Colorado made news in 2008, and we're not talking about Barack Obama accepting the Democratic nomination for president. Nosirree. Even bigger news! John and Patsy Ramsey were officially cleared in the 1996 death of their daughter, JonBenét. Of course, you might have missed that if you were paying too much attention to the possibility, and eventual reality, of Sunday liquor sales, which riveted the city for months, or to "believer" Jeff Peckman's effort to create a UFO task force in Denver.
But if the Rocky Mountain News, which went up for sale in December, is shut down, you'll probably miss a lot more news next year. So it's a good thing that Denver tied up some loose ends in 2008, everything from murders (like the Ramsey, Susannah Chase, Tim Masters and Darrent Williams cases); to political careers (like those of Doug Bruce and Wayne Allard); to the future of Coors, which merged with Miller. Even the Denver Archdiocese of the Catholic Church settled eighteen sexual-assault cases (for $5.5 million) — at least until new charges came up a few months later.
But it was the Democratic National Convention that made the biggest headlines — from loud talk and small walks by various protesters to a near-ban on fried food at what was supposed to be the greenest convention ever. In the run-up to the DNC, politically crazed locals were using the word "caucus" as a verb, a noun and sometimes an adjective, and the city reached new heights during Barack Obama's historic speech at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Democratic National Convention
Then the bottom fell out of the economy faster than a sinkhole on I-25. From gas prices to airline layoffs, baggage fees and home foreclosures, Denver celebrated its 150th anniversary with the same recession cake that the rest of the country ate.
And now that Obama is set to take office this month — with Senator Ken Salazar as his pick for Secretary of Interior — he'll need a lot more than the audacity of hope (and a few tacos from Jorge's Sombrero in Pueblo) to get 2009 started in the right direction.
Maybe it's Tim McGraw, maybe it's just some hot honky-tonk. Whatever the reason, health officials in Mesa County noted that pregnancies triple there every July, shortly after Country Jam, a music festival that nurse Wanda Scott called "our Grand Junction Woodstock." Scott told county commissioners that she typically sees 25 to 30 pregnancies a month, but after the festival, the number rises to about 80. Country Jam director Steve Berg told the Associated Press that there was little he could do. "I certainly can't stop them from having sex," he said. "If we could stop it, we certainly would."
It's hard making the transition from child actress to adult, as Susan Olsen, who played cute little Cindy Brady on The Brady Bunch, proved so graphically when she had to run from a live radio show to barf in the bathroom. Olsen, 46, was in Colorado Springs to perform at a comedy club when she stopped by The Jet 107.9 in Colorado Springs to promote the gig; she later admitted to having drunk too much the night before.
Yes, gas got crazy expensive this past summer, and in June, a man tried to pay for a couple of gallons with a bag full of pennies. When a clerk at the Diamond Shamrock at 10th Avenue and Broadway said no because the line behind him was long, the man got pushy, so the clerk called the police. The man fled in a satellite-TV truck.
In April, Boulder police arrested Marlos Hernandez, 30, outside a memorial service and accused him of grabbing the breast of the dead woman's sister and showing her mother pornographic pictures. Hernandez later pleaded guilty to felony trespass.
An eight-year-old Colorado Springs boy suffered severe burns on his foot after he stepped on a patch of ground in a city-owned park that had heated up to around 800 degrees. Coal dust from a nearby mine may have been left in the area decades before, according to the Denver Post, and had apparently caught fire. The boy's Croc melted from the heat.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals got their claws into J.D.'s Bait Shop in Greenwood Village after the owner installed a Lobster Zone game in which a contestant pays $2 to try to hook a live lobster with a toy crane; if he succeeds, he gets a free dinner. "Incarcerating lobsters in filthy tanks inside a boisterous club, making an abusive game out of their capture, and finally boiling them to death is every bit as reprehensible as tormenting cats, dogs, or any other animal," PETA protested. But that letter — and the subsequent national media barrage — made restaurant owner Dennis McCann so mad that he refused to take the game out, saying he would consider removing it only after PETA stopped bugging him.
