LONGMONT, Colo. (KDVR) — The Econo Lodge in Longmont was supposed to be a safe place for Nicole Gallegos on the night of Jan. 3.
Instead, it’s where Weld County prosecutors say Cody Czichos nearly killed his former girlfriend.
“He should never, ever, ever have any access to that key at all,” Gallegos said.
Now the 38-year-old Berthoud woman is suing Choice Hotels, the corporate owner of Econo Lodge, in a lawsuit that accuses the hotel chain of gross negligence.
The hotel, she said, “basically opened the door and let him come after me.”
Escaping a toxic relationship
Gallegos told the Problem Solvers she was heading to Denver International Airport the next day to leave behind her toxic relationship with the 31-year-old Czichos.
She was staying at the Econo Lodge with her mother, and the two women agreed to let Czichos eat pizza with them in the room as a final goodbye. But they kicked him out of the room when, according to the lawsuit, Czichos “began to act irrationally and unpredictably.”
Czichos left the room but not the hotel. According to a Weld County Sheriff’s deputy’s incident report obtained by the Problem Solvers, “Cody walked up to the front desk, asked for a piece of paper and pen to write a break-up letter.”
The husband and wife working the front desk at the Econo Lodge that night told deputies they believed “Cody was intoxicated … and was using a lot of profanity.” When the couple asked Cody if he was OK, he replied, “I just took a crap ton of Xanax.” Yet according to investigators, Czichos “somehow talked the desk into giving him a key.”
Throat cut, teeth knocked out
Gallegos said she woke up to Czichos stabbing her in her bed, having no idea how he had entered the room.
“He said, ‘I’m going to f—ng kill you, c—.’ And then he cut it right there,” she said, making a slicing motion across her throat. “And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ and then he kicked me on the floor, and that’s when he knocked my teeth out and he’s like, ‘I like the smell of your blood,’ and, ‘Do you like the way my boot tastes?'”
As Czichos was allegedly stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her mother, Carol Gonzales, had run to the front desk demanding staff call 911.
FOX31 later met Gonzales at one of Czichos’ court hearings, and the 70-year-old was still in disbelief that it was the staff who gave Czichos a key to the hotel room — especially because Gonzales was the person who paid for the room and was the listed room guest.
“If they had not given him that key that night, we would not be here. I truly don’t believe we would be here,” Gonzales said.
Lawsuit filed against Econo Lodge, parent company
Gallegos is now taking the case to court.
“They are the gatekeepers. They’re entrusted with the security of the guests in their room,” said Matthew Haltzman, an attorney who filed the lawsuit on Gallegos’ behalf in Weld County District Court.
The complaint names the Econo Lodge at Longmont and Premier Hospitality, Inc, a hotel brand under parent company Choice Hotels.
“They (hotel staff) witness the assailant write a letter out to Ms. Gallegos. He’s actually vocalizing this letter that he’s writing, saying that she’s a b—- and that he wants to leave her. … And then after all of that, he simply asks for a room key to their room and the hotel front desk hands it to him,” Haltzman said.
Haltzman told the Problem Solvers hotel staff never asked for Czichos’ ID or checked to see if he was a registered guest. And then the hotel front desk worker admitted to Weld County sheriff’s deputies that none of the surveillance cameras in the hotel were working at the time of the attack.
“There were cameras on the premises, but quite a few of those cameras didn’t have SD cards. They hadn’t for a period of at least a year,” Haltzman said, before adding, “This all could have been prevented had just the most basic safety procedures been in place and the hotel just simply did their job.”
Czichos has been charged with attempted murder, domestic violence assault and assault. He has an arraignment scheduled for June 20.
FOX31 reached out to Choice Hotels repeatedly for more than two months asking for comment but never received a response.
“They are a hotel, right? And I’m staying there. So you should have not only protected yourself, but you should have protected me,” Gallegos said.