Sixteen-year-old Tara Perry followed her man into crime and madness

Miller and Bailey returned hours later with a blue Explorer and a plan to rob the King Soopers on Smoky Hill Road. Perry could see something stirring under the cargo screen in the back of the Explorer. It turned out to be a 37-year-old employee of the Cherry Cricket, who'd been taken hostage in the carjacking. Perry asked him if he was okay and got a muffled affirmative.

They left her alone in the back seat, a few inches from the hostage, while they stopped to pick up Ateba's two young friends, who seemed excited about knocking off a grocery store. The five of them managed to shoot up the place, including Perry's firing into the ceiling, and to assault a couple of employees — all for nothing. They fled before getting any cash. Back in the Explorer, Perry realized that their captive had freed himself and slipped away while they were gone.

Miller drove like a maniac. He berated one of Ateba's friends, whom he accused of being too eager to take off. He had Ateba take the wheel while he turned around and began to beat the traitor with his pistol. Ateba told him to stop.

During her sophomore year of high school, Perry kept secret her relationship with convict Randy Miller — who had dark secrets of his own. Watch a video interview with Perry.
During her sophomore year of high school, Perry kept secret her relationship with convict Randy Miller — who had dark secrets of his own. Watch a video interview with Perry.

They dropped off the bloodied henchman and his pal at Ateba's place and decided to make tracks for the state line. But they'd gone only a few blocks when Ateba said he couldn't leave; his family needed him. Miller let him out.

Miller and Perry said little as they drove through the night, headed east.

*****

It ended like a scene out of Badlands — but without the film-school artiness. A third of the way across Kansas, Miller spotted a state trooper in his rear-view mirror and decided to exit the highway at the town of Ellis, then hop back on after the law had passed by. But the trooper had run the plates on the Explorer, and there was no way to get back on the interstate except to return the way they came. Within minutes they were in a high-speed chase through the dead-end town, then in a head-on collision with a police car.

Miller hit the ground running. The last a dazed Perry saw of him was the white soles of his athletic shoes. She eyed the 9-millimeter he'd given her, sitting on the dash of the wrecked Explorer, and thought about killing herself. But before she could act, a trooper reached through the window, pulled her out of the vehicle, and threw her to the ground.

They took her to a basement command post. Miller had grabbed two male hostages and was holding them in a house nearby. They had the place surrounded, with a helicopter and snipers and SWAT. Just like in the movies, they wanted to put her on the phone with him and persuade him to give up. She agreed to try.

Miller's voice was calm. "You know I'm dying today," he said.

Perry told him to let the two men go. He said he wasn't going to hurt them. He told her how much he loved her, that he'd hurt so many people but never wanted to hurt her. Knowing that the law was listening in, he talked about how he "made" her go on the robberies with him, trying to give her an out.

He talked at length about how much he hated McCalmant. Knowing that Pops would soon get the good news of his demise saddened him beyond words. He described what it was like, going around with the detectives and telling the mothers of those boys what Pops had done, how one of them had slapped his face for not stopping him sooner, and how guilty he felt about that. But seeing Pops hauled into court in handcuffs had been the happiest day of his life.

The conversation went on for three hours. At one point he rang off and called her mother at the Kings Inn, to let her know that Tara had been arrested. Lombardi, who'd heard nothing from her daughter for days, wasn't in any mood to console Randy Miller.

"He said he was in a house with two old men and was pointing a gun at them," she recalls. "I said, 'Take the gun off them. I know you're just going to use it on yourself. Just do it.'"

Back on the line with Perry, Miller asked her, "Does God forgive you for everything?"

"God does forgive you for everything," she said.

"Everything?"

"Everything."

"Even for being gay?"

"Yes."

"I love you," he said.

The gunshot was deafening, like an explosion in her own skull.

*****

A year and eighteen days after Miller's death, Robert "Pops" McCalmant was found guilty on a hundred counts of sexual assaults on children and received the longest prison sentence ever imposed in Colorado: 1,338 years. He died in a prison infirmary in 2006, the full extent of his crimes still unknown.

"I believe we only scratched the surface," says Aurora police captain Terry Brown, one of the lead investigators on the case. "We identified twelve victims by the time it went to trial, but there may have been several others."

