A horrifying Colorado triple homicide resulted in the quick arrest of a 31-year-old man with a shocking criminal history. Jaacob Harding Van Winkle was described as a family friend of the victims, a 35-year-old mom and her two children, ages five and nine.
The identities of the victims have not been made public, and their causes of death are not official. But police are calling their deaths a triple homicide.
The murders took place in Cañon City, Colorado Sunday night. Police found the three bodies in a home in the 1100 block of Phay Avenue in Cañon City, a town of about 16,000 two hours south of Denver, when they responded to a call from a teenage girl who also lived in the house, who said she had been sexually assaulted.
Van Winkle is also a suspect in that sexual assault.
The teen girl managed to flee the home and take refuge in a neighbor’s house where she was able to call police, who showed up at the Colorado home and discovered the bodies of the triple homicide victims.
The charges now facing Jaacob Van Winkle include first-degree murder after deliberation, two counts of first-degree murder of a victim under age 12 by a person in a position of trust, sexual assault on a child under age 15 involving a pattern of abuse, sexual assault involving force or threat and finally, kidnapping.
When cops showed up, Van Winkle was still in the home where he had allegedly committed the triple homicide. He put up no resistance as they took him into custody.
While the Colorado triple homicide is the most serious charge that Van Winkle has ever faced, his criminal history is disturbing to say the least. In 2004, he was convicted in Johnson County, Indiana, on child molestation charges, and a charge of “vicarious sexual gratification.”
Under Indiana law a person who commits “vicarious sexual gratification” is defined as one who “knowingly or intentionally directs, aids, induces, or causes a child under the age of 16 to touch or fondle himself or herself or another child under the age of 16.”
Van Winkle is a registered sex offender in Colorado, where he also has a domestic violence conviction.
The alleged perpetrator of the Colorado triple homicide was sentenced to four years in prison on the child molesting conviction, but he was obviously released before that term was up, because in 2007 he was once again put away for molesting children — though there was some confusion as to whether the 2007 case was a new charge, or an extended sentence on the 2004 child molesting conviction.
He is also a suspect in the 2011 murder of his landlord, whose decomposing body was found in a bedroom in his home underneath a pile of debris. Van Winkle rented a room in the house.
The Colorado triple homicide, if Van Winkle is convicted, could lead to the death penalty.