No Paean, No Gain
Regarding Robin Chotzinoff's "What's Your Status?" in the November 12 issue:
Just another paean of praise for Chotzinoff and her talent for deflating the pompous (the New York Times, for instance), for reporting with accuracy and compassion (the farmers she asked the Times's absurd question about farmers' status symbols and quoted word for word) and the final result of making it all work by writing so well. She is such a good writer she would probably disdain this letter because it began with a "paean of praise"---which is not a cliche but a redundancy, since all paeans are hymns of praise. The Times hooked her with awe but let her get away. Lucky for the loyal readers of Westword. Count me in.

Jane Davis Carpenter

As a writer specializing in organic food and organic farming issues, I take issue with Robin Chotzinoff's offhand, trivializing comments about "organic, Wild Oats types" and "politically correct organic farmers." Her insinuation, throughout an otherwise interesting but unsatisfying story, is that organic farming isn't "real" farming ("there were no farmers in my Rolodex...unless you count organic"). Chotzinoff's ignorance about farming in general may be one reason she just couldn't figure out what the New York Times wanted. Not only is organic farming as difficult and as economically risky as conventional farming, most of its practitioners farm without even the limited subsidies or security that agribusiness offers. If she thinks the price of organic food at natural foods stores is making these farmers rich, she is, with a few exceptions, quite wrong. Farming is not a hobby or vanity occupation for organic farmers any more than for conventional farmers, and it is insulting for Chotzinoff to suggest that it is.

The New York Times has actually written quite a bit about organic farms, farmers, food and legislation over the past few years. A strong edito-rial opposing the proposed national organic standards (released in late 1997 for public comment) helped clarify and combat a situation that threatened the integrity of the organic label. Chotzinoff's assumption of urban snobbery on the part of the Times and its editors probably didn't help her arrive at a publishable story.

Finally, some thoughtful inquiry about why it's so hard for farmers to rattle off sound-bite status symbols--and why so few of us know any farmers today--would have made a better story. By the way, more than half of the organic farmers, according to one survey, have advanced degrees. They also do not have cookie-cutter political views, correct or otherwise. Perhaps some open-minded questions addressed to a few of these intelligent, educated, thoughtful and determined farmers would have resulted in Chotzinoff's own personal status symbol--a byline in a newspaper she doesn't seem to read or respect.

Elaine Lipson
via the Internet

The Buddy of Evidence
Harrison Fletcher's November 5 article "The Buddy System," about Leon Kelly and Lloyd Lewan, was done with great dignity and represents the epitome of community involvement on the part of all involved in Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives, including your newspaper's coverage.

I met Leon Kelly once. This is not a disappointing "celebrity," but one you'd enjoy meeting, a tough guy with a heart. Whether it's ever spoken or not, Leon Kelly is also color-blind. He'll help any youth in trouble or, better yet, keep him out of it.

Moral: If a disadvantaged youth walks in your "shop" door looking for a job, ignore his color and his circumstances and try to lift him up. Find a way.

My wife and I get countless pleas in the mail for donations, and typically such organizations get maybe five cents on the dollar after the soliciting agency gets paid. Instead, why not make your contributions count? I think Open Door is an excellent choice!

Gene W. Edwards

Don't Have a Cow
Juliet Wittman's "Mad All Over," in the November 12 issue, was a great article on the poisoning of our food. Go figure that the greed and selfishness for a few dollars more in their pockets would come to this. Then they feed herbivores carrion, cement and other non-essential items. With having both our food and water supply poisoned, it is a true wonder that we function at all.

P.S.: Your paper has the most in-depth reporting. For this we thank you, but I wish that your paper had a higher consciousness when it comes to choosing ads. Some of them are degrading in appearance.

D. Thiel
via the Internet

I wish to thank Juliet Wittman for doing a very informative story about CJD. I am glad that she is informing the public of this horrendous disease. I am a member of CJD Voice; my sister is a victim of CJD and has been suffering for three years.  

Janet Ferguson
via the Internet

As a scientist involved in the development of BSE tests, I wonder why it takes six weeks to get an answer as to whether an animal has CWD or not. As part of a small biotech company called Prionics (, I would like to inform you that we have now tested 3,000 cattle randomly selected from slaughterhouses for BSE with our test (which, by the way, is validated in Switzerland), delivering the results within twelve hours back to the butcher.

