Shot At Redemption

Looking at him, you'd never know.

The cocaine, the heroin, the meth, the whiskey. The days on end with no sleep, just one big roll after another, from one bar to the next with the pager going off at all hours and the hours themselves without meaning -- time flies when you're having fun. The strippers, fast motorcycles, the vagabond life -- all that is gone now. Left behind like a kaleidoscope after the child grows up.

At 41, Gordon Lederer has finally grown up. Sitting in the Madison Street Jail on a Friday morning in early March, he is the picture of serenity, like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption.

Only Lederer really did do it.

He looks you straight in the eye. Self-deprecating, but not overly so, just enough so you know he's earnest. He sounds at ease, occasionally smiling and answering what questions his attorney will allow in a calm, even voice. He's changed a lot since 1993. "The person I was then, I don't recognize," says the prisoner known as Preacher in the pod where he's lived for nearly a year.

His cellmate overdosed on drugs a few weeks ago. Floods from overflowing toilets are just regular life. He often gives away what's on his food tray, surviving on Smack Ramen from the commissary and spending his days reading the Bible.

Gordon Lederer had everything to live for -- a well-paying job, a nice house, a loving family -- and he threw it all away. For prison. For, perhaps, the rest of his life.

That's the price of making peace with God.

By Christmas Day, 1993, Judee Patton was seriously worried.

She hadn't heard from her daughter Monique MacDonald in a week. At 26, MacDonald wasn't the most responsible person, but it wasn't like her to let Christmas pass without visiting or calling. She lived within walking distance and didn't own a car.

MacDonald worked for escort services, performing nude dances for clients, usually in the privacy of hotel rooms where men were free to masturbate. She told her mother, who sometimes drove her to appointments, that her clients never touched her. MacDonald could make good money -- as much as $600 on a single call -- but she hadn't worked much in recent months due to a dalliance with methamphetamine that had her owing money to drug dealers and her landlord. She couldn't even pay her utilities.

After several unreturned telephone messages, Patton called Phoenix police the day after Christmas. An officer told her to check her daughter's house. If she found anything unusual, police would investigate. Otherwise, she'd have to wait a bit longer to file a missing-persons report.

Patton walked through the residence gathering up mail, address books and anything else that might help locate MacDonald. At first, the only thing that seemed strange was her bed. It was neatly made, completely out of character for a woman who left laundry scattered on the floor and loathed washing dishes. Kenneth Murphy, MacDonald's boyfriend, visited the next day and called the cops after finding a .22-caliber shell casing on her bedroom floor.

That was enough to launch a full-scale police investigation.

While looking for bullet holes, an officer spotted blood spattered on a wall above the casing. Police found MacDonald's house key under a pile of clothing and summoned a photographer. Luminol testing revealed several blood spots in her bedroom, which someone had obviously tried to clean up.

MacDonald's body was already in the county morgue as a Jane Doe, found dumped in the desert near Carefree on Christmas Eve. Police confirmed the identity hours after finding the blood spatters.

This wasn't an ordinary killing. Before shooting her to death, the killer had wrapped MacDonald's head in duct tape.

There were any number of suspects beyond her clients.

Murphy, who worked as an office clerk and freelance photographer, wasn't a model boyfriend. He'd had at least one affair, according to Patton, who also told officers that his relationship with her daughter had been violent. Murphy said MacDonald's taste for methamphetamine had become a source of constant friction. Within the past month, he'd given her a choice: either him or drugs. He also didn't like her dancing naked in front of strangers. She wasn't able to break away from meth, nor did Murphy cut things off. Instead, the pair argued.

There was also a guy named Gordon.

Patton told police she didn't know his last name, but Gordon had arrived at MacDonald's house about the same time she did a week before Christmas, the last time she'd seen her daughter. Patton had come to borrow a coat. She didn't know why Gordon was there, only that he asked her daughter if he could borrow the phone. "You know where it is," her daughter said, as if he had been there before. He was still on the telephone when Patton left after less than five minutes inside the house.