By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
When Alan's younger brother woke up and his mom finally got home and both asked about the yellow tape stretching across the parking lot and the police bloodhound sniffing the apartment's corridors, Alan didn't say anything. And he kept silent six nights later, when police barged into the apartment and arrested him for murder.
As the cops pushed him to the floor and locked his hands behind his back with a zip tie, Alan held tight to one thought:
"Don't tell. Don't tell nothing."
Three days after his murder, a procession of sixty cabs wound around the State Capitol in memory of Finley Bradshaw Myers, the 44-year-old cab driver killed early on the morning of April 2. At a service in the Yellow Cab garage for Myers, a former art teacher moonlighting as a cabbie while he wrote a book, a colleague read from an autobiographical sketch that Myers had composed:
"He believes justice cries and is largely misunderstood."
"He believes he's guided by angels."
"He does not believe in the death penalty."
Myers was the fourth on-duty cabbie to be murdered in the metro area since January 1992. And a few hours after he was shot, another Yellow Cab driver was grazed by a bullet during an attempted robbery in Denver. Demanding to meet with then-governor Roy Romer, cab drivers called for the right to refuse fares in dangerous parts of town, for bulletproof glass dividers to be installed in their vehicles, for an in-cab monitoring system that police could follow. The outcry intensified when police announced they'd arrested a few fifteen- and sixteen-year-old kids for the murder.
The break had come when an anonymous caller phoned a tip line and said he'd heard a boy named Nicholas Reed, who had a lengthy juvenile record, bragging that he'd shot Myers. Soon after they picked up Nicholas, the cops nabbed Alan Sudduth and one of the girls who'd been with the boys that night.
Kids seemed to be running wild in Aurora. Including these three arrests, a dozen teens had been thrown behind bars over five days, with seven tied to killings. Two kids were accused of murdering a man while he used an ATM. A fifteen-year-old had allegedly assaulted two cops when they tried to arrest him for outstanding warrants. Two boys had reportedly shot a pizza-delivery man with a pellet gun, while another boy was said to have escaped from a group home, stolen a car and then crashed it in a police chase. Local detectives said they'd never seen anything like it. Myers's murder got the most attention, though. The media seemed particularly intrigued by the racial and social backgrounds of the accused, wondering how kids from such vastly different worlds might have come together to commit such a heinous crime.
The three were soon charged as adults, as Arapahoe County took advantage of a new law passed in the wake of the Summer of Violence that let prosecutors direct-file juveniles in adult court without first holding a hearing to determine whether the defendants should be taken out of juvenile court.
Standing in Arapahoe County District Court, Alan looked shocked as he heard the charges against him. If he was found guilty of first-degree murder, he'd be sentenced to life without parole. While Nicholas and the girl faced the same charge, investigators were already saying that the evidence suggested that Alan was the killer. Prosecutors had also charged the three with aggravated robbery, after witnesses said that Myers had tried and failed to change a twenty-dollar bill at the Amoco and the bill wasn't found at the crime scene.
The second girl was arrested a few months later and charged with conspiracy to murder. Both girls wound up taking a plea and getting sentenced to juvenile-offender prison until they were 21.
Alan sat in jail for five months before his mother showed up to visit, and she only stayed half an hour. His Uncle Reggie stopped by more often, but he was clearly disappointed in Alan, and didn't offer to get his nephew a private attorney to replace the public defenders he'd been assigned. Michael Asberry, now living in California, wrote to Alan, saying that he wished he could do the time for him and apologizing for not having explained the consequences of hanging with kids like Nicholas.
Alan held tight to Asberry's number-one rule: No snitching. After he was arrested, he'd refused to talk at all during police interviews. He never protested the charges to his family, never proclaimed his innocence. And while he told his public defenders, Pamela Brown and Ann Sussman, that they hadn't taken any money from Myers, he didn't say much more about what had happened that night. When the two pressed him about the murder, Alan finally told them it was his fault: He'd dropped the gun and it had accidentally gone off, killing Myers. After that, they stopped asking him about it.
That fall, his lawyers told Alan that they'd gotten him a deal. If he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated robbery, he'd get seventy years. If he didn't take it and went to trial and lost, they warned that he could be looking at the rest of his life behind bars. Sure, seventy years sounded like a long time. But Sussman did some calculations for Alan on a notepad, figuring out when he'd be eligible for parole. The way he heard it, he'd be out when he was 26.