The Final Judgment

Two years ago this week, Brandy DuVall was killed by members of the Deuce-Seven gang. For the past month, the courts have been deciding whether her murderers live or die.

Also at the house were the core members of the Deuce-Seven, a Hispanic gang comprising mostly family members and friends from Five Points. The Deuce-Seven name came from the address of a home at 2727 California Street, which was owned by the grandmother of Danny and Antonio Martinez, two of the gang's founders. "Bang" and "Boom"...the sounds a gun makes.

Jose Martinez was the boys' uncle through their mother, Teresa Swinton. Danny was at Uncle Joe's that night, but Antonio, who was studying art and leaving the gang behind, had left after an argument with his brother. Also at the house was another Deuce-Seven founder, Francisco "Pancho" Martinez Jr., and a cousin of the Warren brothers'. Danny, Antonio and Francisco had been inseparable since elementary school and as young teens were "beat in" to the CMG Bloods at about the same time.

The last two members of this core group at Uncle Joe's were Sammy "Zig Zag" Quintana Jr., a first cousin of the Martinez brothers through their mothers, and the youngest member, sixteen-year-old Frank Vigil Jr. It was a measure of his status in the gang that he'd been nicknamed "Little Bang."

Sammy Quintana took Brandy into the bathroom and gave her cocaine. She was then stripped by Francisco, who carried her into a back bedroom. The remaining hours of her life were pure hell.

At about 3 a.m. on May 31, a Suzuki Sidekick wound its way up Highway 6 from Golden. Sammy was driving his car; Francisco was sitting in the front passenger seat. Crammed into the backseat were Danny and Frank. Between them, hooded so that she couldn't see, was Brandy, pleading for her life.

The next afternoon, the bruised and battered body of Brandy DuVall, clothed only in an oversized pair of jeans, was found at the bottom of an embankment at highway mile marker 269.5 in Clear Creek Canyon. Her hands had been cuffed behind her, and she had been stabbed 28 times. Her carotid artery and jugular vein were severed; she had bled to death.

A vicious bite mark was evident on her left breast. Later, a pathologist discovered that her anus had been sliced open with a sharp instrument, probably a knife, and then additionally torn with some object.

The following day, a Sunday, Brandy's mother finally found her missing daughter when she arrived at the Jefferson County coroner's office and identified Brandy's body. Wake up, baby. Wake up.

An anonymous tip led Jefferson County sheriff's investigators to Jose Martinez, who recounted what had happened at his house that night and identified the parties responsible. They were soon arrested, all except for Danny Martinez Jr., who was on the run and wouldn't be apprehended until January 1, 1998. Before that, Quintana, the son of a Denver sheriff's deputy and already the suspect in another homicide, began talking. He was soon joined by Casados and the Warren brothers.

The ride of the Deuce-Seven was coming to an end.

Of the seven original defendants in the Brandy DuVall homicide, by late April only two were still waiting to learn their fate--the two facing the death penalty: Danny Martinez Jr. and Francisco Martinez Jr.

The other defendant who'd gone to trial, Frank "Little Bang" Vigil, had been automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole following his conviction in February 1998. Although there was no evidence that he'd sexually assaulted Brandy or raised a hand in her death, he had been the first to suggest she had to die and had then helped escort her into the mountains for her execution. Only his age, sixteen at the time of his trial, had saved him from a death-penalty hearing.

The four remaining defendants--those who had testified against Frank, Danny and Francisco in exchange for plea bargains that dropped the first-degree-murder charges--had been sentenced in March by Judge Michael Villano. The first of these had been the most important to the prosecution: Sammy Quintana Jr.

Quintana had pleaded guilty to two second-degree-murder charges: one for Brandy DuVall and the other for his participation in the murder of nineteen-year-old Venus Montoya, the unintended victim of a gang quarrel in July 1996. Without Sammy, it was doubtful the authorities could have made a case against the other gang members involved in the Montoya homicide--brothers Alejandro and Gerard Ornelas. Nor would the prosecution have been certain of winning the DuVall cases without his corroboration of other witnesses' testimony. And Sammy was the only witness to say what happened after they left the house of "Uncle Joe" Martinez.

Sammy was proof that gangs could reach into any neighborhood, into any family. His parents had moved from their old Five Points neighborhood to the suburbs in an effort to get away from the crime- and drug-riddled streets. His father had became a deputy sheriff in Denver, his mother an executive secretary. They had given their children all the right tools for success--music lessons, soccer clinics, good schools and a safe environment. Still, it had not been enough to save their son.

At Sammy Quintana's sentencing, members of Brandy's family had asked for the maximum. As they had promised three juries who had heard Sammy testify against other defendants, the prosecution also asked for the maximum in both cases--48 years to run consecutively.

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