By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
When Joanne was twelve, she was gang-raped by a half-dozen boys at a neighbor's house. The worst part, she remembers, was looking up to see her younger brother staring in through a window. Her mother came and found her hiding in a closet of the house.
Joanne should have said something. But she'd known the house was off-limits, and she worried about what her mother would say. So she kept quiet.
The boys, of course, had scattered by the time Joanne was escorted out of the house. But her mother marched her down the street to the home of one of the boys she'd seen leaving. "What happened?" Joanne's mother demanded of the boy.
"We didn't ball her," the boy blurted out.
Joanne's mother just stood there blinking, as if the possibility of that happening to her daughter had never occurred to her. She and Joanne just turned around, went home and never talked about it again.
The subject of sex was taboo in the Cordova household. As Joanne would later say, "I was thirteen before I learned that a man's penis was not always hard."
Joanne escaped inward, reading mystery books. Her childhood heroes were Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, kids who used their minds to foil adult criminals. She thought she would make a good detective.
For the outer world, Joanne learned to hide behind a mask. That way no one could touch her, no one could hurt her, and she was protected. She looked out on life as though through someone else's eyes--someone tougher, someone who didn't care.
By fourteen, Joanne was the neighborhood rebel, always testing the boundaries, looking for trouble and not knowing why. She'd sneak out at night and drink or try drugs.
At seventeen, she ran away from home with her high-school sweetheart. She returned pregnant. He joined the Army to show that he loved her and could support her and their son, and she tried to become a good enlisted man's wife, a good mother. He made $400 a month, $150 of which went for rent, the rest of which she stretched to cover food and diapers and the $20 in savings she set aside each and every month. She doted on her son.
But this life was too tame for Joanne. Bored, she found a way for her husband to get out of the Army on a hardship discharge. Her family was moving to Denver, and she wanted to go, too.
The young couple and their son arrived in Denver in 1978. A year later they divorced. Joanne told her husband he could live in any other state but that she and her son would remain in Colorado.
Her ex-husband would later turn to armed robbery and lead police on one of the biggest manhunts in Oklahoma history.
Joanne's future would be no less infamous.
In 1980 Joanne was working as a cocktail waitress at a country bar, still using her ex-husband's last name of Shannon. She was 21 years old, looking for excitement.
By now she'd had her first taste of cocaine, from a dentist who'd introduced her to "freebase," a smokeable form of the drug. It was a nice high, but generally, she preferred alcohol--a convenient mask--when she partied.
Her best friends were an odd pair. One was a cop's daughter, the other a high-priced call girl. It was through them that she met Wayne Moore, a high-rolling attorney who liked to wine and dine pretty women and give them lavish gifts: expensive jewelry, clothes, shopping trips to the West Coast.
One night, one of Joanne's friends told her that Moore found her attractive and that there might be good money in it if she was willing to go to bed with him. She laughed at first--Moore was fat, and she wasn't the least bit attracted to him. But he was also persistent, and she was envious of the gifts he'd given other girls.
"How much?" he wanted to know.
Other guys had bought her dinner and a movie and expected to get laid; it wasn't like any lasting romance had evolved simply because they were more physically attractive than Moore. So she gave in to him three times and was surprised afterward that she didn't feel cheap. Her favors certainly had not come cheap: He'd given her checks for $500, $400 and $350.
Moore seemed taken with her. He said he was going to buy her a new Mercedes, and Joanne believed him. But then he skipped town and his checks bounced.
Joanne was still mad about that when another girl told her Moore had left because the FBI was after him. She called the FBI and asked about the rumor; someone there took her name but didn't offer much in the way of information.
Joanne wrote the whole experience off. After all, she was not a prostitute.
Two years passed before Wayne Moore's name came up again. Joanne had worked her way up from administrative secretary to a job as a systems analyst at NCR. Then one day she got a call from an attorney, who explained that he worked for two oil companies that suspected Moore of embezzling millions of dollars.