By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
part 2 of 2
On April 20, Debrah came home from work and found Tom pacing about in her kitchen. Over the preceding weeks, she'd heard him make a number of calls to his mother and sisters, all insisting that he was being made a scapegoat for the disappearance of the woman he now referred to as Cher Elder.
"What's the matter, Tom?" she asked.
"Byron called. The police have a video from Central City...I'm on it with Cher," he replied. "But the boys screwed up and said they didn't know me. I called the cops, and now they want to come and talk to me."
"I want to be there," Debrah said.
Tom agreed. In fact, he'd already arranged for the cops to meet him at Debrah's. He asked her to wait fifteen minutes after the police arrived and then walk in as if she didn't know anything.
She did as she was told. When she returned to the house, two Lakewood police detectives were there. One of the detectives, the bald one, said something to Tom.
"Honey, take a walk around the block, would ya?" Tom asked. The conversation between Tom and the detectives looked cordial enough. But she noticed that Tom was recording the discussion, and one of the business cards lying on the table indicated that its bearer, Scott Richardson, was a homicide detective.
Debrah went out and sat in her car. A few minutes later Tom and the detectives walked outside. They seemed almost friendly. Then the bald one, Richardson, walked over to Tom's Geo Metro.
"Would you mind opening it?" he asked. Tom complied. Looking in, Richardson said, "Those are stolen tools."
Suddenly the two men were snarling at each other like wolves. Richardson said he'd be back. Tom said he'd want a lawyer present.
Missing girl, like hell, Debrah thought as she went into the apartment. A moment later, Tom came slamming in. "They're going to try to frame me," he snapped.
The next day Tom told Debrah he was going to find out what was going on. He needed to call somebody nicknamed Mortho, a Denver drug dealer who apparently knew everything. But he couldn't call on Debrah's phone, he said, because it was probably tapped.
While Tom was gone, Debrah listened to the tape he'd made of the interview with the detectives and heard Tom confess to having sex, "a quick little intercourse thing," in his car with Cher.
Tom returned a short while later. "You had no right to be with that woman, Tom," she yelled. "You were supposed to be in a relationship with me!"
The woman was dead, Tom told her. "She was a snitch, so they cut off her lips and dumped her body along a road as a warning to other snitches. Now I've got to find her and dispose of the body. With my record, they'll be coming after me."
That night, when they got into bed, Tom cried. "I wish I never got involved," he said. Whatever had happened, Debrah knew she loved him--at least the good part of him--and she held him tight. And when at last he slept, she turned her anger on Cher Elder. You had no business going anywhere with my boyfriend, she thought. If you got killed, it's your own goddamn fault.
The next morning she asked Tom what she could do to help. He told her he'd need some camping equipment so that he could go find and bury the body. Debrah helped him pack.
Two days later Tom was back. "Did you get it taken care of?" she asked.
"Yes, she's buried," he said, and told how he'd taken her to a spot off eastbound I-70 and used plastic cups to dig a shallow grave. It was near a historical marker of some sort, where travelers stopped to stretch and walk their dogs.
"You couldn't do better than that?" she demanded. "Dogs will dig her up. You're going to have to do it again."
Debrah couldn't think straight. Maybe if Tom was caught for some small crime, he'd be sent to prison and the whole Cher Elder thing would go away.
She called the Larimer County sheriff's office and told a deputy that Tom was getting marijuana sent to him in the mail. The deputy put her on hold, then came back on the line and told Debrah she needed to come in.
The next day was the Friday before Mother's Day. Tom was over watching movies and eating pizza with Debrah's sons and husband; the two men had reached some sort of understanding and actually got along fairly well. Debrah said she needed to run out to buy a Mother's Day card. "I'll be back soon," she promised.
She headed straight to the sheriff's office, where she tried to tell a deputy about Tom's petty crimes. But the conversation kept coming back to the missing woman.
Finally another man came out of a back room. It was Detective Richardson. "I want to know about Cher Elder," he said.
When Debrah hesitated, Richardson described in detail Tom's horrific assault on Mary. "He's also a suspect in two other murders in Summit County," the detective said. "Kidnapped them, raped them and shot them."