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By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
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Welcome to Colorado -- Now Go Home
At the beginning of 1999, the state began replacing its fading purple-and-orange "Welcome to Colorado: Mountains and Much More!" border signs, which had been criticized as "too California." For $133,000, the signs were replaced with brand-new "nostalgic" brown highway signs with jagged edges -- replicas of those the state had used from 1950 through 1990, when they were replaced by the purple-and-orange welcomes.
More Faded Glory
In July, one year after 51,000 "Glory Bear" Beanie Babies were given out at the 1998 All-Star game at Coors Field, the bears -- which experts had predicted would be worth $1,000 six months after the game -- were selling in newspaper classifieds for only $20 apiece.
In January, Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman postponed jury selection in a civil sexual-harassment case against Denver Bronco Tyrone Braxton. The trial had been scheduled to begin the Monday after the Super Bowl, but Hoffman moved it to Tuesday, speculating that a Broncos win and the subsequent celebratory hysteria near the City and County Building would be too distracting and "incompatible with conducting a trial involving a team member." (A jury subsequently cleared Braxton of all charges.)
"It's a curved, sensuous line that flows around the building."
-- new Broncos stadium architect Curt Fentress, describing the proposed structure's "skin"
"Those jobs taught my kids more than my husband and I could ever teach them."
-- state senator Marilyn Musgrave during a debate about raising the minimum wage, as she revealed that her kids had worked minimum-wage jobs at a pizza parlor and at a meatpacking plant "with blood on the floors"
"You can't blame my committee for the deaths of those three little girls."
-- state senator MaryAnne Tebedo, chair of a legislative committee that voted to end CBI background checks on gun buyers, after Castle Rock resident Simon Gonzales was able to purchase a gun (despite a restraining order against him) and just hours later use it to kill his three daughters
"I think we need to draw the line at the schoolyard gate."
-- Governor Bill Owens, discussing a proposed concealed-carry gun bill in March"Gangs have a positive side."
"Realistically speaking, gangs don't get so violent that they use bombs and complex guns against an entire school...Maybe if we educate students and parents about the positive aspects of gangs, we could learn something from them."
"In reality, we need to realize that gangs can be positive and that maybe inner-city kids do appreciate life more than people think."
-- Andrew Algiene, Erik Avila and Pedro Pasillas, sophomores in Denver West High School's multicultural literature class, in letters published in theDenver Post under the heading "After Columbine"
"I know what people are considering -- did [Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold] come to the Hell House, and is this the reason that they did this? That's ridiculous...If they have been here, God would have had an opportunity to touch their lives. If they had been here, Columbine would not have happened."
-- Abundant Life Christian Center associate pastor Keenan Roberts, commenting in June about a scene at the previous Halloween's "Hell House" in which an Internet-addicted, trench-coat-wearing teenage fan of Marilyn Manson shoots his ex-girlfriend in a crowded school cafeteria
"I'm going to work harder for the legalization of marijuana, because if kids had access to soft drugs they'd be less stressed out."
-- security guard Bill Whitfield, in aNews section on what people learned from Columbine
"The obsessive emphasis on skill acquisition, academic standards and competitive grade attainment seems to mirror the misplaced values of our community."
-- Jefferson County school psychologist Mark McGrath, in aNews "Speakout" column in May
"There's been a lot of rhetoric and water under the dam."
-- Will Perkins, former director of Colorado for Family Values, announcing his bid for mayor of Colorado Springs last spring
"If I lose my life, I can live with that."
-- Ax murderer William "Cody" Neal, at his death-penalty hearing in September
"I brainwashed myself to be a Brady. There are so many metaphors for life in the Bradys. When Greg got his own room, that's a big one. Because he fought so hard to get that room, then found out it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, which is kind of a metaphor for life. I want things so bad, then when I finally get them, they're not that great."
-- Arlo White, 28, in line at Virgin Megastore to meet Barry Williams, aka Greg Brady, in October
"Well, you have to see my wife, she's a very classy lady. She's sitting there in all her glory when this lady hawks up one of the biggest goobers you've ever seen and spits it out the door."
-- RTD boardmember Dick Sargent, after a ride on the 16th Street Mall shuttle in November, shortly before he resigned from the board
"Are you supposed to drink it? Prairie Dog Blush. Do they sell much of this? I can imagine going home tonight and asking my wife, 'Would you like to join me for a little Prairie Dog Blush?'"
-- Governor Owens, upon receiving a bottle of Prairie Dog Blush wine from Representative Ken Kester of Las Animas after the prairie-dog relocation bill was signed into law
A Dog's Life
In October, Jeffco's Federal Correctional Institute gassed 20,000 prairie dogs on its 43-acre site. Abash Extermination Company owner Richard Johnson, who had been hired to get rid of the varmints, told a 9News reporter that prison officials may have feared an outbreak of the plague -- or that inmates would enlarge the prairie-dog tunnels and try to escape.
Animal-rights activists were outraged after discovering that Celestial Seasonings, the herbal- and specialty-tea maker committed to "truth, beauty and goodness," had poisoned prairie dogs on its Gunbarrel property in Boulder County. After a threatened boycott of Celestial Seasonings products, the company promised to stop killing the animals and to donate $50,000 to environmental organizations.
Eight days after the shootings at Columbine, Faye "Rae" Holt, the 34-year-old mother of a Pomona High School student, was accused of phoning in this bomb threat to the school: "There goes your students. There goes your school. This is not a joke." In July, Holt pleaded not guilty.
Theresa "Teri" Carlson, 39, was charged with "impersonating a public servant" after she allegedly posed as a victim's advocate after the Columbine massacre. (Carlson failed to show up for her July arraignment in Jefferson County Court.)
Deanne Felde, a 29-year-old Fort Collins woman who had worked as a locker-room volunteer at the World Cup championship game between the American and Chinese teams, showed up at a July 13 soccer game at Mile High Stadium wearing a World Cup jersey and player Brandi Chastain's medal; fans mistook her for Chastain teammate Kristine Lilly, and Felde obliged them by signing autographs and throwing World Cup T-shirts into the crowd. After soccer officials determined she wasn't Lilly, they asked her to return to her seat. "It's a big misunderstanding," Felde told a reporter. "I didn't misrepresent anyone. It's just a matter of circumstances."
Southwest Denver resident Melody Ramsey, who spent much of the year fighting the repeal of the residence requirement for city workers, in October tried to serve a legal notice on safety manager Butch Montoya and police chief Tom Sanchez. At police headquarters, she got into a fight with officer Larry Clay, who was manning the front desk. Ramsey claimed Clay swore at her and threatened to throw away her papers; Clay said Ramsey threw the papers at him. Either way, she wound up handcuffed and charged with disturbing the peace.
Most Colorful Candidate
The District 10 Denver City Council race heated up when openly gay candidate Kevin Shancady announced that he had previously held the office of Mr. Leather. A videotape left over from his Mr. Leather campaign showed Shancady being spanked and inserting a penile catheter -- but that didn't prevent police and real estate groups from endorsing him over sitting councilman Ed Thomas (who won re-election in May).
In September, the Colorado State Patrol announced it might issue tickets to "passive-aggressive" motorists driving slowly in the fast lane. But after many people mistakenly interpreted the announcement to mean they'd be cited for driving the speed limit, the CSP announced that no such tickets would be issued.
In March, Denver City Council members implemented stricter rules protecting downtown views of the Front Range. The following month, they exempted the new Broncos stadium from those rules.
In August, a Columbine community task force recommended a dress code forbidding students from wearing hats, midriff shirts, shorts or above-the-knee skirts, as well as camouflage, see-through or suggestive clothing, pants whose waist size was at least two inches larger than a student's, and outfits showing underwear. "I wanted to get into dress codes because I believe young people tend to behave the way they dress," explained state representative Rob Fairbank.
In December, former governor Roy Romer, who commissioned a $10,000 official state portrait of himself wearing his trademark bomber jacket and flashing a "thumbs up" sign, decided that he didn't like the finished painting (even after the artist revised it). Romer reportedly didn't think he looked sufficiently statesmanly in the Capitol hallway alongside all of those other governors in their suits, so he's keeping the portrait at home.
