In an April post announcing his intention to challenge Colorado Attorney General John Suthers at the polls this November, Boulder district attorney Stan Garnett focused on issues like watching out for consumers, championing the environment and crafting a workable medical marijuana policy. But he's not shying away from hitting Suthers over his potentially damaging connection to serial killer Scott Lee Kimball.
Former Westword staffer Luke Turf noted Kimball's association with missing stripper Jennifer Marcum back in January 2006. Kimball, who was in prison on other charges, wouldn't talk to Turf then, but in subsequent years, he spoke with police about her and three other murdered women; their remains have been found, unlike Marcum's.
In recent weeks, the Boulder Daily Camera published "Free to Kill," a fifteen-part series on Kimball. Then, this weekend, the Denver Post put a Kimball item on page one, with the focus on Suthers.
The first paragraph of the Post piece contains the most potentially damaging information for Suthers:
Less than four weeks before Scott Kimball started killing people, then-U.S. Attorney John Suthers signed the order that transferred the habitual criminal and escaped convict to Colorado and set in motion his ill-fated career as an FBI informant.
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Garnett's office promptly followed up with a damning statement contrasting Suthers's actions with those of Garnett, whose office revoked a plea deal with Kimball when he failed to lead authorities to Marcum's body.
Could Kimball become Suthers's equivalent of Willie Horton, a convicted criminal whose wrongdoing while on furlough helped doomed the presidential aspirations of former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis? Too early to say -- but the potential is there.
Here's the aforementioned Garnett campaign release:
John Suthers' Plea Bargain With a Serial Killer
The Denver Post published an article May 23 that tells a tragic story bigger than any political contest. More importantly, this story has important ramifications for voters deciding who should be the next Attorney General for Colorado.
John Suthers, then U.S. Attorney for Colorado, signed a document on Dec. 24, 2002, which officially transferred Scott Lee Kimball's counterfeiting case from Alaska to Colorado. That transfer came with the understanding that Mr. Kimball, soon to be a serial killer, would be granted a plea bargain giving him sentencing leniency in return for his service as an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It was essentially a get out-of-jail-free card for a four-time convicted felon, alleged rapist and a man who escaped from custody in Montana following a conviction just two years before. On Christmas Eve 2002, John Suthers put his name to that document, setting Mr. Kimball free, ultimately to be sentenced to just a $5,000 fine, time served and three years' probation. Only a few weeks later, Mr. Kimball would kill the first of four known victims in a murder spree. It was a rampage Mr. Kimball, who called himself "Hannibal," carried out while a paid informant working for, and purportedly supervised by, the United States Department of Justice.
When questioned about the matter by the Post, Mr. Suthers didn't remember signing off on the deal, and said he would have "No Comment." His lack of awareness of what he was signing, his failure to ensure that Mr. Kimball was adequately monitored, and lack of accountability now, is troubling. It merits more than a "No Comment" from a campaign spokesman.
Throughout the handling of Mr. Kimball's case, the United States Attorney's office, under Mr. Suthers' supervision, repeatedly filed motions to close hearings and seal records, covering up case proceedings and denying the public a chance to know about problems they were experiencing with their "informant." When the judge expressed concern about such secrecy, Mr. Suthers' prosecutors said they were worried about safety -- "Hannibal's" safety.
Only when a Lafayette detective subsequently launched what started as a fraud investigation into Mr. Kimball's activities, joined by the Boulder District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, did authorities see the full horror and homicidal mayhem for which Mr. Kimball was responsible after he was freed.
Through the solid work of the above agencies, and the prosecutorial efforts of the team working under the direction of Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, Mr. Kimball entered a guilty plea Oct. 8, 2009, to two counts of second-degree murder, while admitting responsibility for all four murders for which he had been investigated. Mr. Kimball was sentenced that day to 70 years in prison.
"I am pleased that in this very difficult case we were able to reach a disposition that assures that Scott Kimball will spend the rest of his life in prison and that provides the victims' families some measure of comfort," Garnett said.
Approval by the United States Attorney for Denver of an extremely lenient plea bargain for Mr. Kimball -- who had four prior felony convictions, had escaped from a 10-year sentence and had been described by a Montana judge as unfit for community supervision speaks to a management style lacking in focus. It shows Mr. Suthers was out of touch, not paying attention at a critical moment that, for the families of four innocent victims, will reverberate painfully forever.
Boulder County prosecutors secured a 48-year term against Mr. Kimball in December 2008 for theft as an habitual offender, and at the same time gave him a chance to plead guilty to one count of second-degree murder, providing he lead authorities to the bodies of the three murder victims whose remains had not yet been found: LeAnn Emry, Jennifer Marcum and Terry Kimball. When Mr. Kimball failed to produce Ms. Marcum's body, that deal was revoked by District Attorney Stan Garnett May 11, 2009. Less than five months later, Boulder County prosecutors won convictions and the sentence that will keep Mr. Kimball behind bars the rest of his life.
"I am incredibly proud of the work my office did to crack these cold cases, and lock up Mr. Kimball for the rest of his life in a manner that is acceptable to the victims' families," Garnett said. "Managing an office with law enforcement responsibility such as District Attorney, U.S. Attorney or Attorney General is all about priorities. And public safety must be the highest priority."
