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Vincent Darrell GROVES





Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 14
Date of murders: 1978 - 1988
Date of arrest: September 1, 1988
Date of birth: 1953
Victims profile: Women, mostly prostitutes
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
Status: Sentenced to 12 years on one count, 1982. Paroled 1987. Life term, 1989. 20 years on plea to third count, 1990. Died in prison, October 31, 1996

An unusually prolific murderer was brought to justice in 1988 after a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the murder of an Aurora prostitute helped link Vincent Groves, of Denver, to the deaths of 17 prostitutes metro-wide.

Groves was convicted of murder in the strangulation death of Diane Mancera, whose body was found dumped at the Surrey Ridge exit off of I-25 on July 25, 1988.


Prosecutors put hopes on line in slaying cases solution to puzzle proving elusive

By Mark Brown - Rocky Mountain News

April 15, 1990

Pam Montgomery's death was the typical good luck/bad luck that police faced in the prostitute murders.

The good luck: The only witness in the case almost never gets up at 5:30 in the morning. The one time he did, he saw the murderer.

The bad luck: "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to positively identify the man that was in the alley," he said. "That's probably the reason the case fell apart. It would have been great if I'd have gotten a license number."

Thus, Vincent Darrell Groves will probably never be charged with that death, even though investigators still believe he did it, and possibly a dozen more. It was the metro area's longest killing rampage, stretching from 1978 to 1988.

The only break in the string of murders was a five-year interruption that coincided with Groves' prison sentence for a 1981 murder. They stopped after his Sept. 1, 1988 arrest. The victims, mostly prostitutes, were picked up, strangled and dumped.

The string was followed by one of the metro area's biggest and most intense investigations.

But 20 months after Groves' arrest, police all over the metro area are hitting road blocks and dead ends. He's charged with only two of the 15 murders linked to him. He's been cleared in two others. Frustrated investigators will probably never be able to prove the others.

Now, investigators say confidentially that they'll be grateful just to prove the two pending cases.

The Montgomery case fit the pattern - a young Colfax Avenue prostitute, strangled, dumped.

But it was too dark on that Sunday morning in August 1988. The witness, who asked that his name not be used, was up before dawn to run in a triathlon. As he loaded his gear in his car, another car pulled up in the alley behind his white brick Park Hill house.

He peered over the fence and could make out vague shapes - a blue car, headlights off; a tall, black man getting out of it. He couldn't see the man's face.

The driver didn't see him and nervously opened the car's trunk. He lifted out what the witness thought was trash, then in horror realized was a woman's body.

He sprinted inside to call police. He vaguely heard the driver's door slam and the car pull away.

Maybe forever.

"It's kind of a constant frustration," said Denver Homicide Lt. Tom Haney, who headed up the 12-agency, 25-member task force that worked the crimes. "Everyone would like to solve all their cases, especially these murders. But it's also satisfying to see at least one or two of them coming to trial. That's the ultimate test of the investigation."

That ultimate test is finally here. After nearly two years of investigation and conjecture, Groves will be back in court on April 30. Eleven days after his 36th birthday, he's finally going to trial on a murder charge.

Groves is being held without bond in Douglas County Jail.

Steven Gayle and Robert Pepin, Groves' attorneys in Douglas and Adams counties, declined comment and denied interviews with Groves.

Why so few charges? Was it the randomness of the crimes? Bad witnesses? Bad luck?

Or was the murderer - whoever it was - just very good at what he did?

"It was a combination," Haney said. "The overall thing is to try to make a determination whether they were all committed by the same person. It would appear so."

And it would appear that Groves is linked. If nothing else, he had a lot of female friends with bad luck. He was the last person seen with at least five of the slain women. He knew others and lived with more than one of the women, according to court records. DNA testing has connected him with two more.

Groves also allegedly told police they "might find hair from some of the murder victims in his car because he frequently picked up women, including some of the murder victims," according to court documents.

Montgomery's frustrating 1988 murder was a replay of the frustration Jefferson County detectives experienced a decade earlier.

When Jeanette Baca was killed in 1978, Groves, her pimp, was an instant suspect, police said.

"One of the things that got them on Vincent Groves was they interviewed him for three or four hours and caught him in, they said, hundreds of lies," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Lt. Dennis Potter.

Groves' cousin "never came out and said Vincent did it, but he corraborated things only the killer could have known," Potter said. "For instance, this cousin says that right after the night of the murder, Vincent Groves came back and had black charcoal soot all over his clothes. The murderer burned Jeanette Baca's clothes in a picnic area."

"Put those things together with his lies, and though we can't prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, we're confident he's the one who did it," Potter said. "We have no information or evidence to lead us elsewhere."

Even the crimes Groves is charged with are shaky. In the Adams and Douglas county homicides, DNA supposedly links Groves to the two dead women. That's a strong start, investigators said, but will have to be combined with other evidence to prove he was their killer rather than their lover.

When it gets to court in both Adams and Douglas counties, "it'll definitely be the battle of the DNA experts," said Douglas County Lt. Bill Walker.

And the other evidence is conflicting. In Adams County, an oil puddle that investigators hoped would link Groves' car to the murder scene tested negative. Other people supposedly admitted to the murder, either over drugs or a lesbian love triangle.

And much of the Adams County case hinges on Michael Crawford Wilson's word.