An elk that had been hanging out near David Furr's home in western Colorado finally invited itself in when Furr left the door open while he gathered firewood, according to a story in the Daily Sentinel. The elk slipped on the hardwood floor in the living room, fell and remained on the floor for about a half-hour before finally managing to get up and out.
Cyclist Tim Egan was riding on Old State Road in Boulder County when he collided with a bear that had run out onto the road in front of him. "This bear looked at me with a look of terror on his face and sort of made a noise," Egan told the Rocky Mountain News. "I looked at him with a look of terror and we went, 'Aaaahhhhh.'" Egan, 53, suffered cracked ribs, cuts on his head and road rash. The bear's injuries were unknown; it ran away after the accident.
A large black bear apparently chased a group of marijuana farmers from a growing operation in rural Garfield County, according to sheriff's deputies who raided the site. Police found "pipes chewed in half, food containers ripped apart, cans scarred by bites, claw marks and bear prints and trees bearing claw marks," the Denver Post reported. "If I can find this bear, I'm going to deputize him," Sheriff Danny Perkins said.
Another black bear ran onto the green during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open in Colorado Springs, crossing a couple of fairways and then escaping via a drainage pipe. "I never heard of such a thing," golfer Fred Funk told the Denver Post. "It would be pretty scary if (the bear) got a little panicky and some spectator or some of the golfers were too close. That wouldn't have been an issue if a caddie had got too close."
In March, the City of Boulder fined Joy Douglas $1,000 for dyeing her miniature poodle pink. The hair-salon worker said she colored the dog to help raise awareness for breast cancer. But Boulder has a law that prohibits people from dyeing or coloring "live fowl, rabbits, or any other animals." Douglas hired a lawyer to fight the fine, saying, "Cici is being stripped of her civic duty, and I don't plan to take it sitting down." She later agreed not to dye the dog again in exchange for having the case dismissed.
Wendy Louise Washum, 36, was arrested in Boulder after locking herself in a Wendy's bathroom with a dead dog that had been stuffed inside a duffel bag. The woman had been in the bathroom for a half-hour when employees started complaining of a bad smell, Boulder police told the Daily Camera.
In September, Jason Lee McRoberts, 30, was arrested in Grand Junction and accused of forcing a seven-year-old boy to watch him have sex with a male dog named JoJo. The boy told police that McRoberts, of Castle Rock, wanted him to watch so he could learn how to do it himself.
Ryan Hayes, 49, was arrested in July after police said he shot and killed Patches, a small Jack Russell terrier belonging to his mother's friend. The woman had stopped by the Lakewood house to visit; shortly thereafter, the dog followed Hayes into the bedroom. He originally told police the dog had shot itself, according to the Denver Post.
In December, police accused Zackary Scott Ruszka, 20, of killing his girlfriend's dog with a bow and arrow. The man had been taking care of the house where his girlfriend and her parents live; police said Ruszka had been drinking.
A Garfield County woman called police in October to ask for help taking care of the 86 cats that lived with her in a two-bedroom condo. Animal rescue officials said most of the cats were healthy but needed baths. No charges were filed.
It was green and slimy and it came from the deep! In January, an aquatic specialist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife confirmed that the tentacled organism lurking in the sewer line at 76th and Pecos that had rattled water-system employees was a Bryozoan. A what? A primitive life form that, as a species, is over 350 million years old and not uncommon in urban sewer pipes. Gross.
The University of Colorado sold the naming rights to a bathroom to Boulder venture capitalist Brad Feld, who told the Daily Camera he wanted to "inspire people as they walk in to do their business." Feld paid $25,000 for the honor, which also includes a plaque outside the bathroom that reads "The best ideas often come at inconvenient times. Don't ever close your mind to them." But do close your zipper, please.
It's been a long time since the Denver Broncos were in the Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean fans should flush away their memories. In January, a woman told police she'd found a diamond-encrusted ring wrapped in tissue on the bathroom floor at a Pueblo Sam's Club. The $50,000, size 18 ring belonged to former Broncos lineman David Diaz-Infante, who'd reported it stolen in 2006 after passing it around at a party. Diaz-Infante played on Super Bowl-winning teams in 1998 and 1999.
Think your boss is a micromanager? In March, a Qwest supervisor in southwestern Colorado handed out disposable urinal bags — known as Brief Relief — to 25 male field technicians, telling them not to waste time searching for a public bathroom. When the Communications Workers of America union complained, a Qwest spokeswoman said the bags were there "for convenience, and they are there because employees asked for them" — and not as part of company policy.
"They're going to have to change the name" if Obama is elected president.
— Colorado rancher and businessman William R. Farr, talking about the White House at a National Western Stock Show banquet attended by Senator Ken Salazar, Mayor John Hickenlooper and Governor Bill Ritter.
"I mistook it to be humorous, but it was something I shouldn't have said."
— Farr in his apology.
"In my parents' day and age, they were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are. There was at least a sense of shame. There's no sense of shame today. Society condones it...I think it's wrong. They're sluts. And I don't mean just the women. I mean the men, too."
— Colorado Springs Republican representative Larry Liston, talking about unwed teen parents.
"I was wrong to use the word, and I'm truly sorry for the offense it may have caused. I learned an important lesson. I apologize to all of you, and I hope that we can move forward to do the work of the people we serve."
— Liston in one of his many apologies.
"We're going to shove a bunch of thirty-second ads up his ass on this issue."
— Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and Bob Schaffer's campaign manager, on Mark Udall having missed a vote in Congress.
"Slavery gets shit done."
— A "bumper sticker" on the Facebook page for Bob Schaffer's son Justin.
"Riots in Denver at the Democrat convention would see to it we don't elect Democrats. And that's the best damn thing (that) could happen for this country as far as anything I can think."
— Right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, talking about the possibility of violent protests during the Democratic National Convention.
"He probably wants to get a new robe."
— An unnamed prostitute who talked with Channel 4 reporter Brian Maass about late-night sex parties at the Denver Club, where a number of girls "roamed around" in Mayor John Hickenlooper's "Hick" monogrammed robe. The mayor, who sometimes plays squash at the club, was not at any of the parties. The interview came in the aftermath of raids on two escort services, Denver Players and Denver Sugar, which were shut down by police.
"We don't need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado."
— Colorado Springs Republican representative Doug Bruce in the state House chamber.
"I saw the patrons emerging from the bars, and it wasn't a very pleasant sight. Some people were throwing up. Others were in a militant mood. A couple people banged on my car, and it was scary."
— Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown during a discussion about staggering the times when bars close in LoDo.
Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.
— The first few lines of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," also known as the "Black National Anthem," which jazz crooner René Marie sang to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before John Hickenlooper's State of the City address in July.
Mariachi Alvaro Alvarado-Amarias, 31, was arrested in January and accused of holding bandmate Ervey Ruiz, 52, at gunpoint for five hours because Ervey wanted to quit Toros de la Sierra. Originally charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, menacing and assault, Alvarado-Amarias later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and avoided jail time by promising not to get into trouble again.
A serial bank robber known as "Bank Robber Bob" was captured in September after employees of Provenant Federal Credit Union attacked him as he made his third attempt to rob the institution. When "Bob" leaped over the counter to take the money, they knocked off his hat and wig, exposing his face to surveillance cameras, the Denver Post reported. "Bob" fled, but police later identified him as John Wayne Lehman, 41.
Zachariah T. Frease, 28, was sentenced by an Eagle County judge to two years in prison after he showed up drunk to court, a violation of his probation. Frease had earlier been convicted of having consensual sex with a fourteen-year-old girl.
An inmate who escaped twice from the Pueblo County Jail — and was recaptured both times — filed a federal lawsuit in January saying it was too easy for him to break out: The door to his cell wasn't locked and the ceiling panels were easy to remove, allowing him to get into the ventilation system. Scott Anthony Gomez Jr. also accused jail guards of beating him and said that's why he had to escape.