Those seeking more information concerning the Kimball case are advised to consult the superb 15-part series "Free to Kill" authored by reporter John Aguilar, published by the Boulder Daily Camera. It is archived on the paper's website.
For additional information... please visit the campaign website at Garnettforag.com.
Scott Lee Kimball Timeline
• June 20, 1988 -- First felony; At age 21, convicted of passing $1,139 in bad checks, Beaverhead County, Mont.; Three-year prison sentence deferred.
• Oct. 4, 1988 -- Second felony; for passing bad checks in Missoula, Mont. Gets two-year deferred sentence.
• March 15, 1989 -- Third felony; one count of attempted theft in Broomfield; sentenced to 1 year unsupervised probation, $232 in restitution.
• Dec. 8, 1999 -- Accused of raping, kidnapping ex-wife at gunpoint, Spokane, Wash. No charges.
• Dec. 18, 1999 -- Again accused of raping ex-wife, in Spokane, Wash. No charges.
• Jan. 27, 2000 -- Back in Missoula County, Mont. jail, for violating terms of probation.
• April 18, 2000 -- Sentenced to prison in Montana, for 10 years, for violating probation on the 1988 Missoula County conviction for writing bad checks. At sentencing, the judge cites three opportunities for rehabilitation that were unsuccessful, labels Kimball "impossible to supervise in a community setting."
• April 4, 2001 -- In midst of Montana prison term, is convicted of his fourth felony; three counts of forgery stemming from Oct. 1999 case in Spokane, Wash.
• July 29, 2001 -- Escapes pre-release center in Helena, ripping off gas station where he was working of cash and a truck. FBI resists county attorney's push for arrest on escape charges.
• August 2001 -- John Suthers appointed U.S. Attorney for Colorado.
• Nov. 8, 2001 -- Kimball is arrested in Cordova, Alaska,, for writing nearly $25,000 in counterfeit checks.
• June 1, 2002 -- Transferred to Colorado/FCI-Englewood, after saying seven Alaskan inmates want to kill him for cooperating with the government on a murder plot, which does lead to two individuals' convictions on lesser charges.
• Sept. 4, 2002 -- Kimball is activated in Colorado as a cooperating witness by FBI, he implicates others, including Jennifer Marcum, in a plot to kill two drug-case informants.
• Dec. 18, 2002 -- Kimball is released to cooperate on the alleged murder plot he has discussed with the FBI.
• Dec. 24, 2002 -- U. S Attorney John Suthers signs Rule 20, authorizing approving transfer of the Alaska counterfeiting case for plea and sentencing to Denver, facilitating plea deal for Kimball.
• Jan. 29, 2003 -- LeAnn Emry murdered, Bryson Canyon, Utah.
• Feb. 17, 2003 -- Jennifer Marcum is murdered. Her body has never been found.
• March 10, 2003 -- Formally accepts plea bargain on Alaska counterfeiting charge, at U.S. District Court in Denver .
• July 31, 2003 -- FBI begins investigating the disappearance of Jennifer Marcum.
• Aug. 23, 2003 -- Kaysi McLeod is murdered.
• Oct. 15, 2003 -- At a hearing in U.S. District Court-Denver, the judge expresses concern about excessive sealing requests by the U.S. Attorney's office. Government lawyer expresses concern about Kimball's safety.
• Dec. 1, 2003 -- Kimball is sentenced on plea to Alaska case. His gets a $5,000 fine; three years' supervised probation, and time served. At the same hearing, An assistant U.S. Attorney acknowledges Jennifer Marcum is likely dead. At the hearing, the same government prosecutor reports Kimball has been paid $20,000 as an informant.
• July 15, 2004 -- Kimball's 10-year-old son suffers critical head injury; an investigation into whether Kimball had attempted to murder the child does not result in charges.
• Sept. 1, 2004 -- Terry Kimball is murdered.
• Jan. 4, 2005 -- John Suthers is appointed Colorado Attorney General.
• Feb. 6, 2006 -- Kimball's arrest warrant is signed in Denver, alleging violation of probation.
• March 16, 2006 -- Kimball is arrested is arrested on the Denver warrant in Coachella Valley, Calif.
• Sept. 29, 2007 -- Kaysi McLeod's remains are found in Routt National Forest, Colo.
• Dec. 17, 2008 -- Pleads guilty in Boulder District Court to one count of theft as an habitual offender, gets 48 years; also agrees to a memorandum of understanding to plead guilty to one count of second-degree murder, providing he can help locate the bodies of Marcum, Kimball and Emry. He will ultimately produce Emry and Kimball, but not Marcum -- thereby violating terms of, and scuttling, that agreement.
• May 11, 2009 -- Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett notifies Kimball's lawyers that Kimball is in breach of the proposed agreement, and not entitled to any further considerations.
• Oct. 8, 2009 -- Kimball pleads guilty in Boulder District Court to two counts of second-degree murder and admits to his responsibility for four murders in the deaths of LeAnn Emry, Jennifer Marcum, Kaysi McLeod and Terry Kimball. He is sentenced to 70 years in prison. The disposition is approved in advance by family members of all victims.