Glenwood Springs police say they likely saved the lives of three children found in the custody of a wanted sex offender from North Carolina, who was arrested Tuesday along with an alleged accomplice.
Glenwood Police Chief Joseph Deras said Thursday that, around 2 p.m. Tuesday, police officers did a routine registration check at Glenwood Meadows on a Dodge Durango bearing North Carolina plates.
Officers learned that the vehicle was connected to a wanted violent felon whose warrants allowed for nationwide extradition, Deras said.
“The officers kept the vehicle under surveillance while they contacted North Carolina detectives,” Deras said in a news release. “We were told the suspect had multiple felony warrants for sex crimes, and that he has been known to flee or resist law enforcement, and that all efforts to detain him should be made.”
Officers kept watch and then followed the suspect vehicle to Veltus Park on Midland Avenue, where it was pulled over.
Police immediately contacted the passenger, James Gillis, 31, reported to reside in Stanly and Montgomery counties, North Carolina, who was told he was under arrest.
Meanwhile, the driver, Jennifer Bryan, also 31, attempted to drive away but was unsuccessful and was also detained.
Three female juveniles, ranging in ages from 7 to 12 years old, were also removed from the vehicle and kept away from the immediate scene, Deras said.
Gillis reportedly continued to resist arrest but was ultimately apprehended and allegedly told officers he had a shotgun in the vehicle, which was located directly behind where the children had been seated. Ammunition for the weapon was also located in the vehicle, according to the release.
“We later learned he reported that he had planned to shoot himself and everyone else close to him,” Deras said in the release.
Gillis and Bryant were both booked into the Garfield County Jail on pending charges out of North Carolina, including, for Gillis, two counts of child abuse involving serious bodily injury, second degree forcible sexual offenses, statutory sexual offenses on a child by an adult and crimes against nature, and for Bryant, two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury.
They both are now awaiting extradition to North Carolina, the release states.
Meanwhile, the three children were taken into protective custody and will be transferred to North Carolina protective services, Deras said. A small dog that was also in the vehicle and appeared to have been abused, was also taken to a local animal rescue facility and will be available for adoption, he said.
“We are firm in our belief we saved the lives of the children in this contact,” Deras said in commending the officers’ actions that led to the arrests. “We could not be prouder of their focused, deliberate and necessary work.”
Deras said he could not disclose the relationship of the children to the pair, but said they are not Gillis’s children.
He did say, however, that Bryant is accused of facilitating crimes allegedly committed by Gillis by not removing them from danger.
“There was a period of time where she separated herself from him; however, she later re-connected with him and the crimes against children resumed,” Deras said they learned in communications with North Carolina officials.
Gillis is alleged to have fled North Carolina with Bryant and the children after he learned he was the suspect in the crimes.
“Their plan was to remain at large and travel through different parts of the country,” Deras said. “They were going to support themselves by working for mobile food delivery services.”
Further conversation with the alleged victims suggested the crimes continued on the road between North Carolina and Glenwood Springs, and that there may be additional victims, possibly even locally.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Glenwood Springs police detectives.
At this time, however, the pair is not facing local charges and only awaiting extradition, Deras said
While waiting things out at the scene of the arrest, Deras said the children drew and colored pictures and collected rocks to give to the detectives. Officers also paid out of pocket to put together a care package for the children, and a woman who happened by the scene also bought food and some other items for them, he said.
“Investigating these types of crimes has a profound toll on our staff,” Deras said. “They are challenged with the effects of these investigations and the impacts on the young and defenseless victims.”
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.