By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Police made the same connection nearly two weeks later. Detective Richardson had been making steady progress on the Montoya case and was about to wrap it up when the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department got a call from an informant on June 15. The informant said he'd been present when several members of the Westside CMG had sexually assaulted Brandy Duvall; although he hadn't stuck around, he presumed the same group had killed her. And he named Zig-Zag Quintana, Bango Martinez, 23-year-old Francisco Martinez, 16-year-old Frank Vigil and 22-year-old David Warren.
When discussing what to do with the girl, the informant said, Bango Martinez had let the others know that "he was the boss."
A couple of days later, police raided a home in Adams County where they believed Brandy Duvall had been held early on the morning of May 31. Quintana and Vigil were arrested. Francisco Martinez was already in a Denver jail on an unrelated drug charge.
All three were charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. Eighteen-year-old Maurice Warren and nineteen-year-old Jacob Casados were later charged with Brandy Duvall's murder as well.
David Warren and Bango Martinez couldn't be found.
Becky Estrada would not have to wait much longer. Soon after the arrests were made in the Duvall case, Detective Richardson arrested Alejandro and Gerard Ornelas for the first-degree murder of Venus Montoya. Quintana, who was already in jail in Jefferson County, was also charged.
The complaint against the three noted that Montoya's murder had been committed with "universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally." It had been committed in a conspiracy with Daniel "Bango" Martinez, according to the complaint, because the gang members wanted to kill Sal Martinez...for talking to the police.
At Lakewood police headquarters, Detective Scott Richardson signs off on returning property seized from a young man he'd arrested for accessory to murder. The young Latino is dressed in bright red from the top of his Chicago Bulls jersey to his high-top tennis shoes. He is Westside CMG.
"How about my gun?" he asks.
"No," Richardson responds sarcastially. "That stays here."
Turning away from the gangster, Richardson mutters: "Bet I arrest him again within a year."
The detective is growing tired of the gang shootings. Over the past weekend three more young people had been shot, and once again, it was Westside CMG doing the shooting. The leaders of the gang may have been taken down by the events of the past year, but there are always others ready to step into their bloody footprints.
Richardson won't say much about the Montoya killing. He repeats the same general statements he's been giving for the past year. Police believe that the gunmen were after a rival gangmember. "They didn't know he left. They sneaked up to the door and opened fire. They got the wrong person.
"There's no argument. There's no fight. It was just a cold-blooded assassination. They didn't know her."
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, which is responsible for the Duvall murder investigation, is even more silent about what happened to Brandy. They aren't releasing a cause of death and won't comment on whether the girl knew the gangsters accused of killing her.
Other law enforcement sources, however, indicate that Brandy may have known her murderers. "But she was too young to know what she was getting into," says one.
Even though the same gangsters committed both murders, there was a crucial difference between the Montoya and Duvall killings, police sources point out. However twisted, the Montoya murder was "gang business," because it began as a hit on Sal Martinez. Montoya was just "in the wrong place at the wrong time and hanging out with the wrong people," says one officer.
Duvall's murder, on the other hand, has no explanation other than pure viciousness. "For one reason or another, sometimes these gangs just spin out of control," says the officer.
So far, law enforcement officials have been reluctant to officially tie the two murders together--or to tie either of them to organized gang activity. "At this time, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on any particular gang's activities," says Pam Russell, spokeswoman for the Jeffco DA.
After the arrests for the Montoya murder, a press release from Lakewood police spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough noted that the only connection between the killings was that Zig-Zag Quintana was a suspect in both.
Those who know better can connect the dots from Eastside to Westside--with at least three murders in between.
Officially, the CMG Bloods are in a state of disarray. "As of 10 a.m. July 10, there's no one on Park Hill looking to take over," says Deputy District Attorney Twining. "Now that may change by 11 or noon, but our game plan is to keep the pressure on and put them all out of business."
There are still CMGs running around out there, Twining says. But money, not numbers, is the real source of a gang's power. Westside CMG supplied drugs to Eastside CMG to sell; now that pipeline has been destroyed. "They're disorganized, and they've lost their juice," he adds.