Can't Buy a Thrill

Aspen's bizarre crime spree sent some of its favorite sons to prison -- and left the town wondering what went wrong.

Moses had an extensive juvenile record, the sort of sheet you'd expect on a kid with drug and alcohol problems in a town the size of Aspen, where the police always seem to be around whenever you're driving without your license or engaging in a little underage drinking. But he usually wound up with probation.

Lots of people were willing to give Moses another chance and then yet another. He was smart and disarming, loyal and funny, with large, sad, puppy dog eyes. He knew the names of all kinds of obscure plants, birds and rocks. He was also terribly accident-prone. He broke his back as a freshman, his tailbone as a sophomore. During his junior year he sustained a head injury in a car crash, which some believed altered his personality in subtle ways and made him more intent on criminality.

"He had an appealing side of him that made you want to help him," says Kim Wille. "But at some point, he took over."

Two weeks later, Wade Hammond joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
Two weeks later, Wade Hammond joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."
Brett Amole
Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."

In January 1999 Moses drafted a letter of apology to the judge for his part in a rumble at a kegger the previous summer. He'd slipped away after police arrived to make arrests, then been charged with escape.

"Since I was arrested I have learned a valuable lesson," Moses wrote. "Laws exist, and they must be obeyed. If they are broken, then one must pay a penalty. The process you go through is expensive and humiliating."

They were just words. Three weeks earlier, on the second day of the new year, Moses had pulled off a solo heist, the first armed robbery in Aspen in years.

It was like this: Moses threw a party, and the party was so weak. He blew his last $200 on a hotel room and had some friends over, and it was the lamest whoop-de-do ever. He woke up broke and hungry and wondering how he was going to get money. He went to see a friend. The friend had a handsome replica pistol that shot plastic pellets. It occurred to Moses that he could rob somebody with a gat like that.

He went to the late show at the Stage 3 movie theater and ducked into the men's room. He put on a mask and gloves, pulled out the gun and studied himself in the mirror. In his khaki pants and flannel jacket, he decided he "looked like a Mexican gangster or something." He kept peeping into the hallway, waiting for the manager to come upstairs to the office with the evening's take. A little girl passed by on her way to the women's room. She waved at the funny man in the mask.

Then Donald Blake, the 54-year-old manager, was pulling out the key to the office and Moses was behind him. He said, "Give me the money," the cash bag was in his hand, and he was out the door with close to $1,200, no problem.

Moses bought a hefty stash of pot, his drug of choice. He bought $500 worth of ecstasy and handed it out to girls at a party. He bought clothes and bragged about having a ready source of cash.

Before long, the money was all gone. In May, when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace hit town, Moses decided it was time to visit Stage 3 again. This time he had two partners. According to police reports, two of Greengrass's closest friends, Anthony Rizzuto and Thomas Colver, are the prime suspects. But Moses has never identified his accomplices, and Rizzuto and Colver, who have yet to go to trial in connection with another holdup, have never been charged in the crime.

The haul in the second theater robbery was said to be around $4,200. Moses insisted that the robbers didn't get nearly that much. And months later, Don Blake was charged with theft and false reporting after investigators found money in the trunk of his car, believed to be part of the cash Blake had claimed was stolen in the robbery. (Blake later pleaded guilty to a single count of obstructing a peace officer and received six months' probation.)

Down in the Green Room, some kids wondered if Moses Greengrass and Blake had some kind of arrangement. Moses denied it. Still, the whole affair was greeted with typical cynicism by the in crowd: See? Stealing, it's no big deal. Everybody's doing it, doing it.

Yuri and Cody had known Moses since grade school. They'd drifted apart when Moses started smoking dope; Yuri and Cody just weren't into it. But early last year, after he'd graduated from an alternative downvalley school, Moses started coming around again.

Moses seemed in good spirits, Cody thought. He brought with him some older teens Cody didn't know all that well: Wade Hammond, who was living in Denver but visiting Aspen frequently; Anthony Rizzuto, the son of a local hairdresser; and Stefan Schutter, an angel-faced attorney's son who'd been in and out of jail on juvenile charges. Most of them were, like Moses, the children of divorce.

Schutter was a particularly intriguing addition to the Green Room. He'd lived in Hawaii and had a passion for hip-hop. He scribbled out his own gangsta lyrics -- rich in jailhouse affectation about bitches and snitches -- and asked Cody if he could put the words to music:

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