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Five Colorado Deaths Related to Craigslist

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There was a very strong reaction to our recent post about Thomas LaPerch after he was found guilty of killing William Burchett, whom he met on Craigslist.

Over the years, we've written about numerous crimes with ties to Craigslist, including robberies and even shootings.

However, the Burchett matter turns out to have been the fifth that resulted in death.

Three of the crimes were determined to have been murder (including Burchett's), while the person at the center of a fourth incident was found guilty of other offenses — and in the fifth, the shooter's actions were determined to be justified even though they were lethal.

Here are the details from our original coverage.


October 26, 2012

In November 2011, we told you about the murder of Thomas Bashline, a sometime trainer for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Just under a year later, Draton Mares, 24, has been convicted of first-degree murder in the crime, which took place after a relationship that began more than a year earlier with a Craigslist hookup that went terribly wrong.

As we've reported, Bashline, who was 42 at the time of his death, supplemented his occasional work as a trainer for the Globetrotters with a side business in which he tested athletes for performance-enhancing drugs.

The latter gig factored in on early speculation about a motive after an unresponsive Bashline was found by a girlfriend at his Frederick home on November 4. (Although emergency personnel didn't initially characterize the case as a homicide because there were no obvious signs of trauma on the body, a bullet entry wound was subsequently discovered.) But investigators at the Weld County Sheriff's Office began working on a different theory after Bashline's stolen Chevy pickup was found in Boulder, more than twenty miles from his home, with a semi-automatic handgun thought to be the murder weapon inside it. Shortly thereafter, they arrested a man later identified as Mares for the slaying.

What happened? WCSO sources said Mares and Bashline had met via the "man-for-man personals section" of Craiglist. Bashline was thought to have driven to Longmont to pick up Mares, then took him back to his place, after which the man shot him in the head and stole his truck.

Many more details emerged during Mares's recently concluded trial, which lasted nine days.

Prosecutors put forward a simple scenario. They said Mares and Bashline had met through Craigslist way back in May 2010. On the fateful day in November 2011, Bashline drove Mares to his place and laid down on his bed for a nude massage. But something went wrong, the prosecution contended, with Mares eventually blindfolding Bashline, covering his head with a pillow and shooting him with a handgun he'd swiped in a previous burglary before stealing his truck and making his getaway.

Evidence used to connect Mares to the crime included DNA, text messages and feathers that were found both at the victim's house and on the accused killer's shoes.

As for Mares, he didn't deny pulling the trigger in testimony recounted by the Boulder Daily Camera. Instead, his legal team focused on arguing that second-degree murder was a more appropriate charge, because the killing had happened during the heat of passion.

Mares testified that during the massage, Bashline referred to him using variations on the word "faggot" a number of times, and used what the Camera describes as a "vulgar Spanish term" while throwing him down on the bed, thereby triggering memories of a rape Mares said he'd suffered at age seventeen. But he claimed the breaking point came when Bashline criticized his massage in comparison to ones given him by "my girl" — a reference to a straight relationship of which Mares was supposedly unaware until that moment.

Hence, the blindfolding (which was done with socks) and the fatal shot, after which Mares grabbed some wine and a few other items before leaving in Bashline's truck.

In the end, however, the jury didn't buy these explanations — at least not to a degree that the charge was lessened. The members eventually convicted Mares of first-degree murder, in addition to a single count of aggravated motor-vehicle theft. "We're satisfied that justice was served in this case," Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said afterward, in a statement. "Thomas Bashline didn't deserve to die that day. Now his killer will spend the rest of his life behind prison walls thanks to the good work of the dedicated investigators and prosecutors in this case."

Bashline wasn't forgotten by the Globetrotters, either. After his death, the team issued a statement that read in part, "Our condolences go out to Tom's family and friends. The entire Harlem Globetrotters organization is deeply saddened by this news."


February 18, 2016

We've been reporting about the fatal shooting of David Martinez during a robbery attempt after he and another man responded to a Craigslist ad.

Now, the homeowner who killed Martinez, identified following the incident as Anthony Mott, has been officially cleared by prosecutors.

