The Case of the Jealous Lover Boy

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.

"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.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin