A Murder in Vail
"Do you know how long I've been trying not to do this?"
One year ago this month, Richard Moreau went on a shooting spree in a Vail bar and killed a man. It was the first homicide in the posh resort town in three decades. What went wrong? Good question.
On the outside of his left calf, Moreau has another tattoo; this one of a skier in a tuck position and “KEEP UP!”. The stacked Vs of the Vail logo are just above the skier. Above that: “1970 — FOREVER...” A ski race first drew Moreau to Vail. He fell in love with the outdoor recreation. Skiing in the winter; in the summer: mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, camping, and archery.
When he wasn’t casting his fly rod in Gore Creek or camping or skiing, he would sometimes lend a hand around town. John Gulick met Moreau in the ’70s when both were fire department volunteers. Gulick noticed Moreau was quick to shake your hand or even offer up a hug. By the ’80s, as Gulick earned the title of training officer, Moreau’s interest in the department waned. Still, Gulick, who would put in 31 years with the Vail Fire Department and eventually became chief, saw enough of Moreau to know, as he puts it, that Moreau was “a good hand” who enjoyed being part of a team and valued respect.
Moreau told Gulick that nothing made Moreau’s father more proud than seeing his son in a uniform. And so Gulick gave Moreau a T-shirt with the Vail Fire Department logo. Gulick tried to get Moreau to volunteer again. Some days Moreau would show up eager to help. He enjoyed joking with the guys. Other times, Moreau would pop in reeking of booze. Gulick made a point of telling Moreau if he’d been drinking or smoking dope not to bother coming in. Sometimes Moreau didn’t show up at all. Gulick knew Moreau was on medication. He watched Moreau pop pills morning and night. He never trusted Moreau with any more responsibility than a mop and bucket. Gulick didn’t consider himself a close friend of Moreau’s, but always treated Moreau with respect and dignity. “Some of the younger guys didn’t like him. They thought he was a little weird,” Gulick says. “People could sense there was something wrong with him.” But Gulick’s approach was: “Let’s be kind to him. He had a rough go.”
The gaps between when Gulick would see Moreau grew—days, weeks. Out of the blue, Gulick would get a call from the veteran. He’d be upset about one of his cats dying or about having trouble with a girl and needed someone to talk to. They’d talk for 20 minutes. It might be months before Gulick would hear from or see Moreau again. He always thought Moreau would have to move from Vail; he figured Moreau simply couldn’t afford the cost of living.
Vail indeed has become every bit the resort town Siebert, the 10th Mountain Division veteran, had envisioned. So much so that it’s no place for man to live on a veteran’s pension or disability benefits. Affordable housing is difficult to find. A gallon of gas is 40 cents cheaper just outside Vail, in the next county. During the ski season Vail is bustling if not chaotic, filled with wealthy out-of-towners. For years, the valley’s second-homeowners have outnumbered the year-round residents. Then, in the shoulder seasons, it’s horror-movie quiet. “It’s kind of a tough place,” Gulick says.
Berne Krueger, who grew up in Vail and as a kid skied with Moreau as one of the Flying Purple People Eaters, rarely goes to the town anymore. He left the valley in 1980 and spent 22 years with the Marine Corps. When he returned to the area, he moved down valley, around what he considers the more family-oriented towns like Gypsum and Eagle. “The people I work with and recreate with all live down valley,” Krueger says. He didn’t see Moreau much, if at all, since those early years on the mountain. Referring to his old coach, Kreuger adds, “I don’t think Vail’s an easy place to be if you have any mental problems.”