In recent days, members of Colorado's general assembly have been battling over legislation intended to outlaw the death penalty in Colorado. Yesterday, however, the proposal failed in the House Judiciary Committee.
This development distressed the Colorado ACLU; see the group's statement below. But it was good, or at least positive, news for Anthony Joseph Galvan, who believes the killer of his mother, Jacqueline Gallegos, who went unpunished for years, deserves to pay the ultimate price for his terrible act.
We first told you about the Gallegos case as part of a post about ten unsolved Denver murders published in May 2012.
Jacqueline Collette Gallegos, 28, graduated from Great Bend (KS) High school. Next to the oldest of seven children, she loved music, dancing and being with friends. Jackie liked to write poetry and was a fantastic artist drawing caricatures and animals. She was the devoted mother of five children: Anthony, Luis, Robert, Monique and Lorena. Jackie was outgoing and would "take in the underdog anytime," according to her mother, Linda Atz. On July 12, 1994, Jackie was visiting at a friend's home when, according to a witness, intruders posing as federal agents forced their way into the house. Jackie was bound, raped and sodomized; they cut her throat and stabbed her over 30 times. Another person was also killed but the one they were apparently after survived. No one has ever been apprehended for this crime.
This last statement is now out of date, as we detailed in a January post. That month, a grand jury indicted three men -- Andre Jackson, Samuel Sims and Jackie McConnell -- for a grisly and shocking crime detailed in a document on view below.
About 4:30 a.m. on July 12, as we reported, Denver police officers and paramedics from Denver Health arrived at 3234 Larimer Street to find a man named Mack Martinez lying in the entryway of the home. His ankles were bound and he was badly hurt.
Further inside, they discovered two more people: Nelson Swiggett and Gallegos. Swiggett's ankles were also bound, and he had suffered multiple stab wounds. Gallegos, for her part, was found lying naked in a bedroom with what was described as "a sharp force injury to her throat."
Both Swiggett and Gallegos died of their injuries, but Martinez, described as a "suspected drug dealer," survived and was able to tell police what happened. According to him, five or six intruders -- one with a shotgun -- forced their way into the home at about 3 a.m. Their faces were covered and they wore dark clothes.
The men ordered Martinez into the bedroom and demanded money and drugs -- and their methods of persuasion were severe. After his eyes were covered, he's said to have been tied up and tortured with a wire hanger and a knife, with the latter being used to make a cut on his throat.
Gallegos was in the same room, and Martinez said that as he was being abused, he could hear three male voices and the sound of her being sexually assaulted.
Swiggett was in another part of the house. Martinez recalled hearing him "being beaten and begging for his life," the indictment says.
After the men left, allegedly with jewelry, a watch, cash from his wallet, plus a TV and stereo equipment, Martinez was able to make it to the front door, where he saw a passerby and asked him to call 911.
The indictment cites witnesses quizzed during the investigation who pointed to all three of the men charged in the crime. One person told cops McConnell had talked about being present in the house but denying that he'd personally killed anyone; rather, he said he'd only "poked people with a coat hanger."
A second witness quotes McConnell as having confessed to witnessing a rape -- and wishing that he'd left.
Other witnesses recalled Jackson talking about playing a role in the robbery. He supposedly denied having taken part in the sexual assault: He claimed Sims was the person who'd raped and then killed Gallegos. However, Jackson allegedly admitted to stabbing "at least one of the people in the house," the indictment states.
And Sims? Multiple witnesses told the authorities that he'd shared an account of the night's activities with them -- including that he'd "stabbed people and cut people's throats."
The evidence noted in the indictment doesn't end there. The document reveals that DNA profiles were developed for Sims and Jackson and then compared with material from Gallegos's original sexual-assault kit, which suggested that two or more individuals had raped her. A DNA profile obtained from sperm on a vaginal swab matched Sims; the odds against the random selection of an unrelated individual are "estimated to be less than 1 in 8.9 trillion," the document says.
Jackson, too, scored a match, albeit one with considerably less certainty -- a "1 in 110,000" chance of misidentification, the indictment allows.
McConnell isn't mentioned in the DNA portion of the filing, suggesting that he was telling the truth about not taking part in Gallegos's rape. Nonetheless, he has been charged with what the Denver District Attorney's Office dubs "multiple charges" of first-degree murder, plus one attempted-murder count. Jackson and Sims have been handed the same, plus a sexual-assault accusation.
According to Galvan, Jacqueline's son, who now goes by Joseph, he learned about the indictment via an article in the Denver Post. Afterward, he connected with the Denver District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case. Earlier this month, he met with reps from the office, and he says part of the conversation focused on the family's feelings about the death penalty. He made it clear he thinks it should be used in this case.
"I think the person who took my mom's life should get the death penalty," Galvan says. "The other people will get theirs with God -- He has His own mysterious ways. But I believe Jackson should be punished for what he did to my mom."
Note that while Galvan only mentioned Jackson, Sims is also charged with murder, and his DNA was found on Gallegos.
Galvan was only six years old when his mom died, but neither he nor any of his siblings were living with her at the time. Instead, he was at the Tennyson Center for Children due to Gallegos's struggles in her personal life. "She was actually in parenting classes and drug classes and stuff like that, so she could receive us back. She was doing what she needed to do," he says, adding, "I heard from her friends that she went over there" -- meaning the Larimer Street address where she died -- "because she was going to tell them she couldn't do the stuff she'd been doing anymore, because she realized she needed us and wanted us back. So she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Nonetheless, Galvan still has many strong memories of his mother. "They're short -- like, I remember the times she made me laugh, the times she did little stuff for me. I really remember all the times she visited me when I was a little kid."
Times were tough for Galvan after his mom's death, and as the years went on, he got crosswise with the law on numerous occasions. "It was just stupid stuff, like protecting myself when I was younger," he says. "And then I lived in Compton, California, for a few years -- lived a life I wouldn't want anybody to life. I moved back here in 2008 and got in a little trouble, and had to do my time. I left back to California after that, but I came back in 2010, and I've been here ever since."
He's also tried to get back on the righteous path. In his words, "I had to suck it up, had to learn from my mistakes, because I didn't have anyone else to learn from.
To Galvan, the death penalty would represent justice in this case -- and he rejects the idea that life in prison is worse than capital punishment.
"In jail, it's almost like a group home," he maintains, "and I've been in group homes all my life. I don't think he deserves that; I don't think he deserves my tax money to help him out. In jail, you can at least have friends, and when you go to court, you can say, 'Hi' to your family. But my mom, she can't say, 'Hi.' She can't even breathe."
At this point, it's far too early to determine whether the district attorney's office will seek the death penalty for Jackson or Sims -- but that option will be available given the failure of repeal legislation. Look below to see a statement from ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, followed by the indictment of Jackson, Sims and McConnell.
"The ACLU of Colorado is highly disappointed that the House Judiciary Committee chose not to end the state's unjust and unfair use of the death penalty.
"The vast majority of law enforcement professionals agree that the death penalty does not deter crime. It is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars, its use has been arbitrary and often discriminatory and it poses an unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person.
"Ending the death penalty and replacing it with the more cost-effective and fair alternative of permanent imprisonment remains a top priority of the ACLU of Colorado. Opponents of repeal cited a need for more conversation and debate, and we are committed to being a catalyst for that conversation until the death penalty is ended in Colorado once and for all."
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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Andre Jackson among trio busted for Jacqueline Gallegos's shocking cold-case murder."