The victim was later identified as Francis Canham, known to friends and neighbors as Frank.
Within days, Daniel Gonzales was arrested for the crime even though he'd traveled across the country; he was captured in Florida.
A police report in the case, on view below in its entirety, reveals not only the brutal nature of Canham's death, but also the reasons why authorities so quickly focused their attention on Gonzales, who's now been sentenced to life in prison for what was clearly a most imperfect crime.
On the morning of February 4, 2015, according to the affidavit, Denver police officers were asked to conduct a welfare check on the 66-year-old Canham, a part-time accountant, at his residence, 2659 Java Court.
The area is captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."
Inside, officers found Canham's body.
And it quickly became clear that his death hadn't been natural.
The document notes that a detective "observed a bloody drag mark across the dining and living room floor, a bloody shoe print and a bloody bare-foot print. The bloody drag marks on the floor led to the victim's body."
Canham was "face down to the right of the front door," the report continues, as well as being "nude from the waist down." There was "blood around and on the victim's head" near burnt paper and clothing, plus match sticks — some of them used, others that either weren't or didn't work.
Other evidence suggested that Canham had been the victim of a break-in by an intruder who'd escalated the offense from burglary to murder.
Afterward, Canham's loved ones created a memorial outside his home, as seen in the photo at the top of this post.
His online obituary stresses his deep commitment to a specific house of worship.
"His family at large, the Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church parish for the past 30+ years, was very dear to him, and he served cheerfully in many roles," the remembrance notes. "These included hospitality committee, extraordinary minister, finance council, and nominated to be Godfather to several children. Church members stated that he would drive them to medical appointments if asked. He was loyal to the poor and homeless cared for by the Samaritan House in Denver where he volunteered weekly for 30 years. He helped wherever needed, but mostly food and dining services. He was active in many clubs and organizations, and had an active social life with friends enjoying good wine and food, but never forgetting his family for special events."
He was a CSU graduate and a Broncos fan who got the chance to attend two Super Bowls. "He will be missed by many!" the item points out.
The home where the slaying took place.
Meanwhile, the investigation moved forward, helped immeasurably by items found at the scene.
Among the most important was a red one-gallon gasoline can and the matches, which investigators saw as evidence that the killer had intended to set the house ablaze in order to destroy evidence but had failed to do so successfully.
On top of that, Canham's driver's license, cell phone and credit cards were missing.
It didn't take long for the cops to trace the last purchases made on Canham's card. He was last seen alive on February 1, but a Greyhound bus ticket to Florida had been purchased the following day — and the online sale was traced to Gonzales.
So, too, was the gas can. Surveillance footage from a nearby 7-Eleven showed a man matching his description buying just such a container.
The capper: Some latent fingerprints were found at the crime scene — and they were a match for Gonzales.
At that point, it was simply a matter of informing the cops in Florida to keep an eye out for Gonzales — and he was taken into custody in Orlando on February 5, resulting in this booking photo.
In the end, Gonzales was found guilty of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, stalking, first-degree arson, first-degree burglary and aggravated robbery.
His sentence, dispensed earlier this month: life plus 48 years.
The most recent booking photo of Gonzales shared by the Denver District Attorney's Office looks quite different from the one taken in Florida more than a year ago.
He'll no doubt go through more changes over the course of his sentence, which should keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Here's the latest mug shot, followed by the arrest affidavit.
Denver District Attorney's Office
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