We've been reporting about the murder of Pam Candelario in Walsenburg, a small community in southeastern Colorado.
Her husband, Ralph Candelario, was charged with the crime despite an elaborate tale in which he claimed that intruders had broken into the couple's home, killed Pam and roughed him up before he could make his way to the sidewalk outside the residence and call desperately for help.
The bizarre nature of the case, including a rambling letter Ralph gave to a local newspaper, the Huerfano World Journal (read it below), got the attention of the folks at Dateline NBC.
The Dateline report airs tonight — and we've got a preview.
As is made clear by a January 2014 report by KRDO-TV we noted in our previous coverage, authorities in Walsenburg originally bought Ralph's intruder story — or at least didn't openly contradict it during the early stages of the investigation.
The station noted that police arrived at the Candelarios' home, located at the intersection of West Third and Hendren streets in Walsenburg, at around 7 a.m. on January 15.
The call had been prompted by Ralph's cries for help from the sidewalk in front of the couple's residence.
Pam was found dead inside the house.
At first investigators thought a shooting had taken place.
Only later did they learn that Pam had been bludgeoned to death.
KRDO reported that the Candelarios weren't supposed to be home at the time of the killing. An acquaintance told the outlet that they were supposed to catch a flight to Oregon, but it was delayed.
So they returned home, and during the wee hours of the morning on the 15th, Ralph said two men entered the home and stayed for hours. By the time he was able to escape, Pam was dead, he maintained.
Neighbors were terrified at the idea of homicidal strangers on the loose; one told KRDO she slept with a gun the night after the killing. And Ralph attempted to reinforce his account in a rambling letter originally shared with a local newspaper, the Huerfano World Journal. Read it below.
Eventually, though, prosecutors came to believe that Ralph had committed the crime and concocted the story as cover — and a jury agreed.
Ralph was supposed to be sentenced on March 15, but the hearing was reportedly delayed a day by a suicide attempt. Candelario tried to slash himself using a disposable razor.
On March 16, however, he appeared in court, where he learned that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Dateline NBC episode featuring correspondent Keith Morrison's report about the Candelario case — it's titled "Tangled" — is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. tonight. Here's the video preview, followed by Candelario's letter as it appeared in the Huerfano World Journal.
Ralph Candelario letter, part one:
To whom it may concern: The following account I am recording to the best of my memory during the week following the death of my beloved wife, Pam. It is what I can remember. I must start on Tuesday evening because I had to go back and piece together the day’s events one bit at a time as I could. I wish I had more time to recover, but time and circumstances won’t allow that. Tuesday evening Pam and I had dinner at about 6:30. She made chicken and rice and we had 1/2 glass of red wine each with dinner, then we sat down to watch some TV; some Frasier, some Star Trek Voyager and White Collar. Pam took her bath at 9 pm and I took mine at 9:30. we were both in bed by 10:30, approximately. The morning of January 15, 2014 at about 2:30 I got up to go to the bathroom, went out of the bedroom into the hallway upstairs, and noticed a downstairs light was not on, so I went down to check why. I heard something downstairs as I got to the bottom of the railing. I turned and someone hit me in the back. I tripped forward and went toward the front door, when someone else hit me in the head from the side room. I got a glimpse of this person, a tall dark man with yellow glasses, short curly hair, wide nose, large lips and marks on the sides of his face. I could not see his eyes or ears. A moment later I was lying on the floor, unconscious. I don’t know how long I was there on the floor, but I started to hear noises, noises upstairs, noises in the kitchen; no lights anywhere were on. I knew something was wrong. My head hurt, I was dizzy, I could not see clearly, but I tried to get up a couple of times and finally stumbled toward the kitchen. I turned the light on by the kitchen sink and found Pam lying on the floor by the cupboard. She is alive, but she is badly hurt, there is blood all over her face and all over the floor. I yelled at her but she did not respond at all. She was breathing hard and blood was coming out of her nose and mouth. I tried to clear her mouth, but she was bleeding and it wouldn’t stop. She started to convulse and I held her hand for just a