BOULDER, Colo. –
The three final witnesses in the Susannah Chase murder case gave raw and emotional testimony Wednesday, as the prosecution rested its efforts and handed the trial of Diego Olmos Alcalde over to the defense.
In an unexpected development, only one of Alcalde’s alleged victims took the stand to testify against him.
Boulder District Judge James Klein had ruled before the trial that prosecutors could introduce testimony from five women who claim that Alcalde raped or assaulted them.
Prosecutor Amy Okubo would only say that the prosecution’s decision to limit testimony to one victim â the only case that resulted in a conviction against Alcalde â was “strategic.”
First to take the stand Wednesday was Alcalde’s half-sister, Ona Bayers, who said she first met him at age 6 when he came to the United States from Chile as a teenager.
Bayers testified that Alcalde drove her to the bar Kermits, at the junction of U.S. 6 and Interstate 70, around Christmas of 1997 and told her with tears in his eyes that he had hit a man with a bat in Boulder.
She said she had been living with Alcalde, who was 10 years her senior, at his Denver apartment because she wasn’t getting along with her parents at the time.
“He proceeded to tell me he had gone to Boulder and gotten into a bar fight with a gentleman and had hit him on the head with a bat and then drug him into the woods to let him die,” she testified.
When she expressed concern about her half-brother’s victim, Bayers told the jury, Alcalde “immediately stopped crying and started laughing and told me he was joking.”
Even though she smelled alcohol on his breath, she wasn’t convinced his story was phony because it was so detailed.
“This didn’t seem to be bragging?” prosecutor Amy Okubo asked.
“No,” Bayers said.
Alcalde looked down at the tabletop in front of him during much of his half-sister’s testimony.
Chase, 23, was brutally attacked near her Spruce Street home in Boulder on Dec. 21, 1997, and dumped in a nearby alley, barely alive. The University of Colorado senior from Connecticut died less than 48 hours later.
The case went cold for more than a decade until investigators found a match between Alcalde’s DNA and seminal fluid recovered from inside Chase.
Bayers told the jury that at some point she contacted Boulder police and asked them if anyone had been beaten over the head with a bat. She didn’t indicate what response she received.
Sonci Francis, Alcalde’s girlfriend at the time Chase was killed, testified that she heard a similar story.
“He said he was in Boulder and that he got in a fight with a man in front of a bar and he took out a baseball bat and started hitting the guy,” she testified. “He said after he hit the guy he threw the bat next to a Dumpster and put the guy in his car and moved him. He said he dumped him on the side of the road.”
Francis, 31, said Alcalde was agitated and nervous when recounting the story.
Before he told her about the Boulder beating â sometime in late December 1997 â Francis testified that she detected a strong odor of bleach in Alcalde’s blue Datsun. She said Alcalde told her he used the bleach to clean up blood from his car.
Francis, her testimony punctuated at times by nervous laughter, said she didn’t know whether to fully believe him or not.
But she told the jury that in 2001, she saw a Crime Stoppers episode on television about the unsolved Chase murder.
“The story that was told on the Crime Stoppers tape was almost the exact same story Diego told me,” Francis testified.
She said she immediately recognized the baseball bat shown in the story as the one that she had seen in Alcalde’s closet at his Denver apartment.
“I was in shock initially,” she said.
She said she called the Crime Stoppers number.
“Did you call Crime Stoppers because you thought the defendant had killed Susannah Chase?” prosecutor Ryan Brackley asked her.
“Yes,” Francis replied.
Her tip was misplaced by the Boulder Police Department and not found again until Alcalde had been arrested in 2008.
DNA on the bat handle was matched to Francis after Alcalde’s arrest, but police cleared her as a suspect after she proved she was visiting family out of town the morning Chase was beaten. Francis told the jury she didn’t recall whether she ever handled the bat.
The prosecution’s final witness was Ann Marie Taylor, a 29-year-old Wyoming resident, who testified that she was followed by someone in a car in the early-morning hours of Aug. 10, 2000, as she drove home from a dance club.
As she pulled into her parking space at her Cheyenne apartment building and prepared to get out of her Mazda Miata, she said, Alcalde approached her and drunkenly asked her for directions to his hotel.
“When I turned my head, that’s when he jumped on me and pushed me down inside the vehicle,” Taylor testified. “He didn’t seem drunk anymore, he didn’t seem lost. He was quick and sharp and focused.”
Breathing heavily and looking visibly upset as she testified, Taylor told the jury Alcalde grabbed her throat and held her down in her car.
“I was trying to tell him to stop, ‘Please don’t,'” she said.
Taylor said she managed to honk the horn, and Alcalde pulled her out of her car and began dragging her across the pavement. She said she struggled with him.
“He was trying to hold me, to contain me, and I was trying to get away,” she testified.
Taylor told the jury Alcalde dragged her behind a fence to a grassy area and held her down, his hands on her throat, until she could barely breathe.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” she said.
Suddenly, he let go of her, she testified.
She said she didn’t realize that her brother and father had emerged from her apartment unit.
“Daddy, he hurt me,” she cried out, according to her testimony.
Alcalde, who was arrested and convicted for the attack on Taylor, served seven years in a Wyoming prison.
The first witness for the defense was Judith Sutter, a neighbor who lived at the southwest corner of 18th and Spruce streets â the site where Chase was attacked.
She testified that in the early morning hours of Dec. 21, 1997, she was awakened by voices outside on 18th Street.
“It definitely sounded like male voices,” Sutter testified.
She said she heard a car start up, two car doors close and a vehicle pull away.