The Gang's All Here

Page 4 of 9

Venus seemed to have a heart with no boundaries. In the spring of 1996, when word arrived that her father was in the hospital dying, Venus went to see him. He had never been there when she could have used a father; perhaps if he had been, things would not have turned out as they did. But Venus forgave him and remained at his side until he was gone.

In June, a few months after her father died, Venus announced that she and Angel were moving into an apartment. One of her new friends had been kicked out of her parents' home and needed a roommate.

"I have to grow up," Venus told her worried grandmother. "I need a place of my own."

Becky's worries were magnified when she learned Venus intended to move into the apartment complex on Sheridan Boulevard. She feared for Venus's safety and begged her to look elsewhere. But Venus wouldn't listen.

Only two weeks after she moved into the apartment, though, Venus seemed to have changed her mind. She complained that she didn't know many people in the complex and that the few she did know only wanted to party all the time. Her family worried about these new friends; the boys who hung around the apartment were reputed to belong to gangs.

Then on Monday, July 15, Venus called Becky. She'd had a frightening dream about two devils who were trying to get at her and had woken up that morning unable to shake her fear. "I want you to come and pick up my son," Venus told her grandmother. "I don't want my baby to get hurt."

So Becky took Angel back home.
Venus stayed behind; she did not mention the dream again.
When Becky came home that Thursday, though, she was pleased to find Venus at the house. She was even more pleased to learn that the twins were going house-hunting so that Venus could move out of the Sheridan apartment.

As she got ready to leave, Venus held her arms open to her grandmother. "I want a hug," she said, pouting. "Don't you love me no more?"

Becky pulled the pretty girl to her and held her for a long moment. She felt a strange reluctance to let her go. "I will always love you," she said at last. Then Venus Montoya walked away from her for the last time.

About 4 a.m. the next morning, as Venus sat on the daybed of her apartment, two cowards in ski masks opened fire through the screen door.

The light was on: They had to have known that they were firing at a woman, not another gang member.

Venus was dead before the men in black could turn and run back into the night.

No one could say what woke them up just before dawn that morning. But suddenly everyone in the family was awake and wandering into Becky's living room.

Everyone was there but Venus and Gina's husband, who was still in prison. So they called Venus, but the line was busy.

Then came a knock at the door. A neighbor stood there, his face troubled. They hadn't been able to get through to Becky's house, he explained, so they'd called him with the bad news.

"Venus has been shot," he said.
The family piled into a car and sped to the apartment complex. They were not allowed to see Venus, though her body lay where she had fallen; there was no need to rush her to the hospital. The Jefferson County coroner would later describe the cause of death as "massive head injuries...from high energy bullets."

Lakewood homicide detective Scott Richardson had also been called to the scene. Nineteen shell casings from a 7.62-caliber rifle had been collected just outside the door, as had a clip for a 9mm, still loaded with bullets. Witnesses reported that they'd seen two Latino men in dark ski masks.

Someone mentioned that Sal Martinez and JC Love Biggs had left the apartment shortly before the murder. But the common belief was that Arthur Sanchez and Orlando Garcia had returned to exact revenge for a confrontation two nights before.

Sanchez and Garcia were soon picked up for questioning in connection with the murder of Venus Montoya, a fact noted by the daily newspapers the next day. But the two young men had alibis and were subsequently eliminated as suspects by the witnesses.

No one bothered to tell the newspapers, though. The police wanted the real killers to think they were off the hook.

Three days after Venus's murder, Detective Matt Murray of the Denver Police Gang Bureau told Richardson about a drive-by shooting he was working that might relate to the Montoya case. Shots had been fired from a gray four-door; in fact, nineteen rounds of 7.62-caliber were expended at the scene.

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Steve Jackson