Vindicated: Theos cleared of wrongdoing in death of Robinson

MEEKER I When the verdict was announced Friday night — after a six-member jury in Grand Junction deliberated for some three hours — Nick Theos was vindicated.
And happy.
justice-logo“It felt damn good,” said the 88-year-old Meeker sheep rancher.
Theos was cleared of all claims in a wrongful death lawsuit, brought against him by the son of man who died of thallium poisoning 40 years ago.
“It was very gratifying to have a jury of your peers vindicate you 100 percent,” said Elizabeth Starrs, one of Theos’ attorneys. “We had a good feeling, because the plaintiff did not have any credible evidence to support his claims. We thought that was going to ultimately carry the day, and it did.”
Thallium was a poison used by ranchers in the 1950s and 1960s to kill coyotes and other predators.
The lawsuit — brought by Matt Robinson — claimed Nick and Lois Theos were liable in the death of his father, Jim Robinson, who died Aug. 31, 1969 of a sudden illness. Nick Theos was co-defendant in the case, along with the estate of Lois Theos.
Nick Theos, a former state legislator, has categorically denied having anything to do with the death of Jim Robinson.
“I said if I wanted to get rid of him, I wouldn’t give him poison, I would shoot him and get rid of him in a hurry,” said Nick Theos, who testified in the trial, which started Aug. 10.
Lois Theos (formerly Robinson) was Matt’s mother. She married Nick Theos seven years after Jim Robinson’s death. She died in 2001.
“They said I poisoned him to get his ex-wife. I said if I needed a wife I could get a lot of ’em. Lois, I knew her since she was 2 years old,” Nick Theos said. “Her dad worked for my dad. I was herding sheep and she’d go to school down the road. She asked, ‘Can I ride your horse?’ She was a friend since then.”
Matt Robinson was seeking $91,000 to $161,000 in economic losses. However, the jury, made up of five women and one man, exonerated Theos.
“This is a very sad case of a 38-year-old man dying of thallium poisoning and a 10-year-old boy growing up without a father,” Starrs said. “It’s hard to overcome that sympathy, but the reality is he wanted anyone to pay, anyone at all. So, for the last seven years, an 88-year-old man was faced with claims of murder from 40 years ago and he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The plaintiff created enough innuendo to establish that someone will believe his fantasy, and they clearly did it. But he (Nick Theos) was vindicated on all counts. Our system may be slow and inefficient, but it works.”
Messages left for Matt Robinson were not returned.
For Nick Theos, the jury’s verdict was the end of a long ordeal.
“This has been going on for years,” he said. “With the attorneys I had, I felt pretty good. If they could prove anything on me, I would be in Cañon City (at the state prison) right now, waiting for them to hang me.”
Instead, Nick Theos was cleared.
“For the whole industry, I’m glad I won,” he said. “I wonder what they thought, an 88-year-old guy can beat all these guys who went to college.”
The case, previously, was dismissed by a trial court judge, and then went to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision and said it had to go to a jury trial.
Nick Theos’ co-counsel Starrs said the defense will have a counter claim of “abuse of process.”
“When someone brings a lawsuit, and they know that the process is groundless, that’s abuse of the system,” Starrs said. “We will quantify the additional damage (with this case), to have to spend seven years embroiled in this with these claims … not that everyone believes them, but still they are out there and it weighed on Mr. Theos, even though he didn’t have a part in this at all.”