A few weeks before Christmas, Tammy Andrews was rummaging through a storage space beneath a staircase in her Arvada home, searching for decorations, when she came across a cardboard box buried in the back. She set it aside without giving it much thought. But the next day, when she looked inside, she realized that she had unearthed what her mother had called the "life box," a collection of papers relating to family members who had passed away.
Since her mother's death nearly four years earlier, Tammy had wondered what had happened to the box, and when she found it, she spent more than eight hours sifting through marriage certificates, military paperwork and funeral mementos. Two documents in particular captured her attention: They had to do with Holly Marie Andrews, Tammy's older sister, who had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death near Georgetown on December 26, 1976.
Holly was sixteen when she was killed; Tammy was fifteen. The case made headlines for years, especially after Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer who in the early 1980s claimed responsibility for as many as 600 murders, was charged with the crime. Now, nearly 25 years later, Tammy was seeing the paperwork describing the murder for the first time. In her hands, she held a 1983 statement that a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent had written to get a warrant for Lucas's arrest. The statement summarized Lucas's confession to Holly's murder.
But Tammy also found a report issued by the Texas Attorney General's Office in 1986, which discredited most of Lucas's confessions and urged law-enforcement agencies throughout the country to take a second look at cases they had cleared based on his statements.
Although Tammy, who is now 39 and the mother of three, had heard of the report, she was just a teenager when it came out, and her mom, Leona Madson, had been the family's liaison with the police. And Madson had always maintained that Lucas was guilty -- possibly to ease the minds of her other five children as well as her own. "If she didn't believe it, she wanted to believe," says Tammy. "She wanted somebody to hate."
Madson did indeed hate Lucas, Tammy says, to the extent that she used to call his family members and acquaintances to give them a piece of her mind. Madson kept a small notebook listing people and phone numbers she had called over the years for news about her daughter's case. (Tammy found the notebook in the "life box," she says, but most of the numbers were obsolete.) "It killed my mother," Tammy says of Holly's murder. "My mother drank more, so in turn, she smoked more. Her whole life revolved around Lucas, my sister, whoever killed her -- everything. It was very hard on her -- very, very hard. She could hardly function some days."
Madson cut all of the celebrations out of her life, especially Christmas, which was the hardest time of year. She couldn't even bring herself to put up a Christmas tree again until the early 1990s, Tammy says.
In February 1997, Madson died of lung cancer, six months after moving back to Denver from Hawaii, where she had retired in 1996. She never came to terms with Holly's murder, Tammy says. "But she had peace about dying because she knew she'd be with my sister. She didn't have any problem at all about dying. She'd died long before that."
Her wish was that her ashes be buried directly beside Holly's casket in Littleton Cemetery, a place she had visited so many times in life. Madson and her daughter now share a single gravesite marked by two headstones.
The discovery of the two documents stirred old questions that had lingered in Tammy's mind for years: Had Lucas really committed the murder, or was the real killer still walking the streets?
After rereading the report from Texas, she decided to try to find out. She picked up the phone a few days later and started calling everyone she could think of who had been involved with the case.
Tammy and Holly Andrews, only eleven months apart in age, were close friends. Both went to Columbine High School in Littleton, where Holly was outgoing, popular and took great pride in her role as a majorette.
But Holly, like the rest of the six Andrews siblings, had problems stemming from her parents' troubled relationship. "It was a very nasty marriage and, at the end, a very nasty divorce," Tammy says. Gerald Andrews and Leona Madson split in 1972, when Tammy was eleven years old. The oldest child, David, was thirteen; Holly was twelve, Curt was seven, Dawn was five and Andy was four. Afterward, the three older kids would shuttle between their father's and mother's Littleton homes, trying to stay where they could get away with the most mischief.