Gray was placed in the cell with six other inmates. One of them was Daniel Green, who was also slated to testify in the Smith case.

At 10:30 that morning, the prisoners in the holding cell started calling out frantically for help. Something was wrong with Green, they said. Green was rushed to Denver General Hospital, where he died an hour later from a lacerated spleen. Somebody had hit Green in the gut hard enough to kill him.

Gray's version of events didn't hold up under questioning from Denver police. He told detectives that the morning Green died, a guard had come into the cell and announced, "Green, you're here to testify against Cricket." When the guard left, Gray told the cops, "two black guys jumped on Green and beat him."

The remaining five inmates in the holding cell told police a different story. They all said they'd been trying to sleep when they heard loud voices and looked up to see "the big white guy with tattoos" grabbing Green by the hair and beating him. One prisoner added that he'd seen Gray standing over the victim yelling, "You're going to open your big mouth, you son of a bitch! I'm going to kick your fucking ass! I'm going to kill you!"

Green's response to the threats, another inmate told authorities, was a desperate and pitiful attempt to save his own neck. "Marv, I don't know why I'm here," Green reportedly cried. "I don't know why I'm here, Marv."

Gray was charged with first-degree murder in late 1992 and sent to the state prison system's diagnostic center in Denver. There psychological testing pinpointed him as a prime candidate for maximum security. But according to a lawsuit filed by another inmate in 1994, prison officials instead upgraded Gray's classification to "close," a designation between medium and maximum security. That allowed Gray in the summer of 1993 to move to the prison in Limon.

Most of the cells in Limon are single-occupancy. But when the need arises for double bunking, prison staffers are supposed to search for compatible cellmates, based on the theory that the happier prisoners are, the less likely they are to cause trouble. Race and age are two of the factors that go into making a housing decision. If inmates are friends, every effort is made to allow them to bunk together.

Gray's first cellie was "an older dude," he says. "Fifty, at least." The older man didn't make much of an impression on Gray. On July 19, however, Gray was paired with blonde, blue-eyed Gary Hilton, a 27-year-old in on a contraband rap.

In a later affidavit, Hilton said that while he knew of Gray's history of violent assaults, "staff assured me...there would not be any problems with Gray." It was an assurance the staff never should have made.

Immediately after lockdown on the day he'd moved in, Hilton wrote, "Gray immediately began to act strange, and stated that he wanted to do something to me. With that comment, he reached up to the second bunk, pulling me by my T-shirt to the floor, where he began to physically beat me with his bare hands. For the better part of an hour, he beat me. He continued to physically beat me until he knocked me unconscious with his fist.

"When I awakened sometime later," Hilton wrote, "I found him sexually molesting me with his hands, mouth and other parts of his body."

Hilton said in the affidavit that he again resisted, giving up only when his energy diminished and his pain overcame his will. Gray then "continued his attack for a couple of hours until he was satisfied," Hilton wrote. The battered Hilton lay awake the rest of the night.

Snitching is an affront to the convict code, the informal set of guidelines that governs life in the joint. But the next morning Hilton went to his caseworker, Judy Lindsey, and told her he'd been raped. In a written report of that meeting, Lindsey wrote that Hilton "appeared distraught." Hilton told her that he'd been raped sometime after 9 p.m. the night before. "I asked if his cellmate was in the cell at the time," Lindsey wrote, "and he said `no.'" Hilton told Lindsey only that he'd been threatened and that if he had refused the demands of his "attackers," he would have been killed.

"Hilton is scared and didn't want to give me more information," Lindsey noted in her report. "When I tried to send him back to his cell to wait the hour before his appointment with Dr. Hedgemen, he started talking about killing himself. When I asked Hilton if he was sure his cellmate had nothing to do with the sexual assault, he started to shudder. However, he said nothing."

Hilton was placed in an isolation cell for observation. He told staffers that he "felt dirty" and "no longer a man," and that the rape brought back memories of his being raped as a child. Mental-health workers considered Hilton's state of mind so precarious that they ordered him placed on suicide watch.

Hilton was kept in isolation for several days, until he was moved to the Arapahoe County Jail for a previously scheduled hearing. Gray remained behind, awaiting a new roommate.

end of part 1

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