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Dove Creek trial in death of bowhunter will be broadcast online

Ronald J. Morosko of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
Chief judge attempts to shield jurors

A seven-day trial is set to begin Oct. 24 in Dove Creek for Ronald J. Morosko, a Pennsylvania muzzleloading hunter accused of fatally shooting Texas bowhunter Gregory Gabrisch during Colorado’s 2021 hunting season.

Morosko is charged with criminally negligent homicide, a Class 5 felony, and hunting in a reckless manner, a misdemeanor, in the shooting death of Gabrisch Sept. 17, 2021. Both men were hunting elk on the Kilpacker Trail in the San Juan National Forest northeast of Dolores.

Morosko has pleaded not guilty. A charge of manslaughter was dropped.

The trial will be broadcast live on WebEx Events, according to an Oct. 10 order filed by Chief Judge Todd Plewe. Court cameras will record the proceedings, but will not show jurors. The Journal had requested that a staff photographer be present.

“This streamed audio and video content may be captured, restreamed or broadcast live or at a later date to ensure that the public and media are able to observe the trial,” the order states.

The order states that an inadvertent image of a juror shall not be displayed, distributed or identified as a juror. Media and public cameras, mobile phones, computers or recording devices will not be allowed in the courtroom.

Pictures or video of jurors coming and going from the courthouse also are prohibited. Media interviews will not be allowed in the courtroom. No person shall wear or bring anything into the courthouse that expresses support for the prosecution or defense.

During a pretrial conference Oct. 7, District Attorney Matt Margeson and defense attorney Kenneth Pace both objected to The Journal’s request for a photographer in the courtroom.

A trial is set to begin in Dove Creek for a man accused of shooting a bowhunter in the area of the Kilpacker Trail in the San Juan National Forest. (Journal file)
A man was fatally shot in a hunting accident that occurred in the San Juan National Forest Friday in the area of the Kilpacker Trail north of Rico.

Video and photography of the proceedings may put “undue pressure” on jurors, Margeson said, and put at risk the “solemnness of the proceedings” in the emotional case.

The upcoming trial is “a big topic in a small town,” said Pace during the pretrial conference.

In his ruling to allow livestreaming, Plewe stated it was important for the public to see how the trial was handled and that it can bolster confidence in the judicial process.

A jury will be selected Oct. 24, and opening statements are expected by prosecutors and the defense on Oct. 25. Potential jurors will be summoned from Dolores County, which extends east to Rico.

Witnesses are arriving from Denver, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, California, and elsewhere, attorneys said.

Plewe reminded participants that Dove Creek is a small town, and people should conduct themselves in a way that does not jeopardize the trial. Because Dove Creek has few hotels and restaurants, trial participants may be in proximity to one another outside the courtroom.

A link to view the proceedings will be provided on the 22nd Judicial District website.

Fatal shooting happened at Kilpacker Trail

Morosko allegedly shot Gregory John Gabrisch Sept. 17 after he mistook him for an elk near the Kilpacker Trail on the San Juan National Forest, according to an arrest affidavit.

Morosko’s hunting partner, Slade M. Pepke, was using a call to lure elk within shooting range.

Morosko told deputies from Montezuma and Dolores counties that he heard an elk bugle and believed a bull elk was coming his way.

“When he saw white in the pines, he took a shot at what he thought was an elk,” according to the affidavit, written by Dolores County Sheriff Don Wilson.

Morosko said the archery hunter was wearing dark-brown camouflage, not hunter orange. Bow hunters are not required to wear daylight fluorescent orange clothing during the archery season, according to Colorado law.

Morosko and Pepke are from Pennsylvania, and Gabrisch was from Houston.

Jan 21, 2022
Muzzleloader pleads not guilty in fatal shooting of bow hunter in Dolores County
Jan 17, 2022
Parks and Wildlife commission rejects blaze orange requirement for bowhunters in overlap season

The incident occurred in Game Management Unit 71, a 520-square-mile area that stretches from north of Dolores east to Lizard Head Pass.

The shooting occurred when muzzleloader and archery seasons overlap.

On Jan. 12, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously rejected a recommendation from CPW to require that archery hunters wear fluorescent orange or pink during the overlapping muzzleloader season. Bow hunters also opposed the change.

Rifle and muzzleloader hunters are required to wear at least 500 square inches of solid fluorescent orange or pink above the waist. Part of it must be a hat or head covering.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com