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SAY ANYTHING

"They fucked me around on that," he says. "I went back to DOC [after testifying in the Wood case] and figured I'd be leaving out of state in a few weeks. But nothing happened. I wrote to my attorney and to the CBI and to the district attorney. No one ever answered."

But that didn't mean no one cared what Chris Rodriguez had to say. Frank's attorneys cared a lot--particularly when Chris began declaring that he, and not his brother, killed Lorraine Martelli.

Chris Rodriguez first began openly claiming that he'd stabbed Martelli in 1989--after he'd exhausted all the appeals in his own case. The revelations came in the form of letters to other inmates. Those documents apparently represent his first public declarations of guilt, although Chris says now that he's been trying to confess to the murder since shortly after his 1984 arrest.

Chris claims that he told attorney Diane Carlton of his desire to confess just days after his arrest, but that she talked him out of it. "Yadda, yadda, yadda," Chris says. "You know how lawyers are. I got so confused." So he kept his mouth shut. Carlton says attorney-client privilege prevents her from commenting on Rodriguez's assertion.

And he says that when he met up with Frank in the county jail a short time after the crime, his brother wouldn't allow him to confess, either. "Frank says, `What the fuck are you doing?'" Chris claims. "He was trying to protect his little brother."

Chris's incriminating letters eventually made their way to prosecutors and then to Frank's public defenders. But while prosecutors didn't put any credence in Chris's confessions, Frank's attorneys--who desperately want to prevent Frank from being executed--found them extremely interesting. Chris's long attempt to own up to the Martelli murder finally culminated in a hearing last year before Denver District Judge Federico Alvarez.

The testimony Chris offered at that hearing proved to be a spectacular bust. He said that he and David Martinez stabbed Martelli. But when pressed by Little, he claimed to be unable to recall that his defense at trial had been to blame his brother. He also said he didn't know whether or not his brother had raped Martelli and that he couldn't remember where the murder weapon was found.

Alvarez declined to vacate Frank's death sentence. Frank's attorneys appealed the matter to the Colorado Supreme Court. And Chris is still trying to take responsibility for the murder.

During the recent interview at Canon City, Chris insists he killed the Denver woman. Somehow, in his mind, it's better to have done that than to have raped her--which he now claims he did not do.

"I started to have sexual relations with her," Chris says, "but I never completed the act. I don't know if I caught a case of guilt, or what. But I didn't complete it. I quit. Something just snapped. I said, `No. Never mind,' and I got out of the car.

"It's like the difference between murder and rape," he says, struggling to explain. "They're two different things. Some things are tolerated. Things are understood. Things are forgiven. Like, if I raped a fifty-year-old woman, it's not going to look good. You have to be in prison and understand the prison experience to know. Rape is acceptable, but it's not very much liked. Murder is acceptable."

While Chris was in Denver last year for his brother's hearing, he figured it was a good time to summon police and prosecutors and confess to a couple of other unsolved murders. But he wanted them to first guarantee him a deal--an out-of-state transfer and no death penalty in return for his confessions. It was the same old song--and a no-lose proposition for him. He's already serving a life sentence; what more could they do to him?

The authorities weren't interested, in part because they found Rodriguez's crimes repulsive and in part because they already possessed details about one or more of the cases to which they believed he intended to confess. Based on informants' tips and information gleaned from some of Chris's letters to other inmates, they believed that Chris wanted to talk about the murder of Steven Mitchell, a 71-year-old man stabbed to death in his home in 1978, and about Lillian Olguine, a 27-year-old woman whose decomposing body was found floating in the Platte River in December 1984.

Investigators have tried for years to link Rodriguez to those deaths, Olguine's in particular. They've repeatedly come up short, but they aren't ready to give up. "We don't doubt that he and his brother may have killed one or more people," says Silverman. But if Chris or his brother did commit those murders, authorities don't want to give up the right to ask for the death penalty for the crimes--a condition Chris Rodriguez has attached to any deal. "The important thing is not just to know who did it," says Denver police division chief Tom Haney, "but to have that person prosecuted."

When last year's attempt to confess failed, Chris went back to the drawing board--and to his hated prison cell, where he is locked down 23 hours a day. Recently Rodriguez petitioned prison officials to allow him back into the general population, even promising to sign a waiver holding them blameless should another inmate take violent offense at his habit of snitching. "I would rather face [death] than stay here," Chris says. "This place is maddening." His request was declined.

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