When Maurice Butler was escorted by sheriff’s deputies into a courtroom in the Lindsey Flanigan Courthouse on Friday, September 14, the 38-year-old stared at the handful of people who sat in the gallery for about ten seconds before the presiding judge forced his attention to the front of the room.
“Mr. Butler,” Judge Morris Hoffman said sternly, waiting as the defendant turned to face him. “You are charged with three counts of first-degree murder.”
Butler’s blank expression did not change.
So began the first court appearance of the man the Denver Police Department and Denver District Attorney say fatally shot three individuals who’d been sleeping outside near the South Broadway and I-25 interchange on the night of August 8. The triple homicide was the subject of a recent Westword cover story (“Hitting Home,” September 10), which explored crimes committed against people experiencing homelessness, as well as the life stories of the three victims: 28-year-old Nicole Boston, 39-year-old Jerome Coronado and 45-year-old Christopher Zamudio.
Through testimonies of family and friends — particularly Boston’s mother, Connie Jones — a tragic story emerged, including how addiction had caused Boston and Coronado to struggle to care for their three children, and at times the parents resorted to sleeping on the streets.
Almost a month after Boston, Coronado, and Zamudio’s bodies were discovered behind a warehouse on the 700 block of South Broadway, the DPD announced that it had identified Butler as its suspect. Five days later, on September 11, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann formally charged Butler with three counts of first-degree murder.
Connie Jones, Boston’s mother, told Westword that she knew nothing about Butler aside from what DPD detectives had told her, which included a claim that Butler was familiar with her late daughter and husband, and had been “collecting a debt" from them.
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“I would have paid him ten times what he wanted,” Jones added, tearfully. “My daughter is priceless.”
The DPD has declined to share evidence to support its assertion that Butler was behind the three shooting deaths. But in court on Friday, there was discussion of a videotaped interview Butler had conducted with police detectives. Prosecutors thought the video was important enough that Hoffman needed to see it before any more hearings took place. Butler’s public defenders agreed that the judge should see the video, and Hoffman said he would do so before any of Butler’s future court dates.
An evidentiary hearing — presumably to discuss the video — was set for October 5.
Butler’s preliminary hearing, which he decided not to waive, has been set for October 12 at 1:30 p.m.