Stay tuned to this website for the publication date of the book, Diary Of A Predator: A Memoir, for an inside look into the mind of Brent Brents and the impact his story had on the journalist covering his case. Part of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to Street’s Hope, the non-profit organization that helps women leave the sex-for-sale industry.
Here’s an excerpt.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
The black Dodge Neon had been reported stolen in a carjacking the day before, but the driver, a twenty-three-year-old female who said her name was Kari, kept insisting to her arresting officer she hadn’t done anything wrong. As he escorted her to the main headquarters for Denver police to process her arrest, she asked why there was such a large crowd of media.
They’re probably trying to get a picture of someone we’re bringing in, he told her.
Is it that man who was on TV? Kari asked.
Good, she said. He raped two of my friends.
Did they report the assaults? the officer asked.
No, she said, because they were scared.
A few moments later, as the officer and Kari arrived at the elevator, detectives walked up escorting Brents. Kari and Brents stared at each other, and she froze as the officer accompanying her said they’d take the next one.
As Brents stepped into the elevator, Kari finally spoke to him just before the doors closed.
“You get what you deserve,” she said.
Inside the elevator, Brents turned to Priest. “Her name is Kari, and she was one of my victims.”
The portable video equipment the Denver police brought to Glenwood Springs for the interview did not pick up good audio—the subject was speaking too softly.
So they packed up and drove Brents to Denver. Laser-focused to get on with his questioning, Priest didn’t even stop to change his shirt after spilling coffee all over it during the return trip.
They had enough from Brents to ensure dozens of felony charges so far, including attempted murder, kidnapping and several counts of rape. One of those cases was a woman in Aurora he said he attacked as brutal retaliation to Aurora police who had been calling him and telling him to turn himself in for molesting the eight-year-old boy.
“It’s just the way that one cop talked to me,” Brents told Priest. “He kind of treated me like shit so I’m like, well, fuck you. You know, I told you I was going to turn myself in on Monday, and if they would let me, then it would have all been good. I would have just done that.”
So far that was the only Aurora case. As the charges piled up, prosecutors at the Denver DA’s office set bond at $25 million. Now they needed to fine-tune the details.
At the Denver police department, Priest was upping his control. On the way to the interview room, Brents asked him to take off his handcuffs so he could eat lunch, but Priest had someone else do it and walked away. They had ordered McDonalds—a Big N Tasty for Priest and two quarter pounders with cheese, French fries, and a Coke for Brents. Now as officers walked him into the interview room, Brents paused and looked around for the familiar face.
“Where’s Priest?” he asked.
Outside the room, watching through the one-way glass, Priest waited as Brents shifted in his seat and became clearly more uncomfortable. Detectives and members of the DA’s office continued to gather, so there was more of an audience now. Brents was aware of it, and Priest didn’t want him to start showboating to them. Don’t let him think he’s in control, he thought, or he’ll start to lie.
This Brents was very different from the young man Priest knew before. Children no longer excited him, and only hours before he had admitted to choking many of his victims while raping them.
To get the feelings he wants, he hurts people—but the pain isn’t what he’s after. The control is. Pain and struggle and fear are starting to excite him.
That thought logically led to the pressing question: Did he kill anyone?
Not that they knew of— yet. Tiffany Engle was still alive, although reports indicated the bleeding inside her brain was steadily increasing.
It was time to get back to it. As Priest stepped into the interview room, Brents looked up at him, his food as yet untouched.
“I really want you to sit and eat with me,” Brents said.
The pressure in Tiffany Engle’s brain continued to climb. Over the weekend, she became less and less responsive, until shortly before midnight on Sunday, February 20, surgeons became alarmed and performed an emergency craniotomy, removing a piece of her skull and a section of her bruised brain before putting her in a medically induced coma.
There was no way of knowing when she would wake up, hospital officials told Priest.
Monday morning found me at my desk in the newsroom at the Post, staring at a blank sheet of white copy paper in deep thought.
Brents sat in a Denver jail, the object of an obsessed media that fought for every new detail about his case like a school of frenzied piranhas.
What was he like? What did he have for breakfast? What about medical tests—was he HIV positive? Was he talking? What else had he confessed to?
And it wasn’t just the media that was interested. One psychiatrist, a man with an impressive list of accomplishments, peremptorily scheduled a weekend symposium, all about Brents. In the description for it, he promised to reveal the secrets of Brents’ mind.
Full of optimism and ego, he showed up at the jail. Hours later, dejected and empty-handed, he left.
Brents’ public defender, a no-nonsense woman named Carrie Thompson, also made it clear that neither she nor her client were going to talk. Undaunted, reporters and photographers continued to troop to the jail throughout the day in hopes of gaining access to Brents. Those with recognizable faces used different last names on the visiting log request form, but to no avail.
I didn’t bother to drive to the jail, figuring it was a waste of time—I would be just another desperate reporter. What I needed to do was set myself apart, and I decided to send him a handwritten letter—typing was too impersonal—but not on Denver Post stationery, because he was surely being bombarded by media requests from around the country and would probably just throw another one onto the already-burgeoning pile.
