Live Fast, Die Young

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

The defense had its own troublesome witness in Gerald Erikson, who testified on behalf of his sometime friend. On cross-examination, Erikson slipped. The prosecution asked if Kennedy had any military clothing. "Oh, no," he said. But wait, there was that time when he and Tim thought the Russians were getting ready to invade and they decided to run away into the woods and become survivalists. They'd bought military clothes then.

Then Dresner put his client on the stand.
Jail had done Kennedy good. He was off drugs and had gained twenty pounds; his complexion was improved and his blue eyes bright and alert. He seemed like a different person.

In fact, when Shannon picked him up at the jail for trial, Kennedy was reading a book about Einstein's theory of relativity.

"Bet that's not real popular in the jail library," Shannon said.
"You'd be surprised," Kennedy responded.
Dresner had cleaned up his client, cut his hair, bought him nice clothes to wear. He'd even hired a professor from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to coach Kennedy on how behave in court and speak before a jury. He appeared relaxed and friendly. He smiled a lot.

Kennedy took the stand and admitted he had lied to the police. He said he had switched guns with Staskiewicz the night of the murder.

No, he hadn't killed the couple. Personally, he'd had the hots for Jenny. And such was the bond between him and Staskiewicz that his "brother" had even offered Jenny to him one night. He claimed he'd never made the comment "Come on in, hitman."

Kennedy's parents, who chose not to comment for this story, sat behind him through the whole two-week ordeal. Shannon felt sorry for them. They appeared to be in their seventies, and this had to be tearing new wounds across old scars. Kennedy's mother watched her son like a hen ready to protect her chicks. But when Tim took the stand, his father sat with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands.

"He knows Tim's lying," Shannon thought.
So did the jury. After two weeks of testimony, they went to deliberate Kennedy's fate. Their first vote was 8 to 4 for conviction; the "no" vote contingent worried they were convicting Kennedy for being a liar.

But after three days of reviewing the videos and the rest of the evidence, they too were convinced that only Kennedy, not some hitman, could have killed Staskiewicz and Jenny. On August 8, 1997, they returned a unanimous verdict of guilty.

Early on, the prosecution had decided not to seek the death penalty. The only possible aggravating circumstance would have been robbery--Kennedy had taken the Davis from Staskiewicz's pocket. But then, Kennedy was only retrieving what was his.

Rather than take a chance that a jury would be reluctant to vote for first-degree murder if it meant sending Kennedy off to die, the prosecutors opted for putting Kennedy away for the remainder of his life.

On September 29, Timothy John Kennedy was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

When she died, Jenny was "fifteen going on twenty-five," the cops said. But no matter how grown up she tried to act, she was still just a child. And little is left to remember that she ever lived.

She's just a mug shot in the Horace Mann Junior High yearbook, a pretty girl who looked happy on the day the photograph was taken. But there is no record of whether she liked art class or hated English. There's no picture of her as a cheerleader or athlete, no mention of whether she ever went to a school dance with a boy her own age.

She wasn't even around long enough to get a copy of the yearbook and have schoolmates write teenage messages like "Stay cool!" "Friends forever!" "See you next fall!" There was no next fall for Jenny.

When Lou Smit, who has since gone on to become a special investigator in the JonBenet Ramsey case, retired from the El Paso County office, he gave the detectives there a small plaster cast of a baby bootie. On it is printed: "Standing in their shoes."

The detectives who investigaged Jenny's murder need no such reminder. They still beat themselves up wondering if they had been more tenacious, more thorough, more farsighted when they first came across the girl, whether she might still be alive today.

They knew that Jenny made choices, but she never really had a chance.

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