Rocky Mountain News: Letter implicates Bronco’s killer
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
The Rocky Mountain News has obtained a copy of a letter believed to be signed by a 26-year-old gang member that says he fired the shots that killed Denver Broncos player Darrent Williams.
The letter is the first piece of evidence known publicly to link a triggerman to the New Year’s Day 2007 shooting, the city’s highest profile unsolved murder.
It carries the signature “Willie D. Clark.”
Clark was arrested on a parole violation days after the slaying and is in jail on pending drug charges.
In the letter, Clark says he is worried someone who saw him shoot “D-Will” – a nickname for Williams – will start talking to police about the killing.
“(The person) seen me with the gun and shoot out the whip,” the letter states.
“Whip” is slang for a car. Police have said the shots that killed Williams were fired from a Chevy Tahoe shortly after Williams and a group of friends left a Denver nightclub.
The letter was intercepted in November by a 34-year-old Denver- area man who was being held with Clark at the Federal Detention Center in Littleton. The man has since been released.
He provided the letter to the Rocky, he said, because he believed it was the right thing to do and he wanted to bring Williams’ family peace.
He also has talked to prosecutors and contacted the Broncos about a $100,000 reward offered by the team.
The Rocky is not identifying the source because he could be in danger for providing information about Clark and his gang, which authorities have said may be responsible for up to 12 unsolved killings, including the murder of a witness.
At the newspaper’s urging, the source this month turned over a copy of the letter to law enforcement, which conducted a handwriting analysis.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declined to comment on the letter or the investigation Thursday. But a law enforcement source said the writing in the letter matched a handwriting sample police obtained from Clark.
Alaurice Tafoya-Modi, an attorney for Clark, said Thursday morning she couldn’t comment without seeing a copy of the letter. After a copy was faxed to her office, she could not be reached and did not return a phone message.
Clark has been previously identified as a suspect in the killing, though no one has been charged.
Last year Clark insisted in a letter to the Rocky that he didn’t kill Williams and didn’t know who did.
“I was not involved or present,” he wrote.
An independent handwriting expert hired by the Rocky confirmed that the writing in the letter implicating Clark matches the letters Clark previously sent to the newspaper and a letter he mailed this month to U.S. District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel.
“I think it’s all the same writer, period,” said Linda Collins James, a document examiner based in Plano, Texas.
James, who has testified in civil and criminal court and is certified by the National Association of Document Examiners, compared the letter to 14 pages of letters and writing on seven envelopes received from Clark. Most of the letters were in block-letter print. Two were in cursive.
There were so many similarities between the letter provided by the source and those written in block-letter print, it would take “more than several hours to list them all,” James said.
She also said there were similarities in the cursive.
James also examined handwriting from the source and determined that he did not write the letter implicating Clark.
Williams, a 2005 second-round draft pick from Oklahoma State, was the Broncos’ starting right cornerback and leading punt returner in his second season. In his final season, he made four interceptions, second on the team to All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey.
His homicide received national media attention and quickly became the city’s most notorious killing. For more than a week after he died the murder site was a shrine, with fans leaving flowers and notes in memory of the popular player.
The killing also prompted calls for a crackdown on gang activity. Yet, at least one grand jury convened to consider the case has expired with no indictments.
Williams rented a Hummer limousine to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2007 with friends who were in town from Texas. They went to Club Safari, a nightclub on Broadway, to attend a birthday party for Denver Nuggets player Kenyon Martin.
They were joined by Broncos players Javon Walker and Brandon Marshall, as well as Marshall’s cousin. It was just hours after the team’s season-ending loss.
Also at the club that night were Clark and other members of his gang, law enforcement sources have said.
Walker told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that a disagreement broke out between Marshall and his cousin and at least two other men.
The source who provided the letter to the Rocky said Clark told him that the men were talking trash – the athletes and their friends bragging that they had the money to rent out a bar, the gang members giving the players a hard time about losing to the lowly San Francisco 49ers.
At some point, someone in the crowd that included Broncos players said “f— you” to the gang members, according to the account the source said he heard from Clark.
“And then you know of course, the gang is not going to be disrespected by no means and that’s a disrespect,” the source said.
Williams, Walker and others left the club around 2 a.m. in the Hummer limo. As they drove near 11th Avenue and Speer Boulevard, someone fired at least a dozen shots from a white Chevy Tahoe, police said.
One of the shots hit Williams, 24, in the neck, killing him at the scene. Two other passengers in the Hummer were shot but survived.
The source said Clark told him he “dumped on” the Hummer – or shot at it – as retaliation.
Clark and the other men who were in the SUV then hid out for a few days at a girlfriend’s house, the source said Clark told him.
Three days later, police found the Tahoe abandoned and crudely spray-painted black in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver.
Authorities said the vehicle was registered to Brian Hicks, who police say is the leader of the gang to which Clark belongs.
