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.
Even though the investigation had lasted more than a year, the evidence the prosecution brought to trial wasn’t really evidence. It was circumstantial, hearsay. Prosecutors cited Rider’s suspicious behavior. People with long histories of drug abuse testified. At least one of them had been drunk when the police interviewed her, and now, in September 1996, many of the witnesses didn’t always seem to remember things exactly as they’d happened. Back in 1994, Dulcie Newland claimed that on the night of the murder she awoke twice to find Rider and Mad Dog gone, and she said Rider had scratches on his face the next morning—scratches that hadn’t been there before. During the trial, though, Dulcie admitted that she’d made her statements to police while on the heels of a four-day meth bender.
Moreover, when Kuhn interviewed Rider just three days after the murder, Kuhn observed no scratches on Rider’s face or hands, only the “acid burns” on his forearms. Seemingly, had Taylor scratched Dewey, his DNA would have been beneath her fingernails. It wasn’t. Then there was the Mallow clan: Mad Dog and his brother, Jon, or “Monster,” and their sister, Sam, who was the last known person to see Taylor alive. On the night of the murder, three of Taylor’s friends visited her apartment: Jerome Bustos, Teri Erickson, and Lonnie Williams. When they arrived at about 9, Sam refused to let them inside. Bustos and Erickson testified that they looked through the window and saw Taylor lying on the couch. Only her leg was visible, and it wasn’t just sitting there—it was moving. For about an hour, Sam kept everyone outside. Bustos and Erickson left around 10, and Sam claimed she left with Williams around 10:30. But a neighbor across the street testified that he went outside at midnight to smoke a cigarette and saw Sam and Monster through the window of Taylor’s apartment.
He didn’t see the 19-year-old, but he did notice what looked like blood smeared on the wall. He knew Rider, and he said Rider wasn’t there. What happened between midnight and when Taylor was found is unknown, but the next day Sam phoned Mad Dog, asking, “Will you tell the police I was with you?” Later that day, Monster allegedly broke down to friends and said, “I can’t believe what my family has done.” He told them Sam fought with Taylor over a ring, and Sam returned it by “putting it on her body.” (During the trial, Monster denied saying any of this.) Sam admitted in court to arguing with
Taylor but claimed she’d never “possessed” the ring in question. She confessed to having a rock collection, too, but records show the pebble on Taylor’s abdomen was nothing special, just a nondescript piece of gravel. During a break in the trial, Gil Stone, the investigator from the district attorney’s office, approached prosecutor Martha Kent and Rider’s defense attorney, Randy Brown. Stone had just interviewed two girls who knew Sam, who was gay. Stone said according to the girls, “Sam liked to put dog leashes around girls’ necks, some sexual ecstasy, some dominance S&M thing.” “Well, where are they?” They were gone. The girls called Stone the next day saying they’d received death threats about this incident and another murder case and were leaving the county. They wouldn’t be testifying. Around the same time, Sam also disappeared. The next time Rider called his mother, he was elated: “Mom, don’t worry. All of this is pointing to my innocence. We have to go through it, but it’ll be fine.” And being a staunch believer, both in her son and in the righteous hand of her Lord, she replied simply, encouragingly, “OK. Good.” The lone physical evidence linking Rider to the crime scene was the Texaco shirt. It was all but eliminated when Brown called John Thornton to the witness stand. The lab director of Forensic Analytical Specialties in California was a leading expert on blood analysis, having written a chapter about it in a crime investigation textbook. He refuted Snyder’s claim that blood spatter caused the Texaco shirt’s stains. “I saw no indication of a pattern of medium impact or medium velocity blood,” Thornton told the court. He said it was impossible to say whether the blood was coming from inside or outside the shirt, and he also denied that the shirt contained any blood other than Rider’s. Other genetic testing experts weighed in, saying GeneScreen’s procedures were problematic and sloppy and that the sample the company used for the mixed DNA typing was potentially contaminated. One expert told jurors there was “certainly no evidence” that Jacie Taylor’s blood was on that shirt. In another setback for the prosecution, the thumb-printed soap crumbled before the print could be pulled. And the bloody palm print on the shower wall? CBI finally identified its origin: Joe Snyder, the lab tech. (Snyder says finding prints from law enforcement after they’ve analyzed a crime scene is nothing unusual.) Once it became clear Rider didn’t kill Taylor, the prosecutors switched gears, arguing that he may not have murdered her, but he must have been there and helped whoever did. It all made Rider think, There’s nothing to this. The evidence proves I’m innocent. But the jurors were mostly from Mesa County, a conservative part of Colorado. A young girl had been brutalized and Robert Dewey was a tough-looking biker with a checkered past. That the evidence was circumstantial didn’t matter. It came down to which group of experts the jury believed most. The complicity theory satisfied their suspicions, and on October 16, 1996, they read their verdict: guilty. After the judge handed Dewey a life sentence with no chance for parole, he asked, “Mr. Dewey, did you want to say anything?” Rider gazed heavily at the ceiling, stood up, looked at the judge, and said, “There’s still a killer out there.”