Marcus Bebb-Jones, the gambler accused of murdering his wife and disposing of her body more than 13 years ago, appeared in Garfield County court on Tuesday in Glenwood Springs for the first time since being extradited from his native Britain on murder charges.
The father of victim Sabrina Bebb-Jones, who came from Vietnam with a daughter for the 10-minute hearing, pointed and jeered at Bebb-Jones as he left the courtroom.
"We're happy to see him here but our work for awhile has just begun," said Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson.
Bebb-Jones, 46, is accused of murdering his wife in September 1997 when the two owned the Melrose Hotel in Grand Junction, then embarking on a "playboy" spree in Las Vegas where he was found in his hotel room with a non-fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound to the throat.
Bebb-Jones was suspected at the time, but his wife's body was never found and he eventually returned to England, where he became a professional poker player.
Seven years later, a rancher found what investigators say was Sabrina Bebb-Jones' skull in a remote section of Garfield County near Douglas Pass. He was arrested by Scotland Yard in November 2009 at his home in Kidderminster, England, and had been held in custody in England while he fought extradition.
After losing his appeals, Bebb-Jones was extradited on Friday and arrived in Garfield County on Saturday. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office released a photo of him in a gray T-shirt, jeans and handcuffs being escorted by officers from a white SUV into the jail.
He is being held without bail on suspicion of first-degree murder, concealing a death and domestic violence. Prosecutors pledged not to seek the death penalty in order for England to release him.
"The biggest thing is, we got the guy finally," said Bill Middleton, commander for professional standards at the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, who led much of the investigation. "This has been an unsolved case for the family since 1997."
Wearing a black-and-gray striped jail uniform, handcuffs and leg irons, Bebb-Jones chatted amiably with public defender Jim Conway, who agreed to represent the professional gambler. Conway said he met with Bebb-Jones at the jail on Sunday to discuss the case.
Indicating the complexity of the case, Garfield County Judge Paul Metzger set the next hearing date for April 28 to give Conway time to consider what Beeson called "voluminous" evidence.
"I do believe we have some investigation to do on our side," Conway said.
Beeson didn't object to the delay, but he asked the age of the case be taken into account when setting future court dates.
"The longer we go the bigger the chance we have to lose witnesses," he said.
Sabrina Bebb-Jones father and sister sat in the front row of the courtroom with district attorney and sheriff's office personnel. As they left at the end of the hearing, her father pointed at Bebb-Jones and spoke out at him in Vietnamese.
Bebb-Jones sat attentively through the hearing, nodding and answering "yes" when Metzger asked if he understood the proceedings.
Despite the time that has passed, Beeson expressed confidence in the case. Sheriff's investigators "have done an absolutely fabulous job," said Beeson, who said he instructed investigators to track down and interview each witness before bringing forth an arrest warrant.
"They brought me a case I believe in," he said.
David Frey writes at www.davidmfrey.com.
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