By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
part 3 of 3
In March 1993, Heather Smith was 27 years old and working at her father's company. She had many girlfriends and welcomed admiring looks from men attracted to her face and a body that had once made her a nationally ranked swimmer.
Her friends thought Heather led a charmed life. She seemed so strong, so self-confident. They didn't know she'd battled bulimia since she was fourteen years old and her swimming coach had scolded her for not doing better. She'd gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet with the team that night, gorged herself, then walked to the restroom and stuck a finger down her throat.
They didn't know that brave, strong Heather was afraid of the dark.
Heather's friends were aware of one problem in her life: her ex-boyfriend, Jason. She had been attracted to his dark good looks and mysterious airs--he'd even told her that he had friends who exacted revenge on those they didn't like, but he wouldn't elaborate. During their four-year relationship, Jason had grown increasingly possessive and abusive, once ordering Heather out of his car in a dark, downtown Denver alley until she begged to stay. Another time when she threatened to leave him, he held a gun to his head and said, "Now you know what I have to live with every day."
She'd dated other men, nice guys who adored her, but she always wound up going back to Jason. During one of their good periods, Heather made the mistake of borrowing $7,000 from him so that she could buy a small house near Washington Park. That was in January 1991. The relationship ended for good a short time later and now, two years later, Jason was demanding his money back, stalking Heather and threatening her.
She told two friends about the threats. "If anything ever happens to me," she said, "give Jason's name to the police."
By April Heather was determined to pay Jason back. She decided to sell her car, a sporty little Ford Escort, in order to do so. Her advertisement ran in the newspaper on Sunday, April 11, 1993, and again the following day, but the ad failed to generate a single call. Then her phone rang about 8 p.m. that Monday night.
"Is the car still for sale?" a man asked.
"Yes," she answered. He asked about the color of the car and the price, which she thought odd because both were included in the ad. When he asked if he could come see it, she told him she wasn't feeling well and would prefer to wait until the following day. But he was insistent. "It has to be tonight," he said.
Heather gave in and gave him her address. If she could sell the car, she could get Jason out of her life forever.
Heather was a little uneasy about the man coming over. It was dark and beginning to sleet. She noticed that her neighbor, Rebecca Hascall, was home, so she walked over to let her know what was going on and to take Rebecca a souvenir program she'd picked up at the Colorado Rockies inaugural opening day.
While they were talking, Heather saw a man walk past Rebecca's house and turn toward her own house. "That must be him," she said as she went out the door. "I'll be back in five minutes."
The man was standing on her front porch by the time Heather approached. He looked like a normal guy, about six feet tall, dressed in a green jacket and blue jeans. What she could see of his hair under a blue baseball cap appeared light in color. He was decent-looking, with blue eyes, though there was something peculiar about his nose: His nostrils didn't flare out--she noticed things like that. She also noticed that he had a little roll of fat beneath his chin, a chin framed by a neat, well-groomed beard.
Heather thought he seemed more like a four-wheeler or truck type and wondered why he wanted her little Escort. "You looking for yourself or a wife or girlfriend?" she asked.
"Myself." He started walking to the car parked at the curb across the street. "You can look at it," Heather said, "but I'm not going to drive anywhere tonight."
She went around to the driver's side and got in. He opened the passenger door and sat down. Deciding she was being overly cautious, Heather turned on the car. She showed him the radio and her carefully kept maintenance records. All the while, she waited for him to ask questions. But he just kept running his fingers along the dash, poking a button here, twisting a knob there. He had thick fingers, she noticed, as though he worked with his hands.
"The only things wrong with it are a few cosmetic items," Heather told him. "A piece of plastic is missing under the hatchback."
As though on cue, he said, "I want to look at the back," and got out of the car. Heather turned off the ignition, walked around to the rear and opened the hatchback. She was leaning into the car when she felt a heavy blow to the back of her neck. It was as if she had been hit with a baseball bat.