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Shades of Black

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

"I don't want to die," he pleaded. "Everyone knows that I did a horrible thing." Then he turned to Jacine's family. "I'm sorry I took her away from you," he said. "I'm sorry for the last three and a half years. I don't know what I can say. 'Sorry,' it's not even good enough for me when I say this. Nothing I say, nothing I do is going to make this better. I'm sorry for what I did to you, I'm sorry."

In her closing arguments, defense attorney Brake said Woldt was "not an evil person; he did a very evil thing."

But Zook noted that the cruelty of the crime far outweighed any possible mitigating factors. "You know the evil he has done," he said. And then he repeated a line that prosecutor Eva Wilson had used six years earlier, when she'd asked a jury to sentence Nathan Dunlap to death: "If not this case, what case? If not now, when? And if not this defendant, who?"

 
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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Read more Westword coverage of the Colorado Death Penalty in The Penalty Zone

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On September 6, 2000, the judges answered those questions: Woldt would die.

"The panel was struck by the senseless brutality inflicted by Woldt and Salmon on Jacine Gielinski," the judges wrote in a 62-page decision. "She was forced to suffer unspeakable pain and anguish during the time that she was held hostage. The kidnappers wholly ignored her pleas for mercy and the pitiful suffering she was enduring at their hands. It is obvious that Jacine Gielinski was merely a physical object to Woldt and Salmon, necessary to act out their mutual fantasy to kidnap, rape and kill, leaving no room for the least amount of human compassion for her plight.

"The fact that they apparently exchanged high fives at the conclusion of Jacine's killing speaks volumes of their lack of humanity toward her."

Peggy Luiszer clutched a photograph of her daughter and cried as she heard the sentence. Afterward, she praised the judges. "They saw the truth for what it was, and I think the judges made the right decision," she said. "I think they should have done it in Salmon's case, also, but that's over and done with.

"I hope he's scared to death and thinking about his daughter and son...and when the time comes for him to be put to death that he remembers how he treated Jacine and maybe how she felt that night."

This time, DA Smith had nothing but praise for the judges and for her prosecution team, on whose lives this case had taken an "enormous toll." The sentence, she said, "reaffirms that Colorado's death penalty will be used for these most heinous crimes. We do not rejoice in seeing another person die, but it is truly the only just punishment for someone like George Woldt, who was willing to rape, torture and murder merely for the sport of killing."

A week after he was sentenced to death, Woldt, who had been placed on a suicide watch, refused to attend his sentencing hearing for the other charges brought in the case, including the attempted kidnap of jogger Amber Gonzales. Woldt's defense attorney, Doug Wilson, said he didn't want his client to have to deal with being confronted by Gonzales.

For the third time out of seven tries, a panel of judges had sentenced a man to die. In order to reach that decision, they'd determined that certain murderers were more deserving of the death penalty than others. Like Frank "Pancho" Martinez and Cody Neal, George Woldt was one of those murderers.

Next week: In the conclusion of "Penalty Zone," Donta Page fights for his life after taking the life of Peyton Tuthill.

Read more Westword coverage of the Colorado Death Penalty in The Penalty Zone

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