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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

"I'll do it," Finley replied. But it wasn't easy.
The witnesses had scattered. He found Hunter in a KOA campground in Georgia. McDonald had fallen out of a truck, drunk, and died. Pilgrim was living in a rural area of Arkansas. He found Qualls in Michigan, but Qualls ran all the way to Texas before authorities could serve him with a subpoena. Several other witnesses were in various prisons. But Finley eventually found them all.

Smith, who had been elected district attorney, was satisfied. Five days before Christmas 1995, nine days from what would have been Jenny's twentieth birthday, Finley and Shannon drove to Arvada with an arrest warrant for Timothy John Kennedy. They waited at the Arvada police department while local officers picked him up.

Finley was shocked when he caught sight of Kennedy. The years and the drugs, and perhaps his conscience, had been hard on him. He was only 36, but his beard had turned gray, and his body was rail-thin. He looked like a corpse.

Kennedy was surprised to see the El Paso detectives, too. Shannon thought he looked defeated, but Finley wasn't so sure. All he knew was that Kennedy had had four years that Jenny never got.

The detectives hoped that Kennedy would talk to them. But he immediately invoked his right to remain silent and have a lawyer appointed.

He did, however, ask one favor as they left for Colorado Springs: "Could we swing by my parents' house to get my methadone kit?"

In most murder trials, the seating directly behind the prosecution table is reserved for the victim's family. But there was no grieving family sitting there this past summer, mourning the death of Steve Staskiewicz or Jenny Carpenter.

Finley had managed to find a sister of Staskiewicz's in California. He notified her of the trial and warned her that she wouldn't hear "many nice things being said" about her brother there. She never showed, nor did anyone else come for the man who'd called acquaintances "brother."

That didn't particularly bother the detectives. But it did trouble them that no one was there for Jenny.

Presley had pointed Mabel Carpenter out to Finley once during a hearing on Stroud's case. Other than that, Jenny's mother had been present to identify her daughters remains two days after the murder, then disappeared. Finley sent letters through the Social Security Administration notifying her of the murder trial, but Mabel Carpenter never showed.

Nor did Jenny's father. Sheldon Duden had told Presley about the Harley offer from Stroud and his disappointment that Jenny wouldn't go along with it. Then, after her death, he called up Finley, obviously intoxicated. "My baby," he wailed. "They killed my baby..."

Finley was disgusted. Duden had visited the trailer in the summer of 1990 and had seen how Jenny lived with Staskiewicz. (After their murders, there could be no doubt about the relationship: The dead man's semen was found inside Jenny's body.) But Duden had done nothing to save his daughter.

"Don't call back until you're sober," Finley said, and hung up. Apparently, sobriety was too much to ask. Jenny's dad never called again, and he didn't show up in court.

The only people in the room who cared about Jenny's life and death were the detectives, Zook (now the chief deputy district attorney), and deputy DA Paul Sanford.

The prosecutors brought on the San Agustin CD-ROM, the video interviews with Kennedy, the detectives who'd worked the case. Finley spent two days on the stand being questioned by both the prosecution and defense, but he didn't mind: Someone had to speak for Jenny.

And when necessary, Zook and Sanford called their witnesses, which turned out to be a hit-or-miss proposition.

Qualls was a mess. He was still convinced that the murders were a contract hit and that killers would be after him for testifying against Kennedy. In his terror, he embellished his original story until it became nonsensical.

Dudley was much better, and placed the stainless-steel gun at Kennedy's side two days before the murder. But Dudley looked like "one mean son of a bitch," according to Finley, and during cross-examination, the defense suggested Dudley was the real killer.

Piece by piece, the prosecutors built their case. The black Davis was put in Staskiewicz's pocket the night of the murder and in Kennedy's hand the next day. Using the animated re-enactment, bullet trajectories and photographs of the bloody chair, they showed how the murders had to have occurred. Using the videos, they had Kennedy place himself at the murder scene at 1 a.m. The CBI and the FBI analyses provided the links between the bullets that killed the couple and the casings found at the scene to the stainless-steel AMT.

What had appeared to the prosecutors' predecessors as a hodgepodge of details became a trail leading right to Tim Kennedy.

Before the trial, defense attorney Kenneth Dresner complained that the delay in filing the case had damaged his client's right to a fair trial. Evidence and witnesses who might have helped had disappeared, he argued.

Judge Thomas Kane refused to dismiss the case, but he allowed Dresner to introduce hearsay about the possibility of a hitman. The defense attorney described Stroud's abduction and sexual assault as a truly horrifying, vicious attack--the work of a monster who would not hesitate to have a young girl killed if she dared testify against him. He pointed to Dudley and French.

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