By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Barbara Siemann woke to the sound of footsteps in her hallway just after 3:30 a.m. on June 1. Judging by the blurred digital clock on her cell phone, it was far too early for her seventeen-year-old daughter to be getting home from staying the night at a friend's house. Yet who else could be wandering in the hall, turning out the light?
Reluctantly, Siemann dragged herself out of bed to investigate. And there he was, standing in her hallway, staring.
"Who the fuck are you?" she screamed. "Get the fuck out of my house!"
The man was dark, husky and short, swaying and making an eerie moaning sound. Siemann felt sure he was ready to pounce. But he pushed passed her and out the front door. Then, just as quickly, he came back in through a side entrance to her TV room. Never had her spacious Cherry Hills house, with its copious windows and sliding glass doors, seemed so vulnerable.
Frantic, Siemann ran back to her bedroom and lunged for her panic button. Meanwhile, she could hear the man clattering in the kitchen, ransacking her drawers in search of a knife. "Oh, my God," she thought. "He's gonna get a knife and kill me."
Out the sliding doors, past the pool and over to a neighbor's house she ran. She pounded on the door, called 911 and waited for her breath to slow.
At that moment, she had no idea that the man she'd found in her hallway was on his second break-in of the night. Or that less than a mile away in Greenwood Village, he had heaved a stone through the first-floor window of another stranger's house, crawled over the nineteen-year-old boy sleeping beneath the window, grabbed two paring knives out of a kitchen drawer, and tried to smash out another window to escape. Or that he'd then headed to Siemann's place, where he broke a window and wandered, bleeding, through the rooms. At one point, he'd even stood above Siemann's bed, silently dripping blood on her floor.
She knew none of this. Not until the police came over to deliver even stranger news: They had caught the intruder, a nineteen-year-old from Adams County named Rogelio Hernandez-Dominguez. But when they found him, he was lying on the bed in one of her spare rooms, covered in blood, stabbing himself relentlessly in the stomach.
Cherry Hills is not accustomed to such drama. One of Denver's wealthiest suburbs, its residents have fountains in their yards, tennis courts off their driveways and whole neighborhoods walled off from the main road with bricks and ivy. The police department is an understated affair, tucked into Village Hall, right across from Cherry Hills Village elementary school. There are 21 sworn officers on staff, including just one general detective, Jake Campbell, and one lieutenant, Jody Sansing.
Both men were on the scene the morning that Hernandez-Dominguez broke into Siemann's home. And Sansing is quick to defend the decisions they made.
"I don't want the impression that we dropped the ball on this, because we did the best — everything we could," he says.
When the cops found him, Hernandez-Dominguez was stabbing himself with a ten-inch kitchen knife, according to the police report. Even after they aimed their guns and ordered him to drop the weapon, he drove the knife into his abdomen at least two more times. There was, as one officer noted, "a remarkable amount of blood." The cops called an ambulance to take him to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.
Two days after the break-in, Sansing and Campbell interviewed Hernandez-Dominguez and his family at the hospital. From bed, where he was still groggy from pain medication, the young man explained that he didn't remember much from that night.
What he did recall sounded more like hallucination than reality: He went to work detailing cars, came home to his parents' house in Adams County and then went out drinking at a bar with a friend named "Charlie," according to Campbell's written affidavit. Back at Charlie's place, the two kept drinking — although Hernandez-Dominguez said he'd only had "a couple" beers over four hours.
On his way home, he told police, a car began tailing him with its brights on. He tried to lose it, but the car seemed to chase him. He decided to drive to his boss's south Denver home for help. But when he got there, his pursuers pushed him through a window. Then someone hit him with a bottle, and he took off running.
"He did not know who the people were or see them, and he doesn't know why they were chasing him," Campbell wrote in the affidavit. "He said that he didn't want to hurt anyone or take anything from anyone."
Based on this interview and the chaos of the crime scene, the cops concluded that Hernandez-Dominguez had had some kind of psychotic episode, some sort of break from reality. "We came to the conclusion that he wasn't right mentally," Campbell says.
His parents, in halting English, told the cops that their son didn't have a history of mental illness, didn't use drugs and "rarely" drank alcohol. But his girlfriend, Violeta Vidales, mentioned one other episode that sounded strange. Once, at a party, Hernandez-Dominguez suddenly grew paranoid that someone was going to hurt him. He became so frightened, she said, that they had to leave the party. "She thought it was very odd, it was out of the blue, she didn't see any reason for it," Campbell says.