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Reasonable doubt? 

Todd Newmiller says he couldn't have killed Anthony Madril

click to enlarge Todd Newmiller is appealing his 31-year prison sentence - for the 2004 killing of Anthony Madril on Conrad Street, - near Terminal Avenue. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Todd Newmiller is appealing his 31-year prison sentence for the 2004 killing of Anthony Madril on Conrad Street, near Terminal Avenue.

In the dark morning hours of Nov. 20, 2004, Todd Newmiller held a knife on Conrad Street as Anthony Madril bled profusely from his chest.

"I'm stabbed. I'm stabbed," Madril told his longtime friends Chisum Lopez and Charles Schwartz.

The two pulled Madril inside Schwartz's pickup truck. Somehow, Madril's heart had been sliced open during a brief street fight that began with words at the Appaloosa Gentlemen's Club.

Schwartz floored the accelerator of his maroon-and-silver pickup, racing Madril toward help.

"Please don't let me die," the 22-year-old cook from Ramah pled to his friends.

Meanwhile, Newmiller hopped into the passenger seat of a blue Jeep Cherokee driven by his brother, Joel Newmiller. Two of Todd Newmiller's acquaintances and his business associate, Brad Orgill, had just re-entered the back seat.

The five guys had come to celebrate Todd Newmiller's 31st birthday in what was a booze-bleary night. Now, as Madril took his final breath, one of them appeared to have become a murderer.

El Paso County investigators soon focused on Todd Newmiller. Last March, prosecutors convinced a local jury in a 12-day trial that Todd Newmiller was guilty of Madril's second-degree murder.

Since the defendant had invoked his right to remain silent confident the facts of the case were in his favor the jury never heard him tell his version of what transpired that night. Only moments before Judge Gilbert Martinez sentenced him to 31 years in state prison did Todd Newmiller finally speak.

"While I recognize and deeply respect the authority of this court in rendering its verdict, I feel compelled to state clearly, unwaveringly, unequivocally that I did not kill Anthony Madril," he said. "On that fateful night in November, I exchanged no words with Anthony Madril. I exchanged no blows with Anthony Madril, and I most assuredly did not stab Anthony Madril."

Beyond Newmiller's categorical denial, many unanswered questions, loose ends and gaps remain.

Nobody ever saw the tall and lanky Todd Newmiller near Madril; rather, they saw Madril fighting fiercely with the short and stocky Orgill. Madril even appeared to be winning, despite the prosecution's argument that Todd Newmiller had stabbed him moments earlier.

A thorough forensic laboratory report issued several months prior to the trial was unable to label Todd Newmiller the killer. Nor did it eliminate Orgill as a suspect.

But the report came only after Todd Newmiller had already been charged in the killing, and after the El Paso County District Attorney's Office had cut Orgill a deal to keep him out of prison in exchange for testifying against Todd Newmiller.

Prosecutors also played a wild card in Joel Newmiller, who said his brother confessed in the Jeep seconds after Schwartz's pickup sped away.

He now recants that testimony, saying he was misunderstood.

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

"I don't remember Todd saying he stabbed a human being," Joel Newmiller says.

Todd Newmiller, meanwhile, is appealing his conviction from the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility on Colorado's southeastern plains.

"I'm dumbfounded by the jury's decision," he says.

Madril's family, including his father, Michael Moreno, a Colorado Springs handyman who attended the trial, wishes Todd Newmiller would drop his appeal and admit to murdering his son.

"It's the noble thing to do," Moreno says. "Quit wasting valuable resources and time."

Collision course

Hours before he died, Madril gathered with friends in Schwartz's east El Paso County kitchen, playing Texas Hold 'Em, drinking and preparing to go to the Appaloosa. About the same time, Todd Newmiller and his pals were playing pool at Benny's bar, a hangout on Colorado Avenue just west of the Interstate 25 overpass.

That night seems eons ago, says Todd Newmiller, who's learning the "foreign culture" of prison, where work as a cook's assistant starts at 23 cents a day.

The violent crime for which he was convicted is a contrast to his upbringing and accomplishments.

His father, Bill, is a former Air Force pilot and FBI agent who now teaches at the Air Force Academy. His mother is a therapist.

At Liberty High School, Todd Newmiller was an honor student and varsity basketball player. He remained an honor student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where he received a degree in communications.

He speaks French and Russian, and family friends describe him as someone who cares about the poor and downtrodden. Yet he'd also gotten into trouble about a year prior to Madril's death, when he was brought up on charges of drunken driving and eluding a sheriff's deputy.

