Who is the man prosecutors say Robert Walters, accused of murdering his girlfriend, hired to kill his wife in order to keep her from telling his secrets on the witness stand?
As explained in this week's cover story, "Dead End," his name is Rodrick Williams, and he's a forty-year-old career criminal who a lawyer once called a "predator."
Williams has had a tough life, according to a mitigation report included in his court file. He was born in 1971 to a fifteen-year-old mother who cycled through abusive relationships with men. As a result, she beat her children. "(She would) grab me and would whoop my ass for no reason," Williams told his lawyer, who wrote the report. His mother also abused alcohol and drugs and eventually became addicted to crack. She died in 2004.
Williams also told his lawyer that he was molested by several men in the neighborhood, as well as two female cousins. Perhaps as a result, he began smoking marijuana at age six. He started stealing at age eight, progressing from candy bars to bicycles to car stereos in order to get money to buy marijuana. At nine, he went to the first of several group homes for juvenile delinquents. At seventeen, he went to jail for stealing a car.
His adult criminal record begins in 1990, when he was arrested for stealing an '84 Chevy Camaro. But catching him wasn't easy; court documents indicate he led police on a foot chase during which he "resisted both officers and a K-9 dog." The police attempted to use a helicopter to locate him. They eventually found him hiding under a bed.
He didn't go to jail for that crime, and wound up racking up six more charges in the next year, including a theft charge for stealing a neighbor's python snake. That neighbor, Kevin Guevara, still remembers it clearly. "The lid was up and he was gone," he says of his snake, Eli. "I was devastated. I'd had him since he was a baby."
Eli was recovered, but Guevara says he has since had to give him away because he grew too big -- thirteen feet -- to keep anymore.
In 1991, Williams went to prison. He wasn't out for long before he robbed a woman's home in 1999, stealing her camera and jewelry, and was sentenced to another ten years.
The same thing happened the next time he was released. In 2010, he was arrested for robbing a convenience store, a dry cleaner and an art supply store, among other locations. "Do you value your life?" he asked one clerk, according to court documents. "Do what I say and I won't have to shoot you." The victims all described him the same way: a black male with a lazy eye. The police nicknamed him "The One Eyed Jack," and they eventually tracked him down by analyzing DNA scraped from a backpack he left at a scene.
While he was in jail awaiting trial on those charges, he met Walters, a then-23-year-old kid accused of murdering Brittney Brashers, a 22-year-old Air Force member stationed in Colorado Springs, who he was dating despite being married. Prosecutors say that in November 2009, Walters punched and choked Brashers to death while they were driving in her car and then faked an accident to cover it up.
Williams had a reputation for getting things done, and Walters asked for his help.
"He needed [Williams] to get him some kind of an expert witness, a coroner or some sort of faked autopsy report that would show that the victim was not murdered," a detective testified at one of Walters's pre-trial hearings -- "that, in fact, the injuries to her neck were caused by a seat belt or the airbag."
But prosecutors say Walters soon changed his mind. "He said the only thing that the prosecution had against him was his wife's statement," the detective said.
"So Mr. Walters asked [Williams] if he could have her killed."
Williams agreed. But instead of carrying out the hit, he called the police. Williams told them that Walters had offered him $6,000 to kill his wife. In exchange for that information, Williams asked the district attorney's office to cut him a deal in his pending robbery cases. They agreed, and Williams is now serving just ten years for his crimes.
At his sentencing hearing, the prosecutor in that case, Henry Cooper, said he wasn't convinced that cutting Williams a deal was a good thing. "When I first received these cases... I said 'Wow! Look at his record. This is somebody that we need to put in prison to make sure he doesn't prey upon other people.'
"And then he began the cooperation (in the Walters case) and... when I talked to (the prosecutor in that case) about that, what I told her, I said, 'Look, I really don't want to give this guy anything. I don't care what he's done. Because when he gets out -- and he will get out -- he's going to either burglarize or rob people.'
"She convinced me that her case was important enough and he was important enough to that case that we should do this deal, judge. But based upon his record and based upon -- I guess we can't predict the future for sure, but based upon the fact that every time he's got out of prison, he's reoffended, I feel that he's going to do it again, judge."
Walters's lawyers also don't think Williams is trustworthy. And though they've tried hard to gain access to documents they think will back up their belief, the judge in the Walters case has blocked many of their attempts.
The documents they've tried to get include the district attorney's files on each of Williams's prior criminal cases, including those from as far back as 1990; Williams's prison disciplinary records, recordings of his phone calls and photocopies of his letters; and Williams's probation records, including drug test results. Judge Anne Mansfield has ruled that much of the information is not relevant to the Walters case.
She did, however, grant Walters's lawyers access to Williams's mental health records. Williams was diagnosed bi-polar and manic depressive while in prison and also suffers from anxiety, according to the mitigation report. He takes anti-depressants and it was because his supply ran out that he committed the robberies, said his lawyer, Peter Hedeen, at his sentencing hearing. "When I first met him, I asked him to explain to me what it's like without it, and he said, 'It's completely different. The world is going by so fast, I'm very frustrated, I get angry easily, I can't focus, I can't understand what's going on and I do things I otherwise wouldn't do,'" Hedeen said at the hearing.
But Walters's attorneys have not yet been able to question Williams in person. They've tried to call him to testify at several pre-trial hearings to no avail, and Williams has refused to cooperate with the defense. For her part, Mansfield hasn't ordered him to do so. "I have no authority to intervene in whether or not this witness chooses to talk to the defense or not," she said at a hearing in February.
But that doesn't mean Williams isn't talking at all. At his sentencing hearing, he delivered a lengthy speech to Judge Shelley Gilman, in which he pleaded for a light sentence. "My whole life, I've been a thief," he told her. "I don't want to hurt people.
"My problem when I get out of prison is, I'm lost. I really don't know where to begin to turn when I'm released. It's happened three times now. Each time, I failed in less than six months. As I stated, I'm just learning that the medication is something I should have been on for many years and I have not been.
"I do not want to quit. I believe I have a purpose... I believe that -- this is just my personal belief -- that it was the victim (in the Walters case) that exchanged her spirit for mine, her soul for mine. I believe that she's the one allowing me this opportunity, this last opportunity of my life. I have no other way to determine why. I've seen people go to prison for a lot longer for a lot less. And again, yet, I'm still provided a chance. So somebody somewhere is looking down on me. And they believe in me. I believe in myself.
"Every failure that I've ever had, I search for the treasure in it."
Meanwhile, lawyers on both sides are searching for the truth in it.
More from our Colorado Crimes archives: "Denver cops getting free ride for DUIs, suggests Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal."
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