Longform

Femme Fatale

Page 8 of 9

By the time Kathleen left, Brenda was back to her normal routine at the Gathering Place. On February 9, 2005, she worked a shift in the computer lab. She was scheduled to return on Valentine's Day, but never showed up. By the end of the month, her mother was growing concerned that she couldn't reach Brenda on the phone. On March 8, the Denver police told her why.

There was no service for Brenda in Denver. Left alone with her thoughts, Kathleen couldn't wrap her head around who might have killed her best friend. She couldn't imagine anyone overcoming Brenda. The only explanation she could think of was that because of her leg, Brenda looked like an easy target.

Jim was just as baffled. "I would have never thought in a million years it would have ever happened to her," he says. "I figured she'd go out in a blaze of glory or something. She was the type of girl that didn't take shit from anyone. I'm thinking maybe it was more than one person. One person hit her and she got overpowered. Or maybe it was one person that was tougher than her. There's so much speculation that I really, I don't know. I'm thinking she picked up the wrong person at the bar or maybe she just got too drunk."

Kathleen worries that perhaps the police or someone who witnessed something has a bias against Brenda for that reason: "I think everybody's saying, 'She would take a stranger home from the bar, and that meant she was some type of person.'" When Kathleen was interviewed by the police, she remembers, detectives thanked her for her time and said they had to go get on another case right away. She knew that Brenda's wouldn't be their only investigation, of course, but the comment got her thinking. How many cases did they have? How many people get murdered and the police never find the killer? How much evidence could vanish in two or three weeks?

As the months passed, Kathleen would occasionally call Detective Castro with the names of people she thought he should talk to or check out. She assumes he followed up, but he didn't always follow up with her. Kathleen started to think that Castro either didn't have any information or couldn't divulge what he did know. Either way, she wasn't getting anywhere, so she stopped calling last summer.

In August, five months after Brenda's body was found, Crime Stoppers fliers with her photo went up around town: "You can remain anonymous and earn up to two thousand dollars. Do you know who killed Brenda Denton?"

The fliers were already littered around Capitol Hill when Spencer Krzyzek found out that Brenda had been murdered. He called the number to see if he could be of any help. He told Castro about the ex-boyfriend Brenda had taken a restraining order out against, adding that she used to fight with a lot of people.

"The police kept on asking me what I thought of her and Brent Brents," remembers Spencer. Along with everyone else, he wondered if the killer could have been Brents; it seemed a huge coincidence that Brenda was murdered in the same neighborhood where he was hiding at the time of his rampage. But the crime didn't fit his profile: Brents was a rapist, and Brenda didn't appear to have been sexually assaulted. Then again, neither had Tiffany Engle, the apartment manager Brents nearly beat to death. But if it was Brents, wouldn't he have left some piece of evidence behind? Wouldn't he have been charged by now?

Spencer told Castro that he wouldn't put it past Brenda to pick up somebody like Brents. Not that he knew what Brents was like -- but he did know Brenda. She wasn't shy, and the stranger somebody was, the more he'd interest her.

Today, one year after the murder of Brenda Denton, the police won't discuss the investigation of the case except to say that it's ongoing. They won't say if they've ruled out Brents, who was sentenced to more than 1,300 years in prison for his violent crimes. Brenda's friends and family are left with nothing but speculation. It's the type of mystery that Brenda would have obsessed over.

Brenda's mother keeps in touch with Castro, and he's told her that if any real breaks come up, he will call. "The clues seem to be non-existent," Marilyn says. "The police I know have investigated a lot of leads and have worked very hard on it. I believe that somebody either in the neighborhood may have seen something or maybe their roommate came home disheveled and a mess and they may have suspicions. At this point, we're just still praying that the person will be taken out of society because they are evil. What they did to her was evil."

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Jessica Centers