"It was like he was saying goodbye," she says. "When he left my house that night, I knew I would never see him again."

Allen sent him a copy of her just-published book, The Night of the Witching Moon. It was returned as undeliverable; he'd moved from Conifer to Lakewood without telling her. When she heard of his arrest a few months later, she wrote to him, offering to help. She received no response.

But Beech still thought about her. He started crossing off days on his calendar on June 23 — Linda Allen's birthday.

John Beech and mother Elizabeth Malonson at a Christmas celebration
John Beech and mother Elizabeth Malonson at a Christmas celebration
Beech visited Laradon Hall last July, ten days before leaving a warning note for visitors to his Lakewood home.
Beech visited Laradon Hall last July, ten days before leaving a warning note for visitors to his Lakewood home.

He told his real-estate agent that his balding pate, speckled with hair plugs, was the result of chemotherapy, and that he was thinking about selling his house and "moving on." In the last weeks of his life, he spent a great deal of time painting the house. He seemed quite pleased with the results.

A smiling, friendly demeanor doesn't preclude suicide, notes Bill Porter, a clinical psychologist and the director of mental-health services for the Cherry Creek School District.

"In many cases, people relate that the person was relatively happy," he says. "There's a conflict between the part that wants to live and the part that wants to die, and that conflict has been resolved."

The package Beech left at Laradon in July may well have been his last effort to test the world and see if anyone was paying attention. "People who are suicidal will run up the flag to see what people do," Porter says. "On very few occasions do they not give some kind of sign. Unfortunately, people don't know what to do with it."

Laradon Hall was named after Larry and Donald, the severely retarded sons of Joe and Elizabeth Calabrese. The Calabreses were appalled at the way children like their own were routinely institutionalized, so in 1948 they set up a boarding and day school on Federal Boulevard for the developmentally disabled. Through hard work, determination and luck, the school flourished. Elizabeth Calabrese went on the popular television show Queen for a Day to publicize the cause; Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Jack Benny and other celebrities raised money and brought the checks to north Denver.

In 1950, the Colorado Elks designated Laradon as the fraternal organization's "major project." It's remained that way ever since; although the Elks' contributions amount to only a small percentage of Laradon's $11 million annual budget, several Elks sit on the board of directors of the parent nonprofit, the Laradon Hall Society for Exceptional Children and Adults.

After Joe Calabrese died, in 1986, the organization went through a rocky transition period. (A 1988 Westword article reported on morale and money issues, feuding directors and staff.) Laradon is now is a much more complex entity than the boardinghouse the Calabreses started sixty years ago; it offers a range of programs, including adult employment and residential services, and is currently in the process of expanding its school at 5100 Lincoln Street.

Annie Green has worked at Laradon since the turmoil of the 1980s. She'd served as Laradon's acting director for only a short time last summer when Jack Beech left his package for her. The previous director had resigned effective in early July, and a new one was hired in the fall. Green, who was a candidate for the top job, is now Laradon's deputy director, in charge of development and fundraising. At the heart of the battle over Beech's estate is his family's belief that Green should have looked at one particularly large and unusual gift more carefully.

Elizabeth Malonson, Jack's mother, initially questioned whether her son had been of sound mind when he prepared the will. Those claims have since been dropped. What remains is what's known as a "public policy" claim — basically, that Laradon shouldn't profit from the will when it received such a glaring warning of suicide and made so little effort to save its donor.

Questioned by Malonson's attorneys, Green conceded that she'd never received an original will from a donor before; usually, nonprofits are notified of such bequests by estate attorneys after the donor's death. She said she found the package "odd" but not alarming, and suggested that the language about the coroner could mean that the man had a terminal illness.

Green's attorneys have maintained that she had no way of knowing that Beech was in imminent danger of suicide. They say Laradon is just trying to honor Beech's will, that he clearly wanted his modest estate — which had dwindled to around $250,000 at the time of his death, including the check and property — to go to help Laradon's clients.

But Malonson's attorney, Susan Harris, says the message Beech left for Green was unmistakable. "The only people he revealed his suicide plan to was Laradon Hall," she says. "There's no note that says, 'I'm going to commit suicide,' but there's a lot of indications. Who gives their house keys and financial information to a perfect stranger? He writes about the coroner, about where to find his car titles — and here's a postdated check for $100,000. One of the classic signs of impending suicide is the property giveaway.

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Lourdes Rosario
Lourdes Rosario

Is hard to read minds, and ppl could be just being silly, and he has his mind set, so even if the person try to contact him, he would of done it anyway, his family claims knowing him, they are the ones that should of known something was different on the last days. There is no one to blame here, it happened.

Holly Elkins
Holly Elkins

So sad. Couldn't finish reading it. I would have done the right thing. I would have gone to his house and called the police. Regardless whether I know him or not. Horrible this women did nothing. She could have easily saved a life.

Latisha Lala Acklin
Latisha Lala Acklin

Sounds like he lived and died how he wanted. And it sounds like his family hardly knew him, so why would a stranger know what his words meant?!

Trent Dozier
Trent Dozier

Pretty sure I would cash that. Anyone gonna commit suicide is gonna do it no matter what if they are serious