BOULDER, Colo. -
When James Medow heard his 1-year-old daughter crying inside her mother's locked Longmont apartment on May 1, 1993 â and when no one responded to his knock â he kicked the door in and discovered his common-law wife's dead body splayed naked on her bed.
That's the story Medow told authorities, anyway, after he called 911, according to Longmont police. But they didn't really believe him.
Medow, who got custody of his daughter, Sadie, when she was 3, remained the police's primary suspect between 1993 and 2006 in the investigation of 30-year-old Tammera Tatum's murder.
He was a felon living in a Longmont halfway house. He had a bad temper and a wicked streak of jealousy, according to a 40-page affidavit for an arrest warrant drawn up by Longmont police but never served. And he'd hit her before.
But on Monday, Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter ruled that the District Attorney's Office can proceed with its prosecution of another man for the strangulation and sexual assault of Tatum. Rudy Gaytan, who is already serving 72 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old Longmont woman in 1996 â and who knew both Tatum and Medow at the time â will be tried for first-degree murder.
Similar case provides new clues
In the days following Tatum's murder, Longmont police interviewed Gaytan. He told police that on April 30, 1993 â the last day that Tatum was seen alive â he visited her apartment to pick up a tattoo book he had loaned her.
He said he never made it there, though, and instead he went out drinking in Longmont with a friend. He claimed he spent the night at that friend's house.
Police never suspected Gaytan, who worked at the Pizza Pro's adjacent to Tatum's apartment, until he was arrested for a decade-old sexual assault case in 2006. The details of the case struck Longmont Detective Bruce Vaughan as suspiciously similar to Tatum's sexual assault and murder.
Both women's pubic hair had been shaved, both women were likely wiped down with a towel after they were assaulted, and in both cases, there was no forced entry into the home, Vaughan told the court Monday. Those similarities, and the fact that Gaytan knew Tatum, were enough of a concern that police asked the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to re-examine evidence collected at the scene of the crime in 1993 and test it for Gaytan's DNA.
DNA found on old evidence
When Yvonne Woods, a DNA specialist at the CBI, re-tested the evidence, she found Gaytan's DNA on a razor and a towel found at the crime scene, she testified Monday.
Gaytan's genetic material was also found under Tatum's fingernails, and DNA analysis proved that a hair found in the bedroom belonged to him.
"The DNA is critical in this case â it's critical," said Deputy District Attorney Karen Peters. "All (Gaytan) said was that he came by earlier that evening. It does not explain why his DNA is in the bedroom, is on the towel used to wipe her off. ...The fact is that his DNA was found on that razor used to shave Tammy Tatum."
At Monday's preliminary hearing, defense attorney Matthew Connell argued that Medow is still just as suspicious as Gaytan, if not more so. Medow's DNA was also found on the razor and under Tatum's fingernails.
"A dead body is reported by Mr. Medow. The police arrive and discover that he's the common-law husband of the victim, Ms. Tatum," Connell said as he questioned Detective Vaughan on Monday. "And you discover that he's a convicted felon. ... You discover from talking to witnesses that he has a history of domestic violence ... and you have witnesses that told you that Mr. Medow has given Ms. Tatum a black eye recently."
Connell also questioned police's knowledge of Medow's whereabouts for a half-hour block of time before Tatum's body was found. And Connell asked why police believed that Medow had kicked in the door to try to help Tatum instead of kicking it in to assault her.
The jury trial for Gaytan has not yet been scheduled.