It was a case as weird as it was disturbing and tragic. Back in February 2011, the bodies of Ronald Ford and Ramiro Sanchez were found in their west Denver home, and shortly thereafter, cops started searching for a cross-dresser known as Ms. Puppy and later identified as Daryl Rasmussen. But while Rasmussen was busted in California that summer, charges in the Ford and Sanchez murders didn't stick -- until a grand jury indicted him this week. Details, photos and the indictment below.
As we reported in August 2011, Ford, 63, and Sanchez, 56, were partners in life and in La Fabula. The eatery opened in 2000, earning a middling review from Westword in June of that year, and shutting down in 2002.
Ford's body was found in his Stuart Street home on February 11, and initially, Sanchez was considered a suspect. But crime scene photos reportedly led a commander to suspect that there may have been more than one victim in the attack and ordered that the house be reexamined. Cops subsequently found Sanchez's body in a basement, beneath bags and other random items.
The pair had last been seen alive on January 24. Both died of blunt-force trauma to the head.
Even before Sanchez was eliminated as a suspect by his own death, the cops were on the lookout for another person -- a cross-dresser known as Ms. Puppy who was said to have been homeless prior to moving in with the couple several months prior to the murders. The following month, he was identified as Rasmussen, and a series of photographs were released. The first one pictured Rasmussen in masculine garb....
...as did the second:
And the third? It's a surveillance image that purportedly captures Rasmussen in his Ms. Puppy guise:
No immediate sightings followed -- but the circulation of the images appears to have paid off. On August 1, a visitor to a Palm Springs, California bar called Score noticed a patron who resembled photos of Rasmussen he'd seen while in Denver. Cops called to the scene asked for Rasmussen's ID, and he provided the late Sanchez's, the indictment maintains.
In the beginning, Rasmussen was held on outstanding warrants in Texas and Georgia rather than the Ford and Sanchez killings -- and nailing him for these homicides proved to be a difficult task. As noted by the Denver District Attorney's Office, it took until earlier this year for Rasmussen to be charged in Colorado -- and those beefs were limited to theft, identity theft and criminal impersonation. However, a judge subsequently dismissed the case, reasoning that probable cause evidence wasn't sufficient.
Nonetheless, the investigation continued, and in October, a grand jury was impaneled to consider the case. And on Wednesday, grand jury members not only handed down a slew of indictments against Rasmussen, including two counts of first-degree murder, but it also named four other people -- Colette Mary Pawnee Leggins, Mario Joseph Hall, Wanbli Cabrera and Filiberto Garivay Lopez -- as participants in a conspiracy that helped the accused slayer with a stolen car and other items.
What convinced the grand jury?
The longest narrative section in the indictment appears under the ninth count against Rasmussen: criminal impersonation. The document notes that Ford and Sanchez met Rasmussen in the fall of 2010. Rasmussen had been homeless at the time, but he moved in with the pair shortly thereafter, serving as a housekeeper and caregiver for Sanchez, who was physically disabled and received Social Security disability. For his part, Ford worked at Aramark.
In October 2010, Sanchez received a $79,900 worker's compensation settlement from his previous employer, Sodexo; the final check, after attorney's payment and fees, was north of $65,000. A couple of months later, Ford had hip surgery, which made him more physically vulnerable as well.
Cut to February, when police discovered Ford's body and then, a week later, Sanchez's. Investigators determined that Ford was killed in the living room in or near a sofa chair before being brought downstairs into the home's basement and left at the bottom of the stairs -- and both bodies had been there a while. Mail had been piling up for a week or so, and on January 24, Ford's supervisor at Aramark received a call from someone impersonating him. This bogus Ford, who his boss recognized as a phony, said he wouldn't be into work for a week to ten days because he was going to see a doctor about his leg.
That day and the next, Sanchez's debit card and cell phone were used on a number of occasions, presumably by Rasmussen. And on the 25th, he's said to have told Pawnee Leggins and Hall that he "really needed to get out of Denver today" after stopping by the Ford-Sanchez house to "clean up and take care of some things. The indictment also says Rasmussen asked Pawnee Leggins to "get rid of" Ford and Sanchez's 1997 Dodge van.
Over the next week or so, more transactions were made using Ford-Sanchez credit cards -- and in March, Rasmussen allegedly used Sanchez's date of birth and Social Security number to get an identity card in San Diego. By May, he was in Riverside County, and August brought his arrest in Palm Springs.
Still, the most damning information remains mysterious to some degree. At the end of the criminal impersonation section, following three lines that are blacked out, comes this paragraph:
Rasmussen had been 'a live-in made for 2 gay men' in Denver, Colorado. The men were supposed to pay Rasmussen $800.00 per month for Rasmussen's services; and the men owed Rasmussen $8,000. The men were waiting for a settlement for $78,000 [sic], which they received in October 2010. At Christmas 2010, Rasmussen asked the men to pay Rasmussen the $8,000.00 they owed him. The men "gave him (Rasmussen) the run around." After Christmas 2010, Rasmussen asked again for the funds, and the men became abusive to Rasmussen. So Rasmussen "waited until he saw a good move on his behalf, he killed both of them." Rasmussen then left and went to California.
He's not there now. At present, he's in custody in Texas on a parole violation. But he now faces extradition to Colorado to face the accusations formalized by the grand jury.
Here's a look at Rasmussen's latest mug shot, followed by the indictment.
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More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa August 2011: "Daryl Rasmussen, aka Ms. Puppy: Cross-dresser wanted for 2 murders busted in Cali."