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Former soldier found guilty of robbing home, murdering Agate rancher

Posted at 12:57 PM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 14:57:51-04

AGATE, Colo. — A former soldier accused of fatally shooting an Elbert County rancher in 2016 was found guilty of murder on Monday.

On Jan. 23, 2016, Joe Robert Love, 28, pulled off a highway in Elbert County to look for a bathroom. He ended up on a rural road. Ed Butler of Agate, 68, used to own the property and was taking care of it while its new owners were out of town.

Love went into Butler’s trailer on the property and video surveillance showed him eating at a table and rummaging around, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

At that same time, Butler drove up to the trailer and saw Love’s vehicle, which he did not recognize. He called the property’s new owners, who said they had not given anybody permission to visit.

Butler then confronted Love, and Love took him outside, took Butler’s gun from his hip holster and shot him twice in the head, according to district attorney’s office. Love fled from the scene.

After receiving the suspicious call from Butler, the new property owners called another neighbor and asked them to check on him, Denver7 previously reported. Those neighbors found Butler’s body.

READ MORE: Rancher shot after confronting intruder

Investigators found fingerprints, DNA and other evidence that led them to Love, who was arrested in January 2017 in Texas. He was identified as a former soldier. Love implicated himself in monitored calls from jail, according to the district attorney’s office.

On Monday, Love was found guilty of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, second-degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery and first-degree burglary.

His sentencing is scheduled for June 18.

“This scenario represents every homeowner’s worst fear: Coming home and interrupting an intruder who is willing to kill to get away with his crime,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Doug Bechtel.

District Attorney George Brauchler said the whole community felt less safe after the crime.

“I hope the community and Mr. Butler’s family can find some measure of closure and solace in knowing that this cold-blooded murderer will spend his remaining days locked up,” he said. “This is why we build prisons.”