Keystone resident Jarrod Russell, 34, died of hypothermia in January after attempting to walk home from a party in the dark, Dillon Police Department records show.
On Sunday January 9, authorities were dispatched near Dillon Nature Preserve on High Meadow Drive around 10:40 a.m. Hikers were using one of the nearby trails when they noticed a shoe on the side of the trail. Russell’s body was located nearby. He was found shirtless and with a single shoe on his right foot, as well as shallow cut marks on his back and on his left arm. No other signs of trauma were found.
Police records indicate that authorities followed Russell’s path north of High Meadow Drive about 735 feet and then about 300 feet to the southwest where he passed through a barbed wire fence, which they attribute to its minor cuts. Russell was found on a north-facing slope which, due to the characteristics of the terrain, had received no exposure to the sun that day. A light dusting of snow was found on Russell’s lower body, right arm and upper chest.
Russell was quickly identified using the Keystone employee lanyard found around his neck and through the Colorado Crime Information Center as well as the National Crime Information Center. Although he lived in Keystone, Russell is originally from the Huntsville, Alabama area.
Investigation records indicate that one of Russell’s friends from Steamboat Springs was hosting a party at a short-term rental in the Summerwood neighborhood the night before, where about 20 people attended. Several witnesses who attended the party said alcohol was involved. The location of the short term rental was not included in the report. Witness statements taken from police records show that Russell showed up at the party around 10 p.m. on Saturday, January 8.
Around 1 a.m. on Sunday, January 9, Russell’s friend reportedly kicked most people out of the rental, citing a noise complaint filed by neighbors. Most of the revelers left the rental, but Russell supposedly stayed. Sometime before 2 a.m., he was asked to leave and given his phone, snow pants and a coat, according to police reports.
At around 3 a.m., police said Russell spoke with a friend on the phone. At that time, the witness said Russell told them he was fine and could see his house.
National Weather Service data indicates that on January 9, the lowest temperature that day was 9 degrees below zero with a high of 32 degrees. That day accumulated about 1 inch of snow.
According to the police report, toxicology results show Russell’s blood alcohol level was 0.218% at the time of his death.
The case has been classified as an unattended accidental death. No suspects appear to be involved.
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons and Dillon Police Chief Cale Osborn said cases like Russell’s don’t happen very often. In severe weather, FitzSimons said it’s not uncommon for Summit County Rescue Group to respond to these types of calls, but Osborne went so far as to say these types of cases are abnormal.
“I would say they’re pretty rare considering how many people are in our city and our county for that matter,” Osborn said. “They are quite rare but they have happened over the years.”
FitzSimons said those who choose to walk home in freezing temperatures, or even explore the county’s nightlife, should plan ahead before consuming any type of substance. This includes securing a safe ride home or packing a bag of essentials to keep in a vehicle.
“In weather like this you need to dress in layers, you need to be well hydrated and fed and keep diapers and blankets in your car, keep a flashlight, things you might need if your car crashes broke down and you find yourself walking along the freeway,” FitzSimons said.