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

Tara Perry spent most of the first year after her arrest on a jailhouse suicide watch. To visitors she seemed in shock, convinced her life was over and eager to join her dead lover. She made several attempts to do just that by slicing her wrists.

Lombardi says her daughter was still suicidal when she accepted a plea deal of 66 years for the robberies in Denver and Arapahoe County. The family had few resources for a trial, an attorney who was pushing the deal — and a defendant who seemed utterly indifferent to her fate.

"I was told that if I went to trial I'd get hundreds of years," Perry says, "and that's true. My co-defendant did." (Ateba Bailey, who continued to insist on his innocence, was convicted at trial in Arapahoe County on multiple counts of attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping, and received a set of consecutive sentences totaling 250 years.)

Perry figured she deserved worse than she got. Along with Miller's suicide, she was haunted by other sights and sounds she couldn't get out of her head. The four-year-old girl opening the door in Cheyenne. The woman and her father in Mayfair who had guns pointed at them. The man in the back of the Explorer, telling her he was okay. The cleaning lady screaming. The terror they inflicted on people at their neighborhood grocery store. How could she have been part of all that pain?

Colleen Pakenham, who worked at the women's prison in Cañon City for twenty years, remembers Perry as "naive, guilt-ridden, and definitely below zero on the self-esteem scale" when she arrived there. "She was a mess," she recalls. "I watched how she went through the remorse she has for the victims. She probably did nothing that first year but go back and relive it."

Yet over time, her wretchedness began to lift. A significant step came in 2002, when she went to a resentencing hearing with a new attorney. The attorney pointed out that Perry had no prior criminal record, hadn't been the principal in any of the crimes, hadn't caused physical harm to any of the victims. She'd cooperated with the police after her arrest and had agreed to testify against other defendants. Her time was slashed to forty years by allowing her Denver and Arapahoe County sentences to run concurrently.

The sentence adjustment didn't make much of an impression on Perry at the time. What did, though, was the appearance at the hearing of the Cherry Cricket employee who'd been kidnapped by Miller and Bailey and bound in the back of his Explorer. He talked about how the ordeal had changed him, the surge of fear he still struggled with when he was alone in his car. But he was also "very compassionate," Perry says, and told her that she needed to forgive herself for what she had done.

Perry was moved. Pakenham and other mentors at the prison had urged her not to throw her life away, to find a way to move on. Maybe she could find ways to make amends. Maybe, even at this late date, she really did have the power to change her fate. "I was thinking to myself, I'm not dead," she says. "I have two directions to go — toward something better or something worse."

After that hearing, Perry was taken to Wyoming to face charges from the home invasion in Cheyenne. She informed the prosecutor that she was ready to plead guilty. "The only thing I wanted was to meet my victims," she says. "I wasn't going to put them through a trial."

Colorado's victim-rights law prohibits offenders from having contact with crime victims — a major obstacle to the effort to launch restorative-justice programs ("The Victim Lobby," October 20, 2011). Wyoming has less imposing barriers, and the family was receptive to the proposal. Perry met first with the two adults who were in the house; then the mother returned with her children, some of whom had come home from school that day to find their parents tied up. The little girl who answered the door was several years older now. The oldest daughter was the same age as Perry.

She answered their questions and told them she was sorry. The father was angry, the mother more sympathetic. The experience, while painful, made Perry feel stronger — more human, somehow. A judge in Cheyenne gave her an indeterminate sentence of fifteen to twenty years, to be served concurrently with her Colorado sentence.

Facing her victims and the enormity of her crimes was something she couldn't have imagined doing at sixteen. She had come into the system beaten and resigned, seemingly easy prey for seasoned convicts inclined to manipulate and abuse the weak. But prison had taught her some basic communication skills she'd never had before.

"Being passive, like in my crime spree, that wasn't going to work in prison," she says. "I learned right away that I was going to have to be assertive, to say what I mean and mean what I say. I had to create strong boundaries."

Perry credits the prison's Alternatives to Violence Program, which focuses on conflict resolution and listening skills, for teaching her that she had the power within herself "to transform conflict by being direct." She began participating in the program shortly after her incarceration and was facilitating workshops by the time she was nineteen. When the Cañon City women's prison closed in 2009, she brought the program with her to the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
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

We are www.12stepplanet.com and www.addictstoday.com. Please join us to fight the disease of drug and alcohol addiction/abuse. Please read our short stories of how we did it. If you have a success story that would help others please send it to: my12stepplanet@yahoo.com. We interface on FaceBook. We will support you in any type of recovery.

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??????

gfjhgfjhj
gfjhgfjhj

( http://fashion-long-4biz.com )Hello, everybody, the good shoping place, the new season approaching, click in. Welcome to ( http://fashion-long-4biz.com ) Air Jordan (1-24) shoes $35Jordan (1-22)&2009 shoes $45Nike shox (R4, NZ, OZ, TL1, TL2, TL3) $35Handbags ( Coach Lv fendi D&G) $30T-shirts (polo, ed hardy, lacoste) $14Jean (True Religion, ed hardy, coogi)$34Sunglasses ( Oakey, coach, Gucci, Armaini)$15New era cap $16Biki ni (Ed hardy, polo) $18 FREE SHIPPING

( http://fashion-long-4biz.com )

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

 
Denver Concert Tickets
Loading...