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Photos: 36 shocking Colorado murders -- and the ones targeted with the death penalty

Kara Lounsbury. More photos below.
Kara Lounsbury. More photos below.

Last July, we told you about the decision by prosecutors at the Denver DA's office to seek the death penalty against Dexter Lewis, charged with killing five people at Fero's Bar & Grill in October 2012. Lewis's attorneys are reportedly asking the judge in the case to take capital punishment off the table with the support of CU professor and death-penalty opponent Michael Radelet.

Last year, Radelet put together a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper's office that highlighted studies he'd conducted arguing against the death penalty, with one section pointing out how inconsistently (and rarely) it's been sought in Colorado even for the most shocking crimes. Look below to learn more about 36 Colorado murders, whether or not prosecutors asked for capital punishment and what ultimately happened, featuring text from Radelet's letter.

1. Alexander, Jeffrey Kirk. Denver. March, 1992. Convicted of killing his girlfriend's mother, brother and niece. Alexander broke into the victims' home and waited for two hours before the victims arrived, when he then shot them. Alexander also shot and critically injured a 6-year-old nephew of the former girlfriend.

Death penalty: Sought

2. Anaya, Steven. Denver. April & July, 1999. Anaya pleaded guilty to second degree murder for killing Ronnie Regalado in July 1999, and to manslaughter for the death of Ruben Macias Morales in July 1999. In 2002, Anaya was found guilty of killing a Denver restaurant patron in April 1999. All three murders were committed while Anaya was age 17.

Death penalty: Not sought

Damian Arguello.
Damian Arguello.

Arguello, Damian M. Adams County. January, 2005. A cocaine addict, Arguello was permitted to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence for killing his wife and 16-month-old son. Former Adams County District Attorney Don called it "the most horrific" crime he had ever seen in his 18 years as a prosecutor. The victims were all Hispanic.

Death penalty: Not sought

4. Bell, Michael. Boulder. August, 1990. After escaping from prison, Bell murdered a convenience store clerk in Broomfield, and later shot and killed three men in Lefthand Canyon in Boulder. Bell eventually pleaded guilty to all four murders and was sentenced to LWOP.

Death penalty: Sought

A screen capture of a vintage news clip featuring Kenneth Botham.
A screen capture of a vintage news clip featuring Kenneth Botham.

5. Botham, Kenneth H. August 1975. Mesa County. Botham was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, and was also convicted of three counts of second-degree murder for killing a neighbor and her two sons. In 1981 original convictions were vacated by the Colorado Supreme Court. At retrial in 1982, Botham was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with parole eligibility for one of the murders, and three terms of 20-30 years following convictions for second degree murder for the others.

Death penalty: Sought

Continue for more about 36 shocking Colorado murders -- and the ones targeted with the death penalty.

 

6. Brown, Edward. Denver. March & June, 1991 . Sentenced to two LWOP terms after pleading guilty to two murders. The first victim was caught in a cross-fire, and Brown killed the second victim for threatening to "snitch" on him for that murder. Later, Brown was acquitted of a third murder, but convicted of a fourth.

Death penalty: Not sought

7-9. Canister, Randy, Dante Owens, and Trevon Washington. Arapahoe County. September, 1998. Cannister was convicted after a jury trial of three counts of first degree murder, but sentenced to LWOP before the penalty phase because of a Supreme Court ruling that said that jurors, and not judges, should make the sentencing decision. The three teenagers were murdered when Canister and his two accomplices burst into their apartment, tied them up, and shot them. A fourth victim survived, but she was left a paraplegic from the bullet wounds. After being found guilty of three murders, Owens was sentenced to life by the jury in the penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutors also initially sought the death penalty against Washington, but the trial court ruled that he was mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for death.

Death penalty: Sought

10-12. Fears, Kevin, Joseph Young, and Roger (Roy) Young. Denver. June, 1989. Roy Young was awaiting trial in the Denver County Jail when he plotted the murder of the key witness who was supposed to testify against him. Fears and Joseph Young were convicted of breaking into a home rented by the anticipated witness. After waiting for two hours, the witness and one of his roommates returned home, and both were murdered. A third man survived by "playing dead." Fears was convicted by a jury of two counts of first-degree murder, but sentenced to life imprisonment after the jury declined to impose the death penalty. Soon thereafter, prosecutors allowed Roy Young to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in exchange for waiving the death penalty. In 1993, Joseph Young, who was described by a prosecutor as the person "in charge" on the night of the killings, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the crimes.

Death penalty: Sought

13-14. Gonzalez, Adam and Efrain Renteria. Adams County. March, 1999. Suspected of killing three men in a dispute related to cocaine trafficking. In 2004, the men were permitted to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in exchange for 32-year prison sentences. Prosecutors also agreed to drop a charge for first-degree murder for the third death.

Death penalty: Not sought

Vincent Groves.
Vincent Groves.

15. Groves, Vincent. Several locations. 1978-88. "Groves had been released from prison Feb. 13, 1987, after serving five years of a 12-year sentence for strangling 17-year-old Tammy Sue Woodrum. Authorities would come to suspect that Groves -- who died in prison in 1996 -- was involved in anywhere from five to 13 other murders, many of whom were prostitutes picked up along the Colfax Avenue corridor in Denver and Aurora." Before his death, Groves was convicted of the murders of Diann Mancera and Juanita Lovato, but the death penalty was not pursued in either case.

Death penalty: Not sought

16. Herrera, Edward. Denver. August, 2003. Herrera pleaded guilty to four murders and was sentenced to four life sentences. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murders (one of these victims was rendered paralyzed for life). Each victim was bound with duct tape and shot in the head as one of the victim's 3-year old daughter watched. All four victims were Hispanic.

Death penalty: Not sought

Continue for more about 36 shocking Colorado murders -- and the ones targeted with the death penalty.

 

17. Hisey, David Barry. Moffat County. January, 1988. Convicted of killing Brian Williams, Williams' common-law wife, Gail Berger, and their 1 ½ year old son. Later that year he was permitted to plead guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in exchange for three consecutive life sentences. The motive for the killings remains unknown, but at the time there was speculation that Hisey was romantically involved with Berger.

Death penalty: Sought

Scott Kimball.
Scott Kimball.

18. Kimball, Scott. Boulder area. 2003-04. Originally charged with killing four women, Kimball pled guilty to two counts of second degree murder, and was suspected of killing an uncle and several more victims. Commenting on the allegations of additional murders, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett stated, ""I'd say the chances are 50-50 ... Kimball is certainly capable of it -- he's said things to make you think he has, but we have no solid leads."

Death penalty: Not sought

19. Long, Larry. Longmont. March, 1986. Long, age 18, stabbed to death both his parents and his 17-year-old brother. After a guilty plea, he received 48 years in prison.

Death penalty: Not sought

Kara Lounsbury.
Kara Lounsbury.

20. Lounsbury, Kara. Adams County. January, 2009. Lounsbury was sentenced to two life terms in 2010 for the murders of her father (a prominent Ft. Lupton business owner) and stepmother. Both were shot while they were sleeping. Adams County D.A. Don Quick called the murders "incredibly violent and callous." He added, "There is never a good motive for murder, but to kill your own parents for money is exceptionally heinous." However, the death penalty was not sought.

Death penalty: Not sought

21. Moore, Arthur J. Arapahoe County. April 1987. Accused of stabbing three members of a family during a burglary and burning their bodies. After losing a long competency hearing, Moore pled guilty to first degree burglary, second degree burglary, and three counts of habitual criminal, resulting in three life sentences. The convictions were affirmed on appeal.

Death penalty: Not sought

Continue for more about 36 shocking Colorado murders -- and the ones targeted with the death penalty.

 

22. Morris, Jon. Denver. August, 1995. Accused of kidnapping the 5-year-old daughter of friends, and convicted of first-degree murder during the commission of a felony, second-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault, and sex assault on a child. However, because he was acquitted on the charge of first-degree murder after deliberation, prosecutors decided to no longer pursue the death penalty.

Death penalty: Not sought

Update: After the publication of this post, we heard from the Denver District Attorney's Office, which informs us that the office did seek the death penalty against Morris. However, notes a rep, "the jury returned guilty verdicts that no longer allowed the death penalty to be considered at sentencing."

23. Neal, William. Jefferson County. July, 1998. Following guilty pleas and acting as his own attorney, Neal was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, and other crimes and sentenced to death for killing, over a six-day period, three women with an axe. A fourth woman was raped and was forced to watch one of the murders. The death sentences were commuted to LWOP in 2003 by the trial court following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that jurors, and not judges, must make the final decision of whether or not to impose the death penalty.

Death penalty: Sought

Timothy and Deborah Nicholls with their kids.
Timothy and Deborah Nicholls with their kids.

24-25. Nicholls, Deborah and Timothy Nichols. Colorado Springs. March, 2003. Convicted on three counts of first degree murder and sentenced to consecutive LWOP terms for burning their house (for insurance money) and killing their three children (aged 11, 5, and 3). Prosecutors alleged that both Deborah and Timothy Nicholls were methadone users who needed the money to buy drugs. There were also allegations that the couple believed that they had insurance policies on each of the children, and that the couple made the children roll in a flammable liquid before the fire was set.

Death penalty: Not sought

26. Petrosky, Albert. Jefferson County, April 1995. Convicted of three counts of first-degree murder; at the penalty phase the jury decided to sentence him to life, rather than death. Petrosky drove to a supermarket where his estranged wife worked, killed her and a store manager, and then walked out of the store and shot and killed a police officer who was responding to the murders.

Death penalty: Sought

Christopher Wells.
Christopher Wells.

27-30. Plake, Matthew, Josiah Sher, Micha Woody, and Christopher Wells. February, 2011. Christopher Wells hired three men to kill his estranged wife, Amara Wells, who was staying with Michael and Tamara Rafferty (Tamara was Amara's sister and was out of town the night of the murders). Wells also promised to pay the men to kill the Raffertys. In the end, Sher entered the home and killed Amara Wells and Michael Rafferty. The gun was supplied by Matthew Plake, and Micah Woody acted as a go-between person. In January 2012, District Attorney Carol Chambers announced that she would seek the death penalty against Sher. However, less than two months later, she allowed both Sher and Wells to plead guilty in exchange for a LWOP sentence. Earlier, Plake and Woody pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and were sentenced to 48 years.

Death penalty: Sought (for Sher)

Continue for more about 36 shocking Colorado murders -- and the ones targeted with the death penalty.

 

31. Quezada, Michael. Denver. March, 1992. A California gang member, Quezada was convicted of three counts of first degree murder for killing three people at the Temptations Night Club. Quezada was also suspected in a California homicide, but had not been brought to trial before being sentenced in Colorado.

Death penalty: Not sought

Kervin Rogers.
Kervin Rogers.

32. Rogers, Kervin. Denver. November & December, 2009. Convicted on three counts of first-degree murder for killing three people. Rogers was "a crack-cocaine dealer with previous arrests for drug dealing, car theft, assault and domestic violence." The victims were shot allegedly because they failed to pay for drugs that they had purchases.

Death penalty: Not sought

Jose Rubi-Nava.
Jose Rubi-Nava.

33. Rubi-Nava, Jose. Castle Rock. Sept., 2006. After initially seeking the death penalty, prosecutors allowed Rubi-Nava to plead guilty to first-degree murder. The victim was his girlfriend, who had been tied with a nylon strap around her neck and dragged by a car for 1.3 miles.

34. Stevenson, Kareen. Denver. February, 2000. Stevenson was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 116 years in prison. The murders were linked to a fight over drugs.

Death penalty: Not sought

35. White, Richard Paul. Denver and Arapahoe Counties. 2002. White was sentenced to LWOP in 2004 for two murders and three counts of sexual assault, in a deal in which he agreed to help authorities to find the bodies of three other women who he confessed to killing. Later that year, he was given a third life sentence for fatally shooting Jason Reichardt. Like in the [Nathan] Dunlap case, Mr. White had a childhood of extreme abuse, although unlike in the Dunlap case, the abuse led to the plea offer. "He had a childhood riddled with sexual and physical abuse," said then-D.A. Bill Ritter in explaining the plea bargain. Five of the victims were prostitutes.

Death penalty: Not sought

36. White, Ronald. Pueblo. 1987-88. White pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. After sentencing, the body of a friend of White's was discovered, and White admitted to this murder. He waived a jury trial, pleaded guilty to the murder, asked to be sentenced to death, and got his wish. In 1998 the death sentence was vacated because of massive prosecutorial suppression of evidence. Finally, after waiving a jury, White was sentenced to life by Judge David Cole in 2001. In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Cole said that death would be unfair because White had been subjected to years of mistreatment by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Death penalty: Sought

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Mile High Murder archive circa July 2013: "Dexter Lewis target of death penalty bid for Fero's killing, affidavit describes horrific scene."


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