Deceased woman’s family fighting responders over controversial donation

Carol Colby, 86, donated $60,000 to four emergency response agencies, but her family wants to use the money to pay off her debts and cover funeral expenses

By EMS1 Staff

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — A woman’s dying wish to donate money to emergency responders has her family in a battle to instead use the funds to pay off her debts.

KOAA reported that Carol Colby, 86, took out two life insurance policies amounting to around $60,000 with the intentions of dividing them evenly among the N.E. Teller County Fire Department, Woodland Park Police Department, Teller County Search and Rescue and Woodland Park Ambulance Service, which is now Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District.

However, since the names in her will differed from the names on the life insurance policies, the agencies are seeking legal help after Colby’s family expressed a desire to use the money to pay off her debts, save her home and cover funeral expenses.

Colby’s granddaughter, Kellie Johnson, said Colby left them with $30,000 in debt, and she is responsible for paying them.


"A creditor can put a claim in against the estate," Johnson said. "That executor (me) can be ordered by a court to liquidate their assets to satisfy that debt."

Johnson said she asked all of the agencies to reject the money.

"I told each one of them first off, I know legally you don't have to do it (reject the money)," she said. "I'm just asking, as her granddaughter, as her family, would you please respectfully decline the money so that we could pay her debts, pay her bills and save her house so it doesn’t have to be sold to pay the bills."

The Northeast Teller County Fire Department rejected the money, but the other agencies have not.

Johnson said she is most upset with Teller County Search and Rescue, who said they were accepting the money as a “thank you” for saving her when she was lost in the woods 20 years ago.

TCSR president John Slaughter sent Johnson an email claiming they found Colby in a valley, and sent her pictures of who they claimed to be Johnson’s grandfather, grandmother and brother after the rescue.

"They are not of my grandma, or my grandpa or any of my brothers," Johnson said.  "I sent them pictures showing this is not her."

Despite the photo mix-up, the agency’s attorney, Michael Slivka, backed up their claims that they did in fact save Colby.

"It must be remembered that your grandmother's life was saved by Search and Rescue when she was lost years ago in the woods," Slivka said. "It seems obvious that her wish was to continue the good work done by this organization."

"She has never gone missing," Johnson said.

"Whether or not she was saved by Search and Rescue is irrelevant," Slaughter said. "I'm sorry I sent out those pictures. I thought I was doing a nice thing. Hey I think I found a picture of your grandma and our team seems to remember it. Are those pictures of Miss Colby? Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. How could I possibly contest that they were?"

Slaughter added that they are legally entitled to the money and that the agency relies heavily on donations and grants.

"This money will greatly benefit the organization and it was specifically set aside for our organization to use," Slaughter said. "Yes, she doesn't want to sell the house and you know what, she doesn't have to sell the house. She can take out a mortgage. She could take out a mortgage for $20,000. What would that payment on that be – practically pennies."

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