couple of minutes, and she just went quiet. I yelled at her again and just started crying. She did not respond and was no longer breathing. I just collapsed down to the floor by the sink. A moment later the two guys ran downstairs and told me to shut up. The taller man took me to the front hall and told me to get down and to shut up. When I lay down on the floor I was crying and he kicked me in the side and told me to shut up. They were speaking in Spanish, but the tall one did speak to me in thick English and told me not to move or make any noise. They turned the kitchen light out. They both had some kind of LED lights on the sides of their gloves. Something was wrong with them. The tall guy was talking on a phone in Spanish. I don’t know what phone he was using. I could only determine he was very angry. Something was wrong with the car, I could not tell what. He told the shorter guy they would have to wait awhile. He told me not to move. Some time went by, don’t know how much. He came back and asked me if I had any more money. I told him I had a couple of stashes upstairs and in the garage. He told me to go get them. He followed me to the kitchen where I put on my tennis shoes to go out to the garage. He took out a small hand gun and told me he would be watching. I went out the back and the rear door glass was broken. Some pieces fell out when I opened the door. I continued to the garage where I tried to lift myself up into the loft. I had an old shotgun in the loft with a couple of shells, but I couldn’t pull myself up, so I grabbed the two-hundred dollars I had under the candle and went back out. When I turned around, I saw Fahry (Trujillo)’s husband in the back, in his yard. I always wave at him but the tall guy was standing by the bathroom window with his gun, looking at me, so I just looked straight forward and I didn’t wave. I didn’t even look over. I thought maybe he might think that was strange and come check on us. Nobody ever came. When I went in, more glass fell. I was sure someone would hear. I think it was about 5:00 now because there was some traffic starting to move around. Once I was inside, I told them it was cold and I needed to keep fire going, so I went back out to get a couple of pieces of wood for the stove, but I could not see Fahry’s husband, so I brought the wood in. But when I picked up the poker to stir up the fire, I saw blood on the end of it and put it down and told them I would just turn the electric on. I turned the heater on in the TV room, but the tall guy would not let me stay. He took me to the hallway and told me to lay down and stay. I just broke down. I was crying and I was cold, and I was freaked out, Pam was there with me just a few feet away. I grabbed a small pillow off a bench and a small blue knit blanket to cover myself and I just cried. I either passed out or fell asleep exhausted and cold. The next bit of memory comes at about 11:00 am on Wednesday morning. The tall guy was talking angrily on his phone about the carro, telling them to ondelay,[sic] then cursing “puta, you puta”, more, but I don’t know much Spanish. They were in the TV room and I asked if I could go to the bathroom. He followed me upstairs to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom and then washed my hands and face and saw my face was absolutely swollen above my left eye and I had a cut on my nose. I went across the hall to the sitting room and got my slippers, took off my tennis shoes and went down the hallway. I turned to go into the bedroom, but he told me no, and said, “down.” I was trying to get my phone; it was on my bedstand. He told me to lay down and be quiet. Around one o’clock some glass fell out of the back door. The guys ran into the fireplace room and closed the door. I thought someone might be checking the house, but it turned out to be the wind. Still nobody. Why did no one ever come by, I still don’t understand. In the afternoon he called someone again about the carro and started cursing again, you puta, and other things. About 4 o’clock things took a turn for the worst. The tall guy was still angry and thought he would come over and kick me. I was just resting on the floor. Then he pointed his gun at me and fired. It just clicked——-. I can’t fully say what happened to me at that point. This continued for almost an hour. I lost all control of myself. I shit in my pajamas, I peed in them also, all over myself, and they just laughed. I was just laying there in my own shit and they were laughing. I just broke down altogether. I passed out at some point because when I woke it was dark outside. Only the light from the street was coming in. I thought how nice it looked and it was quiet. but I realized I was freezing. I couldn’t stop shaking. I got up and went into the TV room and lay down in front of the heater, just crying, shaking. I smelled terrible. I lay there for a while, then I decided I would try to go upstairs and try to clean myself up, but the tall guy came in from behind the fireplace room and told me to shut up and lay down on the floor. He told me,”Do you want to die?” I said, “no.’ He said, “Shut up and I mean forever or I will come back and finish you.” I just said, ”Ok” and laid back down on the floor. I couldn’t help myself, I just peed all over myself again. It was more than I could deal with. I passed out again. When I awoke the sun was coming up and light was in the house. I thought my nightmare was over, but I looked down the hall and I could see Pam’s legs in the kitchen. I couldn’t hear anything, and the fireplace doors were closed. I mean when I couldn’t hear anything, I mean there was absolutely no sound. No voices, no traffic, no dogs. Nothing. I was so cold and dizzy, but I got myself up and went over to Pam and I just lost everything. I yelled, I pissed my pajamas, again, and I just went for the front door. I didn’t think, I just went maybe milon could help he was near. I stumbled down the front steps and saw Fahry over to my right. I yelled to her for help. I was walking. I made it to the 2nd set of steps and went down, but when I turned to go to her I lost my balance and fell on the sidewalk and hit the right side of my head. I asked her for help for me and for Pam, to check on her, and I remember her calling 911. Then I lost focus. I was so cold on the concrete, but I was already freezing. When the paramedics arrived I remember them talking to me, but I don’t remember what. I vaguely remember them cutting my clothes off. I was shaking and I couldn’t stop. The next thing I remember was the hospital. They were trying to warm me up and get an IV into me and then they were trying to clean me up. The next thing I remember was riding in the helicopter. It just hurt my head worse. It vibrated all the way (and) just made me sick. When they got me to Parkview they gave me a warm IV and blankets and some morphine for the pain and I started to feel better. Sometime in the ER a gentleman came over to take pictures of my injuries to my head, my ribs, my arm, and my face. I can’t remember his name. Also Greg Sudar from CBI came to talk to me, to ask me what happened. I tried to tell him as much as I could, but at that time I was still in shock and all I could really remember was getting hit in the head. I really could not remember what had all happened the last day. I thought everything had happened that morning, that’s what I believed. After some more x-rays and a CT scan, the doctor said I had a concussion and said I was stable and could go home. My son Aaron came to pick me up, but Greg and Kurt Leibchen said they would give me a ride to CBI and then I could go, so I said okay. Little did I know what trauma was to unfold next, and how badly I was (to be) treated for the next 11 hours. I was mistreated, bullied, intimidated, tortured and coerced for the next 11 hours, yes, I repeat, 11 hours.
Ralph Candelario letter, part two:
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SHOW ME HOW
Kurt took me to the CBI office in Pueblo around 1 pm and said they needed to ask me a few questions about what happened. I said, “ok.” When I got there, they said they needed to take my fingerprints. I didn’t understand, but I said “ok.” They asked me questions for about 40 minutes, I guess, while they waited for something for the fingerprints. I asked if I could get a drink or something, and something to eat, and if I could get my prescription. They gave me a drink but said no to everything else, and I asked Greg if I could get, at least, some Tylenol, and he said he couldn’t do that. Finally, they took my fingerprints and then asked me more questions, then let me sit on a couch, and I fell asleep for a while. They woke me up later and I was cold and asked for a blanket or some clothes, and they said no. They then took me to a small, cold room, sat me down on a cold vinyl chair and proceeded to grill me about what happened. At first they were pleasant and just asked what I could remember, and after a while they became rude and threatening. I was still dizzy, I was tired, I was traumatized, I was cold, I didn’t have any clothes, I was also hungry. But I tried to answer the questions and I told Pat and Kurt all that I could remember about last night. (That) I went downstairs to check the light and the stove and, when I got to the bottom, I got hit from behind and got hit in the head above my right eye and was knocked out in the hallway by the front door. I could not remember anything until (when) I woke up in the morning and found Pam on the kitchen floor. (I told them) I went over to check on her and she was cold and not breathing and did not respond (and that) I just