Past and present neighbors of the Torrez home want to do the right thing
Some people want to give money to Kristen Stillman. Others want to set up a nursery for the child she's expecting, or write letters to the governor asking for her child-support bill to be forgiven. And a few past and present residents of the 2500 block of Irving Street would like to create a living memorial to her courage.
Richard and Dee Sena had owned a little house on that block since 1950. They raised their family there and were familiar figures in the community. But after daughter Linda moved back in with her husband, Eric Torrez, people didn't see the Senas that much. One day, Dee moved out altogether. And Richard, who'd liked to sit on the front porch and greet neighbors, suddenly stayed inside.
The house was looking worse and worse. When he wasn't mooching off his in-laws, Eric Torrez would buy the contents of abandoned storage units and bring the junk back to Irving Street to sort. It soon filled the back yard and began spilling over into the front yard, then into the old cars parked on the street. Neighbors complained to the city about the smelly, unsightly mess. At one point, then-Denver City Councilman Dennis Gallagher intervened to get help. "The back yard was a waste dump," he recalls. "It took a long time to get the place cleaned up."
But the hideous condition of the house hid an even more hideous secret: what was going on inside it. The neighbors who knew the twins were living there also knew that their mother had left them with the Torrezes, and even saw the woman occasionally. But they rarely saw Kristen. One neighbor remembers her surprise when she saw the young girl — Kristen was just fifteen when she had her first child — pushing a stroller late one night.
None of the neighbors could get close enough to find out the truth. Eric Torrez was a bully who threatened them — threatened some families so badly that they moved off the block to another neighborhood in northwest Denver, to a town in the mountains, to another state entirely.
And now, with the bully locked up for 300 years and his wife and son facing prison if they violate the terms of their own probation as sex offenders, the neighbors wonder what they can do. They'd like to set up a fund for Kristen. They've thought about buying the house where the twins were held prisoner, scraping it into oblivion and putting in a garden. They'd like to see something good grow there.
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.