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34 comments
anonymous
anonymous

she made her choice to follow him, to fumble through a store robbery, etc - she is now living with that choice. i don't say that to be mean towards her or any of her family, it's just the facts. i knew Randy, i saw what he was about, i experienced his manipulations and his temper first hand  - the terror he brought into my life. he changed my life, not in a good way. but it seemed the older he got, people of our age got, the younger crowd he kept friends with. it was easier for him to impress them, to get away with things. it is unfortunate the impact his path has had on people around him. what he put me and other close friends through, i wouldn't wish on anyone. 
I'm sorry, but at what point did holding a gun & pulling a mask down over your face seem logical, that you would follow him into this madness? there are always opportunities to walk away, leave a bad situation - she just didn't take hers...period.

chipperthomas75
chipperthomas75

I doubt Tara will ever get to read this.  But she should know that even through concrete walls and steel bars she made an impact on my life.  I talked to her and remember watching her go from a 'sadgirl' to a 'sparkle'.  I miss her and I am glad to see and read that she is doing so good for herself, that she has made the best out of a bad situation.  I have no idea how to get a hold of her anymore or even where she is, but Brandon...or her mom..or her sister if you read this tell her to write her old friend in Wisconsin.  She has not only touched people there, but here as well.  She inspired me.

Do I feel bad for Tara?  No.  i am proud of her, not proud of what she did, but what she has done and continues to do with her life and faith.  Stay strong and keep Sparkling Tara.

Brandon or anyone in her family that reads this tell her the next time you talk to her or visit her that even after 10 years I still pray for her and you all.  God Bless you all!

Her old penpal Chris from Wisconsin

mevianne
mevianne

I really feel for Tara. Randy Miller surrounded himself with people that were impressionable, and that he could control. I knew him since he was 15, and was involved with him during the time Tara was. I did not know about Tara, and seperated myself from him during the last year of his life. In hindsight, it is hard to imagine getting so caught up in a person, knowing they are on the wrong path. But like Tara, I loved him and did many things I regret. Now, I work in the criminology field, and have a better understanding of youths involved in crime and the flawed American justice system. I feel Tara should be given a second chance to make a life for herself outside a cell.

alehound
alehound

I wonder if they cut up her hotdogs? o.0

Kelly Kettle
Kelly Kettle

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Lynne Jenkinson
Lynne Jenkinson

Forty Years is ridiculous. Why? what is the point? She was a child at the time probably attracted by the boyfriends bad boy image (as many wowmen are unfortunately) I suspect very strongly that he groomed her . She should be released so that she can get on with her life. She is more mature now people in Britain get less for murder I think that The American justice system is unnecesarily hard. The purpose of prison should be to reform .> How willshe cope with life if she is released in 30+ years time

Dolly Dagger
Dolly Dagger

Tara's getting screwed big time. Undoubtedly each of the persons who made/support this judgment is a "Christian" Republican/teabagger. They'll be happy to legislate their "values" and claim that they do "What Jesus Would Do". Sickening waste of a decent human being while THEY satisfy their biblical blood thirst. #FreeTara

Brandon Plante
Brandon Plante

I am Tara Perrys lil brother and i know what she did was bad. But she did Not deserve 44 years. And to all the people that say something like boo hoo, or that sucks, or some dumb ass remark, go fuck your self. To the rest of you kind people that want to support her, we thank you from the bottom of our heart. FREE TARA...

Missy
Missy

WOW! What a story! Kudos to her for taking responsibility for her part in the mess and turning herself around! It's hard when you come from only negative, and then make your life even more negative with really bad choices. But it sounds like she is doing what could be seen as the impossible. She's becoming the exception to the rule! You go girl!

Kathryn Elich
Kathryn Elich

Wish her the best - making the most out of a bad situation. Freeing your mind from crisis events is a full time job. And her surroundings keep reminding her of it. That they didn't have her down in the computer yet .... and she has to reapply when the glitch is fixed. Unreal.Wish her the best.

Living in Colorado
Living in Colorado

Wow. This young lady took a horrible situation, and has worked to change it. She could sit there and blame her mom, the boyfriend, even society for her current situation, but she has stood up and accepted responsbility for her actions, attempted to make amends and face it by meeting with the victims and help others do the same. I wish some of the "non convicts" were as caring as this young lady. I say they should review the case and let her go. We have all kinds of people released due to overcrowding and yet this young lady stays. How about letting her out and keeping that drug addict/prostitute who has been arrested 20 times in jail a little longer??????

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AnyBodyButObama 2012
AnyBodyButObama 2012

Yeah, blame a man for your own choices. Not only are men responsible for their own choices, this fool is trying to convince me that men are responsible for their choices. Typical feminist. There are 2 kinds of women, feminist and feminine. REAL men want feminine, nobody wants a feminist.

