By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
The smell of manure, sweet and earthy, permeates everything in and around the tiny farming enclave of Wiggins. Its musk is carried in the wind as it blows across the brown, dusty fields and then settles in the streets and stores and tiny backyards of the houses in town--an appropriate stamp for a place carved from the prairie and dependent upon crops and cattle.
Townsfolk claim there are still 600 people here. But only a half-dozen shops still survive along Main Street, and the concerns that line the road leading into and out of town--the bank, post office, a cafe and a grocery store--seem to do a desultory business. The only real signs of life radiate from the belching semis pulled up to the Farmer's Co-op elevators and from the schoolyard, where aspiring athletes can be seen hustling up and down the playing fields year round.
There isn't much to do in Wiggins, which sits just off Interstate 76 on the northeastern plains. Denver is more than an hour's drive to the southwest, and Sterling is almost as far in the opposite direction. Adults can choose to drive out to the Oasis Bar for a beer and a game of pool. Teenagers are pretty much limited to walking over to Main Street to buy a 35-cent pop from the Pepsi machine in front of the lawn and garden store--or, if they have transportation, a trip to Stub's Gas and Oil out on Highway 39 to rent a video. The closest fast-food joints and other teen hangouts are fifteen miles away in the county seat of Fort Morgan.
That geographical isolation may be why high school sports have become so important in the town. Any kid with decent grades and an acceptable level of coordination and determination is encouraged to participate in at least one varsity sport, and the teams tend to play before large, enthusiastic crowds, even at away games, which often draw traveling caravans of hometown boosters. The Wiggins High School Tigers have brought home state championships in baseball and basketball, and the school is especially proud of the several state championship wrestlers it has produced over the past quarter-century. Last year, before an audience the town manager estimated to include half the population of Wiggins, the Tigers won their first state 2A wrestling championship. And this past February, the wrestlers took second place at the state tournament in Denver, causing some folks to speak excitedly in terms of a dynasty.
Within 24 hours, however, the celebration was over. A 28-year-old farmer and volunteer firefighter named Jeff Lousberg--the older brother of Wiggins wrestler Jim Lousberg--lay dying, the victim of a brutal beating. Charles "Butch" Allee Jr., the father of wrestler Charles Allee III, was already in jail, charged with the attack. And within a week, 17-year-old Charles was also under arrest, accused of helping kill the brother of his former best friend and teammate, Jim Lousberg.
The Allees are claiming self-defense. The Lousbergs say it was out-and-out murder, as do the authorities, who've charged the Allees with second-degree murder and have decided to try teenager Charles Allee as an adult. Throughout town, people are taking sides and chewing over the facts of the case. The one thing they're sure about is why Lousberg was killed. It started with an argument over high school wrestling.
That Butch Allee languishes in the Morgan County Jail facing a murder charge does not come as a great surprise to some of his neighbors. "In my opinion," says one woman, "it was going to happen sometime, just because of the way he was. He was always out for somebody, and somebody was going to end up killed."
In a town of ranchers and bean farmers, where work shirts and flat-tops are the standard uniform, the 46-year-old Allee flaunted his long hair and biker clothing. He unnerved residents with his quick temper and gaudy tattoos, and he offended them with his seeming aversion to steady work.
Lawyers for Butch and Charles Allee won't let their clients talk about the case, and members of the Allees' immediate family also decline comment. But it's clear that Butch didn't have to move to Wiggins to stand out in a crowd. His forehead is emblazoned with a band of tattoos that appear to make flames lick his face. His chest and stomach are mostly obscured by a tattooed landscape complete with mountain peaks, the sun, a stream, rolling plains and an eagle in flight. Cobwebs adorn each elbow. His forearms, too, carry inky decorations, and Wiggins police chief John Fryar says he believes the backs of Butch's arms are etched with the words "Fuck" and "White Power."
The word around town is that Allee used to be hooked up with a biker gang, and some people think he might have ridden with the Sons of Silence or even the Hell's Angels. But according to police, Butch wasn't a Hell's Angel--or any kind of angel, for that matter. His mother, Lea Allee, who lives in Commerce City, says her son hasn't run with the biker crowd "for a long time." Even back when he was growing up, she says, he was a regular boy whose early run-ins with the law were limited to "petty little things, like most kids." His arrest record, however, belies Lea's rose-colored memories.