"It wasn't taking off as fast as she wanted, but she was busy all the time," Kosnar says. "A lot of her Breckenridge people were coming in. It was hard for us to even pencil in coffee time, because she'd say she was tattooing until midnight."

Ausan declined comment for this article. Through his public defender, Keenu also declined to be interviewed. But a blog he was posting erratically on his MySpace page last summer provides a glimpse into his depression following the breakup. He complains of not being able to sleep, of not being able to "break the groggy sluggish mood I've been in." Mostly, the blog is about the loneliness of doing nothing:

August 19, 2008: well finally in denver, its been a long process but well its kind of over...hum well this was my first day here and aside from cutting my finger nothing really happened, just unpacking and getting settled in i'm probably going to take it easy for one more day but then i got to get serious...

Tara Schinn, who had several tattoo sessions with Kauri, says her friend "did not want to die like this."
Tara Schinn, who had several tattoo sessions with Kauri, says her friend "did not want to die like this."
Kim Kosnar, who had "girl talks" with Kauri weeks before her death, says her friend gave no hint of being suicidal.
Kim Kosnar, who had "girl talks" with Kauri weeks before her death, says her friend gave no hint of being suicidal.

August 20: its funny i had plans and stuff but well I just don't feel up to doing anything...

August 21: just have no energy...must have been under more stress then i realized...

August 22: walk around were I live today and discovered nothing of shocking interest or even minor interest...was suppose to do some piercing today too but since they were friends, and talk to sir groggy at his worst well nope on that...

September 7: it's been a nice calm sunday nothing major has happened...

September 16: crap i have no train of thought today i'm just babbiling...

Keenu expected to be working soon at Kauri's new shop, to be called Transposed Fusion. On his MySpace page he described himself as "a body modification artist who does everything from basic piercing to scarification and implants" and Transposed Fusion as "an all encompassing art exposé that also includes tattooing and live shows."

An unfinished website for Transposed Fusion devotes a single page to the piercing services that would be available. It states simply, "Keenu's bed side manner is a comfort to all."


From the moment she first met Kauri Tiyme at Charlie Brown's last August, Cora Reed thought the artist had a kind of beauty, internal and external, that she wanted to try to capture with a camera.

"She had about her a real intensity," Reed says. "When she met people, she'd give her tattoo-girl spiel, which was very concise: 'I've been tattooing for nineteen years, I've been on CNN, I'm working with the state of New York on their tattoo rules.'

"And I said, 'Okay, and who are you really?' Her guard came down entirely, and we were able to talk as people."

By the end of the evening, Tiyme had agreed to let Reed photograph her. The session took place a few weeks later and stretched over six hours. Kauri talked about her ex-husbands and various disaster scenarios that might be around the corner: bird flu epidemics, nukes, who knows.

"We spent a long time talking about what we would do if the Apocalypse came," Reed says. "We decided we would need communities that would hang together and have certain skills that would make the world work."

In early October, Kauri and Ausan went to Sedona for several days to relax. Kauri loved to bike the desert, especially at night, under the naked stars. She may have had other agendas for the trip; she told Kosnar that she hoped to have a heart-to-heart with Ausan about where the relationship was going. But Ausan told Kosnar after the trip that no "we have to talk" moment ever occurred.

The couple returned to town on Saturday, October 11. The next day, Kauri received a call from Keenu, who told her that his grandmother had died. Kauri left in her car, saying she had to help Keenu deal with the situation.

On Monday, October 13, Kauri called Ausan to talk about plumbing problems at the warehouse. She gave the impression that the business with Keenu might take a few days.

"That was the last we heard from her," Kosnar says.

Some of her friends believe that Keenu must have tricked Kauri, then gone berserk. The many injuries she suffered don't suggest the painless death Keenu claims he was trying to give her; they seem more in keeping with a rage killing by a spurned ex. The friends are also skeptical of Keenu's claims of trying to commit suicide himself. They doubt he would have been in any condition to drive to New Mexico if he'd been sampling rat poison and Drano, as his notes claim. As for the notes found in Kauri's handwriting, "who knows how old those notes are?" Conant asks.

Aside from a few excerpts in an arrest-warrant affidavit, the police have not released the notes. But sources familiar with certain aspects of the investigation say there are several details that indicate Kauri was an active participant in her own death. Some notes, for example, have references to Ausan and other people she'd met recently, people she wanted to have her iPod and other personal items. And the autopsy report lists an astonishing amount of diphenhydramine — the chief ingredient of Benadryl — in her system, more than sixty times the normal dose. Although the drug wasn't the cause of death, it's strong evidence of suicidal intent, of a plan to numb out and not return.

