- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - Johnny Jacoby would have become a great-uncle this spring, watching as his nephew became a dad and his beloved northern Colorado family grew by one.

William Connole would have had a field day chatting with his sister, Mary, about today’s national political landscape.

But Jacoby and Connole didn’t live to see the family events and elections of the past year.

Both were victims of random roadside slayings two years ago that gripped a northern Colorado region already on edge following a spate of shattered car windows and a separate shooting on Interstate 25 a stone’s throw from Fort Collins.

The spring 2015 slayings are inching ever closer to cold case designation, given the dwindling number of local and federal investigators who remain assigned to the case.

“I hope it never goes cold because that means they’re still trying to hunt them down,” said David Jacoby, Johnny’s brother who lives in Windsor.

He knows that even cold cases and random shootings can break wide open when the right piece of evidence arrives. That happened this month in Arizona with the arrest of a suspected serial killer accused of killing motorists along metro-area freeways.

But some say the cold case designation was warranted a year ago.

Many remember the sequence of events that catapulted the region to the national nightly news and drew FBI agents to Larimer County, stirring unease as never before seen along otherwise idyllic commutes.

Investigators continue to sift through the evidence.

Optimism permeates for some.

But it has expired for others.

“I’m just trying to get on with my own life and not make the murder the centerpiece,” Mary Connole said this month at a downtown Loveland cafe. “I think the hardest thing for me is not having a person to forgive.

“Without the killer caught, it becomes sort of an amorphous evil that permeates your mind and the world. That’s hard because it’s always in the background.”


A grainy video posted June 7 to the Northern Colorado Shoot Task Force’s Facebook page sparked social media frenzy. On the heels of an April 26, 2016, news conference, the video post was also the last glimmer of hope, at least publicly, that the consortium of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies had anything substantive to work with on the then-year-old investigation.

Viewed 100,000 times, the 1-minute mash-up of security camera footage captured fleeting moments of vehicles of interest.

The images were indecipherable.

Public interest quickly waned.

The perception was unanimous, especially on Facebook.

“We got nothing,” one user wrote, attributing the three words to the task force.

As of this month, police departments from Fort Collins, Windsor and Loveland as well as the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and FBI all have investigators - one or two in most cases - actively assigned to the task force, said David Moore, task force and sheriff’s office spokesman.

An investigation of some sort would inevitably be happening anyway - each jurisdiction had a homicide or shooting of their own.

“You put the group together, more eyes on it, more minds at the table, more ideas,” Moore said in an interview at his office. Moments later, Capt. Robert Coleman, the task force leader, knocked on Moore’s door to pose a question about the last news conference, 54 weeks prior.

The words “cold case” rile investigators. Definitions vary widely, but even as time ticks by and nobody is taken into custody, Moore and others close to the investigation shudder at its utterance.

“The sheriff’s office’s definition of a cold case is there are no leads. There’s nothing else to follow up on. There’s no more investigating to do,” Moore said. “In our eyes, that’s when a case becomes cold. There’s nothing else to investigate.”

So, not yet.

Moore said even as of a briefing earlier this month, tips to the task force were dripping in “continuously, daily.” Though a far cry from scores of reports of mysterious orange trucks and suspicious highway activity, the new tips and the consistent revisions are keeping hopes alive.

“As long as tips and leads are coming in, as long as there are old tips and leads to follow up on, they will continue until someone is caught and brought to justice,” Moore said.

There are no video clips planned for publication. Nor are there any planned media briefings or public announcements on the books.


Coleman’s question about the April 26, 2016 announcement wasn’t the only thing that happened during our May interview at the sheriff’s office.

More than 900 miles away, in Phoenix, Arizona, police made an announcement millions had waited more than a year to hear. After weeks of speculation and unconfirmed reports, Phoenix police announced a suspect in the linked “Serial Street Shootings” case that terrorized the Phoenix area in 2016 and left nine dead.

The break in the case came from a tipster, though police have not said exactly what that tip consisted of.

“We hope that our community will rest a little easier and that our officers will get a little more sleep (knowing) that our wheels of justice are finally in motion,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

When those incidents first generated headlines, the Coloradoan learned the task force had been in talks with Arizona investigators but quickly ruled out a link. Investigators wouldn’t explain how they ruled it out, though the logical assumption is forensic evidence was a major factor.

Facts of the cases didn’t match up either.

Still, the Northern Colorado Shooting Task Force keeps aware of shootings outside of Colorado that could bear any resemblance to the local case.

“To date we still have no evidence to prove that any of the reported incidents out on the interstate were caused by any type of firearm projectile, with the exception of the very first shooting of Cori Romero,” Moore said.


In the two years since Johnny Jacoby’s paramedic brother, David, arrived at the Windsor roadside where his brother was shot and killed, reminders have popped up all over town.

A metal memorial sits at the site where he was shot twice on May 18 while he pedaled north on Weld County Road 15. A stone sign is outside the Windsor Recreation Center, the words “Just one stop on my ride through life - in memory of Johnny Jacoby” etched into it. A marker was placed at the cemetery with Johnny’s unofficial town title scrawled across the bottom: “Windsor’s Ambassador of Happiness.”

“We hold out hope, but again that doesn’t bring Johnny back,” said David, now a UCHealth EMS paramedic based in Fort Collins, though he and his brother Mark remain active in Windsor.

Johnny’s Community Run drew hundreds to a snowy Boardwalk Park last month; the proceeds going to scholarships and donations across Windsor. David still gets shaken when he talks about his brother’s slaying, though people continue to ask about the family or investigation.

“At least hopefully it’ll bring somebody to justice,” he said. “We hope everything works out but it’s a tough situation between hope and despair. We just really hope that this person doesn’t do this again to anybody.”

He doesn’t talk to the family of 65-year-old William Connole - a family that has generally avoided the public spotlight.

Mary Connole has faith in the investigation, and she knows they’re mulling every lead over and over, time and again.

“Once it goes to a cold case, which I expect it will shortly, it’ll still be on someone’s desk,” she said. “They’ll respond to any new information.”

Asked what she’d say if the killer was arrested and convicted, she paused, coffee cooling on the cafe table a short walk from her art space - her outlet has increasingly been in Loveland’s art scene.

“The nut will be when they close the door to the jail and he’s there. Done. And I can go see him and say, ‘Do you know what you did? Do you now the ramifications of what you did? Are you sorry?’

“I just would like to know if he was sorry. Was he aware of what he was doing? And what motivated him?”


Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, https://www.coloradoan.com

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