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"He could be charming," Newman agrees, "but he was also possessive and jealous right from the beginning. They'd both laugh it off. Mary kind of liked it at first. It showed how much Alex loved her, she said."

As Taylor remembers it, Woods's occasional outbursts gradually gave way to an all-consuming jealousy. He grew to dislike her friends, especially the women she sometimes went bar-hopping with. And he no longer approved of the Diamond Cabaret as a workplace--although this did not prevent him from dropping in frequently when he was through with his duties at District 4, where he'd been assigned after graduating from the academy.

"He would follow her around, he would grab her and put her up against the wall," remembers former bartender Jeff Babylon. "What it comes down to is, he thought everyone was doing her, but she was actually very loyal to him."

A few months into her relationship with Woods, Babylon says, Taylor began showing up at work with "bruises here and there." One night, when he and Taylor were talking together after a shift, Woods "threatened me within an inch of my life," Babylon adds. "He told me if I so much as looked at Mary, he'd make my life hell, and that being a cop, he could do it."

Babylon called the Denver police and was told to appear in person to fill out an incident report. He blew it off--and less than 24 hours later, Woods called to apologize. "He said the thought of Mary with another man really fired his rockets," Babylon says. "And it did. I knew it was only a matter of time before he went completely psycho."

Another former Diamond Cabaret bartender, Dan Coffman, recalls similar scenes, with Taylor and Woods "arguing right over the bar about who knows what" and Taylor displaying the occasional "busted lip or black eye. But I really didn't know her that well," he says. "So I minded my own business."

Denver police officer Dan Wyckoff, who worked off-duty at the Diamond Cabaret, went a step further. "She came to me, told me she'd been hurt by a horse, and I told her if it was something else, there were avenues available to her," Wyckoff says. "If she was getting beat up or something. But I didn't know for sure she was. I saw a mark on her shoulder. A bruise, but not a bruise bruise. You know. It was dark, and I didn't make a habit out of checking out the women."

Lanphier and Newman had no such ambivalence. They were sure their friend was involved in a destructive relationship. Taylor and Woods would break up for several months, but then Taylor would go back to him and her friends wouldn't see much of her for a while.

Newman and Taylor were both riding enthusiasts, and they kept horses at the same stable. At one point in the spring of 1993, Newman says, she noticed that Taylor's horse Stocking hadn't been groomed, nor her stall cleaned, in nearly two weeks. And yet, when Taylor showed up at work a few days later with extensive bruises down one side of her body, she told friends her horse had scraped her up against a tree. Newman pressed and finally got a different story: On a drive to Central City, Woods had punched Taylor during an argument.

"It was typical," Taylor says now of the incident. "The violence and then the roses afterward, and Alex is good-looking, God, he's beautiful. But when he snaps, he's a different person altogether." And she wasn't the only person he snapped at between February 1992 and Christmas 1994. There were the occasional jealous incidents at the Diamond Cabaret--once, Taylor says, Woods picked a fight with a whole table of firemen.

"I've worked as a bouncer, so I've seen a lot of pissed-off people," says Danny Eddy, formerly a bartender and bouncer at the country-Western bar Stampede, "but this Alex Woods was the worst I've ever known. He goes off with no reason at all."

Woods and Eddy mixed it up one summer night in 1993, when Woods and Taylor had split up. "Mary and I had been friends for a long time, and I ran into her at the Stampede," Eddy remembers. "Alex and his sergeant were sitting there, too, off-duty, drinking. Mary introduced him to me as her ex-boyfriend, and that was the last we saw of him for an hour or so."

Eddy and Taylor spent that hour catching up at the bar. "We're just friends now, and that's all we've ever been," Eddy continues, "but suddenly this Alex comes over, grabs my wrist in an aikido hold, yanks me off my bar stool, puts me down on the ground and says, `Why don't you just never fucking talk to her again?'"

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff