Throw It All Down

Michael Lanahan's life was a puzzle, his death a mystery wrapped in a song.

"I think the relationship had a little more gravity for her," says Spees, "and he thought it was more of a temporary thing. They'd drift apart, then he'd come back and be like, 'I screwed up, let's start over,' and they'd kick it back up again."

In January 2004, a few days after the training trip to Florida, there was a party at Lanahan's house. Jane was there, and Lanahan let her know he was interested in reviving their relationship. The next day, he showed up at the restaurant where she worked and invited her to go hiking. She declined.

After several phone calls from Lanahan, she invited him to dinner at her place. He brought a large bottle of wine. They watched a movie, finished off the wine, did some kissing. Then they decided to go to Lanahan's house to watch another movie, The Boondock Saints, a cult favorite. Along the way, Lanahan picked up another bottle of wine.

 
 
Crazy games: At CU, Michael Lanahan (above) was a 
high-stakes player on the party scene.
Mark Manger
Crazy games: At CU, Michael Lanahan (above) was a high-stakes player on the party scene.

At Lanahan's, Jane found occasion to text-message her boyfriend twice, expressing concern that she might do something she would later regret. 9:53 p.m.: "I need help." 10:10 pm: "Real trouble Joe."

While watching the movie, the two started fooling around. Things went from PG to R to NC-17 on Lanahan's bed. He used a belt to tie Jane's hands behind her back, and intercourse followed -- all consensual, she would later tell the police. But she quickly stopped him, according to police reports, "and told him that this wasn't why she wanted to come over." Lanahan agreed. They got dressed, had a shot of whiskey and talked.

Jane and Lanahan went to sleep in his bed around two in the morning. His roommates heard some yelling from his room during the night but paid little attention; as one woman put it, "People fight in my house all the time." Jane left the house well before dawn and made several calls, leaving anguished messages on friends' answering machines. At 10:52 a.m. she text-messaged her boyfriend again: "OK this is easier. I was raped."

She told a Boulder police detective that she'd awakened in Lanahan's bed, lying on her side: "She was confused, and she reached behind her and felt that Lanahan was having sex with her anally. When she realized what was going on, she jumped out of bed and was yelling at him.... Lanahan was completely naked, and he put his head in his hands as he was sitting on the bed and said things like, 'I'm sorry, I'm a terrible person...I thought you wanted to...I'm terrible. I'm sorry -- you'll probably never talk to me again.'"

She got dressed and left. Lanahan called her several times that night and the following morning, apologizing repeatedly. Then she got a call from one of Lanahan's roommates, wanting to know what was going on. Lanahan had locked himself in his room, he said, left weird "farewell" messages on a dry-erase board, and copped the roommate's heart medication. But when his friends threatened to call an ambulance, he started acting normal again.

In a phone call a week later, Jane tried to confront Lanahan about what he'd done. He insisted he didn't remember much about their date. Excerpts from that conversation, which was taped by the police:

JD: Do you feel like you did something wrong?

ML: I do. Or else...yeah, I do. I feel like something really bad happened, and I-I'm pretty sure it was my fault.

JD: I woke up naked with your dick in my ass.

ML: Are you serious?

JD: Yes.

ML: [Inaudible]

JD: And you don't remember that?

ML: No. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for not remembering...

JD: Are you sorry cause you don't remember or are you sorry because you hurt me?

ML: I'm more sorry that I hurt you. I know that you took a huge risk, I mean emotionally, even talking to me...I don't know all the details but that, that story that you're telling me is believable, okay...I just wanted you to hear that I feel horrible for hurting you.

To his friends, Lanahan insisted that he was innocent. The swim team was split between his supporters and Jane's. "Initially, I took her point of view," says Spees. "I still don't know what to think. He never wanted to talk about it."

"He maintained to the very end that he didn't do it," says Julsen. "They're the only two who know, and I'm not convinced that they know. When they got together, they tended to drink a lot."

"A lot of people felt like they had to pick sides," says Malin, "but I don't think anyone really knows what went on that night. In the eyes of the law, he probably was guilty. If she was that intoxicated, there's no way she could have given consent. But that doesn't mean he deserved what he got."

Two days before he learned that Jane had filed a sexual-assault complaint, Lanahan wrote to the judge in his loft-jacking case, asking that the terms of his probation be modified so he could travel to Ireland with his parents. He was withdrawing from CU, he explained, and wanted to finish his studies in Virginia. "I have demonstrated that I can live within the construct of the law and I have shone [sic] that I am not a flight risk," he wrote.

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