Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Secret shopper scam alert

I'm grateful this viewer was smart and decided to reach out. 

Secret shopper "scams" are all basically the same. Scam artists send you a check/money order and want you to immediately cash it and wire part of that money to someone else.

Here's the thing: the checks are usually fake. You won't know that for a few days until your bank calls to tell you. The bank will then deduct the value of the check from your account. By that time you've already wired money to some unknown person and you can't get it back. You are out the money.

Here's the viewer's email. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What inspires me. #FailedToDeath

The response we've received from our "Failed to Death" series shows Coloradans do care about child abuse and neglect. I never thought they didn't, but with so many competing interests these days I wasn't sure how many people would react.

In great numbers they have emailed, called, Facebooked and tweeted me to say they want to see the system improve.

I got this email from a Littleton couple:
"Your week-long reporting, along with the corresponding articles in the Post, have not only informed us but also has raised our awareness to the point of action.  This morning we sent an email to our re-elected State Senator, Linda Newell.  We explained to her that we fully support the idea of a statewide hotline and would support her efforts fully."
Last night State Senator Linda Newell wrote to tell about the urgency she's feeling from the dozens of people emailing and calling her. She is inspired. I am too. I take pride in knowing that our series, which we produced with The Denver Post (see their series here), has the attention of legislators who have great power and can do something about reducing child abuse and neglect.

Here are State Senator Newell's thoughts which I included in follow-up news report.

I want to know what you think after watching our stories. Send me a note on Facebook or tweet me. Thanks for watching and caring.

Here's first story in our series. It's heartbreaking.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why you can't see what inmates in federal custody look like

There are two reasons... one cameras are not allowed in federal courts. We can have sketch artists who draw what people look like. We are allowed to Tweet from court and use other technology, but no cameras. I wish I knew the full reason behind this. In come courts, an inmate must walk into public view as they enter or exit the courthouse. In the District of Colorado, that's not the case.

The other reason, is that most federal districts do not release mug shots of people who have been arrested. Colorado is one of those that doesn't.

...just a couple of interesting pieces of information. I had time to write this out because the hearing for Mitchell Kusick is delayed by 30 minutes and counting. He's the man federal prosecutors say planned to attack Jefferson County school kids and also kill Obama.

Apparently I'm "trustworthy." Scam artists just love flattery

Like I would ever fall for this. (I say that all the time, but clearly people do.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Keeping abuse & neglect stories in perspective #FailedToDeath

I wanted to share a couple of things on my mind.

We worked long and hard to investigate both state and county departments of human services, as well as the overall systems in place to keep children from dying of abuse and neglect.

It hasn't been easy. We've been critical of the system.

We've shown how some 3,000 child abuse or neglect tips were not properly investigated. We've shown you the smiling faces of children who lived tough lives.

With all of the tough facts I'm reporting this week, I do think people in charge do want to improve the systems. There are hard-working caseworkers and supervisors out there. Caseworkers aren't after a big paycheck. Imagine if each day you had to go see kids in struggling situations. It would be very, very tough. The hard-working caseworkers deserve a lot of our thanks and gratitude for doing what they do day in and day out.

I don't have all the solutions.
Maria Gardner talks from prison.
Some progress is being made. El Paso County DHS changed its policy after Maria Gardner lit her children on fire. But we still don't have a full understanding of why the caseworker and a therapist didn't realize she was a danger to herself and her children.

Change is not as fast as anyone would like.

It's clear the system fails some children. I wish counties were able to share the whole picture with us when a child dies.

It doesn't sit well with me when I learn that the head of Adams County's Department of Human Services told my colleague, Jeremy Jojola, that he didn't want to release information in Andres Estrada case.

He asked Jeremy how he'd feel if his family lost a loved one and details appeared on television.

It wouldn't be easy for any of us. But how will we ever know of problems and find solutions if the facts don't eventually come out?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Valid provisional ballots will be counted

I just got off the phone with Adams County. Every provisional ballot that is determined to be valid, will be counted. It does not matter how close an election is. Adams County tells me that it is that way nationwide. Federal law actually dictates how provisional ballots are counted.

Karen Long, who is the Adams County Clerk and Recorder, tells me every election cycle there is a rumor that provisional ballots only get counted if the race is very close. She says that's only a rumor and is not true.

Voting problems in Adams County confirmed

I just got off the phone with officials in Adams County. They told me that they've identified the source of the computer problems.

When some voters went to check their voter eligibility at the polling precincts they were told they were not eligible to vote. Officials think that that was because poll workers were putting too much personal information into the system. Believe it or not, I'm told the system works better when you put less information in.

Here's an example. If you put someone's first name, last name, address, city, state and ZIP Code and any part of that information isn't exactly correct then the computer rejects it.

Officials think they have corrected the problem by instructing all of the polling precincts in Adams County to only use someone's first name, last name and date of birth.

If someone was rejected previously they were still allowed to vote using a provisional ballot.

Our 1.5 hour voting line prediction at CenterPoint was WAY wrong #Decision2012

Reports that post office won't deliver ballots inaccurate

The U.S. Post Office says it will deliver any mail-in ballot, even if it doesn't have the correct postage.

David Rupert, with the Denver area post office, says it's the national policy to deliver ballots.

Of course, he doesn't want people to take this information and decide not to put any postage on their ballot. In most cases, the U.S. Postal Service goes back to the individual counties and makes them pay up, Rupert says.

Report: Computers not working right in Adams Co., Co. checking

I just heard from a 9NEWS viewer via Facebook who said he tried to vote but the computer system in Adams County wouldn't pull up his voting information. Here's part of his Facebook message:

"As [the election judge] typed in my information apparently the computer system was not able to find my information in the data base. I have lived at my address since 1999 and have not changed any thing. He tried to find my information several different ways and still could pull up the correct information. At that time he offered me the option of a provisional ballot.....

"A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there is some question in regards to a given voter's eligibility."

My response was "No i will not fill out a provisional ballot, I am in the system you should probably get a supervisor over here to get this straightened out."

One of the other volunteer's mentioned "Why is this happening so often?" That is what concerned me the most. Another volunteer suggested I move to a different terminal "That seems to help" she said.

Well it did help and my information popped up right away."

I talked to Adams County Clerk Karen Long just now. She tells me she's not aware of such problems but she was going to call the Thornton City Hall, where this supposedly happened, and get back to me.

I'll keep you posted. Anyone else have this problem?

Info on lines at CenterPoint in Aurora #Decision2012

I'm hearing you loud and clear, there are long lines at Aurora's CenterPoint.

Manny Sotelo, one of our photographers, took this image about 9:30.

  • He estimates an hour-and-a-half wait,
  • He was told it's too busy inside for him to go in,
  • People are in a small room voting and it's packed,
  • Manny says everyone is patiently waiting and no one is angry,
  • Lots of people are Facebooking, Tweeting or reading a book.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I used some new tools to investigate #Denver's #CrimeMap

To investigate missing crimes on Denver’s crime map, we used Microsoft Access. Here are just some of the missing crimes we discovered:
  • 2011 Robbery where someone snatched another person’s purse.
  • 2011 False imprisonment, kidnapping, sex assault with an object. DPD tells me the boyfriend of the victim was the bad guy.
  • 2011 A locked vehicle was stolen off the street.
  • 2010 Home burglary. The crooks stole electronics from the house.
  • 2010 Someone stole the radio from an unlocked car. (Lock your car people.)
  • 2010 The victim was starting arguments with people when DPD tells me a man approached the victim and stabbed him in the stomach.
  • 2009 DPD says the suspect forced his way into an apartment where he fondled one victim and physically assaulted another.
  • 2009 The suspect removed bikes from the garage and was confronted by the owner while placing the biles on top of the vehicle, DPD says. The suspect then got inot the vehicle and hit the victim while driving away.
To figure out which crimes were missing, we joined fields in the table and then told the program to give us all records where the join was NULL. 

It’s a bit of computer lingo. Here’s the easy way to think of it. We took a database of all crimes reported to DPD and took a database of all crimes that show up on crime mapper. 

Then we told the computer to, ‘Match all the records and then show me each record that did not join up with another.’

There were nearly 12,000 missing records in all.

The City of Denver says it is working to get the missing crimes to appear on the crime map.

To see what crimes are missing in your neighborhood, search the database created by 9NEWS here. Here’s a link to Denver’s crime map.

