The Case of the Jealous Lover Boy

Despite all the sex toys, Tim Contreraz and Shawn Drake weren't exactly living together in bliss

Later in the day, Femenia speaks with a manager at Durant's, who apparently knew nothing about Drake's personal life or about Drake's sentencing in November 2004 for selling a stolen car to undercover Phoenix police and dividing the profits with co-defendants.

"He came to us with solid credentials, and we hired him," the manager says. "This comes as a shock to all of us."

(Come to find out, many fellow employees were baffled by Drake's hiring in late 2005 after they saw for themselves how little the sommalia actually knew about wine.)

Some relationships are based on too much trust.
Dominic Bugatto
Some relationships are based on too much trust.
Murder cop Alex Femenia didn't believe Shawn Drake's story.
Peter Scanlon
Murder cop Alex Femenia didn't believe Shawn Drake's story.

Femenia stops by the Plazma bar after his visit to Durant's and speaks to the owner. The owner wants to help, but doesn't recognize Drake or Tim Contreraz from photographs Femenia shows him.

He says he'll show the photos to his bartenders when they get to work, and that he'll look up the names of patrons who used credit cards at his joint around closing time on February 19.

Tim Contreraz's autopsy is about to start, three days after Shawn Drake killed him.

Inside the county's Forensic Science Center, assistant medical examiner Dr. John Hu's assistants unzip the body bag and dump Contreraz's body onto a stainless-steel slab.

The victim's glasses still are in place, as are the boxing shorts he was wearing when he died.

Alex Femenia gives Dr. Hu a brief summary of the case, as an assistant takes a photograph of the victim.

"Smile," the assistant says to the body.

Within minutes, Dr. Hu has hacked through the victim's ribcage with common garden shears.

The autopsy is under way.

As he proceeds, Dr. Hu discusses the stab wound that killed Contreraz: He says the murderer plunged a knife about six inches into the body, through muscle, ribs and possibly a major artery.

Stating the obvious, the doctor says "that means a lot of force."

Femenia asks, "Based on that stab wound, how long did he live?"

"Probably five to 10 minutes," Hu responds. "He'd probably have been mobile for a while. I know that his heart was still beating for a long time."

The doctor points out what appear to be defensive wounds on Contreraz's left hand and a small cut on his upper lip.

Hu says there's indication that the victim "was strangled as well."

"It doesn't look good for our guy in jail," Femenia says after the postmortem. "I think he may have reversed the story. He did the strangling, not Tim."

On February 28, a county grand jury indicts Shawn Drake on one count of second-degree murder. That differs from first-degree in that the person is charged with committing murder without premeditation.

Part of the definition of second-degree murder is that "manifesting extreme indifference to human life, [a person] recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death."

Thrusting a knife into someone's chest seems to qualify.

Drake remains in jail, unable to come up with bond money.

Though prosecutors have their slam-dunk indictment, Femenia still wants to find the two men who'd gone from Plazma to North Richland Street early on the morning of February 19.

His persistence finally pays off March 3, nearly two weeks after the murder and days after the indictment. Though the mystery men don't yet know it, the detective finally has them in his sights.

"It could be a key piece of the puzzle," he says, on the way to try to surprise one of the men at a Mesa store. "I just hope he doesn't clam up when I just show up."

The potential witness, a slight, genteel store manager named Omar, seems stunned at the detective's presence but nervously agrees to speak with him in an office.

Omar swears this is the first he's heard about anyone getting murdered on the evening in question. But he does remember the night, if not the names of the fellows he and his pal Fritz had left Plazma with.

Omar says he'd started to flirt late in the evening with the two strangers. Then, at closing time, he and Fritz accepted an invitation to go to their new friends' home, a few miles away.

Omar immediately identifies Drake and Contreraz in photographs as the ones who'd invited them. He says he didn't think at first that Drake and Contreraz were lovers, just roommates.

He recalls the house on North Richland as quaint and filled with fine art. He and Drake were "flirting" in the living room, Omar says, while Fritz and Contreraz were having a drink in the kitchen.

"They seemed fine at first," Omar says of the hosts. "They seemed like us -- happy and giddy and friendly."

Though he dances around specifics, Omar says the flirting between he and Drake became "semi-intimate" on the living room couch.

"Give me a hint," Femenia asks him.

Omar says he and Drake were fondling each other with their pants pulled down. He claims that no sex toys were involved.

"Anything on the floor?" the detective asks, referring to the throng of rubber schlongs that police practically tripped over after the murder.

"I wasn't looking at the floor," Omar says.

He recalls to Femenia that suddenly Tim Contreraz came "out of nowhere and started cursing and yelling at me and Shawn. I thought, 'You are a psycho!'"

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