There was never any doubt that Mott pulled the trigger that ended Martinez's life on January 24 at a residence on South Taft Court in unincorporated Jefferson County.

As we've reported, Mott had been tied up by the two Craigslist respondents — Martinez and David Mascarenas, who's currently in custody — but he had managed to free himself and grab a gun prior to a confrontation with the pair that turned even more violent. But because Martinez was trying to flee in an SUV when he was killed, there was doubt in some quarters about whether Mott's actions were covered under Colorado's Make My Day law.

First Judicial District DA Pete Weir saw no ambiguity, however.

In a statement announcing that Mott wouldn't be charged, Weir said, “It is standard procedure for law enforcement to conduct an investigation into any death resulting from a gunshot wound. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office did a very thorough investigation in this case. Following their presentation of the evidence regarding the shooting of Mr. Martinez , the decision was made that criminal charges were not warranted.”

Continue to learn about more Colorado deaths related to Craigslist.


October 1, 2012

Billy Joe Delacey is a U.S. Army veteran who had two war-zone deployments. But this service to his country didn't prevent him from being indicted in relation to a brutal crime — the fatal Mesa County beating of a male escort he's said to have met on Craigslist.

At around 6:20 a.m. on August 1, 2011, according to the indictment, Mesa County Sheriff deputies were sent to an apartment on the 500 block of 29 Road, where they found the body of Luis "Beto" Oliva," a 26-year-old described as an undocumented Mexican national. He was naked and lying face up on a deflated air mattress, with a large amount of blood pooled around his head and dried to his face.

An autopsy later determined that Oliva died from blunt-force trauma inflicted upon him from behind.

The initial report came from Morayma Alejandra, Oliva's part-time roommate. She was in Denver when the crime was committed, having last seen Oliva when he'd taken her to the local bus station a couple of days earlier. He was supposed to pick her up at the station early on August 1 but never showed up.

Shortly thereafter, investigators were led to Brandon Wathan, Oliva's romantic partner; he called the late Beto his "wife." The pair had recently become unemployed, said Wathan, so they began advertising for Oliva to perform male massages and "sexual services" on Craigslist — and they continued to do so even after Wathan was hired to work for an oil-rig catering company.

A search of Craigslist correspondence before the service pulled the plug on the account for violating its standards revealed that Oliva had been scheduled to rendezvous with a person using the e-mail address ninetysevenecho@gmail.com on July 30, and again on July 31. The e-mailer identified himself as a resident of Fruita, Colorado, named Billly, with the arrangements for the second meeting implying that something had gone wrong at the first meet-up. Billy's message read in part, "I promise I won't be nervous again. I'll cum this time I swear."

The exchanges also included some negotiating. Billy offered $80 for sex, while Oliva demanded $100 — the amount of cash found in a hall closet shared by Oliva and Wathan. Moreover, a photo sent by Billy was subsequently identified as Delacey by comparing it to a previous mug shot of him.

That brought investigators to Delacey's home, and after a bit of hemming and hawing, he admitted that the ninetysevenecho@gmail.com address was his; he explained that "ninety seven echo" was his military occupation specialty designation while serving in Afghanistan. (He also did a tour in Iraq.) At that point, he admitted getting together with Oliva but insisted that they hadn't had sex. Instead, he said, he'd received a massage to his calves and hamstrings, after which he changed his mind about going further.

The indictment notes inconsistencies in Delacey's later statements — about a rent payment, money supposedly owed to him and a trip to a gas station. In addition, he allegedly downloaded a program on his laptop called "Evidence Eliminator" and declined to take a polygraph.

The investigation stalled after that, but a new development popped up in December: Cops were contacted by Delacey's ex-girlfriend — the mother of his first child. She had gone to school to pick up the boy, only to learn that Delacey had already done so, and that he was supposedly due for another deployment.

The next day, investigators tracked down Delacey at a storage unit, where he told them the same story. But a check with the military showed that Delacey hadn't been on active duty since 2008.

Cut to last month, when Colorado law enforcers tracked down Delacey in Pennsylvania, where he had moved in with his mom and stepfather before moving in with his stepbrother. The stepdad had been told a "masseur" Delacey knew had been killed after the latter had visited him due to problems he was having with his shoulder and arm — no mention of the calf and hamstring.