Therefore, hunters might get their results back within 24 hours (or if you send brain samples to Switzerland, within one week) for a price. Since the prevalence of CWD in deer is so high, it might be worthwhile to test animals ahead of serving them.

Bruno Oesch
via the Internet

I read your article on Jacob-Creutzfeld disease and the possible link to chronic wasting disease with interest. If there is a link, we couldn't be doing a better job of setting ourselves up for an epidemic. Look at the situation from an ecological point of view. Human hunters are predators. Predators, by their pursuit strategies and choice of prey, select for certain characteristics in their prey population. The Colorado Division of Wildlife advises hunters not to kill animals that look unwell. The upshot: Human predators select for the survival of sick deer. I lived for many years in Canada's Jasper National Park. We had a good population of wolves there. Wolves chase bunches of ungulates and pull down the easiest ones to catch. In other words, unlike humans, wolves select against the survival of sick animals. But most of my fellow hunters don't like wolves; they want the deer for themselves. I think you folks need wolves.

I suspect what you're going to get, instead, is a chronic dilemma, because your predators (the ones with .270s) aren't doing their ecological job. Good luck. Please don't let your game ranchers send us any more of their sick critters while you're working this out!

Kevin Van Tighem
Waterton Park, Alberta

Pat Answers
Although I liked Patricia Calhoun's November 5 column, "Let Us Pray," underlining the moral "courage" of the Colorado media in its coverage of the vote on the Bronco stadium, it came late--after the fact, in fact. Why didn't you go after the skunk when it might have made a difference, in late August or September? Pat Bowlen's left a trail of indictments, bankrupt companies and dirty deals all over North America that any one of your yuppie-cool reporters could have researched and shared with the general reading and voting public. Here Westword could have played a major role in the elections that neither the Denver Post nor the Rocky Mountain News was willing to pursue--and in doing so, could have shown once again the potential power of the alternative media.

Given the current Bronco mania in the six-county area, perhaps it would not have turned the tides against the sleazebag from Wisconsin, but at least metro-area voters would have seen Bowlen in perspective. Instead we get one of your well-written political obituaries on the vote. I'm sorry, I'm not impressed, even if the first paragraph reads like poetry.

It smacks of a copout.
From my humble perspective, it is not too late--no, it is never too late--to go after the likes of Pat Bowlen.

Rob Prince
via the Internet

Earth First
Regarding Eric Dexheimer's "Pour VAIL," in the November 5 issue:
The recent fires in Vail point out the facts plain and simple. There are extremist groups that feel they are being ignored and laughed at as fools. But they are willing to act out their frustrations and take action against big money that continues to do whatever it pleases to the environment.

One woman said that the "spirit" of Vail had been violated. Well, the spirit is in the mountains, and that was violated back when the white man built his resort there.

People cry over things too much. The resort will be rebuilt. The new ski area will be built. In a few years, people will hardly remember the fires, only in history.

The facts are that we are destroying Colorado piece by piece, and no one has any power to stop its destruction. Not in a booming economy that needs jobs and housing for the humans that rely on it. The days of log cabins are long over; the days of log mansions are here! The fact is that unless the economy takes a dive, the growth will not stop.

Colorado is becoming as generic as everywhere else. Anything old has to come down so the new can sprout up. We don't value our past, as they do in Europe. We only care about now and tomorrow, so who cares about the land in the true sense?  

The white man has always feared this land and has always needed to "tame" the wilderness, to "conquer" the mountains and rivers. They have always seen the dollars to be made off of its resources.

The Indian people have learned well from the white man, too. They view the land in dollars, also. There are a few "old way" Indians left who don't exploit and use the white man's teachings, but most are poor and hidden away on the reservations.

We must never forget the spirit in the land that will go on even when the people's world is destroyed. The earth will renew itself. We need not save the earth; we must save ourselves from our own destruction. Only the rocks live forever!

Martin Knifechief

Trial and Error
In response to Steve Jackson's October 15 story, "Death Takes a Holiday," and the letters that followed, the only crime committed in the Brandy Duvall trial was against Francisco Martinez! Let me enlighten you to some true journalistic oversights.

The jury that you depend on to serve a civil duty wrote notes to each other during the trial. Sammy Quintana admitted to stabbing Brandy Duvall several times due to being tired of waiting around! Uncle Joe, who claimed to have never left the room, all of a sudden is now a credible witness. Give me a break!

