After an auto mechanic was found fatally shot in his Security-Widefield home last February, all signs pointed to a burglary gone bad, from the pry marks on his gun chest to a spray-painted taunt inside the garage: "You got jacked fool."
But according to El Paso County prosecutors, Miguel "Mike" Barajas, 47, was not slain by strangers, but by schemers under his own roof.
A 4th Judicial District judge on Friday ordered a trio of defendants, including Barajas' wife and stepdaughter, held for trial on charges of first-degree murder. They're accused of taking equal shares in a drug-addled scheme to score an insurance pay-off.
Accused are Sandra Barajas, 52, the wife; Dawn Richburg, 33, the stepdaughter; and Tommy Wright, 34, an admitted methamphetamine user who ultimately broke the case wide open, agreeing to divulge details of an alleged murder plot in exchange for perks not available in his Douglas County holding cell: a Mountain Dew and cigarettes.
The three defendants appeared in court Friday, where they avoided eye contact with one another as their attorneys scrambled to pin the blame on co-defendants.
Judge Jann P. DuBois ruled that prosecutors had enough evidence to support the charges - including Wright's videotaped statement; a taped phone call in which Sandra Barajas acknowledges Wright committed the killing and agrees to pay him; and Richburg voluntary confession that she helped stage a break-in, knowing her stepfather would be slain.
Sandra and Miguel Barajas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011, federal bankruptcy records show.
Also under suspicion is another stepdaughter who lived with Barajas, El Paso County prosecutors confirmed. According to Wright's confession, which was shown in court, that woman is alleged to have repeatedly asked Wright to kill her stepfather, claiming that Barajas - who was responsible for doling out her prescription painkillers - forced her to perform sex acts for pills. But Wright said she was nearly "comatose" on drugs when the murder plot was hashed out by him, Richburg and Sandra Barajas.
Whether the other woman is charged depends on the ongoing investigation, lead prosecutor Reggie Short said. He declined to comment on the allegations of sex abuse. Relatives of Miguel Barajas bristled over the allegation after the hearing.
"How do you molest a 30-year-old?" asked a cousin, Natalie Barajas of Aurora. "It's B.S., and you can quote me on that."
Barajas, a mechanic at a Mike Shaw auto dealership, was found dead Feb. 13 in his bedroom at 118 Judson Street amid bullet-riddled walls and signs that someone had rummaged through the home. Missing were four rifles, two pistols, jewelry, prescription medications and various other possessions, including Barajas' collection of Hot Wheels miniatures.
Despite what looked like a burglary, El Paso County Sheriff's deputies quickly turned their focus to Barajas' closest relatives.
For starters, Richburg, who reported the break-in, repeatedly told authorities that shopping receipts would account for her whereabouts, sheriff's detective William Otto testified.
Phone records also showed a series of calls made to Richburg and Sandra Barajas from a disposable phone in the wake of Barajas' death. An investigation ultimately tied the phone to Wright.
The case was investigated in secret by an El Paso County grand jury, until Wright, already a suspect, decided to confess in mid-May.
Held in Douglas County on unrelated charges, Wright initially offered help in exchange for a range of concessions, including getting charges tossed for a friend and access to his Facebook account. He settled for a cola and cigarettes, detective James A. Vidmar testified.
The tape shows a relaxed Wright walking the detective through the crime.
Wright said he met Dawn Richburg and her sister by chance at a 7-Eleven in Colorado Springs in December. As they talked, the woman told him of alleged sex abuse by Barajas and asked if he knew anyone who could "take care of him," he said.
After visiting the family's home over a period of months, Wright said he agreed to carry out the killing, swayed by the experience of an ex-girlfriend's daughter who was abused.
On the night before the killing, Wright said he and Dawn Richburg, high on meth, plotted the details in the Barajas family basement, and that he made sure Sandra Barajas was on board with the plan, claiming that she spoke eagerly about an insurance windfall. After staging a burglary complete with gang tags, tossed rooms and broken windows, Wright said he told the women to pay a visit to a hospital in Colorado Springs - their alibi.
Wright said he waited in Barajas' bedroom for him to come home. Crouched with a .45 caliber pistol and a .30-06 hunting rifle, he fired both guns the moment the man passed the door, he said.
After staying to make sure Wright was dead, the admitted triggerman then took off into the backyard, leaving the rifle in a neighbor's yard.
Richburg later told police that she pawned some of the stolen items and tossed Barajas' stolen guns into the woods on a drive toward Cripple Creek, authorities said. They haven't been recovered.
The three defendants are being held without bond at the El Paso County jail. They are scheduled to return to court to be arraigned on Sept. 19.