Michael Close was behind the wheel of his black Mercedes SUV careening through the streets of Denver. The man had substance abuse problems — he drank far too much, too often — and an undiagnosed personality disorder.
But he’d never had any trouble with the police. There was not one single arrest on his record. Hell, Michael didn’t even have a history with the Denver P.D.
That changed today, just before noon.
It was 11:40 A.M.to be exact. Michael heard a man by the name of Darian Simon outside his ground-floor apartment telling a dog to dump its load.
“Just go poop,” the man said. Then, the woman who was with the dog walker, Isabella Thallas, said it too, “Just go poop, baby.” Again. And again.
For some reason, Michael, who had been on edge all morning, snapped.
He’d been waiting for a friend to take him to a therapist. Michael’s skin had crawled as he waited for his friend, thinking about sitting across from a stranger, talking about the way he’d been abused as a child, what his parents had done to him.
He hadn’t eaten a thing today and not much last night.
Michael opened his window and hollered, “Are you going to train that f—-king dog or just yell at it?”
Actually, Michael wasn’t just yelling; he was holding a rifle. The people outside didn’t look at him. A man and a woman, both in their twenties, Michael figured. If they had glanced his way. They might have seen the business end of the rifle pointed at them.
They might have run.
She might have lived.
But they were focused on the dog. The dog that still hadn’t pooped.
Michael couldn’t take it. He squeezed the trigger.
Not once. Not twice. But twenty-four times. Michael fired twenty-four rounds at the couple. Both of them went down.
Michael froze. He felt like he stared at the scene outside his window for an hour. But it was only moments. He carried the rifle and ran outside. To the garage. To his Mercedes. All he could think about was getting away as fast and as far as possible.
Driving through Denver, Michael called his girlfriend, Chelsea Thompson. He had to explain what had happened. Michael needed to apologize. And, he had to say goodbye to Chelsea.
“What are you talking about?” Chelsea said. She was even more frantic than Michael because, on top of the fear coursing through her emotional highway, Chelsea was trying to figure out what the hell Michael was talking about.
“You shot two people. You are kidding, right? No. You’re not. Oh, My God! Michael.”
Chelsea had to see for herself. Maybe Michael was hallucinating. He couldn’t have actually shot and killed two people. She knew he had problems. God, she knew that only too well. And yes, Chelsea had seen the rifle. She knew Michael kept the damn thing loaded. Hell, he’d had an arsenal of weapons in that damn apartment. And she knew he’d been drinking and getting back into cocaine, too.
But, still, she could not, Chelsea would not, believe it until she saw this for herself.
So, she drove as fast as possible to Michael’s apartment building. Chelsea had to pull over for an ambulance speeding the other way, its lights flashing, and siren wailing. Oh, My God.
Arriving in minutes, stomping on the brake, slamming the transmission into Park, suddenly Chelsea couldn’t breathe. Time froze.
She threw up in her mouth and swallowed it back down.
Cops were everywhere, both uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives. Crime scene tape was up. A lonely yellow tarp was stretched out over the ground. Police were looking under it.
Oh, My God.
“Two people got shot,” a man said as he glanced at Chelsea, the newest on the scene.
“I heard the woman who got hit is dead. The guy she was with will live,” said another on the public’s side of the yellow tape.
Chelsea stood by her car, crying. She couldn’t move. That attracted a police officer’s attention, a woman, who approached Chelsea slowly and asked quietly if anything was wrong.
That’s all it took. Once Chelsea started talking, she didn’t stop.
The officer, listening, glanced at a detective, and motioned him to join her.
Chelsea pointed to the window of Michael’s apartment. Two detectives now were talking to her. Both looked at the apartment window and, knowing that’s where the gunfire originated, took Chelsea to a squad car.
Inside, sitting in the front seat, listening to the squawking police radio, unable to take her eyes off the colossal shotgun locked to the dashboard, Chelsea gave the detective Michael’s cellphone number. With that, they were able to find him.
Detective Joseph Trujillo would testify days later that Michael was crying when Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him in Pine Junction. The deputies found a rifle and a handgun on Michael’s car floor when they stopped him on Highway 285.
Michael offered no resistance as he was taken into custody for, among other charges, first-degree murder for the death of the woman who was gunned down two days after her 21st birthday.
Said Detective Trujillo, “He just kept apologizing, over and over, again.”
A month later, Isabella’s mother led a group of friends and neighbors in a renovation of the park near where her daughter died. They also painted a mural of Isabella’s face on a nearby wall.
Isabella’s mom, Anna, said, looking at the painting of her daughter by a local artist who goes by the name, Detour, “I know that her energy and her soul and everything about her and the people that love her the most are all right here.”
March 8, 2021, Michael pled “not guilty by reason of insanity.”
September 22, 2022: Michael is convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder. The Associated Press reported Michael cried as the verdict was red, so did Isabella’s mother.
“We’ve been waiting 2½ years for this day and what happened in there just went by… almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered,” she said through tears. “And our lives were changed forever.”
It’s November 2, 1945. 3 p.m. Thomas McMonigle is racing through Campbell, California, with a fourteen-year-old girl beside him.
She’s screaming bloody murder, clawing at the passenger-side window, desperately trying to escape.
Thomas would love to give her a good punch to the back of her head to get her to shut up, but he keeps both hands on the wheel and stares straight ahead.
The last thing he needs right now is to run into a cop.
This is nearly as bad.
A woman at her mailbox is staring into Thomas’s car, looking like she’s seeing worse than a ghost. The lady’s staring right at the girl who’s still screaming at the top of her lungs.
Thomas wonders, Did she see me?