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"But the police never asked me a damn thing," Joe adds. "Because I would have told them the same shit I just told you."
Joe doesn't know Kidder's real name. It's Earl Taylor.
Taylor, 21, grew up in the Denver area and went to Merrill Middle School when he wasn't doing time in the Division of Youth Corrections. Taylor's juvenile criminal record is sealed, but it's clear from letters he mailed to his friends at the time that he was incarcerated for much of his adolescence. In one of the letters, written in 1996, Taylor jokes that he, an older brother and their father were all serving sentences in three separate institutions.
"Earl was an okay guy in middle school. He was kind of shy, actually, kind of cute. He had a lot of friends who were girls," says a close friend of Eric Scott's who went to middle school with Taylor. "He got in a little trouble, but it was mainly over vandalism -- graffiti, mostly. Then he got into stealing car stereos and he got sent away for a while, and it seemed like he was always in and out [of jail] after that."
Like nearly all of Scott's close friends, this one agreed to be quoted only on the condition of anonymity. Like the others, she fears retribution from Taylor.
"He's dangerous now. The real turning point for him was about two years ago, when he got jacked really bad by a couple of guys who beat him in the head with a hammer. That really changed him," she says. "Earl got really violent. He started carrying a hammer. It became his trademark."
Through intermediaries, Taylor refused several requests to be interviewed. But if his ex-friends are to be believed, he talked plenty in the last two years about joining a gang of armed robbers who specialized in ripping off drug dealers.
"He was always going, like, 'It's the bomb. You get the money and the drugs,'" says an ex-graffiti partner of Taylor's. "He said ripping off coke dealers was too dangerous, that it was better to hit pot dealers and rave kids because most of them were pussies."
Scott's girlfriend at the time of his murder is certain Taylor was behind at least one home-invasion robbery of a drug dealer -- her -- in February of 1999, more than a year before she got together with Scott.
"I used to run some stuff over in Glendale, and Earl ripped me off -- I'm sure of it," says Talia (who didn't want her real name used, either). "This one night, he came in and did a deal with me and my friend for, like, two pounds of kinder. An $8,000 deal. Then he left, and five minutes later, these four guys with ski masks and shotguns bust through the door, tied us all up and beat us with the shotguns until we told them where the money was hidden. I called [Earl] the next day and said, 'Don't even try to tell me you didn't do this,' and he basically said if I didn't shut up he'd kill me. He scared me enough that I moved out of that apartment right away."
Talia says the next time she saw Taylor was more than a year later, after she got together with Scott and learned that Taylor was one of her boyfriend's regular customers. "I tripped out," she says. "I told Eric, 'Look, you can't be dealing with this guy. You can't trust him,' and I told him all about how Kidder ripped me off."
Scott didn't like Taylor either, but he liked Taylor's money.
Mike Becker, Scott's best friend and business partner -- and the only friend of Scott's other than landlord Evan Frank who agreed to use his real name -- describes Taylor as "the one sketchy character" Scott sold to. "Most of the people who came through Eric's door were older, professional types. I mean, he wasn't selling dirt weed in the park. This was expensive stuff. A lot of them worked downtown and wore suits; one of them was an ordained minister. Kidder was the exception. He always struck us as this little wannabe gangster kid, and I know Eric wasn't sure about him, because he wouldn't leave Kidder alone in a room with his dog. But Kidder always had the cash."
This was especially true in the days leading up to Scott's murder. While Scott was in California buying into the surf shop, Becker stayed in Scott's place to handle the pot business. He says Taylor was a daily customer that week, making big buys totaling more than $5,000. "He knew Eric was gone, and the money was stacking up," says Becker.
Scott took Talia with him to California. They'd met two years earlier in a therapeutic-massage class they were both taking and began dating sporadically. She had a freebase cocaine habit, and Scott told her he wouldn't get serious with any girl who was on the pipe. Early this year, she got clean and they got serious. Their plan was for her to move to California with him and work in the surf shop. "He was totally ready to go legit," she says. "I think he realized he'd been in a risky business for so long with everything going so well that something bad was about to come down, and it was better to bail now. He just needed a few more days."