.

All three were residents of the home. Two bodies were found in a bedroom, and the other’s location was not disclosed.

The time of death remains unclear. Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers responded to the scene about 11 a.m. Wednesday and said it appeared the deaths occurred two to four days earlier.

William Sanderson’s time of death was listed as Jan. 15, according to his obituary published by Ertel Funeral Home.

Deavers previously identified William Sanderson as one of the victims. Deavers did not respond to a phone call Monday from The Journal asking for additional information.

The Cortez Police Department is continuing the investigation, with assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and the Montezuma County Coroner’s Office.

Neighbors spoke fondly of William Sanderson, and no one in the family had a known criminal record, police said.

Neighbors interviewed by The Journal expressed shock and sadness Friday.

Sanderson was a courteous and generous neighbor, said Donna Murphy, who lives across the street.

“He would bring our trash cans in when we were away, and gave us cucumbers from his garden,” she said. “We’re heartbroken.”

She said there was no sign of trouble at the home. The family had lived there since at least 2019. She said she heard no gunshots.

Other neighbors said nothing was out of the ordinary at the residence.

“It is shocking that there is loss of life two doors down and you don’t know about it until police show up,” said a woman who did not want to give her name.

Another neighbor, who declined to be identified, said Sanderson was a “good man” who was retired and took frequent walks around the neighborhood.

“He cared for his wife, who had medical problems. He walked the neighborhood and was a polite man to talk with. He left fresh vegetables at our door, brought in our trash cans when we were gone,” the neighbor said. “We’re all just shocked.”

They said they did not know Ona Sanderson or Linas Gasis.

Monday’s news release reiterated that there is no correlating threat to the neighborhood or city.

William “Bill” Archie Sanderson, as he was remembered in his obituary, was born on Aug. 2, 1942 in Parsons, Kansas. He’s survived by his children, Mark Sanderson (Lynn) and Texas and Tammy Sorheim, as well as three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and three siblings.

Journal reporter Jim Mimiaga contributed to this article.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.