A 29-year-old former Overland Park man was among five people killed in a Denver bar that was then set on fire early Wednesday.
Ross Richter was an Eagle Scout and a 2001 graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School, his family said.
He graduated from Kansas State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in park management and conservation and was working for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Kremmling, Colo.
“He loved his job and he loved the outdoors,” said a family member in Kansas City who declined to be identified. “He really enjoyed hiking and being outdoors, and he really enjoyed working with people.”
In Denver, authorities announced that they had arrested three men, including two brothers, who were being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, felony murder, aggravated robbery and arson. Charges had not yet been filed.
Police Cmdr. Ronald Saunier said the men went to Fero’s Bar & Grill bar to rob it before closing time Wednesday, but he didn’t go into details about how it turned into a murder case.
“It appears that the motive of this crime was robbery, that they came in there. I don’t want to say that it was a robbery gone bad, but it wound up being a robbery. The arson was set to try to cover up the crime scene,” he said.
An officer on patrol around 2 a.m. Wednesday noticed a fire at the bar, where a regular poker game was held Tuesday night.
Inside, firefighters found the bodies of Richter and four women, including the bar’s owner, 63-year-old Young Fero. The other victims were identified as Daria M. Pohl, 22, Kellene Fallon, 45, and Tereasa Beesley, 45, all from Denver.
The cause of the victims’ deaths was not released. Police haven’t said how they died and wouldn’t discuss whether any weapons were found.
A member of Richter’s family declined to say whether Richter knew the other victims.
“Our sympathies go out the families of the other victims,” the family member said.
In 1998, The Star wrote a story about Richter becoming the sixth Eagle Scout in his family, following his five brothers. His project was described as a series of “little rooms” where visually impaired children could play with toys in a safe environment. The rooms were donated to the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired.
“He will be dearly missed by all his friends and family,” a family member said.
Susan Cassel, associate field manager with the Bureau of Land Management in Kremmling, praised Richter’s work
“He was a wonderful employee,” she said. “He loved being outdoors. His most exciting times, I think, were hiking the Colorado high mountains.”
She said he worked for the Kremmling field office along the Colorado River corridor as a park ranger.
“Basically he just took care of all the recreation happening along the river — rafting, hiking, camping and fishing,” she said.
He was a temporary seasonal employee, working only in the summers. This was his fourth summer there. During the offseason for a few years, he worked at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colo.
Before working for the Bureau of Land Management, he worked for Camp Wildwood in La Cygne, Kan.
“All of the jobs he’s had have been outside,” Cassel said. “He had the degree in park management and conservation, so he was into the great outdoors and conserving it the way it was suppose to be for everybody to enjoy.”