The Aurora Police Department is actively investigating a murder attempt allegedly committed by Richard Darling a year before his 2015 arrest for an incredibly brutal Halloween night slaying in which he's accused of dismembering and "filleting" the body of his victim before stuffing it into a barrel and setting it ablaze.
The details come from Daniel DeClue, a Missouri resident who says he didn't learn Darling's identity until a considerable time after the latter was busted for killing Rey Pesina in a homeless encampment. This discovery made DeClue feel fortunate to be alive, even though, more than two years later, he continues to suffer aftereffects from having been shot.
"I don't trust people anymore," he concedes while waiting for a doctor's appointment to address lingering pain in his leg, where the bullet struck. "I had an issue of trusting people to begin with. And then this happened."
The Pesina homicide is still awaiting resolution from a judicial standpoint. Last August, a judge reportedly ruled that Darling was unfit to stand trial following his analysis by two psychologists, who agreed that he suffers from delusions but were split on whether he was legally competent for prosecution.
According to the 18th Judicial District DA's office, Darling has been receiving treatment at a state mental hospital in Pueblo ever since in the hope that his condition will improve to the point that he can be tried for the crime. A hearing was scheduled for November to evaluate his progress, but it was pushed back until January by mutual consent. That session was subsequently postponed, too, because hospital reports weren't yet ready; it's currently set to take place on March 10.
As we noted in our original post, the particulars of the Pesina incident may disturb some readers.
Around 10:35 p.m. on October 31, according to the Aurora Police Department, officers were dispatched to a field along the Toll Gate Creek between Interstate 225 and North Potomac Street — an area where assorted homeless people had been camping.
Upon their arrival, officers "located an adult deceased party," the APD announced in its initial release, adding that an adult male was subsequently taken into custody on an unrelated warrant. However, that man, later identified as Darling, was considered a person of interest in the slaying, and on November 3, his arrest for first-degree murder was announced.
Shortly thereafter, Darling's arrest warrant became public, and it was revealed that the body of the "adult deceased party," Pesina, was found inside a burning 55-gallon drum. Authorities were directed to it by a woman named Candace Chamberlain, who said she'd had sexual relationships with both men.
Another woman, Lenora Cole, who called herself Darling's wife, also witnessed what went down and recapped the events in startling detail.
Cole maintained that after Darling found out about Pesina's dalliances with Chamberlain, the two men began fighting. The scrap soon turned lethal, with Darling allegedly shooting Pesina in the head.
What happened next? The arrest report reads in part: "Ms. Cole advised she then observed Richard Alan Darling repeatedly striking the neck of Rey Pesina's torso, which was missing the arms and legs, severing his head from his torso. Ms. Cole described Richard Alan Darling as 'filleting' the body, and striking the head with a hatchet after it was severed from the torso."
Pesina's head wasn't immediately recovered, but plenty of other body parts were. The drum contained a variety of bones, including a scapula and part of a spinal column, and officers on the scene came upon chunks of tissue and "a piece of tattooed skin floating in the water." And they later connected Darling to a .22-caliber rifle, among other items.
The description of the weapon resonates with DeClue. He's not certain it's the same rifle with which he was shot, but he says it's definitely the same caliber.
DeClue remembers the exact date of his shooting — September 22, 2014 — and the circumstances that led up to it.
"It was an attempted robbery," he recalls. "I was a transient then. I was living in the same area where the murder happened, and so was Richard and his supposed wife, Lenora."
Not that DeClue knew Darling's real name back then. He referred to himself by several different monikers, DeClue maintains — among them "Crazy Baloo" (after Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book) and either "Wild Man" or "Wild Man Assassin."
"He always said that if he was angry, he'd kill somebody — cut them up and throw them in the river," DeClue allows. "He'd assaulted people down there before. He assaulted one guy with a baseball bat — he hit him in the knee — and he'd threatened other people down there, too. But I thought he was speaking a bunch of bullshit."
He'd learn differently soon enough.
Over time, DeClue had been saving up cash so that he could move into an Aurora motel called the Kings Inn. "I was counting my money," he says, "and then I heard a pop from behind me — and the shot hit the hood of my jacket."
At that point, he continues, "I turned around, and [Darling] was pointing a gun at me, so I approached him rather quick. I rushed him; if he was going to get another shot off, it would have gone in my face. But he didn't pull the trigger. I grabbed the barrel and pulled it down, and that's when he shot me in the leg."
Though wounded, DeClue says, he managed to wrestle the gun away from Darling and run away, only to be hit from behind by a second man he knew only by the names "Billy" and "Little Brother." At that point, he says, "I dropped the gun and kept on going."
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He didn't make it to the hospital for treatment until the next day, he remembers, and after his release, he moved into the Kings Inn rather than return to the scene of the crime. He used the motel as a "hideout," in his word, for five or six months before he encountered several other people who'd been living at the encampment. Rather than risk them telling Darling about his whereabouts, he bought a bus ticket and headed back to Missouri, his home state.
There, DeClue says, he began doing "my own investigative work" in an effort to identify Darling, and a little over two years later, he managed to do so using some connections he traced on Facebook. After that, he reached out to the Aurora Police Department, which wouldn't comment on the case other than to confirm that DeClue's 2014 shooting is under investigation.
At this point, DeClue is following the Darling matter from afar. He sticks close to his home in Missouri — "I never go anywhere," he says — and marvels at his close call.
"I thought he was making idle threats," DeClue admits. "But he wasn't."