On the night Madril died, Todd Newmiller admits the alcohol was flowing.

"I hadn't really planned on drinking that much, but at some point a couple of the people who were there decided to buy me shots, and that's just never good," he says, stroking his long goatee while sitting at a table in a prison visiting room.

After a few hours, a call came from a close friend, a dancer at the Appaloosa. She had bought him a birthday gift, including two shirts and a card.

Around 10:30, a number of revelers decided to take the party to the Appaloosa. Joining Todd Newmiller were Orgill and acquaintances Jason Melick and Mike Lee.

Joel Newmiller, who had recently arrived at the bar, would drive them in the Jeep.

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

When the five men got to the bar now the site of PT's Showclub at 5975 Terminal Drive, the drinks kept coming amid flashing lights and topless dancers, Todd Newmiller says.

"We were just kind of hanging out," he says. "I think that probably two or three of us got table dances. But it really was not that wild of an atmosphere."

Elsewhere inside the club, Madril was with Lopez and Schwartz, neither of whom could be reached for this article.

"They were having a beer, hanging out, talking with each other," Stephanie Rikeman, a prosecutor for the county District Attorney's Office, said during the trial.

It wasn't until last call sounded, sometime before 2 a.m., that the two parties confronted each other.

"You'll hear different versions of this," Rikeman explained to jurors. "What it comes down to, though, is Charles Schwartz one of the ladies asked him if he wanted one final table dance."

But he didn't have any money on him, Rikeman told jurors. So someone in the group suggested the dancer come to Schwartz's house to be paid.

"It was a joke," Rikeman said. "It was said. It should have ended there. That should have been it, but the defendant's group took offense at it."

Specifically, Orgill testified that he thought the remark was disrespectful, and he engaged Madril's group in an argument that turned into a shoving match.

Club security intervened, first inside, then in the parking lot. At one point, they restrained Todd Newmiller.

They told Schwartz, whose pickup truck contained Lopez and Madril, to leave. He did, but only after the trio passed near Todd Newmiller's group to hurl some insults.

About 30 seconds later, Joel Newmiller, behind the wheel of the Jeep, pulled out of the parking lot with Todd Newmiller in the passenger seat and Orgill, Lee and Melick in back.

When the Jeep turned onto Conrad Street, Schwartz's pickup was waiting.

In a flash

When his brother stopped the car, Todd Newmiller opened his door and rushed toward the rear passenger side of Schwartz's pickup, where Lopez and Madril had slid out.

It was at this time that Madril and Todd Newmiller clashed, according to prosecutors. Todd Newmiller, they argued, had quickly pulled a knife on Madril, slicing his heart open in a swift thrust.

Although "nobody saw it ... it happened right there, that second," Rikeman argued.

click to enlarge Brad Orgill, of Colorado Springs, was the only person - witnesses saw fighting Anthony Madril. - COURTESY OF EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE
  • Courtesy of El Paso County Sheriffs Office
  • Brad Orgill, of Colorado Springs, was the only person witnesses saw fighting Anthony Madril.

Yet Madril didn't fall dead, she said.

"Maybe Anthony Madril doesn't even realize what's happened at that moment."

Rather, while bleeding from the wound, he fought with Orgill, she said. The fight likely lasted about a minute, perhaps a bit longer, despite Madril's lifelong battle with asthma.

The two weren't near the rear passenger side of the pickup truck the only area where witnesses ever were able to place Todd Newmiller. Instead, Madril and Orgill were in front of the pickup's driver's side, illuminated by headlights, according to Schwartz's testimony.

Schwartz was in his truck. He watched Madril and Orgill exchanging blows, like in a "schoolyard fight," he testified.

Orgill, who refused to comment for this story, recalled being battered by Madril.

"I remember trying to get back up," Orgill testified. "And I think I I think I got hit a couple more times, maybe."

Schwartz called to Lopez, who was at the rear of the pickup, still on the passenger side, in a stare-down with Todd Newmiller.

"I had that tall guy that confronted me in the parking lot in my face," Lopez testified.

Schwartz again urged Lopez to get back into the pickup truck.

"He told me, he says, "Get back in the truck,'" Lopez testified. ""There ain't there's something not right. There's something not right, something not right.' So I got back in the truck."

As he got in the pickup and the truck moved forward, the rear passenger side tire began hissing. Todd Newmiller had popped it with a knife.

