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Charges dropped in falling rock death

Audra BrownellA Texas teen will not go to trial in the death last summer of Cedar Springs High School student Audra Brownell.
Brownell, 17, daughter of Scott and Diane Brownell, of Algoma Township, was on a trip with her church youth group when she was struck by a falling rock in Estes Park, Colorado on June 17. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Estes Park Police investigated the incident, and on October 26, the prosecutor in Larimer County, Colorado filed a delinquency petition against a 15-year-old Texas male, alleging that he had recklessly caused the death of another by purposefully dislodging a rock from a cliff, with knowledge that a number of people were on the ground below.
The fifteen-year-old male was a member of a separate church group visiting Estes Park. Initial reports, from witnesses who were with the 15-year-old male, indicated that he intended the rock to fall from the cliff and into the river below, in an attempt to facetiously cause others to believe that he, himself, had fallen into the river. There was no evidence that the fifteen-year-old male intended to cause injury to anyone. The charge reflected reckless behavior.
On January 20, 2011, District Attorney Larry Abrahamson filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the delinquency petition against the fifteen-year-old male. The prosecutor said it became apparent that the parents of many of the juvenile witnesses were very concerned with re-traumatizing their children by having them testify about this highly emotional event, and that some of them now had different recollections of what was said and what happened. He also said that experts could not determine the exact cause of the rock’s movement.
“After extensive discussion and analysis, it was determined that justice would be best served by the dismissal of the juvenile delinquency petition against the fifteen-year-old male. In our opinion, currently, sufficient competent evidence does not exist that would allow a jury to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, ethically the District Attorney cannot proceed with the prosecution,” he said.
He said he had discussed it with Brownell’s family, and he offered condolences to those affected by this tragic accident.

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Teen killed by falling rock

A 17-year-old Cedar Springs High School student died Wednesday when she was hit by a falling rock in Colorado.

According to Kate Rusch, spokesperson for Estes Park, Colorado, Audra Brownell, the daughter of Scott and Diane Brownell, was struck about 4 p.m. in an open space off the Estes Park’s Town Hall parking lot. It was reportedly a town “green space” in a grassy area with a creek running through it. A cliff rises above the area.

Rusch said that emergency responders were on the scene immediately, and the young woman was pronounced dead from her injuries. Her parents were notified last night.

The Estes Park Police Department is conducting a death investigation and interviewing numerous witnesses to the incident. An autopsy was scheduled for today.

“The community is devastated by this tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim,” said Estes Park Mayor Bill Pinkham. “Our police department is working around the clock to sort out the details of the incident.”

Rusch said town officials are assessing the safety of the area where the rock fell and will take necessary precautions.

Brownell had just finished her junior year at Cedar Springs High School.

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