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Doors slammed on effort to help woman accused in dragging death

March 17, 2011

A Colorado Springs man says a bank scuttled his effort to help a woman accused in the dragging death of a local tow truck driver — by abruptly closing the benefit fund he had helped set up.

Stephen S. Luera, 54, said he wanted to create a fund to benefit Detra Farries’ eight children and defray any legal expenses.

So he contacted the Colorado Springs police, who put him in touch with one of Farries’ relatives.

During separate visits, Luera and Farries — who haven’t met — completed the necessary paperwork and opened an account March 7 at a US Bank branch on East Pikes Peak Avenue.

Four days later, however, a bank manager informed Luera the account had been closed. He said he was asked to come pick up the $100 he placed in the account out of his own pocket — the only donation that had been made up to that point.

A manager issued him a cashier’s check on Friday, he said.

“She said they didn’t want to take sides,” Luera said.

Farries, 32, is an unlikely source of sympathy.

For days, her identity was a mystery as people responded angrily to accounts of how 35-year-old Allen Rose was dragged to death Feb. 23 while attempting to tow an illegally parked GMC sport-utility vehicle from the Hill Park Apartments on North Murray Boulevard.

Someone jumped into the vehicle and drove off, snapping the cable Rose had attached. Rose gave chase and his legs became ensnared in the cable, police said. The Iraq War veteran was dragged, screaming, for more than a mile, as witnesses shouted, waved their arms and honked horns to get the driver’s attention. Rose’s friends clamored for a murder charge.

Farries was charged March 9 with vehicular homicide, a felony.

Luera said his sympathies immediately lay with Allen Rose, his widow and his two children, for whom a fund was quickly established at Key Bank.

“I couldn’t imagine a more horrific way to die,” he said.

As the saga played out in the media, however, Luera said he was struck by what he characterized as a rush to judgment in which people assumed the worst about Farries, as if she were “high-fiving herself” during the ordeal. Luera said she could have failed to realize that Rose was being dragged behind her.

He said he began to worry about Farries’ children, whom he called blameless bystanders in the tragedy.

A worker at US Bank’s East Pikes Peak branch was helpful when Luera approached the bank with the intention of setting up the account, he said.

When word of the fund reached the bank higher-ups, they made the decision to close the account, exercising the bank’s discretion about the people with whom it does business, said Thomas Naughton, regional president of US Bank in southern Colorado.

Asked if the bank feared being associated with Farries, he said:  “That could be a perception that people might have.”

Luera, who is unemployed and searching for work, hasn’t found another bank willing to establish a fund to benefit Farries or her family, he said.

Farries, with whom Luera is in contact by e-mail, never responded when he told her that the account was closed, he said.

The Gazette was unable to reach her.

Luera acknowledged that he has had repeated brushes with the law, including a 1993felony conviction for impersonation. Homeless at the time, he lied about his identity to avoid a ticket, he said.

Luera said his past did not factor into his gesture to help Farries, and he pledged to be open with bank records if a fund is set up.

“It could be that she just wants to let it go,” he said.

Call the writer at 636-0366.

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