MONTROSE – An elderly Montrose couple and two others were terrorized Friday night when a pair of men allegedly entered their home and held them at gunpoint. The suspects, who were tracked down, identified and arrested, are now behind bars at the Montrose County jail.
Gary Bryson, 51, of Montrose, and Preston Stowe, 27, of Whitewater, Colo., are each being held on a $60,000 bond. They face a long list of charges, including first degree burglary, criminal mischief, aggravated robbery, crime against an at-risk adult and felony menacing.
All charges are felonies and carry significant jail time. Both men are due back in court Feb. 27.
Stowe was charged with second-degree assault for allegedly jabbing Joseph Aragon, 77, with a small pistol, according to the arrest affidavit.
The two suspects were described as wearing gloves and masks when they walked into the home on North Eighth Street the night of Friday, Jan. 31, and ordered Aragon and his wife, Anna, 76, to the floor. Stowe brandished a small pistol.
The couple were standing in their living room near the television when the two men walked in, according to court records. According to police, Joseph Aragon tried to grab Stowe's arm and move the gun away from him. Stowe reportedly told him, "Don't do that."
While the couple remained on the floor, Bryson allegedly ransacked their bedroom, "apparently looking for money or other valuables."
Moments later, Aragon yelled out for the two other occupants of the home, Renea Aragon, 21, and Carl West, 21. When they appeared, Stowe ordered them to the floor, as well. According to court records, Stowe and Bryson were leaving, via the front door, when Stowe reportedly struck Aragon with a pistol.
The duo fled into the night, and the victims called 911. Montrose Police Commander Gene Lillard said the incident is "rare" for Montrose, but declined to comment further.
Following visible footprints in the fresh snow, officers made contact with Stowe in the 500 block of North Townsend Avenue.
"It should be noted that Preston was wearing blue jeans and a dark grey sweater," responding officers said, which matched the victims’ description of one assailant’s clothing; the sole of Stowe’s shoes matched the sole of the footprints found near the scene of the crime. Officers also found a mask and gloves near the footprints.
However, the gun Stowe allegedly used had not been recovered as of press time Tuesday evening.
Other footprints from the residence led officers to a tree where they found Bryson hiding, 15 feet up, stretched out on a branch.
"They shined their lights into the tree and there he was,” Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn told city councilors and staff during Monday's work session. “We were able to track them through the snow.”
In an interview with police, Bryson said he was the stepfather of victim Carl West, and had been to the Aragon residence before. In an affidavit, West pronounced himself "absolutely sure" of Bryson's involvement in the incident.
Stowe, who was also identified by a victim as being involved in the home invasion, gave no explanation to officers, and requested an attorney. Both men appeared before Montrose County Court Judge Bennett Morris Monday afternoon.
"You got the wrong person, because I didn't do any of those crimes," Stowe told Morris, who announced that because of Stowe's prior felony history, his bond of $60,000 would not be reduced.
"I didn't commit this crime, so I don't think I should be held responsible for a bond that high," Stowe responded, adding he was going to represent himself.
Bryson asked the judge to allow him to get his medication for a tumor and a kidney condition.
Complaining that a tumor behind his right eye was "almost ready to explode," which could cause him brain damage, and that he needed to see a specialist for his kidney, Bryson argued that a $10,000 bond was more reasonable.
"He was identified by the victim in this case," Morris responded, and ordered the $60,000 bond.
“We don’t see many of those types of crimes in Montrose,” Chief Chinn told Montrose City Council Monday. He praised his officers' work on the case: "They worked very hard and gathered a lot of evidence.”