News from the San Luis Valley

by Patty LaTaille

Locals Needed for the Big Screen

Look for the open casting calls for movie extras at the end of March in the San Luis Valley for the Disney western “The Lone Ranger,” that will be shooting in Colorado and Utah this summer.

Sande Alessi Casting, the Los Angeles based casting directors of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Glee,” “The Social Network” and hundreds more projects, will be looking for men; including Asian, Native American and men of other ethnicities.

Those who miss the open call may still be considered for the film. Go to or “friend” The Lone Ranger Casting on Facebook.

Avalanche Death

A team of about 40 people worked into the frigid night on Feb. 16 to retrieve the body of 37-year-old Andre Hartlief of Australia who died that afternoon in an avalanche on the north side of Wolf Creek Pass.

Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus said the victim was a ski patroller in New Zealand and was in the U.S. with a fellow New Zealand ski patroller as part of a ski patrol exchange program with Keystone.

The three men were backcountry skiing on a fairly steep slope in the Gibbs Creek area near the pass about midday. One of the three had already come down the hill and was out of the way when an avalanche hit his two companions, Hosselkus explained. One of the skiers was partially buried in the avalanche but was able to dig himself out. He was “banged up,” messed up his knee, and had some teeth knocked out by the impact, according to the sheriff.

The two skiers who were free were able to locate Hartlief relatively quickly through his beacon, Hosselkus said, and were able to dig him out and begin CPR, “but the trauma was too much.”

“For an avalanche, it was a really fast response. Probably 30 minutes from the call we had ski patrol up there,” he said. “It was the best chance this guy was ever going to have for being in an avalanche,” said Hosselkus.

However, Hartlief had already succumbed to the trauma suffered during the event.

“It sounds like they did everything they should have,” Sheriff Hoselkus said. “It just was the wrong place to go skiing. It was a really steep slope. There’s a reason there were no other ski tracks on the hill.”

An avalanche expert was on site Friday to analyze conditions and develop a report for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. This was the sixth avalanche death of the season.


Murder in Monte Vista

Members of the Monte Vista community may well be on edge in the aftermath of a double murder discovered at 530 Lyell Street in the early morning of Feb. 13. John Raymond Salazar, 54, and his significant other, Sarah Janay Beasley, 29, were pronounced dead at the scene by a Rio Grande deputy coroner. Beasley’s three sons who lived with her and Salazar were unharmed.

Salazar was a custodian with the Monte Vista School District and Beasely was a student at Trinidad State Junior College in Alamosa. The boys are now under the care of the Rio Grande County Department of Social Services.

According to The Valley Courier, “Police are still searching for the person seen leaving the area. The person, wearing a black ski mask, black jacket, black pants and gloves, was described as about 5 feet, seven inches tall and overweight.”



There is a piece of legislation in Denver of significant interest to the San Luis Valley in the works; a name change of Adams State College to Adams State University.

The bill – HB12-1080 – sponsored by State Representative Ed Vigil and State Senator Gail Schwartz, has passed the State Fiscal Impact analysis.

According to The Valley Courier, “The Fiscal Impact Analysis delineates the economic effect the name change will accomplish.”

In this case, HB12-1080 will change the name of the school, it also will modify its role and mission.

If the bill passes, “ASU” has the ability to offer additional graduate programs and new degrees.


County Clerk Recalled

Saguache County Clerk and Recorder Melinda Myers was recalled by voters on Jan. 24 by a margin of more than 2 to 1 with a final tally of 941-453.

Turnout for the recall election was low, with less than a third of the county’s voters participating.

Myers came under fire during the 2010 election after initial voting results were overturned leading to the defeat of Republican commissioner candidate Steven Carlson, and Carla Gomez, who was running for Myers’ seat.

An error by an election worker led to the polling place results for two precincts being loaded twice into a vote-counting software program, while the mail-in ballots for the precincts were not included. Myers and her staff ran the ballots again two days later after consulting with state election officials.

The controversial election has undergone two reviews by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. A statewide grand jury investigation cleared Myers of any wrongdoing.

She was replaced by Republican Carla Gomez, who lost in the 2010 election.