TRUNDLER EXONERATED

Posted on: August 31, 2007


Leg Lake, Leg Lake Cirque, Wind Rivers Range, Wyoming where the August 11 death of NOLS Rocky Mountain Director Pete Absolon occurred. On August 23, Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell released a statement indicating that no charges would be filed against Luke Rodolph, who trundled the rock that killed Absolon. [Photo] Sam Cox

On August 23, Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell released a statement indicating that no charges would be filed against hiker Luke Rodolph in the August 11 death of NOLS Rocky Mountain Director Pete Absolon. Absolon was climbing a new route in Leg Lake Cirque, in Wyoming's southern Wind River Range, with Steve Herlihy when Rodolph purposefully trundled the rock, without knowledge of Absolon or Herlihy, who were approximately 300 feet below (read the August 14 NewsWire for the full story). Newell cited Rodolph's extreme remorse, lack of criminal or harmful intentions, lack of criminal history, service in the Iraq conflict, his immediate actions to take responsibility for the incident and the lack of any drug or alcohol involvement.

On August 29 Rodolph, a Casper, Wyoming native, in his first public statement since the incident, expressed extreme remorse. "Whatever is done to me is fine," he said. "I don't want Molly and Avery [the widow and her daughter] to feel any more pain."

Rodolph recounts picking up a fifteen or twenty pound boulder, looking over the edge to check if anyone was below, then tossing it. "As I traced it down, I happened to lean out further and further. Right when I saw Pete, it hit him," he said. "There was no time for a warning." Rodolph and his party immediately called 911 on a cell phone, then hiked quickly down to Leg Lake Basin, where they encountered Steve Herlihy, Absolon's climbing partner. Herlihy asked if the party had seen anything, or knew what happened.

"Luke looked him dead in the eye and said, 'I threw it,'" said Aaron Rodolph, Luke's brother who was with him on the hike. "And I'll never forget, as long as I live, that Steve looked Luke dead back in the eyes and said, 'I forgive you for that.'"

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Both Luke and Aaron Rodolph continue publicly to express their grief and regret for the actions of that day. "You just wish there was something you could do to help them," said Aaron Rodolph, his eyes red and his voice cracking. "And you know in your heart there is nothing you can do." Rodolph reportedly intended to attend the memorial service but was told through an intermediary not to.

Newell's decision not to prosecute followed a visit with Absolon's widow, Molly. "Molly has suffered the devastating loss of a loving husband and father to her only child. Her primary concern now is healing for herself and her daughter, Avery," Newell said in a press release. "She may pursue a civil case to recover damages that would assist in Avery's support and education."

Still, Newell said throwing the rock over the ledge without thoroughly checking to see if anyone was below was "criminally negligent or reckless."

"Mr. Absolon died needlessly, leaving a wife and young daughter to live their lives without his love and support," Newell said. "We all need to understand that a moment's carelessness can kill."

Sources: Jackson Hole Daily, Jackson Hole Star Tribune, Billings Gazette and the Casper Star Tribune

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