A Cold Case Frozen in Time

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The police came back for the truck, and this time the Colorado Bureau of Investigation took a look. Using luminol — which Rich had asked the cops to use weeks before — they found blood all over the back of the big truck and in the cab. The oil spill was covering more blood. DNA tests confirmed that it was Sarah's and Paul's blood, and investigators said there was enough to indicate that both Sarah and Paul had been fatally wounded.

In mid-March — five weeks after Paul, Sarah and Lorenzo disappeared — Thornton police and the CBI said they now had evidence suggesting foul play.

After Paul and Sarah disappeared, Sharon, Teresa and the baby lived together in Paul's house for a few weeks. Between Teresa's relatives and Sharon's friends, there were lots of visitors coming and going.

Verna and Butch Dreawves had driven up from Arizona to be with Sharon. Verna remembers sitting at the kitchen table, comforting her friend, while Teresa and her mother and siblings searched through Paul's things. "They were concerned about the life insurance, who was going to take over the business," Verna says. Paul had a $100,000 life-insurance policy on Sarah, and a smaller one with Sarah's and Sharon's names on it. There was nothing with Teresa's name.

Teresa and the baby finally left Paul's house in March, and Sharon changed the locks. But in April, Teresa went to court to argue that she should control Paul's assets.

As his next of kin, Sharon had already been appointed temporary conservator of Paul's estate so that she could pay Paul's bills — including the two mortgages on the house and the premiums to keep the life-insurance policies current — and run the business. At a hearing on April 16, 1999, the Adams County probate court discussed whether Sharon should remain conservator or Teresa's request should be granted — which would only happen if she could prove she was Paul's wife.

"I note here that we have more people in the courtroom than we usually have for murder trials," said Adams County District Court Judge Vincent C. Phelps Jr.

Casey Paison, Paul's attorney who was representing Sharon, explained that most of those people were rebuttal witnesses.

"Could you tell the court why you're going to this trouble to be here today and object?" Teresa's lawyer asked her.

"For the sake of my son, Paul Roger Skiba," she replied, "because I believe that he is entitled to Paul's — Paul Carroll [Skiba]'s things. He is the only heir. If they never come back, he's the only heir that — to everything that Paul had. Paul always wanted — if Sarah was here, Paul would want Sarah to have his things. He always wanted his children to have his things."

Teresa told the court that she and Paul had planned to marry after the baby was born and that she considered herself married to Paul. Paul had bought her a ring when they stopped at a half-price jewelry sale at the mall; Teresa called it her wedding ring. Teresa said she didn't use the name Skiba on documents or call herself married publicly because she was worried about losing her insurance; at 26, she was still covered by her mother. She insisted that Paul had rented the trailer a year before so that they both could live there, because Teresa didn't get along with Paul's mother, and she pointed out that they'd presented themselves as common-law married on the rental application.

But the trailer-park manager testified that she'd explained to Paul, who'd called Teresa his girlfriend, that it would be cheaper for them to rent the trailer as a married couple. Paul's tax accountant testified that Paul had filed as single. Friends testified that Paul wasn't married and that he didn't intend to get married.

Judge Phelps ultimately ruled that there was no common-law marital relationship, noting that while Teresa said numerous times that she and Paul planned to get married, there was no evidence to indicate it happened. "We can't be married some of the time and not the rest of the time," he said. "You're either married or you're not. You can't have it both ways.... I would also note as an aside, it would seem to me that if Mr. Skiba had intended to be married, it would probably have been Sharon Skiba who would be getting the [trailer] and not Ms. Donovan."

Sharon was appointed permanent conservator, but there was still the matter of child support. Paul had signed Paul Roger's birth certificate and given the child his last name. So the judge ordered the parties to get him the financial information he needed to order child support. A few months later, the court decided on the amount that Sharon — on behalf of Paul's estate — would pay Teresa every month.

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Jessica Centers