By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Luther was real agitated, she told Richardson. He had been making threats towards the police, "especially you."
"He's tired of you jackin' him around. He says that if somebody was to take and, uh, kill your wife and family, it'd teach you a lesson."
Richardson asked if she felt safe.
"I don't value my life a whole lot, Mr. Richardson..."
"You think he's going to try to kill ya?"
Snyder hesitated, then didn't answer directly. Luther was "real paranoid," sure that he was being followed (which he was). He would pull off the road suddenly to let cars pass. That morning he had been driving her truck like a madman, whipping around corners, cursing whoever got in his way, especially "bitches."
When he left with J.D., Luther had told her he was going camping and would probably be gone a few days. She said she thought he was going to the mountains to move Cher Elder's body, bury it better. But then she backtracked.
"I don't know if he's buried her at all. You know, I don't know if he did this. It's...it's just a possibility."
"You think he's capable of killing her?" the detective asked.
Again Snyder hesitated. "Yeah, I do," she said. Then she finally answered Richardson's other question: She was afraid to tell Luther to get lost, "afraid of what he might do."
The next day Richardson and other officers followed J.D. Eerebout to Empire, a small mountain community west of Denver, just off I-70. Eerebout had returned to pick up his father's friend. The police watched as J.D. met Luther walking down the road, then pulled the pair over. Luther was ordered to lie down on the pavement.
But a preliminary search of the area yielded nothing, so they had to let him go. In fact, Luther went straight to the Lakewood police impound lot and picked up his Geo Metro that the police had confiscated a few days earlier.
Richardson got another call from Snyder the next day. "Tom was here last night and got his stuff," she said.
"Where was he going?" Richardson asked.
"Chicago." Luther had been boiling mad, she added. "He wanted to whip your ass."
Richardson asked how Snyder was coping. "I feel real hurt," she said. She had called Luther's mother, Betty, who still lived in the Vermont town where Luther had grown up. Snyder knew from Luther's prison psychiatric reports that his mother had been abusive. "She'd go crazy and rant and rave... throw things and hit him." Luther's father had stopped her attacks by beating his wife into submission, she said.
Denver Detective Paul Scott and his partner, Detective Larry Kier, kept Heather Smith's case open as long as they could. After the March 1993 attack on Heather, her ex-boyfriend, Jason, had taken a lie-detector test that had detected no lies. (Then again, Scott mused, the test had detected nothing at all, since Jason hadn't even responded to control questions.)
The detectives had shown Heather photographs of men with assault histories. A couple of times she had thought a man somewhat resembled her attacker. But he was always too short. Or had an alibi.
Finally there was nothing left for the detectives to follow. The case was declared inactive. Scott and Kier made copies of the file and tucked them away in their desks.
After Heather got out of the hospital, she went to live with her mother. Her neighbor, Rebecca Hascall, who'd called 911 that night, went back to her mother's, too. It was a month before the women decided to return to their houses near Washington Park.
Rebecca, a lifelong liberal, brought a gun with her. What was that old saying? A liberal is just a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet? She hated "that man," Heather's attacker, for shattering her belief system, along with any sense of safety. Occasionally she entertained the notion of getting rid of the gun; once she even managed to move it to a hall closet. But it quickly came back to the bedroom after Rebecca dreamed a man was breaking into her house. She had never been afraid of the dark before. Now she dreaded nightfall.
When Heather decided to move home, her friends and family bought her a trained German shepherd guard dog, Heidi, so she wouldn't be alone. Heather's struggle didn't end there, of course. Her friends thought she was reckless to move back home in the first place; after all, her attacker was still out there. Heather wanted to talk about what had happened, but her friends grew tired of listening; one even told her that it had been easier to deal with Heather being hurt physically than it was trying to deal with the emotional damage. When Rebecca heard those comments, she came close to tears. "They're frightened," her mother explained. "We all are. They're trying to make sense of something that makes no sense."
One afternoon, six months after the attack, Heather and Rebecca were talking, as they often did, about how their lives had changed. Heather had withdrawn from her friends. From life. She was afraid to go out. Afraid to date. More afraid of the dark than ever...waking in a cold sweat sure that some monster was hiding in the closet, under her bed, in the shadows. She'd cross the street rather than pass a strange man on the sidewalk.