Live Fast, Die Young

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

Given Staskiewicz's drug connections, it wasn't odd to see people visiting the trailer park at all hours. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and everyone went back to sleep. Everyone but Steve Staskiewicz and Jenny Carpenter.

On March 11, 1991, at 4 p.m., El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy Trevor Martin arrived at Trailer F-4. He was following up on an alleged burglary reported by Staskiewicz.

Martin got out of his cruiser just as two girls, about eight or nine years old, walked up with a large dog in tow. The dog, they explained, was Steve Staskiewicz's dog, Kiva, which they had found roaming around the park. They were on their way to return the dog and, they hoped, borrow a dress from Jenny.

"She should be home," the girls said. They ran up to the trailer and went inside as the deputy followed more slowly. A moment later, the girls bolted from the trailer, screaming.

Cautiously, Martin went up on the porch and peered in. Two bodies were lying just inside the front door. The trailer was dark, but the bodies appeared to be that of a male and female. There was a lot of blood. He ran to his car and called it in.

Arriving at the trailer a few minutes later, Detective Presley went far enough into the trailer to get a look at the victims and confirm what his heart already knew was true. He didn't want to disturb the crime scene, so he didn't stay long. One of the victims, the male, lay sprawled on his back, the long dark hair on the right side of his head matted with blood. The female lay with her feet up toward the male's head, her head face down on his lap. She was young. Her hair was red. His heart sank.

Presley went back outside to wait for help.
It arrived in the form of Detective Finley. The fifteen-year law enforcement veteran had a reputation in El Paso County for his tenacity and his refusal to ever give up on a case. He had just spent two years cracking a murder investigation involving Mexican drug lords from California in which the only clue was the fact that the victim's watch was set to the Pacific time zone. Finley's colleagues didn't know him to have much of a life away from the office, except for his love of hunting. He was one of those cops who was married to the job.

Detective Brad Shannon drove up a few minutes later. His blue eyes and round, open face made him look like a Boy Scout who hadn't aged, just got bigger. This was his first homicide, and he approached the scene with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. He didn't go inside the trailer, though; Finley assigned him the task of collecting the names of witnesses.

Finley had never met Jenny or Staskiewicz, but he was familiar with the case against Stroud, having helped Presley conduct the Rock Ledge Mansion search. At first he, too, believed Stroud had managed to silence Jenny. But he wasn't in the trailer long before he began to have doubts about that theory.

For one thing, the bodies had apparently been moved, dragged to the front door from a black chair by the woodstove. There was blood on the back of the chair and a larger pool in the seat. Hitmen didn't usually waste a lot of time moving bodies around unless they planned to remove them altogether. But if that was the killer's plan, why take them out the well-lit front door rather than the back?

It just didn't look like a contract murder. The couple hadn't been shot in the back of the head, execution-style; nor did the bodies appear to have defensive wounds. In fact, there were no signs of a struggle, such as overturned furniture, nor any indication of forced entry.

Finley noted that the television was on. The screen was snowy, as though a video in the VCR had played through, and the volume was still up, filling the trailer with static.

The male, Staskiewicz, had been shot once in the right side of his head just above the ear, with the bullet exiting his jaw on the other side. The girl, however, had been shot three times.

Maybe she had reacted to the first shot that killed her boyfriend, Finley thought. Or, being younger, it had simply taken more to kill her. One bullet had struck her on the right side of her forehead, another had hit her in the right jaw, and a third had entered under her chin and gone up, exiting through the top of her skull.

The evidence he gathered that night, together with witness statements and what he learned about the couple over the next few days, convinced Finley of several things.

The couple had been sitting in their usual TV-watching positions: Staskiewicz in the black chair, Jenny on the footstool with her head on his lap.

They were feeling no pain. Staskiewicz had marijuana, cocaine and codeine in his blood; Jenny had taken phenobarbital, a depressant that would have slowed her reactions.

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