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Live Fast, Die Young

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

Everybody was flashing their guns, talking about Stroud's threats. Jenny had her little .25, Staskiewicz a black .380. And Tim, he said, was lying on the couch with a stainless-steel automatic on the floor by his side.

It was an important bit of news. Dudley's information placed the black gun with Staskiewicz and the stainless steel with Kennedy, just two days before the murder.

Still, Finley didn't give up on the hitman possibility. With other detectives, he tried to re-enact a scenario in which a gunman coming in the trailer's front or back door could take the couple by surprise. But nothing worked except the theory that the gunman had stood next to the couch and shot Staskiewicz as he was watching television, then turned the gun on Jenny.

Only a friend could have come so close. And Kennedy had placed himself at the scene at the right time and put the victims in the correct positions.

Soon Finley had more evidence incriminating Kennedy, this time from the CBI crime labs.

Every gun barrel leaves different markings, distinct as fingerprints, on a bullet as it exits. That's how the CBI's Brown could determine that the bullets that killed Staskiewicz and Jenny were not fired by the Davis .380.

But semi-automatic handguns also leave marks on the casings ejected as the bullets are fired. Under microscopic analysis, these markings are every bit as telltale as the marks on a bullet.

By late April, Brown was able to determine that two of the spent casings that Benner had collected at the shooting range had been fired from the Davis .380 taken from Kennedy's apartment. That meant the gun Staskiewicz had taken target-shooting March 10 was the same gun Kennedy had pawned the next day.

That was also the gun seized at Kennedy's apartment. And Brown concluded that three of the live rounds found in Kennedy's apartment had once been chambered in the same weapon used to kill Staskiewicz and Jenny.

If Kennedy had said that on the night of the murders he'd traded his stainless-steel AMT for the black Davis he'd previously loaned Staskiewicz, he might have had a better story. But Kennedy told Finley he'd given the AMT to Staskiewicz a week earlier and kept the Davis for himself; on videotape, he'd said he hadn't seen any guns at the trailer March 10, much less switched them.

After receiving the CBI reports, Finley and Benner went to talk to Kennedy's landlord, Gerald Erikson. The 44-year-old had had his own run-ins with the law, including a 1989 arrest for drug possession.

Erikson described himself as a friend of Kennedy's who had rented the apartment to him in February. At the time, Erikson said, Kennedy had showed up carrying a bag containing two guns, both .380s. One was a black "Saturday Night Special," the other a stainless-steel model that he later saw in Kennedy's apartment.

Kennedy dropped by Erikson's apartment March 11, as the murders were being reported on a TV newscast. Kennedy said he'd left his television and VCR at the victims' trailer. "He wanted to go pick up his stuff," Erikson remembered.

"Tim's been taking too many drugs," he added. "He also thinks he deserves Steve's Harley because Steve used to call him 'brother.'"

Soon after the detectives interviewed Erikson, he and Kennedy were on the outs.

Kennedy brought a glass of Kool-Aid to Finley, claiming that his landlord was trying to poison him and his dog. "She's trained to detect poison, and now she won't drink out of the toilet," he said.

Erikson evicted Kennedy, who sued him in small-claims court and won. After that, Erikson told the detectives, Kennedy told him he'd better watch his step "or the same thing could happen to you as happened to those two people in Colorado Springs." Erikson had known right away what two people his former friend was talking about.

The landlord, who wrote notes to himself on his arms and admitted he'd taken a few too many hits of LSD back in the Sixties, said Kennedy had told him the murder victims "tried to fuck my dog."

After losing his apartment, Kennedy moved back in with his parents. He was a loner. Too unkempt and into his drugs for a girlfriend. An interest in tarot cards and satanic rites scared his few remaining friends away.

In the months following the murders, Finley took his evidence to the district attorney several times, asking that Kennedy be prosecuted. The DA always refused. The case was too complicated, he told Finley, and a jury would never keep it straight. Black guns. Stainless-steel guns. Marks on casings. Bullets found on floors. Besides, the witnesses were all a bunch of felons and drug addicts.

On November 1, 1991, Charles Stroud pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping; the other charges were dropped. As a habitual offender, he was sentenced to fifty years.

For Presley, it was a bittersweet victory. A truly bad man was going to spend a long time in prison, but Jenny, who'd finally stood up for herself, wasn't around to see it.

Finley was glad to see Stroud go. He was smarter than the rest of the meth crowd, and therefore more dangerous. He probably enjoyed seeming powerful enough to have ordered a hit from his cell--a big man with a long arm.

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