A Colorado man has been exonerated for his girlfriend’s death after the local coroner’s office determined she likely killed herself.
“I’m an innocent man, and I just want to have my children and live peacefully with them,” Miles James Kirby said at a press conference in El Paso County on Monday evening, his lawyers at his side.
On July 27, Kirby was charged with one count each of murder in the first degree and tampering with a deceased human body. He would later be charged with four additional crimes in the case.
Charges were first filed one day after the now-former suspect made the awful early morning discovery of his girlfriend, Joslyn Teetzel, 29, hanging from a rope inside the couple’s backyard shed. Investigators in Fountain – a medium-sized town in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area – claimed the man had tried to cover up the murder by staging the scene as a suicide.
“If there wasn’t a rush to judgment, if the Fountain Police Department just did the minimal amount of investigation before charging someone with first-degree murder, they would have found out that this was a suicide,” attorney Daniel Kay said at the press conference.
The El Paso County Coroner first determined that Teetzel’s cause of death was a homicide. Later, additional video evidence was reviewed that showed the woman walking to the shed alone before Kirby went outside to check on her around 6 the next morning.
Kirby pulled Teetzel down, placed her on a chair, then laid her flat on a table and began chest compressions in vain. He shouted for a neighbor to dial 911. Police arrived just before 7 a.m.
The responding officer on the day of the grim find was Detective Brian Cristiani, who, citing his “training and experience,” wrote that the marks on the woman’s neck did not appear consistent with a hanging, according to the arrest affidavit obtained by The Gazette.
“The detective who wrote that probable cause affidavit did not know what he was talking about,” Kirby’s other attorney, Cindy Hyatt, said at the press conference. “An arrest for first-degree murder on some officer’s unsupported wild guess is unconscionable.”
The detective also reviewed surveillance footage – just not all of it.
“They have the video that totally exonerates him,” Kay said of the footage viewed by the coroner. “They should have investigated this from the beginning and not rushed to judge Mr. Kirby.”
Instead, police zeroed in on one video, showing a different part of the residence, from before the discovery of the body, where Kirby can be heard cursing at Teetzel as he searches for her.
“He regrets what he said,” Kay explained. “He loves his wife dearly. He was late for work, and he didn’t know where his wife was. She had to drive him to work. There was only one car.”
The dead woman’s mother told authorities her daughter’s children had seen Kirby “beating on Joslyn.”
Police took those accusations and ran with them, the affidavit suggests, citing two children who “both confirmed a physical disturbance between Miles and Joslyn began the night before and continued for several hours and into the next day.”
Kirby would later tell police that if the children had said anything like that, they were lying. He disputed allegations that he had been abusive to her the night before she killed herself – or any other time.
“He told my mom to go kill herself, or he would do it for her,” Kirby’s older daughter testified before 4th Judicial District Judge Samuel Evig on the morning the charges were dismissed, according to a courtroom report by Colorado Springs-based ABC affiliate KRDO.
She reportedly said she no longer wanted to see her father.
“This is an unusual case,” the judge said, apologizing. “Rarely are the charges in a case like this dismissed before trial.”
Kirby said his girlfriend was “self-mutilative” and “very depressed” at the time of her death. He cited a notebook “and a few other things that are hard to talk about” during the press conference. His defense team also cited the notebook, “other writings,” and “a hospitalization.”
The autopsy report also says Teetzel had a reported “history of depression and suicidal ideations.”
Teetzel’s parents, however, do not believe she killed herself and may file a lawsuit over their daughter’s death.
“There was this wealth of information,” Kay added at the press conference. “If they would have just investigated the case.”
“Pure unbridled arrogance on their part, just assuming they knew the answer before they had all of the information,” Hyatt said.
The final autopsy report accounts for the initial mistake.
“The initial history, scene investigative findings, available video surveillance footage, and injuries observed on postmortem examination strongly suggested homicide due to strangulation,” the document reads. “However, after receipt and subsequent review of additional history and investigative information after the autopsy to include interview recordings indicating how the rope was wrapped around the neck before being subsequently unwrapped and untied by the decedent’s significant other accounting for the severity of injuries observed at autopsy, direct Video evidence of the decedent going to her shed alone before being found the following morning, and first responder documentation oft he condition of the body indicating that death had occurred during the interval after she was observed entering her shed alone and prior to being found by her significant other, it is my final opinion that this was intentional and self-inflicted. The final opinion of the cause and manner of death is hanging and suicide, respectively.”
Local police are standing by their efforts.
“The evidence the Fountain Police Department collected during the investigation has not changed,” the FPD said in a statement provided to Pueblo, Colorado-based NBC affiliate KOAA. “Once the new information was obtained from the El Paso County Coroner’s Office, it is our obligation to turn over that information to the District Attorney’s Office, and it’s their decision to proceed however they see fit.”
Charges were dismissed without prejudice and could be re-filed at any point.
Kirby is fighting a custody battle over his younger children, two boys, and reached a compromise for supervised visitation the same day the charges were dropped, KRDO reported.
“I spent 22 days in jail wrongfully accused of murder after Joslyn’s suicide,” the exonerated man said. “I love her, and I miss her dearly. Our children lost both their mother and father because of the Fountain Police Department’s failure to investigate.”
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Video exonerates Miles James Kirby in Joslyn Teetzel death
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