By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
For the first time in her testimony, Suzanne falters. Her voice cracks, and she wipes briefly at her eyes. But she quickly regains her composure and goes on.
With that assurance from Beth, she decided to go to Las Vegas and at least see if the offer was solid. When Neal said they'd be staying two nights, however, she balked, until he relented and said they'd stay just one. He would pick her up in the evening of Sunday, July 5, and they'd return Monday.
On Friday, July 3, though, Beth called. "He had made plans for us," Suzanne says. "She thought maybe we were going to go gambling in Central City with Cody that night, so she just said to be home and get ready to go out."
When she got home from work, Beth was already there. She showed off some new outfits Neal had bought her that afternoon. She gave Suzanne a skirt he'd said he would like her to wear.
The night began with a mystery: When they were ready, they were to walk across the street to a pizza joint. There they waited about ten minutes until Neal showed up around 7 p.m. They didn't see him pull in; he just came walking up.
He explained that his truck had a flat and that he was getting it fixed at the tire store next door. While they waited, he said, they might as well order a pizza. And then, to Suzanne's astonishment, he dropped to one knee and proposed to Beth. "She said yes, and he gave her a ring, a diamond ring." Then he left for a nearby liquor store.
Suzanne hadn't known that the relationship between her roommate and Neal was that serious. But after he left, Beth explained that the marriage proposal was just a joke.
"When that was happening," Tingle says, "what was the attitude of Mr. Neal? What was his demeanor?"
"He was very happy, calm," she replies. "He was in a really good mood, you know, like he was happy that Friday night was there, and we were going to have such a good time that night."
Tingle nods. Neal's demeanor at this point will be important for the judges to remember. Because by 7 p.m. Friday, July 3, Rebecca Holberton had been dead and wrapped in black plastic for more than three days. And Neal had split Candace Walters's head open only eight hours earlier.
Neal returned with several airline bottles of alcohol. He invited the women outside to celebrate his "proposal" to Beth. He was dressed in his omnipresent black cowboy hat, black duster and cowboy boots, but he'd eschewed his usual black T-shirt for a Western-style dress shirt.
They were outside toasting when a white stretch limousine pulled up. Neal explained that this was another joke. They weren't taking his truck tonight; they were going in style. But this wasn't a really big surprise, since such extravagance was just Wild Bill Cody's style. "It seemed like that was the way he preferred to go out," Suzanne says.
With Neal directing, they went to two bars. First Fugglies, where he went in with the women, and then Shipwreck's, where he stayed outside without explaining why. Then it was off for the night's biggest surprise: dinner at the Diamond Cabaret, a "gentleman's club" with a restaurant and lounge on one side and topless dancing on the other.
Neal, of course, picked up the tab. He had plenty of cash, having gone to an ATM machine with Candace Walters's debit card and removed $403 -- after already taking $1,287 from Holberton's account.
Following dinner, the two women went into the bathroom, where they were approached by a woman asking for Suzanne by name. When Suzanne identified herself, the woman said that "Cody wanted us to go with her." She led them into the topless section of the club, where Neal paid two of the dancers to perform in front of his two dates.
The dance over, Neal decided it was time to leave. But first he handed Beth and Suzanne handfuls of dollar bills and instructed them to put the money on a stage where a woman was dancing. "He appeared to know the woman."
The trio ended the evening at a bar the women selected, the Stampede. There they were joined by several young men trying to figure out if one of the two women with Neal was available. Wild Bill Cody was holding court, lecturing the younger bucks on how to behave like a proper gentleman.
"That they should stand up when a lady comes back to sit down," Suzanne recalls of his lecture, "and a lady shouldn't light her own cigarettes."
They got home about 3 a.m., and Neal spent the night with Beth. Suzanne didn't see him there in the morning, but he was back that afternoon when she left to spend the Fourth of July in Greeley.
Tingle pauses. The groundwork has been laid: Within days -- hours, really -- of brutally murdering two women, the polite, respectful man in the orange jumpsuit the judges see before them had been out partying. Playing jokes. Spending the dead women's money on strippers and booze. Lecturing other men on how to treat a lady.