Interestingly enough, about two weeks after a biased jury of twelve Caucasian women found Mr. Martinez guilty--by reason of insanity on the behalf of the jury--the "honorable" Judge Michael Villano gave a Denver Post business reporter ninety days in jail and counseling for meeting a fourteen-year-old girl on the Internet, whom he bribed to go to his home and engage in sexual intercourse!

Let us not forget that Sammy Quintana killed a young mother, who has left a young child orphaned, and no one seems to be concerned with justice for Venus Montoya!

Last, but by no means least, Mr. Martinez has a hardworking stepfather who is not an alcoholic and a mother who cares very deeply for her son. Francisco is not a monster! He's held a job for years, and he loves his children very much and would give his mother the world.

John Rasel, if you judge Francisco "Pancho" Martinez by what you read...then I must assume that you're surfing the Internet looking for fourteen-year-old girls. Marilyn Garcia, get a life and pay for your reading pleasures in the future.

Deanna L. Smith

Cindy's Side
We who know Cindy Phillips were appalled at the inaccuracies in Eric Dexheimer's "Love on the Rocks," in the October 22 issue. The list of things that were incorrect are too numerous to mention, but in the interest of fairness, we would like to give you a little of Cindy's side of the story.

The first suspect in Les Konrade's disappearance was not Cindy, but another Kansas man. We will not name him, because in fairness it would not be right to openly implicate someone in a crime when there is no proof that they were involved. However, the Kansas authorities did alert the Colorado authorities to be on the lookout for this man, and the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) informed Cindy and her sister that their lives may also be in danger. This man was questioned about Konrade's disappearance, then suddenly left the area. The KBI, with the assistance of Colorado authorities, checked Cindy's whereabouts and they absolutely confirmed that she was several hundred miles away the night Les disappeared. Cindy has never been charged with any crime in connection with this, and nowhere in the KBI case file is foul play indicated in his disappearance.

Summer of 1995: This is when it is alleged that Cindy solicited Billy Slaughter to kill Ron Phillips. Slaughter claims that she planned to burn a house in Kansas to get the money to pay him, and sure enough, a house she owned in Kansas did burn. However, the official fire investigation says that the fire was not an arson. Knowing this to be true, how could Cindy have known she was going to have any insurance money to pay Slaughter? Not only that, but the insurance policies on Ron and Cindy Phillips were not even applied for until over two months after Slaughter claims that she told him she wanted Ron killed for the insurance. According to insurance-company records, the policy did not exist at the time of this alleged solicitation. Truth: Slaughter was a close friend of Toby Mathews and only recalled this after he was told by police that Cindy may be involved in his friend's death. Cindy can prove that she did not have the $10,000 that he claims she paid him. She has receipts to account for every penny of money she had. Anyone who knows the facts of this can see that the charges are nothing more than a ruse that stems from a man's want for revenge for his friend's death.  

The article says that Cindy and Ron purchased a life-insurance policy on Ron, with Cindy as the beneficiary, for $300,000 on September 1, 1996. Cindy and Ron were legally separated as of July 31, 1996, and that policy Ron took out on his own. Is this the one the source says might have been forged? Cindy can be confirmed as being in Kansas on that date by court-filed documents. Forgery from hundreds of miles away would be difficult. Ron had threatened to take his own life if Cindy did not reconcile with him, and he took out the policy during this period. Besides, Ron testified in court that he took out these policies, so the indication that they were forgeries is completely untrue.

Toby and Cindy moved to Texas shortly after this and bought a home together a year later. Six months later, Toby was murdered. A friend of theirs, Rick Boyd, originally confessed to the murder, but police report that he tried to recant his confession the next day, saying he had nothing to do with Mathews's death. When asked by detectives why he would confess, he replied that the detective said to make it easy on himself, because she was going to charge him with murder either way. Boyd presently denies all involvement in Toby Mathews's death. He says he was intimidated into confessing and coerced into implicating Cindy in Toby's death. According to police reports, witnesses and sworn statements, anyone can see that it was impossible for Rick or Cindy to have been at that murder scene.

