Getting Away With #Murder in Colorado – maybe not for long

FOHVAMPCREST  I would like everyone to know that there is hope out there. For example FOHVAMP, a non profit out of Denver, CO has made a huge difference in the fight for justice for many families over the years http://unresolvedhomicides.org/

Getting Away With Murder in Colorado

Colorado has a backlog of 1,600 unsolved murders dating back to 1970. The killers of these victims have never been prosecuted for these murders. They walk among us. They live in our neighborhoods. These murderers, who have escaped justice, pose a serious threat to the safety of every Colorado citizen.

Murder is a crime against the state. FOHVAMP maintains that when a case cannot be solved by local law enforcement in a reasonable period of time, the state has an obligation to step in.

For the past five years FOHVAMP has advocated a state-level cold case team to help investigate these unsolved homicides. The state bureaucracy has been unresponsive. In 2007, the legislature created a cold case team at Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with only enough funding for a single analyst to collect data from law enforcement agencies.

FOHVAMP and the CBI make periodic comparisons to insure the accuracy of that data.

Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons Executive Director Rob Wells, President Mark Reichert, Vice President Tina Terry, and board member Diane Riechert recently spoke at The National Press Club in Washington D.C. to express the need for a National Cold Case Database. To their knowledge, FOHVAMP’s Colorado Cold Case Database is the first cold case database in the nation to have been compiled. Since 1970, in Colorado, there have been approximately 1,600 unsolved murders, which is 38% of all of Colorado’s murders during this time period. The number is lower than the national average, which the FBI estimates to be 42%.  And still 1,600 unsolved murders in Colorado is 1,600 too many.

The FOHVAMP members visiting Washington met with Florida Victim’s Advocate Ryan Backmann, of Compassionate Families, Inc. Ryan’s father was murdered in a robbery. His father’s murder is unsolved. Ryan is in the process of putting together a Florida Cold Case Database. With only one-third of the Florida jurisdictions reporting, there are 4,400 unsolved murders. Jacksonville alone has 1,400, nearly the amount for the entire state of Colorado.

FOHVAMP will keep you posted on the progress of The National Cold Case Database through their website and on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/FOHVAMP.

Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, Inc. (FOHVAMP) is a nonprofit organization working in Colorado to find, support and empower families suffering from a loved one’s unresolved murder or long-time suspicious disappearance. They provide peer support, assistance with victim compensation, referrals and coordination with other organizations for services and assistance. They serve as a liaison with law enforcement agencies, provide criminal justice support and advocacy. They work with Universities on special studies, many of which have been published. They seek out victim’s families (co-victims) to assist. Every October, they host an Annual Meeting with guest speakers to bring together victim’s families and law enforcement.

This year‘s Annual Meeting is going to be held at the Brittany Hill Event Center in Thornton, Colorado on October 4th, 2014. Please go to their website to register for this event.  The price to attend is only $45 per person.  I would suggest getting your tickets now before they sell out.  The purpose of this meeting is to bring co-victims into a neutral area where they will be able to brush up on their knowledge of the current techniques being used in the investigation process as well as meeting with their detectives on a neutral platform. Their hope is that the Annual Meeting will be able to educate their co-victims and promote the proper tools and coping mechanisms to assist them in their daily lives, as well as with the progress in their cases. Often, it is only at this meeting that the co-victims have the opportunity to touch base with their Detectives annually. Through the Colorado Cold Case Task Force, FOHVAMP is trying to assist in making it a mandate that all coroners in the state need to attend a base line training and certification on how to successfully deal with a cold case as well as the basics of their role in that position. The hope is that this would need to be completed within one year of the coroner taking office.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION TIME! 
Here’s FOHVAMP’s registration form for the Saturday October 4 annual conference at the Brittany Hill events center, Thornton, CO.
More info to follow, but speakers will include Silvia Pettem, Jerry Brown, Paul Meshanko, Kathy Sasak, and Ron Sloan
 — at Brittany Hill.
FOHVAMPANNUALMTG8.29.2014

If you know anyone that has had an unresolved homicide in their family or have a missing loved one please refer them to FOHVAMP – they will listen, and they do help…please take my word on this, I know because they have helped us with Morgan’s homicide.