But Schwartz didn't stop the pickup, because he saw Madril fall to the ground during his fight with Orgill. He noticed Madril was covered in blood.

"At that at that time I grabbed him by the belt," Schwartz testified. "He had leaned over, leaned over me, and I grabbed him by his belt loop and pulled him into the truck as we were taking off. I never I never really stopped. I was rolling the whole time. I opened the door. I just wanted to get him out of there and leave."

Schwartz raced toward a hospital, perhaps hitting 85 mph despite the flat tire.

But a 911 dispatcher told him via cell phone to meet an ambulance at Galley and Wooten roads, about 1 miles away from the site of the fight.

Lopez had compressed Madril's wound, but that and exhaustive efforts by medical technicians weren't enough. Madril was pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital at 2:44 a.m., sparking a homicide investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

click to enlarge Todd Newmillers parents, Bill and Gloria, have - exhausted their retirement savings to pay legal fees to - defend their son. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Todd Newmillers parents, Bill and Gloria, have exhausted their retirement savings to pay legal fees to defend their son.

A standoff

Todd Newmiller says he never encountered Madril. He recalls seeing Orgill and Madril tussling.

"In my peripheral vision, I remember Brad and Anthony the person I would later come to know to be Anthony just immediately throwing punches," he says.

Todd Newmiller says his attention was focused on Lopez.

"I just kind of remember being squared off with him and trying to look mean," Todd Newmiller says.

This claim is supported in testimony during the trial.

"I was focusing on him," Lopez testified, adding he never saw a knife.

Schwartz also "got a glimpse of the tall guy" Todd Newmiller "getting into Chisum's face."

But what Todd Newmiller says happened next isn't corroborated in stacks of investigative documents, witness statements, testimony and other evidence. He claims that Lopez sucker-punched him, cutting his face, before rushing back to the pickup truck.

It's a critical detail: Prosecutors would argue that it was Madril who hit Todd Newmiller, a linchpin to their argument that Todd Newmiller had an opportunity to stab him.

Todd Newmiller says he popped the tire in response to the punch.

"It's not the most reasonable thing that I've done, but at the time it felt kind of fair," he says.

Seeing blood on his brother's face, Joel Newmiller reacted strongly. He wanted to chase the pickup as it pulled away. But Todd Newmiller calmed his brother down by admitting in the Jeep that he had pulled out his knife.

At the trial, Joel Newmiller quoted his brother as saying, ""Don't worry about it. I slashed their tire and I stabbed one of them.'"

But now Joel Newmiller, a 23-year-old chemistry student at UCCS, says an agreement his attorney brokered with the District Attorney's Office essentially forced him to watch his words so carefully that he implied his brother stabbed Madril.

"It's all convoluted," says Joel Newmiller, whose deal kept him from being charged in aiding the crime. "I meant the tire."

The District Attorney's Office won't comment on any aspect of the case, says Diana May, a deputy district attorney, citing Todd Newmiller's appeal.

click to enlarge Joel Newmiller says because he was concerned about a - deal his attorney brokered, his testimony was - convoluted. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Joel Newmiller says because he was concerned about a deal his attorney brokered, his testimony was convoluted.

The knife

In the days following Madril's death, homicide investigators methodically ruled out Melick, Lee and Joel Newmiller. Meanwhile, detectives recovered a plausible murder weapon the knife Todd Newmiller used to pop the tire. They found it in Todd Newmiller's leather jacket pocket just hours after the incident, during the day, when Todd Newmiller and Orgill were arrested in Orgill's truck near West Bijou and Spruce streets.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation later found traces of Madril's blood on the knife.

It was another triumph for prosecutors, because if Todd Newmiller were innocent, another knife would have been the murder weapon. Investigators ruled out several other knives.

Bur James Philip Tate, part of Todd Newmiller's defense team, posed an alternate theory. He argued that Orgill could have had another knife, but concealed it from the men in the Jeep and then disposed of it before he was arrested.

The night's timeline doesn't rule it out: Joel Newmiller dropped off Melick and then brought Orgill, Lee and his brother back to Benny's. Orgill drove Todd Newmiller to his Cucharras Street house, and Lee followed; but Lee later left for home, and Todd Newmiller fell asleep. That left Orgill on his own until the next morning, when his mother visited.

Meanwhile, Todd Newmiller's knife, with a 3-inch blade, just longer than the legal limit, fit the profile. It was consistent with Madril's 3-inch-deep stab wound, according to the Coroner's Office.

