A bloodhound locates a child’s body, but her killer has never been identified.

Alie Berrelez

The bloodhound searched for Alie

CASE DETAILS

On May 18, 1993, police in Englewood, Colorado, searched door-to-door for five-year-old Alie Berrelez.  Alie was last seen playing in the courtyard of the apartment complex where she lived.  Her baby-sitter had gone inside for a few minutes.  By the time she came back, Alie was gone.

Searchers discovered Alie’s remains

The search dragged on for four days without a single clue.  Finally, the police turned to an age-old crime-fighting tool: bloodhounds. When it comes to tracking missing persons or criminals, a bloodhound named Yogi is one of the best.

Yogi and his handler, K9 officer Jerry Nichols, went to work.  The dog took Alie’s scent from clothing she had recently worn, then started moving.

First Yogi went up the stairs, zeroing in on a single apartment.  It was Alie’s home, and it was a good sign.  Yogi was on the right track.

Richard Berrelez, Alie’s grandfather, had high hopes:

“I wanted to have hope that this bloodhound would be able to find our granddaughter.  I was watching the dog work, and I felt there was a sort of comfort that I felt, because I felt, ‘Now they’re going to find her. Now they’re going to find her and they’re going to find her alive.’”

The bloodhound covered 40 city blocks

Yogi led Jerry out of the apartment complex and south down the street.  A media crush followed close behind, recording every move.  The dog paid no attention at all, which is typical of bloodhounds, according to Jerry:

“He didn’t care.  He was oblivious to everything other than what he was doing because he’s happy doing that.  A bloodhound is by instinct a tracker.  By nature, it’s something they’re bred to do and they live to do.  Their sense of smell is just incredible.  The loose skin around the face acts as a place for the scent to be attracted to, the skin folds. The gels, the slobbering, the moisture that the dog is emitting, will actually help enhance that scent around his face. It’s putting the moisture in the air, and those long, dangling, floppy ears, it kind of stirs it up in front of him.”

A scent trail, whether animal or human, comes from thousands of dead skin cells that are constantly being shed.  Jerry explains that unless those cells are swept away by severe weather, the scent could remain for up to a month:

“When a dog is introduced to a specific scent to track, he basically focuses on that scent and forgets and ignores the rest.  His job is, ‘This is the scent I have to work.  This is what I’m going to go with.’”

As the hound followed Alie’s scent, Jerry quickly recognized that his canine partner was working a familiar pattern:

“If a person is walking on foot, the scent’s a little bit stronger, and they’re going to stay by the sidewalk, but he is working wide between the street, in between the fronts of businesses. And he’s still picking it up on the fringes.  Seeing him do that before, in my mind, he was working a car.”

Unbelievable as it seems, we leave scent trails even from moving cars. The skin cells shoot out through the car’s ventilation and exhaust system and are deposited on the side of the road.  Jerry says it’s an easy pick up for the nose of a bloodhound:

“We’ve even done scenarios in training where we’ll put a person in a trunk that’s sealed up, and they still can pick it up.  His world is his nose.”

Yogi was relentless.  He tracked south for several miles, covering almost 40 city blocks.  At the entrance to a freeway, he headed straight up the westbound ramp.

That was a turning point for Englewood Police Detective Rick Forbes:

“I was very skeptical that dog was doing anything other than going for a walk, but when he took that first ramp to I-470 and did so with so much confidence, then I started to wonder, you know, maybe the dog is really onto something here.”

The search party drove west to the next exit.  Jerry wondered if the scent trail would lead the dog further down the freeway or off the exit ramp:

“And sure enough, he kept on working and he went past it. So then we’d load him up, go to the next exit.  We did the same scene several times.”

To speed up the search, police skipped the fourth exit and moved on to the fifth.  Yogi made it quite clear.  They had overshot the mark.  The scent was gone.  They backtracked to the previous exit.  The hound again picked up the scent.  But this time, he led the search party off the freeway, toward a wooded area called Deer Creek Canyon.

By now, Yogi had been tracking Alie over city streets, parking lots, and freeways for more than seven hours.  He had covered nearly 14 miles.  Jerry noticed signs Yogi was tiring:

“He was slowing down a little bit.  The tongue was really dragging, and he’s really slobbering, and I could tell he was getting hot.  A hound has a drive.  Unfortunately, they will run themselves to death.  If they get tired, they don’t care. They don’t stop.”

Yogi’s strength was failing.  Still, he wouldn’t abandon the search.  Reluctantly, Jerry made the decision to give Yogi some rest:

“He basically kept looking at me as to, ‘Why are we stopping?  I’m not ready to stop.  I want to keep going.  This is my track.  I want to get there.’”