If you can help connect them with a family of a victim of an unresolved homicide or long-time missing person that has a Colorado connection, please call Rob Wells at 202-497-4580, Kelly Fernandez-Kroyer at 720-937-8905, or send an email toinfo@fohvamp.org.

These families need to know about FOHVAMP. They can help them.  They need and want your help. Their priority is to encourage law enforcement to effectively address old, unsolved murders.

Thanks so much!

 

The Morgan Ingram Memorial Theatre Scholarship – 2 more students have been selected…congratulations!

On January 6th I received a manila envelope in the mail and opened it. It was from the  Colorado Mountain College Foundation…I started to read the first letter, and I cried, and cried like a little baby. They were tears of happiness and gratitude. It was a letter to inform me about the 2 students that have been selected as the recipients of the Morgan Ingram Memorial Theatre Scholarship for CMC Theatre Degree students for this current academic year.

They were thanking Steve and I for being instrumental in providing financial assistance to these students as they pursue their academic and career goals. All I could think of was how happy and grateful I was that the Memorial Theatre Scholarship that we set up in Morgan’s name is still helping students to achieve their goals.  Morgan would be so very happy. Her heart was bigger than life, she was an amazing person who touched everyone she came in contact with. She truly enjoyed her involvement at Colorado Mountain College and constantly emphasized her appreciation of education by encouraging others to continue their education, and pursue their own passions.So I want to congratulate Bella Barnum and Shelby Lathrop for being the selected recipients of the scholarship for the current academic year. I know Morgan is so very proud of you both – you will both go far I know.Bella thank you for letting me know that the beauty of Morgan’s smile greets you every morning (Morgan’s picture is in the case) in the New Theatre space and inspires you to do your best. That is so beautiful, and it fills my heart to hear.

And Shelby you have many dreams, but I can tell that you will work hard to achieve them…working hard you will realize those dreams, and I am so happy for you!

I hope that the Morgan Ingram Memorial Theatre Scholarship for CMC Theatre Degree Students keeps receiving support from around the world in Morgan’s name and many others can be assisted as they pursue their dreams.

If you are interesting in donating to this scholarship (and thank you so much to those who have already donated to the scholarship fund) please contact Carol J. Efting she is the Scholarship and Records Coordinator, Colorado Mountain College Foundation, P.O. Box 1763, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602, Phone 970-947-8378, Fax 970-047-8385 www.cmcfoundation.org and please let her know you would like your tax-deductible contribution to be directed towards the Morgan Ingram Memorial Theatre Scholarship for CMC Theatre Degree students. Thank you all so much – I know Morgan blesses you for it.

Colorado Mountain College Foundation | Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
www.cmcfoundation.org
Creating Better Futures

Protection Orders – should you get one or not? The million dollar question.

streetlamp

Ask most any law enforcement officer if they agree with protection orders, and you will most likely get an answer something like, you are taking a big chance with protection orders.  And are they are right, and if so why?  Because too many times a TRO, aka Temporary Restraining Order, aka Protection Order is issued and the person meant to be protected is vandalized, beaten or killed.  Doesn’t sound like a very good thing does it?

But how could this be?  If you are being stalked or a victim of a sexual crime, or domestic abuse you need protection, you deserve protection, your life depends on it.  And once again, why is that?  Because your tormentor, your perpetrator, the pervert who has you in their cross hairs needs to be stopped NOW, and the ugly truth is that at present this piece of paper states simply, “you (the perpetrator) need to stop this, now, or else!  This person is so close to unhinged that a little piece of paper like this could send him or her over the edge, completely unhinged, and they will retaliate, against you, for doing nothing except trying to protect yourself, your children, and your pets.  And your death could be on the table as one of the potential retaliations to this piece of paper.

Then of course there are the less lethal varieties of retaliation, your tires could be sliced, all four, your home may be entered and destroyed, your pets could be threatened, and then killed, on and sickening on, and sickening on.  Doesn’t sound very much like protection does it?  And if your perp is that close to being unhinged to begin with shouldn’t that be a clue as to how dangerousness he is to begin with?

