SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4)– Law enforcement officials in Chaffee County are applauding the news that 11th Judicial District Attorney Molly Chilson intends to resign next month. They believe a change at the top of that office could spark progress in a decades-old murder case.
Chilson has refused to bring the case of Beverly England to a grand jury, citing financial reasons. That has stalled the case that investigators say is ready to move forward with a suspect identified that they believe is responsible for the homicide.
The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office began an aggressive renewed investigation in the death of England, a 32-year-old Colorado mother who disappeared 39 years ago. She was last seen in 1980 in Salida.
The cold case became active in 2015 when DNA proved bones found years ago in a mountainous area were in fact those of England.
England’s husband reported her missing after she failed to return to their Salida home. He was publicly cleared in the case.
Since that time, investigators have zeroed in on suspects in the San Luis Valley, although they have not been publicly identified.
Chaffee County Sheriff John Speeze has been public in his frustration with Chilson in previous interviews with CBS4, and says a change in the office could allow the stalled case to move forward.
“I just feel like the prosecutor’s office wasn’t on board with it,” said Speeze.
England’s family tells CBS4 they have been frustrated with the decision to not bring the case before a jury.
“It was devastating, very devastating, we had our hopes up in the same person that gave us those high hopes washed them away. I don’t know why she did, but now maybe we have a chance,” said England’s daughter Bricia Patterson.
They say justice could be in reach if whoever Gov. Jared Polis appoints to the position “has the guts” to take the case.
Chilson told CBS4 Friday that it is, “time for me to seek a new career path, dynamics of the job have changed.”
“There are so many factors out of our control while funding remains the same,” Chilson added.
She says part of the job is being able to handle criticism and she welcomed that from the time she took office.
“Part of the job to be criticized and take it graciously, I’m not leaving because of criticism relating to any one case,” Chilson said.
The governor will appoint someone to fill the role for the remainder of her term, which is two years. Chilson is a Republican, and it is not clear who will replace her at this time.
In her letter of resignation, Chilson states she is willing to step down before June 8, if someone can be appointed.