Domestic Warfare Ends in Murder
by Beverly Corbell
Jan 13, 2011 | 4959 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nathan Yager, 39, is facing murder charges. (Courtesy photo)
Nathan Yager, 39, is facing murder charges. (Courtesy photo)
DELTA COUNTY – The Jan. 7 murder of Melinda Yager has stunned the town of Paonia, population 1,600, which hasn’t seen a homicide in almost two decades.

Yager, 34, was found with her throat slashed near the home she once shared with her estranged husband, Nathan Yager, 39, who is facing charges for her murder.

He is being held without bond at the Delta County jail.

According to Nathan Yager’s arrest affidavit, the couple had attended a restraining-order hearing earlier that day. They had a history of domestic violence, and had “lodged a number of complaints” against each other with the Paonia police and the Delta County Sheriff surrounding harassment and child custody issues.

“It was determined that both the Yagers were attempting to obtain custody and control over their former mutual residence and their dependant daughter,” court records state.

The four-page arrest affidavit followed the day’s activities of Melinda Yager, who went to the Delta Ave. area with two friends, apparently to take photographs of Nathan Yager’s truck parked near the couple’s former home. No specific timeline is given.

Melinda Yager died Friday, Jan. 7, near the railroad tracks that run behind the 400 block of Delta Ave.; the exact time is unknown.

According to court documents, the estranged couple once lived together at 427 Delta Ave., and earlier in the day had been to a court hearing as they battled over property and custody of their 15-month-old daughter, Kaylee. According to the report, Melinda Yager spotted her estranged husband’s white Toyota pickup at a nearby storage unit, and got out of her vehicle to search for him on foot, according to her friends, Corrie Stroud and Audrey Reedy, who continued to drive around the area, looking for Nathan.

At 12:41 p.m., Reedy said, she saw Nathan Yager walking along the railroad tracks bordering the 400 block of Delta Ave. She got out of her car to look for Melinda, and eventually found a trail of blood along the tracks leading to the body, which she reported to Paonia police at 1:40 p.m.

Exactly when Melinda Yager was killed is unclear, but court records indicate that Nathan Yager called his mother, Julie Yager, in South Dakota and told her he had killed his wife. His mother in turn called a local friend, who notified authorities at 1:15 p.m.

At 2:45 p.m., the Montrose dispatch center got a call from Ray Yager, Nathan Yager’s father, stating that his son wanted to turn himself in; he was taken into custody at 3:15 p.m. in front of the Montrose police station. Officers found a silver revolver on the floorboard of his truck.

Yager was taken to the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, and Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Collin Reese, who compiled the report, stated that he saw what appeared to be blood on the legs and cuffs of Yager’s jeans. Yager also had a broken left hand, and lacerations on his neck and chest that “were consistent with the appearance of fingernail scratches.”

According to Delta County Coroner Kevin Lucy, Melinda Yager was a victim of homicide caused by “multiple incised wounds of the anterior neck with multiple hemorrhages.” She died very quickly from loss of blood, he said.

The CBI is investigating the case, said Agent Dave Linnertz.

Nathan Yager appeared in court this week represented by attorney Steven Schweissing, who waived further advisement. He will be formally charged with domestic violence and first-degree murder at the Delta County Combined Court on Jan. 19 at 3 p.m.

A special bank account in the name of Kaylee Yager has been set up for the couple’s daughter at North Fork Bank, and donations can be made at any branch office in Montrose, Paonia, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge or Delta.
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