Tony
Tony

im usally a hard azz normally id say lock em all up for life but in this case she was young and the dude brainwashed her id say 13 years is long enough im sure she would be a model citizen now

Eochaid
Eochaid

This is one of the saddest stories I have ever heard in my 47 years on this mudball we live in,The judge in this case clearly tried to set an example with this young lady.And sentanced her very harshley,60 years for shooting the ceiling?Reduced to 40 years?She was only 16 years old,more than likely under the influence of drugs,or alchohol, and brain washed and or coerced in some way into participating in this crime.The powers that be ought to reconsider a bit of leiniency and mercy on a child that was taken advantage of by adult carreer criminals. P.W.

AlanPrendergast
AlanPrendergast

I appreciate all the comments we've been receiving about Tara's story, online and privately. One reader asked me to post information on how to support her parole application. The earliest hearing is still a couple of years away, but letters of support could be sent to her directly if people are so inclined:

Tara Perry, #104436Denver Women’s Correctional FacilityPO Box 392005Denver, CO 80239

Citizen Jenn
Citizen Jenn

This is another fantastic story, Alan, and I always look forward to reading your features.

I understand the arguments made for victim's rights, and I've heard the criticisms made about Westword being overly-sympathetic to convicted criminals, but it does no harm to read and try to understand the reasons why these people committed crimes; how they got from point A to point B, and these stories also offer some glimpses into our criminal justice and prison systems. Cases like this help me form the opinion that allowing parole for genuinely reformed, productive, remorseful prisoners would provide society with far more advantages than paying to feed and house them when there are other convicts who need to be fed and housed, and kept behind bars.

"The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn." ~Bill Federer

She was born and raised into a life of poverty, crime and violence, and while this is not an excuse for her behavior, these are reasons for it. It's difficult to predict how clemency will be received and acted upon in the future, but she seems like someone who would make good on a second chance at freedom.

Laura Jo Emry
Laura Jo Emry

I know Tara's story all too well... She is my baby sister.... In addition she is by far one of the most intelligent, resilient, amazing and humble people that I have ever met. The support she has received and continues to receive is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Pamela Clifton
Pamela Clifton

Thank you for this Alan. I know Tara and she is certainly no criminal. She's a lovely young lady who got mixed up with the wrong person. People make mistakes...children make bigger ones. She has paid for this many times over. If anyone deserves a second chance, it's Tara.

Perry1021
Perry1021

she is my neice ,set her free she is not a criminal ,

MMM
MMM

Dolly you are a fU#$ing BIGOT Democrat Liberal

Poindexter
Poindexter

Really?!? That's how you build up support for your sister (assuming you really are her brother)? As a reader I had some empathy for her story and situation... then you jump in here and tell anybody who doesn't to "fuck yourself." So now I question what kind of situation she's gonna return to with you in her life. I don't have any say in it (of course) but if it makes me question, it probably makes others as well. Not really the way to win hearts and minds...

Reynaloca713
Reynaloca713

Actually she blamed herself for not being able to say NO.

wyrob
wyrob

She was a MINOR. He was in his 20's. How does that figure into your dumbass ideals of what "REAL men" want?

femininevsfeminist
femininevsfeminist

Did you even read the article? How ignorant... Or maybe just illiterate. No blame was being placed on "a man". This young lady, has accepted not only her guilt, but also her punishment. P.s. the story was written by a man, guess he is a feminist.

Zuniga_natasha
Zuniga_natasha

I know Tara personally. We lives in the kind inn at three same time and went to the same school, walked home from school, my uncle was her uncle(Louis). She would have never done this if it weren't for randy. She was never that type Of person. She was a great and caring friend. She is still, to this day thought about and missed. She's not making excuses for her self or trying to blame it in a man, she's reeling her true story.

AnyBodyButObama 2012
AnyBodyButObama 2012

Yeah, blame a man for your own choices. Not only are men responsible for their own choices, this fool is trying to convince me that men are responsible for their choices. Typical feminist. There are 2 kinds of women, feminist and feminine. REAL men want feminine, nobody wants a feminist.

Perry1021
Perry1021

she is my neice and i apreciate your remarks greatly thanx Robert perry

wyrob
wyrob

yeah, I'm crying about the million it'll cost taxpayers to keep her in jail for 40 YEARS, for NOT killing or injuring anyone during crimes committed as a fucking minor!what the fuck were you crying about, nova?

Ticklemecute1
Ticklemecute1

And I suppose you never had it hard right (nova. What ever) the kid had it hard give her a break fuck nobodys perfect.. Good story my laura thanks for sharing

 
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