Gavin Bolen
Gavin Bolen (Courtesy photo)

The father of a man pulled from Boulder Creek earlier this summer said his son, 22-year-old Gavin Bolen, was "positive about everything" and had just finished a semester at community college before his death.

Mark Bolen said his son was living "at home" in Fenton, Michigan, and had decided to travel through Boulder on the way to see a friend in Colorado Springs before starting a summer job.

When his car broke down, Gavin Bolen and the friend he was traveling with couldn't find a hotel room, but they ran into some "homeless guys" who invited them to sleep by Boulder Creek, Mark Bolen said.

"So that's how he ended up where he was," said Mark Bolen, 47.

Gavin Bolen's body was pulled from the swollen Boulder Creek near 49th Street and Pearl Parkway at around 2 p.m. June 24.

Gavin Bolen had a 14-month-old daughter and hadn't yet decided what to study at the community college, Mark Bolen said. Roughly 300 friends attended the funeral, he added.

"Everybody loved him," Mark Bolen said. "I don't know too many people that he had problems with. Always happy."

Drugs, alcohol

The Boulder County Coroner's Office ruled this week that Gavin Bolen's death was an accidental drowning and found methamphetamine and alcohol in his system.

Mark Bolen said he took issue with the emphasis placed on those substances and said his son was not a "stumbling, black-teeth meth-head."


Advertisement

"If you'd really paid attention, you'd see the amount of meth was the equivalent to an Allegra-D tablet and the amount of alcohol was the amount of three or four beers," he said.

But experts say the levels of substances found in Gavin Bolen's body could have played a role in his death.

The official cause of death was drowning, according to the autopsy report, and methamphetamine and ethanol intoxication were listed as "contributory" conditions.

"Generally when those things are listed as contributing factors, the pathologist feels like it plays some role in the event that led to the death," said Melinda Rose, Boulder County deputy coroner.

The amount of ethanol found in Gavin Bolen's blood was 0.133 percent weight/volume, which is comparable to a blood alcohol level, Rose said. The legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08.

In addition to alcohol, forensic pathologist Daniel Lingamfelter, who completed the autopsy, noted levels of methamphetamine, amphetamine and THC — the mind-altering component in marijuana — in Gavin Bolen's system. He also noted levels of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine, two narcotic analgesics often used to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain.

Recently retired Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen agreed that the combination of substances could have contributed to the events leading up to Gavin Bolen's drowning.

"Your perceptions are altered, and the drugs may have made it more likely that he drowned or got into a situation where he drowned," Dobersen said.

Dobersen said the levels of methamphetamine prescribed by a doctor to treat attention deficit disorder or obesity would appear in the blood in a range from 10 to 50 nanograms per milliliter. Toxic levels range from 60 to 5,000, and lethal levels are those greater than 10,000, Dobersen said.

The level found in Gavin Bolen's blood was within the toxic range at 1,012 nanograms per milliliter, but Dobersen said it's difficult to know what effect that level would have had.

"It's a very unpredictable drug," Dobersen said. "It's a very potent stimulus, so it has very similar actions to cocaine, and just a little bit can affect someone very unpredictably."

'What really happened?'

Police are trying to figure out what led to Gavin Bolen's body ending up in the creek. Boulder police Detective Chuck Heidel said investigators are trying to "rule out" foul play.

Heidel said Gavin Bolen was last seen near the library by Boulder Creek, which he recalled was running high that week.

"He wasn't real thrilled about sleeping there and walked off," Heidel said. "And so that was the last time anybody saw him. There's a bit of a gap there. Did he go off to find some other place to sleep, or what really happened?"

Heidel asked that anyone with information about the case call him at 303-441-3339.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com.