• Rod Kackley

Who Killed Colorado State Trooper Tom Carpenter? A Shocking True Crime Story



You’re in Denver, Colorado. It’s just about 9 a.m. on the morning of December 27, 1973. Charlie Rich’s song, “The Most Beautiful Girl,” and the Carpenters’ classic, “Top of the World,” are playing on thousands of car radios this morning.


Two days past Christmas, the local TV channels are filled with big sales designed to draw people with holiday cash in their wallets.


The Denver Broncos finished their 14th year in professional football a week ago, and the team’s fourth year in the NFL with a 7-5-2 record. Not tremendous, but it was the Bronco’s first-ever winning season.


What would the Bronco’s do next season? It’s all you hear them talking about on the city’s radio stations.


But, Colorado State Trooper Thomas “Tom” Carpenter has spent his morning listening to the police radio in his squad car. Right now, the trooper is stopped on the westbound on-ramp from Broadway to the Boulder Turnpike.


Thirty-one-year-old Tom Carpenter has been wearing a Colorado State Police uniform since he graduated from the CSP academy in 1968. He wore another uniform before that, the uniform of a U.S. marine.


His friends and colleagues describe Tom as a kind, calm, religious man.

Tom’s wife and two kids — both under the age of 10 — are waiting for him at home.


But, at this moment, Tom is with two men, one white, the other black. The trio is standing alongside a vehicle, later determined to be stolen, but Trooper Carpenter doesn’t know it at this time.


Tom gives the two men a ride in his patrol cruiser. He checks-in while driving around I-25 and I-70.


Then, at 10:50 a.m., Trooper Carpenter is found dead inside his patrol car, slumped over in the driver’s seat. He’d been shot. Someone who was sitting in the back seat fired the fatal shot.


Detectives don’t have much to go on. However, witnesses saw two men — one black, the other white — running from where Trooper Carpenter’s car was found, in the 13-thousand block of Albrook Drive.


Denver Police and the FBI immediately began parallel homicide investigations. Neither goes far.


For two years, nothing. Then Trooper Carpenter’s gun was discovered in a ditch in New Mexico. But that didn’t help much. Still no arrests.


“Thomas Carpenter was a devoted husband, father, and trooper,” said Colonel Matthew Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, in a media statement. “Someone must know something about the murder of Trooper Carpenter. We are pleading that anyone with information, even if it seems insignificant, to please call the Denver Police so that the family can receive closure in this case.”


Evidence in the murder of Trooper Thomas “Tom” Carpenter went into a cardboard box, which was stashed with all the other boxes. For decades the lid of the box labeled “Thomas Carpenter” collected dust.


But, someone close to the top of the Denver PD’s food chain decided to review the case in 2012. Six years later, the Carpenter case files were brought up out of the basement and assigned a cold-case detective who reopened the investigation.


“While nearly 50 years have passed since this tragic murder, we are hopeful that the case can be solved through new community tips and by re-examining the evidence from a modern perspective,” said Denver Police Chief Paul M. Pazen, in a media statement.


A reward of up to $10,000 was offered.


Now, it’s been two years since the case was reopened. Forty-seven years have gone by since Tom Carpenter kissed his wife and kids good-bye for the last time. Those children, who lost their father on December 27, 1973, are old enough to have kids and even grandchildren of their own.


And, today, detectives are still unable to answer the question, “Who killed Colorado State Police Trooper Tom Carpenter?”




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