Teen hitchhiker accused of attacking 71-year-old woman identified

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- The 16-year-old hitchhiker accused of attacking a 71-year-old woman in Lefthand Canyon has been identified as Jeffrey Collins, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

Collins is wanted for attempted first-degree murder and assaulting an at-risk adult.

The victim, Katie Kulpa, was in intensive care with a significant head injury and multiple fractures Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff's office said. Her condition was upgraded to serious on Wednesday.

Sheriff’s investigators had to get a court order to release Collins' name because he is a juvenile. A judge decided the danger he poses to the public is greater than his privacy.

"The court is allowing for the release of the juvenile information because he is at large and considered dangerous," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "He is also likely to be filed as an adult into district court upon his apprehension."

The sheriff's office said Collins was hitchhiking with two companions near Ward on Monday when Kulpa picked them up and offered them a place to stay until they could arrange a ride home after a camping trip.

“Through our investigation, we determined she had befriended three young people up there and she brought them back to her house,” sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Cullen said.

The hitchhikers were at Kulpa's home for several hours when Collins suggested they assault her so they could steal her vehicle, the sheriff's office said. Investigators said the two others didn't go along with the plan.

Then, suddenly, they say Collins hit the elderly woman in the head with a fireplace poker that broke in half.

“It was a surprise to the other two. It came out of the blue,” Cullen said.

The two companions ran to a home about a half-mile away to report the assault, the sheriff's office said. They are cooperating with deputies.

“I believe if the other two hadn’t called, I think she would have died of her injuries,” Cullen said.

Investigators said the victim lives in a remote area with no phone, no running water and no easy way to access the outside world.

“It’s a 71-year-old lady that’s trying to help these kids, doing everything she could for them, giving them food, offering them a place to stay that night, and for no reason, hits her in the head, very significantly,” Cullen said.

Kulpa has been upgraded to serious condition at Boulder Community Hospital with a significant head injury, multiple fractures and cuts.

The sheriff's office also wants to talk to the driver of a white hatchback who gave Collins a ride west into Ward.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Collins is asked to contact local law enforcement, or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or at NOCOCrimeStoppers.com.

GoFundMe page for Kulpa has been established.