Adams County Jury Convicts Defendant Who Murdered His Friend and Buried His Body In Makeshift Concrete Tomb Under Basement Stairs
Defendant purchased construction supplies at a hardware store to build tomb, conceal body
Brighton, CO —Today, 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian S. Mason announced the First-Degree Murder conviction of Russell Montoya, Jr., 39. An Adams County jury convicted Mr. Montoya of FirstDegree Murder and Tampering with a Deceased Human Body on Thursday after a four-day trial.
On November 8, 2019, Shane Nelson, 38, visited the home of his childhood friend, Russell Montoya, Jr.in unincorporated Adams County. During a verbal altercation, Montoya brandished a handgun and fired four shots over the course of approximately 12 seconds. Two of the shots struck Nelson in the chest and one in the head. Nelson fell to the kitchen floor where he later died.
In the days following Nelson’s death, Montoya pieced together a plan to dispose of the victim’s body. Montoya purchased materials at a local hardware store and then created a makeshift tomb under the stairs of his unfinished basement. Ultimately, Montoya fully encased Nelson’s body in concrete and attempted to mask the odor that emanated from the area.
“The gruesome nature of this crime is beyond words,” said District Attorney Brian Mason. “I’m grateful to the jury for enduring through the presentation of the evidence and for returning a just verdict.”
On November 13, 2019, Montoya confessed to one of his daughters when she expressed suspicions about his behavior and the conditions of his home. The daughter notified the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, and the SWAT team executed a search warrant at Montoya’s home on November 14, 2019. Montoya was arrested and the tomb containing Nelson’s body was discovered.
On April 15, 2021, an Adams County jury convicted Russell Montoya, Jr. of FIRST-DEGREE MURDER and TAMPERING WITH A DECEASED HUMAN BODY. Montoya received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder charge and a 12-year sentence for tampering with a deceased human body charge. Senior Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rossi and Deputy District Attorney Troy Moyer led the prosecution of this case.
District Attorney Mason assumed the oath of office on January 12, 2021. The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office endeavors to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of Adams and Broomfield counties in felony and misdemeanor cases. DA Mason and his staff are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system to better serve the citizens of the 17th Judicial Districts.
Ms. Gazelka is a forensic therapist and clinician in Denver, Colorado. She is currently focused on providing therapy and assessment services to adult offenders in the community corrections and parole systems as a supervisor at Correctional Psychology Associates (CPA). Her education and career have been devoted to the intersection of psychology and law since 2000. Ms. Gazelka has been working within the field of forensic and correctional psychology since 2006, providing therapy in the community and acute mental health care and risk assessments in county jails. She has practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor since June 2012. She also became a Licensed Addiction Counselor in March 2014. She was listed as a full operating level DVOMB Approved Provider in June 2019 and started a fledgling DV program oriented to Colorado’s Department of Corrections at CPA in September 2019. Ms. Gazelka was appointed to the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) in March 2019 and has started her second term with the board. Ms. Gazelka has been recognized for her work as Contributor of the Year at CPA in 2010 and 2012, as well as having been awarded an Alumni Impact Award for her forensic work in the community by University of Denver’s GSPP in 2019. Ms. Gazelka received her Master of Arts degree in Forensic Clinical Psychology from University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in 2009. Ms. Gazelka also received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2007, obtaining attorney’s licenses in both Minnesota and Colorado (currently inactive).
Alex Castro Croy
Alex Castro Croy is a bilingual, bicultural, Trauma and Addiction Counselor and owner/Lead Clinician of Life Recovery Centers in Denver and Northglenn Colorado.
A first-generation immigrant from Mexico who accomplished his dream in higher education receiving an AA in Pastoral Ministry (Dallas, Texas), Bachelor of Science in Human Services (MSU in Denver, Colorado) and MA in Community Counseling from Regis University (Denver, Co). He is continuing to pursue his MA/Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian and Archetypal Studies.
Alex’s passion includes training, teaching, counseling, and consulting. He has been an Adjunct Professor for the Human Services Department at MSU-Denver for 9 years. He has served as an Interventionist for the Latino GLBTQ community, Drug Court Probation Officer at Denver Juvenile Court Probation (8 years), Bilingual Diversion Officer for Denver DA office (5 years), and currently owner and director of Life Recovery Centers (7 years). He has worked with a variety of clients from all walks of life and his eclectic therapeutic interventions have proven to be effective in treating trauma and addiction.
Thea Wessel is an addictions counselor with a private practice in Colorado. She has been working in the criminal and addiction fields for thirteen years. Ms. Wessel earned her Masters in forensic psychology from the University of Denver and has her LPC, LAC, MAC, NCAAC, and ADS. She is working towards her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Ms. Wessel continually challenges herself and others to provide quality addiction treatment and ways to continue to educate the community about addiction issues.