By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Rutherford had been staying with friends and looking for an apartment. Sandy invited him to move into a spare room in her house. Baxendale thought it was a good idea; Rutherford could look after Sandy, who had a violent ex-boyfriend getting out of jail soon, while he was away.
"He seemed like an okay dude," Baxendale says. "All I knew was that he drank a lot and obviously snorted some lines."
In early December, Hoffman and Baxendale took off for Texas. Once again they were arrested for engaging in some noisy target shooting; the park ranger who busted them took a dim view of their Calico M950 machine pistol, which could spit out fifty nine-millimeter shells in seconds. This time they spent two weeks in a county jail before their lawyer could get the charges reduced. They finally made it to Abilene on Christmas Day. They spent the next few weeks living in a drafty tent, hunting for food and poking around abandoned wells in the frozen dark.
They didn't find the gold.
Baxendale wanted to go back to Denver and Sandy. But first they stopped in Dallas so that he could pick up some belongings he'd left behind. He found that a friend had turned his apartment into a crackhouse and left his car abandoned on a freeway. They caught up with the friend at a sleazy motel, where he was visiting another dealer.
"We were both pissed off," Baxendale says. "So we came back that night, when everybody else was gone, and robbed the dealer."
Baxendale shoved a gun in the man's face. Hoffman duct-taped him to a bed. They took a boombox and the most humongous slab of crack cocaine they'd ever seen, a rock as big as the Ritz. They should sell it, they agreed--but first, why not smoke a little?
They smoked it all. It took them a night and a day and the following night. They fired up the last of it while going through a car wash: "We're both completely paranoid and schized out, and Hoffman's seeing cops everywhere," Baxendale recalls.
But even after the effects of the drug wore off, something about the experience stayed with Baxendale. They'd ripped off a dealer once before; a man had approached their car and offered some crack, and the gun-toting duo had simply taken it away from him. It was free dope, and that was cool--but it was something else, too.
"What we discovered was that the rush from pulling a gun on somebody and taking their dope was as big or bigger than actually doing the dope," Baxendale says. "I was surprised at how much I liked that adrenaline rush. It's like having sex in the preacher's office while everybody else is in church."
Flat out of money and options, Baxendale and Hoffman returned to Denver and moved in with Sandy and Rutherford. Hoffman was full of tall tales about their exploits in Texas, including the drug ripoffs. "He's making these robberies sound like big, huge events," Baxendale says. "He's bragging about all this stuff, and Kevin is just eating this up."
Rutherford admits that Hoffman talked to him about the Texas robberies, but he says he figured that it was just hot air. It was Baxendale, he says, who kept pressing him for the names of dealers they could connect with in Denver. "Not having been there very long, I didn't know any big dealers, and I told him that," he says.
Accounts of the circumstances leading up to the apartment robberies in Denver vary greatly. Baxendale says he was looking for a job at a guitar shop and planning to marry Sandy and give Hoffman the heave-ho. Rutherford, who'd left his job at a convenience store and was working as a roofer, says he had no plans to rob anyone--until he found himself in a situation he couldn't escape. In a statement he made after his arrest, Hoffman claimed that he was passed out on Sandy's couch while someone who looked just like him was running around with a shotgun terrorizing people.
Baxendale says that Rutherford spent most of the day of January 22, 1992, with Sandy, himself and Hoffman. Rutherford says he'd been drinking for hours that day with his roofing buddies and that Baxendale and Hoffman approached him that night in the Sheridan Saloon and asked him to go on a beer run with them. (Sandy, whose recollections could possibly clear up the discrepancies, couldn't be located for comment.) A bartender at the Sheridan would later testify that she saw the trio on several occasions that night and overheard them talking about "rolling" somebody.
But there are some points on which Baxendale and Rutherford agree. Both men say that when they got into a car with Hoffman that night, they thought they were simply going to the liquor store. But Hoffman had stashed a shotgun in the backseat--a borrowed Mossburg, since they'd been forced to sell most of the other guns.
"I'm driving," Baxendale says, "and he pulls out the gun and says, 'All right, let's go rob some niggers.' He's telling Kevin that he knows that Kevin knows where some dope dealers are, and Kevin says, yeah, he knows where to get some."