Ever notice that if law enforcement is responding to a call, and there is a warning that the suspect is “to be considered armed, and dangerous” oh boy, there is now an entirely new protocol in place.  Double the responders, weapons all drawn, shoot to kill.  Why is a Protection Order in Place less important?  Why is a suspected felony stalking that includes tapping on windows again any less of a danger?  Why was a call for Morgan less important than “to be considered armed, and dangerous”.  Why is she dead while her tormentor lives on?  To Steve and I this does not seem very fair, or equitable.

Morgan identified her stalker to others, including law enforcement over 35 times.  Five months after her death the Garfield Sheriff’s Department not only had no suspect, they all of a sudden NEVER had a suspect.  Who was it that Morgan was reporting?  K.V.G.,  grand theft auto, trespassing, breaking and entering, theft by receiving (as part of a plea bargain), possession with intent to distribute,  identified by J.H., B.H’s father, as the stalker.  The stalker that I was told with certainty, to the exclusion of all others, by the detective assigned to catch him, only two days before Morgan was murdered.  The same detective that told me that things might escalate.  The young man in question who so quickly pointed the finger at his “ex” girlfriend.  Then pointed the finger at his next door neighbor, sorry Wiley, we know better, but he did try to blame you. The young man in question, that pillar of society, according to his manager at work, caught with a trunk load of drugs, and a scale, who regularly pawned gold for cash to the point they instantly recognized him as a regular customer.  Where is he getting all this gold to pawn anyway? isn’t that worthy of one question?  And in case you forgot, all of Morgan’s valuable jewelry was missing the night she was killed.  Pumped up with at least 2,500 mg of a deadly drug.  While pathologists across the country are lost for an explanation as to how her levels could be just under 8,000 ng/ml, which is ten times the level that would have caused little Morgan’s lethal dose.  You read right, they were ten times what would have caused her death!

Dr. Kurtzman, the Forensic Pathologist that did Morgan’s autopsy had no problem with an explanation, “insignificant”, that’s what he said it was, insignificant even when questioned by other doctors!  Until almost nine months later, when he decides it suddenly becomes “significant”, so much so that it proves her suicide, is this guy really serious?  Did he talk with Morgan’s doctors, any of them? NO!  Did he talk with her teachers, any of them?  NO!  Did he talk with her friends, any of them?  NO!  Did he talk with her parents, yes he did, and when we told him that she wasn’t taking that he told us the parents are always the last to know.  I said that is not true, and he hung up.

I could go on for hours, but I’m sure you get the idea. Did they have a suspect? Yes!  A #1, oh he did it, we are a 100% sure suspect.  They just changed their mind, the Sheriff’s Department, after Morgan was found dead.  Morgan does not get to change her mind, she suffers the consequences of incompetence, forever.  Dead at age twenty, with a book full of plans for her future, only two years left before she can get her Bachelor’s degree and take the LSAT’s to go to law school, and the Sheriff’s department is content to read through her iphone, and decide no evidence on her death existed there.

Then where was it?  The evidence? Or was Garfield County just more concerned with keeping their perfect suicide record they have going?

So what about those protection orders?  I feel like it comes down to who is enforcing them, how, and how seriously.  When I asked in the beginning about a protection order for Morgan I got double talk.  It went like this – If you hold off on the protection order, we can do all these things that we won’t be able to do after you get a protection order.  Sounded good so we held off with a protection order and then they promptly did none of the things they were going to do if we held off with the protection order.  What exactly was the reasoning for that?

Read about protection orders, they travel with you.  It is up to you, but a copy can be filed with every law enforcement agency at places you travel to, and they are required to be upheld.  Are you thinking that only if you travel they are worth it?  Remember my story about different agencies right here in the valley that do not communicate?

If Morgan had a protection order I could have filed it with the Garfield Sheriff’s Department, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department, the Aspen Police Department, the Snowmass Police Department, the Basalt Police Department, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department, the Carbondale Police Department, the Colorado State Troopers, and the Glenwood Springs Police Department.  Then whenever Morgan saw the man, anywhere in this valley, that she had identified over 35 times to others, she would have an agency to call and they would be required to arrest him.  Do you know how I know this?  A lawyer explained it for me last week.  Not Morgan’s detective who told me to hold off so he could implement a few things first, then did nothing.  A lawyer told me.  And this was just one of the many reasons he told us about protection orders, some were good, and some were not so good.

