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Teen suspect appears in court

Posted: Thursday, Oct 29th, 2009

Gag order



ALAMOSA — The 14-year-old suspect in a presumed double homicide outside of Monte Vista appeared in court in Alamosa on Thursday afternoon, but a gag order and judge’s directive barred any official information from being released about pending charges or courtroom transactions.

Monte Vista High School Freshman John Caudle is being held in juvenile detention in connection with the death earlier this week of his mother and stepfather, Joanne Marlee (Galla) Rinebarger, 34, and Tracy Aaron Rinebarger, 37, of rural Monte Vista.

Authorities said earlier this week they were not looking for any other suspects at this time.

Tracy and Joanne Rinebarger were found dead in their home at 3219 County Road 28, in the Rock Creek area outside Monte Vista, on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The cause of death has not yet been released, and Rio Grande County Coroner Rusty Strohmayer said on Thursday he had still not received the autopsy results. The victims were transported to El Paso County for the autopsies.

District Judge Martin Gonzales issued a directive that no one be allowed in the courtroom for Caudle’s hearing on Thursday aside from the parties to the case. Three Alamosa County Sheriff’s deputies guarded the door to the courtroom.

When Courier Reporter Julia Wilson attempted to photograph the teenage suspect outside the courtroom in a public area, Alamosa County Sheriff Deputy Gary Thomas blocked her and told her a gag order was in place and she would not be allowed to take pictures. The deputies on the scene then covered Caudle with a jacket.

Alamosa Sheriff Dave Stong said his deputies were simply enforcing the court’s directive not to let anyone in the courtroom.

All officials questioned on Thursday said a gag order was now in place and they could no longer release any information.

When asked if he had requested the gag order, Public Defender Daniel Walzl refused to comment. He would not say whether his office was now involved in the case representing the suspect.

“I have no comment about it whatsoever,” he said.

District Attorney David Mahonee said he had not filed charges on the suspect yet but could not comment on what transpired in the courtroom on Thursday.

“We are taking our time. We just want to do things right,” Mahonee said. “I cannot comment on what we are doing.”

He said he did not know why the judge barred anyone from entering the courtroom. Judge Gonzales deferred an interview until Monday morning.

Rio Grande County Sheriff Brian Norton whose office investigated the Rinebargers’ deaths along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was also bound on Thursday by the recent gag order. He said he was informed by the district attorney’s office that a gag order was now in place so he could not discuss the case.

Service arrangements are pending, at least for Tracy Rinebarger whose memorial service will be announced by Rogers Family Mortuary of Monte Vista. The funeral home is preliminarily listing his date of death as Monday, Oct. 26.

Mike Rinebarger released a statement on Thursday on behalf of the family: “What happened is a tragedy that we will probably never understand. Tracy and Joanne were very good people, loved by all who knew them. We are deeply saddened. The loss of my brother and his wife has not only affected family and friends, but an entire community who are still trying to make sense of it all. Both Tracy and Joanne will be greatly missed.

“A donation fund in lieu of flowers has been set up at San Luis Valley Federal Bank under the Tracy Rinebarger Family Memorial.”

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