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Careful Planning of 3 Roommates' Slayings Described

Deaths: Killer reportedly primed himself for the crime with methamphetamines and a violent rap song.

September 27, 1996|J.R. MOEHRINGER and MICHAEL G. WAGNER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

BAYFIELD, Colo. — A vengeful Colorado teenager carefully planned the execution-style slayings of three former Orange County men, right down to the violent rap song that accompanied his macabre crime, the man's friends and authorities said Thursday.

Joseph Edward Gallegos, 18, a recent juvenile parolee who won his release with the help of one of his victims, primed himself for violence by heavily using methamphetamines and repeatedly playing a tape cassette inscribed with the words "2 da head," according to several sources.

Early Tuesday, in the house he shared with the three slain men, Gallegos, who was later killed by a police sniper after taking four women hostage, turned the song's violent lyrics into reality. Firing his 9-millimeter Baretta at close range twice at each man, he hit two in the head, the other in the head and chest.

"It was a gruesome crime scene," said Bayfield town Marshal Jim Harrington.

Despondent over being jilted by his girlfriend, Gallegos contemplated killing her, his friends said. The Orange County men's slayings may have been a warmup, one friend said.

Jeb Bryant, pastor of the Calvary Chapel of the Four Corners, and Zac Stankovits befriended Gallegos several months before the murders. The two former Orange County residents thought they were helping Gallegos turn his life around, with Bryant even vouching for Gallegos with the Colorado youth authorities who granted his parole.

But for three days before the murders, Bryant said Thursday, Gallegos had reverted to his old self, talking crazy and snorting crystal meth, a form of amphetamine that often leads to severe bouts of paranoia.

"Joe was probably cranked up for days and the music was wiring him and giving him the courage to do the unthinkable," Bryant said.

Although Bryant and others say Gallegos appeared to have accepted his breakup with Heidi Hocker, an 18-year-old college freshman from nearby Ignacio, inwardly he apparently seethed. The two met last spring at a Calvary Church youth group and then began dating while they both worked at a pizza parlor this summer.

Gallegos reportedly made several vain attempts to reconcile with Hocker. Frequently, she told friends and family that Gallegos was violent and wouldn't leave her alone.

Monday night, after yet another unsuccessful attempt to win Hocker back, Gallegos began screaming at her over the telephone. Then early Tuesday morning, many surmise, Gallegos snapped. He crept around the blue, two-bedroom hilltop house that overlooks Bayfield High School, pulled the phones from the wall, locked the doors and executed his roommates.

Gallegos then took the keys to a Toyota 4-Runner that belonged to one of his victims and drove across the state to Greeley. Just after 9 a.m. he strode into Hocker's dorm room at the University of Northern Colorado and took Hocker and her three roommates hostage.

At the request of Greeley police, who had heard of the slayings from Gallegos, Bryant went to the house and found the three young men dead.

In bed was Joshua Turville, curled up on his mattress, the covers pulled over his body. Nearby was John Anthony Lara III, crumpled on the floor in front of Turville's computer. Steven D. Bates was slumped against the wall across the room from Turville's bed.

The three victims, all 20, had known each other since early childhood, and attended El Modena High School in Orange.

Bryant and Stankovits said authorities later discovered in Gallegos' room "literature" describing police actions during hostage situations. "It was about how a police SWAT team handles it," Stankovits said.

Once inside Hocker's dorm room, the man known as "Crazy Joe" to authorities in rural southwestern Colorado, played a tape of the song "The Crying Game."

Hocker told friends she tried to reason with Gallegos, reminding him that he had just been paroled and was out of trouble.

"He said, 'Not really, because before I came up here I killed my three roommates,' " Hocker quoted Gallegos as saying.

"I said, 'What did you do that for?' "

"He said, 'Because I'm going crazy.' "

After a four-hour standoff in which Gallegos traded one hostage for a six-pack of soft drinks, he walked to an open window, closed his eyes and showed his face. A police sniper shot him in the base of the neck. He fell back, grabbed the Baretta and fired at the door, Hocker and her roommates said.

It was during negotiations with police that Gallegos admitted killing his roommates. He also described his relationship with Bryant, who had been something of a mentor-father to Gallegos since May.

Gallegos, a rebellious youth with a delinquency record that began at age 13, was released five months ago to the custody of Bryant, who operates a halfway house for juveniles.

Bryant helped Gallegos find work, talked to him about his problems and even introduced him to his new roommates, who had come to Colorado to help build a church.

Gallegos had moved in with the former Orange County men only two weeks ago, taking a converted bedroom in the garage, where his clothes were found neatly stacked and folded.

Like Bryant, the three victims were trying to throw Gallegos a lifeline. The men saw themselves as ministers to wayward youth, a calling that separated them from others their age. Many whom they tried to help had suffered severe emotional and physical trauma as children.

With Gallegos, however, the men thought they were dealing with a boy who had overcome early problems. In fact, Bryant said, local authorities planned to invite him to speak to classes at area schools.

"This was," Bryant said, "a poster child."

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