After turning back her clock one too many times, state senator MaryAnne Tebedo announced her plans to introduce a bill that would put Colorado on year-round daylight saving time.
Politicians in Training
In September, light-rail proponents gearing up for the November 2 election printed 125,000 campaign fliers -- but instead of showing a light-rail car with its unsightly overhead wires, the flier pictured a high-tech, streamlined commuter "bullet" train. The incorrect graphic insulted -- but vindicated -- commuter-rail advocates who said they'd been "blown off as heretics" for claiming that their type of train would be a much less expensive (not to mention more attractive) way to solve I-25's traffic woes.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Over a two-day period in September, RTD buses were involved in three accidents. A driver for an RTD contractor slammed into a light-rail train at Kalamath and West Colfax, injuring seven people. The next day, a 16th Street Mall prototype shuttle ran over a transient who'd darted in front of the vehicle, and a seventy-year-old retiree in training to be a bus driver careened over a sidewalk and through a pile of decorative rocks before crashing into two parked cars, injuring five passengers and a pedestrian.
On January 1, police reported that the city's four-week-old photo-radar program had nailed 13,579 drivers for speeding -- an average of 485 tickets issued per day.
In October, trauma surgeon Dr. Gene Moore of Denver Health Medical Center declared that the metro area was experiencing an "epidemic" of pedestrians killed by cars. The cause of the crisis? Growth and traffic congestion.
Bicyclist Shahram Moghadamnia was ticketed for harassment after he reached through a side window and tried to grab the driver of a Jeep that had turned in front of him at a Golden intersection. The driver happened to be talking on the phone with a police officer looking for aggressive drivers and road rage; the officer determined that Moghadamnia had been speeding downhill and that the near-collision wasn't the motorist's fault.
In October, it was reported that as many as twenty private pilots had tried to land at Denver International Airport, mistaking it for nearby Front Range Airport and causing several DIA jetliner takeoffs to be aborted. The confusion apparently stems from the sad fact that both airports have a Runway 26.
A True Visionary
In February, Denver architect and former city planner Ron Straka proposed that the playing field at Mile High Stadium be preserved even after the rest of the facility was demolished for the new stadium. Noting that this was the site of "countless indelible moments of sports history where many memorable athletes performed," Straka suggested that "it should be preserved as a permanent open space. It would provide a place for tailgating and rallies on game days, a green relief in a sea of asphalt." Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said he liked the concept -- but it was not included in final plans for the stadium.
Authorities in Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties were on the lookout in March after a rash of burglaries at veterinary clinics. The thieves were stealing ketamine, which vets use mainly to anesthetize cats for declawing. According to the DEA, ketamine produces a hallucinogenic high in humans that lasts around an hour. "If people saw what cats look like when they wake up from it, they'd never take it," said veterinarian Guy Newton.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
In January, Representative Scott McKay, a Republican from Lakewood, called the cops on his wife, Jean, after she allegedly sprayed a bottle of dish soap in his mouth during an argument over his swearing. (The charges were dismissed in May.) In August, Jean filed a complaint claiming that hubby "threw a trash can at her, spit in her face, twisted her big toe and twisted her nose." Police, however, saw no visible signs of injury and refused to press charges; McKay speculated that his wife had made the report in retaliation for her January arrest.
Rockies pitcher Pedro Astacio was arrested in August for hitting his estranged, pregnant wife in the face; he pleaded innocent in September. A trial is scheduled for January.
Gregory Garth Hearn, a former elder at Conifer Community Church, in October pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a fifteen-year-old girl. Some members of the congregation accused the pastor and church elders of supporting Hearn and ignoring the girl's family.
Also in October, officials at Ascension Episcopal Church insisted that someone must have hacked into their phone line after more than $1,100 worth of calls to Creative Opportunities, a Florida phone-sex company, were billed to the phone in the church's daycare center. But Creative Opportunities president Ginger DeCarlo was certain someone at the church was making the calls. "They're like junkies. They can't stop calling," she said.
In November, Rifle city councilman Jim Beveridge was convicted on animal-cruelty charges for shooting five magpies with a pellet gun. The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Beveridge said they'd been eating his dog's food, damaging his home and defecating on his cars.
Jerry Numon, the 52-year-old principal of a Morgan County school, was already on administrative leave because of his arrest record -- which included charges of, but no convictions for, second-degree assault, larceny and being a fugitive -- when he was arrested in March on suspicion of sexual assault on a student.
In June, Denver police officer and photographer Steve Rickard resigned from the force after being arrested for sexual assault, forgery and official misconduct. The charges stemmed from an incident involving a nineteen-year-old woman who had been convicted of offenses in Arapahoe County and assigned to the gang unit to perform court-ordered community service. Rickard allegedly offered to "dispose of" several hours of community service if she would pose topless for him and let him fondle her.
Englewood City Council candidate Casey Stockwell, 39, a member of the city's planning and zoning commission, was due to be sentenced for drunk driving the day after the November election. It was his third alcohol-related conviction. He did not win the seat.
Broomfield City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Thomas W. Brunner was arrested in June for allegedly driving under the influence.
In February, a state trooper clocked Lieutenant Governor Joe Rogers's state-issued vehicle going 101 mph in a 75 mph zone near Sterling. The vehicle was being driven by Russell E. Scott, 24, who was "associated with state government in an unknown capacity," according to the Colorado State Patrol's release.
Denver police intelligence-bureau detective Joel Humphrey was placed on administrative leave in June after being stopped by a state trooper and cited for driving under the influence.
In December, the Denver Police Department came under fire for allowing Ellis Johnson, a thief and former drug user who had already been rejected by a number of other police forces, into the academy. The ensuing media coverage revealed that 66 percent of Johnson's fellow police academy classmates had admitted to using illegal drugs.
Don't Tell Your Parents
Accompanied by his mother, Aspen mayor Rachel Richards, eighteen-year-old Jacob Richards turned himself in at the Pitkin County Courthouse in September and was charged with five felony counts related to the theft of guns and an SUV from an Aspen resident. By the end of the year, Jacob would be just one of ten people identified as belonging to a local crime ring.
In March, seventeen-year-old Jason Spivey of Morrison was charged with first-degree murder after he told police he'd killed his grandmother; he was also accused of sexually assaulting her. In addition, Spivey had stabbed his grandmother's dog, Mopsy, who survived.
Nineteen-year-old Timothy Pearson of Pueblo was arrested in February, having admitted that he and a friend had strangled his 84-year-old grandmother and driven her body to Ludlow, where they set fire to it. In December, Pearson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
In December, fourteen-year-old John Engel of Longmont was accused of stabbing his grandmother to death and killing his mother; he allegedly hit his father with a hammer, but his father fought off the attack until police arrived.
Random Acts of Violence
In October, Sierra Wilde was walking along Broadway in Boulder when pain pierced her side. She later found a blow-dart lodged inside her fleece jacket.
In April, nine Boulder police and three University of Colorado officers converged on an apartment building near the Angle Pines Country Club golf course, where they arrested two teenagers and accused them of shooting BBs at golfers from an apartment balcony.
In January, three University of Denver students complained that they'd been victimized by students with paintball guns. Two residents of Johnson-MacFarlane Hall said someone had shot at their windows; another student said he was sitting in a car parked outside Centennial Hall when someone fired a paintball gun at him from a dormitory window.
In July, two Thornton men were arrested and charged with battery, discharging a firearm within city limits and attempted criminal mischief for allegedly shooting pedestrians with paintball guns. Westminster police confiscated two semi-automatic paintball guns and two containers designed to hold 200 paintballs each. Only 54 were left.
In August, Denver police thought a passing motorist had fired gunshots through the windshield of a photo-radar van at technician Christopher K. Wilcox. Although police investigators were called to the scene and determined that the van's windshield was indeed shattered, they couldn't find any bullet holes. Later, investigators decided that the damage had been caused by "a piece of gravel."
In March, police asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for help in investigating problems at the Golden Safeway, after an elderly man found a needle in some bulk bean sprouts and a plumber bit into a needle in his chocolate mini-doughnut.
The Criminal Mind
Accused drug dealer Cathy Jo Wood appeared in Jefferson County Court in March but apparently disagreed with the guilty verdict. After "verbally assaulting" the jury, she was taken into custody, where deputies searched her purse and found eight rocks of methamphetamine -- ten to twenty times more than the amount she had just been convicted of possessing.
