Less than 24 hours after a double shooting that killed one man and gravely wounded another, Colorado Springs police were receiving real-time updates on the whereabouts of a key suspect by tracking signals emitted by his cell phone.
Despite tracking Richard Allon Spanks to an Aurora barbershop on Nov. 27, and then to a nearby apartment, Spanks and an alleged accomplice slipped away.
Two days later, police say the men were back on their radar - this time after storming a different Colorado Springs apartment and allegedly killing two women in a hail of gunfire.
Colorado Springs police detective Phil Tollefson on Thursday described during a daylong hearing in 4th Judicial District Court how investigators' rapid-fire sleuthing in the wake of one double shooting fell just short of preventing another.
Details of the frustrating near-miss emerged as prosecutors began laying out evidence against Spanks and the second man, Haywood Eugene Miller Jr., in the back-to-back shootings Nov. 26 and 29.
Flanked by their attorneys, the shackled defendants sat expressionless in their orange jail jumpsuits as autopsy photos were displayed in court, including that of a woman shot multiple times in the forehead at point-blank range.
Thursday's hearing mostly focused on the first of the two shootings. The second will be detailed when the hearing resumes April 25.
In recounting the Nov. 26 shooting, police rehashed an account of a botched drug deal that was previously disclosed in court papers after Miller's Nov. 29 arrest. A bystander, Marcus Williams, 21, was killed, and his friend's father, Eric Stone, was shot in the right eye. Stone survived but suffered a traumatic brain injury. No update on his condition was provided.
Police say Williams and two friends, including Stone's son, were sitting on the couch in Stone's apartment in the 2100 block of Carmel Drive when Miller and Spanks stopped by unannounced to buy marijuana. Things turned heated as Spanks and Stone negotiated the deal, prompting Spanks to grab several baggies of marijuana from a coffee table and bolt for the door. Eric Stone beat him to the exit and a struggle ensued.
That's when Miller pulled a .380-caliber pistol from his back pocket and shot Stone once in the face, according to an account by the victim's son, Ethan Stone.
Miller then turned toward the men on the couch and began firing, hitting Williams twice before fleeing. Ethan Stone said Miller pointed the weapon at him but didn't fire. Another man said he dropped to the floor and played dead during the attack.
Police learned from Ethan Stone that one of the men - known to him by the nickname Gin - had been to the apartment several times before to purchase marijuana. Police searched Eric Stone's phone and found a number for Gin.
After running that phone number through a law enforcement database, police determined the owner was Spanks. He is variously known as Gin, Babygin and BG, police say. Investigators obtained a warrant that allowed them to begin receiving real-time updates from Spanks' cell phone, Tollefson said.
On the morning after the shooting, police determined that phone was in use in the 10,000 block of East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, at a strip mall housing the Mo Kutz barbershop. While officers responded to the barbershop, Tollefson searched through Spanks' list of Facebook friends and found a woman who lived nearby in Aurora.
That woman - known on Facebook as Kuene Luxurious - was later identified as Spanks' sister, the detective testified.
Police searched the apartment but there was no sign of Spanks or Miller.
Police identified Miller partly due to a barber who told them that Spanks arrived with a man who had distinctive triangle of gray hair above his forehead. A Facebook picture eventually helped police identify him as Miller.
At the time of the first shooting, Miller had been trying to find enough money to post bond for his girlfriend, who had been held at the El Paso County jail, police said. Whether money motivated the attacks wasn't made clear in testimony, however.
Both defendants have prior felonies and remain in the El Paso County jail without bond. Fourth Judicial District Judge David Prince will rule on whether prosecutors have enough evidence to try Spanks and Miller on multiple counts of first-degree murder, among other crimes, when the hearing resumes in April.