Shades of Black

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

It was at the wedding that Woldt first mentioned his fantasy to Salmon. He suggested they kidnap and rape a young woman at the reception. Salmon thought his friend was joking.

While Woldt was on his honeymoon, Salmon lived with his father and two of his brothers and began working in his father's business. Not long after he started there, though, female co-workers began complaining that he was making sexually inappropriate comments and using crude language.

When Woldt and his wife returned, Salmon moved back in with the newlyweds. Woldt's wife was pregnant and didn't want Salmon living with them, but her husband had his mind on other things. He kept talking to Salmon about his fantasy of rape and murder, and he wanted him to participate. Desperate to keep Woldt's friendship, after about a month, Salmon had adopted the fantasy as his own.

William Lee "Cody" Neal was quite a lady-killer -- in every sense of the word.
William Lee "Cody" Neal was quite a lady-killer -- in every sense of the word.
Rebecca Holberton was getting ready to get Cody Neal out of her life when he killed her.
Rebecca Holberton was getting ready to get Cody Neal out of her life when he killed her.


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

On April 27, 1997, they decided it was time to act.

They muffed their first attempt late that afternoon. Driving through the Garden of the Gods, the pair saw Amber Gonzales jogging alongside the road. They hit her with the car, as if by accident, and then offered to take her to a hospital. Gonzales wisely refused their help.

The two decided to move on to another victim. Their blood was up; they were "psyched," Salmon later told police. They ended up at a nightclub, where they began following women to their cars. But again and again, their plan was aborted when a man would appear and the pair had to abandon their prey. Finally, Salmon and Woldt gave up for the night and were driving home when a pretty young blonde pulled up next to them at a stoplight. They'd found their victim.

Jacine Gielinski, a former athlete at Littleton High School, was attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. That night, the 22-year-old was on her way to visit her boyfriend, and she remained unaware of the car that followed her for several miles to her boyfriend's apartment complex. Jacine had gotten out of the car and was walking toward the building when Woldt suddenly grabbed her from behind and started dragging her toward Salmon's car. She screamed and fought, attracting the attention of several witnesses, but no one came to her aid. Woldt and Salmon shoved her into the back seat of the vehicle and took off.

As the young woman begged her captors not to hurt her, Woldt beat her, tearing off her clothes as he directed Salmon to an elementary-school parking lot. There they took turns raping her. When they finished, they made her crawl backward out of the car and lie on the pavement with her shirt over her head. The men spent the next ten minutes standing over Jacine, discussing what to do next.

Salmon had seen witnesses at the apartment complex and thought there was a good chance that someone had taken down his license plate. But they decided to kill Gielinski anyway; they certainly couldn't leave her as a witness. Woldt retrieved a steak knife from the glove box. Then the men took turns cutting her throat and stabbing her in the chest until Jacine screamed and moaned in pain. When the knife bent, Salmon straightened it out so that they could continue. But Jacine didn't die easily.

Woldt slashed her left wrist, but still she lived. So Salmon took her shirt and smashed it down over her face to smother her while Woldt stood on her chest to force the air out. They kept discussing the best technique to finish the job, ordering Jacine to move and cooperate as they came up with new ideas.

At last they determined that she was dead. But Woldt had one last suggestion: They should stuff mud in her vagina to destroy DNA evidence of their rapes. Once that was done, they rolled her body under a van, threw her blood-soaked bra and the knife in the trunk of Salmon's car, and drove off.

The two men headed back to Woldt's apartment, exchanging high-fives over the success of their mission. "I'm not a virgin anymore," Salmon noted. At the apartment, they joked about how "stupid" they were and listed the mistakes they'd made.

One of the mistakes involved the license plate. A short time later, the police showed up and took the two men into custody. Separated from his friend, Salmon at first denied knowing anything about a kidnapping. When the police asked to search his car, however, he gave his permission, knowing they would find the bra and knife. Confronted by the evidence, he confessed -- matter-of-factly, without emotion -- and told the police where they could find Jacine Gielinski's body. Later, after being appointed lawyers from the Colorado Public Defender's Office, Salmon waived his bond hearing, saying it was not "appropriate" that he be released.

Woldt also confessed, and the men were charged with first-degree murder. Soon after, El Paso District Attorney Jeanne Smith announced that her prosecutors, Dan Zook and David Young, would be seeking the death penalty. On March 4, 1999, Lucas Salmon was found guilty of first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder, sexual assault and kidnapping, as well as attempted kidnapping for the incident with Gonzales.

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