If you’re a serial rapist, the object of so much hatred and also morbid interest, I asked myself, what would grab your attention?
So I turned to the one advantage I had over everyone else and referred to it straight away.
I went to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where I talked to your mom and your sister. If you were to ask them, they would say I treated them with dignity and respect, and I will do the same for you.
Short and simple.
I then gave him the 800 number to the newsroom and asked him to call collect anytime.
I signed the letter and sealed it in a plain envelope with just the initial “A” as the name on the return address, which I listed as the street address of the Post. As a last-minute thought, I wrote on the outside of the envelope, “Please don’t be afraid to open.”
Maybe that would reassure someone who was no doubt getting tons of hate mail, I thought. At the very least, it would get his attention.
What I didn’t know then was that I already had.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Forty-year-old Georgia Wood was on the small, grassy lot in front of her Aurora condominium playing fetch with her black lab, Lexi, when a petite woman with dark hair she’d never seen before walked up to her and began to talk.
It makes me nervous that you left your garage door open, the woman told Wood. I accidentally locked myself out of my house because I keep my door locked all the time now— because I was raped by Brent Brents.
From Rocky Mountain News, published February 23, 2005, at midnight
Aurora will revamp its arrest procedures after coming under heavy criticism for not locking up Brent J. Brents before he allegedly committed a series of rapes in Denver.
Mayor Ed Tauer said Tuesday that it’s too early to release specifics of the overhaul, but he did say that city leaders are making “forward and backward” changes so arrests can be made without undue delays.
The list of revisions will be completed in 10 days, with most going into effect immediately and others possibly taking a bit longer, he said.
“We don’t want this to happen again,” said Tauer, who has been critical of procedures that resulted in an arrest warrant not being issued for Brents until more than two months after Aurora police questioned him on molestation allegations.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
My job as a criminal justice reporter at the Denver Post was to dig deeper behind the headlines of stories dealing with crime or the courts. Once the police had arrested Brents, the unfolding of his case throughout the system reverted back to the veteran Post court reporter.
The list of his charges, released by the Denver DA’s office, was staggering:
C HARGES FILED AGAINST BRENTS
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has formally charged a suspected serial rapist with 80 felony counts today including sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery.
Brent J. Brents (DOB: 05-12-69) is charged with:
24 counts of sexual assault (F2)
7 counts of second-degree kidnapping (F2)
1 count of attempted first-degree murder (F2)
3 counts of sexual assault on a child (F3)
2 counts of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury (F3)
1 count of second-degree assault (F3)
4 counts of first-degree burglary (F3)
4 counts of aggravated robbery (F3)
1 count of aggravated motor vehicle theft (F3)
8 counts of menacing (F5)
1 count of vehicular eluding (F5)
1 count of false imprisonment (F5)
5 counts of habitual sexual offender against children (Sentence enhancer)
18 counts of crime of violence (Sentence enhancer)
The charges reflect allegations against Brents involving attacks on eight people in five different incidents.
Brents will be formally advised of the charges TOMORROW, Friday, February 25, 2005, at 9 a.m. in Denver County Court, room 12T. He remains in custody in the Denver County Jail. His bond is $25 million dollars. The investigation is continuing and additional charges are possible at a later date.
That afternoon I was eating a green apple at my desk in the newsroom when an editor called out to me. Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer had just issued a statement that there was another confirmed victim of Brents in his city, which is just east of Denver.
Since authorities will protect the identity of a victim of sexual assault, they will only release the cross streets of where it happened, which is the cryptic description Tauer made public: 1st and Nome.
“We want you and a photographer to go to the location and try to find the woman,” the editor told me.
A few minutes later, as I stood near the door of the newsroom, I was joined by photojournalist Kathryn Scott Osler, a petite energetic brunette with a musical voice. Kathryn and I looked at each other and grinned. We had been paired together for the military series, Betrayal in the Ranks, and the many grueling hours we’d spent together at different locations around the county for that project had bonded us and solidified a confidence in each other’s work. She’d been with me the day of that awful first interview with Sharon Mixon in St. Petersburg. Afterward, as Kathryn and I walked dazed and silent into our air-conditioned hotel room, still stunned by the magnitude of Sharon’s trauma, Kathryn flopped her thin, wiry frame flat onto one of the double beds in the room, stared up at the ceiling, and summed up both our fears in her lilting yet no-nonsense way: “Holy shit. How are we going to do this?”
Now this task— first of finding a victim at a vague location, and then convincing her to talk— seemed almost as formidable. It was 1:30 p.m.
“Well, let’s go!” Kathryn said cheerfully. She was always upbeat. It was disgusting.
Four hours later, our optimism was wearing thin.
After going to what we finally figured was the wrong neighborhood because it was in an area that looked too commercial, I managed to snag Ed Tauer’s cell phone number from another reporter and called him directly to clarify the location. He seemed surprised, almost amused, that we were actually going there and was very friendly and polite.
Once in the actual confirmed neighborhood, Kathryn and I stood on a street corner and collectively sighed: We were facing a small city of condominiums. They lined the street like giant Legos, six rows deep, in alphabetical order: A, B, C, D, E, F.
