James Scott, serial rapist, charged with killing woman praying at church -- in 1979
In October 1979, nineteen-year-old Martha Guzman was found naked and bleeding in the sanctuary of a Denver church. She died a few days later.
Now, after well over three decades, James Scott, a convicted serial rapist, has been formally accused of the crime. And according to an arrest warrant shared here, he actually confessed to killing Guzman in 2007, more than six years ago.
Why the delay? See details, photos and a video below.
At about 6:45 p.m. on October 25, 1979, according to the affidavit, Guzman, who stood just four-feet nine-inches in height and weighed only 97 pounds, was found on the sanctuary floor at the Spanish Church of God, located at 3401 Bryant Street.
She was nude and had been badly beaten, and the area near where her body was discovered showed signs of a struggle: furniture and items from the church's altar had been tossed about (the collection plate's handle was broken off) and Guzman's bloody clothing was strewn on the floor.
Guzman, who possessed a key to the church and had been scheduled to arrive early to prepare for evening services, was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition.
She died on November 1, and an autopsy afterward identified her cause of death as extensive brain trauma from blunt force blows to the head. She also suffered extensive wounds and tearing to her vaginal area.
Meanwhile, witnesses told police about seeing an African-American man walking a Doberman Pinscher near the church before Guzman's body was discovered -- a tip that led them to Edward Cole (also known as Edward Scott), the owner of two Dobermans who lived in the area. He told investigators that James Scott, who shared Cole's residence, had been walking one of the dogs when he returned home around 6 p.m. on the evening of Guzman's death.
Cole said Scott told him he'd met "some chick," but she wouldn't "give him no play" because she was afraid of the dog. He also admitted to having hurt his hand, which was bleeding and sported fresh scratches.
This information was enough for the cops to target Scott. But a witness who'd seen the man with the Doberman was only 60-70 percent sure Scott was the person he'd eyeballed after looking at a photo lineup that included a pic of the suspect. And a woman who'd also spotted an African-American man with a Doberman turned out to suffer from dementia.
As such, the case against Scott fell apart -- and it would take many years before it was revived.
Continue for more about the murder charge against James Scott, including photos, a video and the arrest affidavit. In September 2006, detectives on the cold case unit scored a DNA hit in the first-degree sexual assault and second-degree kidnapping of a woman in 1995.
The alleged perpetrator was Scott, who just happened to be in custody in New York state for a rape that had occurred that same year: 1995.
In short order, the Denver District Attorney's Office filed charges against Scott for the 1995 Colorado crime, and he was returned to the state in September 2007 to be tried.
Scott promptly confessed to the 1995 sexual assault -- but he also wanted to talk about the 1979 murder of Martha Guzman.
When he sat down with detectives, the affidavit quotes him as acknowledging that what "I'm about to say will cause me to lose my freedom."
He then told investigators that he'd been walking the two Doberman Pinschers past the church on that September day in 1979 when he'd noticed a partially open door -- so he'd tied up the dogs and gone inside with the idea of stealing money from the collection plate. But as he'd looked around, he happened upon Guzman, who was on her knees praying in front of the altar.
At that point, he said he'd tried to snatch her purse, but she grabbed his arm in an attempt to stop him -- so he struck her several times in the head and chest before fleeing the church.
Had he also sexually assaulted Guzman?, the detectives asked him. At first, he said no, but the document notes that he subsequently admitted it was "a good possibility, because he would take advantage of an opportunity."
Unfortunately, evidence in the Guzman case had been destroyed at some unknown point between 1979 and 2007 -- so it wasn't possible to accuse Scott of raping Guzman. But why wasn't he immediately punished for murdering her? According to the Denver District Attorney's Office, a homicide beef was indeed filed against him, but "a legal restriction" prevented the case from going forward immediately, because Scott "had been brought to Colorado for the sole purpose of facing the charges in the 1995 case," to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to forty years in prison circa 2008.
At that point, the murder allegation was dismissed and Scott was returned to New York to continue serving his prison sentence there, but with the idea that the Guzman charge could be re-filed later.
A lot later, as it turns out. But now, the Denver DA's office has formally accused Scott of three first-degree-murder counts and six crime-of-violence accusations. He returned to Colorado earlier this week.
Look below to see a larger version of Scott's booking photo, the arrest affidavit and a 2008 report from 7News about Scott's sentencing in the 1995 rape case. The latter includes extensive references to the Guzman slaying.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa July 2013: "Francisco Carbajal busted in cold-case strangulation of Julia Abarca."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.