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"It's more than embarrassing," says Pichon. "It's humiliating. Self-debasement. I don't know what to say."
What he eventually says is this: On the evening of December 30, 1995, he tried to lift some food from the Cub Foods store at 20th and Sheridan. He got caught.
"When I got Mr. Pichon's name," Manzaneras continues, "I made the standard call to records to have them clear him. And that's when the fugitive warrant from Kansas came up--something to do with a bank robbery there."
"The officer said, `Have you ever been arrested before?'" Pichon recalls. "And I said, `Yeah.' Then he asked, `Do you have a scar on your stomach?'
"And that's when I thought, `Oh, no. Not again.'"
"Everything matched," says Manzaneras. "It was to a T, just about: Social Security number, green eyes, the stomach scars--everything. Records radioed back and said, `Sure enough, that's the guy.' So I had him stand up and turn around. And I cuffed him."
Douglas Pichon showed up at the Jefferson County jail just before midnight December 30. "The first thing they did," he says, "is put me in one of those little orange suits, which was way too tight, and the foam slippers. And it's demeaning, because they check to see if you're carrying anything inside you, if you know what I mean."
"Next," he continues, "they took me to a counselor, who's supposed to figure out if you can handle incarceration. I said, `Young lady, none of that is my concern. My concern is that I shouldn't be here. I'm sure that you've heard that a lot. But this has happened to me before.' She told me she'd tell her supervisor."
On Sunday, December 31, the jail's acting supervisor was Rick Lang. "I've been around, and I've learned a lot from it," says Lang. A Marine Corps veteran, former phone company employee and Radio Shack salesman, Lang signed on with the Jeffco sheriff's department six years ago. "It's not my job to judge people," he says. "It's up to the little guy with the robe up on the hill." So he doesn't mind that most of his work is at the county lockup.
"Pichon came in from Edgewater on this fugitive warrant from Topeka, Kansas," Lang recalls. "He kept on saying, `It's not me! It's not me!'
"But, of course," he adds, "we hear that quite a bit."
Still, something about Pichon was compelling. "I don't know--maybe it was his demeanor, his manner. But he didn't sound like he was pulling anybody's legs," says Lang. "I was busy, though, and I didn't have a chance to look into it. It wasn't until about 4:30 that afternoon that I began getting involved." For starters, he requested Pichon's fingerprints from Kansas.
Lang's first clue that Pichon's story might not be jailhouse schlock came via the return teletype from Kansas. It listed a fingerprint classification that didn't match. And when Lang ran Pichon's local record, the Denver arrest turned up.
"In the process of looking at that," Lang says, "it became clear that we now had the same person that Denver had last year."
Lang remained cautious. At the very least, he figured, the Denver cops would have given Pichon some sort of document explaining that he wasn't the man Kansas wanted. (Pichon says he had exactly such a paper but that he had lost it. And when his computer crashed, he lost all the names of the Denver cops he'd dealt with.)
Lang also had to concede that if the man wanted for the bank robbery in Kansas and the man in the cell down the hall weren't the same person, they sure had a lot in common. Their Social Security numbers were nearly identical, the name and birthdate matched, and then there was the physical description: green eyes and a stomach scar.
Lang requested photos from Kansas.
While he waited, he decided to go talk with his prisoner. "I deal with people on a very light tone, to take the tension down," he explains. "I can walk into a location in the jail where the tension is high, and just by the way I deal with people, turn that level from high tension to low tension. I've got a lot of little cliches I use to break the ice. So when I entered Pichon's cell, I decided to say `Good morning' in Japanese. Of course, it wasn't morning."
The funny thing, Pichon says, was that he understood him. "Remember--I'd lived in Tokyo for four years," he adds. "He made me laugh. He told me it would take a little while to get me out."
"I didn't want to give him any promises," says Lang. "Just in case."
But Lang's doubts dissolved when the pictures arrived from Kansas. "They sent a 1985 photo and a 1993 photo of the guy they were looking for," he says. "Even though they were eight years apart, the two photos were definitely the same person."
They were not, however, the Douglas Pichon residing in Jeffco's jail. Says Lang, "I thought, `We have a problem here.'"
He placed another call to the Kansas Department of Corrections, as well as one to the on-duty assistant district attorney. "I wanted to resolve it that day," Lang says. "You know--the last good deed of 1995."