We opted to each take a side, and started knocking on doors.
As darkness fell and the editors at the Post changed shifts, they would occasionally call my cell phone to check in: any luck?
Finally, shortly before 7 p.m., I started to feel hope. We had skipped dinner, canvassing the area for hours, asking folks, “Have you seen any crime scene tape here lately? Police? Did you hear of anyone being attacked by the serial rapist Brent Brents?” Finally, we found a nurse, who knew the neighborhood handyman, who said he knew the victim, and lo and behold, he had a name and a door number: Margaret at 18B.
It was exhilarating to finally be this close. I ignored the fact that it was dark and nearly 7:30 when we finally walked up to the door, arranging a hasty game plan. Kathryn and her off-putting camera would stay a few feet back from the door, and I would do my best to get us inside. I knocked firmly, confidently, three times.
There was a stirring on the other side of it, and a full minute passed before I heard locks tumble. When the door opened, I found myself staring at a nervous-looking man. He ran his hands through his hair as I introduced myself. Behind him, I could see a tiny woman cautiously peering around a doorway, her fingers clenched onto the door jam.
“You scared us,” the man said accusingly, and I was taken aback: in my single-minded pursuit of the story, I hadn’t expected that.
But it wasn’t going to put me off.
“I’m so sorry. I know it’s late,” I told him. “We’ve been trying to find Margaret for hours. We’re really hoping to hear from her about what happened. “And,” I added in what I hoped would be the winning argument, “it may help other victims step forward.”
The man looked at me dubiously and said, “Give us a minute.” He stepped back inside and shut the door. I stood stock-still on the dim porch step, trying hard not to tap my foot impatiently while muffled voices went back and forth.
After what seemed like eternity but was only a few moments, the door swung open and the petite woman stepped into the hallway and nodded. “Ok, I’ll talk to you,” she said, and I gave a silent and hasty thank-you to the universe.
I’ve been to all sorts of crime scenes— thickly tangled woods; hot, dusty streets; lavish, layered homes; crowded, shabby duplexes— and every one of them share the same feeling: a somewhat painful, palpable negative energy that remains of the violence that happened there, like a dark mist too fine to be seen hanging in the air.
Margaret’s home was the same way. As she showed us where Brents had rushed her at the very front door where we now stood, she stepped into the living room and gestured to the couch.
“There,” she said, pointing to a large, bare patch in the upholstery. “He raped me there. The police cut part of it away for evidence.”
Oh. I stared transfixed at the spot, suddenly feeling nauseated, and finally with effort managed to drag my eyes away.
You are on deadline, I told myself firmly. Get a grip. Shrug it off.
I turned and nodded encouragingly at Margaret as she continued to talk in a frantic rush, her words pouring out in what seemed like relief.
The attack had happened almost three weeks before, yet fading yellow and brown bruises remained on her cheek and throat.
And like many victims I’ve interviewed over the years, Margaret had felt a premonition before the attack that something awful was going to happen.
She had seen the man she now knew was Brents on a Wednesday while out for her daily walk. He was bundled against the cold, but even beyond the layers, he looked intimidating, walking slowly and staring intently. Instantly unnerved, she had hurried home, and the next day, still feeling unsettled, she decided to skip her walk.
That night she had a nightmare, a distressing dream she couldn’t remember but one that woke her up with a start.
On Friday, with her car in the shop being repaired, Margaret rode the bus to run errands, fastening her bag securely around her waist to keep from getting pick-pocketed.
Once she stepped off the bus for home, the same heavyset man she had seen earlier in the week appeared, walking past her in an apparent hurry. Then he suddenly turned and began walking briskly back toward her. Her heart pounding, Margaret darted into the nearby street, dodging heavy traffic. When she turned, he was gone.
Relaxing a little, she again headed home. As she opened her front door, the man suddenly charged out of nowhere.
“His eyes, they were big,” she told me. She had one thought, “Oh my God, an animal.”
He was out of breath. “I started screaming,” Margaret said. “I tried to shut the door, and he pushed it. I started screaming, ‘Somebody help!’ and then I saw a fist coming.”
As if the attack hadn’t been awful enough, the rest of her story was also distressing. Aurora police told her it would take two months to process the DNA from her rape kit and gave her no hope the case would be solved. Then two things happened back to back: Margaret saw a photo of the now-captured Brents on TV, and during his interview with Priest, Brents gave details of his attack on her that enabled investigators to put two and two together.
Deadline for the front page was 9 p.m. It was now 8:15. Kathryn, who works swiftly and unobtrusively, had already finished taking photos, none of which would show Margaret’s face. As she drove us back to the newsroom, I popped in the cinnamon gum I always chew when writing and scribbled asterisks next to important details in my notebook. After grabbing a quick gulp of water at the fountain, I sat down at my desk to the familiar pounding rush of trying to do someone’s story justice on deadline.
From “Diary Of A Predator: A Memoir” by Amy Herdy. Copyright 2010 by Amy Herdy.