By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It was Aurora police detective Steven Stanton, going by the name "Robert."
Sturm had told his attorney that Vaupel had asked him to hire a hit man. The attorney told another attorney, who told the FBI, who told Aurora police, who sent Stanton to talk to Vaupel. During his 23 years as a police officer, Stanton has worn wires on countless drug busts -- but the concrete and steel of the detention facility are too thick to transmit through. So he stuffed a microphone in his ear and a tape recorder in his back pocket, and recorded his talk with Vaupel over a phone line through the glass wall that separated the two. Later, he transcribed the conversation:
Stanton: "Hey, man."
Vaupel: "Hey, how are ya."
"I'll be good. Um, Six sent me."
"Ah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Six Door."
"Oh, yeah, how are ya, man?"
"I hear you have a job for me."
"How soon do ya need it done?"
"Um, now, not 'til, not for a couple, for, you know, I've got a couple of months."
"Oh, you do?"
"Okay. And I guess there's, uh, two jobs?"
"Ahh, yeah, well, I mean the (laughs) yeah, I spoke to him, uh, I spoke to him about um, one, and the second one, it's, it's, I don't know (pause) (inaudible) um, no, just the one."
"Okay, the female."
"Mm. Yeah. Yeah."
"But the male is a no-go, okay."
"Okay. No, really, because, uh, uh, too uh, too big a, too much of a problem."
"Well, the big thing was that he didn't know if you wanted me to, uh, it to be an accident."
"If you just wanted them to disappear. If you wanted (inaudible)."
Later in the conversation, the undercover cop told Vaupel that "sometimes it's easier if they're found, rather than just, they disappear off the face of the earth."
"Whatever you decide," Vaupel responded.
On April 20, "Robert" returned to see Vaupel again. This time he had a photo of Schwab, which he showed to Vaupel. "I just want to make sure that's the right person," he said.
"Uh-huh, uh-huh," Vaupel replied.
"So how soon do you want me to get this finished?"
"As soon as possible."
"Okay, I just, the last time you didn't want me while you were still here."
"No, no, no, no, no, no, actually it's even better"
The two agreed that Vaupel would give Robert half of the "ten" they agreed upon before the job, and the other half after the job was done.
On May 6, 2005, guards at the detention facility told Vaupel he was being released -- but as it turned out, he was sent straight to the Adams County Jail, where he later learned he was facing up to 48 years on charges of attempted first-degree murder as well as solicitation for first-degree murder. His bond was ultimately set at $250,000.
On March 13, the first day of his trial in Adams County District Court, Vaupel sat in a navy-blue suit he'd borrowed from the public defenders. He wasn't wearing handcuffs, but a squeak came from his pants every time he moved -- it was the restraint device designed to keep him from running.
In his opening, Senior Deputy District Attorney Christopher Griffin argued that Vaupel felt his wife had wronged him, mistreated him, caused his unfair incarceration and initiated a deportation effort against him. "Vaupel wanted that problem taken care of," he said.
Then Griffin told the story of how Vaupel had met Sturm, a bank robber and ex-con on his way back to the big house. He said that Vaupel had promised to help Sturm escape from prison in exchange for getting his ex-wife whacked. But instead, Sturm went to his lawyer with the murder-for-hire scheme.
In his opening, public defender Scott Evans talked about the bitter divorce and custody battle. Vaupel had hired a private investigator when he suspected his wife was cheating, and while in the Jeffco jail he wanted to do so again just to make sure that his wife was where she was supposed to be and that his son was safe. Evans painted Vaupel as a victim facing an expedited deportation initiated by Mario Ortiz, who was using his office to help his girlfriend get rid of her ex-husband.
Evans warned jurors that Sturm's crimes went back to 1993. He was facing the rest of his life in prison, and thought Vaupel was a snitch. Sturm figured he could kill two birds with one stone, Evans argued, ruining the snitch and helping his own case by faking a murder for hire and throwing federal employee Ortiz into the mix, so that the attempted murder would be a federal crime and Sturm could get some slack on his sentence in exchange for testifying against Vaupel.
"There was never any plot to kill anyone," Evans said. "This was all a concoction by David Sturm."
Sturm was the first prosecution witness. "He asked me to have his wife and her boyfriend killed," Sturm told the court. He said he was nervous, that he'd never testified before.