The Case of the Gentleman Gambler
Grand Junction police think they’ve finally solved a years-old murder—if only they can get the alleged perpetrator back to Colorado to stand trial.
In fall 2004, after dental records identified the skull Yount found as Sabrina’s, dozens of searchers combed the nearby meadows but found no more signs of her body, probably because animals had scattered the bones. Investigators have always acted under the assumption that Sabrina was killed on or near Douglas Pass, though they admit they’re not sure. She may have been killed elsewhere and her body was dumped there. Or she may have been dismembered and her body parts scattered.
By this time Bebb-Jones had turned to professional gambling, made a modest name for himself as a Texas Hold ’em player on the British poker circuit, and developed a reputation as a gentleman in the company of scoundrels. “Poker is full of low-life scum, basically,” says an official at the popular Nottingham poker club Dusk Till Dawn who asked not to be identified because of the club’s policy of not discussing its clients. “It used to be little gangsters playing poker in back rooms, but [Bebb-Jones] was the new age of poker.”
For professional players, losing a hand means losing a paycheck, and most pros have quick tempers and outsized egos, according to James Welch, a fellow poker player who knew Bebb-Jones from the Nottingham club. Welch says Bebb-Jones had a reputation as a “tight aggressive,” one who was conservative with bad hands, daring with good hands, and always even-tempered, win or lose. “Usually the better poker players are the more arrogant ones,” Welch says. “He was a real pleasure, a real nice gentleman, to be honest.”
What no one realized at first was that this apparently upstanding newcomer was being tracked by American police. The slow pace of the investigation—it was only after Yount found Sabrina’s skull in 2004 that it picked up again—allowed Bebb-Jones to remain a regular at Dusk Till Dawn until it leaked on British poker forums that police were scrutinizing him. Poker, of course, is all about disguising emotions and keeping hands hidden. Still, when rumors broke about the investigation, the Dusk Till Dawn official says the other players were stunned. “I never got the impression there was anything sinister in his body,” he says. “And I’ve rarely been wrong.”
On the other hand, the official notes, to play the mind-game of poker with a murder on your conscience would “take a lot of balls,” a quality that Bebb-Jones evidently possessed, at least at the tables. “He played [his hands] pretty normal,” Welch says, “but when he had the opportunity, he would go for the jugular.”