Live Fast, Die Young

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

And in a way, Stroud was responsible for the murders. If he hadn't decided to teach Jenny "a lesson," she wouldn't have reported him to the police, and there would have been no threat of imaginary hitmen that the real killer could use as a screen--a screen that complicated the case enough that the district attorney's office refused to prosecute.

Finley's arguments with the DA grew more heated. If Jenny had been the daughter of some upstanding member of the community, he complained, there would have been press conferences and pressure to bring a tough case to court. But because this was Jenny Carpenter, a street kid with no one to speak for her, her killer was walking the streets a free man.

Finley didn't kid himself about Jenny. She probably would have grown up to be just like any of the other human wrecks out at the trailer park. A burned-out woman old before her time, numbed by drugs and alcohol, with a couple of kids running around her feet who would likely grow up just like their mom and her mother before her.

But good kids can come from bad beginnings. And Jenny deserved the chance to prove herself one way or the other.

In April 1992, Detective Mark Finley left the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and took a job with the Teller County Sheriff's Office. There were several reasons for the switch, including his frustration over the failure to prosecute Tim Kennedy.

Before Finley left, he sat down with Brad Shannon. He handed the young detective the case file, and they talked about what avenues Shannon might pursue.

They'd submitted the bullets taken from the bodies, as well as live cartridges from Kennedy's apartment, to the FBI. The feds were developing a new technique that could compare the composition of the bullets; those tests had yet to be completed.

Otherwise, there wasn't much left to do. They agreed it was unlikely that Kennedy would feel the need to unburden his conscience and confess to a friend or family member. He just wasn't the sort.

Finley walked out of the building feeling like he'd left unfinished business behind. He knew Jenny's case would eat at him for the rest of his life.

Finley thought Kennedy had gotten away with murder.

Tim Kennedy was living with his parents, convicted of drug possession and on probation, when the FBI analysis of the bullets arrived on Shannon's desk in October 1992.

It was more damning evidence against Kennedy.
According to the report, one of the bullets in Jenny's body "was of the same compositional group" as the live cartridge removed from the Davis .380 taken from Kennedy's apartment. The second bullet "was of the same compositional group" as two of the live cartridges found on Kennedy's floor. The spent bullets from the crime scene--one taken from the wall by the woodstove and the other found in the cup--were "of the same compositional group" as two of the live cartridges recovered from the Davis and one from Kennedy's floor.

"The specimens are either analytically indistinguishable or they exhibit such close compositional association as to be consistent with originating from the same source," the FBI concluded.

Shannon contacted Special Agent Roger Peale at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Just what in hell did all that mean?

Well, it meant the bullets didn't just come from the same manufacturer or that they were packaged on or about the same date. "The bullets," Peale said, "came out of the same box."

But even that wasn't enough to convice the DA to file a case.
In January 1995, John Anderson was sworn in as the new sheriff of El Paso County. He appointed homicide detective Lou Smit to head that department. Smit, in turn, asked Finley to return.

His first day back on the job, Finley met with Shannon, who handed him the Kennedy file. "I'm sure you'll want this," Shannon said.

Finley nodded. "I'll take it." He could hardly wait to get started again. Jenny's was a restless ghost.

Soon afterward, Smit introduced Finley to John San Agustin, a partner in a Denver company that specialized in computer-aided case preparation. Finley wasn't so much of an old dog that he wasn't willing to try a new trick, especially after San Agustin showed him how he could use a CD-ROM to make a complicated case easier to understand.

In the Kennedy case, it organized the material for a logical presentation. Click on a diagram of the trailer. Click again and there was a photograph of the trailer. Click again and it was a photograph of the living room. Click again and it was a close-up of the victims. Click, and there was a photograph to accompany the explanation of ejector markings on a casing. There was even an animated version of how Finley believed the murders took place.

Armed with the CD-ROM, Finley went to talk to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeanie Smith and Deputy District Attorney Dan Zook. The presentation lasted three hours. When Finley finished, Smith said she agreed that Kennedy's was a complex case and that without the San Agustin program, she might not have been willing to prosecute. But now all she wanted to know was, could he find the witnesses after four years? "If you can, file it," she said.

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