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Denver motorist convicted in cyclist’s slaying

A motorist was convicted of first-degree murder March 15 in the fatal shooting of a Denver, Colorado area cyclist during a traffic altercation two years ago, and is likely to be sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to The Denver Post. James Hall, 53, shot John Bray point-blank on May 5, 2000, after a chase that began when his pickup truck entered a crosswalk through which the 32-year-old cyclist was riding. Bray swerved around the truck, and Hall pursed him, pulling in front of the cyclist and forcing him to the ground.

Witnesses said Hall then took a .25-caliber handgun from his truck and shot Bray from a foot away.

The defense argued that Hall was acting in self-defense, and a psychologist testified that the former helicopter crew suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a consequence of his three tours of duty in Vietnam. That the jury so quickly disagreed, taking just 90 minutes to reach its verdict, was a strong message that society will not tolerate road rage, prosecutor Mike Pellow told The Post. Hall is to be sentenced on May 24.

Martha Roskowski, director of the statewide advocacy group Bicycle Colorado, said that while her organization was relieved by the verdict, it was tragic that “a traffic altercation between a cyclist and motorist, a common occurrence, should result in the death of a cyclist and a man spending the rest of his life in jail.”

“We encourage all to share the roads,” she said.

Noting a March 14 Boulder Daily Camera report that an 84-year-old woman had pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident in the October 2001 death of Breckenridge cyclist Chris Ethridge, Roskowski added that Bicycle Colorado is working with police to schedule classes on bike/pedestrian accident reconstruction “to help officers more accurately and thoroughly investigate crashes of this sort.”

Edith Heller hit Ethridge head-on on a rural road northeast of Boulder, then left the scene. When police contacted her, she was disoriented; with no witnesses and no skid marks, investigators could not determine who was at fault.

The charge is a felony carrying between two and six years in prison, but prosecutor John Pickering said he would not ask that Heller be jailed, according to the Daily Camera, which reported that she appeared confused during the trial and probably would never drive again. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 7.