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In life and death, tattoo artist Kauri Tiyme made her mark

For more photos of Kauri Tiyme, go to westword.com/slideshow.

The maid found her. It was close to checkout time on Saturday, October 18, and a member of the housekeeping staff at the Denver Marriott Tech Center used her pass key to enter the room.

One look, and she knew she would not be cleaning the place.

A woman with long, thick coils of black hair was lying on the blood-soaked bed, her head and neck wrapped in bandages. A scattering of green pills and two cans of Drano were on the floor, bloody towels under the bed, a blizzard of handwritten notes all over. The woman wasn't breathing.

Hotel staff called paramedics, who called the police. Homicide detectives tried to make sense of the scene. The victim had so many injuries that it wasn't apparent what had killed her.

Some of the wounds — superficial, "hesitation" cuts on the upper left thigh and right forearm — could have been self-inflicted. Others, including the deep lacerations on the forehead and the slashed throat, pointed to someone else. There was blood in various spots around the room, suggesting some kind of ongoing attack, yet there were elements of staging and ritual, too. The body had been washed, bandaged, dressed in black vinyl pants and a black sleeveless top, and placed on the bed with care.

The prolific notes were in two distinct hands and seemed to have been written over a period of days. One of the authors was apparently the dead woman, identified by a driver's license as Kauri Tiyme, 39. The other was her ex-husband, Keenu Tiyme.

This all started as a Suicide Pact and I did what I could to ensure Kauri and I succeeded, read one.

Feeling so out of it depressed sad sad and lonely, the only thing making me happy right now is knowing Kauri is no longer dealing with these feelings, read another.

Keenu had evidently not kept his end of the bargain. The notes claimed that he'd tried to kill himself with Drano and rat poison. Hanging didn't seem feasible, and jumping off the hotel balcony didn't appeal to him, either. He "didn't want to cause a scene," he wrote.

An arrest warrant was issued for Keenu Tiyme, noting that he might be driving his ex-wife's SUV. Four days later, federal marshals spotted the vehicle headed northbound on I-25 in New Mexico. A chase ensued. Keenu rolled the SUV. He was taken to Swedish Medical Center in Denver for treatment, then turned over to Denver police.

Keenu agreed to waive his Miranda rights. He told detectives Brian Campbell and Daniel Wiley that Kauri had wanted to die, and he'd agreed to help her find a painless way to do it.

They had considered guns and jumping from high places before checking into the Marriott with the Drano, pills, duct tape and a bundle of disposable scalpels. He had cut her arm and thigh to try to bleed her to death, he explained. He had tried to strangle her. He had then "hit her in the head multiple times with a bottle, cut her throat wide open, and placed his fingers in her neck to stop her from breathing," Wiley reported. "He then washed her body and taped her wounds up before leaving the hotel in her vehicle."

Campbell and Wiley booked Keenu for murder one. They had some idea now of how the woman had died. But the why of it was not so easily obtained.


Between two worlds life hovers like a star," Lord Byron wrote in his epic poem "Don Juan." "How little do we know that which we are! How less what we may be!"

A dozen years ago, a younger Kauri Tiyme came across "Don Juan" in the course of her voracious reading. She thought Byron was on to something. She copied the lines into her notebook, amid a stream of other quotes from Schopenhauer, Hobbes, the Cure, Plato, Kipling, Dan Simmons, Jung, Shelley, Faith No More, Nietzsche, Auden, Joy Division and the Weekly World News.

She knew what it was like, hovering between two worlds, not fitting in either place. She didn't always know where she stood, what to make of the endless ideas firing through her brain — or, as she sometimes joked, her "Swiss cheese gray matter" — but she knew she was becoming. Life, in her view, was an uncontrolled experiment in quantum physics. It contained worlds within worlds, all constantly colliding, changing, evolving.

Kauri was an artist. She put ink under people's skin and transformed them. In many ways, she was her own finest achievement. Not just the tattoos; she had made her own body a canvas for others, but anyone can do that. What she did was much edgier, more daring. She changed her name, her identity, her ideas as she saw fit. She modified her physique from head to toe: Medusa-like dreadlocks, piercings, transdermal implants (including studs in her forehead), permanent eyeliner, breast surgery and more. She studied alchemy and cryogenics and invested thousands in treatments that were supposed to extend her life and alter her DNA.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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