Since 2005, the bias-motivated crime statue has been applied at least thirteen times in Denver, according to court records. Six of these were felony charges, as opposed to misdemeanors, and nearly all were dropped in the plea-bargaining process when the suspect pleaded guilty to other charges. None of the cases involved minorities accused of anti-white crimes. Two involved Caucasian suspects and African-American victims; four involved Hispanic suspects and black victims; one involved a black suspect and a Hispanic victim; one accused Hispanic youths of harassing Jewish victims; two were anti-gay; and one case dealt with an assault on a disabled man.

The DPD has a unit of detectives who work on hate-crime cases. "They look at what was the motivation for the crime, was it sexual orientation, was it your sexuality, any of those types of things," DPD spokesman Sonny Jackson explains. "We have to take all that into consideration in any case, whether it was a simple assault or a hit-and-run: Was there any bias motivation?"

Did this detective unit look into the Burger King hit-and-run case? Jackson says he can't comment on an investigation before the case has gone through the courts. "It's in the DA's hands," he notes. "The DA can look at a case and say, 'Does this warrant a bias-motivated charge?'"

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

According to Kimbrough, the deputy DAs did discuss whether it would be appropriate to file a bias-motivated count against Montoya. "But in reviewing the totality of the facts and the information, the decision was to not pursue that particular count," she says. "It was based on some doubt about whether or not it could be proven unanimously to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."

And that doubt is a much larger hole to fill in hate-crime cases.

Just because a bigoted slur is uttered during an assault doesn't mean the crime was motivated by a prejudiced sentiment, Rubin notes, adding, "If two people had a traffic altercation and one of them started yelling at the other and then they started calling each other names, then simply adding names to an otherwise non-racially motivated incident doesn't otherwise make it racially motivated."

In other words, in order to make a hate-crime charge stick, prosecutors would need to show that the reason that Montoya became so agitated with the people in the Honda was specifically because they were white women rather than women of a different race. But the difficulty of presenting such motives hasn't prevented the Denver DA's office from filing hate-crime charges in several recent assault cases. Last September, for example, a severely intoxicated man was being arrested on the 16th Street Mall when he spit on and punched an officer in the face while uttering, "You ain't shit, nigger, fuck you." A bias-motivated crime was added to the charges, to which the man pleaded down to several months in jail. But did the drunk man, who was Hispanic, spit on the officer because he was black — or was the derogatory phrase merely incidental to the assault?

Because grand jury cases are confidential, the DA's office cannot disclose whether the grand jurors were presented with evidence that Montoya's crime could have been bias-motivated. At Westword's request, Kimbrough asked prosecutors why the "white" part of the "white bitches" comment was left off the indictment; they were unsure of why it was omitted, but "it wasn't intentional," she says.

"This was a tragic death. What this woman is accused of strikes us all as something horrible, that this could happen in a parking lot on a normal day," Kimbrough adds. "Could we or should we have included some other lesser counts? That's a discussion we'll save for another day. The focus at this point in the case is on the most serious charges that the grand jury returned." After all, she points out, Montoya is already facing life in prison without parole and the possibility of the death penalty.

Parker says she'll never know for sure what triggered the "insane altercation" that night a Cadillac happened to pull behind her in the drive-thru, but in her eyes, "the situation seemed to arise because of race."

And that's a situation, and a sentiment, she'll never forget.

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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..