Accuser claims she was assaulted multiple times while Ouray police chief, family slept
Editor’s note: This note was not included in the print edition of the paper and we are adding it after the fact, a week after the article was originally published. We have explained why we will be including this information with articles covering sexual assault cases in a column here.
If you or anyone else needs assistance with sexual assault resources, please call either the National Domestic Violence Center 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault 24/7 hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
This article contains details of an alleged sexual assault.
A 17-year-old girl told investigators she was raped more than once at the Ouray police chief’s home in May during a late-night party with the chief’s stepson and two other suspects. During interviews with investigators she said she screamed and fought back, while others slept upstairs.
A Colorado Bureau of Investigation affidavit for arrests in the case details a night of drugs, drinking and alleged sex assault, where the victim told investigators she went in and out of consciousness and was raped at least three times in a bedroom and bathroom by two different people.
Three suspects have been arrested in the case – Police Chief Jeff Wood’s stepson, Nate Dieffenderffer, Gabriel Trujillo and Ashton Whittington. At the time of the alleged incident, Trujillo was 19, Whittington had just turned 18 and they were celebrating his birthday, and Dieffenderffer was turning 18 in a matter of days. The Plaindealer has decided to name Dieffenderffer because of the severity of the allegations, though he technically was a juvenile on May 14, 2023, the date of the suspected incident.
The accuser, who is now 18, is not being named by the Plaindealer. It is the newspaper’s policy to not name sex assault victims unless they agree to be identified or there are unique circumstances where their names were already made public and it cannot be avoided.
The heavily redacted arrest affidavit details a timeline of events, starting with the girl’s arrival at Dieffenderffer’s home in Panoramic Heights. She described drinking hard seltzer and taking a few shots from a bottle of watered-down gin, and said she passed out while sitting on a bed. She told CBI agents others were doing marijuana dabs, a more concentrated form of cannabis, but she didn’t.
She told investigators she passed out but later woke up and found her clothes had been removed and Dieffenderffer was on top of her, having sex with her. She described fighting back and being restrained. She told investigators that she heard one of the other suspects laughing, but saw one of them sitting on a chair looking “horrified.” She told investigators she wished he would have helped her.
She described being taken across the hallway to a bathroom, where she said she was raped again, on the bathroom floor, by one person, and then by another.
She told investigators at one point she heard someone knocking on a door, which caused one of the alleged assailants to stop. But no one intervened, including Whittington, who told CBI agents he remained in the bedroom and said he didn’t know what was going on.
“I remember really trying to yell so that someone would hear me and screaming because of how painful it was,” she told investigators.
The house where the alleged assaults occurred is a roughly 1,900-square-foot, two-story house, according to property records.
The girl described someone restraining her and trying to cover her mouth and choking her. This was when she said she heard a knock on a door.
She also described a flashback of being washed off in a shower and seeing blood on the bathroom floor.
Later on, she told investigators her tooth was chipped when her head was pressed against the bathroom floor during the assault. She also said she thought both Dieffenderffer and Trujillo were attempting to have sex with her simultaneously when she was not fully conscious.
The girl eventually woke up in the bathroom and decided to leave.
She told agents she left the home around 4:30 a.m., though she was unable to locate all her clothing. She grabbed a sweatshirt from a pile of laundry in the house to cover up. That sweatshirt was later confirmed to belong to Wood, the police chief.
She first drove home, and then was able to contact a friend and decided to go to Montrose Regional Health for a sexual assault examination, in which evidence was gathered.
At that time, hospital personnel contacted the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office. An investigator took an initial report, but then the case was referred to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, presumably because the allegations centered on a relative of the police chief and his stepson. Also, Wood was hired by current Ouray County Sheriff Justin Perry, who formerly worked as Ouray’s city administrator and police chief. Ouray County Sheriff’s investigator Bernie Chism previously worked for Wood at the Ouray Police Department, too.
Those facts all present the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest in the case.
Initially, the accuser was reluctant to report the crime and cited concerns about whether anyone would believe her, given who she said was involved. She didn’t initially grant investigators access to her medical exam reports.
She “was adamant that if we investigated this case further, it would ruin (her) life,” the affidavit said. Initially, she said she just wanted to find out who assaulted her and was concerned about injuries.
In a follow-up interview in June, she told agents she decided to report it because this was the second time she had been assaulted by Dieffenderffer and Trujillo.
She detailed another event in which she accused the two of sexually assaulting her in August 2021. In that situation, she claimed Trujillo orchestrated the assault and Dieffenderffer participated. Whittington was not present.
Trujillo and Dieffenderffer characterized the event as a consensual “three-way” in interviews with investigators.
“I feel like I should tell someone now or I may not,” she said in her initial interview at the hospital on May 14.
The DNA tests on samples collected during the hospital sexual assault exam matched Trujillo – in a vaginal sample – and Dieffenderffer – from a bite mark. There was another DNA match determined to come from the sweatshirt belonging to the chief, but it was such a small amount it was deemed inconsequential for this investigation.
CBI agents interviewed suspects in July. The agents interviewed Dieffenderffer first and obtained a DNA sample. Three days later, they interviewed Trujillo.
During that interview, Trujillo confirmed he had a previous sexual relationship with the accuser, and said he and Dieffenderffer previously had a “three-way” with her, which he said was consensual.
When asked about what happened on May 14, Trujillo characterized himself as just a “witness” and told investigators initially that he was completely sober, while he said Dieffenderffer and the accuser were blackout drunk.
He told agents Dieffenderffer and the accuser went to the bathroom and came out 10 minutes later “and everything seemed fine.” He described them as both having their clothes on.
He also called the girl a “pathological liar” and said she’s crazy and tries to get attention, according to the affidavit.
Trujillo’s story changed a few times during this interview, according to the affidavit. He varied in his reports of how much alcohol there was, and though he initially said he was sober he admitted to using marijuana.
He also initially told investigators that Dieffenderffer was the one who went in the bathroom with the girl. He later admitted he had sex with her in the bathroom, too, but only briefly.
These details only came out after Trujillo admitted he knew about the investigation. He told CBI agents he knew he was being accused of sexual assault because Dieffenderffer and his mother, the police chief’s wife, told him.
At the end of the interview with the CBI, Trujillo allegedly admitted he and Dieffenderffer were in the bathroom at the same time and he described more than one of them having sex with her at the same time.
On July 20, agents used a search warrant to seize evidence from the police chief’s house, including a bathroom rug and samples collected from the bathroom. Tests conducted on trash from the house immediately after the alleged incident did not produce new evidence.
The Plaindealer asked Wood on Wednesday if he wanted to comment on the alleged assaults occurring at his home while he slept. He declined to do so.
Trujillo, Dieffenderffer and Whittington were all arrested on warrants for suspected felony sexual assault in December.
All have posted bail and been released from jail. Dieffenderffer made his first appearance in Ouray County District Judge Cory Jackson’s court on Jan. 9 in a virtual hearing. It’s not clear what happened during that hearing because the Plaindealer and other members of the public were excluded from the proceedings after a participant on the phone made what appeared to be disparaging remarks about Dieffenderffer.
The person, who was not identified, did not have their phone muted and cursed in court, which prompted Jackson to issue a strong admonishment. He cautioned it was an abuse of the court system and could result in contempt, then closed the hearing.
If you would like to support the Ouray County Plaindealer with a tax-deductible donation to produce more local journalism, click here.