A Cold Case Frozen in Time

Page 8 of 11

"He swore that he'd get even with Paul," says Rich, who has his own theory. Police have always assumed that the moving truck seen the night of the disappearance was Paul's. "What if Paul's truck never left the lot?" Rich asks. "It could have been Herb's. Nobody knows for sure. What better way to transport the bodies and his car across town than to drive it in the back of another moving truck?"

Another theory had emerged soon after the disappearance — that Lorenzo could have been involved, since his DNA wasn't found at the lot. The implication was so hurtful that Misha Chivers wrote the media, asking them to treat her husband as a human being. "He was always either a suspect or he was just a third party or just an employee," she says. But he was so much more. He was the guy she'd fallen in love with when she was just a kid. They were flat broke but always found the two bucks to go dancing at the Indian Center on Friday and Saturday nights — Lorenzo in his braids and Stacy Adams shoes and Misha in her big hair and six-inch stilettos. He was a dad who told his kids he loved them, the child of a single mother with an eighth-grade education who never gave up looking for her son, and died in 2005 with the mystery unsolved.

By the third anniversary of the disappearance, Misha decided she couldn't wait any longer for answers and called Detective Pat Long. "You've given me bits and pieces of information," she remembers telling him. "My son is eighteen now. I need to know." Long agreed to sit down with Misha and Josh. He told them that Paul had been using his business as a front for narcotics and gotten tangled up with the wrong folks, Misha says. Lorenzo was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Long repeated that theory to the news media, saying that Paul, Sarah and Lorenzo were "probably victims of drug violence." Paul "wasn't a major drug lord," he explained, but had a small client base to which he sold marijuana.

His friends and mother don't deny that Paul smoked pot — though never around Sarah. But they don't believe that drugs had anything to do with his disappearance. Paul was not a drug dealer, they say, and he would never have knowingly put Sarah in danger. "He's not the person they made him out to be at all," Rich says. "Yeah, he dabbled in shit, but he was by no means a kingpin."

In 2005, Sharon finally met Howard Morton of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (see story, page 16), and he found funding to put up a billboard near the Tuff Movers lot with photos of Paul, Sarah and Lorenzo. As it was unveiled, Westminster announced that it was taking the case over from Thornton. "They inform me that day as we stood out there, did our stuff in front of the cameras, that the case was being transferred from Thornton to Westminster," Morton says. "They said it's been treated as a missing-persons case up until now, and now it's being treated as a homicide and we're giving it to Westminster. Here we are six years later, and they're just now going to take it seriously as a homicide?"

The jurisdiction change came as a surprise to Sharon, too. She says she'd developed a close relationship with Pat Long over the years, and despite her frustration over the lack of answers, she felt that Long and the other Thornton detectives were doing everything they possibly could. She'd talked to Long once a week; Misha Chivers talked to him at least once a month.

Sharon didn't have as much luck communicating with Westminster police. One detective even told her that he was closing the case, which spurred Morton to request a meeting with Westminster authorities, who assured him the investigation was still active. (Thornton police referred all of Westword's questions about the case to Westminster; Westminster officials refused to discuss their investigation.)

Don Quick, who became the Adams County district attorney in 2005, has tried to improve communication, bringing Sharon together with Thornton and Westminster officers twice for strategy meetings. "The problem is that right now, I'm not sure what new ideas they have," Quick says. "One of the hardest things is getting people to understand that there is a difference between knowing and proving. If we had the evidence, we'd file the case. There's nothing I'd like better than to bring Sarah's murderer to justice — even if I didn't know her."

But he did, because Quick's family has a cabin down the street from Sarah's mother's house in Granby. "She was a cute little blond kid," he remembers. "Her mom had dogs, and when I took my dogs for a walk, theirs would come charging down the hill. Sarah would come get them and take them back up the hill, and she was very sweet and would talk to us."

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Jessica Centers