“A little before midnight on May 30, 1997, fourteen-year-old Brandy Duvall waited at a bus stop in the Denver area for a ride back to her grandparents’ home after spending the evening at a friend’s home. She was wearing a bright-red Chicago Bulls jersey bearing the number of her favorite player, Michael Jordan.
It was the shirt, a favorite of the Bloods gang, that attracted the five young gang members in the car that circled the block and came back to where she stood. Why Brandy got in the car that night would remain an unanswered question. Was it voluntary? Was she abducted?”
More than twenty years ago, one of the most horrific murder cases, as well as another related homicide, I’ve ever covered as a true crime writer unfolded in Jefferson County, Colorado. Before it was over there’d been four murder trials, including two death penalty hearings, and half-dozen other defendants who turned state’s witnesses and were subsequently sentenced for related crimes. Families of the victims and the defendants had been torn apart, lives changed forever.
As a writer whose seen war and famine and all the terrible things humans do to one another, and has sat through more than a dozen death penalty cases, this affected me more than all of the others. In fact, I gave up writing about true crime for several years. I just didn’t want to hear any more mothers, or siblings, or spouses, and friends of victims, or children, crying or reliving their nightmares on a witness stand. Or see the psychological damage done to prosecutors and detectives, social workers and witnesses. Or hear over and over, the horrific retelling of a young teen’s last hours. Eventually, I recovered and went on to write other #truecrime stories and books. But the rape, torture, and murder of 14-year-old Brandaline Rose Duvall, and the fallout from that, will haunt me always. In NO ANGELS, I’ve pulled together, revised, updated, and interconnected the many moving pieces of this story. Maybe there’s something to learn in it about how monsters are made, about choices that have far-reaching and unintended consequences, and the ripple effect of violence.