By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Based on information supplied by the man who leased the home where Brandy was raped (Daniel Martinez's uncle, Jose Martinez), police apprehended the gang members who had been in the house that night. That summer, facing two separate first-degree-murder charges, Sammy Quintana agreed to a deal, pleading guilty to two second-degree-murder charges and agreeing to testify against the others for the DuVall and Montoya murders. It wasn't long before several other members of the gang -- David and Maurice Warren and Jacob Casados -- also took deals in exchange for their testimony. Only Daniel Martinez, Francisco Martinez and Frank Vigil were left to face prosecution.
The Deuce-Seven's leadership and numbers were decimated. Hit just as hard was its reputation. The sick savagery of the sexual assault and murder of Brandy DuVall offended even the sensibilities of other gang members. Rapists are never the most popular of prisoners; most inmates have mothers, sisters, daughters or girlfriends. It wasn't long before reports from the Jefferson County jail and state prison began filtering back to the Metro Area Gang Unit that other gangs were threatening to get the Deuce-Seven. Members of the gang who were already in prison at the time of DuVall's murder were going to have to watch their backs as well.
For Gloria Lopez, it was just one more thing to worry about. Even before Brandy's murder, other gangs like the Inca Boyz were writing graffiti on the walls of businesses in the neighborhood, saying they were going to kill Danny. Even if he survived prison, she feared for his life once he got out. He had a reputation now and would be a prime target for some little banger who wanted to make a name for himself.
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"Dealing With the Devil"
Danny told his mother that he was disappointed in his friends for what they'd done to the girl. He was embarrassed. But there was nothing he could do about it. He was Deuce-Seven -- blood in, blood out.
"I can't change who I am," he told his mother, any more than he could erase the tattoos on his body.
When he got out in March 1998, Danny had changed for the worse. His temper was shorter. Once he had carried himself like he owned the world, but now he slouched.
"Pick your head up," his mother would urge. "How come you don't hold your head high?"
"It's what prison did to me, Mom," he'd respond.
Still, at first Danny tried to make it. He got a job working construction on the new Pepsi Center. It was good money, and soon he would qualify for benefits for himself and his family. He was proud of his job and talked about starting his own business someday. He'd given up on the idea of being a chef but had discovered a knack for drawing and hoped he might translate that into a future in art. He and Barbara started talking again, re-establishing the friendship that had brought them together in the first place, and shortly after Mariah's seventh birthday, they decided to try to make another go of it.
But Danny wouldn't let go of his gang ties. Not that there was much of the Deuce-Seven left to run with. In January of that year, nineteen-year-old Andrew Vialpando, a cousin and fellow gang member, had died falling from a cliff in Utah. Vialpando and Joaquin Lopez, another cousin and fellow gang member, had survived being wounded in a drive-by shooting during the May 1997 Cinco de Mayo festivities. Vialpando still had a bullet in his body from the attack when he and Joaquin stole a Jeep in Englewood and drove to Utah with three young women. After a clerk reported them for stealing gasoline in Green River, Utah, the young men and women led sheriff's deputies and state troopers on a high-speed chase. When troopers placed spike pads across the highway to deflate the Jeep's tires, the car's occupants got out and tried to run. Lopez and the three women were quickly apprehended. Vialpando, however, wasn't found until police searchers discovered his body at the bottom of a 300-foot cliff. Joaquin Lopez was returned to Denver, where he was convicted of armed robbery and sent to prison.
Gang member Francisco Guzman had already been convicted of sexual assault on a child and sent to prison. And that spring, Frank Vigil and Alejandro Ornelas were convicted and sent to prison for life; Ornelas's brother, Gerard, had been sentenced to 48 years. In September, Francisco Martinez was also convicted for DuVall's rape and murder and was awaiting his death-penalty trial; Daniel Martinez's murder trial was scheduled for February 1999, and if convicted, he, too, would face a death-penalty hearing.
So Danny "D-Ray" Lopez III found himself in a vacuum. But rather than lie low or even break his gang ties like Antonio Martinez had, he began letting it be known that the Deuce-Seven was "back in the kitchen," with him as the head chef.
It wasn't unexpected. Even as far back as 1997, during the early investigation into the Montoya and DuVall homicides, members of the Metro Area Gang Task Force had warned prosecutors with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office that Lopez could be trouble when he got out. Some members of the Deuce-Seven were still on the streets, just waiting for someone to come back and take charge. Danny looked like the best candidate: He had served hard time like a man, there was no snitch jacket on him, and he hadn't been tarnished by the DuVall murder.