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Jul 15, 2010 8:31 PM by Andy Koen

Trial of murdered Pueblo West teen begins

The trial of a Pueblo West man accused of the murder and sexual assault of a teenage neighbor is underway in Pueblo.  Paul Stark is charged with murder, sexual assault and child abuse in the death of 14 year-old Ashley Patterson.

Ashley's body was discovered March 29, 2009 by sheriff's deputies in a field near her family's home just a few hours after she was reported missing.

In court Thursday, Ashely's mother Jennifer Patterson testified that her daughter told her she was going to search for rocks in the neighborhood.  She went to look for Ashley about a half hour later when Ashley didn't answer her cell phone.

Unsuccessful, Jennifer said she then called her father and asked him to come look for Ashley.  After about an hour they called the sheriff's office.

The jury also heard from Sgt. Michael Beery, the lead deputy called in to search for Ashley.  Beery said when he arrived at the Patterson's home, he first searched the house for Ashley. 

He said her room was "way different" from bedrooms of other teenagers he'd seen.  He explained that in having searched for teenage runaways before, their bedrooms are generally messy with lots of posters on the walls.  He said Ashley's room was very neat and well kept and that she had a large collection of rock arranged on a table in the corner.

Beery continued that he had just finished searching Ashley's bedroom when a call came over the radio that a body had been found in an open field near the duplex.

Beery drove and parked near the field and then walked to where another deputy and a police dog were standing.

He described seeing a large black trash bag with the lower legs of a young person exposed.  They were wearing white socks, but the shoes were missing.  He also saw deep tire tracks in the mud leading up to and away from the body.

During cross examination, the deputy was asked about a request he had made to dispatchers for a list of sexual offenders living in the area.  Stark's attorneys pressed the deputy on why he didn't immediately go to the homes of two sex offenders living on the same street as the Pattersons.  Beery responded that his primary duty was to preserve the crime scene where the body had been discovered.

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