On the run and out of gas in the middle of Utah, Elijah Tyre Colon didn't deny what he had done 500 miles away in Colorado Springs.
The question he didn't answer is why.
"I've done something horrible," the 19-year-old texted a friend in May as he allegedly fled a grisly double homicide in the city's Bonnyville neighborhood. "I'm going to hell."
What troubled the fugitive's conscience, authorities say, was a burst of violence 10 hours earlier in which Colon fatally shot Christopher Pepper, 20, and Barbara Pepper, 53 - the defendant's lifelong friend and his friend's mother.
In what authorities described as execution-style murders, Christopher Pepper was shot once in the back of the head in the kitchen of their home in the 2500 block of Balboa Street, police said. His mother was shot twice soon after - once in the left eye, at point-blank range, and once, like her son, in the back of the head.
Investigators on Friday detailed evidence against Colon, also known as Elijah Phillips, at a court hearing that offered mere suggestions as to what his motive could have been, ranging from his trouble at the University of Northern Colorado-Greeley, where he had flunked out a week earlier, to his resentment over having to pay Barbara Pepper $400 a month for room and board after she agreed to take him in. Colon, who has no criminal record, also complained about having to start two part-time jobs to help pay his bills, police allege.
"There's only one person that knows why, and that's the defendant," lead prosecutor Michael Allen told the court.
Despite lingering questions over motive, 4th Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey found probable cause to support first-degree murder charges against Colon and ordered that he remain jailed without bond pending trial - the result of Lowrey's determination that evidence in the case is so persuasive he is at risk of being convicted at trial.
The shooting occurred shortly after midnight on May 13 in the kitchen of the Peppers' home. Earlier that night, Pepper, his mother and his girlfriend had eaten a dinner of chicken salad and watched a show on Netflix at home.
Colon, who had been staying with the Peppers family for the past week, went out to dinner with friends who wanted to celebrate his first day at a new fast-food restaurant job. There, Colon's friends told police, he seemed upbeat and had a good time.
There were no hints of the violence to come when Colon returned to the Peppers' home about 9 p.m., Christopher Pepper's girlfriend, Danielle Caho, told police. She remembers Colon Skyping with his then-girlfriend, who lives in California.
A detective recounted the bizarre moments before the shooting. Christopher Pepper and Caho were in their bedroom preparing for bed. She asked Pepper to go into the kitchen to get her an ice cream cone. After Pepper left for the kitchen, she heard a bang and then her boyfriend shout out: "You motherf-----." Two to three more "pops" followed. When she went into the kitchen, Christopher Pepper and his mother were lying on the kitchen floor with an ice cream cone lying near Christopher's left hand.
"Elijah stated over and over that he was sorry and he didn't mean for this to happen," Detective Richard Gysin wrote in a May arrest affidavit.
Caho told police she didn't recall confrontations between Colon and his friend, or even lingering tensions. At first, she thought the shootings were a hoax.
On the way out of Colorado Springs, Colon told police that he tossed the murder weapon - thought to be a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Christopher Pepper - into a creek at a bridge crossing. It hasn't been found, despite a search of nearby creeks that involved firefighters equipped with probes, shovels, sieves and metal detectors, police said.
After less than a day as a fugitive, Colon ran out of gas in Utah, and allegedly texted a martial arts coach asking for money. He made the same request of his girlfriend.
During a later phone conversation with the woman, Colon admitted to the shootings and said that he couldn't bring himself to also shoot Christopher Peppers' girlfriend.
"He wanted her to break up with him," Detective Mike Montez said the woman told him. "He wanted to say goodbye."
He also told the woman that he worried about the gun he threw into a creek, Montez said.
"He felt bad that he left the gun loaded," the woman recalled during an interview with police. "He didn't want someone to hurt himself."
The judge dismissed a suggestion by the defense that Peppers' girlfriend could have been involved in the shootings.
Colon is due to return to court for arraignment Oct. 2.