In May, a shackled prisoner in Denver County Court leaped out of his seat and dove through a closed third-story window. Josephus Haynes, 41, landed on a grate and was sent to the hospital in critical condition. A habitual offender, Haynes was in court on a charge of third-degree assault; police said they didn't know if he was trying to escape or commit suicide.
Alan Baxter, 20, became the state's worst babysitter in May when he was arrested after leaving a toddler in a locked car while he watched strippers at Shotgun Willie's. An employee of the nearby Fascinations adult store flagged down a cop after he spotted an unattended three-year-old girl in a car. Police said they found Baxter inside the strip club, drinking a beer and handing money to a topless dancer. He told them that the toddler was his girlfriend's daughter and that he was supposed to be taking her to McDonald's.
A ponytailed man claiming to be a "porn inspector" with the Longmont Police Department's "age-verification unit" tried three times to wrangle some free nudie flicks from a Longmont porn store in July. Each time, the man flashed a badge and a business card and asked to see several porn videos to verify the ages of the actresses, according to news reports. The clerks turned him down all three times. Longmont police commander Tim Lewis said his department doesn't have an "age-verification unit."
A federal grand jury indicted Edward Sobczewski, 47, of Monument, on charges that he tried to bribe an IRS agent with Colorado Rockies season tickets.
An unnamed Denver man was arrested in November and charged with stealing expensive wines from numerous liquor stores in Colorado and selling them on the Internet. Police first learned of the man from Tipsy's, where surveillance video showed him going into the store's wine cave and removing three $200 bottles of Peter Michael Les Pavots wine, putting them in a basket and putting three less expensive bottles in their place on the shelf. He later used Velcro and a back brace to wedge the bottles under his clothes, according to news reports. Police identified the man and raided his house, discovering 85 bottles of wine valued at $11,500.
A Westminster Girl Scout troop dealt with a crumby situation in February when a young couple used a counterfeit $100 bill to buy two boxes of cookies. The scouts, who were selling the sweets outside a King Soopers store, gave them $93.50 in change. The scam wiped out the troop's cookie profits for the day.
YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON
In January, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on a woman who planned to sue Mesa County for $100,000 after nude photos of her were supposedly passed around by deputies at the county jail. Jessica Duran had mailed the titillating pics to her husband, who was incarcerated there, but jailers opened the letter. Duran said her civil rights were violated and asked for the damages because of humiliation and emotional distress.
First, Kevin Lininger, 28, was questioned by police after neighbors said he'd been running up and down the street naked. Then the Arapahoe County man decided to pee on the floor of the police station and kick the puddles at officers. It was a one-one combination that landed him in jail for assault and indecent exposure.
Twelve people were cited for streaking on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall on Halloween night during the annual Pumpkin Run. Although it was funny when they were running around with nothing but pumpkins on their head, the threat of being labeled as sex offenders wasn't nearly as humorous. In December, Natalie Ziemba, 20, was allowed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct — a deal that prosecutors are likely to extend to the other pumpkin runners. A prosecutor in the case joked that Ziemba could also have "no contact with fruits or vegetables," the Daily Camera reported.
DUMB AND DUMBER
Daniel Vigil, 42, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for possessing the bronze pig statue known as "Sir" that had been taken from Grand Junction's Main Street. The statue was discovered in a stolen truck in which Vigil was living, according to the Denver Post. Sir was part of the city's Art on the Corner public art project. It was Vigil's fourth felony conviction, making him a habitual offender, according to the judge.
In January, the University of Colorado's mascot, Chip the buffalo, wore a gangsta-themed costume to a "kids' night" Nuggets basketball game in Denver. The outfit included a white T-shirt and baggy pants, a doo rag, fake gold teeth and a teardrop tattoo below one eye. In speaking with the Boulder Daily Camera, a CU spokesman called the outfit "insensitive, unfortunate and thoughtless" and said the students responsible were sorry.