The source who provided the Rocky with the Clark letter said it was written to Hicks, who was being held in a different section of the Federal Detention Center, also on drug charges.
The source described himself as a former gang member.
His criminal history, which begins when he was a juvenile, includes more than two dozen arrests for offenses such as selling drugs, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and failure to appear in court.
In the mid-1990s he was sentenced to 10 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for selling cocaine and felony menacing.
His most recent stint in the Federal Detention Center also was for drugs.
The source said that in the detention center, gang members housed in separate wings would sometimes communicate by writing letters and leaving them in the law library, which inmates in all wings may access.
He said he made copies of some of the letters he was helping transfer through the library and kept them.
He also said that while in the FDC, he was befriended by Hicks and Clark, who talked to him about the Williams shooting and other murders.
The source contacted the Rocky in early 2008, after he was released, asking to meet with a reporter. At the time, he did not mention the Darrent Williams murder.
In April, the source said he had information about the killing. In a meeting, he said he had intercepted and copied a letter that seemed to implicate Clark.
He later gave the Rocky a copy of the document, which he said Clark wrote to Hicks because Hicks was starting to worry that Clark might talk to police.
In the letter, Clark wrote that Hicks, whom he refers to as “Fam,” for family, has “bad judgement (sic) of character.”
He also said he was worried someone else “might say something stupid talk to law enforcements about the death of D-Will.”
“Since I been in jail they have not produced any real, physical solid evidence against me,” he wrote.
He then stated that a woman who prosecutors believe was a girlfriend “got that.”
The letter is signed “Well respected, Willie D. Clark.”
At the bottom are written the words “Death by Dishonor” – a phrase that means people who snitch will be killed.
The source said that during conversations with Clark and Hicks, he learned information about other murders, including who killed Kalonniann Clark. She was shot in December 2006 – a week before she was scheduled to testify against Hicks in an earlier attempt on her life.
The source also was told who might have the gun used in the Williams murder, he said.
The Rocky is not publishing that information because he could not provide corroborating evidence.
After contacting the Rocky, the source agreed to share his information with prosecutors.
At the source’s request, Rocky editor John Temple contacted Morrissey, the Denver district attorney, on April 24 to let him know the newspaper had a source with information that could be significant to the Williams case.
The district attorney’s office contacted the source about two weeks later and set up a meeting with him.
The source, accompanied by his lawyer, has since met twice with state and federal prosecutors.
At their most recent meeting Tuesday afternoon, the district attorney’s office agreed to pay to relocate the source and to cover one month’s rent in a new location, the source said.
But on Thursday, he said he was unwilling to cooperate or testify at trial because he believes the protection being offered is inadequate given the risk he is taking.
He said he needs more money to relocate family and to have time to find a job, and said more witnesses might come forward if the state did more for them.
“It’s not enough,” he said. “My family’s life is worth more than that. My life is worth more.”
The source said he hopes he will receive a portion of the reward offered by the Broncos, or that the organization will help him financially because the state’s offer is not enough.
Prior to approaching the Rocky, he said, he contacted the head of security for the team and attempted to reach Williams’ mother and Walker. Those attempts were unsuccessful.
The source said that in addition to the reward he had several reasons for coming forward.
As a believer in God, he thinks what happened to Williams was wrong and “uncalled for.” He also said he wants to make up for his own wrong acts.
“I’ve done my share of wrong in my life,” he said, adding that he never killed anyone. “In changing my life I weighed this decision and it is the appropriate thing to do.”
He said that sharing the information could get him killed, but he is prepared for the consequences.
* Jan. 1, 2007: Darrent Williams is shot and killed while riding in a Hummer limousine after leaving a Denver nightclub.
* Jan. 4: The SUV police believe was used in the drive-by shooting is found abandoned and spray- painted in northeast Denver. Police say it’s registered to gang leader Brian Hicks, who is in jail.
* Jan. 5: Willie D. Clark is arrested on a parole violation. At a press conference, police say they want to talk to him about the murder.
* Jan. 10: The Broncos offer a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or charges.
* March 28: The Denver district attorney’s office acknowledges a grand jury is hearing evidence in the Williams case, as well as other murders in which gang members are suspected.
* April 26: Federal authorities announce indictments against more than 70 gang members accused of selling drugs. Prosecutors say they hope the charges will motivate some of the gang members to start talking about the unsolved murders.
* July 23: Clark is added to the federal drug indictment. Authorities say they believe everyone responsible for the Williams murder is in jail, though no one is charged.
* Early 2008: A source approaches the Rocky Mountain News and says he has information that could implicate Clark in the Williams shooting.
* April 2008: The source provides the Rocky with a copy of a letter he says was written by Clark and agrees to meet with prosecutors.
* May 2008: The source meets twice with prosecutors, who analyze the handwriting and say it comes back as a preliminary match.
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