Longform

BEAT COP

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They started fighting, but the crowd stopped them. Both men threatened to press charges. Woods's sergeant told Eddy to "calm down, he's just drinking, he's just being an asshole," Eddy says. "I don't usually press charges over a brawl, so I didn't this time. Now I wish I would have."

A few weeks later, after a brief reconciliation, Woods and Taylor had another blowout. Taylor packed her bags and went to a house near Sixth Avenue and Downing Street shared by Lanphier and Newman. After parking her car there, she went out with her friends for a night of bar-hopping. "But Mary was bummed," Lanphier remembers, "worried about Alex, not into partying. She ended up leaving early with some other people, and she didn't spend the night at our house."

Her car did, though, and at eight the next morning Lanphier says she woke to the sight of Alex Woods "six inches from my face, screaming, `Where the fuck is Mary?' He searched the entire house, screaming and yelling and slamming doors hard enough to make a hole with the doorknob."

When Woods left, the two women called 911. "I didn't want to get him in trouble," Newman says, "but I was worried about his safety, and everyone else's, too."

Two squad cars arrived, and officers searched the neighborhood for Woods, then arranged a police escort for Taylor when she came to retrieve her car. Newman and Lanphier told the police officers they wanted to press charges against Woods for whatever would stick; it turned out to be disturbing the peace. But in April 1994, after several court hearings, the women received a letter from Tom Sanchez, DPD division chief of patrol, saying that although their complaint had been "thoroughly investigated," there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed against Woods. A copy of Sanchez's letter would remain in Woods's file, however.

"Mary was furious at us for sticking with it," Newman says. "What happened was, she just went away. More into Alex, less into us."

"We didn't want revenge," Lanphier insists. "We just wanted Alex to get help. There is something inside that man that he can't control."

By the end of summer 1993, Taylor had quit her Diamond Cabaret job at Woods's request and was busy studying for a manicurist's license. But the couple continued fighting until the spring of 1994, when they broke up for nearly six months. Taylor went back to bartending, first at the Diamond Cabaret and later at Shotgun Willie's. In November 1994, her mother died of emphysema. Woods came to the funeral to pay his respects, and the relationship started up again, dysfunctional as ever.

"I sat there and watched this thing play out for years," says Woods's stepmother, Ann Montoya Woods. "The two of them were like oil and water, they were so bad for each other. She would get mad and jealous, she would provoke him until he would do something. I've seen her hit him, make a big scene, run out of the house and not come back for days, throw drinks at him. I'm not saying she deserved to get hit, but on the other hand, she was the kind of person who gets right in your face, she won't stop, she just comes back and back and back at you."

Of the "incidents" in Woods's personnel file, Montoya Woods says, "they are investigated, and Alex always turns out to be the victim, not the one who started it; he's never been disciplined. It's Mary. She never gets enough attention, which is why she works where she works. Obsessive love works both ways, is all I'm saying. She bought him a lot of presents, took him places, made his life comfortable--which is why he stayed with her, or that's what I think."

Indeed, Mary Taylor planned a big Christmas for Alex Woods Jr. in 1994. A wish list he gave her that year consists almost entirely of guns and ammo, with prices attached, as well as a book called The Complete Sniper. On December 14, 1994, Woods and Taylor attended the District 4 Christmas party, after which they and a group of officers and their dates went back to Woods's southwest Denver home to continue the festivities. Sometime after midnight, Taylor says, Woods went upstairs to talk on the phone. Half an hour later, the revelers sent her up to fetch him--they were planning a champagne toast and didn't want to proceed without him, Taylor says. Another theory, posited by police officers speaking off the record, has Taylor wildly jealous of Woods, who was talking to another woman on the phone.

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff