Shades of Black

Defense attorneys fight to save their clients by comparing them to current residents of death row.

They were an unlikely pair of killers, the big-talking ladies' man and the quiet missionary. George Woldt and Lucas Salmon. One was supposedly the leader and the other the follower, but it's doubtful that either would have had the nerve to do alone what they did together. They planned their evil for a month, and then high-fived each other when it was over.

Woldt came up with the plan. Just twenty years old, he was the elder of two children born to serviceman William Woldt and Song Hui Woldt, a Korean national. A military family, the Woldts had moved around a lot, from Korea to Germany to Indianapolis and, finally, Colorado Springs.

Theirs was not a happy household. William Woldt worked long hours and then stayed out even longer, drinking. When he finally got home, he'd knock George around. Song Hui was mentally ill, suffering from paranoia. She'd never adjusted to Western culture, and she taught young George to speak Korean, fixed him Korean meals. She expected him to be perfect, and when he wasn't, she raged at him.

 
Michael Hogue
 
Jacine Gielinski, a star athlete at Littleton High School, was murdered at age 22 by George Woldt and Lucas Salmon.
Jacine Gielinski, a star athlete at Littleton High School, was murdered at age 22 by George Woldt and Lucas Salmon.

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George Woldt was exceptionally bright. Outgoing and popular, he loved being the center of attention. In high school he often exaggerated, telling some acquaintances that he was a contract killer. He bragged that he'd had sex with more than twenty women.

With his brains and charisma, Woldt could have been a real success, but he lacked direction and purpose. And there was a flip side to his charm. He finished high school but soon moved out of his parents' home and in with his pregnant girlfriend -- then left before the birth of their child. He liked to watch porn movies, especially those whose themes focused on torture and killing. His girlfriends found him to be mentally abusive, and he forced at least one to have sex with him after the relationship was over. There was also this fantasy he entertained, but he needed help to carry it out.

In 1995, he and a friend were outside a nightclub, watching a woman, when Woldt suggested that they kidnap and rape her. His friend didn't take him seriously. A year later, Woldt suggested much the same thing to another friend, Derrick Ayers. He talked of finding a couple parked along some road in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. They'd rape the woman in front of the man, he said, and then kill them both with large rocks.

Woldt even went so far as to put a large rock in Ayers's car when they were cruising around the mountains, then pointed out a couple in a red car alongside the road. But the scheme didn't go anywhere: Ayers wasn't willing, and, as he would later testify, Woldt was too "chickenshit" to do it on his own. He needed an accomplice, someone he could control and manipulate. He needed Lucas Salmon.

In many ways, the two were opposites. Salmon came from a conservative Christian family whose life centered around the church; his father had moved his company to Colorado Springs in part because Focus on the Family had its headquarters there. Even after the parents divorced, they both remained very involved in their kids' lives.

Lucas was bright, too, but socially immature and even a little odd. His siblings and friends teased him about his haphazard appearance; some days he'd show up at school wearing his clothes inside out. He badly wanted friends, but he also spent a lot of time alone, drawing and playing video games.

After graduating from high school, Salmon went to a Christian college in southern California. He gave haircuts to the homeless and went on two missions to Mexico, where he helped build an orphanage. His colleagues noted how well he got along with the children.

But Salmon wasn't doing well in college, and he dropped out. He took a job as a caregiver in a program for autistic adults, working for minimum wage and a place to live. He was charged with providing 24-hour care for a man who was unable to control any of his bodily functions and needed constant supervision. As thanks, Salmon had to put up with the man's verbal and physical abuse.

Although everyone said he was a "nice" guy, Salmon was bothered by his difficulty in attracting women, especially any interested in having sex with him. Thin and balding, he'd had a couple of girlfriends, but when they let him know the "boundaries," he respected their wishes. He was still a virgin when he returned to Colorado in 1996 and moved in with George Woldt and his new girlfriend.

Salmon had known Woldt since high school and admired his glib way with women. He knew Woldt could be trouble -- the one and only time Salmon had gotten in hot water with authorities was over a rock-throwing incident involving Woldt -- but he'd never done anything really bad.

Salmon began emulating Woldt in both dress and behavior. But the relationship was a strange one. One minute Woldt would be calling him "my best friend," and the next he'd go out of his way to make fun of Salmon in front of other people. Woldt seemed to enjoy making him jump through hoops to maintain their friendship, and he threatened to end it any number of times. Yet he invited Salmon to be his best man when he got married in Delaware.

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