Collision Course

Denver's streets are increasingly deadly. Last Mother's Day, they claimed four-year-old Alexis Dixon.

Denise Dixon was dreaming. In her dream, she woke up from a deep sleep, cold and sweating at the same time, and looked around to find her bedroom walls covered with blood. There was a face in the room, but she couldn't make it out. She screamed.

Then the phone rang, and Denise woke up for real. It was her son calling to wish her a happy Mother's Day.

Denise had had premonitions before. She always seemed to know when one of her six kids was sick or getting into mischief. Once she dreamed her son was in trouble, and when she called his middle school later that day to check on him, she learned that some bullies had chased him through the halls. But her visions had never been anything life or death; she'd never seen blood.

John Johnston
September Dixon with her son, Daímon.
John Johnston
September Dixon with her son, Daímon.

Before Denise left for her job at the Colorado Blvd. Laundromat, she heard from all of her children and six grandkids, each wanting to wish her a happy Mother's Day. Denise made sure to ask them if everything was okay. Although they assured her they were fine, she remained off-kilter for the rest of the day. She felt like she was moving in slow motion. "That dream was horrifying," Denise says.

And horrifyingly accurate.

September Dixon, Denise's twenty-year-old daughter, loved kids -- perhaps as much from necessity as desire. She'd had her first child, daughter Erica, at thirteen; in May 2000, her son, Daímon, was just a month old. And in the middle was Alexis, a happy, healthy, talkative four-year-old who would be starting preschool at Stedman Elementary in the fall. Alexis's nickname was "Kisser," because she was so outgoing that she always wanted to kiss people. She was the life of the party, just like her mother.

September enjoyed her job at a local daycare center. She was a happy-go-lucky soul, Denise says, moving through life with no cares except Erica, Daímon and Alexis. They all lived with Denise in Aurora.

On Mother's Day 2000, September took her three kids to a friend's house for a barbecue with plenty of food and lots of children to play with. When she'd talked to her mother earlier that day, Denise had said she'd pick them up at the party after her shift was over at 10 p.m. But by early evening, the kids were getting restless and wanted to go home, so September decided to meet her mom at work instead.

She and the kids caught the No. 15 bus heading east on Colfax Avenue. They planned to catch the 40 at Colorado Boulevard, then head north to 28th Avenue and Denise.

It was nice that evening, sunny and warm. As September's brood got off the Colfax bus and waited to cross Colfax, Alexis asked her mother if they were going home. Then the light turned green, the walk sign appeared -- and that was the last thing September remembers. Seconds later, all four were hit by a car speeding east on Colfax right through the red light. September and Erica were thrown to the curb; September blacked out. Little Daímon was bundled up in a car seat; the car made a tire track on its back. But the baby, who wasn't strapped in, simply rolled out of the seat and out of the street; blankets cushioned his fall.

Alexis was tossed into the intersection.

Denise heard the sirens screaming along Colorado sometime after 7:30 p.m. She remembered her dream and thought about September and the kids. But her shift wouldn't be over for hours, and she didn't think they'd be heading her way that early.

A half-hour later, while she was sweeping up near the doorway, Denise got a call from Denver Health Medical Center. There'd been a car accident, the nurse said; September and the baby had been transported to Denver Health, and Alexis and Erica were at Children's Hospital.

It took Denise a few moments to catch her breath and gather her scattered thoughts. September didn't own a car, she kept thinking. How could they have been in a car accident? Denise called her sister, Debbie, and they decided that Debbie and another sister, Gail Watkins, would go to Denver Health while Denise went to Children's, where she'd be joined by still another sister, Robin Spencer.

As soon as she spotted the blank faces that greeted her at Children's, Denise knew that one of her granddaughters was "seriously damaged." She saw Erica first, playing in a room with a police detective, laughing, talking. Aside from some scrapes and bruises, the six-year-old seemed unharmed.

But Alexis was another story. In the emergency room, Denise saw that the four-year-old was hooked up to a respirator. Alexis's heart had stopped on the way to the hospital, they told her. Paramedics had gotten it going again, but the girl was still unconscious, hooked up to machines. She'd suffered a lot of internal injuries, and blood was seeping from every opening: her eyes, her mouth, her nose.

"There was blood everywhere," says Denise. "The same as my dream."

Denise was in shock. She couldn't remember Alexis's middle name; she couldn't remember her granddaughter's birthday, either. She recalls asking the doctors why they couldn't stop the bleeding -- but if they gave her an answer, she didn't hear them. She remembers Alexis being taken somewhere for a CAT scan, but to this day, she doesn't know what the results of that test were.

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