Love, American Style

Illegal immigrant Jon Vaupel is not from Mexico, but he's a borderline case.

"That puts me in a great, great, amount of danger, but sometimes you have to do what's right," he added. "I'm definitely signing my life away right here, no doubt about it. When I get to the penitentiary, they'll kill me."

Vaupel had told him it was okay to kill Schwab in front of their child, because he was so young he wouldn't remember anything, Sturm said, but that was too much for even him to bear, so he went to his lawyer.

"So your motives here were altruistic," Evans asked on cross-examination.

Jon Vaupel
Jon Vaupel

"I don't know what that means," Sturm replied.

"Basically, being a do-gooder," Evans said.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Sturm agreed.

On redirect, Griffin had Sturm reiterate for the jury that his testifying at this trial could be taken into consideration at his bank-robbery sentencing -- Sturm had said the U.S. District Attorney had offered up to a 25 percent reduction -- but that it would still be up to the judge to decide how long he would sit behind bars.

"I would never, never make up something like this," Sturm told jurors.

Stacy Schwab was flown in from Texas to testify on the second day of the trial.

She started crying when Griffin showed her the map Vaupel had drawn to her house in Texas; she said she recognized the handwriting as Vaupel's. Then she identified the picture that undercover cop Steven Stanton had shown Vaupel at the immigration detention facility. The photo was taken the day Vaupel proposed to her, she said.

Schwab testified that she had withdrawn her sponsorship of her husband's immigration application, and although Ortiz had signed it, she said that she didn't know him at the time.

The next witness was Stanton.

Stanton told of meeting Vaupel at the detention facility, and classified the quality of the tape recording as "fair." But when it was played in the courtroom, there was a constant clicking and a lot of fuzz, and much of the talk was inaudible. The jury received the transcript of the tape prepared by Stanton, but the judge advised jurors to listen to the tape and to use the transcript as a fall-back.

"Through facial expressions and through his voice, it appeared to me that he understood what we were discussing," Stanton explained after the tape was played.

Vaupel had sounded excited when he told him he'd been sent by "Six," Stanton testified, and said that the job had been changed to one person, not two.

The tape from Stanton's second undercover conversation with Vaupel wasn't much better, although it had been made on a different recorder.

On cross-examination, Stanton admitted that the recorders shut off at low volume, so other things could have been said, words and even whole sentences spoken but not recorded.

While the word "job" was mentioned, words like "whack," "kill" or "murder" never were, Evans pointed out. And the "disappear" comment came from Stanton, not Vaupel.

The first defense witness was the Jefferson County sheriff's deputy for whom Vaupel had left the packet of papers at the Jeffco jail. He testified that Vaupel doesn't hear well, and that Vaupel had asked him about finding a private investigator to check on his son's well-being.

Next on the stand was a friend of Vaupel's who testified that while he was still in the Jeffco jail, she'd looked into getting him a private investigator, but that it was too expensive.

Vaupel was the last witness to take the stand.

"I did not want to get divorced. I loved my wife," Vaupel said, explaining that he'd filed for the legal separation only so she would have to stay in Colorado with their son.

He testified that he couldn't call the house in Dallas, and hadn't asked Texas authorities about his son because he was afraid it would violate the court order that he not contact Schwab. He'd tried to hire another private investigator to collect evidence against her, but he couldn't afford the $2,500 up front that was the best deal his friend had found, much less the additional $75 an hour. So he'd asked other inmates what to do, and Sturm had suggested his friend Robert, the former bounty hunter.

Vaupel testified that he was shocked, not excited, when Robert showed up at the detention facility. He said he was wary that Robert might have been an undercover cop trying to bust him for violating the court order that he not reach out to Schwab in any way. But he figured he'd hear Robert out, or at least try to. "There was a lot of things I couldn't hear through it," he said of the conversation. "The clarity was very difficult," Vaupel said of the conversations with Robert.

As for the "ten" that the two had agreed on for the "job," Vaupel said that "ten" could refer to "one thousand" in Australia, the figure he'd told Sturm he could afford for an investigation.

During cross-examination,Vaupel said that he'd originally wanted Ortiz followed, too, but changed his mind on that. He did not want a murder committed: "I never would've even dreamed anything so vile."

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