It's tough to choose the right gang for your son, and a Commerce City couple got into such a heated argument about the subject that police had to intervene. According to police, Joseph Manzanares, 19, went to the video store where the mother of their four-year-old son works and caused a ruckus, knocking over displays and a computer and threatening to kill the woman. The two are in separate gangs, and "they have different ideas on how the baby should be raised," Commerce City police sergeant Joe Sandoval told the Denver Post. "Basically, she said they cannot agree on which gang the baby would 'claim.'" Manzanares later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Dennis Klermund, 26, an employee of a Lakewood Del Taco, was cited for possession of marijuana after he put a small bag of pot inside a drive-thru customer's bag. The man called police after finding the surprise inside.
Channel 7 reported that the U.S. Postal Service's new stamp featuring the Colorado flag, a snowy mountain and pine trees depicted a mountain in Wyoming rather than one in Colorado. A Postal Service spokesman told the station that the stamp "was not based on any specific picture of a mountain" but was a generic representation of a mountain.
In May, Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer unveiled a TV commercial showing the mountain where he had proposed to his wife. But Schaffer, who lost the election to Mark Udall, had to yank the spot after viewers realized the mountain pictured was Alaska's Mount McKinley rather than our own Pikes Peak.
State representative Michael Garcia resigned in February after a female lobbyist accused him of exposing himself and making lewd comments while they were playing pool at the Lancer Lounge. "He just walked around the pool table and unzipped his pants and pulled everything out," the unnamed woman told the Denver Post, adding that Garcia had then asked her, "Wouldn't this be real nice inside of you?" Garcia defended himself, saying, "Initial press reports are highly inaccurate.... The other party and I engaged in consensual conduct that was inappropriate, given my position in the legislature and the fact that the other party is a lobbyist." The Aurora Democrat was serving his fourth term.
Greeley mayor Ed Clark, a former police officer who is also head of security at the University Schools charter school in that town, had some issues with the kids this year. In July, a fifteen-year-old neighbor claimed that the mayor grabbed him off his motorbike and threw him to the ground while the boy and some friends were riding through the neighborhood. The boy's family sought a restraining order, which was later denied by a judge. Then in November, Clark came under fire after showing a fake $3 bill to students in the school cafeteria. The bill had an image of Barack Obama wearing a Middle Eastern headdress. Clark was quoted as saying that the bill was "political satire."
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
In February, a massive sinkhole opened up in the northbound lanes of I-25 near 58th Avenue, forcing Denver's main freeway to shut down. A broken water conduit that spilled two million gallons of water onto the highway was blamed for the road's collapse; it took the Colorado Department of Transportation nine days and about $1.5 million to fix the 40' x 40' hole.
Democratic Fort Collins representative Randy Fischer said he was considering a bill that would require new teen drivers to stick a decal on their cars warning fellow motorists of their lack of highway-driving experience. Fischer said the idea came from a high-school senior who said he was honked at, screamed at and generally cussed out by other drivers while he was learning the roads.
Law enforcement authorities in Montezuma County arrested 62-year-old Samuel Luna after a police chase that lasted 25 minutes, the Durango Herald reported. It may have taken that long because Luna was driving his 1993 Pontiac Bonneville at 3 to 5 mph during most of the chase, although at one point he got up to around 25 mph. Police eventually had to set spike strips to stop Luna and also shot him with a Taser.
Two tractor-trailers loaded with beers made by Coors were involved in separate accidents in May and November on the same Wheat Ridge highway ramp leading from Colorado 58 onto the eastbound lanes of I-70. The first incident occurred when a truck overturned on a ramp to the interstate, spilling fuel and many cases of Keystone Light onto the roadway. In the second crash, driver Bobby Dodge was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after he rolled his rig in the same spot. No beer was spilled that time. Both trucks were coming from the nearby Coors plant in Golden.
Ezra James Wallace, 29, was charged with assault aboard an aircraft after an August 1 flight from San Diego to Denver. The U.S. attorney's office said Wallace used athletic tape to tie the hands of a sixteen-year-old girl sitting next to him and tried to do the same to her sister; he also tried to take pictures of the girls before the flight took off. A flight attendant eventually intervened and moved the girls to a different row. Wallace, who supposedly drank a half-pint of vodka before the Southwest flight, said he was drunk at the time but that it was all in good fun.
