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Man Accused of Killing Three, Taking Hostages, Killed by Police

September 25, 1996

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) _ Joseph Gallegos was known as ``Crazy Joe,″ an 18-year-old convict who acquaintances said was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and depressed.

Police said he snapped Tuesday, shooting his three roommates to death just two weeks after being released from jail, then driving across the state to his ex-girlfriend’s college dormitory. He shot her in the foot and took her and two other students hostage before being killed by police, authorities said.

``The entire complexion of this community has changed. This is not the town it used to be,″ La Plata County Coroner Dick Mullen said after seeing the three bodies in Bayfield, a ranching town of 1,400 in southwestern Colorado.

During the four-hour standoff at the University of Northern Colorado, university police Chief Terry Urista called Bayfield authorities and told them that Gallegos had described the killings and gave an address.

Bayfield officers discovered the bodies of Steven Bates and John Lara III, both 20, and Joshua Turville, whose age was not available, in a small bedroom of a home they shared with Gallegos. The men _ all construction workers _ had been shot in the head, Bayfield Marshal Jim Harrington said.

Gallegos stole one of the victim’s cars and drove 350 miles northeast to the UNC campus in Greeley to see his ex-girlfriend, Heidi Hocker, authorities said.

A student reported that Hocker got a telephone call early Tuesday in which Gallegos said, ``I’ve killed my roommate and I’m coming to get you.″

Carefully edited TV footage, broadcast widely in Colorado, showed the gunman sticking his head and shoulder outside the fourth-floor dorm window. The video then cuts away as the sounds of one gunshot, then several more, are heard. He fell mortally wounded back into the room as SWAT team members stormed in.

Hocker was treated for the gunshot wound in her foot; the other two hostages were unharmed.

Elizabeth Rieboldt, a roommate of Hocker’s who escaped by climbing out a window, said the gunman came to the dorm earlier in the day and returned when he knew his ex-girlfriend would be there.

``He just wanted to talk to her,″ Rieboldt said. ``He was very depressed and upset about something.

``He told us that he had lost it and was going crazy,″ she said, adding that the couple broke off their relationship about a month ago.

Another student, Shannon Snider, said everybody called Gallegos ``Crazy Joe″ and that he was ``totally obsessed″ with Hocker.

Gallegos, whose criminal record began at age 13, was paroled two weeks ago after serving part of a two-year sentence for beating a man with a beer bottle.

A prosecutor, Patrick Sheeran, wrote to the parole board this summer and urged that Gallegos, a high school dropout, be kept in jail.

``Mr. Gallegos, over the years, has acted in a predatory manner with no compassion for his innocent `prey,‴ Sheeran warned.

Gallegos’ neighbor, Roe-Ann Sternenberger, said a friend told her one of his roommates was helping him complete a church program for troubled youth. When authorities arrived at the Bayfield home, they said they found stacks of Christian books and Bibles in every room.

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