By that November, DePinto and Kush were inseparable. They decided to take a trip up to Montana to visit Kush's family and friends. While they were in Big Sky Country, an old acquaintance of Kush's called, said she'd heard she was in town and asked Kush if she could find her an eighth-ounce of herb. While medical marijuana is legal in Montana, recreational marijuana is not — but Kush certainly didn't feel it was a crime to help someone in need. She drove over to give the girl some ganja — only to be arrested by undercover cops who'd set up the sting.
Kush went to jail until DePinto was able to bond her out. Finding humor in the situation, Kush joked that the two were legally bonded and that getting married would have been a much easier way of going about that, DePinto remembers. In lieu of jail time, Kush was given five years' probation and allowed to return to Colorado.
She did so without her children. DePinto says she made the difficult decision to leave her kids with her parents, who'd moved to Montana from North Dakota, where she was raised, so that they could have a settled life while she focused on her work and getting through probation. She was becoming a well-known personality on the Colorado cannabis scene through her activism and radio work with John Doe Radio and SexPot.
But at a court hearing in early 2012, Kush was told she would have to serve out her probation in Montana. Since she'd found a new love and life in Colorado, that wasn't going to work for Kush — or her fans. The cannabis community rallied around her, signing a petition asking the court to let Kush come back to Colorado. Garrett wrote the judge that Kush had a job waiting for her at his head shop.
Their efforts were rewarded. Kush was allowed to return to Colorado to finish out her probation.
This past March, she thanked her thousands of Facebook friends for their efforts on her behalf: "One year ago today on my birthday I sat in Montana not knowing if I would be able to return to Colorado or not, you all banned together, from all over the world, and signed the petition that brought me back home where I belong. For this I am forever grateful. I do not consider you my friends, I consider you my FAMILY, my brothers and sisters in this battle we call life. Each of us struggling in our own ways, each of us more than willing to put aside our battle for another time in order to lend a hand to those in much greater need than ourselves. You all mean the world to me, each and everyone of you in your own way."
The story of what happened after they pulled onto I-25 early on September 1 comes out in fragments from DePinto between heartbroken sobs. What stands out most are flashes of darkness and light.
He remembers that something felt weird as he reached the top of the on-ramp from 20th Street to the HOV lane. Aside from some red taillights ahead of him, the night was black. Black. He looked down to check his speed. Looked up. Red taillights. Looked down again. Looked up. Headlights.
"Wait a minute," he recalls thinking. "What the fuck?" The headlights coming his way didn't really register; they didn't make sense. "And then everything got blurry, and I remember yelling, 'Oh, God, Jenny!'"
DePinto swerved his 2006 Jetta to the left, just as Maez jerked her wheel to the right. The two cars collided at high speed. The impact shot the Jetta through the twenty-foot emergency-vehicle access opening in the HOV lane and out onto the oncoming lanes of southbound traffic.
Finally the car stopped sliding. DePinto never lost consciousness, but his memories are fragmented. Stuff from his trunk was suddenly next to the driver's door. His lungs burned from the airbag that had burst into his chest. He'd lost a shoe; he found himself walking with a bare foot on glass. But then smoke from the car snapped him back to reality: He had to get Jenny out of the car. He stepped over the mangled wreck, reached for Jenny, felt her head with his palms. She was moaning, but the light was gone from her still-open eyes.
Rebecca Maez was charged with vehicular assault and homicide while driving under the influence. She's due in court for her pretrial disposition on October 1.
Given her record, the charges aren't a surprise. But no one expects to see a car going the wrong way on an HOV lane. How did Maez get there?