Hard Time

The oldest lifer in Colorado prisons is dying to be anywhere but here.

Madson, considered a liability because of his prison record, does not testify.

After deliberating three hours, a jury finds Madson guilty of first-degree murder. He is sentenced to life in prison, which at the time means another twenty years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole.

Madson appeals.

Alfred Madson says he didn't get justice. The courts say otherwise.
John Johnston
Alfred Madson says he didn't get justice. The courts say otherwise.
His appeals exhausted, Madson will likely die in prison.
John Johnston
His appeals exhausted, Madson will likely die in prison.

On November 16, 1981, the Colorado Supreme Court overturns his conviction, saying the testimony from Turley and Redd about conversations with Van Hee is prejudicial hearsay.

A new trial convenes on June 23, 1982. The evidence on both sides is essentially the same, except that now Turley, Redd and others cannot repeat their alleged conversations with Van Hee.

Madson does not testify.

Six days later, a second jury finds Madson guilty of first-degree murder. Again he is sentenced to life.

Madson insists he did not kill Van Hee. He knows of two more people who could confirm his alibi for the hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. But they were never called to testify by his attorneys. Madson would have testified, too, but he was not allowed to. The entire case against him was based upon hearsay, he says.

Now 61, he returns to prison.

Khip Turley can barely restrain herself.

She sits in a Denver restaurant, wearing all black, tapping her fingernails nervously on the table.

She was the one who found her mother's frozen body slumped over the blood-spattered console of her car. She was the one who, without thinking, called out to her seven-year-old son, "Help me open the door!" And she was the one who saw the horror spread across her boy's face.

She hates Alfred Madson. Hates him.

Her son was traumatized by what he saw. He withdrew, lashed out, spun out of control. Her three burly brothers wanted revenge against Madson, and it was all she could do to control them. Her father withered away and died twenty years later, on Christmas Eve, the anniversary of his ex-wife's death. Turley struggled to keep her family together, to hold her career together. Instead she lost her business, her house and almost her sanity.

"We have never been a family again," she says. "He destroyed that."

Geneva Van Hee was a good person, her daughter remembers. She loved baking bread, playing pinochle and dancing on Saturday night. But most of all, she loved Christmas. And the Christmas of 1977 was extra special. It was the first Christmas since Van Hee's divorce from her husband of 36 years. Turley was visiting from Denver with her son and promised to cook the traditional dinner. Her brothers were there with their kids.

The split had been hard on the family. Her mother drank, gambled, dated several men simultaneously and transformed overnight from Suzie Homemaker to "Party Hearty Mom." She wanted to feel good about herself. As the holidays approached, she finally did.

Van Hee knew Madson was a convicted murderer, but she felt sorry for him. And with his thin mustache and weathered face, Madson so closely resembled Geneva's ex-husband that they could have been brothers. So for a time, she and he had fun.

But Turley also remembers her mother being afraid. She remembers her mother saying Madson was so jealous that he didn't like her dancing with her own son. She remembers the letter Madson wrote her mother on Thanksgiving. After reading it, Turley wrote down the side: "Get away from him." And she remembers her mother telling her to search the trash cans if she suddenly went missing.

"He told her, 'I've killed before, and I'll do it again,'" Turley contends.

Her mother might have had her problems, but she did not deserve to be shot in the head in cold blood on Christmas Eve -- her favorite day of the year, Turley says. She knows Madson did it. She knows it in her bones.

So she will do everything in her power to make sure he stays locked up. She will attend his parole hearings. She will talk to his warden. She will find the judge who presided over his trial. She will spend the rest of her life seeing that he gets what he deserves.

"My life has been hell," says Turley.

Jessie Redd is also haunted by the murder. She sits back on the couch in her place in north La Junta, purple morning glories blooming outside, holding a portrait of Geneva Van Hee.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about her," she says. "I lost a good friend."

Redd also remembers conversations with her friend. Van Hee said Madson had followed her during her dates with other men. But when Redd told Van Hee to call the police, she responded: "Who would believe me?"

Redd remembers Madson sitting at the bar that Christmas Eve, wearing his new sweater, brooding over his broken relationship with Van Hee: "If I can't have her, no one will."

She remembers Van Hee and Madson arguing at the bar and her friend turning to her afterward and saying, "He's so mad, he could kill me."

She told all this to the jury in 1979, but she was not allowed to repeat it in 1982. And that bothers her.

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