Candidates for public office often have to worry about skeletons in their closet. But in the race for Colorado Attorney General, it's the bodies buried by ex-government informant Scott Kimball that could make a difference.
AG John Suthers has been blasted by challenger Stan Garnett over his role in setting Kimball free eight years ago. Suthers has insisted he had minimal involvement in the case, but new information -- and more bodies -- keep coming to light.
In a program plagued with blunders, the selection of Kimball as a federal informant stands out as a particularly disastrous move. He was facing time in Alaska for check fraud when he convinced the FBI he had the inside story on a plot to kill a federal judge. The tip led to indictments but no convictions.
Kimball parlayed that case into a transfer to Denver and then proceeded to offer to snitch on a cellmate involved in a big ecstasy ring -- one of Suthers' first high-profile investigations as Colorado's U.S. Attorney. In late 2002, Suthers signed off on a document approving a transfer of jurisdiction for Kimball on other charges, the first step in turning him into a prize informant in that case.
Kimball would later boast that he conned the feds. While he was feeding them nonsense and stale tips (and earning $20,000 for his trouble), he was using his freedom to attack and kill young women. Linked to at least four murders, he's now serving seventy years. And the prosecutor whose office put him away, Boulder District Attorney Garnett, is now running for Suthers's job.
When documents related to Kimball's release were unsealed a few months ago, Suthers issued a statement saying that he "had no meetings about the case" and no recollection of any involvement. That's understandable if his role consisted of signing a routine form at the request of Kimball's FBI handlers.
But was that the extent of it? In the months following Kimball's release -- the period of the first three murders that would eventually be linked to him, including that of Jennifer Marcum -- he faced numerous court hearings and possible sentencing dates for other crimes. Attorneys from Suthers's office portrayed him as a cooperating witness who was operating on a "tight leash" and providing valuable information and shouldn't be sent back to prison.
One of the cases Kimball was supposedly "helping" with was the disappearance of Jennifer Marcum. Claiming that he knew something about who might have killed her had sprung him from jail in June 2003. And a recent report on Fox 31 states that at least four assistant US attorneys joined in a law enforcement meeting to discuss the continued use of Kimball as an informant at that time.
Did Suthers know about that meeting? If he "had no meetings" himself, was he consulted about the case? Suthers wouldn't comment to the TV station, but it seems strange that the chain of decisions that left a serial killer free to ply his trade left no impression on him.
It might still be possible to put all this behind us in the AG's race -- if more of Kimball's alleged handiwork didn't keep turning up. The FBI is reportedly looking into Kimball as possibly good for the murder of Catrina Powell, whose naked and mutilated body was found in Westminster in 2004. Other sources have indicated that Kimball is suspected in at least three other murders, possibly more.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.