The Case of the Jealous Lover Boy

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

Gary Sedlacek is awakened by someone pounding on a side door to his home in downtown Phoenix's historic Coronado District.

It's about 5:30 on a dark, drizzly morning, February 19, 2005.

At the door is Shawn Drake, Sedlacek's 29-year-old neighbor from a few doors down on North Richland Street. Drake is dripping wet from the rain, and he's obviously distressed.

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.
Shawn Drake, a few hours after his arrest on February 19, 2005
Shawn Drake, a few hours after his arrest on February 19, 2005
Murder victim Timothy Contreraz
Murder victim Timothy Contreraz

"I'm in real deep," he tells Sedlacek.

Sedlacek asks where Drake's lover and roommate, Tim Contreraz, might be.

At first, Drake won't say, but Drake soon admits that he's hurt Contreraz.

"Where did this happen?" Sedlacek asks.

Drake points to his residence, a tidy brick bungalow actually owned by Contreraz, a 41-year-old manager at a local communications firm. He explains how Contreraz had attacked him while he'd been crashed out on a living-room couch after a long evening of partying.

"So what happened?" Sedlacek asks.

Drake isn't quite ready to go there yet.

He says he's been driving around for the past hour or so in Contreraz's Kia SUV (license plate HOTTIME) trying to pull himself together.

Drake finally gives it up, saying he'd stabbed his boyfriend of several months.

Trying to keep his own composure, Sedlacek asks if Contreraz needs medical attention.

"No," Drake tells him. "I think he's dead."

"You can't just leave him in there," the neighbor says, advising Drake that someone must contact the police.

Drake says he doesn't like the idea, but Sedlacek calls 911 anyway.

The pair awaits the arrival of the Phoenix Police Department.

As a steady rain falls down on him, Shawn Drake sobs like a little child.


Officer Fred Howard drives onto Richland Street at 6:11 a.m., and sees two men in front of a home on the west side.

Shawn Drake soon tells the cop that he's stabbed his roommate, Tim.

Howard asks him if Tim is dead.

"I think so," Drake replies, adding that he'd left Contreraz's body in the kitchen.

Howard smells alcohol on Drake's breath, and notes that he's slurring his words.

Moments later, the suspect hands over the keys to his home. Three cops soon enter through the front door.

Officer Andrew Miller later writes in a report that, "While standing at the front door, I observed four to five black dildos of various lengths lying on the floor."

Using their flashlights, the cops walk around the sex toys through the living room into a small kitchen.

As they turn a corner, they see a man seated on the floor in a large pool of blood with his back against a wall, clad only in navy-blue-and-yellow boxing shorts.

Tim Contreraz obviously is dead.

The officers observe a huge hole in the right side of his bloody chest.

A Phoenix Fire Department paramedic comes in and checks for a pulse.

There is none.

Officer Miller steps into the backyard and looks around. Three small dogs run up to him expecting their breakfasts.

Then he sees something that stops him short.

It's an upright coffin in the northeast corner of the yard.

The police leave the body where they found it in the kitchen, and lock the front door behind them.

Tim Contreraz had been darkly handsome in life, small and fit, with piercing brown eyes. And despite a history of troubles with drugs, alcohol and personal relationships, he'd kept a good job, bought his own home, and maintained friendships with people from all walks of life.

Now his home -- and his body -- officially has become a cluttered crime scene.

It should take a few hours for the soon-to-arrive homicide detectives to secure a warrant that will allow them to search the residence and property. Until then, the Richland home will remain closed.

One of the street cops speaks to Gary Sedlacek, who says he knows of Tim Contreraz's history of methamphetamine use.

He says he's also experienced Contreraz's temper firsthand, but doesn't know much about Drake, other than he's Contreraz's latest lover and recently had been in trouble with the law.

And Sedlacek isn't talking about the brawl between Drake and Contreraz the previous October that Phoenix police had to break up.

This murder certainly isn't shaping up as a whodunit, but a whydunit, or, more precisely, did-Drake-have-the-legal-justification-to-havedunit.


Three homicide detectives from Phoenix's C-32 squad get to North Richland Street about 8 a.m. Surprisingly few onlookers are hanging around, and no one with a television camera is in sight.

"Whose idea was it to call us out at 7 in the morning in the pouring rain?" kids veteran Detective Jerry Laird, as he and other officers move under the shelter of a carport.

Patrol Sergeant Jennifer LaRoque briefs the detectives on the basics of the case. She also informs them that Shawn Drake is the maître d' at Durant's, the restaurant on Central Avenue, a mile or so west of the crime scene.

That turns out to be a bit off, as Drake actually has another job at the storied establishment.

The sergeant asks her officers if they want to add anything.

"Yeah," one of the younger cops says. "The dildos in there are huge!"

"What, you never seen one of them before?" asks Detective Alex Femenia, who's been assigned as the lead case agent.

"Yeah, but man!"

"Okay," Femenia says, tongue in cheek for the moment. "Let's go ahead and consider the dildos dangerous weapons for purposes of this investigation."

Now it's time to get serious.

Nothing can be done at the crime scene until the cops get their search warrant, which will cover both the home and Tim Contreraz's SUV.

An examination of the mysterious backyard coffin, too, will have to wait until a judge signs the warrant.

The three dogs hover near a gate to the carport, as if they're trying to listen in. One of them, a miniature whippet, whimpers softly.

Detective Femenia wants to interview Shawn Drake at the police station as soon as possible. That sounds good to Sergeant Patrick Kotecki, who's been the C-32 squad's supervisor for just a few months.

"Go for it," Kotecki tells Femenia. "See you back here later."


On the short trip to the Phoenix police station, Detective Femenia previews how he plans to proceed.

"I don't treat my suspect like an adversary," he says. "You want them to like you. If I raise my voice and get coercive, I get nothing. I had the same philosophy as a young patrol officer. I talked my way into most of my arrests."

Femenia is certain that "his" suspect will plead self-defense. What Drake says and how that meshes with what the crime scene reveals is likely to have great bearing on his future.

"Even if I get an inch, a minuscule admission, I want it," the detective says, as he pulls up to the station. "It's a fine line sometimes between making a case and it going away."

That leads to another thought.

"Human things do happen on our end. Honest mistakes. Down the road at trial, things can get twisted around to make you look like the monkey, not the [suspect]. Defense lawyers always try to turn some minor nothing into something big. Don't want to go there."

Alejandro Femenia was born into a blue-collar New England family, the youngest of seven. Both of his parents worked at one of the big hat factories then operating in Danbury, Connecticut.

Femenia got by both with his wit (the guy will talk about anything to anyone) and his athletic prowess, which later won him a football scholarship to Bowling Green University.

Now 52, he's the man with a million uproarious stories, many of them about the "monkeys" with whom he has to contend. (Loosely defined, a monkey is someone who can't do anything without screwing it up.)

Femenia moved to Arizona after finishing college in 1976, not having a clue, he says, of what he wanted to do with his life. Over the next 18 months, he worked variously as a counselor at a private school and as a bouncer at a bar near Arizona State University.

A retired FBI agent teaching at the college befriended Femenia, and suggested that the young man might make a good police officer. That sounded ridiculous to Femenia, who told his older pal that the only cops he knew were jerks.

But just for the hell of it in 1978, Femenia applied for work with the Phoenix Police Department. Next thing he knew, he was accepted at the police academy. Soon after he began his training, the kid with the Fu Manchu mustache, wingtip shoes and a big head of hair thought he'd made a mistake.

He was at odds with the military atmosphere and personalities in his midst.

"I'm one of those guys who never wanted to be a Marine," he says.

But Femenia passed muster and hit the streets as a patrol officer in south Phoenix. He took to the job better than he'd expected, finding that it often reminded him of the athletic arena.

Back in his early days as a cop, before family responsibilities (he has two teenage children and a wife, Tracey) and a certain maturity took hold, Femenia was a certified party animal. After hours.

Femenia was a street cop for a time, worked the gang detail and later was a sharpshooter for what then was called the SWAT team -- though he never shot at anyone.

Then he was a detective with the Organized Crime Bureau for 13 years, working much of that time undercover. He often played the role of a Mafioso from "back East" out here seeking fresh action. He could look and act the part.

A popular sergeant named Carl Richardson recruited Femenia to the homicide unit in 1999, and he's been there ever since. He still loves the gig, even with its unrelenting grind and pressure.

He says he lives for the challenges in every investigation -- including the Tim Contreraz murder case, a domestic dispute that ended in a fatal stabbing.


About 9 a.m., Detective Femenia walks into the homicide unit on the third floor of the main police station on West Washington.

He spots Gary Sedlacek, the neighbor who called 911, sitting in the waiting room.

Jerry Laird is going to interview Sedlacek first, before Femenia takes his crack at Shawn Drake.

"They got the Rack back there?" Sedlacek asks the detective, referring to the medieval mode of torture. He's not smiling.

"Naw," Femenia says. "I just want you to relax. You need anything to drink?"

Sedlacek says he doesn't.

A few minutes later, Femenia watches from the videotape monitoring room as Detective Laird expertly walks the witness through his account of the preceding hours.

At the end of the interview, Laird steps into the monitoring room and asks Femenia if he's missed asking anything.

"Nope," the lead detective replies. "My turn."

Shawn Drake is waiting in Interview Room #2. Looking at Drake via the television monitor, Jerry Laird says, "Life as he knew it has taken a definite left turn."

Also in the monitoring room is Dr. Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who often lends his expertise to C-32's squad members.

"I've always wondered what this moment is like in someone's head," Pitt says, speaking of suspects in Drake's current position.

"Can you imagine being in his brain right now?" Laird replies.

"Yeah," the doctor says, "this moment and the moment after the interrogation is done."

At 10:41 a.m., Femenia introduces himself to Shawn Drake as "the head detective" in the case.

Then he reads Drake the standard Miranda warning against self-incrimination and right to counsel.

Ironically, 42 years earlier, Ernesto Miranda himself had confessed to kidnapping and rape in Interview Room #2 at the Phoenix Police Department, then located down the street.

Miranda was convicted, but won a retrial after the landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bears his name. However, a second jury convicted him even without hearing about his confession. After serving his sentence, Miranda was stabbed to death in January 1976 at a downtown Phoenix bar. The suspect in that case exercised his Miranda rights, and was freed because of lack of evidence.

Shawn Drake decides to talk.

He's a pale young man with spiked, bleached blond hair. He lists his height at six feet and weight at about 150 pounds. He looks as if he hasn't slept in days.

"This is a horrible experience for you," Femenia starts.

The suspect readily agrees.

Drake offers some personal background, saying he was raised in Tucson, and had been living in Casa Grande until the previous summer, when he'd accepted Tim Contreraz's invitation to move in.

He says he'd met Contreraz over the Internet.

Drake notes that he's been taking correspondence classes through the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, hoping someday to earn money as an artist. For now, the suspect says, he's working as the wine "sommelier" at Durant's.

"The wine what?" the detective asks.

"Sommelier," Drake repeats, though he pronounces it like the African nation Somalia, not the correct way (sah-mahl-yay).

Seeing that Femenia's not quite getting it (correct pronunciation or not), Drake explains that he's the wine manager at the eatery, the wine guy.

Now they can move forward.

"Tell me in your own words what happened last night or this morning," the detective says.

Drake's first account:

Contreraz picked him up from work about 11 p.m., and they went out for drinks at a bar that caters to a gay clientele. After they got home sometime after 2 a.m., he passed out on a couch, but was awakened by Contreraz's inexplicably pouring water on him and choking him with his hands.

"Next thing I know I was in the kitchen," Drake says.

Femenia slows him down, moves him back in time to the bar, whose name Drake says he can't recall.

Drake says he and Contreraz had fun there, including making a friendly wager about the size of another patron's penis.

For the first time, the suspect now mentions that he and Contreraz had invited two men home with them. He says he can't remember either of their names, but does know that they'd left before Contreraz allegedly assaulted him on the couch.

The detective asks Drake if he blacked out after Contreraz attacked him.

"I guess," the suspect replies. "Water's going on my face, and I'm being suffocated. I can't breathe . . . I jumped up. Nobody touches me when I'm asleep!"

But Drake continues to insist that he doesn't recall actually stabbing Contreraz, despite what he'd told Gary Sedlacek and the responding patrol officers.

Push is about to come to shove.

"You don't remember how he got dead?" Femenia asks.

"No."

"You do, don't you?"

Drake suddenly says he does remember grabbing something out of a kitchen drawer and "hitting" Contreraz with it.

"Do you believe it was a knife?" the detective asks.

"I believe it probably was," Drake says. "I jumped up, I shoved him off of me, pushed him back. . . . Someone standing right above me, suffocating me, someone trying to suffocate me, aren't you going to react?"

Femenia doesn't answer, and Drake keeps yipping:

"The whole thing was like a 'I'm gonna kick your ass' kind of fight. Self-defense mechanism. [Then] I told myself, 'I have to get the hell out of here.'"

He concedes that Contreraz was unarmed during the entire clash.

Drake says he didn't have sex with either man they'd invited home, but Contreraz had been jealous when he flirted with one of them.

"As far as I know, there was no sexual transaction whatsoever," Drake says, in an odd turn of phrase.

"Tim could sleep with others. I'd ignore it. Tim told me to invite them over. [But] I'm not allowed to associate with anyone, and he's allowed to fuck the countryside."

Drake then reveals to Femenia that he's on felony probation for selling a stolen car. He says that since being put on probation in November 2004, he's undertaken court-ordered treatment to help curb a long-term methamphetamine habit.

Though he denies any current drug use, Drake claims Contreraz probably ingested meth in the hours before he died. (Postmortem blood tests prove Drake right on that score.)

Femenia wants to know if Drake checked to see if Contreraz was alive after he'd stabbed him. Drake says he didn't, that his only concern at the time was "to be free, to be safe."

Now the detective asks, "When you looked at Tim, what did you see?"

"A dead body," Drake says of his lover.

Femenia wonders why Drake didn't call 911.

"Because I'm on probation," Drake replies. "That's not an excuse. That's reality. In fact, I'm going to feel very lucky if I walk out of here today. Am I going to jail?"

The detective says that's yet to be decided. But Femenia already is certain that, without a doubt, Shawn Drake will be heading to the slammer on a murder rap.

Femenia leaves the room for a few minutes to get feedback from his colleagues in the monitoring room. It's 11:22 a.m.

"No one ever argued about the size of my dick," Femenia tells them as soon as he walks in. That cracks up everyone.

He asks Detective Laird what he thinks about Drake.

"I think the guy's got a hair-trigger temper," Laird says. "I think it's a good case of second-degree [murder]."

After Femenia returns to the interview room, Drake keeps trying to explain his actions.

"I was pissed because I couldn't breathe," he says. "You know what, I probably overreacted. [But] when someone's suffocating you when you're sleeping, it's your life or their life."

Drake looks hopefully across the table.

Femenia stares back stone-faced.

The detective asks him tersely why he hadn't just left the house after Contreraz confronted him on the couch.

Drake seems to be realizing that he could be cooked.

"Why?" he says, getting testier by the second. "Because he was coming after me! Bottom line is I'm going to jail!"

Femenia wants to know more about the weapon Drake used.

"I don't know what I grabbed," Drake snaps, sounding as if he's had just about enough of the detective. "All I saw was blood was flying."

Femenia takes another break to call Detective Tom D'Aguanno, who says he's gotten the search warrant and is back on North Richland Street.

D'Aguanno is being assisted by crime-scene technician Lanie Finlay, a welcome addition to the C-32 squad because of her attention to detail and upbeat attitude in the face of continual carnage.

Just after noon, Detective Femenia informs Shawn Drake of his immediate fate -- a booking at the county jail on a charge of murdering Tim Contreraz.

Drake starts to moan softly. The moans get louder as Femenia leaves Interview Room #2.


It's about six hours after police first responded to North Richland Street, and Alex Femenia hasn't even examined the crime scene yet. But his next task after fortifying himself with coffee and a Marlboro is to find Tim Contreraz's next of kin.

"Time is of the essence in a murder investigation," the detective says, "but you can't delay in contacting people who have the right to know what's happened. It may take us out of the groove, but it's something you just have to do."

Before the police transport Shawn Drake to jail, he tells them the name of Contreraz's sister, who lives in Chandler. Femenia gets on his computer and comes up with a phone number for the sibling.

"Is your brother [named] Tim?" he asks the woman about 1:30 p.m. She answers yes. "You gonna have a moment this afternoon? I'd rather tell you in person than over the phone. Yeah, it's serious."

Femenia plans to drive to Chandler after he analyzes the murder scene, his next stop.


By now, it's just past 2. Detective D'Aguanno already has come upon a receipt from a nearby Circle K during his search of Tim Contreraz's car. The receipt was issued at 5 that morning, which suggests that Shawn Drake stopped at the store before he returned to his neighborhood.

Two other receipts in the car also are relevant. They are from Plazma, a gay bar on 15th Street and Osborn Road. The time listed on the pieces of paper -- about 2 that morning -- is when Drake said he and Contreraz had left a bar with the two mystery men.

These are bits and pieces to sort out down the road.

But Alex Femenia's focus now is the crime scene.

He starts at the front door, slowly taking everything in.

Just inside the entrance is a candy jar with nothing in it but condoms.

"Where are the chocolates?" Femenia asks.

The mention of chocolate catches the attention of crime-scene tech Lanie Finlay, who is taking photographs of evidence in the living room.

"I like chocolate," says Finlay, who has been admiring the arty decor in the home, built in 1916.

She's standing in front of the couch on which Shawn Drake says he was sleeping when Contreraz allegedly attacked him. Surrounding her on the hardwood floor are four double-headed dildos, each of which, according to official police measurements, is a minimum of 12 inches long. One of the sex toys actually is about three inches thick.

Finlay works gory crime scenes for a living, and she seems to have no trouble at all handling (with latex gloves) and photographing victims of violent crimes. But the idea of having to pick up the dildos, catalogue them carefully and place them into an evidence bag sends her into a small tizzy.

"I don't even want to know what people do with these things," Finlay says, as her face briefly turns a bright red. "Now this is something I've never seen before."

Inside a canvas bag near the couch are lengths of rope, a blindfold, three pairs of handcuffs, a studded collar, a chain with pinchers on the ends, and six more dildos of various sizes.

"Whoa, baby!" Femenia says.

During his observation of the living room, Femenia takes a peek at the extensive DVD collection, noting that the movies Chicken Run and Kinky Lover Boys are stored side by side.

"Got to appreciate variety," the detective says.

The DVD player is in the pause position, and Femenia turns it on. Drew Barrymore is playing Cinderella in the movie Ever After.

He checks to see if the couch possibly might still be wet from when Drake said Contreraz had soaked him with water. It's not, though there's a spray bottle nearby.

Femenia finally is ready to step into the small kitchen, where a grotesque scene awaits.

The body of Tim Contreraz still is leaning against a wall in a sitting position, exactly where the officers first saw him hours earlier.

The victim's head is slumped onto his chest, and a large amount of blood has run its course from the gaping hole in his upper right torso past his white nipple rings to the tiled kitchen floor.

