Profiles of suspects
Copyright 1998 The Durango Herald. All rights reserved.
Suspects' prior troubles with the law minor

June 4, 1998

By Joshua Moore and Amy Maestas
Herald Staff Writers

Jason McVean, Robert Mason and Alan "Monte" Pilon had a history of only minor run-ins with the law before becoming murder suspects.

The three are being sought for the slaying of Cortez police officer Dale Claxton and wounding Montezuma County sheriff’s deputies Jason Bishop and Todd Martin.

McVean, 26, of Durango, had his first trouble with the law after he dropped out of high school. In 1990, he was arrested for underage consumption of alcohol, driving a motorcycle without eye protection and first-degree criminal trespass. McVean broke into vehicles on several streets in north Durango that year, according Durango Police Capt. Dale Smith.

In 1995, McVean was arrested for operating an uninsured motor vehicle and for operating a vehicle with expired plates.

Mason, 26, of Durango, was ticketed for speeding in 1991, charged for failing to have proof of car insurance in 1993, and charged of driving with a suspended license in 1994.

Pilon, 30, of Dove Creek, has been cited for traffic violations in three counties. Pilon served three days in the Montezuma County Jail in 1994 for DUI in Dolores County and was charged in 1995 for driving with a license under restraint. In Montezuma County, Pilon was ticketed for speeding in 1994 and driving with a suspended driver’s license in 1995. In La Plata County, he was cited for DUI in 1992 and having expired license plates in 1995.

McVean moved to Durango from Texas in the mid-1980s and attended eighth and ninth grades at Miller Middle School in Durango, according to Lisa Linares, 9-R School District registrar. He completed tenth grade at Durango High School before dropping out in January 1989, after the first semester of his junior year, she said.

Several of McVean’s DHS classmates Wednesday said he was quiet, courteous and nonthreatening. All expressed shock that McVean is a suspect in such a violent crime.

Dan Gillen, who played junior varsity football with McVean in 1988 said, "He (McVean) liked hard rock and never did anything aggressive."

When asked if McVean had any anti-government views while in high school, Mark Person, one of McVean’s high school friends, said McVean’s views were shared by many people.

"We had all discussed our views on police abusing their power, but I’ve had those conversations with lots of other people," he said.

Several classmates said McVean, like Mason, often wore camouflage clothing to school.

Curiously little is known about Mason, a former Durango High School student. A former co-worker said Mason had an obsession with guns and people who shared that interest.

The co-worker, who spoke to the Herald Wednesday on condition of anonymity, said he worked with Mason in 1995 for about two weeks. Although he didn’t know Mason well, he said the bricklayer "was wacked ... had strange views" and was "dead set against" paying income taxes.

The anonymous source said he worked with Mason and McVean for about two weeks. He said the two men were living at the Pine River Lodge at Vallecito while they worked construction jobs in the Cherry Valley development.

The source said Mason’s apartment was "loaded with boxes of ammunition and gun belts of ammo." He said Mason was known for spending weekends in the wilderness, where he stockpiled weapons and often practiced target shooting.

The source also said he thought Mason frequently pillaged American Indian reservation land for ancient artifacts.

Owners of the Pine River Lodge said Wednesday that they don’t keep records of construction workers who stay there temporarily. They said it’s likely the pair lived there while working. But said if Mason and McVean did live there, they didn’t cause any trouble or act extraordinarily, because they don’t remember them.

Gillen said he knew Mason at Durango High School. Gillen said Mason always wore Army fatigues in the 9th grade, and when he saw Mason a few years ago, he was still wearing fatigues.

Gillen described Mason as courteous and chatty. Mason was listed in the DHS 1988-89 yearbook as a sophomore, but was not in the next two yearbooks. A teacher in the district said school officials did not have records for Mason after his sophomore year.

Pilon graduated from Dolores County High School in 1985 where he played basketball and football. Pilon (pronounced PILL-uhn) is remembered by some townspeople of Dove Creek as a typical boy with a few oddities. But some said he was "wild" and hung around with a rough crowd who drank and smoked. Mayor James McCabe recalled Pilon getting into trouble for breaking into the junior high and stealing electronic devices.

(Herald Staff Writer Tania Garcia contributed to this report.)

June 3, 1998

McVean described as courteous, quiet, responsible

By Joshua Moore
Herald Staff Writer

McVean

Jason Wayne McVean

The words being used to describe Jason Wayne McVean, a 26-year-old Durango man suspected of taking part in the shooting death of a Cortez police officer, seem chillingly familiar. Quiet. Courteous. Responsible.

"We’re just as amazed as everyone else about this," said Dovey McVean, the suspect’s cousin. "We just feel sorry for the officer’s family."

Dovey McVean, who recently returned to Durango, said her cousin had lived with her family several years ago, but she hadn’t seen him in more than six months.

According to Glenn Hoselton, Jason McVean’s step-grandfather, McVean lived in a camper-trailer near Animas Air Park south of Durango. Hoselton said he hadn’t seen McVean in several months, but said he had always been quiet and courteous at family gatherings and "must’ve just gotten in with the wrong crowd." McVean had always been a responsible businessman and a good worker for his father, Jim McVean, Hoselton said.

Gordon Lee, a mechanic with JM Constructors, located across the street from the McVean business, said McVean was a welder for his father.

"I don’t think he did it. He’s not that kind of kid," Lee said. "I saw him last week sometime, but I don’t remember exactly when."

McVean, who moved to Durango from Texas, was on the 1987 junior varsity football team at Durango High School. Most of his classmates don’t remember him very well, and those who do say McVean was quiet, into music and liked to party.

Neighbors said there had been a young man living in the McVean house on East Fourth Avenue in Durango several years ago, but they had not seen him in at least six months. Others said the McVeans kept to themselves, although there had been a few young visitors with trucks and vans.

"From what I hear, they better get this straightened out fast or someone is going to get hurt unnecessarily," Hoselton said.

Allegations against Mason shock neighbors

By John Peel
Herald Staff Writer

Mason

Robert Matthew Mason

Neighbors wouldn’t say much Tuesday about Durangoan Robert Mason, but those who talked expressed shock, and sadness for his parents, Gary and Ann.

Mason, 26, a bricklayer, is a suspect in a crime spree that included stealing two trucks, killing a Cortez police officer and wounding two deputies.

"They’re nice, friendly people," said Jennings Bird, who lives two houses down from the Masons’ home. "Both the parents – assuming they’re the parents – are very nice people."

Said Ed Fross, who is a backyard neighbor to the Masons: "It was quite a surprise to me. (Robert) didn’t appear that way to me."

One neighbor wouldn’t comment, saying Robert Mason deserved a fair trial and that anything he would say might jeopardize that possibility.

Robert Mason was pictured in the 1988-89 Durango High School yearbook as a sophomore, but was not in the next two yearbooks.

A teacher in the district said school officials had no record for Mason after his sophomore year at DHS.

Gary Mason is a fifth-grade teacher at Needham Elementary School. He is a Vietnam War veteran and said to be conservative in his views. He is also said to be well-respected and appreciated as a teacher.

Ann Mason runs a downtown Durango business.

Robert Mason’s parents’ West Third Avenue home is a two-story brown house. Acquaintances described them as pretty quiet, private people. A neighbor said they own two German shepherds.

Durango Patrolman Russell Lammon talked to the Masons at their Durango home Tuesday soon after their son had been named a suspect.

He described the parents as being "very upset," and said they wish their son would surrender to authorities.

Lammon said the Masons have not seen or heard from him in the last several days.

(Herald Chief Photographer Nancy Richmond contributed to this report.)

Surprised town talking about Pilon, allegations

By Tania Garcia
Herald Staff Writer

Pilon

Alan "Monte" Pilon

DOVE CREEK – Tragedy seems to hit hardest in small communities. At least that’s what the overwhelming feeling was Tuesday night in this agricultural town of about 500 people.

The town was in shock as word spread that one of its own boys – Alan "Monte" Pilon, who grew up here – was one of three suspects in the killing of a police officer and the wounding of two deputies last Friday in Cortez.

Signs with sketchy mug shots of the three men went up at the post office and the few businesses throughout town. Residents gathered at storefronts and parking lots spread the word.

"It’s a real shock for us; we never heard of him getting into big trouble," said Vonda Hall, whose son went to school with Pilon. "It was especially a shock to his parents. When they leave home, you never know what they’re going to do."

Dolores County Judge Bob Johnson said Pilon’s parents, Beverly and Jim, are good people who raised their children in the Catholic church.

"They’re salt of the earth, ya know," he said.

Jim is a butcher at the Dove Creek Superette Grocery, and Beverly runs her own beauty parlor, Johnson said. Both attend the same church he does.

Other folks remember Pilon (pronounced PILL-uhn) as a typical boy with a few oddities. But some said he was "wild" and hung around with a rough crowd who drank and smoked.

Mayor James McCabe recalled Pilon getting into trouble for breaking into the junior high and stealing electronic devices.

One of Pilon’s longtime friends, Will Champlain, knew Pilon since Champlain was 5 and graduated from Dolores County High School with him in 1985.

"We all got along with him," Champlain said. "He never caused any trouble. But he stayed to himself a lot."

Pilon was also an athlete.

"He played a lot of sports," Champlain said. Basketball was his favorite. Champlain thought the 6-footer played guard. He also played tight end on the football team for a few years.

"He liked to watch his dad make arrowheads," Champlain said.

Champlain hasn’t kept up with Pilon recently, however. Champlain moved away from town for several years and said he hasn’t seen Pilon for three or four years.

Other residents said they had seen him recently, even though he had been living in Durango where he had found a job.

"His mother was so proud of him," said Bertha Young, a Dove Creek resident.

Pilon had been returning to town frequently to see a girlfriend, several residents said.

Police spent much of Tuesday trying to find out more about Pilon. They searched the family’s home on Main Street and knocked on townspeople’s doors, showing his picture and asking if people knew anything.

Residents still are trying to figure out how to react to the sudden notoriety, when a few nights before they didn’t even have to worry about locking their doors.

"I didn’t want to believe it at first," said Jim Buffington, Pilon’s former history teacher in high school. "But I guess we’re part of the state now."

(Correspondent Bob Weinhold in Durango contributed to this story.)

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