The knife was described as a "tactical" weapon by prosecutors, who noted its dark blade wouldn't reflect much light, especially at night.

But Todd Newmiller says the knife was hardly that. He says he used it to open boxes in the eBay business he shared with Orgill.

He admits he pulled the knife out and opened it up at Orgill's house, saying Orgill was "worried about the blood" and wanted to see if any was on the knife. Orgill, on the other hand, had testified that Todd Newmiller expressed concern that he "might have stabbed somebody."

Todd Newmiller theorizes that it was around this time when the knife came out at Orgill's house that it may have wound up with traces of Madril's blood. Orgill, after all, had fought closely with Madril while Madril was bleeding, and the men had passed around a beer. He notes that CBI found no blood in the tire that he flattened though the prosecution claimed he had stabbed the tire only after stabbing Madril.

Todd Newmiller adds that keeping a murder weapon defies common sense. "If I did it, why would I keep the knife?"

Todd Newmiller and Orgill later burned some of their clothing, and Orgill testified that "certainly" might have been his idea. His hunting jacket was later revealed to have Madril's blood on it.

None of Madril's blood was found on Todd Newmiller's clothing. However, he admits he burned two shirts to "placate Brad's paranoia."

Bargain in the offing

Prosecutors charged Todd Newmiller within a week of his arrest. They soon made a deal with Orgill.

On March 7, 2005, he avoided up to six years in prison on charges of felony accessory to murder in exchange for testimony against Todd Newmiller and 100 hours of community service. The plea bargain was a four-year deferred sentence, meaning that if Orgill stays out of further trouble, the violation will be wiped from his record.

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Yet Orgill remained a viable suspect months into the investigation, according to a laboratory report ordered by Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lindsey in September 2005.

"Based on the bloodstain and other physical evidence, the analysts cannot say precisely who stabbed Mr. Madril, nor can either Mr. [Todd] Newmiller or Mr. Orgill be ruled out as the assailant," wrote Jeff Saviano, a criminalist for Colorado Springs Metro Forensic Laboratory, and Kimberly Bjorndahl, a technician.

During the trial, Orgill explained why he took the deal.

"I you know, I knew that a crime had occurred," Orgill testified. "I didn't know that anyone had been been stabbed that evening, but I did know that a crime had occurred. And it was, you know, offered to me by the DA and I felt it was, you know, best to take this deal and get on with my life and just do the right thing from there."

Lee, for his part, received a two-year deferred sentence in exchange for testimony in the trial. He could not be reached.

A tough sell?

Medical experts testified that despite Madril's asthma, the adrenaline of the fight could have overcome the ailment, and exacerbating factors such as his intoxication, the length of the fight and the cold November weather.

Also, Donald Ritchey, the forensic pathologist with the Coroner's Office who performed Madril's autopsy, stated that blood probably didn't gush from Madril's chest, because of the nature of the wound.

Rather, Madril could have lost blood slowly.

"It's quite possible for somebody to stab somebody and not be covered with blood, certainly," he testified, saying he was applying his conclusion to detectives' findings as he knew them.

The knife did not hit an artery, and there was leakage from the wound into Madril's body, he added.

The Independent contacted Dr. Stephen Cantrill, associate director of emergency medicine at Denver Health Medical Center, for another opinion.

The idea that Madril was stabbed and able to keep fighting is "very possible," Cantrill says, relying on his 25 years of experience in dealing with numerous heart stabbings.

"It's not going to happen just, boom, like that," he says of Madril's death.

While the 3-inch wound Madril received was fatal, he could have battled for minutes, he adds.

The blood trail on Conrad Street was critical to pinpointing where Madril was stabbed.

The drops began small, near the passenger side of the pickup, and grew as they approached the area that was illuminated by Schwartz's lights, the area where Schwartz saw Madril and Orgill fighting.

click to enlarge 4cc0_cover-23603.gif

While prosecutors claimed the blood showed that Madril and Todd Newmiller converged, the defense looked at the blood differently, theorizing that Madril first bled onto the street not from a knife wound, but from the fistfight with Orgill. As possible proof, the defense cited examples such as a cut on the bridge of Madril's nose.

Tate finally characterized the premise of the prosecution's case as implausible.

There were no more than two car lengths between the front of the Jeep and back of Schwartz's pickup. Lopez, at the passenger door, was the first one out, and testified that he immediately confronted Todd Newmiller. Moreover, he never saw a knife. Nor, apparently, did Madril.

