Kobe: The Latest!
Alleged victim in Bryant case is a 19-year-old graduate of local high school who is said to be fun-loving, outgoing and emotional.
Quiet Street, Loud Case
By Steve Henson and Lance Pugmire, Times Staff Writers
EAGLE, Colo. — A blue spruce and two tall pine trees stand sentry in the front yard, providing figurative cover from the perils that lie beyond this tiny town tucked in a Rocky Mountain valley, 30 miles from the ski slopes of Vail.
Firewood and gardening tools are stacked neatly on the walk to the house, one of the first built in a growing neighborhood that attracts middle-class families for its safe streets and open space.
Inside the home, however, there is anguish. The 19-year-old daughter of the longtime residents is the central figure in a felony sexual assault case involving Laker guard Kobe Bryant.
Only 13 months removed from Eagle Valley High graduation, cheerleading and singing in the choir, the alleged victim was working at the swanky Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in nearby Edwards when she met the NBA star June 30.
Bryant, 24, a guest at the hotel, allegedly committed the assault that night, hours before undergoing arthroscopy on his right knee July 1. He was arrested three days later.
Under Colorado law, sexual assault encompasses a wide range of behavior, whether it be touching a clothed body part or engaging in a sexual act, and what the accusations are is not yet clear.
Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert plans to meet today with investigators and other officials, and a decision on whether to file charges could be made as soon as Friday.
Meanwhile, the alleged victim, described by friends as fun-loving, outgoing and emotional, is in limbo behind closed doors along with her parents and two brothers.
Her father comes to the door, politely declines to discuss the situation and refers questions to Hurlbert because the family has not retained an attorney. The mother peeks her head outside, gently pulls her husband into the house and shuts the door.
The 18-year-old boyfriend of the alleged victim is just as polite — and just as tight-lipped.
He stands glumly at work, behind the counter of a local convenience store, ringing up jumbo hot dogs and shaved ice. He says only that he has broken off the relationship.
Friends and neighbors paint a complex portrait of a friendly, wholesome young woman. Several residents of the quiet cul-de-sac expressed shock as they learned their neighbor is the alleged victim in a case they have followed intensely.
A couple next door have been debating the story.
"My husband was just saying this morning that he was a disbeliever of the legal action against Kobe — he thinks Kobe is a stand-up guy," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "But my thinking all along has been, 'Why would this woman give a false accusation and open herself up to all this scrutiny unless something happened?' "
Her husband said his position changed upon learning the identity of the alleged victim. "It's more complicated now," the man said. "My thinking was entirely based on Kobe's clean image.
"But now, actually knowing this girl and her family a lot more than I know Kobe, I just do not think she would do anything malicious. We're dealing with a young girl here, somebody brought up in the mountains, a trusting person.
"That entire family is well-respected. Usually, you get a good sense of a child by the pride her parents show, and they did with her."
Many Eagle County teenagers and young adults work at the posh resorts that dot Vail Valley. The area's economy depends on visits from the rich and famous, who ski in the winter and golf in the summer.
But now, even longtime residents worry that their children could be in harm's way if they meet celebrities.
"I have two daughters, 16 and 17, and I will be more careful about where they want to work, I will think twice," said Gonzalo Gomez of Eagle.
According to employees at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, Bryant and the alleged victim talked and flirted after he checked into the hotel. One employee said hotel security, responding to complaints of noise from other guests, went to Bryant's room in the early morning hours of July 1.
A report of the alleged attack was made to Eagle County law enforcement officials in the afternoon.
At about 2:30 the next morning, under police supervision, a taxi van took Bryant and three men about 52 miles to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, although a hospital in Vail was only 13 miles away. The taxi returned one of the men to the Lodge & Spa at about 5 a.m. — the fare reportedly was $372 — but Bryant remained in Glenwood Springs.
The alleged victim was also taken to a hospital, Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy said.
Det. Doug Winters declined to comment on why Bryant was taken other than to say, "If we make contact with a suspect with any type of case that requires further investigation, then we would transport them at any time."
Bryant flew to Southern California on July 2 and returned to Colorado two days later when Hoy obtained an arrest warrant from a district judge. Bryant was released after posting $25,000 bond. His attorneys maintain his innocence and have criticized Hoy for making the arrest without the consent of Hurlbert.
A crime lab is analyzing unspecified evidence taken from Bryant and the alleged victim.
"Any time we deal with a crime of violence, we look at exchange of hairs and fibers, exchange of body fluids — that's blood, semen, saliva," said Pete Mang, deputy director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The lack of information coming from the family and from Hurlbert has left several unanswered questions, including how aggressively the family wants to pursue charges and how prepared the woman would be to testify in a highly publicized trial.
Until a decision is made by Hurlbert, the low-key Eagle County community will continue to watch the case with a mix of curiosity and discomfort. Many yearn for a return to normalcy, yet everyone wants to ensure justice is served.
"This is a sleepy, family neighborhood," said Phil Long of Eagle. "These are the people who make Eagle County go — the plumbers, teachers, electricians — they all live here."
Eagle residents are afforded scenic views of pine-covered valleys and hills, the snow-capped New York Mountains, an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course and backyard visits by elk and deer.
The alleged victim's family was drawn to the town for all those reasons — plus the safety and security the neighborhood promised. Now, that promise is being reexamined.
The young woman emerged from the house briefly Wednesday, walking toward her parked car in cutoff denim shorts and a light-blue top. She retrieved an item and hurried back inside, paying no attention to the rusty hoop and backboard with its faded NBA logo sitting above the driveway.