With Yogi sidelined, human volunteers picked up the search.  It wasn’t long before they knew why Yogi had refused to quit.  The body of Alie Berrelez was less than two miles from the point where the dog had been forced to stop.

Without Yogi’s persistence, Alie’s body would never have been discovered. But it was not the result Jerry Nichols had hoped for:

“I think, at first, that didn’t sink in, because I was pretty upset at the fact that Alie was found dead.  And then over time I realized everything worked just right.  These dogs have a purpose in law enforcement.  We’re out here working for the communities and the citizens.  And they really have done some amazing things for us.”

Investigators believe Alie’s killer may have lived in her apartment complex or visited someone who lived there.

UPDATE

Alie’s murder was solved, 18 years later.  The killer was a neighbor, Nick Stofer.  His DNA samples matched those found on Alie’s remains.  Stofer died in 2001, and this case has been closed.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Nick Stofer, death will not hide you

    Reply

  2. Anonymous

    In September 2011, the DNA of neighbor Nick Stofer, was was identified on Alie Berrelez’s underwear when they recovered her body. Stofer, however, will not face charges. He died of natural causes in 2001, never having stood trial for the crime. Stofer had been the primary suspect in the crime since it occurred, but was not charged because of a lack of evidence.

    Reply

  3. Joseph Duran

    Do not be fooled. Who wrote this crap! Bad cops write their own reports even when they murder innocent people. Good cops do not want these kind at the their side.

    DNA can be planted into evidence to solve any murder bad law enforcement officers, prosecution, and judges already know they will solve. Read this carefully! Consider the whole story. The truth and nothing but the truth.

    Allie’s Body was Found inside a

    Joseph Duran did prove Yogi could not follow his scent. Ask Jerry why?

    Please read the Jefferson County Police Report on how Jerry and Yogi did chase Duran. Duran wore a short sleeve shirt and shorts on an empty bike path and continued to the middle of a road before jumping in a bush.

    This Sting Operation did leave a paper trail to prove this dog could not have found Allie.
    Joseph Duran took the dog and Jerry on a 6 block foot chase from 9773 West Caley Ave shorty after the body was found. Jerry was visiting his girlfriend two houses up. At this time, police were promoting dogs to be policeman, investigating a child kidnap ring, and Jerry did join the Department after moving out of Texas.

    1. Do you doubt Yogi did find Allie 20 feet off the road on the embankment, and 10 miles away from the site of the kidnapping?
    2. Did Jerry plant Allies body on the side of the road to allow dog’s to become policemen?
    3. Did Jerry make the ranks quick?
    4. Did dogs become policemen?

    The Truth as Written by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department
    Stephanie Dodge did call the police on Duran. Duran hid in the attic wearing two sets of clothes. Two police cars drove off, Jerry and Yogi remain talking to the driver of the third car. Duran dropped out of the attic to taunt a police chase for the purpose of testing Yogi. Yogi fails to follow the scent of Duran wearing shorts and tee-shirt.

    This chase did start along the bike path on the east-side of Kipling and Bowles and continued to the west-side of Kipling. This chase is a half mile long with no other people disturbing the dog’s ability to follow a scent.

    Yoga ran past me as I lay in a bush less than 30 feet off the road. It looked like Jerry took Yogi for a run.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    There is a special place in hell for people who hurt kids.

    Reply

  5. D. Piland

    I wish this article had included a lot more info about the victim, things like cause of death, was she molested or raped, tied up, etc. The first impression for me was the age of this child and the location of the crime. Something made me immediately think of Jon Benet Ramsey, also murdered in Colorado, in 1990. The timing is very close, same state, so more information would have been very helpful. This is just a hunch, but has the DNA from this murder ever been compared to the DNA found on Jon Benet? On her panties and under her finger nails. DNA that did not belong to any family members or others tested. It might be worth a check.

    Reply

  6. Lela

    This may not be related but in 1993 I lived in Utah at the Heartland Apartments I was maybe 6 or 7yrs old and while I was playing in the playground by my apartment a man came up to me about 5’7 to 5’8 white with dirty blond hair and a mustache and asked me if I wanted some candy he was wearing a very large trench coat black in color and because my mother always told me don’t take candy from strangers I ran to my apartment where my mother was and told her she didn’t believe me but this situation where the little girl is playing in the courtyard made me think about the man that came out of no where he did not live in my complex and I had never seen him before and just asked me if I wanted some candy he looked very out of place because it was the middle of the summer and he was wearing a long black trench coat. This may not help but I wanted to share my situation because Colorado is next to Utah and thought there might be something there.

    Reply