Family still seeks answers in death of Rangely man

RANGELY I It has been eight months since Jerry Snider Sr. was killed in his home here and his oldest son was arrested on first-degree murder charges.
And while the homicide case involving Jerry Snider Jr. is on track for trial — likely to start this summer — the family still has plenty of questions.
“We don’t get any answers,” a family member said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
What they do know is that Jerry Snider Sr., a longtime Rangely resident, was killed. He was 50.
Jerry Snider Jr. — the oldest of two sons — is charged with killing his father in the living room of his home over the Fourth of July weekend. The cause of death was listed as blunt trauma injury. A blood-stained hatchet was found at the scene.
In December, the district attorney filed a motion stating it would not seek the death penalty in the case.
Members of Jerry Snider Sr.’s family were surveyed about their views on whether the DA should seek the death penalty, and they came down on the other side of the issue.
“Almost all of us asked them to seek the death penalty,” the family member said. “Some of us think there should be an eye for an eye, but that’s anger talking. We don’t know which (family members) it was (who didn’t want the DA to seek the death penalty), but they (district attorney Martin Beeson and assistant district attorney Jeff Cheney) met with the family and said they had decided not to (seek the death penalty). They never gave us a reason.”
Results of a psychological evaluation of Jerry Snider Jr. were not known at the time the DA decided not to seek the death penalty, the family member said.
“They didn’t have the results yet,” the family member said. “But every one of us told him (district attorney Beeson) that we thought (Snider Jr.) was sane.”
Though results of the psychological tests have not been made public — a judge ordered Snider Jr. be evaluated for insanity and competency to stand trial — the case is moving forward. Snider Jr. had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
“They found that he was sane,” the family member said. “The word they use is competent.”
Family members have been present for Snider Jr.’s court appearances, which have been conducted under heightened security conditions. Snider Jr. is being held in the Rio Blanco County Detention Center.
“He is being held in the general population, but in the smaller cell closest to the office,” said Lt. Deby Merriam, who oversees the jail. “For court appearances there are extra precautions. He has not given me any problems to warrant special precautions in the facility.”
At times during his hearings, or when entering the courtroom, Snider Jr. has exchanged glances with family members, seated in the gallery.
“He’s looked every one of us straight in the eye, but there’s always a blank look on his face,” the family member said. “The only time I saw any emotion was when he saw his grandmother (Jerry Snider Sr.’s mother) in the courtroom.”
In a short amount of time, the Snider family suffered the loss of Snider Sr. as well as one of his brothers.
“There were five boys and two girls. Just three weeks before Jerry was murdered, we lost one of the brothers to a heart attack,” the family member said. “So (the brother’s mother) lost two boys in three weeks, and another brother had died in 2005. This has been a terrible year for her.”
Prior to his arrest on murder charges, Snider Jr. had been in and out of trouble with the law, the family member said.
“Jerry Don (Snider Jr.) has been in trouble a lot the last few years, with drugs and stealing things,” the family member said. “But every time he called Jerry (Sr.), he was right there to help him out.”
Some family members encouraged Snider Sr. to report to authorities his son had stolen his vehicle.
“He (Snider Sr.) said, yeah, he stole my Blazer, but all he needs is one more chance,” the family member said. “He always said Jerry Don needs help. He needs someone to care for him. That was just two days before he killed him.”
The family member said that was Snider Sr.’s way — he liked to help people.
“He did everything he could for his boys,” the family member said. “I never saw Jerry raise his hand or his voice to his kids. He disciplined them when they were younger, but he wasn’t abusive. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was a soft-spoken, very gentle man. He would do everything he could to help people out and never asked anything in return.”
The family member said Snider Jr. had stolen his father’s Chevy Blazer and drove to Paonia, where his mother lives, about 10 days before the fateful Fourth of July weekend.
“He had just got out of jail again when he stole Jerry’s Blazer,” the family member said.
Snider Sr., who was divorced, had lived in Rangely about 20 years and worked at the Deserado Mine.
“When he first moved there he was married, but they didn’t last maybe a year after they moved there,” the family member said. “She (Snider Sr.’s ex-wife) had the boys pretty much until they were 18.”
Sometime over the weekend of the Fourth, Snider Jr. took his father’s truck and drove to Denver and was on his way back when the truck broke down and he hitchhiked a ride.
“From best we can tell, the guy (who gave Snider Jr. a ride) took him to some police station in Georgetown because he was acting suspicious and he (Snider Jr.) said he was wanted for murder, but didn’t tell them who he killed,” the family member said. “That’s why it took them until that afternoon to find Jerry. They did a welfare check (at Snider Sr.’s house) and that’s when they found him.”
Since the murder of Jerry Snider Sr. and throughout the legal process involving his son, members of the family have kept silent. Until now.
“They tell us not to talk to anyone on the outside,” the family member said. “It makes it difficult for us. We’ve never been involved in something like this before. We have to trust they are being straight with us.”
Information about the case, even for family members, has been difficult to come by.
“We still don’t know all of the details (of what happened),” the family member said. “I don’t know why they are being so secretive with us. We’re on trial track, that’s all they say.”
Family members were advised by the DA’s office not to discuss the case with outsiders or the media.
“They told us no media,” the family member said. “Basically, they told us we couldn’t say anything. They even said it would be difficult to place an obituary (for Snider Sr.) in the paper without having to explain what happened. I just don’t see the point in not saying anything.”
As the murder case moves forward and the focus is on a trial, family members hope to keep Jerry Snider Sr.’s memory alive.
“People still call from Rangely and say what’s going on (with the case)? Why haven’t we heard anything?” the family member said. “The fact is, there has been so little (said) about it. People want to know. The more they don’t hear anything about it, the more they think it will get swept under the rug.
“Jerry (Sr.) wasn’t the type of person who needs to be put in a file like he never existed,” the family member continued. “He was a person who was loved.”