Courier staff writer
DEL NORTE — When a police sergeant arrived at the scene of last February’s double homicide in Monte Vista, one of the first things he saw was a blue and silver flashlight.
The flashlight, which was lying about six feet from victim John Salazar’s body, turned out to be a key piece of evidence that led to last week’s arrest of suspect Daniel M. Bessey in Oklahoma. The 41-year-old man is currently being held on numerous counts in connection with the Feb. 13, 2012 shooting deaths of Salazar and Sarah Beasley.
During their exhaustive investigation into the murders, authorities also seized cell phone records they used to trace Bessey’s alleged movements in the hours immediately before and after the incident. In addition, they pieced together records of Beasley’s cell phone activity; an affidavit and application for an arrest warrant says that information contradicts Bessey’s account of how the flashlight wound up at the couple’s Lyell Street home.
Bessey, who lived in Saguache at the time of the murders, was first interviewed the day after Monte Vista Police officers responded to a report of a double homicide at 530 Lyell St.
Eight days later, an authorized search of Bessey’s home allegedly turned up a hand-written list of detailed alibis that accounted for his whereabouts during the time in question. A Monte Vista Police sergeant reported he also found a slightly charred gun case, along with a set of black Ruger grips and a magazine for a Ruger Mark I or II semi-automatic pistol.
The gun itself was missing from the case: Bessey reportedly owned a .22-caliber Ruger, but he claimed it was damaged during a fire several months beforehand.
However, the affidavit suggests the discovery was important, since ballistic tests indicate the bullets that struck Salazar and Beasley could have been fired by a .22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic pistol.
Spray-painted graffiti at the scene seemed to suggest that the shootings may have been drug-related. But the affidavit implies that was not the case at all.
Bessey had an on-again, off-again relationship with Beasley, and is the biological father of the youngest boy who lived with Salazar at the time of the shootings.
Police interviewed one person who claimed Bessey was upset that Salazar cut his biological son’s hair, and that the other two children referred to Salazar as “Dad.”
Despite those alleged hard feelings, the sergeant reported he recovered text messages which suggest Beasley was planning to leave Salazar and resume her relationship with Bessey.
Yet within a matter of days after Beasley sent those messages, she was dead.
Beasley’s oldest son, who was 8 years old at the time, told police he woke up in the early morning hours of Feb. 13 to a sound he initially mistook for the family’s dog. Once he was fully awake, he saw his mother lying on his bedroom floor, asking for help.
Suddenly, a masked man he described as a “robber” fired two to three shots at his mother.
The boy got out of bed and went to the living room, where he saw the “robber” standing by a table.
When he asked the man who he was, the figure in black put a finger to his lips and then pushed the boy against the table, according to the child’s statements. The man then began to spray-paint messages around the house.
At some point, the boy grabbed a .22-caliber rifle and a box of ammunition from the family’s gun cabinet, dressed his brothers and then took them, along with their dog, to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor immediately called dispatchers, and the first two responding officers arrived moments later.
They found the 54-year-old Salazar lying in the driveway with a visible wound to his head. He was not breathing, and no vital signs were detected. Beasley, 29, had also succumbed to her injuries.
The sergeant who arrived later made note of the flashlight near Salazar’s body.
During his initial interview with police, Bessey allegedly said he dropped the flashlight at the residence on Feb. 10, when he said he repaired a leaky drain valve on Beasley’s vehicle.
According to the affidavit, Bessey claimed that Beasley called or texted him to let him know that he left his flashlight behind.
But police reported they found no record of any related communication between the two. Nor was there any indication someone had phoned him from another number, the affidavit says.
One of Beasley’s children said he and his brothers were playing in the yard the day after Bessey claimed he worked on the car, and did not notice the flashlight.
Moreover, statements from Beasley’s family members about her activities on that day contradicted Bessey’s claims. According to their statements, Beasley drove her vehicle to her mother’s home that day.
She never left that house until they drove to the Walmart in Alamosa, where they remained for over an hour, according to video surveillance from the store.
It was right around that time that Bessey claimed he was repairing Beasley’s car in Monte Vista, the affidavit says.
Police say other evidence appears to contradict Bessey’s statements regarding his whereabouts at the time of the murders.
Bessey, a truck driver, said he spent the previous night at a truck stop in Montrose, arriving there about 11 p.m., and leaving for Grand Junction at 7 a.m. the next morning.
According to the affidavit, he told authorities that he was not aware the couple had been murdered until he received a call from Beasley’s mother.
However, authorities believe the “pings” from Bessey’s cell phone tell a different story.
They say they can trace Bessey’s movements through his cell phone records, which allegedly show that his cell phone registered at a tower in Center the night before, and in Gunnison at 6:41 a.m. that morning. Pings from other cell phone towers show his progression through Mesa and Grand Junction, where they say he arrived nearly an hour after he claimed he did.
On January 5 Bessey was arrested in Oklahoma, where he had been residing most recently, and was placed in custody in Beckham County, Okla. He will be extradited back to Colorado to face the Salazar/Beasley murder charges. No court date has yet been scheduled.