Robert Dewey, wrongly convicted of murder, to receive $1.2 million compensation?

In April 2012, we reported about Robert Dewey being cleared of rape and murder after spending sixteen years in jail. Shortly thereafter, an arrest warrant was written in the name of another man, Douglas Thames, thought to actually be responsible for the crime.

Now, two agencies are reportedly in the final stages of determining a compensation package for Dewey. Amount: just shy of $1.2 million.

Photos, video and details below.

As originally we reported last year, the details of the shocking case can be found in this trove of newspaper clips covering Dewey's arrest and conviction. They're from either the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which broke the news of Dewey's exoneration, or the Denver Post.

Taylor died in her Palisade apartment in June 1994, As noted by the Post, her body was found in a half-filled bathtub, naked from the waist down. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled with what the Sentinel described in 2012 as a nylon dog leash, but which was initially dubbed a dog collar by the paper back in 1996, when Dewey's month-long trial took place.

As this passage of time suggests, Dewey wasn't immediately arrested for the crime. Indeed, the Sentinel reports that the official charge didn't come until April 1995, five days after he was released from jail after serving a sentence for an unrelated weapons charge.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Rich Tuttle noted that Dewey, nicknamed "Rider," had been staying with the family of Cynthia "Sam" Mallow, Taylor's roommate, in a residence near the apartment. He added that the Mallow clan recalled him being visibly nervous on the night of the murders and saying, "They'll be coming for me" as he looked in the direction of Jacie's place. Tuttle argued that Dewey had provided investigators with false information and given bogus information about a wound on his arm that prosecutors believed had been inflicted during the slaying.

The Mallows also provided a work shirt of Dewey's stained with what one lab concluded was a mixture of his and Taylor's blood.

Continue for more about the Robert Dewey case and compensation for wrongful conviction, including photos, video and an original document. Dewey's attorney, Randy Brown, disputed this conclusion, suggesting that DNA evidence had been tainted by mishandling, and hinted at evidence pointing at Cynthia Mallow, described by the Sentinel as a "self-professed lesbian," and an unknown man. For instance, Brown said Cynthia and Jacie had argued over the ownership of a ring in the days before the latter's death -- and that very same ring was found on Taylor's dead body, just below her navel. Brown also maintained that Cynthia had requested that her brother provide her with an alibi for the night of the murder.

Efforts by Brown to undermine the credibility of the DNA evidence, which one expert said could have come from a whopping 45 percent of the population, continued throughout the trial -- and that's not all. The Post noted Brown's claims about a bar of soap with a fingerprint on it that was found in Taylor's vagina during her autopsy. But at some point after the soap was designated evidence, the fingerprint disappeared.

Meanwhile, prosecutors portrayed Dewey as dangerous and drug-addled. For instance, Mesa County Chief District Judge Charles Buss allowed testimony that the suspect had been tweaked on meth the day before Taylor was killed.

After the jury returned with a first-degree murder conviction, Buss let Dewey have it. The Sentinel quoted him as saying, "I think this is a just sentence for you. You engaged in a few moments of pleasure with Miss Taylor and it cost her her life. It will haunt her parents and family for the rest of their lives." In regard to his sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Buss said, "I am happy to impose it on you."

For his part, Dewey never stopped proclaiming his innocence -- at one point, he told the judge, "There's still a killer out there" -- and promptly appealed his conviction. Among his claims: The jury foreman knew two of the witnesses who testified against him but didn't mention it to anyone.

What's changed in the decade-plus that followed? The answer can be found in the arrest warrant for Thames, on view below in its entirety. Here's an excerpt:

CBI agent and forensic scientist Yvonne Woods processed the submitted evidence items for serology and DNA profiles in the fall of 2011. In a December 20, 2011 report, Ms. Woods reported that the male DNA profile on the blanket did not match Robert Dewey. The male DNA profile, however, matched a profile from the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). CODIS is a computer software program that operates local, state, and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons. Such a match is known in law enforcement circles as a CODIS hit. The matched profile belongs to Douglas Thames.
Turns out Thames's DNA was on file because he was already a resident of the Colorado prison system, due to his conviction in the 1989 murder of Fort Collins' Susan Doll.

Continue for more about the Robert Dewey case and compensation for wrongful conviction, including photos, video and an original document. Thames's name had never surfaced in the Jacie Taylor investigation. But as the arrest warrant points out, he had been living in Palisade around the time of Taylor's death. Moreover, the crimes were similar: Doll, 39, was sexually assaulted, strangled and killed in her own home.

Thames has thus far denied that he killed Taylor -- and he'll get an opportunity to do so again when he goes to trial in the case, reportedly next year.

This past January, Dewey inspired a bill establishing a criteria to compensate the wrongfully convicted. That legislation is now law, and Dewey will be among the first to benefit from it. The Daily Sentinel, in an article now behind a pay wall, cites a document jointly filed by the Colorado Attorney General's Office and the Mesa County District Attorney's Office establishing a dollar amount owed to Dewey for his wrongful conviction: a little under $1.2 million, with around $70,000 to be paid out for each year he spent in prison.

We've got a call in to the Colorado Attorney General's Office for more information about this case. If and when we hear back, we'll update this post. In the meantime, here's a CBS4 report about Dewey from last year, followed by the Douglas Thames arrest warrant.

Douglas Thames Arrest Warrant

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Peggy Hettrick: New DNA evidence in murder that led to improper Tim Masters conviction."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts