Man accused of sex crimes in Stanly, Montgomery arrested in Colorado, 3 children rescued
Published 2:36 pm Friday, May 12, 2023
The following story was originally published by Stephanie Butzer and Denver 7 in Denver, Colorado.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — A man accused of sex crimes against children in North Carolina allegedly fled to Glenwood Springs with a woman and three children and was arrested this week.
According to conversations with the juveniles, authorities said they believe that multiple other sex crimes against children occurred between the east coast and Glenwood Springs, where the man was taken into custody.
On Tuesday, officers with the Glenwood Springs Police Department checked the registered owner information for a Dodge Durango with North Carolina plates that was in the city’s vicinity near a commercial center. They learned the vehicle was connected to a wanted and violent felon, identified as James Gillis, 31, of Stanly County and Montgomery County in North Carolina.
The officers kept an eye on the vehicle while they contacted detectives in North Carolina. They learned that Gillis had multiple felony warrants for sex crimes and was known to flee and resist law enforcement. The North Carolina officials told the officers that they should make all efforts to detain him, according to Glenwood Springs police.
Glenwood Springs police stopped the vehicle near Veltus Park. Gillis was a passenger and Jennifer Bryant, 31, was driving. Three children, ranging in age from 7 to 12, were also in the car. Police also found a dog, which “had obviously been abused,” police said.
Police would later learn, after reviewing probable cause affidavits from North Carolina, that Gillis was accused of child abuse involving serious bodily injury (two counts), second-degree forcible sexual offenses, statutory sexual offenses on a child by an adult and crimes against nature. The documents also alleged Bryant was charged with two counts of child abuse – causing serious bodily injury. The department said police believe that Gillis fled from North Carolina after he learned he was a suspect in these crimes.
Once Glenwood Springs police told Gillis he was under arrest, he started to resist the officers and Bryant started to try to drive away. Bryant was stopped and detained and Gillis continued to fight against the officers trying to arrest him.
As police spent several minutes negotiating with Gillis, other officers removed the three children from the car, according to Glenwood Springs police.
After he was detained, Gillis told police he had a shotgun in the vehicle. When police searched for it, they also found its ammunition.
Police later learned he had reported a plan to “shoot himself and everyone else close to him,” the department said.
Both Gillis and Bryant were booked into the Garfield County jail and are awaiting extradition to North Carolina.
Meanwhile, the three children were taken into protective custody. They will be transferred to North Carolina protective services. Some police officers were moved to use their own money to make care packages for the children. In addition, a local woman who had seen the arrests contacted police, saying she believed the children were malnourished and neglected, so she purchased food for them.
The rescued dog was brought to a local animal facility and will be available for adoption, police said.
The police department does not identify victims of sex crimes or their relation to each other, or lack thereof, but confirmed that the victims are not Gillis’ children. It wasn’t clear if they were Bryant’s.
Police said they believe Bryant facilitated the felony crimes by subjecting the victims to Gillis’ criminal acts. At the time, Bryant was in a position to prevent the crimes, police said. At some point, she had separated from Gillis, but later re-connected and the crimes against the children began again.
The department said they believe that after Gillis fled from North Carolina, he planned to remain at-large and travel around the country.
During conversations with the police, the children seemed to suggest “various sex crimes occurred between North Carolina and Glenwood Springs,” according to police. There may be additional victims in the area.
“Investigating these types of crimes has a profound toll on our staff,” the department said. “They are challenged with the effects of these investigations and the impacts on the young and defenseless victims. We are firm in our belief we saved the lives of the children in this contact.”