It’s amazing how much computer assisted reporting has changed a reporter’s life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Death threat via email

I often post email from viewers in my blog. Most of the time it's people trying to scam others. I'd bet this is the case here too. This one happens to come with the added bonus of a death threat.
Anyone else received something like this?

The craziest part comes after "Kadiri" tells me he's been paid $1,000,000 to kill me. In the second paragraph, he goes on to say I do not need to be afraid of him. WHAT?!

While this email is odd, part of me does worry it might cause someone to loose sleep.

I just reached out to the FBI to see if agents can tell me where these types of emails generally come from. They have a Cyber Squad with agents who are experts in this type of thing. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why I made the right decision NOT to jump in the middle of a fight, despite what some viewers think

(The video is graphic.)
(The video is graphic.)
As I finished up a live shot recently and walked back to the truck, I watched a group of people fighting behind bushes and trees. At first I couldn’t tell what was going on. It appeared something wasn’t right so I called 911. 

As you see in the video, it went from bad to worse. Some of the people left, but not all of them.

My initial reaction was to run up to stop the fight. However, there were several people involved and I couldn’t tell whether they had guns, knives or other weapons.

I have covered law enforcement for years and learned this: if I get seriously hurt, there often isn’t anyone left to call 911. Help for all is delayed.

When I can help someone involved in a car crash or safely help a victim of a crime, I do so every time.

My photographer was quick thinking and rolled tape to capture the suspects’ faces and document what was going on. You can imagine what impact that could have on a law enforcement investigation.

What you can’t see in the video is me on the phone with emergency services, going up to the victim, keeping him calm and relaying as much information as I could to police and paramedics over the phone.

The whole situation was unfortunate. So is leaving viewers with the impression we don’t care. The situation was unsetting, saddening and something we all thought about for quite some time that night.

I applaud people for wanting to help this man. I hope this blog post gives another perspective. We all have to make the best choices we can in a very short amount of time.

It wasn’t safe for us to rush the men. Once they left, we did the best we could to help the victim. I think we made the right decision. In this situation there was no easy decision.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Please think before you tweet. Anyone who has lost a family member will thank you #NFL #SM

It's hard to think of a possible excuse that would explain this situation.

After losing his brother that weekend, Torrey Smith decide to play his NFL game Sunday. The Ravens won.

Then a fan decided to tweet something heartless and thoughtless.

Anyone who has lost a family member can imagine what that must feel like.

I want this Tweeter on ESPN to make a statement. She owes it to everyone.

Hopefully the words "I'm sorry" come from her mouth and don't simply appear in a statement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sometimes the scam artists hardly even try, but people must fall for their tricks

This was waiting for me in my inbox. Are the scam artists even really trying? Let's hope not. (Would someone really fall for this? Let's hope not.)

What other types of email scams show up in your mail or email box?

How reporters use hidden cameras

This is fascinating to watch. Here’s how 60 Minutes recently set up a hidden camera shoot. Like CBS News, we rarely use hidden cameras .

When we do use hidden cameras, I must explain to my bosses why we can't get the video or interview with as much quality, any other way. We have many, many discussions that often last hours.

We discuss everything from how we'll set up the scene, to what happens when something goes wrong, to what we'll do if the person comes at us swinging.

I've never done a hidden camera shoot where my heart isn't pounding to the point where I feel everyone can hear it. I'm always nervous.

Monday, August 13, 2012

1 thing that will make reporters not read your press release #SM #B2B #journalism #wjchat

I don’t want my blog to become a weekly rant, so let me know when I’m reaching that point. This is meant as a helpful tip to PR professionals.

This morning I received several story pitches via email. I’d say you are doing pretty good as a PR rep if you get me to read your full email because it’s one of -- no joke – hundreds I receive each day. And on a Monday morning, I have even more to go through than usual.

My helpful hint: DO NOT send me a press release or pitch in a word document. 

On my cell phone (which is where I get most of my e-mail) it takes too long to open and when it does, it’s not fun to read a full-page document on a screen just larger than a postage stamp. (grin)

This tip is also helpful for viewers who send me story tips. (And viewers: please keep sending them.)

If I had more time, I would read story pitches no matter the format. I want to know what is going on. The fact is, I just don’t have time.

The best way to get my attention – whether you are a viewer or PR rep – is to call me. 303-871-1432

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A failed attempt for my 1st camera-sky shoot.

It was a last minute decision to hit the mountains last night. The clouds had opened up in Denver and I guessed they had done the same up high. I wanted to see the meteor shower.

At 10:30, I loaded up with Rocky. My family has a cabin in Evergreen.

By 11:30, I was laying on the deck, seeing just a few. I kept waiting for them to become intense, no dice.

Since I am a gadget guy, I brought my DSLR camera for my first sky shoot. That didn't work either. I must do more research on how to get the shutter to stay open for long periods.
Don't get me wrong, I still had fun.

Anyone else get lucky shooting meteors? I'd love to see your pics.

Whether things worked out or not, it was an excellent excuse to spend a night out of the city.

Send pics my way. And thanks to all my Twitter buds who offered me advice last night.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sometimes we don’t report everything we know. Here’s why. #ColdCase

Police have asked us not to release all of the details that we know about the murder of Sean May.

May was a popular prosecutor in Adams County. He was murdered Aug. 27, 2008 near his pregnant wife. Police have received hundreds of leads, but have not conclusively identified the killer.

There is a $125,000 reward for information that solves this cold case. Anyone can call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP.

Here’s why I am not reporting every detail. 

In high profile murders, police tell me there are a handful of people who come forward claiming they know information about the murder.  Some of those who come forward are criminals looking to get a reduced sentence for giving information. Some might be tipsters who heard someone else talking about a murder.

It can be tough for police to know who to believe.

I know exactly where he was shot and how many times and so does the killer.

One of the ways police officers figure out who really knows information about a crime is by asking basic questions: How many times was the person hit? Where did the bullets hit the person? How else was the person injured? Where exactly was the person killed? Was the person shot from behind or in front?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Learning to get public information at the very place that won’t give me all the info I want #theatershooting #ire

It feels ironic that I’m sitting at the University of Colorado Denver in an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference learning how to request data and turn stories other reporters don’t.

I’ve spent the majority of my time this week trying to get information from the same university about the theater shooting.  My success rate: <5%.  

There is a gag order issued by a judge. That means the university can’t comment on the shooter.

HOWEVER: I wish the university would do an interview with me about how they deal with “troubled” students/staff. I do not believe that is covered by the gag order.  (So far, they have issued press releases. Here is one.) They get credit for that, but I think viewers deserve and need more.

A public university should answer to its citizens.

There are indications that it may do more in the future and I look forward to that.

Information making its way to the public is important. I hope my success rate increases next week.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I learned to live differently today... without #Twitter

My hands got clammy, I kinda got the shakes. When news spread throughout the newsroom that Twitter was down... I didn’t believe it.  Like everyone else, I stopped, fired up my web browser and tried to load the page.

Immediately, I checked my iPhone, my tablet.  How was I to function? Like so many, I resorted to my second “like”: Facebook.

With the help of a CNN article, I found some people who survived the outage with humor.

I kept checking myself... over and over and over again.
Here’s Twitter’s explanation for the problem, if you care:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When 1 news organization is wrong, we all look bad

8:02 p.m. update:
FOX News stands by its reporting:

The University of Colorado Denver issued a statement Wednesday evening confirming that a suspicious package was found but calling the July 12 timeline "inaccurate." The university said it was delivered Monday and found on the same day. However, it wasn't clear if the statement was referring to the package from Holmes or the harmless package from someone else.'s source reaffirmed that Holmes' notebook arrived before the massacre.
The university also denied Wednesday that the package "sat on a loading dock," even though reported it was instead found in a mailroom.

Read more:

Original post:

I’ll admit, I was worried today when FOX News reported details about a package that I hadn’t reported and didn’t know. I called sources like crazy. No one could back up the entire FOX News report.  Hours passed and still no verification.

Believe it or not, I started to breathe a sigh of relief.

I began to question the report. But it was also a relief in a way because that meant the package hadn’t arrived long before the shootings and it wasn’t the one thing that could have prevented the killings.

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus just sent out a statement that says, “The anonymous Fox News source that the package was received on July 12 and sat on a loading dock is inaccurate.” (read full statement after the jump)

The news release says the suspicious package (that I reported was sent by the suspect with a return address of his) was delivered July 23.

I work hard, along with my co-workers in 9Wants to Know, to double check our facts and question our sources when they tell me something.  It’s uncomfortable to ask someone (who is nice enough to give you information) ‘How do you know this? Did you actually hear this or did someone tell you this? How are you in a position to know?’