A United Airlines flight from Denver to Des Moines was delayed for six hours in July after a passenger found a tick in economy class. The airline searched the plane and found three of the little buggers. A United spokeswoman said she didn't know how the ticks got on the plane, which had begun the day in Chicago.
A gun belonging to the pilot of a US Airways flight from Denver to Charlotte, North Carolina, was accidentally discharged in March. Airline officials said the plane was never in danger. Eligible pilots and airplane crew members are allowed to carry firearms as part of a program that was approved after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
In May, a passenger at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport complained about a voice recording of Republican presidential candidate John McCain that greets passengers in the terminal. "Hello, this is Senator John McCain. Effective immediately, the Transportation Security Administration has limited the items you may take on board the aircraft. Please see a TSA representative for more information," the recording says. The airport has had several famous people record messages, including Jill St. John, Robert Wagner and Tai Babilonia. The McCain message was removed because of its political implications.
In July, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless announced a plan to give 500 movie tickets, as well as Denver Zoo, museum and cultural facilities passes, to hundreds of homeless people during the Democratic National Convention. Denying an effort to hide the homeless, coalition president John Parvensky said the point was to keep them from getting into trouble or getting mixed up with protesters.
In a video on its website, Focus on the Family asked people to pray for a "rain of biblical proportions" during Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field. The Colorado Springs organization said the video was meant to be humorous, but pulled it after complaints from some Focus members.
In August, less than two weeks before the DNC was set to begin, a Canadian man of Somali descent was found next to a jar of cyanide in his room at the Burnsley Hotel. The poison, which can be used to make chemical weapons, as well as the large amount that was present, prompted a major hazmat response. After an investigation, police and the FBI determined that Masjid Abu Bakr probably committed suicide and wasn't in town to do damage to anyone else.
Shortly after Governor Bill Ritter began his speech in front of the 84,000 people gathered at Invesco Field, his teleprompter went bonkers. "It started scrolling about a thousand times faster than normal.... It finally came back on for the last line of the speech. In between then, all it said was, 'Hello, I'm Congressman Ed Perlmutter,'" Ritter told the Denver Post. Perlmutter also spoke that night.
Two days after the convention ended, a California tribal leader, in town for the festivities, died after getting into a fight outside the Diamond Cabaret. An autopsy of Gabriel Pico, 41, a member of the wealthy, casino-owning Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, showed the cause of death as asphyxia. In October, strip-club bouncer Bryan Coe, 27, was charged with reckless manslaughter in the case.
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Election officials asked early voters in Denver not to wear their Halloween costumes into polling places, saying they wanted to keep the voting dignified and to make sure that no one wearing politically themed masks — such as ones depicting Sarah Palin or Barack Obama — could be accused of illegally trying to influence voters.
This spring, the city introduced the Denver Daisy, developed specifically for Colorado and designed to be planted so that millions of daisies would sprout in time for the convention; 30,000 packets of seeds were handed out. Unfortunately, most of the daisies didn't grow unless gardeners followed the directions to the letter.
During the DNC, at a political protest outside the Denver Mint, Re-create '68 protesters tried to highlight economic disparities in the U.S. Instead, the poorly attended event attracted members of the 9/11 Truth movement, who believe the 9/11 terrorist attacks were sponsored by the U.S. government. And when head Truther Alex Jones spotted right-wing media pundit Michelle Malkin, he went ballistic, screaming, "Shame on you, you little monster! You little fascist piece of trash!" Malkin, who has written a book defending racial profiling and the use of internment camps, tried to ignore Jones, but he kept yelling, and she eventually fled, with Jones in hot pursuit. Malkin later wrote about the protest, calling it "an abysmal failure." As for Jones, she said, "I should have brought my spit shield. Ick."
A week after the DNC, the GOP held its big shindig in Minneapolis — and Colorado Republican delegate and personal injury lawyer Gabriel Nathan Schwartz was there. But tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry, money and other possessions disappeared from his posh hotel room. He'd met a woman in the bar, she'd made some drinks, and that was the last thing he remembered, he told police.