Russian Roulette

The bride says she married for love; her mother-in-law suspects it was money. The only person who can settle the dispute is dead.

On August 3, 2001, Dietrich Angerer and Viktoriya Dubovchenko stood in the Summit County Courthouse and bound their lives together. But there were no bridesmaids or groomsmen to celebrate the occasion. No father to walk his little princess down the aisle. Even Dietrich's own mother, Josefina Ygoa, was at home in Lakewood, unaware that her only child was getting married 75 miles away in Breckenridge. With a judge as their witness, the young couple promised to love, honor and cherish one another, in sickness and in health, till death do they part.

But no one, certainly not Dietrich, expected it to end quite so suddenly. Three months after the wedding, he overdosed on heroin.

Matt Collins
International man of mystery: Dietrich Angerer.
International man of mystery: Dietrich Angerer.

Josefina Ygoa tried to do right by her son. She tried to be a loving and attentive mother, to provide all the trappings of a middle-class lifestyle. But she and her husband had a volatile marriage, and she wonders how much that affected Dietrich. From the time he was fourteen, he would disappear for a month at a time, staying with friends or roaming the streets.

"He got in trouble a lot," Josefina says. "He never did anything violent; he was just a nuisance kid. I blame myself. Maybe if I'd gotten along with my husband, he wouldn't have wanted to leave so much. Or maybe it's in my blood."

Josefina, a pretty, dark-haired woman who looks much younger than her 53 years, was born and raised in the Philippines and had a rebellious streak of her own, often taking part in political protests. Her parents shipped her off to Madrid in her early twenties, hoping that her grandmother could straighten her out. Instead, she met and married Richard Angerer, an American geologist with Chevron who was thirteen years her senior. Shortly after their wedding, Richard was transferred to Holland, where Josefina became pregnant with Dietrich. But before he was born, in 1977, Richard's job brought them to Lakewood, not far from his alma mater, the Colorado School of Mines. Even though she was a foreign bride, Josefina adapted easily to America, having grown up speaking English in a very Westernized country. But cultural and age differences posed problems for the couple, and Josefina often felt that her husband treated her as a child, especially when it came to financial decisions. Most of their arguments, however, centered on how to raise Dietrich. "He was of German descent and was very strict; I was more free," Josefina explains. "I was determined not to be as overprotective as my parents, but in the long run, Richard was right."

It finally became too much, and they divorced in 1994. A year later, Richard died of a brain aneurysm.

In his will, Richard left his son a condominium just outside of Breckenridge. The Vienna Townhomes aren't much -- a '70s-era, bargain-type property with a mix of seasonal workers, young couples and second-homers in residence -- but for an eighteen-year-old, it was great to be only a mile from the slopes and the mountain town's notorious nightlife.

"He just wanted to be in the mountains to snowboard," Josefina says. "He was very generous and good-hearted, and he had an open-door policy at his house."

That openness got Dietrich in trouble shortly after he arrived. His roommate dealt drugs out of the condo, and drifters came and went. "If you were homeless or an alcoholic, he'd feel sorry for you and you could stay with him," Josefina says. Dietrich also began amassing an extensive criminal record of his own that included production of marijuana, possession of narcotics equipment, third-degree assault, robbery, larceny, burglary, forgery, trespassing and driving under the influence.

He was eventually ordered into a drug treatment program in Buena Vista, graduating from it in May 2000; Josefina says Dietrich passed every drug test during his eighteen months of probation. She hoped that maybe, finally, he was cleaning up. But their relationship was strained, and Dietrich would reveal very little to her, becoming defensive when she questioned him about whom he was hanging out with and whether he was going to school. Dietrich had dropped out of Green Mountain High School at sixteen, but he was taking the occasional creative-writing class at Colorado Mountain College, an independent school with twelve campuses in the Rockies.

"Dietrich was very smart; he just never liked school," Josefina says. "He loved to read, and he wanted to be a writer. I encouraged him to go to a newspaper and show his writing. He loved poems."

He wrote a funny one for Josefina when she turned fifty. She can't read it or even mention it today without crying:

So now you are FIFTY
No dentures yet
But oh you're so thrifty.
Be careful, your bones might not mend
Your sight will falter
And soon you'll be wearing Depends.
It'll be naptime at noon
No more cares
All you get is prunes.
Write down all your amazing tales
Cause your memory will go
And your hearing will fail.
But no matter how senile you get
Or if you pick up the old lady smell
I'm willing to bet
I'll leave you NEVER
I'll be there when you call
And love you FOREVER!

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