Murder Solved

Brenda Denton in 2004.
Denver police announced today that they've identified John Lee Carson as a suspect in the murder of Brenda Denton, a 38-year-old woman who was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her apartment at 900 Lafayette on March 8, 2005.

Carson is currently in prison on an unrelated conviction. The police plan to seek first-degree murder charges, but those have yet to be filed with the Denver District Attorney's office.

Almost a year after Brenda Denton's death, I wrote a story about her unsolved murder — which most people at the time attributed to Brent J. Brents -- and interviewed John Carson, a friend of Brenda's, at the Denver County Jail.

John "Tripp" Carson had been arrested in July 2005 for assault with a deadly weapon. In the midst of an argument, he had struck the victim in the head with the claw of a hammer. He'd been arrested on assault charges twice before, including another assault with a deadly weapon.

Still, Brenda's friends — most of whom knew Tripp as well — doubted that he could have had anything to do with her murder. "He adored her," her best friend, Kathleen Donohue, told me. "He wanted to give her a ring. He would have loved having a relationship with her, but she said it's not going to happen. They were good friends."

When I met Carson, he seemed agitated and uncomfortable talking about Brenda, whom he'd met about eight years ago through mutual friends on Capitol Hill. "Through Brenda's death something should come out of it like through their artwork," he said of Kathleen and another mutual friend, Mark Payson. "Brenda was an artist in herself. She was Jezebel. She was so beautiful. Her soul glittered and it was lovely. Yes, Brenda was very much an artist. She was Jezebel. She moves through in waves. I love her."

When I tried to ask questions of Carson, he kept bringing the conversation back to art: "Yeah, I think Westword should do a ceremony of artwork. Denver artists. And like exploit their art because that's what Brenda would want ... She liked punk rock I guess. I don't know. She was very punk. She was cool."

I asked him what he and Brenda used to do together.

"We'd hang out, went to the bar a couple of times. My place. Her place. She was a drunk," he said, and started to laugh. "It got to the point where I wouldn't be around her if she was drunk ... It was a tragedy what happened."

How did you find out?

"I found out through, uhh, Kathleen was on the news. Is this like the year anniversary?"

Do you remember any of your conversations?

"She wants a woman president. She wants for women to rule the world."

Did she talk to you about her daughters?

"I heard that she had 'em. She showed pictures."

Did you do anything Brenda didn't approve of?

"My drugs. Just 'cause I didn't use alcohol doesn't mean I'm Mr. Goody Two Shoes or whatever. Yeah, she got onto me. ... I miss her. I do."

When was the last time you saw her?

He stood up and responded, "Umm, like, I don't know. Can I go back now? I saw her, I saw her the night of an event, and I felt guilty 'cause I was tired and I couldn't go see her and Kathleen. They were partying it up or doing something and I couldn't go over there and I was tired. It sucked. That's what I remember. It's been a long time. I hadn't been around ... If you're going to do a paper on Brenda, bring her friends' artwork into it. I'll send you a poem in the mail and do some art, as a memorial."

Carson did send me a letter the next day. -- Jessica Centers

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amy Haimerl