Live Fast, Die Young

She was fifteen going on twenty-five, but three bullets made sure Jenny never saw sweet sixteen

It was possible that Kennedy had killed Staskiewicz and Jenny because he hoped Stroud would reward him. In that case, Jenny was the target, and he'd killed Staskiewicz because he was in the way.

But Finley didn't believe it. He thought Kennedy was angry at Staskiewicz, angry enough to kill him, and Jenny was just caught in the middle.

The story of her life.
After that, Finley thought, Kennedy had tried to make it look like a hit. Shooting Jenny three times, including the execution-like shot under her chin. Moving the bodies to make it appear as though they were killed near the door. A bloody imprint on the front of Staskiewicz's pants indicated he had been rolled partly over so that the killer could remove something from his back right pants pocket--the Davis that Pilgrim had seen him place there.

What had made Kennedy angry enough to kill one of his few friends? Finley and Presley had slightly different theories.

Finley thought Kennedy had probably traded the television and VCR for drugs. The detectives had talked to a number of witnesses who said that Kennedy would trade whatever he had, whether it was guns or homosexual favors, for drugs, then later complain that he had been "ripped off." In this case, when the drugs were gone, he had wanted his stuff back--and Staskiewicz, a bigger, stronger man used to bullying addicts, had refused.

Presley speculated that the men had quarreled over payment for pharmaceuticals that Kennedy had fronted Staskiewicz, including the drugs coursing through the victims' veins that night.

Both detectives thought that the sign found in Kennedy's trunk was an attempt to threaten a man he wouldn't dare challenge physically. Perhaps he meant to tape it to the trailer door that night, but instead found the couple home and wound up invited inside.

Sitting there on the couch, his mind crying out for more meth, Kennedy had decided on that last option: murder. He'd been "ripped off" by his brother who had everything--a pretty young girlfriend, a real home, his television, VCR and stereo, his pills, his money. Even his guns.

So he stood up and put a bullet through Staskiewicz's brain. Lights out.
And then he killed Jenny, who, as she had all her life, struggled a moment longer to survive.

Everyone would think it was Charles Stroud who had ordered the deaths. The police would be looking for a hitman, not a friend.

It's one thing for detectives to have a theory, quite another for them to prove that theory in court. Finley knew he had a complicated case, made even more so by a host of other suspects.

There were the two men Qualls and Reed had identified as being at or near the scene that night: Hunter and McDonald. Neither had great alibis.

Hunter said he'd been at home with his wife and kids. But it was his son that Staskiewicz had caught breaking into a neighbor's trailer.

McDonald was a drunk who couldn't even remember what he had been doing that night.

And then there was Stroud. A female inmate reported that Corkins was talking like she and Stroud had arranged the murder. But authorities tried wiring the inmate several times, and no matter how slyly she brought up the subject, Corkins made no such claims. At one point, in fact, Corkins denied having anything to do with the murders.

More problematic was the report on the hitman, Fred French. The night following the murders, the sheriff's intelligence unit had told Finley they had information that French was in town to do a hit. French had left Colorado Springs in September 1990 and moved to Florida; his employer there said that while he couldn't account for French's whereabouts on the weekend of the murder, he hadn't missed any time on either side of those two days.

Finley couldn't find anything more than that original report that French was ever in town. He didn't buy that French had hurried back to Colorado Springs, somehow surprised a very suspicious Staskiewicz, then shot the couple with Staskiewicz's own gun.

An alternative suspect was an acquaintance of Staskiewicz's named Patrick Dudley. A woman had reported that a friend had picked up Dudley near the trailer park that night and that Dudley had blood on his clothes.

But when Finley finally located that friend after a month of searching, the man said he'd told the woman nothing of the sort. He hadn't heard about the murders until March 12, and he'd asked the woman to pull up to a convenience store so he could buy a newspaper to find out who had been killed. The woman had seen him recently with Dudley, he said, and had somehow put the two stories together.

Dudley, who had an extensive criminal history, told detectives he was drunk the night of the murder and had spent it at a friend's house, which was confirmed by the friend and the friend's daughter. However, Dudley had information of his own to supply.

On March 8, he said, he'd spent the night at the Staskiewicz trailer. And he wasn't the only visitor that night. Another guy had been introduced by Jenny as Staskiewicz's brother, Tim. "He had an old Doberman pinscher with him that could hardly walk," Dudley added.

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