Details emerge in Doolittle murder case at preliminary hearing

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Gregory Lammons ruled Thursday that there was sufficient evidence for a Berthoud teen accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend in June 2016 to stand trial.

Lammons said that the evidence against Tanner Flores, 19, in the murder of Ashley Doolittle was “overwhelming.” The evidence includes a recorded confession to the killing by Flores. Lammons scheduled an arraignment hearing in the first-degree murder case for Feb. 23. Flores also faces felony murder and second-degree kidnapping charges in the case.

The courtroom at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins was packed with family and friends, many of whom were left standing through the three hour hearing that provided details of the events that led up to and occurred shortly after Doolittle’s murder.

Larimer County Sheriff’s investigator Drew Weber testified that the autopsy discovered that Doolittle was shot three times in the head, not twice as was initially reported. Weber also testified that through his investigation he determined that she was shot as she sat in the passenger seat of Flores’ 1999 Dodge Ram pickup as Flores drove north on County Road 21 between County Road 16 and County Road 16 E.

Weber’s conclusion is that Flores and Doolittle met between 3 and 4 p.m. on June 9 at Lon Hagler Reservoir, southwest of Loveland. They then drove to Carter Lake where they spent an indeterminate amount of time discussing their relationship. Sometime prior to 4:24 p.m., Weber estimated that Flores and Doolittle were returning to Lon Hagler when he shot her.

Weber testified, at that point Flores pulled over and sent a text message from Doolittle’s phone to his own stating, “I’m not meeting with you today.” He then threw her phone out the window. Flores also told investigators that he also threw his cellphone out the window as he drove to his dead grandfather’s house in Collbran in Mesa County, where he was later arrested by Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies. Neither cellphone was ever found by detectives but investigators were able to get transcripts of texts messages between the two from the cellphone service provider.

In a video played during the hearing of the initial questioning of Flores by Mesa County investigators, Flores initially said that Doolittle reached over the seat and grabbed the gun by the handle. At which point Flores said he then grabbed the gun barrel and somehow the gun fired and struck Doolittle in the head. Flores stated that he then shot her a second time because he thought she was in pain.

The investigator told Flores he didn’t believe that series of events and asked Flores to be honest with him about what happened. Flores could then be seen on the video acting out the series of events with the investigator, describing what occurred. Flores told the investigator that he grabbed the gun from the backseat, while driving, then shot Doolittle twice in head.

District Attorney Cliff Riedel argued in his closing statement that Flores’ actions that day were “deliberate” and occurred after deliberation. In part, Riedel argued that Flores had to pull the hammer of the single action .22 caliber pistol back for each shot which required a deliberate action.

Weber testified that through the investigation, Flores allegedly told him that he went shooting the morning before the murder to “clear his mind.” Weber stated that Flores told investigators he took 12 rounds and drove to a location where he fired off six shots, reloaded the revolver and fired once more, leaving five unspent rounds in the gun.

When investigators recovered the weapon, upon Flores’ arrest in Mesa County, the gun had two unspent rounds in the cylinder.

While Flores has admitted to shooting Doolittle twice, he’s never admitted to shooting her the third and fatal time, Riedel said at Thursday’s hearing.

The defense didn’t argue against the first-degree murder charge; however, public defender Daniel Jasinski argued that there was not enough evidence to warrant the kidnapping charge. Judge Lammons disagreed and bound all charges over for trial.

Flores could enter a plea in the case at the Feb. 23 arraignment hearing. If he enters a “not guilty” plea a trial could be set at that time.