Coroner identifies victim in murder-suicide

1:55 PM, Apr 9, 2010   |    comments
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The woman has been identified as Michelle Lee Thompson-Larimer, 38, of Parker. The Grand County Coroner says Thompson-Larimer's death has been ruled a homicide as a result of a single gunshot wound to her head.

The Coroner identified the man, as Michael Rexford McCormick, 53, of Lakewood. His death has been ruled a suicide as a result of a single, self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Michael McCormick's decades-long criminal history includes leading authorities to hidden graves, accusing his own father of being a serial killer, a murder trial and a plot to escape prison by helicopter.

In the early 1980s, McCormick told prosecutors his father had murdered as many as a dozen farm workers and buried them on the family's ranch in Stratton.

Three skeletons were unearthed, but the other bodies were never found.

Prosecutors came to believe Michael McCormick, not his father, was behind the killings. He would never go on trial for any of the ranch murders but he was tried and convicted of the murder of Burt Donaho, an Idaho truck driver, whose body was found in Byers in 1984.

The case was tried in Jefferson County because the trucker disappeared from a Wheat Ridge truck stop. Denver prosecutors handled the case because Jefferson County prosecutors originally worked with McCormick as an informant against his father.

McCormick petitioned the court for a new trial, claiming ineffective assistance from his original attorney.

A judge granted McCormick a second trial, but Denver prosecutors instead struck a plea deal in 2005 that allowed McCormick to leave prison in 2006.

By then, he had gained more notoriety, and an additional conviction, for plotting to escape prison by helicopter. McCormick reportedly planned to flee to Mexico, kill someone and assume that person's identity.

From Parker to Granby

Several law enforcement agencies, without identifying McCormick by name, have said the man found dead on Thursday is believed to have kidnapped his ex-girlfriend in Parker and taken her to the mountain home where they were both found dead.

A statewide bulletin to law enforcement had been issued and the FBI had joined the search prior to the discovery this morning by Granby Police.

The original report came in to the Parker Police Department on Wednesday. Officers there began investigating a report that Thompson-Larimer was being held against her will at an unknown location.

Granby Police became involved when it was learned the kidnapping suspect, who was believed to be suicidal, had vehicles registered to an address on Saddle Horn Court in Granby. McCormick is listed as a resident of a home on Saddle Horn Court.

Officers responded to that location and found one of the vehicles at a home nearby on Timber Court.

Granby Police and the Summit County SWAT team surrounded the residence but were unable to contact anyone inside.

Just before 5:30 a.m., officers broke a window in an attempt to get a telephone inside the home to communicate with the suspect. A single gunshot was heard at that time, police said.

Both Thompson-Larimer and McCormick were found dead inside.

Granby Police said officers did not fire their weapons during the incident

'Like it was yesterday'

A prosecutor and investigator involved in McCormick's original prosecution say it is no surprise he is suspected of killing again.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," retired Denver Deputy District Attorney Bill Buckley said.

"He just was cocky and callous," Buckley said. "He was very suave."

Buckley said McCormick had a cadre of women attend his six-week murder trial in 1987.

"He was quite the charmer with women but very much a con artist," Buckley said. "There were three women sitting in the courtroom during our trial: one was his estranged wife, one was his current girlfriend and one was an ex-girlfriend who was carrying his baby."

Buckley says he suspects McCormick was a serial killer.

Jefferson County District Attorney investigator Mike Gallagher went with McCormick to find the missing trucker's body.

McCormick watched investigators dig holes in a field for hours before finally taking a shovel himself and digging to Donaho's body.

"He was a very manipulative-type guy," Gallagher said. "He was never a mastermind or a criminal genius. This guy was a sick man, just a sick man."

When McCormick got out of jail, investigators in Kit Carson County returned to the McCormick family ranch looking for the bodies described by McCormick.

Kit Carson District Attorney Bob Watson says he was open to filing new charges if new evidence was found.

"We just came up empty-handed," Watson said.

Gallagher says he has feared news like that out of Granby since the day McCormick was released.

"I always said that when this guy was let out he would kill again. And sure enough. Here we are," Gallagher said.

Buckley says he has kept records on the McCormick case for all these years with the thought of writing a book, even before this latest chapter.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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