"There was no cry from Anthony saying, "Watch out, Chisum, he's got a knife,'" Tate said.

And why didn't Madril keep fighting Todd Newmiller if the prosecution was right? Why would he move on to Orgill?

Sorting through the case's evidence was tough, jurors admit.

"We all hoped and prayed we came to the right decision," says one juror who asked to remain anonymous.

Several major pieces appeared to give the prosecution the edge, according to two jurors. First, Todd Newmiller seemed to have the opportunity to stab Madril because he was the first one out of the Jeep. Second, the jury believed the prosecution's theory of the blood trail, and viewed Madril's blood on Todd Newmiller's knife as strong evidence. Third, Joel Newmiller testified that his brother confessed.

"That was pretty big," the juror says.

The juror was unaware that Joel Newmiller now says his testimony was misconstrued. Hearing that at the trial probably would have led to jurors dropping testimony of a confession, including a sensational account by Melick, because the story would have been uncorroborated.

The deals that Orgill and Lee got initially left juror Robert Houghton suspicious about the credibility of their testimony.

"It looked like, "Hey, they're trying to save their butt,'" he says, "but as we went through the trial, it sort of proved its point."

Houghton, now 76 and the oldest juror, at first was among several jurors to vote "not guilty."

At the time, he wondered if Orgill was the killer.

"I thought the guy who was fighting him could have done it, but the blood trail sort of threw a monkey wrench in that," Houghton says.

He notes that investigators never recovered a suspicious knife from Orgill.

Family matters

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Bonnie Madril, Anthony Madril's mother, says she can't speak about the case.

"I really haven't talked to anybody about it, and I prefer to keep it that way," she says.

Moreno, Anthony Madril's father, praises the efforts of investigators and prosecutors and sees Todd Newmiller as the product of privilege trying to elude justice.

He doesn't believe Orgill to be the killer and wants Todd Newmiller to confess.

"That's the only way the healing could begin," Moreno says.

But that day appears unlikely ever to come.

Todd Newmiller's parents, Bill and Gloria, strongly believe that their son could not be the killer, based on their review of the evidence.

"We think the system is broken," says Bill Newmiller, adding he thinks the investigation was biased against his son early on, leaving prosecutors unwilling to seriously entertain alternate theories about Madril's death.

So far, the couple has spent upward of $160,000 in savings and borrowing to help their two sons fight the vercict.

"It's going to wipe out our retirement," Bill Newmiller says.

Among the fees are payments to technical experts the Newmillers hired to do forensic testing. They found no blood on Todd Newmiller's clothing which the District Attorney's Office declined to test.

Meanwhile, Todd Newmiller, who figures his earliest release date is in 2028, says he's not sure who killed Madril that cold, sad night on Conrad Street.

"My suspicion is that Brad probably stabbed Anthony Madril, but it's not something that I can say definitively," Todd Newmiller says. "There are so many unfair things that happen in the way that our system operates, and I would hate to be less than fair in terms of my own statements." Michael Moreno's eyes well up when he thinks about Anthony Madril, the son he knew for only a few years before he lost his life in a street fight.

He had always loved his son, but had separated from Madril's mother, Bonnie Madril of Ramah, when Anthony was very young.

"Then one day, there's a knock at the door," Moreno says from his home in Colorado Springs. "It's Bonnie. She said, "I think it's time you meet your son.'"

Moreno and Madril, then 17, got together a bit later for dinner. A photograph from that day shows two beaming smiles father and son finding they'd never been out of each other's hearts, despite the gulf of time.

Moreno says he'll never forget rushing to Memorial Hospital just a few years later.

"He was gone," he says. "I couldn't believe it."

The loss has devastated the entire family. Bonnie Madril wept during a hearing last year in which a judge sentenced Todd Newmiller to 31 years in prison for the second-degree murder of her son.

"We just had a gathering, a family barbecue the other day, and everybody was having such a good time," she told a judge. "I just looked at my boys and I thought there was just one thing missing, and it was Anthony. I held myself together because I didn't want anybody to see me cry. We are so missing him, our family."

Moreno says his son had a rough time studying at high school. But while working as a 22-year-old cook, he had finally found direction, a life path. He hoped to become a missionary.

"I was so proud," Moreno says.

On his arm, a memorial tattoo now reminds him of dreams destroyed.

"I miss him every day."

  • Todd Newmiller says he couldn't have killed Anthony Madril

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