Trial and Tribulations

As a cop, she fantasized about testifying against a killer. As a hooker, she got her chance.

"Not here," she said. "Let's find some place more private."
Davis threw the van into gear. As he drove, he kept pointing to different spots and asking, "How about here? How about here?"

They were all too public for Joanne, but Davis was getting angrier by the minute. Feeling desperate, she remembered the previous day. "The mountains," she said. "How about we go back to your favorite place?"

Davis nodded, and they were soon on the interstate headed west. They got past Black Hawk, but they never made it to the turnoff. Instead, Davis spotted an empty construction site, veered into it and stopped the van. He ordered Joanne into the back. Again the sex was angry, punishing.

When Davis finished, he got back in the driver's seat and headed toward Denver. They made it almost to the Evergreen Parkway exit off of I-70 when they ran out of gas.

Now Joanne was really in trouble. It was her fault they had run out of gas, Davis said. If she'd just agreed to have sex in the parking lot, they wouldn't be in this fix. He grabbed a gas can and jumped out for a walk to the nearest filling station.

"While I'm gone, fix us some sandwiches," he ordered. He handed her a knife and a can of tuna fish.

Joanne did as ordered, although it wasn't easy. The knife he'd given her had a long, thin blade--the sort used to filet fish. It was so narrow, she could hardly get any mayonnaise to stay on.

She would remember that knife when she'd forgotten other things about that day.

Back in Denver, Davis took Joanne shopping. He was happy and talkative, telling her about growing up in Iowa, where his dear mother still lived in a big white mansion.

He also told her he'd been making a living as a petty thief for the past eight years, mostly as a "booster," or shoplifter. He was proud of his cleverness and bragged about the twenty different identification cards he carried and how he could change his looks like a chameleon to "throw off" the cops.

They spent the night in his van. The next morning, Monday, May 12, Joanne told Davis she needed to get dropped off for an "appointment." Really, she just needed some time away from him, but she agreed to meet up with him later.

It was the crack talking. As long as he supplied the drugs, she could put up with his temper and his crude sex.

She left her new clothes in the van. "See you in a couple of hours," she said.

But when Joanne returned at the appointed time, he wasn't there. An hour and a half later, he still hadn't shown up. Cursing herself for having left her stuff in the van, Cordova got a ride back to Colfax Avenue.

A few hours later, former police officer Joanne Cordova was arrested for soliciting an undercover cop. She complained that he'd entrapped her.

It was the luckiest break of her life.

Bob Davis--whose real name was Robert Riggan Jr.--didn't waste much time hooking up with another Capitol Hill prostitute. This one was named Charlene Snow.

As he had with Joanne, he took the woman to buy crack. But Snow, who told him to call her "Brandy," wasn't as modest as Joanne. She paid for her drugs with sex on demand.

As he had with Joanne, Davis invited Brandy to go to the mountains, to a cabin that was his favorite place. He was prepared for any eventuality, he assured her, pointing to the camping equipment in the back of the van. Davis noticed when Brandy's eyes rested on a hatchet with a sharp side and a flat, hammerlike side. He laughed and told her he was ready for anything.

When Davis arrived at Shane Delray's house the next day to pick up Brandy, she'd just gotten high and didn't need the crack. So she suggested to another hooker that she might want to meet the "guy in the blue van."

Sure, Anita Paley said. She was new to prostitution and rarely had enough money to buy more than the smallest quantity of crack.

A little over five foot tall, just 105 pounds, Anita looked even younger than her 22 years. But she'd already had a hard life. Her father had died when she was young, and her mother soon remarried. Anita was a sweet and loving child, her mother would later say. But she was pregnant and out of the house by sixteen.

She married the father of her child, a little girl born on Halloween, 1991. But money was tight, the marriage was unhappy, and Anita's husband blamed her. Her mother often thought Anita was depressed.

Somehow she found the time and resources to go back to school and earn her high-school equivalency degree; she followed that with two years of college to receive a certified nurse's license. Anita hoped to someday become a registered nurse, and she kept taking courses with an eye toward fulfilling that goal. In the meantime, she worked at a nursing home--a job she loved.

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