By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It was Beth who wanted Suzanne to go on a double date with Neal and Jimmy, Beth's boyfriend. She wasn't thrilled about the idea -- Neal was quite a bit older -- but after some persuasion, she agreed to go.
Neal called and told Suzanne to meet him at the Sheraton Hotel at Sixth and Union. She was to let the front desk know that she was with him and his party, "and he said that they would take care of me."
Although Beth and Jimmy were already there when she arrived, Neal didn't join them right away. But she could see that the guy had pull. "From the time that I arrived at the hotel and they knew that I was with this group of people, everybody at the hotel was very nice and very accommodating, really catering to whatever our needs were."
Soon after that night, Beth and Jimmy broke up, and Beth began seeing more of Neal. As his relationship with her roommate warmed up, Suzanne began to see him more, too.
"What was your understanding, if you had any, about his financial situation by May and June of 1998?" Tingle asks. His voice is soft, guiding, as he keeps his eyes on Suzanne's. He began with easy, non-emotional questions to let her get comfortable, and she is responding very well so far.
"At certain times, it would seem like he had quite a bit of money, and he was not discreet about having the large amounts of money," she answers.
This is good; she is requiring very little prompting. "Can you elaborate for us?"
"There was an occasion before my birthday, and he came and gave me a hundred dollars," she says. "At that time, we weren't that close of friends, I don't believe."
Neal and Beth had been out that night; Suzanne woke up when they returned. "Then Cody came in," she says, "and he had a hundred dollars in one-dollar bills...He just threw them all over my bed, and he just, you know, said that we could use that when we went out to celebrate for my birthday."
Neal was always a "very generous tipper," she says. "He would never allow anybody to buy anything, you know, so whenever I went out with him and Beth, he was the one that always paid."
Neal never told the women where he lived, not exactly. He said he split his time between Denver and Las Vegas, where he had a home. "But he had never stayed there," she says. "He was waiting until his little girl could stay with him before he would stay in that house."
Neal had even showed her photos of the Las Vegas home, which he kept in a white, three-ring binder with sheet protectors. "A very huge house." A mansion.
He was always full of surprises. So it was not unusual when, in mid-June, he began talking to Suzanne about a surprise he wanted to give Beth. They were at a bar, and Neal was talking about wanting to help Beth out of the financial mess she was in. "He had talked about getting her a new car and different things like that."
But Neal also seemed to have another girlfriend, Angela Fite, whom Suzanne met about this same time. "Cody and Angie were at the Broker at the Tech Center," she remembers. "Cody had asked that Beth and I come down and see them so that we could have a drink together to celebrate my birthday."
They stayed for only one drink, but Suzanne left with the impression that Neal and Angela were boyfriend and girlfriend. But her roommate seemed to be getting more involved with Neal as well. "She was really starting to care about Cody more...their friendship had just really gotten a lot closer."
In fact, after the meeting at the Broker, they seemed to be going out all the time -- which is how Suzanne began to hear more about Neal, but she didn't know what to believe. Some of their friends at Shipwreck's insisted that he was a bounty hunter, but that wasn't what he'd told her.
In mid-June, Neal started talking to Suzanne about coming to work for him in the mortgage-lending business. "When he told you about his business and made this job offer, did you believe him?" Tingle asks.
"Not wholeheartedly," she replies, shaking her head. "With the amount of money that he was talking about...and the split of time in the offices between Las Vegas and Colorado... It really just seemed mostly too good to be true. And I didn't see why he would want -- I mean, I didn't see why he would be offering me something like this."
Neal told her not to mention his offer to anybody. But when he said he wanted her to go to Las Vegas to meet with his lawyers about the job, she broke down and asked Beth if she thought he could be trusted.
"We talked about it for quite a while, and she said that she didn't think that he would ever do anything to hurt us."