In June, Ronald Fogle walked away from the Denver County Jail. He'd been charged with robbing a Payless shoe store twice the previous fall. On his first attempt, a store employee told him the safe was on a ten-minute delay and he'd have to wait, so he left. Exactly one week later, he came back and again demanded money; the same employee again told him he'd have to wait. Fogle then asked the employee to go with him to the back of the store, but the beeper on the safe went off, spooking him. He ran out the back door, where he was caught by police.
Barnabe Chairezuena was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, driving without a valid license, driving under suspension and driving without a seatbelt after running into the Dodge Durango belonging to police chief Tom Sanchez.
An unidentified Denver policeman was following a stolen Corvette in April when the suspect jumped out of the car and fled; the cop stopped his patrol car and ran after him, but the suspect circled around to the officer's car, got inside and sped away.
Jefferson County sheriff's deputies in July shot a knife-wielding man at Clement Park. Before he was killed by deputies, the man had been stabbing himself.
In October, Lakewood Half Price Store employee Debbie Archer won a settlement against the store. Archer, who was in charge of making the store displays "visually appealing" to customers, had discovered semen on a female mannequin stashed in her office; she later found that some employee or employees had been "mutilating the bodies and carving out orifices, including a vagina, to have better sex with the mannequin...and sticking pins in the nipples." Three mannequins in all were violated; when Archer complained, store managers told her to clean the mannequins by driving them through a car wash in her convertible.
After years of arguing over whether men should be allowed to join Boulder's Take Back the Night anti-violence-against-women rally, organizers finally allowed them to participate in April's event. "I think the setup we have now acknowledges both the desires of men and women," said Alexis Ross of the Feminist Student Network.
This spring, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation employed a herd of a hundred weed-eating goats to maintain city greenways. In May, four goats grazing along Cherry Creek were attacked and killed by pet dogs.
In July, Castle Rock rancher Cameron Fitch, who owns land along a road leading into Pike National Forest, found two of his horses so seriously injured that they had to be euthanized (one had a broken neck, the other a broken leg); three days later he found a third horse dead from a bullet wound in its back. The animal killings appeared to be connected to a controversy over four-wheeler and motorcycle access to the forest.
One lightning strike killed a herd of 56 elk near the top of Mount Evans in September.
In August, 6,500 turkey chicks met an untimely death in a fire at a Fort Lupton brooding house.
Despite the deaths of 10 of the 41 Canadian lynx released in Colorado this year, biologists declared the reintroduction program a success and called for 50 more cats to be released next year.
The Great Outdoors
U.S. representative Bob Schaffer was camping in the Roosevelt National Forest this summer when he encountered a seven-foot-tall moose that chased him around a tree, into a clearing and back into the woods. There the moose momentarily lost sight of Schaffer, allowing him to escape.
By November, a bear had broken into more than thirty trailers near Fairplay, tearing off doors, turning over refrigerators and ripping cupboards from walls. State Division of Wildlife district manager Mark Lamb said the animal was "hooked on powdered coffee creamer."
In June, the Post reported that several Denver Broncos had become distributors in a multilevel marketing business venture, selling products made by Nikken, a Japanese company. The items included "pads, crisscrossed with magnets, to be worn on the body or slept on, which allegedly manipulate the body's energy, easing body pains. Clothing items such as sweat socks incorporate a ceramic fiber that Nikken says reflects far-infrared light rays into the body, also producing a general sense of well-being."
Great Moments in Journalism
The Post's April 22 headline, two days after the Columbine massacre: "Healing Begins."
Number of stories in which both the words "healing" and "Columbine" have appeared in the Post or the News during the last year: 549.
In September, after a gunman stormed into a church in Fort Worth and murdered seven people inside, the Post ran a story noting the striking fact that a Cassie (Bernall) had been murdered at Columbine and a Cassie (Griffin) had been murdered in Fort Worth. Amazingly, both Cassies had brothers named Chris.
Also in September, during Try Transportation Week, Post transportation reporter Ricky Young, who apparently hadn't ridden a bus since one ill-fated attempt in high school, actually rode the bus to work -- and survived to write a first-person account of it.
