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On the trail of a cold case

Jake Dwight Jones, aka Larry Dean Seitzinger?
A cold case detective from Colorado is looking for help in a 40-year-old mystery involving an elopement, murder, the Witness Protection Program and a Rogue River boating accident.

Boulder County Sheriff’s Detective Steven Ainsworth is looking for help from Curry County residents in an attempt to finally close a case that was shelved in 1974.

Ainsworth and other Boulder County detectives have been working on the case for six years. The man they would like to charge with murder either died in Gold Beach 31 years ago. or may still be hidden by a federal agency.

They think their answer lays in someone’s memory or box of old photos in Curry County.

“This case has taken on a life of its own,” Ainsworth said.

That life led Ainsworth to contact authorities 1,500 miles from the eastern Rocky Mountains – Curry County – to hunt down leads in the old case.

A Family Affair

In 1970, 18-year-old newlywed Harry “Nicky” Nicholson of Lafayette, Colo., was found on a rural Broomfield, Colo. road, his head staved in by a tire iron and his body stuffed into the trunk of his new car.

Nicholson’s new father-in-law, Jake Dwight Jones, also of Lafayette, was a vehement critic of his daughter’s secret marriage and the last person to be seen with him.

Jones had made several threats against Nicholson’s life, stating that the young man was not “good enough” for his daughter, went into “sputtering rages” at the mere mention of the marriage, said Ainsworth.

Jones was divorced, his former wife had granted permission for their 17-year-old daughter to marry Nicholson without consulting him, Ainsworth said.

Just before Nicholson’s death, Jones softened his stance and helped the young couple purchase a used car from the dealership where he worked, even funding his first tank of gas with a dealership gas card.

That fill-up was the last time Nicholson was seen alive.

Harry “Nicky” Nicholson, 18, was killed and stuffed in the trunk of his car in Colorado in 1970.

Nicholson never made it home with the car; his body was found the next morning.

Later, police found a shirt Jones wore the night of the disappearance, complete with bloodstains. However, in the days before DNA testing, there was no proof of whose blood it was. Investigators did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.

In the next few years Jones allegedly became involved in drug smuggling and warrants were issued for his arrest.

No arrest was ever recorded. Jones disappeared without a trace in 1974.


A new investigation

Some 35 years after Nicholson’s death, Ainsworth, a detective assigned to cold cases, took up the banner to gather enough evidence to charge Jones, find him and bring him to justice.

Only 13 years old when Nicholson was killed, Ainsworth was never even aware of the case when it happened, but he wants to close the case on his watch.

Ainsworth developed a reputation as a cold case detective after solving two while he was assigned to “persons cases.”

It resulted in his assignment as a fugitives and cold case detective, he said.

Ainsworth gained national fame in 2009 when he solved the case of Boulder Jane Doe, a young woman found beaten to death in 1952.

The Nicholson murder was selected by chance.

“I was working on another female found murdered and dumped near Broomfield and then one of the other detectives found all the materials for Nicholson and started working it,” Ainsworth said. “He got promoted, I picked it up, started working it and saw that we were pretty close to probable cause.”

Ainsworth first had to deal with missing evidence. The bloody shirt Jones had been wearing had been lost after 40 years of storage and transfer from one Colorado crime lab to another.

Boulder (Colo.) County Sheriff's Detective Steve Ainsworth, picutred here on the set of America's Most Wanted, is seeking information on Larry Dean Seitzinger, who died in a 1979 boating accident. Courtesy Steve Ainsworth
But there was other evidence and, with modern investigative techniques, Ainsworth got answers.

“At this point, if (Jones) is still alive I have enough evidence to bring charges,” Ainsworth said.

Database searches yielded nothing on Jones’ current location. Jones’ Social Security Number had been inactive since his disappearance, and he did not show up in any other database.

Detectives believed that Jones' drug smuggling activities, unserved warrants and disappearance pointed to the Witness Protection Program.

Ainsworth prepared a felony warrant required to get protected witness information from the federal government.

The warrant was put aside when new information came to light.

Curry County connection

In July 2009, Ainsworth was doing a routine search of the names involved in the case when a Curry County death certificate popped up.

Larry Dean Seitzinger, of Brookings, was born June 6, 1932, in Boulder, Colo., and drowned when the boat he was on, the Starfish, capsized at the mouth of the Rogue River in 1979.

Several years later the death certificate was altered, changing Seitzinger’s name to Jake Dwight Jones.

A search of Boulder County records showed that Larry Dean Seitzinger, born June 6, 1932 in Boulder, died in Boulder in July 1971.

Ainsworth contacted Oregon state and Curry County officials for more information on the Seitzinger/Jones death certificate and discovered that the original records had been destroyed.

No one remembered why the name on Seitzinger’s death certificate was changed, or who changed it, Ainsworth said.

According to Curry Coastal Pilot archives, the Starfish capsized on the Rogue River bar with three onboard. The owner of the boat, Gary Briggs, of Gold Beach, was rescued, but his two passengers, Danny Aldrich and Seitzinger were swept away by the waves.

Their bodies were never recovered, the article said.

Briggs died two years later in a car accident.

Did you know Seitzinger?

Ainsworth believes that the Seitzinger who died in the Rogue River is actually Jones.

However, he needs the help of those who were in Curry County in the late 1970s to help identify him, to confirm his suspicions that the alleged killer is dead.

Ainsworth has not been able to find any photographs, writing samples or descriptions of Brookings’ Seitzinger to match with records in Boulder County.

If Ainsworth can confirm that Seitzinger is Jones, then the case will be closed. If he can confirm that Seitzinger is  not Jones, then Ainsworth will continue with the warrant in hopes of finding Jones through the Witness Protection Program.

“I’m looking for anyone in the Brookings or Gold Beach area who saw, knew or had any other dealings with Seitzinger,” Ainsworth said.

Anyone who remembers Seitzinger, has a photograph of him, or has a letter or other written material from him should contact Ainsworth at 303-441-3627 or sainsworth@bouldercounty .org.


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