Unfortunately for prosecutors, Wilson is in the Ohio State Correctional Facility in Lima, Ohio.

It was while in jail in Denver in 1988 that Wilson "learned from Mr. Groves that Mr. Groves had been put away, his life upended, because he killed a prostitute," according to court records. "He then roamed the streets, seeking his revenge."

Even if he's convicted, the unsolved cases will never be marked "closed."

"We're not going to officially write them off as him. If any information comes in pointing to anybody, any new evidence, we'll actively pursue that," Haney said. "We're always looking for that one witness, the one who may have talked to the killer or seen the victim leave with somebody. We'll see if we can't put that last piece of the puzzle together."


Below are the 15 deaths that Vincent Groves has been linked to during 10 years of investigations. He's charged in only two of the cases. In the others, police say they have no leads.

* Juanita Lovato, 19, of Denver - Found in Adams County on April 29, 1988. Groves is charged with first-degree murder.

* Diann Mancera, 25, of Denver - Found in Douglas County on July 26, 1988. Groves is charged with first-degree murder.

* Rhonda Fisher, 30 - Found in April 1987 in Douglas County. Investigation continuing, but no charges imminent.

* Pamela Montgomery, 35, Denver - Found Aug. 14, 1988, in a Denver alley. No charges expected.

* Carolyn Buchanan, 35 - Found Aug. 12, 1988, in rural Denver. No charges expected.

* Joyce Ramey, 23, of Denver - Found July 4, 1979, in a field east of Stapleton International Airport. Charges unlikely.

* Faye Johnson, 22, of Denver. - Found in Arapahoe County on Jan. 30, 1988. Charges unlikely.

* Jeanette Baca, 17, of Denver - Found June 11, 1978, in Jefferson County. Charges unlikely.

* Zabra Mason, 19, of Lakewood - Found September 1987 in Lakewood. No charges to come.

* Robin Nelson, 25, of Denver - Found in June 12, 1988, in Fort Lupton. Turned out to be an accidental overdose with no connection to Groves.

* Karolyn Walker, 18, of Aurora - Found July 5, 1987, in Aurora. Groves was initially a suspect, but later was cleared.

* Juanita Mitchell, 25, of Waco, Texas - Found in April 1981 in an Aurora motel room. No charges likely.

* Pamela Morgan, 17, of Denver - Found June 2, 1981, in an Aurora motel room. No charges likely. Morgan's and Mitchell's deaths were initially linked by Aurora police.

* Norma Jean Halford, 21, of San Jose - Body never found; car abandoned in Clear Creek County in August 1979.

* Cynthia Boyd, 19, of Denver - Found in Feb. 1980 in Adams County. No charges filed; case still open.

* Detectives also think Groves tried to rape a woman in Adams County in 1982 and tried to kill a prostitute in Denver in 1988. He was never charged with rape and was acquitted of attempted murder. He has a previous second-degree- murder conviction in Lakewood for the 1981 strangulation of Tammy Woodrum, 17.


Denver murder suspect wants state to provide public defender

Gazette, The (Colorado Springs, CO)

Sunday, September 4, 1988

Associated Press

DENVER - A 34-year-old paroled murderer being held in connection with the unsolved murders of at least 10 women was advised of his rights in Denver County Court Saturday and asked for a public defender.

Vincent Darrell Groves was arrested late Thursday on a warrant charging him with suspicion of attempted murder in a case reported almost a year ago. He is being held on $1 million bond pending the official filing of charges by the Denver District Attorney's Office.

At a news conference Friday, Lt. Tom Haney of the homicide bureau said Groves initially would be charged only in the attempted assault, but he also said that similarities in the deaths of at least 10 women made Groves a suspect in those slayings.

Haney also cautioned that there are enough differences in the slayings that he wouldn't call them serial killings.

"I think it's too early in the investigation to jump to any conclusions like that," he said.

The slayings occurred over a 10-year period beginning in 1978, Haney said. No similar slayings were recorded between 1982 and 1987 when they started up again, he said.

Groves was in prison for second-degree murder from early 1982 until early 1987.

Many of the victims had been beaten and strangled, police said, and their bodies were dumped in isolated areas of five counties, from Weld to Douglas.

Police say Jeannette Louise Baca may have been the first victim. Her body was found June 17, 1978 in Jefferson County. Sheriff's detectives say she had a history of prostitution and Groves was her pimp.

The last victim was Pam Montgomery, a Denver prostitute, whose body was found in a Denver alley last month.

Others were Rhonda Fisher, 30, address unknown, found in April 1987 in a culvert near Perry Park Road; Zabra Ann Mason, 19, of Denver, found in September 1987 in her car in Lakewood; Faye M. Johnson, 22, of Denver, found January 1988 on Manila Road in Arapahoe County; Juanita Lovato, 19, of Denver, found April 29, 1988, in an Adams County field; Robin Nelson, 25, Denver, found June 12, 1988, in a field southwest of Fort Lupton; Diane Montoya Mancera, found July 25, 1988, in Douglas County; and an unidentified woman found Aug. 12, 1988 beneath a bridge on Tower Road in Denver.



MO: Rape-slayer of street prostitutes.

DISPOSITION: 12 years on one count, 1982 (paroled 1987); life term, 1989; 20 years on plea to third count, 1990; died in prison, Oct. 31, 1996.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers



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