I have no idea what steps FOX News took and I’m hesitant to throw stones. Gathering news responsibly and accurately is very tough – especially when there is a gag order.

One thing I will say: we in the media all lose when a media outlet makes what appears to be a mistake.

Some might argue that the university is trying to save face by discrediting the FOX News report. I don’t understand how that would be beneficial since the facts will eventually come out anyway.

Comments I received on social media. (Updated 12:28 a.m. Thursday. The full release is below.)

Update on suspicious packages discovered at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is the theater responsible in any way for #theatershooting?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our thoughts on covering Westboro Baptist Church, if they protest in Aurora #theatershooting

Some of you have tweeted me asking if Westboro Baptist Church is coming to Colorado to protest after the theater shootings. Viewers have called the newsroom asking the same.

Newspaper articles online and social media posts indicate that may be true.

I hope this blog helps explain our coverage decision and does nothing more.

For the most part we don’t cover Westboro Baptist Church protests when they come to Colorado. They have been before and only rarely have we covered them.

Should something newsworthy happen while they are here, you can be assured 9NEWS will keep you informed.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.

Not sure what to title this... #theatershooting

I’m not sure what to write. The last few days have been a blur. I find myself thinking about the victims and their families.

It would be easy to write pages of thoughts. I’d like to write a bit about each victim who died to honor their lives. I didn’t know any of them personally so I will leave that to their families and friends. We’ll work hard at 9NEWS to help you get to know each of the people who were just trying to have a fun evening at the movies.

I haven’t seen the movie and plan to wait a while before I even decide whether to see it.

About 10 minutes ago, I talked to one of our producers who had a break from work yesterday and went to see it. (She had previously purchased tickets.)

Police stood by the theater employee who was taking people’s tickets, she said. Then an officer came into the theater and stood watching for about 10 minutes of the movie.

Every time someone would get up to use the bathroom she said moviegoers wouldn't take their eyes off that person.

“I have never focused so closely on emergency exits,” she told me.

Isn’t it amazing how one person can affect so many people?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When you write to me… (and please do)...

First, know that I love hearing from viewers. As odd as it sounds, I even like hearing from people when they are critical of my work. I think it’s because I produce a story, present it to thousands of people and don’t get to see their reaction. Email, social media and letters are how I “see” what’s on their face.

Lots of viewers send us email tips. I couldn’t survive without them. More than 50 percent of my stories come from people who saw someone abusing power, taxpayer money , etc. and wrote to me.

To those people, I say thank you.

I’m noticing some emails are getting long… pages and pages long. I want desperately to read the whole thing, but sometimes the time I have is limited.

Just like we do as reporters, tell me the most important stuff up top.

Here’s something else that might help:

Do you have pictures of what you are describing?
Do you have video?
Could you legally get video or pictures?
What evidence do you have to back up what you are claiming. (My bosses love to ask me, “How do we know X, Y, Z? Can you prove it?” When I have an immediate come back answer with facts, things go smoothly.)

Again, please keep writing to me. Your tip could be my next big investigation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spam (and trickery) that makes you blush

Check out this (fake) email I just received:

Hello. I'am Lyudmila. Do you remember me? We talk on facebook.
Oh ok, i'll remind you
I'm from Belarus,35 y.o., I'm brown with grey eyes, my height is 170,and my weight is 56. I'am in your city now and i'm looking for good guy to spent one week together.
Nothing serious in relations, but i want to spend night in the men's bed.

I think you understand me :)

I make i little page with more information about me with my photos, becouse a lot of websites blocked at my work.

If you would like to meet me, you can visit my page here
Just search for my ID, I'm wild_pantera.
You should sign up on this site, but it's free. You can message me on this site.
Hope, you'll write me!

What's interesting too is that when I copy the above text over to a text editing document, additional text shows up. It doesn't show up on the email I received when I open it in Outlook. It's also not white text at the bottom, I checked that. I assume this text is meant to throw off spam filters? (It worked.)

out. Stables and hay-barns filled two sides of the farmyard below him. "Great Lord!" cried Bull, "I never knew an elephant could go so fast.
"I am Inspector Ratcliffe," he said, with a sort of haste that vergedheart stood still also, for he heard from that space of rugged stones thelooked anxiously from one Professor to the other Professor to see which was

(the text just stopped right there.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You might consider this a social media rant

What's the purpose of posting the same picture you take on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter?

