Crash Course

From the darkness, a ray of light that was Sonja DeVries.

Thomson hopes to convince the legislature to pass such a bill. In Sonja's memory.

And then, after reading the litany of Romero's previous run-ins with the law, Martinez imposed the maximum sentence: twenty-four years. "Mr. Romero," he said, "you don't know how tragic and sad it is to see your life come to this."

Carolyn and Van DeVries with Sonja.
Carolyn and Van DeVries with Sonja.

To see all these lives come to this.

The judge excused Romero's friends and family members from the courtroom first. Romero, head down, sat alone, surrounded by the people who'd loved Sonja, who saw her light.

An Incomplete Sentence

"I just had a really good night," Doug Fleischmann said. It was early in the morning of June 22, 2003, and Fleischmann had stopped by Dazzle for a nightcap after closing up the two nearby restaurants he owned with Frank Bonanno. While the two-year-old Mizuna was one of the most well-established restaurants in the city, Luca D'Italia was only four months old, and getting it off the ground had been a lot of work. But now it was all paying off.

A consummate front-of-the-house man, Fleischmann had a big grin that contained enough wattage to power Denver's entire restaurant scene. "A really good night," Fleischmann said, raising a glass and beaming.

Less than an hour later, that light was out. Fleischmann was dead, killed by a driver who ran a stop sign at 17th Avenue and Lafayette, and ran right into Fleischmann's jeep.

The driver, 22-year-old Cassandra Egloff, was originally charged with vehicular homicide, which was dropped to driving while ability impaired and careless driving resulting in death. It took the jury less than an hour to convict her after a three-day trial last October. In December, she was sentenced to a year in jail, with 180 days dismissed, and a year's probation. She was allowed to serve her sentence through in-home detention, with an ankle bracelet keeping her close to home when she wasn't at work.

While the place where Egloff was serving her sentence wasn't Martha Stewart territory, it wasn't bad, either. Gilliane McCune, a single mother and secretary, had bought the house just down the street in the Baker neighborhood as an investment, and rented it to Egloff and her boyfriend last June. They were to get $50 off the rent each month if they mowed McCune's lawn.

This spring, the weeds were growing high and McCune was concerned that her tenant wasn't keeping her end of the bargain. She sent Egloff a letter, reminding her of the deal and asking for the missing rent. And then McCune got a call. It was Egloff's probation officer. Had she written the court a letter asking that Egloff be allowed to go off her monitoring a few hours each week so that she could mow her lawn? No way, McCune said.

And she repeated that in court last month, after the Denver District Attorney's office filed a motion arguing that Egloff had violated her probation by forging a note from her landlord. If she would lie about that, what else might she lie about?

But the judge determined that since money was not involved, the forgery did not constitute a violation. And he even agreed to give Egloff time off from her electronic monitoring while she moved. McCune initiated eviction proceedings after the forgery.

McCune left court steaming. The next day, in that same courthouse, Ramon Romero would receive a 24-year sentence for killing someone while he was driving drunk.

Egloff moved out soon after. "At least I'm rid of her," McCune says. "The worst thing is, she'd shown no remorse. She was more upset about her car than the man who died."

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