July 18, 2006
Karen Grammer begged for her life, promised to do anything. They raped her and cut her throat anyway, just because she’d seen them at the restaurant they planned to rob.
They shot one man in the head for just the 50 cents in his pocket. They plunged a bayonet into another man’s chest, just to see what it was like. It was a string of killings — a total of five — that shocked Colorado Springs in 1975. But three decades have dulled the memories of that summer when bodies, victims of seemingly random murders, kept turning up. “There are very few people around who remember those murders,” said Lou Smit, a detective who worked on the case. “But the prosecutor and detective never forget.” Smit and Robert Russel, El Paso County’s district attorney at the time, are now working to keep one of the killers, Freddie Glenn, behind bars. Because of older sentencing laws and the overturning of the death penalty under which he was sentenced — both Glenn and Michael Corbett were originally sentenced to the gas chamber — Glenn became eligible for parole this month, after serving 10 years for each of the three murders for which he was convicted. He waived his first parole hearing, originally set for Wednesday, but plans to ask the parole board for his freedom in January. The two lawmen who put Glenn and Corbett away, now in their 70s and long-retired, vow to speak at every parole hearing and to do their best to never let the killers be freed. “As long as they’re alive and there’s a chance of keeping them in jail, we’re going to be there,” Smit said. Russel was district attorney in El Paso County for 20 years. Smit, a homicide detective here for three decades, worked hundreds of murders and investigated the killing of JonBenet Ramsey. They say the 1975 murders, which occurred over a two-month period, rival anything else they’ve seen, for the brutality, for the randomness, for the complete absence of humanity shown by the killers. The killings began June 19 when Glenn, a civilian employee at Fort Carson, Corbett, a soldier, and another soldier grabbed Daniel Van Lone, a 29-year-old cook just getting off work from the Four Seasons hotel, to rob him. They drove him to a remote area and made him lie on the ground. “He pleaded with them, ‘Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me,’ ” Smit said. Corbett shot him in the head. They got 50 cents from him. Eight days later, the pair met Winfred Profitt, 19, another Fort Carson soldier, at Prospect Lake, ostensibly to sell him some marijuana. Corbett, who had been training with bayonets, stabbed Profitt with one to see what it was like. On July 1, Glenn and Corbett and two other men decided to rob the Red Lobster restaurant on South Academy Boulevard. They left without any money, but on the way out they grabbed Grammer — an 18-yearold who worked there and was waiting for her boyfriend to get off work — because they feared she could identify them. The grisly details of the next few hours haunt Smit and Russel, and they can shut their eyes and see the face of the young, free-spirited girl who had been living here for less than a year. After robbing a convenience store, the men took Grammer to Glenn’s and Corbett’s apartment, where they raped her repeatedly. She pleaded for her life, offering to do anything they wanted so she could live. They promised to take her home, then sat her in the car, put a cloth over her head and let her out in a mobile home park on South Wahsatch Avenue. Then Glenn, who, according to court testimony, had taken LSD, stabbed her in the throat, back and hand. She ran toward a door. “She was running down that alley, spraying blood all over the place,” Smit said. “She almost reached that doorbell when she collapsed.” Police photographs show a bloody hand print on the wall, inches from the doorbell she never reached. Police didn’t know her name for a week, until her brother, a young actor named Kelsey Grammer — who would go on to star in the sitcom “Frasier” — arrived to identify the body. People in Colorado Springs were anxious. During a news conference after Grammer’s murder, Police Chief Oren Boling assured reporters, “We don’t believe we have a maniacal killer on the loose.” There were two other murders that authorities say Glenn wasn’t involved in. On July 25, Corbett shot a friend, Winslow Douglas Watson, in the face because he’d stolen a loaf of bread from a neighbor. On Aug. 30, Rickey Lewis was shot in the back while playing dice with a group of people. Though police suspected Corbett, he was never charged. Glenn was convicted in 1976 for the murders of Van Lone, Profitt and Grammer. Corbett was convicted in the murders of Van Lone and Watson and received death sentences for the murder of Profitt. Judge Hunter Hardeman, noting “there was no rhyme or reason for what happened,” sentenced Glenn to the gas chamber for Grammer’s murder. Two years later, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty. When Glenn was sentenced, the law allowed parole after a convict served 10 years, so he just became eligible. Because two of his sentences were to be served at the same time, Corbett became eligible in 1996. The parole board has turned him down every year. He is up for parole again in December. For Kathy DeMarco, the fact the two even get a shot at freedom is a travesty. She came to Colorado Springs with Profitt, the childhood sweetheart she married. He was stationed at Fort Carson. She almost went with him to Prospect Lake on June 27 to buy some marijuana from another soldier. Though she has since remarried, she often thinks about the husband Glenn and Corbett took away from her. She wants them to stay in prison. “It’s not going to bring anybody back. It’s not going to bring my first husband back,” she said. But, she said, “They didn’t care about what they did, and they need to stay put. “They should stay there until they die.” Glenn, now 49 and serving his sentence at the Bent County Correctional Facility, waived his first parole hearing so he could enroll in several programs at the prison that would help his chances, said his case manager, Matt Sylvia. Other then a 1985 contraband conviction, Glenn has had few disciplinary problems while in prison. “He’s a very quiet inmate. You hardly notice he’s around,” Sylvia said. “He likes to just watch his TV and that’s it.” Neither Sylvia nor a Department of Corrections spokeswoman would provide details about the contraband conviction. Corbett, who has taken the name Hasani Chinangwa after converting to Islam in prison, has become a model inmate, but Smit and Russel still travel to his parole hearings, urging the board to keep him locked up. Corbett is a sociopath who knew what he was doing, but didn’t care, Russel said. Glenn idolized Corbett. They were angry, their rampage fueled by black militancy of the times and drugs, according to authorities and trial testimony. Despite the decades that have passed, the original investigators doubt either can be considered rehabilitated. “We want justice for all of those victims,” Smit said. “We don’t want to take a chance of anything like this happening again.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-1605 or firstname.lastname@example.org