FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2006
FOUR PEOPLE INDICTED BY A FEDERAL GRAND JURY IN DENVER
FOR 1998 VAIL ARSON FIRES
DENVER – Bill Leone, United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, Richard C. Powers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Denver Office, and Lester D. Martz, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, announced that late yesterday a federal grand jury in Denver indicted four individuals on eight counts of arson for a series of fires set at the Vail ski area on or about October 19, 1998.
Those indicted are: CHELSEA DAWN GERLACH, age 29, STANISLAS GREGORY MEYERHOFF, age 28, JOSEPHINE SUNSHINE OVERAKER, age 31, and REBECCA JEANETTE RUBIN, age 33. GERLACH and MEYERHOFF are presently in federal custody in Oregon, facing separate arson charges. The whereabouts of OVERAKER and RUBIN are unknown.
According to the indictment, on or about October 19, 1998, the four defendants maliciously damaged and destroyed by means of fire, and aided and abetted the damaging and destroying by means of fire, of:
Count 1: Two Elk Lodge at the Vail ski area
Count 2: Camp 1 restaurant at the Vail ski area
Count 3: A building that included a ski patrol office, and an operator’s shack for ski lift 14 (also known as the Sourdough Lift) at the Vail ski area
Count 4: A building that included Vail’s ski patrol headquarters and other facilities at the Vail ski area
Count 5: Buffalo’s restaurant at the Vail ski area
Count 6: A building that included an operator’s shack for ski lift 4 (also known as the Mountaintop Express Lift) at the Vail ski area
Count 7: The lift 5 building, which included an operator’s shack for ski lift 5 (also known as the High Noon Lift) at the Vail ski area
Count 8: A building that included an operator’s shack for ski lift 11 (also known as the Northwoods Express Lift) at the Vail ski area
“This indictment is a result of over seven years of hard investigative work,” said United States Attorney Bill Leone. “Thanks to the hard work of the FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement officers, those alleged to be responsible for the arson fires at Vail will now face justice for their actions. We are a nation of laws and we are fortunate to live in a free society. No matter how strongly we feel about any issue or cause, there are peaceful ways to express our views. We simply cannot capitulate to the use of violence as a means of political discourse.”
“This case has been a long and cooperative effort among federal, state and local officials not only in Colorado but in Oregon as well,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers. “There are still 2 outstanding fugitives that are at large, and we are certain they will be brought forward to face their charges.”
“Arson is an extremely difficult crime to solve,” said Lester D. Martz, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “The message to any person or group that seeks to further its cause through crimes of violence is this: we will be relentless in finding you and bringing you to justice.”
If convicted, the defendants face not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years in federal prison, and/or up to a $250,000 fine for each of the eight counts. If the crime resulted in personal injury, the penalty becomes not less than 7 years, and not more than 40 years in federal prison.
The Vail arson fires were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Forest Service, the Vail Police Department, and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas O’Rourke and Tim Neff.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.