Shades of Guilt

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

Ramirez had come to babysit Kyran. Yes, she was planning to go back to Denver and stay with him and his wife, but not for a threesome. The sex was over, she insisted. "They said I could sleep on their couch and borrow their car," she said.

Kyran was still napping when she left for work, shortly after one o'clock. Around two she got a call from Ramirez -- not what the hell did you do, get your ass here right now! More like, I need you to come home now, just come home now.

She drove fast. "Patrick was on the front porch with Kyran in his arms," she said, her voice shaking. "He held him out to me and said, 'He's hurt real bad, hon.'"

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.

She burst into sobs. She'd been tearful at times throughout the trial, usually when Kyran's injuries were discussed. She'd dabbed her eyes with tissues and clutched a shawl tightly around her, seemingly freezing in a room that others complained was too warm. The jury had taken note; whether they thought it was grief or melodrama was anyone's guess.

Marquez gently led her forward to other scenes. Ramirez on his knees, apologizing to her at the hospital. Kyran hooked up to all those tubes and machines. A cop telling her to stay out of the doctors' way. The flight to Denver. Asking Ramirez why the doctors were saying it looked like a shaking, not a fall, and his strange reply: "I probably hurt him more by trying to help him."

"Patrick Ramirez has said this was all your idea," Marquez said.

"That is an absolute lie," she said.

As she described her fateful interview with Alejo, her voice began to rise. It was "the most horrible ninety minutes" of her life. Alejo was insisting that she hadn't told him the truth. He wanted her to explain why the injuries didn't match Ramirez's story.

"Are you angry about that interview?" Marquez asked.

"I am," she said. "I was not capable of logical thought. Sergeant Alejo told me specific things to write down. I thought he was going to take me away from my child.... I did what he told me to do because I wanted to leave that room and get back to Kyran."

She told Alejo that she'd "jostled" Kyran in bed the night before Ramirez arrived. He seized on that admission and gave a little unscientific lecture, complete with diagrams, on how "it could take hours and hours for the brain to swell." He told her to write that she'd shaken him "probably more violently than I meant to," that she may have started "the trauma to my son's brain that happened the next day." Not satisfied with the finished statement, he had her squeeze in one more line between two completed paragraphs: "In looking back he'd already been hurt."

The interview with Tuggle had come minutes after Alejo was done. Voss denied telling Tuggle that she'd shaken Kyran or slammed him into the bed.

Comar then embarked on an incredulous and sarcastic cross-examination. Why would Tuggle lie? Why would any mother let a police officer dictate a confession to her about scrambling her own son's brains?

He waved Voss's words in front of her. "That's a three-page handwritten statement," he bellowed. "And you wrote it. Did he stand over you as you wrote it?"

Voss said he did, then corrected herself: Alejo was out of the room for ten minutes. But she wasn't sure if she was under arrest at the time. "He told me to sit there and keep writing," she said.

Alejo made her write that she started the trauma to her son's brain? Did Alejo tell her to write that she was "angry at Kyran" that night? Weren't those her words?

"I would call it 'frustrated' if I was choosing the words," Voss replied.

"This is your language, is it not?" Comar demanded.

"I didn't know the mechanics and forces required to cause that sort of damage," she replied. "I thought I may have started something.... I didn't believe so, but here was this policeman telling me things. I felt like I was walking on the bottom of the ocean, and nothing seemed real. I know now anything is possible when a mother hasn't slept and her baby is dying."

Incensed, Comar got even louder, several degrees more belligerent than Marquez had been with Ramirez. Finally, Judge Kuenhold told him to "tone it down," but the DA had made his point.

Marquez limited his redirect to exploring the mystery of why a mother might blame herself in such circumstances, even if she'd committed no crime.

"When your child was lying dying in the hospital, who was responsible?" he asked.

"Patrick Ramirez," Voss said.

"How did you feel about your role?"

"I felt bad about leaving my son there with him," she said, convulsing again in sobs. "It was the worst mistake I ever made, going to work that day."

"You feel guilty."

"Yes, because I left him there."

In murder trials, the prosecution's closing argument is often a relentlessly logical march through the evidence, while the defense mounts an appeal to emotion, gut instincts, so-called common sense or alternate theories of the crime, however flimsy. In the Voss case, already the exception to so many rules, the roles were largely reversed.

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