Hundreds of copies of a local Colorado newspaper were stolen after its latest issue featured a report alleging that a teenage girl was raped at the home of the small town’s police chief by his stepson.
The Ouray County Plaindealer reported that a 17-year-old girl told investigators that she was repeatedly raped by at least three other teens at a party that occurred at Ouray Police Chief Jeff Wood’s home in May 2023.
The Thursday report detailed how the girl said she was raped “during a late-night party with the chief’s stepson and two other suspects,” telling investigators that “she screamed and fought back, while others slept upstairs.”
The unnamed girl faded in and out of consciousness and was raped at least three times in a bedroom and bathroom through the alcohol-fueled night, the Plaindealer reported, citing a Colorado Bureau of Investigation affidavit for arrests.
Three suspects have been arrested in the case, including Police Chief Jeff Wood’s stepson, Nate Dieffenderffer. Gabriel Trujillo and Ashton Whittington were also taken into custody.
“At the time of the alleged incident, Trujillo was 19, Whittington had just turned 18 and they were celebrating his birthday, and Dieffenderffer was turning 18 in a matter of days,” the outlet reported.
All three suspects have denied the allegations and have been released from jail after posting bail, according to Fox 31.
After the Plaindealer published the story on its front page on Thursday, its newsroom reported that many of the printed papers had disappeared.
In a Friday report, the outlet said that “more than 200 Ouray County Plaindealer newspapers” were stolen from vending racks in Ridgway and Ouray on Thursday morning, soon after the issue was published.
“It’s pretty clear that someone didn’t want the community to read the news this week,” a newsletter sent out to readers said. “I’ll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions on which story they didn’t want you to read.”
However, the papers were “returned less than 12 hours later to the Plaindealer office,” according to the Friday report.
“Hours after the Plaindealer reported the theft to law enforcement, an individual returned a garbage bag full of newspapers to the Plaindealer office,” the outlet reported, adding that an “individual” has claimed responsibility and said he or she would turn himself or herself into the authorities.
It is unclear if that individual has already turned himself or herself into law enforcement.
“Investigators have asked the newspaper not to provide more details until their work is finished,” the newspaper said, noting that they have “no reason to believe” that anyone involved in the rape case was responsible for the theft.
The Plaindealer’s newsletter ended with a message of resilience:
We’re not going to stop doing our job, which is to shine light on important issues in our community and keep you informed.
This person is not going to shut down the freedom of the press by stealing a few hundred newspapers. Our community won’t stand for it, and we won’t, either.
“If you meant to intimidate us, you just strengthened our resolve,” the newspaper powerfully concluded.