Tara Perry, the subject of this week's cover story, "The Girl Who Fell to Earth," has made a remarkable turnaround since she was first incarcerated thirteen years ago, at the age of sixteen. Corrections staff, teachers and others view her as a model of rehabilitation, one who's tried to transform her remorse for her crimes into positive action. She's earned a college degree, excelled at every program prison has offered her, and is considered a leader in promoting conflict resolution and nonviolence.
That's a far cry from the dysfunctional high school sophomore who got mixed up with a 22-year-old street hustler and parolee named Randy Miller -- and then, over the course of three days in May of 1999, joined Miller in a terrifying series of armed robberies and home invasions that spanned three states and ended in Miller's suicide. Although Perry didn't kill or physically injure anyone during the crime spree, she was charged as an adult with crimes ranging from kidnapping to attempted murder and is now serving a forty-year sentence -- the longest sentence of any juvenile in the Colorado adult system who didn't actually commit homicide.
Understanding how Perry got into such a desperate situation means understanding what was driving Miller, the tormented mastermind (if that's the right word) of the crimes. In the video excerpt below from my prison interview with Perry, she recounts her arrest on May 22, 1999, by Kansas state troopers after a high-speed chase -- and her efforts to get Miller, who'd taken two elderly men hostage, to give himself up. During her three-hour phone conversation with Miller, he kept circling back to his rage over Robert "Pops" McCalmant, the pedophile who'd molested him when Miller was eleven years old and led him into prostitution.
McCalmant sexually assaulted at least a dozen young boys while operating out of an East Colfax motel. His conviction and 1,338-year sentence was a direct result of the investigation Miller had launched against him. McCalmant died in a prison infirmary in 2006.
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Miller didn't live to see that day, as Perry explains below.
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