DNA evidence found at a murder scene in Pagosa Springs positively links a deceased suspect to the shooting death, police announced this week.
Investigators said Michael Moats, 29, who was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound near the Colorado-New Mexico line, was the shooter who broke into Ski & Bow Rack, killing the owner.
The Pagosa Springs Police Department said Moats was the sole perpetrator of the crime.
On March 11, an unidentified suspect broke into Ski & Bow Rack at 354 East Pagosa St. with the intent to burglarize the store. Around 9:30 p.m., authorities believe, the owner, Larry Fisher, 71, interrupted the robbery and was shot.
Fisher was flown to a hospital in Denver where he was pronounced dead a few hours later. He was shot once in the chest.
Pagosa Springs police Lt. Brooks Brown said Wednesday that Moats was identified as a person of interest early in the investigation because he was a regular at the store and matched the description of the person caught on a surveillance camera.
On March 13, Moats consented to an interview with police and was released after the interview. Investigators said they didn’t have enough probable cause to make an arrest.
Moats was unemployed at the time, and authorities believe he burglarized the store for money. However, police found nothing stolen.
Moats voluntarily provided a DNA sample, according to a Pagosa Springs Police Department news release.
On March 14, authorities sent Moats’ DNA sample, along with a mask recovered from the scene, to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab.
Pagosa Springs Police said the lab tests matched Moats’ DNA to the mask, which “indicated that the probability of selecting an individual at random from the population having the same profile is, ‘Approximately 1 in 3.7 octillion.’” An octillion is the number 1 followed by 27 zeros.
Authorities said no other suspects are being sought in connection with the shooting.
Police also executed a search warrant at a residence in an unincorporated area of Archuleta County where Moats had been staying, recovering several items of evidence and a handgun consistent with the weapon used in the murder.
Moats was found dead about 1:30 p.m. March 14 near Chama, New Mexico.
“Within minutes of completing the search at the residence, investigators were notified of the apparent suicide of a person in New Mexico, who was believed to be Michael Moats,” the news release said. “The identity of the deceased was subsequently confirmed as Mr. Moats, by the New Mexico State Police.”
Fisher was a longtime Pagosa Springs resident, moving to the town in 1980, according to an obituary. He first took a job at Wolf Creek Ski Area as a ski school director before opening the store in 1985.