Havens talks about "hanging out with the wrong people," as if life on the street was a hole he fell into and couldn't get out of. It was a friend, he says, who introduced him to a crack pipe, and to stealing stuff from the guy's parents to finance their smoke. Soon he was ditching school and hanging out on a corner, trying to panhandle a few bucks for dope every day. Then a bunch of stuff turned up missing at his friend's house, and his buddy blamed it all on him, and guess who ended up spending a week in a juvie facility and facing years of probation for burglary?

"I was in for a week," he recalls. "I got out, and my mom picked me up. I saw the hurt in her eyes. She asked me to stop using crack, and I was tired of hurting my mom and my family. Tired of sitting in the streets begging for money."

For a few months, Havens managed to clean up and find legitimate work. A mechanic who saw him begging on the corner helped him get a car and a detailing job. He worked at a Waffle House. When his dad came out of prison in 2004, Darrell worked for him, too, cleaning apartments. But the other people he was getting to know now, like his new girlfriend, Shannon Vicenec, a teenager who had her own struggles with drugs, seemed to have other, quicker ways to make cash.

Although his care in the prison system costs the state more than $200,000 a year, a medical parole for Darrell Havens drew protests from Arvada police.
Mark Manger
Although his care in the prison system costs the state more than $200,000 a year, a medical parole for Darrell Havens drew protests from Arvada police.
Havens celebrating a birthday shortly before his 2006 motorcycle accident.
Havens celebrating a birthday shortly before his 2006 motorcycle accident.

His father didn't approve of Darrell's fast-lane friends, but felt he had little authority in the matter. "I had been away for so long, it was hard for me to keep Darrell down," says Gerald Havens. "He was never a violent kid. But his downfall was that he liked money."

His new friends liked money. And meth. Havens was soon smoking a little crystal every day. "I was pretty hesitant at first," he says. "I did smoke weed, but I wasn't into the hard drugs. I seen what it did to me before. And my parents went away on methamphetamines. But you'd go to somebody's house, and it was always around."

He had the same choices every high-school dropout faces: work or steal, stay clean or get wasted. But there were a lot of new friends and Vicenec on one side of the equation, and not much on the other that he could see. If there was a defining moment, it was probably a traffic stop five years ago. He had no license, no insurance. The cops took his ride away.

"They just took it from me," he says. "That's kind of what led me into stealing cars."

He decided he could just take things, too.

Havens has always denied that he was ever some kind of kingpin in a major auto-theft ring. Many of the suspects the police have linked to him are people he claims to have never known or to have barely met, like the informant who set him up. He stole cars to get around and to get meth, not as a business, he insists.

"A lot of people were putting me in things I wasn't involved in," he says. "I wasn't stealing a lot of cars. And I did try finding jobs. It was hard."

But what Havens might consider a few cars, someone else might consider a lot. In the nine months leading up to his shooting, he seems to have been on a spree of sorts, one that suggests desperate, drug-addled carelessness and a constant need for cash. He didn't always get caught right away, but he left an extensive trail that led the cops right to him.

All they had to do was compare police blotters.

March 19, 2006: An Englewood detective takes reports on two car break-ins on South Fox Street. Later that same day, one of the victims recognizes his stolen speakers in the back seat of a Ford Tempo parked less than two blocks away. The police locate the Tempo's purported owner, Darrell Havens, who gives a bullshit story about buying the stuff from a guy he met at a 7-Eleven. Havens is charged with theft by receiving.

April 22: A woman reports tools, skis and other items stolen from her garage in south Denver. Cigarette butts found at the scene are tested for DNA. The swag turns up a day later in a truck with no valid title abandoned in a driveway in Bow Mar. The truck also contains the driver's license of one Darrell Havens. Havens is arrested and charged with burglary. A DNA swab of his saliva matches the butts found at the scene.

June 25: A man who left his 2005 Subaru Outback running in a Lakewood parking lot while he loads another vehicle watches in astonishment as a skinny white male hops in the Subaru and puts it in gear. The man pursues, jumping in the passenger-side window, but the driver executes a Hollywood-perfect spin-turn, burning rubber and throwing the owner clear of the car. A white Ford Expedition, possibly driven by a blond female, follows the thief as he vanishes down the block.

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