Crimson was twenty-two, single, and vivacious. The daughter of perhaps the most forgiving woman I’ve ever met.
She had recently broken up with Derek. He was the macho sort who boasted of his combat experience as a paratrooper during Desert Storm. Which, as it turns out, was a lie. He wasn’t a paratrooper, he hadn’t seen combat, and he had been dishonorably discharged from the United States Army for misconduct.
January 30, 1998
On a mild, winter afternoon in January, Crimson Rose went to Derek’s apartment to collect her personal belongings. This was just a few weeks after their breakup. A neighbor spoke with Crimson before she went inside, and that same neighbor spoke with Derek a short time later when he left the apartment. Derek calmly told the neighbor goodbye and said he wouldn’t be coming back. He didn’t mention that Crimson Rose lay dead on his kitchen floor. Derek departed alone in Crimson’s car.
Derek had a roommate who was home when Crimson Rose came over. From his room, the young man heard Derek and Crimson arguing. Then he heard a fight, a substantial commotion in the living area of the apartment. But the roommate was no match for Derek—he knew this, and he was afraid of him—so he remained behind his closed door, unwilling to intervene. He huddled in the corner of his room and listened as his roommate bludgeoned a woman to death.
After a period of complete silence, the roommate gained the courage to come out of his room. Derek was gone, and Crimson Rose lay dead on the kitchen floor, her battered and bloodied face nearly unrecognizable.
The Killer Attempts to Flee
Derek fled in Crimson’s vehicle to San Diego where he had planned to cross the border to avoid prosecution. But he inexplicably returned a few days later and ultimately turned himself in. My partner and I were notified that Derek was in custody at East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station.
We sat down that night to interview him, hoping for a confession. It was never easy convincing a killer to talk to the cops. Derek said he had nothing to say. We showed him a crime scene photo. He shrugged and smirked. There was not the smallest trace of emotion when he reiterated he had nothing to say.
Derek was big, tall, and thick, naturally strong. His hands were large and powerful. I watched as he moved them about, rubbing the stubble on his face, scratching his arm, pushing his thick, dirty fingers through a mass of black hair. He folded his hands on the table between us and left them there. The hands that had killed a young lady just a few days earlier. For a moment, I wished he would raise them in an act of aggression against us, continuing with the tough-guy routine. But he wouldn’t; we were two, and we were men.
I Detested Him.
Before the trial began, my partner and I sat with the victim’s mother and father in a private room to prepare them for the exhibits and testimony they would see and hear in the courtroom. We showed them photographs from the scene and autopsy. They wept, they gasped, they fell apart; they always do.
This monster was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. (He is eligible for parole in 2021.) During the sentencing phase, Crimson Rose’s mother addressed him in an open courtroom. She looked him directly in his eyes and spoke with resolve as she forgave him for what he did to their daughter. She then gave him a Bible.
Derek had no response and showed no emotion.
I found her actions remarkable. I wanted an eye for an eye. Haul him out back and beat him to death or draw and quarter him. Hang him from a high tree or a light pole for all I cared. Assemble a firing squad; I’d volunteer. That’s how I felt about it. I wasn’t the forgiving type. To this day I can see the images of that brutal murder, and I think about the smirk on his face when we showed him the photographs of Crimson Rose lying dead on the floor of his apartment.
A Compassionate Woman
Several weeks after the sentencing, I received a package in the mail. It was from Crimson’s mother, and it contained a wooden cross necklace and a handwritten letter. In her letter, she spoke of the blood of Christ and redemption and forgiveness. She asked that I would always remember Crimson Rose.
There were times in my career when I questioned my faith, having seen the unspeakable violence and cruelty inflicted on the most vulnerable among us. Maybe that’s why twenty years later the cross still hangs on my wall. It serves as a reminder of a compassionate woman’s loss, and how her ability to forgive and to love in the worst of times had impacted my life.
May her daughter rest in peace.
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