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15 comments
Cliff
Cliff

Kauri was a friend of mine. I have old letters and stories of her time in Tucson. She and Jay later visited me in Northern California when her Grandfather died and we spent time on the Lost Coast. There is a deeper longer story of deaths ... strange ritual deaths ... that were around her going all the way back to the '80's. She was always scared that "they" would find her ... to the point of paranoia. Her interests in the occult and psychedelic drug use led her down some very dark roads many of you know little of, but there were other murders (two I know of intimately). There were also wars, tattoo wars, going on in Tucson that she was affected by, with bombings and shootings ... she was not a willing participant. I'm sad to hear of her passing, as are many of her other old friends here in Tucson. RIP Kauri

Iris
Iris

Wow, I knew Kauri back in the 80's when we were just two young women hanging out together. Reading this makes me very sad. We sure had some good times, didn't we? Rest in peace Kauri.

Jery
Jery

Kauri did not 'go' by the name McPhillips, she married Jay McPhillips in 1994 in a private ceremony at the Enchangted Dragon Tattoo Studios in Tucson Az. People who slam a person "after" they are dead usually won't have ANYTHING said when they go. Kauri was a kind and kindred soul with visionary thoughts, a sharp wit and could recognize "crap" at a glance. Probably why some of these people are slamming her, she recognized them.

Jerry
Jerry

Have read the comments and I lived with Kauri for 14 months. Sorry you didn't get any James, only guys who knew her that hated her were the ones she dumped or never got any in the first place. Call you so you can play phone soldier, go turn some tricks and shut your face. Funny, don't see your name in any ink rags. She was spotlighted many times however. Man that jealousy can be harsh.

Jerry
Jerry

I knew Kauri since 1994, lived with her and her then husband in Tucson, she was Kauri McPhillips and worked for the Enchanted Dragon studios there for Glen Tackett. No I lived with her for 14 months and she did not want to go out like this.

Anne
Anne

Jim, How dare you talk about Kauri that way? Her art was not garbage and she was no liar.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

i would encourage the writer of this article to print some of the fine literary musings kauri wrote and post an open challenge for a reputable scientist to interpret her nonsensical gibberish.the stone cold fact is the bitch was crazy,but just cause she died everyone wants to seem sympathetic and all full of the warm fuzzies for her.she wasnt shit in life ,so why should she be deified just cause she murdered. the only shame is that she didnt get the proper psychological help she so needed.i wonder why all her suppposed friends were so absent in that department.

Margaret
Margaret

It's not that Kauri was a lair, james, it's just that you're too stupid to know what she's talking about.And yes, I did know her, worked with her for years in different locations.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

to those of you who were offended by what i had to say,my only question to you is did YOU know her.thought not ,because if you did and you were sane,you would probably share my lackluster sentiments.and to the retard who "is going to teach me a lesson"i live in virginia beach,va.if you feeling that assbent then feel free to contact me at 716 348 1223.i hope your your rightousness pays off,and by the way ,FUCK YOU!

 The
The

james birkbeck how dare you... seems like your the liar! where do you live again? I'll teach ya a thing or two about talking crap !

ouroboros
ouroboros

you tipped the scales, speaking ill of the dead.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

i knew kauri very personally.we dated for a while when she lived in buffalo nyabout ten years ago.she actually got me into the tattoo business.one thing about kauri is she was a liar on the worst level.she was actually one those people who were so sick she believed her own lies.she would publically declare some total nonsense and the mere fact that she stated it somehow made it true to her.she was a very disturbed person who needed alot of help.she just drifted from town to town and used people around her,quite sad really.and speaking as a respected artist in the tattoo community,her work was garbage.her reputation was based soley on being freaky not so much as talent or skill in her craft.man that girl was nuttier than squirrel turds.

Rx
Rx

After reading this piece, I clicked for another page. But no, this was all there was to it: A somewhat tedious roadmap of a couple of scary-disturbed individuals hitting the end of the line in a Denver hotel, in an odd kind of way, not much different than the way the had lived. It's a sad story, but not terribly remarkable. I am left with two questions: Why was this story written? And why, with all her soul-searching and "voracious reading," did she evidentally never question her "racing thoughts" and instability? The article seems to glorify these traits, which are more than just quirky behavior than a series of acts pointing less to exceptional artistic ability and more to, say Bipolar I.

Krystof
Krystof

The word "Kauri" translates into "Tree", ironically, Kauri was the tree, those of us that she tattooed were the branches, and the tattoos themselves are the leaves. Many leaves take on many different shapes and colors, some almost incomplete in structure but still beautiful none the less. Thank you Kauri for the brief time you touched our loves. Until we meet again my friend.Love, Krystof, Lesley and Deanna

Lauren
Lauren

I am absolutely shocked. I was randomly scanning the website and decided to open this article....this woman did my tattoo in Northampton, Mass about 6 years ago! For the life of me I never remembered her name, but I do remember her stud implants and her love for physics (and her grandfather's supposed work on the Manhattan Project). The color on my tattoo is still the best I have ever seen and it has made it impossible for me to find another tattoo artist. I'll never be able to accept anything less than her absolutely gorgeous work. I am so sorry to hear about her death. She was an amazing artist and will always be remembered.

 
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