Dustin Alt was high on methamphetamine after shooting a Delta County woman with a crossbow and taking off with her baby, exposing the child to “extreme risk,” authorities allege.
Alt and the baby were found at a Durango motel Jan. 3; the little girl was uninjured and Alt was at the time arrested on outstanding warrants.
He has since been returned to Delta County, where he was due to appear in court late Wednesday afternoon, on a warrant alleging violation of custody order or order relating to parental responsibilities; violation of bond conditions; three counts of violating a protection order, including one that restricted him from contact with the baby’s mother; non-injury child abuse and domestic violence.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Updated court information was not available Wednesday evening.
The initial disappearance of Ezaylea Cowger, age 10 months, prompted a statewide alert and the involvement of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. In association with the alert, the child’s name was publicly released.
Alt, who is not the child’s father, was restrained from having contact with her mother, according to a protection order issued in a Mesa County case alleging second-degree assault by strangulation.
On Jan. 2, the baby’s mother was dropped off at the Delta County Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, with an arrow lodged deep into her lower pelvic area. The initial report was that a person in a white vehicle had dropped the woman off and then departed with her baby, although at the time, another man’s name was provided.
According to Alt’s arrest affidavit, the woman at first told Delta County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Crystal Reiner that she was getting into a vehicle and sat on the arrow, which was lodged between the seat and the door.
Doctors, however, said the wound indicated there was force behind the impact, enough to cause the arrowhead to deeply penetrate the woman’s lower torso, making it unlikely to have been the result of merely sitting on the arrow.
The woman had to be flown to another hospital for care, and from there, went to a Littleton hospital for treatment.
“The injury was determined to be serious, as the broadhead (arrow) was said to have impacted (her) hipbone and (she) was said to be in critical condition,” the affidavit states.
The woman’s mother previously told the Montrose Daily Press her daughter nearly died.
Alt would eventually say the injury was an accident, and that he made a mistake while trying to guard against people who he thought were coming into his house, DCSO Detective Sgt. Tyler Becker said in Alt’s arrest affidavit.
The document says that just days before the incident, family members had been concerned about Alt, whom they described as being in “a state of psychosis, seeing and hearing things,” due to drugs.
But on Jan. 2, the immediate focus was on finding Ezaylea.
As investigators worked trying to track down the person who took her, family members assisted by running down Facebook accounts.
“There were several leads that were exhausted locally and in the state of Utah. We could not identify (the man whose name was initially given), nor could we determine where this child’s location and/or status were. The family was very concerned about the child’s wellbeing and advised there were no other family or friends in the area that could care for the child,” Becker wrote.
The DCSO knew the baby’s mother had a previous relationship with Alt, and gathered information about him, including from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, which was seeking him in an assault case in which the woman was the alleged victim.
With the CBI, the DCSO issued an alert on the baby and the vehicle; Alt was entered as a person of interest in the case.
The vehicle was located the next day in La Plata County, where Alt was found in a hotel with the baby and arrested.
A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigator interviewed Alt, who allegedly told him he had been having issues with neighbors and “drones flying outside their house,” which reached the point that he was forced to live in a Grand Junction home.
Alt also reported having used methamphetamine recently, the affidavit says.
According to the investigator’s account as rendered in the affidavit, Alt said the baby’s mother had come to visit him and that he fell asleep with a crossbow. “I don’t know what … happened. I guess it went off,” Alt reportedly said.
“Dustin explained that he was watching the door holding the crossbow because of the sounds and things he was seeing. Dustin advised that he fell asleep and believes he had his finger on the trigger, but was not sure,” Becker wrote. “Dustin then stated, ‘And then it went off.’”
Alt picked the woman up and drove her to the hospital, he said, according to the affidavit.
When asked why he drove to Durango, Alt allegedly said it was because he thought the woman might be dead and that he had not meant to shoot her.
As to Ezaylea, Alt said that he was just waiting for family to contact him and when told to return the child, his plan was to get a hotel for the night and drive back to Delta, the affidavit said.
He went on to describe the crossbow as a “Bone Collector” and the arrow tip as one that “makes a nasty wound,” Becker wrote.
“He described hearing people outside of his trailer, people making a plan on who was going to kill him and who was going to kill (redacted). He advised that (redacted) did not believe him. He stated, ‘I thought they were coming in, for sure.’”
Alt, who asked to to be put in the jail’s general population, reportedly said he had accidentally shot the woman and that he wouldn’t have had a crossbow “if these guys wouldn’t have been trying to come into the house.”
In addition to being restrained from contacting the woman, Alt is precluded by court order from using or possessing weapons. He did not have parental responsibilities or privileges with respect to Ezaylea, and took her despite a protective order barring him from having contact with the baby, the affidavit says.
“Dustin endangered the life and health of this child as he exposed the child to adverse conditions and bypassed all medical facilities in an attempt to flee with the child,” Becker wrote.
“Dustin did not take the necessary steps to secure this child’s safety. In addition, Dustin was admittedly high on methamphetamine when he took possession of the child, exposing the child to extreme risk.”