Shades of Guilt

In the murder trial of Krystal Voss, doubt was everywhere and nothing was reasonable.

The statement Alejo had obtained from Voss made no mention of "slamming" Kyran against anything. It was a troubling omission; according to Dr. Wells, the lopsided character of Kyran's head injury suggested an impact of some kind as well as shaking. Now here was a record, however belatedly presented, of a shaking and a slamming. Those were Voss's own words, Tuggle insisted. "I wrote down what she said."

The defense attempted to score some points with other entries in Tuggle's notes, which documented an acrimonious feud between Alejo, the Alamosa County Department of Social Services and the doctors at Children's Hospital. The doctors found Alejo's "lack of urgency" and his refusal to share information disturbing. Alejo, for his part, berated Tuggle for interfering in his investigation. In one phone call, he informed Tuggle that he was "not going to fit his investigation into some doctor's diagnosis of what happened.... He will decide what really happened. They are not going to dictate to him."

Alejo, it seemed, didn't want to be confused by medical facts. Flustered by the unflattering portrait of him revealed in her notes, Tuggle went up to him after her testimony to make amends. "I need a hug, Harry," she said. "I'm so sorry."

 
 
Damien Gaston, Krystal Voss and their son, Kyran, 
posed for a family photo shortly before they moved to 
Alamosa two years ago.
Damien Gaston, Krystal Voss and their son, Kyran, posed for a family photo shortly before they moved to Alamosa two years ago.

But prosecutor Gonzales and his boss, Alamosa District Attorney Peter Comar, had reason to be pleased with Tuggle's performance. How was Voss going to explain not one, but two confessions?

During the break, Comar turned to Alejo with a glint in his eye. "They've got to put her on," he said.


The defense called only two witnesses: Damien Gaston and Krystal Voss.

Gaston had stood by his wife since the day Kyran was hurt. He sat in the front row throughout the trial, hands clasped tightly in front of him, beaming prayers her way, blowing her kisses and embracing her during breaks. On the stand, he alternated between gazing intently at her, Wayne Cole and the jury.

"Do you love Krystal Voss?" Cole asked.

"Yes, yes, I do," Gaston said.

"If you believed Krystal Voss had inflicted injuries on your son, how would you have reacted?"

"I sure would not be here today," Gaston said.

He recalled how he'd met his wife when they were both working at Wild Oats in Denver, how they started dating and eventually married. A few weeks after they moved to the San Luis Valley, he'd found a job with a pump crew for an irrigation company. His routine remained the same up until the day Kyran was hurt.

The night before, Gaston said, Kyran was running around and playing. Everyone got to bed a little later than usual. Sometime in the night, he'd woken up to find Kyran whining beside his toddler bed, at the foot of his parents' bed. That wasn't unusual; Kyran was still waking them up several times a night. He put the boy in bed between himself and Voss. Later, Kyran's "wiggling" woke him up again, and Voss asked, "Damien, can you take him?"

Gaston cradled the child on his shoulder and went back to sleep. He got up at half past six, his wife and child still asleep. "I had to roll Kyran back off my shoulder," he said. "I gave him a kiss on the cheek. He looked like he was very happy and comfortable."

He left for work an hour later. He knew Ramirez was coming to give his wife a ride to Denver "so she could get some errands done," he said. That afternoon he received the phone call every parent dreads.

Over the next four days, he recalled, he and Voss scarcely left Kyran's side at Children's Hospital. They were both exhausted from lack of sleep when Alejo came to talk to them. Voss was gone a long time with the investigator, he recalled, and returned in an agitated state.

"Alejo guided her back to the ICU," he said. "She took two or three steps and fell into my arms, sobbing and crying profusely. She was shaking like a leaf. She said, 'I started it all; I started the trauma. I could have started the damage to his brain.' And I said, ŒWhat are you talking about?'"

DA Comar had only two questions for the witness. One involved whether Voss tried to flee the hospital when Alejo came to arrest her; contrary to Alejo's testimony, Gaston insisted that she didn't. The other question showed where the prosecution was heading with the case: Gaston didn't have any "personal knowledge" of what happened at his house between the time he left for work that morning and the time Ramirez showed up, did he?

Of course not. Only one person did: Krystal Voss. Perhaps Kyran was still "normal" when Gaston left, this theory seemed to suggest, but Voss might have shaken him again that morning, as Ramirez claimed. It was just a theory -- if a mother was going to confess to shaking her son the night before, why wouldn't she also admit what she had done that morning? -- but only Voss could refute it.

She tried. At Marquez's invitation, she told the jury what Kyran did that morning. In her own words, she described how he played with some of his Christmas toys. How he ate bananas. How he brought her books to read to him. When Ramirez arrived, she put him down for his nap. "He was getting real good about going to nap by himself," she said.

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