When I follow you on several social media sites, I do it because I am interested in your status updates on Facebook and your pics on Instagram, etc.

What I am not interested in is seeing the exact same photo with the same caption posted on every site. I'll quit following one or more which isn't what anyone wants, right?

I've made the mistake too. Can we agree to stop?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Liking the new Google+ for iPad

I posted earlier about how I liked Google+ but just never used it. I've been better the past two days. Now I really want to keep it up and the Google+ iPad version might help.

I love how the new posts float on my screen. Graphical content looks amazing.

One note: a post with only text looks like an orphan as I learned the hard way. (see my photo)

Now if I could just get more of my friends to use Google+.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I want to use Google+, I really do... But I don't.

I was just reading the Google Official Blog and it reminded me that A) I can download the new Google+ for my iPad and B) I never use Google plus. Why is that? If I put the iPhone application on my home screen will that change?

There was once a time when I didn't care for Twitter all that much. Now I love it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Fake Veteran: What’s not in my story

The Fake Veteran: What’s not in my story

Rick Strandlof knows people hate him. He understands why. But he also says he’s worked to change.

For the fourth time in several months, I sat across a high-top table at a Denver coffee shop Thursday morning and listened.

Until Thursday, he asked me to keep our conversations private.

Rick and I met briefly at a Christmas party in 2008. I didn’t realize we’d met until a friend called to say, “You know the fake vet who was arrested? He was at my holiday party.” I hardly remembered talking to Rick and couldn’t even tell you the topics we discussed.

Six months later, I interviewed him in the El Paso County Jail in 2009. He was arrested for a traffic charge but word of his deception had already made news.

He didn’t directly answer my questions. He told me he lied about being a Marine because of his untreated mental illness. The interview was awkward. There were long pauses after some of my questions.

Rick and I emailed once or twice the following year.

He went silent in 2011. This happened when I told him I was investigating reports that he had conned some of Denver’s Jewish community by telling them he was from Israel and wanted to help further their cause. He’d attended their private functions and participated in religious rituals.

I aired a story about it and wondered if he’d ever talk to me again.

He did. We met near the beginning of this year.

Thursday he agreed to let me write about our conversation. Rick does not want to go on TV but agreed to let me take still pictures.

Rick gave me this on the record statement about the Supreme Court decision, with which he agrees:

“Today's ruling does not negate the fact that my past behaviors hurt people. What I did was wrong.  Rather than it being an end, my hope is that this ruling is the beginning of a process of reconciliation that will allow for amends to be made for those wrongs.”

Rick agreed to let me share other aspects of his life, but declined to talk in detail on the record about his past mistakes.

He says he’s changed with the help of therapy, medication and group counseling. He’s in a long-term alcoholic recovery program. He attends at least one meeting a day.

“Today I’ll hit two,” he said. On Thursdays he attends his daily noon meeting and an evening one.

He showed me a coin with the number nine on it, which signifies he’s been sober for nine months.

Rick says he hits the gym three to four times a week.

“I’m not as hot as I used to be,” he said in a joking tone with a loud laugh.

Rick’s schedule was open to meet Thursday morning because he says he won’t start back to college until August. He’s hoping to get a degree in Earth and atmospheric science.

“I’ll be a junior then.”

His mission now: Find a job. That’s proving to be tough because companies easily find his past with a simple internet search.

Rick is working to establish friendships.

“There were 10 people at my birthday in May,” he told me. “It was one of my favorite birthdays. It was the opposite of my worst birthday.”

When the conversation turns serious, Rick often looks out the window or down at the floor. Staring at the ground he recalled a large party for his birthday in 2006.

“Everyone was high and drunk. No one knew my name,” he said.

I asked Rick, who is single and gay, if he is dating.

“I’m not in a place right now. My life is pretty full,” he said. “I went on a date with a guy recently who I met at the bike shop. We threw the disk (Frisbee) in the park.”

Rick said the two are just friends.

“He was looking for more than I could offer,” Rick said.

Rick has told me that he hopes time will show people he has changed.

Never once in our conversations has he blamed other people.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I had to live with a relative too as an adult…

My story tonight about the mom who had to get a formal eviction to force her son to move out of her home, had me thinking about my time living with a relative.

