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We Are Capitol Hill

When Stephen Elliott was murdered in an Alfalfa's parking lot last year, it shocked neighbors right down to the bone. Down to the bone, that is, for about 72 hours.

By 1998, with MarketScape still riding through its bumpy years, E.J. and Elliott decided to split. Elliott stayed at their home on York Street, near Cheesman Park, and E.J. moved into a condo at Race Street and 23rd Avenue. But they continued to eat together every night and to meet for weekend activities together, just like a family.

From the start, Elliott and Pinna had planned to turn MarketScape public or sell it off to an industry giant for a large profit. After struggling through the first two years, the Web CD began to turn into a success. In a memo to investors last year, MarketScape officials proudly announced that it was filling 1.1 million orders for its product. In addition, it was gaining big clients: Microsoft, Cisco, Bell, Lucent. But after four years, the company was in a peculiar position: The Web CD was intriguing enough to keep an all-star list of clients, yet Wall Street perceived the CD ROM as a dying technology, giving MarketScape no hope of getting on the market. The big companies -- potential buyers -- viewed it as certainly capable of making the best Web CD, but they weren't threatened enough by the niche technology to want to buy the smaller firm.

Elliott and the other company heads decided to concentrate on creating portable support technology for field businessmen. Like the technology that supports a Palm Pilot, it offered a way to load up on memory in order to "connect" to the Internet when no modem was available. The redesign was a major undertaking, one that consumed Elliott's time.

The victim's family: Stephen Elliott's daughter, Isabel, with her mother, E.J. Yodder.
The victim's family: Stephen Elliott's daughter, Isabel, with her mother, E.J. Yodder.
Someone to talk to: Elliott and Isabel having high tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Someone to talk to: Elliott and Isabel having high tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Elliott didn't wake up well on the morning of April 17, 1999, and he was frazzled when he arrived at E.J.'s condo to pick up Isabel. E.J. invited him in for tea. He spoke of the new direction his company was taking, and they discussed what he should buy as a gift for their friend's child. E.J. decided that a plastic food set from Kazoo & Company in Cherry Creek would be a good choice.

When Elliott and Isabel were ready to leave, an excited Isabel pulled her mother out to the car to show her a plastic pager that contained bubble gum. Then E.J. waved and watched the two drive away.

A little before 7 p.m., E.J. returned from a day's work catering a wedding.

As she walked in the door, the phone was ringing.


At the moment the gun went off, an Alfalfa's deli employee named Bob (he asked that his real name not be used) was outside smoking, sitting on the cement loading dock on the west side of the building, about eighty feet from Elliott's car.

When the shot sounded, Bob stood up. As he did, he watched the shooter turn from the car and begin a slow trot directly toward him. "He looked like this wasn't a new thing for him. He looked like he had done this before," Bob remembers.

Bob's mind raced for reason: Was that a gunshot? A stick of dynamite? Why is no one moving a muscle? Did that man's gun accidentally go off? In that moment, he was also able to get the best description of Elliott's murderer, who passed him just five feet away. The shooter wore a generic blue hooded sweatshirt, dark blue or black nylon sweat pants, and red, white and black leather sports shoes. Bob saw that the shooter kept his hair pulled back in a ponytail. As he moved still closer, the shooter kept eye contact with Bob as he calmly worked the shotgun into a medium-sized duffel bag, one just big enough to carry a tennis racket, and zipped it up.

Aside from the shotgun, which could have been sawed off, the bag drooped as if it were empty.

The shooter ran south along the Emerson side of the store, passing Bob, then turned east into the back alley. Bob was still factoring the strange reality when he heard Isabel's scream and saw her. He ran toward the car. When he got to Isabel, she was already in the arms of a shopper.

He was the first person to approach the driver's side of Elliott's car.

Bob looked inside and saw Elliott's eyes were still open, looking at the speedometer. Bob spoke to him, asked him if he could hear him, if he could blink or move a finger. The questions were a formality. The hole in Elliott's neck was as big and clean as if it had been gorged by an ice-cream scooper. "It looked surgical," Bob remembers. There was surprisingly little blood on Elliott or in the car; most of it had dribbled down Elliott's body and pooled between his feet. Elliott's hands lay limp in his lap. "He looked like he never saw it coming," Bob says. "He looked surprised."

When a paramedic arrived on the scene, he draped a blanket over the windshield. Minutes later, half a dozen patrol cars were setting up a perimeter and a helicopter circled above. Some witnesses had reported sounds of tires squealing away, suggesting perhaps a getaway car was waiting or strategically parked, and K-9 dogs were dispatched.

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