Colo Springs murder suspect out on multiple bonds, judge quashes warrant weeks before murder
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- 13 Investigates is pressing our judicial system for answers after a man, now charged with murder, was out on multiple bonds at the time of the alleged murder. El Paso County Magistrate Hilary Gurney also quashed, or threw out, a warrant for his arrest three weeks before the murder.
Colorado Springs Police say 21-year-old Donnell Chess allegedly shot and killed 20-year-old Ja’lyn Tyre Lagrue in the early morning hours of May 7. They responded to a parking lot of a business off Palmer Park Blvd. and found Lagrue dead on scene. An adult female was also suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
At the time of the murder, court records say Chess had multiple open cases tied to allegations of felony animal abuse, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, and multiple misdemeanor cases in early 2023. Chess was able to post a $2,000 bond on February 23.
Then on March 13, Chess failed to show up at his mandatory court date tied to these allegations. A warrant for his arrest was then issued, but on April 17, his next court date, Magistrate Gurney quashed that warrant and raised his bond amount to $4,000.
Dennis Blackwell, the owner of Blackwell Bail Bonds in Colorado Springs, says Chess did not have to post that new bond amount because he got consent of surety from his bail bondsman. Blackwell says judges should take a closer look at the people they are giving low bonds to.
"You would think the judges would be more concerned on elevating bonds for weapon crimes, where would not be so easy to get in jail or out of jail on such a small bond of $2,000," Blackwell said. "A judge does have the ability to raise a bond because it does involve weapons especially, going back to all the problems with guns right now."
Each Judicial District in Colorado has a set bond schedule, which guides judges on what bond amounts should be issued for the specific offense type.
In Chess' case, he was charged with a Class 5 and Class 6 felony. According to the bond schedule, his $2,000 bond was in line with the POWPO (Possession of a Weapon by a Previous Offender) offense. However, even after posting bond Chess still had access to a firearm used in the alleged murder.
"I think part of it comes from the bills that are passed at the legislature. They funnel down to our local counties," Blackwell said. "I think the judges are bound to a degree to have to set bond accordingly. However, a judge still has the ability to raise a bond if they see fit."
13 Investigates reached out to Magistrate Gurney for comment on Chess' bond amount and her decision to quash a warrant. A spokesperson said she was unable to comment on open cases, a reply that is typical for judges throughout Colorado.
Blackwell says there should be a uniform standardization for judges quashing warrants for failures to appear in court. In his business, he does have people he posts bonds for that then fail to appear, and that responsibility then falls in his lap.
"I would say 10% of the people I post bonds for miss court, maybe a quarter to a half a percent are actually running. Most people take care of business," Blackwell said.
Blackwell says his business has been hurt by an increased propensity for judges to grant cashless bonds in Colorado, typically called PR bonds. He points to legislative changes in the last 10 years that have recommended cashless bail for far too many people accused of crimes.
"To me, crime is so much more violent than it was ten years ago. There's almost shootings every day. What is that attribute it to," Blackwell questioned? Could it just pass or really be attributed to over the last ten, 12 years, our laws have become so much more lax that people aren't scared to go to jail anymore because they know they're going to get out."