In January, News gossip columnist Norm Clarke squealed that he'd spotted a friend of fifteen-year-old Monica Owens taking a swig from a glass of wine at Bill Owens's gubernatorial inauguration. Clarke subsequently reported that the Adam's Mark Hotel "had its wrist slapped by police for not doing a better job of supervising underage guests." But when KRRF-AM (the now-deceased "Ralph") talk-show host Tom Jensen suggested that someone should be held accountable, police spokesman John Wyckoff blamed Clarke: "I find it odd that Norm Clarke, you know, if he's so concerned to write an article about it, he should have said something to somebody then. Because he obviously knew something was wrong."
Clarke's response: "John, reporters report."
In November, John and Patsy Ramsey announced that they'd signed a deal with Thomas Nelson Publishers to write The Death of Innocence, a book about the murder of their daughter, JonBenét. "We have remained silent while baseless and slanderous accusations about our family were made by the frenzied media," they said. "The time is appropriate to recount our experiences in this tragedy."
In March, the Post felt compelled to write an editorial denying rumors that it was being bought by the News. The denial contained the following incomprehensible sentence: "Like most rumors, this one started quietly, was swatted down, crept back up, was laughed at and then took off as though all the conspiracy theorists, UFO Abductees and The-World-Ends-Tomorrow Adherents had found the formula to finally convince us."
Actual headline in the April 16 News: "Voters could decide in November election."
Former Post reporter Kerri Smith, who took a year off to try to lose half of her 460 pounds and write a series of newspaper articles about it, was honored by a proclamation declaring March 20 "Kerri Smith Day" in Colorado. Coincidentally, March 20 had also been named "Ag Day," in honor of the state's farmers and ranchers.
In June, Post columnist Chuck Green planned to write about his adventures on a motorcycle trip that was billed as a macho kissoff to the paper's annual Ride the Rockies bike ride. Green was forced to dump his planned series, however, after he wiped out only 45 minutes into his ride.
In an attempt to boost the morale of Post workers last spring, then-editor Dennis Britton bought his newsroom employees a popcorn machine -- which made it hard for reporters sitting near the thing to conduct interviews over the sound of popping.
A Double-Breasted Suit
In November, U.S. District Judge Walker Miller ordered property-management firm Lobb & Co. and its subsidiary, LCI Maintenance Services, to make payments totaling more than $500,000, to develop policies against sexual harassment and to write letters of apology to three former employees. The women, who claimed that they had been sexually harassed, had been recruited from their bartending or waitressing jobs at Hooters into "marketing" or other unspecified jobs at the companies -- jobs, Miller said, for which they had no "experience or education."
In September, Sears halted Christmas catalogue sales of a $29.99 masked, trench-coat-wearing, gun-toting action figure called the "Modern Villain." The toy's maker, 21 Century Toys of Alameda, California, promised to remove the offending garment. "It was just an unfortunate coincidence for us that those idiots at Columbine were wearing trench coats," said a company vice president.
Denver defense attorney Michael Axt, who has a tradition of making holiday cards that parody current events, this year sent out a picture of himself dressed in a trench coat and holding a weapon; also included in the image were fifteen crosses (two of them downed). "Chestnuts roasting on an...OPEN FIRE!" read the message, which was signed: "We believe. Michael Axt, the Bernalls and The el-Batoutis." (The Bernalls are parents of slain Columbine student Cassie; the el-Batoutis are the family of the co-pilot of EgyptAir Flight 990.) "Implicit in each message is that there are those in life less fortunate, and we shouldn't always take ourselves so seriously. They are not intended to hurt anyone," said Axt. "If I had ever thought the Bernalls would get this, I wouldn't have done it."
In November, 28-year-old Angela Carter, going 70 mph in a 45 mph zone, was killed when she ran into a cow.
In August, the cremains of former Erie town manager Leon Wurl, who had died suddenly on the job the year before, were mixed in with the asphalt used to pave the town's previously dirt-road Main Street. "He liked the smell of asphalt, so, by God, he can smell it forever," said Wurl's widow, Nancy Jo.