Zero to Life

Lisl Auman had met Matthaeus Jaehnig only that morning. By day's end, he and a cop were dead--and her life was over.

Lisl doesn't even bother to tell [police] it's a dead end there. She knows where he [Jaehnig] is. She knows it is a dead end... At that moment, there is one person--one person only--that can save Bruce VanderJagt's life, and that is Lisl Auman.

--Prosecutor Tim Twining at Auman's trial
"I have provided security for that complex for approximately seven years."
--Officer Michael Gargaro, preliminary hearing

"Officer VanderJagt says that there isn't any other way out of there. He said, do you want to go in or do you want me to go in? Sergeant Jones comes up. Officer VanderJagt apprises him of the same thing. That there's no way out."

--Officer Donald Bowling, on a video made the day of VanderJagt's murder

"If VanderJagt knew...that he [Jaehnig] was armed with the armament he had available, VanderJagt would not have peeked around the corner in the fashion that he did."

--Prosecutor Henry Cooper
"She said he has a gun...We already knew he did because he had been firing at the Jefferson County police."

--Officer Michael Gargaro, on a video made the day of VanderJagt's murder

Lisl Auman went on trial in Denver District Court in July 1998.
Before the trial, the district attorney's office offered Auman a plea bargain. "Lisl would have had to plead guilty to assaulting the officer when she took the wheel," says Angela Kruse, Lisl's defense attorney. "She would have had to plead guilty to knowing that Matthaeus Jaehnig had weapons in his car. These things would have been with her for life when she didn't do them." In exchange for these pleas, Auman would have received a thirty-year prison sentence.

She turned down the deal.
Without the draconian felony murder law, there would not have been much of a case. Her lawyers believe that if Jaehnig had lived, Lisl would have been used as a witness against him and might never have been charged at all.

The felony murder law, however, made it possible to argue that if Lisl knew Gerze and his friends intended to burglarize Cheever's room and then directed them to it, she was an accomplice to the felony and hence guilty of the murder. Still, this theory might have struck a jury as a flimsy structure on which to hang a capital conviction. Postulate that Lisl was a willing participant in all that happened after the burglary, however--that she was filled with anger and the thirst for revenge, that she deliberately steered the car so that Jaehnig could shoot, that she handed him the gun at the condo complex, that she was hostile to the police--and you had a much more compelling argument. Add to all of this some passionate rhetoric, insist it was Lisl's lack of cooperation that doomed Bruce VanderJagt, factor in the intense public feelings swirling round the case, and your chances of conviction skyrocket.

Constructing the necessary narrative requires selective use of the available facts. It means insisting that Lisl knew Jaehnig had a rifle in his car because the weapon was simply too big to conceal--but accepting that she could somehow sneak this same weapon to Jaehnig at the condo complex without the cops who were standing a few feet away from her seeing it. It means believing Lisl when she uses the words "muscle" or "retaliate" in her interviews with police--while refusing to believe her frequent and consistent protestations of fear and revulsion (duress would be a valid defense against the burglary charge).

Cab driver Art Kent witnessed the collision caused by Jaehnig during his wild drive down the mountain. "He passed right next to me going up Eastman," Kent told the newspapers immediately after the incident. "He was definitely scared. He was stressed. I could see it in his eyes. He didn't hesitate at all after he hit her. He just threw it into reverse and burned rubber." In the courtroom, however, Kent said Lisl had had plenty of time to get out of the car if she wanted to.

In court, Kruse described a second attempt by Lisl to escape from Jaehnig's car. Passing a school, the car slowed momentarily; some children saw the passenger door open and a white laundry basket fly out. The attorneys said the basket had been between Lisl's legs, and she was preparing to jump from the car when Jaehnig threatened her again.

But Twining characterized this incident as an attempt to get rid of stolen loot. Fellow prosecutor Henry Cooper hypothesized that Lisl had thrown out the basket to allow Jaehnig easier access to his gun.

Did Lisl pass the gun to Matthaeus Jaehnig at the complex? No one who knows either Auman or Jaehnig finds the idea remotely plausible. Sam Jaehnig says his brother would never have left his car without his weapon once shots had been fired. Lisl's friends speak of her fear and hatred of guns; her mother remembers her long, passionate arguments with a grandfather who hunted.

But it's the physical evidence that's most compelling. A videotape taken the day of the murder reveals deep gouges on the door of Soriano's Monaco Place apartment. The likeliest explanation is that these were made by the butt of Jaehnig's rifle as he hammered furiously at the lock.

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hahaha....Denver skins... what shit, they laughed at the skins and the skins only wished to be like Matthaeus