The afternoon before Linda Damm was stabbed to death in her Lafayette home, her daughter, Tess, and the girl's boyfriend, Bryan Grove, discussed in the kitchen the best way to kill the 52-year-old woman, according to testimony Wednesday in Boulder County District Court.
Tess Damm, 15, wanted to add enough medications to her alcoholic mother's drink that she would die of an overdose. They could bury the body, she said.
Grove, 17, favored using a knife to do the deed and then possibly burning the corpse.
Police officers revealed elaborate details of the February slaying during a daylong preliminary hearing for the teen couple. Judge Lael Montgomery ultimately agreed that prosecutors had enough evidence to proceed to trial with first-degree murder charges against them both, despite previously charging Tess Damm only with conspiracy to commit the crime.
Police found Linda Damm's decaying body in the back of a Subaru in the garage of her home at 705 W. Brome Place on Feb. 28 after receiving a tip from Grove's friend Hassan Bateman.
Grove told police he choked and stabbed Damm to death weeks earlier after getting into an argument about her alcoholic and abusive behavior toward Tess. Tess drove around the neighborhood with their friend, Jared Smith, while Grove did the crime, police said.
However, prosecutors said Wednesday that Tess Damm was more complicit in the crime than previously believed.
Smith, 16, pleaded guilty last month to being an accessory to the crime and was sentenced to two years in juvenile prison.
Smith told police that the day before the slaying, Tess and her mother argued over her shoddy school attendance. Linda Damm then gave Tess, Grove and Smith $40 to go bowling.
When they returned, Smith said, he was tinkering on the Damms' computer when he overheard Tess Damm andGrove talking about different ways to kill her mom. Grove suggested stabbing, and he picked up the kitchen knife that he ultimately used, Smith said. Tess Damm told him that would be too messy and suggested they drug her alcoholic drink. Grove went so far as to retrieve Linda Damm's bottle of alcohol from her room, and they rummaged through the medicine cabinet.
Linda Damm came downstairs for a smoke as the couple plotted, Smith told police, and when she returned upstairs, Grove told her he'd be bringing her drink up. But then he changed his mind.
"Bryan said, 'No. We're going to IHOP," Lafayette police Detective Scott Robinson testified as Smith's recollection of the event.
During their few hours at the Westminster pancake restaurant that night, Smith said, Linda Damm called her daughter's cell phone 10 times, demanding that the teen return home or she would call the police. The couple ignored the calls and continued to talk about how to kill Damm, and even how to dispose of her body, Smith told police.
Linda Damm called one last time to say that Grove could no longer stay at her home, and a duffel bag with his stuff would be sitting out in front of the house for him, Smith said.
In the car parked outside the house after the IHOP meal, Tess Damm asked Grove if they could get away with murder, and his reply was that he was 100 percent sure they would, Smith said. And with that, Grove grabbed his iPod, gave Tess Damm a kiss and headed into the house.
After 20 minutes, Smith said, Damm was nervous and called Grove. She asked why it was taking so long, and she later told Smith that Grove sounded out of breath.
Grove called a short time later and asked Smith to help him move Damm's body from the woman's bedroom to the back of her car.
The three teens then watched the movie "School of Rock" and went to sleep, Smith said.
Damm's defense attorney Beth Kelley blasted Smith's credibility.
"There's clearly an interest for him to make his codefendants take the fall," she told the court.
Defense attorneys dissected police missteps, including that they have not yet processed the evidence from the crime scene.
"They have no physical evidence that points to any individual in this case," Public Defender Seth Temin told the court.
He also asked the detective if it would be considered important information if it turns out Smith's DNA is on the murder weapon, to which Robinson replied it would.
Prosecutor Karen Peters defended her decision to add the first-degree murder charge against Tess Damm just last week.
"She's the one that put the hammer down and told Bryan to kill her mother," Peters told the court. "He did it because Tess Damm gave him the OK to do it."
The teen couple had begun to make plans for after the slaying, Detective Robinson testified. They found a home next to a lake and park in an Erie neighborhood they wanted to buy. Grove, in one day, made four visits to the model home, according to a saleswoman, and Damm had video footage of it on her cell phone that she showed to friends.
The saleswoman at the Cottonwood Vista neighborhood just east of N. 119th Street wondered where such a young couple would get money for a down payment on a $400,000 to $550,000 home, Robinson testified, but he said they had a plan to get the money by selling Linda Damm's home after the homicide.
Boulder County Deputy Coroner John Meyer, who performed Damm's autopsy, also testified at Wednesday's hearing. He said her blood-alcohol level was 0.217. At 0.05, it is illegal to drive a car in Colorado. Meyer said that only 0.04 to 0.06 could be attributed to the decaying process.
Damm and Grove will be in court next to enter pleas Aug. 3. A trial date has not yet been set.
Jared Guy, 18, has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to the slaying. Police say he helped try to dump Linda Damm's body in an Erie landfill and then bury it in Boulder's Green Mountain Cemetery. His trial is set for Sept. 10, although he is negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors.