On February 18, Denver serial rapist Brent J. Brents nearly beat 33-year-old Tiffany Engle to death. She was his last victim—and she is also my friend.
Saturday Morning, Feb. 19, 9 a.m.
"Hey Tiffany. It's 10 minutes after 9. Just making sure the directions I gave you are OK. See you in a little bit."
"Hey Tiff. It's about 9:20. Are you lost? Call me when you get this."
"Tiffany, it's Lindsey. It's almost 9:45. I think we said 9, didn't we? Hope everything is OK. Just call me when you get this message."
"Hey, it's me again. It's 10. I'm starting to get a little worried. Can you call me as soon as you get this?"
"It's Lindsey again. It's 10:30. Call me."
"Hey. It's 11. Please just call me and let me know you're OK when you get this. Don't worry if you can't make the trip, I just want to make sure you're all right."
Tuesday Afternoon, March 1, 1 p.m.
It was a quick elevator ride to the fourth floor-except in my mind, where everything was in slow motion. I followed the signs to the nurses' station, where a nurse asked for my driver's license and verified it against "the list." Tiffany was a high-profile patient, and hospital security was tight. Handing me my ID, she pointed across the room to a set of double doors.
Thirty-one hours went by after my phone calls before I knew what had happened. A call from Tiffany's Aunt Deann on Sunday afternoon explained why Tiffany hadn't come to pick me up for our road trip to Utah the previous morning. Ten days later, I was at Denver Health medical center. Tiffany was out of the intensive-care unit, and I could finally see her.
I knocked as I opened the door and voiced a quiet "hello?" A heavy curtain hung lengthwise across the room, obstructing my view. I'd spoken with Tiffany's dad, Paul, on the phone a few times that week, and his soft, friendly voice matched the man standing in front of me. Although he sported a full head of white-gray hair, a goatee, and wire-rimmed glasses, his face was young. Wearing a plaid flannel shirt and jeans-clothes he would wear for weeks-he shook my hand and motioned for me to come in. As I turned the corner I heard Paul tell Tiffany that I was there. I didn't understand why until I saw her.
Lying still with her eyes swollen shut, she looked dead. On the right side of her head, which was shaved of its shoulder-length, strawberry-blonde hair, was a 12-inch surgical incision lined with staples. The raw-edged cut began at her right ear and swirled its way back and over her head to the top of her hairline above her right eyebrow. Just above the right ear, her head caved inward into a baseball-size bowl. Her puffy face was black and blue and green and yellow. Below both eyes were huge, red pools where blood had drained from her skull. She couldn't open her right eye. When she tried to open her left eye, it revealed only a narrow slit of light blue. The top of her right ear was missing. Her hands and arms displayed a small host of fading, yellow bruises and nearly healed scratches. I noticed small, horizontal, ligature-like cuts on both wrists below her thumbs. Her body, which was slender to begin with at 5 feet 7 inches and 125 pounds, had withered to a skeletal 117.
I looked around the room. Two pieces of notebook paper were taped to the wall directly above the head of her bed. In black felt-tip pen someone had written "fall precautions" on one and "missing bone flap" on the other. To the side of the bed was a small table where a clear-plastic, astronaut-worthy helmet rested. Behind the helmet was a bouquet of daisies-for the first time I noticed the air was heavy with the aroma of flowers.
Paul pulled over a chair and sat it down on the left side of the bed for me. He again told Tiffany I was there. She slowly reached her right hand out and I caught it. With her eyes still shut, she grinned and without hesitation said, "Sorry I stood you up last weekend."
Friday Evening, Feb. 18, approximately 5:45 p.m.
It's about 100 feet from the door of Apartment 4 to the middle of Marion Street. Tiffany doesn't remember getting up, climbing the flight of stairs, or walking along the side of the building to the street, where Greg Walz, 29, came upon her in his truck that night. Only feet from his own house, Walz's first thought at the sight of her was that someone was playing a sick joke. After slowing to a stop, however, Walz knew this wasn't funny. His second thought was more of a question: How is this woman even walking? Although it was dusk, he could see she was covered in blood and badly beaten. Her face was so swollen he couldn't tell the difference between her nose and cheeks. She was bleeding from her nose, the inside of her right ear, and from a wound at the top of the same ear. Her face and hands were smeared with blood, and her hair was soaked with it. Walz thought to himself that if she had been his best friend, he wouldn't have recognized her.