By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Looking back up the hill, Obbema could see a wide trail of blood beginning partway down the slope, smearing rocks, gravel and plants as it led to the body. The girl had not died where the blood was pooled at the top of the embankment. She'd fought to live--falling and getting up, then falling and rising again, until she fell one final time.
The amount of blood shocked the thirteen-year sheriff's veteran. There were places where it soaked into the ground between the rocks, then came out again lower on the slope.
Obbema scrambled back up to her car and the radio. Soon she was joined by sheriff's investigators, including Allen Simmons, the detective who would take the lead in the case, crime-scene technicians and an ambulance crew. Television teams arrived and filmed the body of a young, unidentified female being removed from the river's edge in a black body bag.
Simmons was there when Dr. Ben Galloway conducted the autopsy. The forensic pathologist had performed approximately 9,000 autopsies during his career. Few were as disturbing as this one. The girl was young, barely a teenager, only five feet tall and a hundred pounds. She'd been savagely attacked.
The pathologist noted a bruise to the left side of her face that appeared to have been made with a fist. There was a large bruise on her chest, as well as other bruises and abrasions on her arms and legs, which indicated that she'd struggled.
Galloway counted 28 stab wounds, all made with a sharp, single-edged knife. Some were to her chest, but most, including the fatal wounds, were to her back and neck. Her carotid artery and jugular vein had been pierced: She had bled to death.
The most horrifying wounds, though, were not the ones that had killed her. There was an obvious bite mark on her left breast. Her anus and rectum were badly bruised, purposely cut by a sharp blade.
The last night of the girl's life had been hell.
It took until Sunday, June 1, to identify her as Brandaline Rose DuVall. Brandy's mother had arrived at the Jefferson County coroner's office looking for a missing daughter--and found her on a cold steel table. Wake up, baby. Wake up.
Brandy had died two months shy of her fifteenth birthday.
Theresa was six when her mother left her father and moved with her seven children--five girls and two boys--into her grandparents' home near the corner of 27th and California streets. 2727 California.
Theresa's grandparents, the Rodartes, were strict. They had both come to this country from Mexico many years before. Grandfather Rodarte would only speak Spanish, never applied for citizenship and didn't work, except in his backyard vegetable garden. Grandmother Rodarte, who bore eighteen children, was a nurse and very religious; she went every day to pray at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and belonged to the Legion of Mary.
Although the Rodartes taught their children Spanish, they made no attempt to instruct their grandchildren. Many years later, when it mattered to her, Theresa asked her mother why she and her brothers and sisters weren't taught Spanish. "Because everybody thought children who spoke Spanish were slower, or dumb immigrants," her mother replied. "And it just caused trouble for them at school." But Theresa always suspected it had more to do with the adults wanting a "secret language" they could use in front of the kids.
As a child, Theresa thought she lived in the best neighborhood in the world. People took pride in their homes. They mowed the grass, battled dandelions and raked leaves that fell every autumn from the old shade trees that lined the blocks. It seemed like everyone planted gardens--flowers in front and vegetables in the back.
The collection of small stucco and brick homes had seen a succession of immigrants come and go--Germans, Japanese, Mexicans, blacks. By the time Theresa moved there, it was a mostly black neighborhood, with a strong contingent of Mexican families. But if the kids usually congregated in racially distinct groups, they still got along with each other.
None of the kids seemed to notice that they were what other people would consider poor. Most of what they did was free, anyway--climbing trees, swinging at the playground at 25th and Stout, walking to the park to catch crawdads in the summer and to the ice rink outside the downtown May D&F store to skate in the winter.
Despite the poverty, there wasn't a lot of crime--at least not crime that affected the children. Five Points, the legendary hub of black cultural and social life in Denver, was still jumping a few blocks to the east. There were no bums shuffling down the sidewalks, no crack dealers standing in the shadows. What drug addicts there were stayed out of sight. Sometimes the kids would hear rumors about a pimp shooting another pimp or beating up a prostitute. Maybe someone's junkie husband, son or brother would overdose, necessitating a call for an ambulance and sparking a rash of gossip. But it was the grownups doing the crimes, not the kids. Not yet.
And there were always lots of kids. Theresa was as close as a sister to some of her neighborhood friends, especially Sally and Norma. As the girls grew older, they'd flirt with the boys and size them up for the future. Norma's brother, Sam Quintana. Frank Vigil, a distant cousin of Sally's. And the five Martinez brothers: Rudi, Jose, Tommy and the twins, Dan and Ben.