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.

On January 25 of this year, Shawn Cheever was finally charged with sexual assault on a child. The date of the alleged offense was November 1, 1997--eleven days before Lisl Auman went to his room to get her things.

Replaying the events of November 12, 1997, Lisl Auman keeps returning to that moment outside the Monaco Place apartments, with a crazed gunman at her back and battle-ready police in front of her.

The moment before anyone had died.
She is sitting at a table in the visiting area of the Colorado Women's Correctional Facility, looking as unlike the morose, leaden creature on the police videotape as humanly possible. Her hair is light and flyaway, her face soft, open, vulnerable.

"Sometimes it seems like a dream," she says. "A nightmare. But I'll never wake up." She talks about her undeserved reputation as a skinhead and how frightened she was when she first entered jail and had to convince the black and Mexican inmates the image was false. It's a lot harder, she says, to convince the rest of the world.

She veers between hope and despair, tries to meditate, read (she's currently racing through Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible) and keep her mind steady. She misses her family and friends, long walks in the mountains, her dog. "I'm only 23 years old," she says. "I still want to have children."

Her days in the courtroom were terrifying. She remembers the way the police looked at her. "I would think to myself, they think I'm this horrible person who killed their friend, or brother, or loved one, and they'd sit there and look at me with such hate in their eyes...and that was really hard. I just wish there was something I could do to prove to them that I'm not the person they think I am. I know that wouldn't make any difference, but it would make me feel better.

"Mrs. VanderJagt wouldn't even accept my apology in court. I can understand she's just lost somebody she loves very much and she's grieving. But later she did a press conference, and she said, 'I do not accept Lisl Auman's apology or condolences, because I think she should take responsibility for what happened.'

"I'm not going to take responsibility for something I did not do."

This woman is the catalyst to everything that happened that day," Tim Twining said of Lisl Auman after the verdict. "She is the fuse to the powder keg at Monaco Place."

But Matthaeus Jaehnig's friends are sure he was fleeing police--not because he thought he'd been involved in a burglary, but because his car was stolen and, despite arrests for weapons possession, he was carrying guns. His sister, Jelena, says Jaehnig was withdrawn and angry during the last months of his life. Lyman Jackson says Matthaeus "was completely wiped out. The human being was gone. There were still a few people who could reach him, but a lot of his friends were scared and staying away." When Jaehnig's body was autopsied, it was found to contain enough methamphetamine to kill the average person.

Jaehnig's fury, madness and hatred of police created the explosive power that destroyed Officer VanderJagt. Lisl Auman's misfortune was to have been with him on the day he blew.

Last year, about this time, when police were chasing Matthaeus Jaehnig through the dusky shadows of the southeast Denver condo complex, Lisl Auman was sitting in a squad car telling cops to go to hell.

She wasn't giving them any information about her fresh new friend Jaehnig. It was reported that, amidst her obscenities, she spit in the face of one police officer asking questions...

She might as well have pulled the trigger herself, and the jurors knew it.
--Chuck Green, Denver Post

"Spit on a police officer, tell him to go to hell. Sweet little girl. You assholes at Sherman Way ought to be in prison with her. Have a nice life?

One more thing, scumbags. You may be able to change your phone number to try to hide from decent people, but can you afford to change your address? Later, jackass. We're not like the cops. We don't have our hands tied. Two words for Colleen: Suck it."

--Message left on the Auerbachs' answering machine shortly after the trial.

Lisl Auman's life sentence has had a devastating effect on her family and friends, most of whom have never been in any kind of trouble with the law. "I'm afraid of the police," says Alicia Frederick. "Obviously, they can do whatever they want to." Jaime Sostman, too, is afraid. "What if I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time someday?" she says.

"You don't know how much I feel this is my fault," says Demetria Soriano, crying. "She was my best friend. She didn't know these people. She didn't have a clue what she was in for that day. Once she got in that car with Tao and closed the door, there was nothing she could have done."

Don Auman has set up a Web page for his daughter, He spends long hours researching her case, hoping for a reversal on appeal. A hardworking, law-abiding man, he has found his faith in the government and the legal system sorely tested.

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