Orie Mathews cites a falling-out that he and Toby had because of Cindy. Untrue! Their falling-out was centered on Orie's accusation of Toby stealing money from him. If, indeed, Toby had stolen money from his father, it would not be at Cindy's request, as she had several thousand dollars in her personal account at the time. Cindy cared deeply for Toby, but she did not need him for money. Cindy basically supported Toby over several months' time. So when Orie says that she started handling Toby's money, did he mean she was trying to get Toby out of debt and on his feet financially by paying bills for him that he could not afford to pay?

We do not want to accuse anyone of breaking any law in this matter, because that would be so unfair! Or would it? Bev Jensen, Sheriff Kurth and the Colorado authorities don't seem to think it is so unfair. They thrive on town gossip as reliable information yet seem unwilling to check the facts that can repudiate the gossip.

Cindy is innocent of the charge against her, and we are 100 percent positive her trial will bear this out. The prosecution has only the word of a man who wants revenge for his friend's death. The only real truth is that, in her life, Cindy has lost two people that she loved. If it is a crime to lose someone you love, then most of us should be on trial. Let us just pray to God that if something like this ever happens to any of us that we are not put on trial in the press and on the gossip fences, because the public conviction of someone accused of a crime is the saddest of all injustices.

Bob Nunley and friends, family and supporters of Cynthia Darlene Phillips
via the Internet
Eric Dexheimer responds: The friends and family of Cynthia Phillips seem to have less of a disagreement with my story than with the evidence compiled by the various law-enforcement agencies investigating the deaths of Les Konrade and Toby Mathews and the alleged murder-for-hire plot against Ron Phillips. Early on, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation did consider other suspects in Konrade's August 1996 death. But later, after the spring 1998 shooting death of Mathews--Phillips's boyfriend at the time--and the subsequent confession of Bear Slaughter that in 1995 Cindy had asked him to kill her husband, she became a suspect in Konrade's death as well. They are correct in noting that she has not been charged with any crime in Konrade's death--a fact mentioned in my story.

As for Cynthia's participation in Mathews's death and the plot to murder Ron Phillips for $20,000, her supportors are also correct in pointing out that my story relied on the confession of Bear Slaughter, who, in exchange for immunity from prosecution, admitted that he was paid $10,000 to kill Cynthia's husband; and the confession of Richard Boyd, who acknowledged that he and Cynthia shot Toby Mathews. I suppose that, as is the case with any confession, both men could be lying. That will be decided in court.  

I have no reason to disbelieve Orie Mathews, Toby's father, when he says that he and his son had a falling-out over his relationship with Cynthia. Who would know better than he?

Finally, it should be pointed out that calls to Cynthia's mother and father seeking details of her life and comment on the charges against her were never returned. Her sister talked only generally, and very briefly, with me before declining to answer any further questions.

English First
Just read Tony Perez-Giese's October 29 article, "Stabbed in the Heart." I've always known that the police and others in charge of our legal system have convenient memories, but I thought they could at least tell the truth once in a while. In the article, a spokeswoman says that nothing like this has happened in Aurora before. In the Eighties, however, in one week, Aurora had nine murders--five in one family by a hammer. Maybe she meant never this many murders solved so quickly.

I also would like to comment on the lack of Spanish-speaking help in places where tourists aren't usually seen. Unlike other countries where Americans travel, America does not make a habit of arresting temporary people from other countries for traffic infringement or minor crimes. We also obviously do not expect permanent people who work here, earn money, buy houses that most native-born Americans cannot afford, usually do not pay taxes and cannot supposedly speak our language to yet know enough to get tax-paid benefits such as child care, welfare and food stamps. The article didn't mention who was caring for the single mother's child while she worked, but it did make a point of mentioning that all of the family worked. Want to bet your tax money paid for the child care and that she got food stamps?

I am sorry for Laura Martinez's family and for the way she died, but I feel very strongly that if you become an American citizen, you should learn the language. And if you are not an American citizen, why should you be given tax-supported relief? The brother went to school to get a better job.

If you don't want to learn the language, don't gripe about the low pay and menial job you are able to get. Also, don't expect to participate in things such as elections that are guaranteed to citizens of the land and paid for by their taxes.

Ronda Lietz
via the Internet

Phishing for Compliments
Regarding Michael Roberts's "A Phish Tale," in the October 29 issue:
What a great interview! Gordon's thoughts actually begin to portray the essence of Phish music. It is nice to see the same enthusiasm I feel for Phish life from the source also.

Josh Dale
via the Internet

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