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Denver detective's handling of domestic violence report under investigation in wake of murder

Victim of Aug. 5 killing had alleged months earlier that her boyfriend had tried to strangle her.

DENVER — The murder of a woman last month -- allegedly at the hands of her longtime boyfriend – sparked an internal investigation into a Denver police detective’s handling of an earlier domestic violence report involving the couple, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Elizabeth “Liz” Hatlas, 50, was found dead Aug. 5 in the backyard of a home in the 3600 block of High Street with an orange extension cord wrapped around her neck.

Denver police arrested the owner of the home, Travis Tuomi, 43, the day after Hatlas’ body was discovered, and he faces charges of first-degree murder and tampering with a body.

RELATED: Woman identified in north Denver homicide; ex-boyfriend arrested

Tuomi, who was denied bail, is not due back in court until Nov. 21.

The murder case sparked an internal investigation into a domestic violence report Hatlas made May 11 in which she alleged that Tuomi had tried to strangle her in February, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Credit: KUSA
Liz Hatlas

In response to questions from 9NEWS, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman acknowledged that detective Ana Munoz was under investigation and released a statement about the incident: “The Denver Police Department itself opened an internal affairs investigation under the specification ‘Duties and Responsibilities of a Detective’ related to the investigation of a May 11, 2022, report of a domestic violence-related aggravated assault that reportedly occurred on Feb. 13, 2022. Because the internal affairs investigation is ongoing, we are unable to provide additional information at this time.”

Munoz could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. Schepman said he could not forward a message to Munoz while the internal affairs investigation is ongoing.

According to court documents obtained by 9Wants to Know, police were called to the same home twice in May for incidents involving Hatlas and Tuomi.

The first time, on May 5, Tuomi called 911, reporting a verbal disturbance with Hatlas – but after officers arrived, “both agreed to stay in separate rooms and not bother each other,” according to court records.

Then, on May 11, Hatlas called 911 to report a verbal disturbance.

When officers arrived, Tuomi was gone – but as they questioned Hatlas, she reported the incident three months earlier in which she alleged that he tried to strangle her.

It is the follow up on that complaint that is at the center of the internal investigation of Munoz.

A neighbor told investigators that Hatlas has lived with Tuomi for “about eight years,” according to an arrest affidavit in the case, which describes the murder – much of it captured by a neighbor’s surveillance camera – in detail.

That neighbor told detectives that on Aug. 4 she saw Hatlas on the front porch of the home, that she was “very upset” and yelled “f------ look at this.” The neighbor said she saw blood on Hatlas’ legs and that the woman said, “game on,” and walked back into the home.

That same day, the security camera footage showed Tuomi and Hatlas in the backyard, according to the affidavit, appearing to “argue” and exhibiting “aggressive mannerisms” that stopped short of physical contact, according to the affidavit.

Then, for more than an hour and 40 minutes, Tuomi and Hatlas appeared to work on a car parked in the alley behind the home.

At one point, according to the document, Tuomi “abruptly gets up and walks toward the victim and appears to be hitting something.” Moments later, the footage captured Hatlas walking toward Tuomi “with an unknown item in her hand” – followed by what’s described as a “brief struggle which is blocked by a tree,” according to the affidavit.

For a time, it appeared to show Hatlas was “struggling while the suspect watches her,” according to the affidavit, before it captured the man believed to be Tuomi with “something in his hands which appears to be orange in color.”

A short time later, according to the affidavit, a friend of Tuomi’s received a photograph in a text message that appeared to show Hatlas’ lifeless body on the ground, partially beneath a vehicle.

That woman went to the High Street home that night, and she and Tuomi went to a “rave type club,” returning early the morning of Aug. 5, according to the affidavit. At that point, the woman said she went to the backyard and saw Hatlas’ body.

About three hours later, she called police.

Munoz has been disciplined before.

According to city records obtained by 9Wants to Know, she was suspended for 18 days after an incident in October 2019 in which her patrol car was stolen.

In that case, according to records, she left a department-issued rifle in the front seat of her car – rather than locked in the trunk or in a rack. The man who stole her car later pointed that rifle at other Denver officers, who shot and killed him.

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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