By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
In the next four hours, room 452 became a crime epicenter. Greeley's SWAT team assembled in the dorm, and the phone line to room 452 was hooked up so that as soon as somebody picked up the receiver it would ring to a negotiator. News helicopters hovered overhead while national networks and newspapers scrambled to get somebody to Greeley.
The hostages say they feared for their lives the entire time, but the room became a surreal place, with some periods of laughter and sympathy. Lara Von Tersch--who has always wanted to be an FBI agent--says there were calm moments and glimmers of charm and even tenderness from their captor. "He would go from being angry to being the nicest guy I've ever met in my life," Von Tersch says.
From time to time he would walk away from his gun, at one point putting it down and going around a corner to pee in a cup. Von Tersch remembers Hocker whispering to her, "Pick up the gun and shoot him." She thought about it, her mind racing to consider whether she would have time to throw the gun out the window or if she would be able to shoot him. She decided against it; she had never shot a handgun and, besides, she didn't know if she could look at Joe Gallegos and pull the trigger. "I knew him," Von Tersch says. "If I hadn't known this guy, I probably could have done it. I knew who he was. I felt sorry for him."
Gallegos apparently hadn't clipped enough articles about hostage situations. He didn't get the idea of making demands, Von Tersch says, until she and Robin Adams figured out that it would be a good way to get the third freshman, Mansfield, out of the room, because she was not holding up well to the overwhelming pressure. The girls came up with the demanded items: pop because they were thirsty, cigarettes and matches because they had run out of the ones Gallegos had shared with them. Gallegos came up with the suggestion of pain pills for Hocker. "We wanted to make it something easy for the cops," Von Tersch says. "We didn't want to demand $20,000. But I guess it was really hard for the cops, because it took them really long to get us the pop."
Adams had been doing the talking with Gallegos's approval, but Mansfield eventually picked up the phone and, according to Von Tersch, made it clear to the police: They didn't even need to send the stuff right away, they just needed to agree to send it. Just say yes, she told them. She then handed the phone to Gallegos and after a few moments, the negotiator told him what he wanted to hear, and Gallegos told Mansfield she could leave. The authorities later sent some pop up in a backpack attached to a series of extension cords and rope because Gallegos didn't want to open the door. Von Tersch remembers it like this: "It took them forever. They sent up a six-pack of pop, and he was pissed. There was no painkiller, no cigarettes and there was no lighter. He called them back and said, 'I put my trust in you and all you sent me was this bullshit. I'm giving you ten minutes, and if you don't send up those cigarettes and a lighter, I'm throwing one of these girls out the window.'"
After he said that, he turned and put on the smile that had won him trust so many times in the past. He told them he was just joking, just trying to scare the negotiators.
While the cops were scrambling around trying to find cigarettes--they eventually bummed a couple off a student--they were also on the phone to Jeb Bryant and the Bayfield marshal's office. The race to Turville's house was on. Bryant, who arrived first, recalls that he knew something was wrong as soon as he arrived and found the door locked, which it never had been before. He went in through the garage and made the sepulchral discovery. Marshal Harrington says he arrived just as an ashen-faced Bryant was walking out of the home.
When Harrington confirmed that there were three bodies inside, tension among Greeley police officers escalated exponentially. "It was clear the situation was deteriorating," says Sergeant John Gates, a spokesman for the Greeley Police Department. Before that, they had been treating Gallegos like a lovesick teenager. After the news came from Bayfield, they thought of him as a man willing to use deadly force.
Tension also escalated inside room 452. When the cigarettes came with no matches, Gallegos started swearing and tearing the room apart looking for some kind of lighter. He found an iron, plugged it in and told Von Tersch to light the cigarette with that. "So I'm holding this red hot iron two inches from my face looking at this guy," she recalls, "and I'm saying, 'It's not working.'"
Hocker, meanwhile, was in pain but quiet. When Gallegos got back on the phone with police, he yelled at them for not sending painkillers. He held the phone out in her direction and told her to talk. Von Tersch and Adams urged her to scream so that they would know how much pain she was in. Von Tersch disputes newspaper reports at the time that the hostages were "begging" for their lives. "We weren't begging for our lives," she says. "We were begging for painkillers for Heidi."