MISTAKE, trusting the local law when it comes to protection orders, see a lawyer or see a judge, and ask their advice, then ask the judge for free legal counsel, call victims rights in your state, and ask them for a referral.  Don’t let your child get killed.  They mean far too much to you, and to the world.  And you deserve answers, early and often, not apologies, and avoidance, long after it is too late.

Morgan prays for all of the victims in the world…Steve and I join her.  You deserve the best – the absolute best.

December 7, 2011 – Day 6 of Morgan’s investigation – putting together the pieces

Our most precious gifts are our children.  Protecting them comes first.

Our most precious gifts are our children. Protecting them comes first.

The day after Morgan’s memorial I will always remember as the first real day of really understanding what had happened, both for Steve and I.  Not as if I had fully grasped the situation, no far, far from that.  But there was a realization forming.  That and a dream of how we could take this incredible negative and turn it into a positive, easy to think, but not so easy to do in real life, but that is where this next part of the journey began.  As our family and friends from out of state slowly filtered out, the house grew a little quieter with every departure.  My day runner was blank for a number of days.

We were in contact with the Detectives, mindful they would be needing more things, many more things – extended interviews, discussions, filling in all the blanks that only a few people would really know.  But they knew we had many guests, and assured us everything could wait.

The term taking a week off was bantered about by many.  More weeks actually, only then the question became how many.  We had lost our daughter and the pain was indescribable, the need to find answers for Morgan was also indescribable.  Stopping to pause was not an option, mostly because of how difficult it was, slowing down brought thinking, thinking brought reality, and reality was just a bit too much to handle.

Days ran together for Steve and I in December, not quite a hopeless jumble of time, but certainly difficult to successfully pull one day from another.  During this time we went into Morgan’s room and looked, questioned, and made plans to put it all in order.  Both for the present and for the future. Needs we knew existed were not totally certain of.  Present seemed to be a careful separation and preservation of what was there, and future was at least a need that could be put off for now.

As we began to actually touch and move what was there in Morgan’s room it immediately became obvious that not much had been moved or taken by the investigators.  In fact, quite amazingly, perhaps nothing at all beyond the electronics devices already returned and a diary.  On TV shows there were bags labeled evidence, items of interest, Items sent for DNA testing.  The death of our daughter, under suspicious circumstances such as this, you would certainly think involved all that, perhaps even more.

As we carefully picked out and separated Morgan’s possessions a few “clues” leapt out at us immediately.  Some I will not share on her blog for the moment, only the person(s) in her room that night would be aware of these facts.  I started a list for the detectives, because certainly they would be very keen to know anything that we were able to find out.

Morgan was a simple girl, never coveting anything more than simple costume jewelry, even preferring things she had made herself.  But nonetheless she did have jewelry from special occasions, her birth, her christening, First Holy Communion, then the birthdays such as first teen -13th, then 16th, and young adult -18th.  The special moments of her life when those who loved her so would find an appropriate gold necklace or other piece to commemorate the occasion. there were also the gifts of my jewelry that meant far more for me to see Morgan wear than to wear myself.  Some special mementos from my grandmother, even gifts from her sister, and brother, and her brother’s girlfriend’s who over the years had been sharing something of meaning to them with Morgan.  A few jewelry boxes full by age 20.

The realization that things were missing began more as denial than alarm.  Something was wrong, and I finally began by asking Steve if he had come across any of Morgan’s jewelry?  Like what? He wondered.  I had quickly rattled off a half dozen I could most vividly remember, and he looked in drawers and boxes, and I looked again through places I hoped they would be.  There were soon tears, because not one, but all I could remember were no longer to be found.  As if they had all left with Morgan.  In a state of shock you are not sure what to do at exactly that moment.  It became another of the questions that would certainly be answered in the future.

I did tell the detectives, I’m not sure if it was Megan or Rob that I told first.  In fact all that I am sure of is that it was long before the toxicology results came back.  That was a moment we were both waiting for with great anticipation since so far we had only been told that her death was a mystery, and her autopsy had resulted in no good clues, we wanted to know, so it would be behind us, and at the same time we could move forward with the answers of what had happened.  I began a mental list of things I knew were missing, then jotted some down, but it was too painful to recount.  Later, when Rob asked me to find pictures of each one of them, Steve raised his hand and said, “some other day, that will have too wait for some other day!”  It was too painful right now and we returned to the task at hand.