This accumulation of factoids apparently was enough to convince a grand jury to issue an indictment against Delacey, who was taken into custody in Pennsylvania without incident. Charges against him include counts of first-degree and second-degree murder, as well as possession of sexually exploitative material — specifically photos of two boys apparently under the age of eighteen engaging in oral sex and others showing seemingly underage girls exposing their breasts, which turned up on his computer despite the use of the "Evidence Eliminator" program. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that Delacey is being held without bond, presumably in anticipation of his extradition back to Colorado.


March 27, 2015

Today, the Boulder District Attorney's Office filed formal charges against Dynel Lane, the woman arrested on suspicion of cutting the unborn baby from the womb of Michelle Wilkins. The baby, whose name has been revealed as Aurora, did not survive.

As we reported earlier, the DA's office had previously said Lane would not be charged with murder. Instead, she's been accused of eight felonies — among them unlawful termination of a pregnancy, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and two counts apiece of first-degree assault and second-degree assault.

Earlier, Boulder County coroner Emma Hall released a statement that read in part, "Neither the autopsy or the investigation have provided any evidence that the baby exhibited any signs of life outside of the womb, therefore the circumstance is not being considered a live birth."

This contradicted a statement contained in the arrest affidavit against Lane, which said her husband saw the child take a gasping breath.

Boulder DA Stan Garnett addressed this seeming discrepancy at a news conference that got under way following a 1:30 p.m. court appearance.

Garnett said that following "a more thorough examination of the witness by the Longmont Police Department, Aurora was still. Her mouth was open, but she was not breathing."

This account was consistent with the coroner's report, Garnett stressed.

The DA noted that he met several times with the Wilkins family in the run-up to charges being filed, including this morning, when he explained his planned actions in advance.

He also emphasized that Lane is innocent until proven guilty and revealed that "we do not know the exact cause" of Aurora's death, "as there were no injuries...to explain it." More details will be divulged once the coroner's report is completed, approximately six to eight weeks from now.

One more thing: Garnett made it clear that he has an ethical duty not to file charges he doesn't believe he can prove at trial, no matter his personal opinion of the law in question.


April 13, 2016

In March 2014, we told you about the arrest of Thomas LaPerch for the murder of William Burchett, a longtime local musician he met via a Craigslist ad.

Now, just over two years later, LaPerch has been found guilty of the crime.

According to the First Judicial District DA's office, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before reaching its verdict.

And now, the 24-year-old LaPerch faces the prospect of a life behind bars.

As we reported, Burchett was a member of the Resonatorz, a band that's been rocking metro-area venues for years.

Unfortunately, the end of Burchett's life was not loving in the slightest.

At about 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 15, 2014, according to an arrest affidavit on view below, authorities arrived at Burchett's home, at 711 Iowa Street in Golden.

The original report: a fire.

Heavy smoke was emanating from the structure upon the arrival of emergency personnel, and when crew members searched the building, they found Burchett's body in a bedroom.

His head is said to have been charred and blackened.

However, further investigation revealed "what appear to be stab wounds to the face, neck and arms," the affidavit notes.

The final count of the wounds exceeded twenty.

Additionally, a blood trail led to a room that had been occupied by an absent resident — a Maryland man named Thomas, who'd moved in about a week earlier after responding to a Craigslist ad.

As police discovered that the home had been "ransacked," with "closets emptied out, drawers open, chairs tipped over and travel bags in the living room," interest in this particular Thomas only increased — especially after Burchett's brother revealed that William had asked his new roomie to move out the previous day.

Once the roommate had been ID'd as LaPerch, police reached the suspect's brother, who said Thomas had told him during a phone call that he'd been hiking.

That call was then traced to a pay phone on the 16th Street Mall.

LaPerch was arrested there on March 16.

In its account of the verdict, the First Judicial District DA's office couldn't resist the opportunity to make a political statement about an unrelated topic. "LaPerch moved to Colorado from Maryland specifically because of the legalization of recreational marijuana," its release maintains.

Whatever LaPerch's reasons for coming to the state, he'll be staying here permanently.

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