Photos: Twelve medical marijuana-related deaths cited by Denver District Attorney
Last week, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey told city council members that there were "twelve homicides related directly to medical marijuana." He subsequently said the figures were "loose" and didn't all occur in MMJ facilities. But when contacted by Westword, Morrissey's office did indeed come up with a roster of twelve deaths in ten separate incidents that prosecutors believe were related to pot. Get the details about all of them below.
Some important things to note at the outset. Several of the deaths took place beyond the Denver area -- one happened in Erie, for instance. Moreover, one person took her own life, albeit after a marijuana-related matter involving a child, and another focuses on child abuse allegedly while under the influence of cannabis.
Additionally, the most recent item took place over a year ago.
Still, the events include numerous home invasions and robberies. Sometimes the would-be thieves died; other times, marijuana providers were the victims. Here's all ten.
February 17, 2007
Ken Gorman (center) with Dominic Mestas (far right) circa 1994.
"Someone shot and killed medical marijuana activist Ken Gorman in his west Denver home," notes the DA's office, adding, "Gorman grew marijuana plants in his home and had been robbed several times in the months before he died. The case remains unsolved."
Westword's 2010 feature article on the Gorman case is entitled "Three years after his murder, memories of Ken Gorman -- Colorado's most vocal pot activist -- have gone up in smoke."
February 11, 2009
The DA's office writes: "Keith Weatherspoon placed his infant daughter face down on a bed and used a blanket to 'barricade' her against the wall, then left a pillow on her. He told investigators he was up late smoking weed and playing video games and was trying to take a nap but the baby would not stop crying. After covering up his daughter, he did nap and when he awoke two hours later, she was dead."
As reported by the Denver Post, Weatherspoon was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.
The DA's account reads: "A Denver medical marijuana activist, Erin Marcove, killed herself while she was under investigation after she gave her three-year-old grandson cookies laced with pot and the boy couldn't wake up the next morning."
An important element to note: As reported by 7News, the boy fully recovered after treatment at a hospital.
January 5, 2010
Peter Bellar and Isaiah Shaffer were arrested for murdering Douglass Singleton during what was described as a medical marijuana robbery. As we reported in March 2011, Bellar's first trial ended in a hung jury. However, the DA's office reveals that he was convicted at re-trial and was found guilty of murder, receiving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Schaffer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to forty years in prison. Continue for more about the twelve marijuana homicides cited by the Denver District Attorney. July 20, 2010
Early reports about the death of Daniel Deleon, including Westword's piece, made no mention of marijuana. Instead, the focus was on a robbery attempt by three men, with one of them -- Deleon -- being shot dead by their intended victim. Shortly thereafter, an APB was put out for another suspect, Zachary Montoya.
Nonetheless, the DA's office believes marijuana may have been involved, although there's some uncertainty about whether it precipitated the violence. The DA's office note reads: "A man living near the University of Denver wrestled a gun from one of three would-be robbers Tuesday night and shot him dead. The dead man was identified as Daniel Deleon. The two surviving robbers were convicted as charged and sentenced on multiple counts consecutively, totaling more than 100 years. The victim home renter had a medical marijuana license and was responsible for 5 'patients.' The evening began socially at a nearby bar, and then everyone went to the house, ostensibly to continue partying. The demand made when guns were produced was for "money," and the victim gave up the location of $1,300 cash hidden in a recliner. The victim did not believe the robbers came to take MJ, that they were demanding his money."
March 23, 2011
There's no mention of marijuana in a KKTV report cited by the DA's office. It begins, "Denver police are looking for two suspects in the shooting of five people, two of whom died. Police went to a home in the Windsor Court Apartments at 900 S. Quince, that's near Leetsdale and Quebec, after receiving a report of shots fired. That report came in just after 11 p.m. Wednesday. Officers found a dead woman and sent a badly injured man to the hospital where he died. Another woman and two men had also been shot."
However, the DA's office maintains that the individuals who died were "robbing a home/medical marijuana growing operation," and adds that four homicides were connected through ballistics. It's unknown whether the other two were related to marijuana.
As we reported at the time, two men, Jovan Rivers and Harrell King, were shot and killed at a condominium on the 900 block of South Dearborn Way in Aurora. According to the DA's office, "The two men were attempting to rob an operating medical-marijuana dispensary" -- presumably an undercover one, given that Aurora had a ban on such businesses at the time. June 10-11, 2011
The DA's office cites a New York Daily News article stating that Karen Cordova stabbed two men with a five-inch blade after they broke into her home, where she grew marijuana. But as the Denver Post subsequently reported that only one was stabbed (he recovered), while the other one was shot; he died. According to the Greeley Tribune, the Weld County District Attorney's Office ultimately decided not to charge Cordova in relation to the man's death. Continue for more about the twelve marijuana homicides cited by the Denver District Attorney. July 18, 2011
"Michael Scott Walker was fatally shot during an Arvada home invasion in which a medical marijuana dispensary was housed," writes the DA's office.
Actually, as we reported at the time, the dispensary, Special Kinds, had officially closed at that point. Our William Breathes visited it in June 2010 and gave it a scathing review, castigating it for selling brick weed in a setting he described as "sketchy."
May 26, 2012
After Nack's killing, the Denver Police Department's mention that he was a "licensed medical marijuana provider" stirred controversy among cannabis activists, who felt MMJ was being unfairly blamed. However, the DA's office believes his grow made him a target, as expressed in this 9News report.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana study shows negative impacts of Colorado pot 'experiment,' director says."
Get the Marijuana Newsletter
Stay informed of the latest marijuana news and views with updates about dispensaries, strains, products, changes to the law, and special offers in your area.