Thankfully, it was so much better.

I didn’t live with my mom or dad, but my grandfather.  When I moved to Denver, I didn’t know where I wanted to buy a house so my grandfather invited me to move in with him while I searched neighborhoods. My grandmother had passed away several years before.

I thought it was a generous offer. In fact, we had fun together. We sat around the kitchen table watching the late news most nights. (He’d share how the world had changed in his 90 years.)

He never required me to pay rent but I paid many of the bills at his house. Our arrangement wasn’t written down but I’ve since learned experts highly recommend it.

I stayed more than just a few months, partly at some family members’ urging as my grandfather got older. I went from me needing a place to live to him enjoying having someone to make sure he was okay at night.

Living with a relative can be a great experience. 

It can also be the opposite as it was for a mother I interviewed. When she decided her son was no longer welcome in her home, he refused to move out. She ultimately had to evict him by getting a judge’s order.

I left on my own, but continued coming over to stay the night every once in a while.

Experts suggest parents and adult children make a written agreement before an adult son or daughter ever moves in that notes how long the kid will live there and whether rent will be paid.

They also suggest making it detailed so it covers overnight guests, time watching television or using the family computer.

I guess the bottom line is that the more information that is written down, the better. It’s advice I didn’t follow, but after working on this story I would next time – even when it’s family.

My story airs Tuesday night (tonight) at 9 and 10 p.m. on channel 9.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Struggles of telling the #ManOrWoman story

Struggles of telling the #ManOrWoman story

This was not an easy story to tell because we had so many problems getting a hold of Jasmine Martinez. She was locked up in prison. Prisoners can’t take telephone calls.

Backstory: Jasmine Martinez describes herself as having both male and female sexual parts. She says she has more female parts and should be housed with women while behind bars. The Jefferson County Jail medical staff agreed with her and placed her in the general female population. However, the Department of Corrections said she is a man and housed her with men.  Jasmine has now threatened to sue the Department of Corrections because she says it violated her civil rights. If this happens, taxpayers will pay to defend the lawsuit.

I first wrote Jasmine a prison email letter in January and she sent me a letter back through snail mail.

Jasmine agreed to speak with me but the Department of Corrections would not allow us into the prison to interview her. We were told it had to do with Jasmine’s safety.

She was getting out of prison in Cañon City in early February. The plan was to be at the prison gates when she got out. However, a huge snow storm hit our area and we couldn’t travel south on Interstate 25 safely.

I knew where Jasmine would be staying when she got out of prison so I started stopping by the house. The family she was living with eventually had her call me and we set up an interview.

In TV, a reporter is never sure if someone will show up for the interview. Jasmine did and we talked for about an hour. I found her to be very frank but nice.

At the time, we didn’t have medical release forms so Jasmine could give the Colorado Department of Corrections or Jefferson County Jail permission to share her medical details with us.

A few days later we got the needed forms signed.

Then the Department of Corrections questioned whether the forms were valid because she had signed her signature as Jasmine Martinez. Her name in DOC is Jose Ruiz. Luckily for me, I also had her sign Jose Ruiz it just wasn’t very legible. After some discussion DOC agreed to hand over the records.

We got them last Friday. Over the weekend and all day Monday my producer and I reviewed the documents.

Talk about a fast turn on a story. I’d like to know what you think. It will be on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on channel 20 and 10 p.m. on channel 9.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stories on prisoners who are wronged aren’t the most popular; here’s why you should care

Tonight, I’m going to tell you about a prison guard and inmate who died when their transport van rolled on an icy stretch of Interstate 70 in December. A police investigation blamed the private-prison guard from CCA who was driving. The report said she was going too fast and was an inexperienced driver.

During my investigation I discovered none of the inmates were allowed to have seat belts. Our state Department of Corrections doesn’t require private-prison companies to give inmates seat belts. Most of our report focuses on getting answers about that.

Doing a story about a prisoner who dies is always tricky. We, in the news business, wonder if viewers will connect with the story about someone who committed a felony.

I’ve been a reporter for more than a decade now. I’ve interviewed inmates in prison and their families outside.

What strikes me is how families of prisoners are punished too. Many times they have done nothing wrong.

Mothers are forced to raise kids as single parents while dads sit in prison.

