Castle Rock, CO

Arrest affidavit sheds light on mother’s death, Castle Rock house fire

Heather Willard
Matthew Buchanan.Courtesy Castle Rock Police Department

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / July 8, 2022

(Castle Rock, Colo.) Matthew Buchanan, 32, is behind bars in Douglas County for allegedly killing his mother and setting fire to her house to cover up the crime.

Officers caught Buchanan in early May in Key West, Florida, and he was extradited to Colorado. He is being held without bond with a Sept. 15 court date.

He faces charges of second-degree murder, first-degree murder, first-degree arson, tampering with a deceased body, and tampering with physical, evidence. Charges were filed when detectives began investigating the death of Elizabeth Bjorlow, 59, who was found inside her burning home the afternoon of April 26, 2022.

Castle Rock police officers and fire crews were first called to the area of Dove Valley Place and Paint Pony Circle for a residential fire at about 2:35 p.m. Officers made contact with Bryan Bjorlow, Elizabeth’s husband, outside the home, and broke through the front door lock to rescue Christopher Bjorlow, Bryan’s brother, who was trapped inside due to medical conditions.

While searching for any other occupants in the home, the officer found Elizabeth on her back, covered in blood, on the floor between the kitchen island and stove. The officer also found a smoking box in the foyer that looked out of place and removed it from the house.

Once the fire was extinguished, detectives observed Elizabeth and saw marks on her face, head and hands that were inconsistent with an accidental fall. Blood was distributed along kitchen cabinets and the countertops, according to the affidavit. Additionally, her clothing appeared to have been set on fire and partially burned, and it appeared that her body had been moved after her death.

A side bedroom was heavily damaged by fire and smoke, and according to fire personnel, this door was closed, slowing the fire. Investigators found three ignition points in the house.

Neighbors supplied video of a white minivan squealing its tires in the cul-de-sac a few minutes before first responders were called about the fire.

Detectives discovered Matthew Buchanan owned the minivan.

Bryan and Christopher later told police that Matthew Buchanan previously attacked Elizabeth during an argument. Christopher, who had been in the house all day, informed police he heard Elizabeth and Matthew arguing, before smelling smoke.

An autopsy revealed defensive wounds on her hands, in addition to stab wounds on her back, neck and face and burn marks on different parts of her body.

Detectives began searching for Matthew Buchanan, pinging two of his known cell phones which were found as if discarded from a vehicle on Founders Parkway. They also tracked his credit cards and found purchases of gas in Kansas and Missouri. They also interviewed his other family members, including his sister, who said she had been emailing with him over the preceding 24-hours.

She said his behavior changed drastically, becoming upset and erratic, according to the arrest affidavit. She said he had previously threatened to kill her on “many occasions” previously, and during their emails he began to threaten her and her family, as well as Elizabeth.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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