Steve had bundles of boxes that were meant to pack the house with prior to Morgan’s death, and for now the house was on hold, so they were used for Morgan’s room.  Every item carefully inspected and packed away.  Her panic button was next to raise up as a mystery of her death, I won’t say where I found it, but it was not where it had been, securely affixed to her nightstand.  When I found it it was now torn loose and hidden, a press still sounded the alarm in our room, but from where it was found it would never have been reached by Morgan in a moment of panic on her last night.

Looking back I’m not sure why we did not raise the flag and start screaming something was seriously amiss here, but I was still trusting, and we were still in what has been explained to me as a grief bubble at the time.  I had ultimate faith in our Sheriffs to do their job and come come up with the answers.  We now had more to give them, more for them to work with.  Going from a daughter full of life, tired and stressed, because of 4 months of a relentless stalker, to a daughter cremated and memorialized was beyond comprehension.  Correctly handling the little details now being encountered was beyond all possibility.

After walking around the room for some time Steve had an observation of his own to share.  Her P. J.’s were not there.  He had said goodnight to her and remembered what she was wearing at that time, now as he whirled around he did not see them anywhere.  Then he suddenly calmed “The Coroner took them.” he said, certain that they were now part of the investigation going on.  He remarked that it was silly for him to have not realized that, and apologized for upsetting me even more with his sudden outburst.

He thought we had done enough for one day.  Morgan’s room, with everything Morgan filled it with, was too much to describe or to handle, we had two almost filled boxes sitting on the floor, and that is how it would stay until tomorrow or the day after – this was enough for today.  This project had its own timetable, just to stand in there and look around I saw her whole room trying to talk to me, it was like it all held a message.  That slow and careful was really the correct way to do this –  I did not question this, so I reluctantly stepped back from the task we had started, and left her room, saying goodbye, letting the tears flow, and closing her door.

I immediately asked if we had enough boxes, and Steve assured me we probably had enough for the house, and so we definitely had enough for Morgan’s room.  He thought it was a very good that we were packing it up first.  Thinking that maybe if we were to make some momentous discovery, it was far better to do this sooner than later, and for now we left what we had accomplished with more to sort through on another day.

I thought of her friends, and began to call them and invite them over in case there was a book, or a picture, or something else of Morgan’s they would like to have to remember their friend by.  Everyone I was able to reach was quite happy with the thought, and we all made plans to meet soon.

Today is January 27, 2013 – And at the beginning there were so many mistakes it is hard to pick that which was the most momentous.  I have many times in the realm of fate heard the idea that if you change just one thing then everything else in the future is altered as well.  While I’m not sure if I do believe that completely, there is unarguably a change in the course of Morgan’s stalking that would have, or could have altered – the end.

So as I sit here over a year later, and force myself to pick the first change that could have meant a difference in Morgan’s stalking outcome, I end up with the reaction to the first little noise.  Morgan never thought in terms of – criminal invasion of privacy, or even worse, an Invasion of Privacy for Sexual Gratification, a Peeping Tom.  She had never been exposed to such horrors and choose to think it was leaves blown by the wind rubbing on her window.  Not a stalker, she had never even seen anyone to accompany the noise.

When she told Steve and I about it for the first time she said it was strange, and it worried her a little, but she was sure if her dad were to just cut back the branches by her windows, the noise would stop.  Oh, if only this were so simple as pruning a few branches, but as you all know, we were not that fortunate.

And my message now is not to live in fear, but to be aware.  A little noise from branches, how easy that was to believe, and at the same time how easy it would have been to go right out that night to look and see instead of waiting until the next morning as we did.  Even better educate your children that any noise on their windows or walls does not mean something is wrong, it just needs to be investigated, by adults, whenever you hear them.  It might be a big branch that can break the glass, or a gutter torn loose and waving up against the house.  A quick look by mom or dad, and no worries.  If it turns out to be a potential Invasion of Privacy for Sexual Gratification you want to know now!  Not tomorrow!