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Pitt and the Pendulum

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The woman said she'd pulled out the knife, closed the bedroom door and waited for about 15 minutes before phoning a male friend from a phone that sat a few feet from her in the bedroom. In turn, the friend had called 911.

The account doesn't smell right to the detectives, but they're aware of another recent incident across the hall, in which a man allegedly threatened another woman with a knife.

The detectives have asked Steve Pitt to join them at the crime scene. He makes a pronouncement after poking around the apartment for a time.

"This girl may have done herself," Pitt tells the cops.

He reads a forlorn letter that the victim — is she a victim? — had recently written to an ex-boyfriend. On a living-room shelf, he finds two cards from her mother — who lives in Massachusetts. The missives express hope that the young woman's money situation is clearing up.

Pitt studies the photos on the walls and on the refrigerator that depict a thin, pretty girl who looks younger than 22.

"Maybe she knew she was dealing with the Boulder PD," Pitt jokes darkly about the strange sequence of events after the stabbing — the 15-minute delay, then calling a friend, and not the cops.

Pitt's reference is to the Ramsey case, specifically to ex-Boulder detective Linda Arndt, who was the first to respond to the crime scene. Arndt recently complained on national television that her superiors had failed to assist her fast enough at the Ramseys'.

Pitt gets away with his gallows humor because the detectives like him, and know he respects their work.

"The guy doesn't miss a heck of a lot," says Wickman, who doesn't seem to miss much himself. He and Trujillo are meticulous, thorough and patient as they process the scene.

"Listen," Pitt tells the detectives. "Someone gets in through the second-story sliding door, finds a knife, kneels down, stabs this girl in the side, leaves. She doesn't knock over that full glass of water by her bed, then waits all that time to call for help, though she's had a knife stuck in her.

"Now, think of all these stressors she has in her life: Dumped by a boyfriend, low self-esteem, financial problems, away from her family and her friends for a short period of time. I'll bet she has a mental-health history. I'll bet you a dessert."

Tom Wickman takes the bet, just for kicks.

About 2 p.m., the detectives leave the crime scene and stop at a familiar haunt for a bite to eat. Trujillo is just about to dig into his breakfast when his pager goes off. Wickman's sounds, too.

The pair leave immediately, game faces on. They don't say where they're going, but those left behind suspect this is it.

It is.

Two hours later, outside the Justice Center, Alex Hunter makes his short announcement:

No charges against anyone in the Ramsey case.

The next morning at the Boulder PD, with Wickman sitting in, Steve Pitt briefs the detective who's been assigned to lead the case. He tells her why he suspects the wound to be self-inflicted, and carefully walks her through the investigative steps she should take to get the young woman to come clean.

"This is a very interesting case," the shrink says, clearly in his element. "Very, very interesting."

"Just another day," replies Wickman. "Just another day."

By the way, he owes Steve Pitt a dessert.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin