Robert “Rider” Dewey spent 17 long years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. During that time, he endured constant legal setbacks and personal tragedies. This is how he made it to the other side.
June 6, 1994 Rider was at the C & F convenience store in Palisade when Kuhn first spotted him. “You resemble a guy named Rider,” Kuhn said. “Do you go by that name?” Rider had resumed using speed, and the drug magnified his paranoia over a recent incident. When a Grand Junction couple refused to pay him for engine work he’d done, he stole their Colt .45 handgun as collateral and split to Palisade to hide out. He couldn’t have picked a worse place to stay: on the couch of an Inness Court apartment with his friend Don “Mad Dog” Mallow and Mad Dog’s girlfriend, Dulcie Newland, just a few doors down from Jacie Taylor. Rider had arrived about a week before her death, looking for a place to crash after a series of fights with his wife. Rider knew Kuhn had questions about Taylor. That was fine. What bothered him was the warrant for stealing the Colt .45. If Kuhn discovered his identity, Rider was sure he’d be charged as a previous drug offender in possession of a firearm, a crime that could carry at least a one-year sentence. “No,” he lied. “Don’t know no Rider.” “What is your name?” “Mike Powl.” “How about you come down to the station later so we can talk about what’s going on?” Kuhn said. “Sure.” That afternoon, Rider met Kuhn at the Palisade Police Department. He provided the same bogus name, this time with a fake birth date and social security number, and claimed his identification had been stolen. “How do you know Jacie?” Kuhn asked. “What were you doing on Friday?” That, Rider could explain. It hadn’t yet crossed his mind that he was a suspect in her murder. He had been at Taylor’s earlier in the day looking for Sam Mallow, Mad Dog’s sister, who had a prison record and had been staying with Taylor. Rider thought Sam might have had speed, but she was tapped. He spent the afternoon at Mad Dog’s and returned to Taylor’s at 8 that night. Sam still didn’t have the drugs, so he retreated to Mad Dog’s place and didn’t leave again until the next morning. Kuhn asked about a homemade bandage on Rider’s arm. Rider had been scratching himself raw because of the speed, but he claimed the bandage was covering up battery acid burns. Kuhn didn't think the circular scabs looked like burns but didn’t say so. Instead he said, “We’ll just need to get your fingerprints. They might be needed for elimination.”
The print room jacked Rider’s paranoia even higher. On a disarrayed desk was a “wanted” flier that referenced the Colt .45 with a picture of him. He flipped it over when the police weren’t looking. They took Rider’s prints, snapped a Polaroid, and cut him loose. He walked out of town before the sun set. After he fled, Mad Dog and Dulcie Newland called the police so they could hand over Rider’s things: T-shirts, pants, the handgun, and a long-sleeved Texaco work shirt. Police picked Rider up in Pueblo within a few weeks. He still didn’t realize that a gun charge was the least of his worries. Rider’s last act as a free man was giving police another false name. It didn’t work. He spent the next 10 months in jail on the gun charge as the Jacie Taylor investigation continued. Detectives theorized that bloodstains on Rider’s Texaco shirt were Taylor’s, which would put Rider at the crime scene. Snyder determined the stains were medium-velocity blood spatter, consistent with the attack. The CBI sent its evidence to a DNA testing lab called GeneScreen in Dallas, which reported that semen found on the blue and white blanket was not Rider’s, nor was the matter beneath Taylor’s fingernails. Yet the DNA from both samples matched each other, indicating an unknown third party would have been present. GeneScreen ran two tests on the Texaco shirt. One was consistent with only Rider’s blood and excluded Taylor. But the other suggested a “mixed typing”—Rider’s DNA plus someone else’s. If the test was accurate, the second DNA sample was the same type as 45 percent of the Caucasian population, which meant Taylor was one of tens of thousands of possible matches in Mesa County alone. Regardless, it was enough for probable cause. On April 13, 1995, just a week before his scheduled release on the gun charge, Rider was arrested for the sexual assault and murder of Jacie Taylor. Rider was stunned. He’d admitted to stealing the gun and to having lied. But rape? Murder?