What if your brother, mother, father or wife broke the law and went to prison?

Would you stop loving that person? I wouldn’t and it wouldn’t stop me from being crushed if he or she died in a van without seat belts.

Any of us could find ourselves loving someone who is forced on treacherous roads with no seat belts.

That’s why we should care about what we uncovered in our investigation.

It airs Friday night an 9 and 10 on 9NEWS and will be on after it airs.

I asked the wife of inmate Daniel Cooper to tell me about what this situation has been like for her. Daniel Cooper was injured when the van rolled. I am not professing that I've verified his wife's claims but give it to you to read and decide for yourself what is right. This is a portion of what she said wrote to me:

On December 20th 2011 I started my normal routine as usual; make a pot of coffee & turn on tunes while I get ready. I had spoke to my husband that Sunday and knew he was going to be transported to a minimum facility and would call me as soon as he could. For some reason that morning decided to turn on the T.V instead of my usual routine, and that's when I saw it ......a correctional van that was transporting inmates was involved in a fatal accident, 2 dead and several injured. 
I started to panic they weren't releasing any names I knew Daniel was on that van, I felt a feeling I really can't explain, I mean I had finally met a man that was this amazing person that just makes some stupid choices and he could be dead. I kept thinking what if I'm a widow. Well anyways I finally got myself together enough to start making calls. My friends kept saying don't worry honey they would have called if Daniel was in that van. 
I was his emergency contact so for a few minutes the panic subsided. I first called Kit Carson and they acted like they had no idea but informed  me they only call families when a prisoner dies. WHAT???? are you kidding me and with no sensitivity whats so ever. I didn't stop there I made several calls and finally got information that he was in the van and that he had sustained serious injuries. I was furious how could they not call families to let us know. 
I finally got to talk to a nurse at Denver Health who was very kind and had Daniel sign a release of information so I could know what was going on. I called everyday 2x a day to get updates on him. Our lives have been turned upside down in a matter of minutes. So once I got to talk to Daniel which was several days later and many a phone call to DOC I heard from my husband what happened. 
2 very important  things I'd like changed 1st: All transportation vans,buses etc should have seat belts & second an accident of this multitude families should be notified immediately!!!! Daniel struggles everyday he is haunted by the events of that day I am powerless to help him we haven't seen each other in almost 2 years another great DOC move. 
I am hoping that reaching out the public they can see just how important seat belts are and chose to make the right decision either alone or transporting people go slow and pay attention. Thank you for listening my heart & prayers go out to the families suffering YOU ARE NOT ALONE :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My favorite #SOTU tweets

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reaction to our ATF #GangBust story

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Does social media ever slow down? My brain can&apos;t keep up.

I'm feeling overwhelmed by social media, but excited at the same time. Just when I think I get the hang of something... I learn I'm not even close to "learning all." But boy is it fun.

I just discovered Storify.

Here's my first post:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can the gov’t force you to enter your computer password just so prosecutors can get information to use against you?

There is a fascinating story playing out in federal court here in Denver. The government’s prosecutors are trying to force a criminal defendant to enter her computer password so investigators can get information off her computer.

That information would likely be used against her in a bank-fraud case.

“Civil-liberties groups nationwide have taken notice, saying the case tests the strength of rights against self-incrimination in a digital world. Prosecutors, meanwhile, say that allowing criminal defendants to beat search warrants simply by encrypting their computers would make it impossible to obtain evidence in an age when clues are more likely held within a hard drive than a file cabinet.”

Farther down in the article, Ingold wrote:

“While the key is a physical thing and not protected by the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court has said, a combination — as the "expression of the contents of an individual's mind" — is.”

So, who is right? Can government investigators force you to enter your password in a computer just so they can access data and use it against you?

Monday, January 2, 2012

I am afraid to add up how much time I spend in transit to and from the airport #DIA #Travel

Each time I make the trip, I go out I-70. That means I drive by Stapleton. Why did we have to have a new airport?

Admittedly, I didn't travel much there and I remember it didn't look very nice. But something has to be said for convenience.

An average 40 minute trip one way is too long. We're not in New York. I love Denver for many reasons. One is you can get anyplace fairly quickly.

I wish the airport was closer. Over the next 7 days I will make 4 trips to DIA.

Thankfully the price of gas has dropped. I guess I can't have everything.