Seven years ago, after an emotional murder trial that was rich in incriminating circumstantial evidence but short on motive, a Denver jury found Hal Hebert guilty of shooting his wife Carol in 2001 in their Belcaro home. A key witness for the prosecution was an oddball named Richard White, who testified that he sold a gun to a friend of Hebert's -- a gun that Hebert allegedly acquired six weeks before the murder.
The murder weapon was never found. But a few weeks after Hebert's trial, White was arrested and charged with homicide in Arapahoe County. White soon began telling investigators about five women he'd sexually assaulted and killed, including three prostitutes he'd picked up on Colfax. Two bodies were exhumed from his back yard in Park Hill, another from a grave in southern Colorado.
White cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty and is now serving multiple life terms in the state supermax. And Hebert -- who, like Richard "Fugitive" Kimball, has always insisted that an intruder killed his wife -- now claims to have evidence that the serial killer who testified against him is the man who shot his wife in the back of the head, put her in the trunk of her car and abandoned the vehicle several miles away.
"Mr. White presents as a credible alternate suspect in the death of Carol Hebert," Hebert wrote from prison in a motion to the court, seeking to overturn his conviction. "He was a convicted burglar. He had robbed and killed numerous times before and, despite the state's version of the case against Mr. Hebert, there was evidence that Carol Hebert's jewelry was stolen during her homicide and never recovered."
Hebert claims that a girlfriend of White's knew his wife and had been in his home. He also has produced two affidavits, allegedly from inmates who've celled with White (the names are blacked out in the copies sent to Westword), stating that White bragged about killing more people than authorities ever knew about. The affidavits claim that White told each man separately about a planned kidnapping of a woman that went awry when his gun went off accidentally.
"He killed a woman and put her body inside her own car trunk and drove it far across town to confuse authorities, and he thought it would be a good joke on the cops," one of the affidavits states.
At trial the prosecutors insisted the evidence pointed at Hebert, not an intruder. A Listerine bottle that had been used as a silencer was found in the trunk with the victim's body; police recovered a similar bottle from a makeshift shooting range in Hebert's basement. There were traces of a hasty attempt to clean up the crime scene but no signs of forced entry or a struggle. Hebert was spotted backing his wife's car into the garage, trunk first, and later acting strange at the Campus Lounge, his favorite bar, while complaining that his wife was missing.
Other witnesses testified that Hebert made incriminating statements after being arrested about his wife's death being a "terrible accident" or unintentional, and that he'd once owned a copy of a Lawrence Block novel in which a murder victim is placed in the trunk of a running car in the hope that the car will be stolen, casting blame on the thieves.
The day he sentenced Hebert to life in prison for first-degree murder, Judge Michael Mullins called the evidence of his guilt "overwhelming" -- even though no one could explain why he would kill his wife of 22 years. Hebert insisted that he "cherished" Carol, with whom he'd reconciled after an affair in 1999.
Hebert claims that police and the Denver District Attorney's Office distorted or manufactured evidence against him. He's complained that the prosecution team, which included recent (now former) U.S. attorney nominee Stephanie Villafuerte, had a legal duty to notify him of White's conviction and failed to do so. And in his legal filings he now includes Judge Mullins among those allegedly abusing their authority, since Mullins sat on his motion to vacate his conviction for more than a year, finally denying the motion after Hebert filed a complaint with the Colorado Supreme Court about the lack of action.
"I had to sue the district court in the Supreme Court in order to force the district court just to do its job," Hebert lamented in a recent letter. "Does that seem a little strange to you?"
In denying Hebert's motion, Judge Mullins -- who also presided over White's case -- opined that Hebert would probably have been convicted without White's testimony. "The evidence produced at trial does not suggest an alternate suspect," he wrote.
White didn't respond to a request for comment on Hebert's accusations. Hebert recently filed a brief with the Colorado Court of Appeals, contesting Mullins's ruling.