A Hard Hit

Whoever murdered Eric Scott deprived some troubled teens of a reason to make a better life.

Darcy, who is 31, first encountered Scott about eight years back at Muddy's, a notorious downtown coffeehouse whose owners erected a barrier of scrap wood topped with spikes around the back patio to dissuade their gutter-punk clientele from hopping the fence to avoid paying the $1 cover charge. Before it closed for good in the summer of 1997, Muddy's stayed open until 4 a.m. Scott was a regular. He was in his environment amid walls scribbled with graffiti, torn-up couches and street kids getting stoned.

"He had just started to get off the streets when I got to know him. He didn't really have his shit together yet, but he already had this charisma where he could walk into a room, like in Muddy's, and just own it in like five minutes," says Darcy. "He had this gift where he could talk to just about anyone and make them feel like they were important to him."

One morning in the summer of 1993, Scott walked into a cafe on Broadway, walked up to a fourteen-year-old girl with a strawberry birthmark on her face, and with one expression of kindness made a friend for life. "All through grade school and middle school, kids called me 'Kool-Aid face,'" says Chelsea, now 22. "Eric came up to me, and the first thing he ever said to me was that my birthmark was beautiful. I'd never had anyone say that to me before. My friends would say stuff like, 'Oh, it's not that bad. You can hardly notice it.' But Eric said it was more beautiful than any tattoo he'd ever seen, and for the first time in my life, I wasn't ashamed of it."

Brian Stauffer
Zoot suit riot: Eric Scott in his favorite threads.
Zoot suit riot: Eric Scott in his favorite threads.

Shortly before he charmed Chelsea, Scott had moved into his first real residence, a rathole studio apartment at First Avenue and Broadway that he shared with a revolving cast of cretins and Becker, his best friend.

"I'd met Eric not long after he first got to Denver, and he more or less pulled me off the streets with him," says Becker. "He taught me how to take care of myself. He taught me to manage my money. He taught me how to ride a motorcycle, he taught me how to snowboard, and he taught me how to love. He was my family."

Two years ago, Becker tested positive for HIV. He lacked insurance for the costly prescription drugs he needed to fight the virus. Scott covered them all. "He used to say it was just one drug dealer paying another," says Becker.

But not all of Scott's money came from drugs. He was also a successful gambler. He played slots and blackjack, he counted cards, and he won a lot of money a little bit at a time except for when he won a lot all at once. Frank has a Polaroid picture of Scott standing with the bosses of a Black Hawk casino, grinning like a joker, holding a giant check for $5,000. He'd hit the jackpot on a dollar slot.

"Eric never lost," says Frank. "Losing was not part of the game for him, because he always knew to quit while he was ahead." That's what the move to California was all about for Scott: beating the house while he could still walk away. "Eric and I talked a lot about his future, and we'd both come to the conclusion that he needed to get out of Denver," adds Frank. "The night before he died, my wife made cookies for me to take over to him, and I told him I was sad because he was leaving but I was overjoyed for him."

The next morning, that joy drowned in a hard rain of shock and then grief and then anger. Those who held Scott close to their hearts are angry at whoever killed him, just as they're angry at the lack of progress in the investigation of his murder. But they are also furious at the official processing of his body and his belongings.

Scott was survived by at least a dozen souls who loved him. But since none of them shared his genes, they had no legal claim to his estate or a role in his funeral arrangements. Because there was no record of Scott's will, his possessions, among them turntables, snowboards, surfboards, a motorcycle, two cars, Oriental rugs and several glass sculptures, were sold at auction. Frank and Talia persistently called the office of the lawyer assigned by the city and county to oversee Scott's case. They wanted to find out the date, time and location of the auction. They never received a response.

"My parents are wealthy enough that they would have outbid anybody for anything of Eric's I wanted," says Talia. "I would have told anyone at that auction, 'Hey, this is my boyfriend's stuff. He got murdered, and you don't have a right to it.' But it was like they sold it all in secret and then didn't even give him a decent funeral."

R.L. Steenrod, the public administrator for the City and County of Denver assigned to handle what he calls "problem cases" such as Scott's, says he has no legal responsibility to notify anyone other than blood relatives of an estate auction, and so he didn't. Citing respect for Scott's privacy, Steenrod refuses to disclose how much money Scott's belongings fetched at auction. Speaking generally about similar cases, he explains that after all the decedent's creditors are paid, and after Steenrod compensates himself for his work as "the fiduciary of last resort," there is rarely enough money left over to pay for more than the most basic of burials.

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