peed my pajamas and ran out the front door and yelled to Fahry to please help me, and check on Pam. I said I did remember the evening before when we had dinner and watched TV and took our baths and went to bed around 10:30. They seemed angry with me that I couldn’t remember more, but what was I to do? I had just lost my wife, I was injured, I was hungry, I was cold and I was not allowed my medical treatment. How could anyone think under those circumstances? I ask, again, how? What I told them was accurate from my memory. I was just missing a whole day and I couldn’t figure out why. I even asked Greg why I would have dried feces on me if it all had occurred that morning. He said he didn’t know. Why I smelled so bad like I hadn’t showered in days, I wanted to know. Well, about six o’clock, Pat and Kurt finally got me a hamburger and a drink which I thanked them for and ate. Not even realizing, myself, that I had not eaten since Pam’s dinner on Tuesday night! Then they told me someone else had to come and talk to me from Denver and it would be a couple of hours, so I leaned on my cold, vinyl chair, propped my head up and fell asleep, exhausted, hurt, and cold, without my medicine, without my clothes, in paper clothes, no shoes, no underwear. All I could do was sleep. The gentleman from Denver turned out to be a polygraph guy who explained he needed to give me a test, explained how to do it and asked if that was ok. I said, yes, ok. This took about 45 minutes and he said he needed to grade the test and would come back. In awhile he did and explained that I knew more about the evening than I was saying, which, in retrospect, is true, but I could (only) remember what I could remember. But then it got worse, more so than you could imagine. At about 10:30 pm on Thursday, Pat and Kurt came back loaded for bear. They came out and said I knew more than I was telling and they pieced together a story for me. Then they decided to bash Pam, saying she was an alcoholic and a drunk and that she and I had been drinking heavily and we got in an argument and things got out of hand. It gets worse. After about an hour of this I told them I was not involved in the hurt Pam suffered, that we were happy and that we were not arguing, that we were getting ready to go on our long-planned vacation to our home in Oregon. Then they changed tactics by telling me it was ok if I agreed to self-defense. I was shocked, even insulted. They said, well, we know how it goes: She was drinking, you were drinking, she hit you, you hit her back, and this is where we are. It’s ok. It’s not ok. I maintained I had nothing to do with Pam’s injuries and I didn’t, and I would not plea to some story Pat and Kurt came up with. It was almost 12:15 in the morning when they said I could go. I can’t even imagine what I had to endure that Thursday; it still does not even register to me. I am numb- with fear, with hurt, with disgust, with loss, and on top of it all, I am trying to recover from my own injuries, both physical and emotional. One of their comments in their conversation was I was not acting ‘normal’. I ask you, would anybody who had been through what I had been through those two days be ‘normal’? No, and I probably never will. I was too tired and too hurt to be angry at the time, but I have had lots of time to think about what happened to Pam and me. I am angry at the two people who needlessly took my sweetie from me and in the process destroyed my entire life; that I have to stay behind and live. I am angry at myself for not finding a way to do more or just getting myself killed, too. And, I am angry at how badly the law enforcement of our community has treated my situation and the life I enjoyed with Pam. You have no idea who she was, all the good she brought to my life. But all the people around me do, and they loved her like I do, and they are the ones who have helped me to endure this injustice and the pain I feel every day. I had no choice but to face the sadness of my reality last week by planning the services for my wife and taking care of all the other things one must do in such a sad way. I didn’t even get a chance to mourn properly, and I am also upset that no attention has been given to the people who did this terrible thing to Pam and me. I have given all the information to the CBI and to Kurt, including a description of the person I remember, and a list of the items they took from our home. I just wanted anyone who had any questions to know what I am going through, and that I can’t recount this every time for everybody. It’s too much for me, so please be patient with me. Look out for yourselves and your neighbors, and please accept my heartfelt thanks for all your prayers, cards, flowers, hugs, and love. On behalf of myself and my beautiful wife, thank you all. ~Sincerely, Ralph Candelario