After Lilian Verdonkschot died, Nadine Montoya was charged with a hit-and-run. But was hate behind the wheel?

Running through the Burger King parking lot at 2:30 a.m. on May 29, Shala Parker managed to catch the license plate of the green Cadillac DeVille as it zoomed onto Sixth Avenue and took a hard left onto Lincoln. To remember it, she screamed "727RUG! 727RUG!" as she ran back to where her mom, Lilian Verdonkschot, lay crumpled on her side on the asphalt. When Parker rolled her over, Verdonkschot just stared into the dark sky. Parker knew her mother had a tendency to freak out about things, so she tried to stay calm. "It's okay, it's okay," she repeated, like a mantra. "Everything's going to be okay, it's okay."

Paramedics arrived quickly from Denver Health, just one block away. They loaded the 49-year-old Aurora woman into an ambulance while Parker and her friend Jennifer Goodrich had to stay behind and tell their stories to a seemingly endless line of Denver Police Department officers and detectives. Parker and Goodrich explained how two women and a man in a Cadillac had pulled up behind Parker's Honda in the Burger King drive-thru line, and how a dispute over a cigarette request had led to a chaotic altercation in the parking lot. Parker told investigators that the women in the Cadillac had repeatedly referred to themselves as "Mexicans" and said they were going to kill the "stupid white bitches." The last thing she heard them say before the Cadillac plowed into her mother, Parker remembered, was "Let's just fucking hit them."

Verdonkschot died at the hospital several hours later, and the hit-and-run case was officially declared a homicide. Police pulled records that showed the Cadillac was registered to 26-year-old Nadine Montoya, who was living at her mother's house in Westminster. The Cadillac was there, but Montoya wasn't. Then investigators noticed that the car had been stopped two weeks earlier after it had been "reported to have been used in an attempt to run a woman over in an alley," according to a May 30 affidavit. The alleged driver in that incident was listed as Dawn Gonzales, whose photo was tentatively ID'd by Parker. The 23-year-old Gonzales was quickly arrested, only to be released two days later when police pinpointed Montoya as the driver. After three weeks on the run, she turned herself in to Westminster police. On July 29, two months after Verdonkschot's death, a grand jury indicted Montoya on five felony charges, including first-degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident.

Nadine Montoya posed for a mug shot after her arrest for the hit-and-run killing of Lilian Verdonkschot.
Nadine Montoya posed for a mug shot after her arrest for the hit-and-run killing of Lilian Verdonkschot.
Lilian Verdonkschot
Lilian Verdonkschot

Parker says she's relieved that the charges reflect her belief that Montoya intentionally hit her mother, but she wonders why a hate-crime charge wasn't included as well, and why such charges haven't been extended to the Cadillac's other passengers, now identified as Briana Garcia and Damian Saiz. Under Colorado's hate-crime statute, an illegal act becomes a "bias-motivated crime" when the intent is to harass or cause bodily injury to a person because of that person's race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. The law has been applied in similar cases when suspects uttered racial or sexual slurs while assaulting a victim. Both Parker and Goodrich say they told investigators that the trio kept shouting, "We're Mexicans! We'll kill you white bitches!"

In a June 2 warrant, Detective Randy Dennison noted that Goodrich had stated "the two Hispanic females in the second car were shouting at them, calling them white bitches." But in the indictment produced by the grand jury, the phrase was shortened to "bitches." According to Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office, prosecutors assigned to the case took note of the racial comments, then decided there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove that Verdonkschot's murder was bias-motivated.

But Parker says you can't extract the "white" from "white bitches" and still understand the dynamics of that traumatic night. "It wasn't about a cigarette," she says. "To me, it felt like they thought they had some advantage to beat us up because we were 'dumb white girls' and they were Mexican. I definitely thought a hate crime should apply."

There are several versions of what happened that night, but everyone agrees it started over a cigarette.

Verdonkschot worked as a baker for Panera Bread, but her real passion was being around her kids. When Parker and her brother were in high school in Centennial, their house was the most popular with their friends. "She would make food for everybody, all my friends," Parker remembers. "She wasn't just like a mom; she was like a friend to everyone."

On Thursday, May 28, Verdonkschot, her daughter and Goodrich had gone to JR's Bar and Grill on 17th Avenue for a friend's birthday party.

While heading home, they decided to stop for food at the Burger King at Sixth and Broadway. With Parker driving, Verdonkschot in the front passenger's seat and Goodrich in the back, they pulled into the drive-thru. A green Cadillac DeVille pulled in behind them. Behind the wheel was Montoya; Briana Garcia was riding shotgun, and Damian Saiz was in the back.

According to the indictment, the three had been at a house party in the nearby Baker neighborhood, where Montoya drank shots of vodka and E&J Brandy. While the two cars waited in the drive-thru, Saiz exited the Cadillac and approached Parker's car, a '98 Honda Accord, to ask for a cigarette. Goodrich, who smokes, told him she was out, but he apparently spotted packs in her purse and tried to reach inside. Parker rolled the window up on Saiz's arm; after he freed himself, he returned to the Cadillac, and "they started screaming at us," Parker says. The noise was so great that she had trouble ordering at the speaker. And then, as the Honda crept forward in the U-shaped drive-thru lane, something hit the car and they heard glass shatter. Parker was unsure if it was a bottle breaking or the sound of one of her tail lights getting smashed; the Cadillac was repeatedly lurching forward and stopping within inches of her bumper, she says.

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lilian deserved to fucking die! who the fuck told her old ass to go fight anyways like shes hard, thats why the bitch wound up 6 feet deep...and no one gives a fuck about how nadines kids are feeling..