BOULDER, Colo. - A 17-year-old killed his girlfriend's mother, then used the victim's debit card to buy a handsaw to try to dismember the body, according to testimony that left two youths facing life in prison.
Tess Damm, 15, told her boyfriend, Bryan Grove, to kill her mother, then got on a cell phone to ask him what was taking so long, Lafayette police Detective Scott Robinson testified Wednesday during the preliminary hearing into the death of Linda Damm.
Although Linda Damm was an alcoholic who had a stormy relationship with her daughter and Grove, the pair had another motive, Robinson said. They wanted Tess Damm to inherit her mother's house so they could sell it and put a down payment on their dream house.
At the end of the eight-hour hearing, Boulder County District Judge Lael Montgomery said there was enough preliminary evidence to warrant the three charges against Grove and the four against Tess Damm.
The most serious, first-degree murder against Grove and complicity to commit first-degree murder against Tess Damm could result in life sentences.
The next step for the pair is an Aug. 3 arraignment in which they can enter pleas.
On Feb. 28, Grove confessed to police that he strangled and stabbed Linda Damm in her bedroom. But it wasn't until this week that prosecutors filed first-degree-murder charges against Tess Damm.
Previously, she'd been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, accessory to a crime and tampering with evidence.
Prosecutors Karen Peters and Adrian Van Nice used police reports and the testimony of lead detective Robinson to attempt to show Tess Damm's involvement in planning the killing.
Robinson said a friend of the pair, Jared Smith, 16, said he overheard Grove and Tess Damm talking about how to kill Linda Damm. Grove suggested a large kitchen knife, but Tess Damm said that would be too messy and instead suggested trying to make it look like an overdose, combining her mother's over-the-counter medication with alcohol.
According to what Smith told police, after a late night of planning at a pancake house, the pair drove back to the house, as Tess Damm had a last argument with her mother over the cell phone. Tess Damm turned to Grove and said, "Do it." Grove responded, "OK," gave her a quick kiss and went into the house.
There was no testimony Wednesday to suggest that Tess Damm was actually in the house at the time of the slaying.
After first telling police he hadn't seen Linda Damm in three weeks, then telling them he stabbed her after she went after him with a knife, Grove told police what they think is the true story.
He tricked the woman into going to her bedroom for a TV remote control, followed her in, locked the door and strangled her, using both arms to apply maximum force.
Grove said an argument preceded the attack, and that he might not have attacked her at all if the next words out of her mouth were an apology. Instead, Linda Damm told him that she'd be better off if Tess Damm had never been born, that then she wouldn't have "a black guy" hanging around the house.