Femenia notes that the victim's blood also has spattered about the kitchen. That tells him Contreraz probably was stabbed where he slumped to the floor, and that the blood had spurted out of his chest.

Blood smears on the wall directly behind and above the body tell him that Contreraz had tried to lift himself up after collapsing, or perhaps Shawn Drake had tried to lift him.

The bludgeoned victim still is wearing his blue-framed glasses.

Perhaps most important to the new investigation, Tim Contreraz died holding a cigarette between the index and middle fingers of his left hand.

It's burned down to the butt, still between his fingers.

The cigarette's presence certainly hurts Drake's self-defense argument.

"This scene is not what he was describing," Femenia says of Drake's earlier statements.

The blood spatterings are everywhere, including halfway up the refrigerator, where they have landed on a magnet of Ken-and-Ken figurines in matching wedding tuxedos.

Several liquor bottles are open on a kitchen counter, including a half-empty bottle of red wine.

"Some wine somme-whatever-he-called-himself," Femenia says, pointing to the not-so-fine Shiraz.

Investigators step gingerly around the blood and directly over the body to get to a back room, where Drake and Contreraz shared a small office. Some of Drake's school artwork hangs on his side of the small room.

The detectives find a broken drinking glass speckled with blood on the office floor.

Looking at Contreraz's computer monitor, Femenia sees it's still connected to a Web site where gay men can meet each other.

Nothing in the house reveals itself as the murder weapon, which suggests that Drake had cleaned it off or disposed of it during his short time on the run.

After spending more than an hour inside the dwelling, Femenia and Tom D'Aguanno check things out in the backyard. By now, the three dogs are starving and confused. D'Aguanno fetches them dry food and fills their water bowls, which immediately wins them over.

As for the coffin standing on one end in the yard, it's empty.

By 3:30, Femenia is ready to leave. Two employees from the county Medical Examiner's Office transport the body to the morgue, where doctors will perform an autopsy in a few days.


As Femenia drives to Chandler to notify Tim Contreraz's sister, he reflects on the previous nine hours.

"When you think about it, many lives have changed today," he says. "Shawn's life is never going to be the same. And the other guy, the guy Shawn supposedly loved? Well, he's dead."

At 4 p.m., the detective gently breaks the bad news that the sister says she'd already suspected from the earlier call. The woman asks Femenia questions he can't answer, including how much the funeral expenses might cost, and what's going to happen to her brother's canines. She speaks of adopting them.

Afterward, Femenia returns to Phoenix to organize preliminary paperwork on the case, before ending his 13-hour workday.

Early the next morning, a Sunday, the detective collects a security tape from the Circle K at Seventh Street and McDowell Road. It shows Shawn Drake calmly buying cigarettes minutes before he returned home -- the scene of the crime -- about 5:30 a.m.

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.)

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!'"

Omar says he exchanged insults with Contreraz, as Drake looked on passively.

"It was like they go through this [all the time]," Omar says, referring to the hosts. "I wanted to stay with Shawn, and vice versa. I was attracted to him. But Tim was out of control."

Fritz wanted to leave, and he was Omar's ride home, so the pair left the Richland home after no more than 45 minutes.

Fritz corroborates Omar's account in his interview with Femenia a few days later.

The detective is keenly aware that this image of Contreraz as the angry aggressor may give Drake at least a shot of winning a self-defense argument at trial.

But he says that digging for the truth is what he does:

"I really want to hear all sides of a story, and let the facts speak for themselves. Whatever it is, it is."

One fact that, sadly, does speak for itself is a letter Tim Contreraz wrote to a Superior Court judge in October 2004. It was a plea for leniency on behalf of Shawn Drake, then facing prison time in the stolen-car case.

"As a person, I believe Shawn to be a very good person," Contreraz wrote. "It's not often you meet a person in this day and age that you can trust right off the bat. At this time, I trust him completely, even with my life."

Drake has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled to start next month.

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