She was an idealistic young woman, fresh out of a southern college and looking to make a life in the American West. He was a convicted robber from Prince George's County who was trying to shake a drug habit.
Police say their paths intersected in Denver on Feb. 24, when Peyton Tuthill interrupted Donte Terrorus Paige as he was ransacking her home. He had just been thrown out of a nearby drug treatment center to which Maryland authorities had sent him. Police say he beat and stabbed Tuthill to death after sexually assaulting her. He was charged Friday with her murder.
Tuthill's slaying has drawn outrage in Denver, where officials -- including Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D) -- are calling for tougher regulations on the shipment of felons into their state from places such as Maryland for drug treatment. They have been joined by Tuthill's friends and relatives, who have demanded action.
"If the laws did work, my daughter would still be here," said Tuthill's mother, Pat, who lives in Florida. "I will work diligently to make whatever changes are needed. . . . I don't want anyone to have to go through this."
As early as tomorrow, Owens hopes to see legislation introduced in the Colorado legislature mandating that private rehabilitation centers notify state officials when they accept out-of-state parolees or felons for treatment. The lack of such a requirement is a "gaping loophole," Dick Wadhams, a spokesman for Owens, said yesterday.
Last week, Webb gave preliminary approval to a proposal to allow Denver officials to prohibit people who have been convicted of violent crimes from being transferred there from out of state. The new ordinance, if approved, also would require the fingerprinting and photographing of felons sent to Denver treatment facilities. Currently, there is no required notification to local authorities that those felons are in the treatment centers.
"The public has a right to know if violent offenders are living in their neighborhood," said Andrew Hudson, a spokesman for Webb. "We don't want to be the dumping ground for other states' violent prisoners."
Paige, 22, already was in jail in Prince George's County -- charged with robbing a Laurel convenience store Feb. 27 -- when Colorado detectives traveled to Maryland last week to question him about Tuthill's killing. They had turned to him after arresting and then releasing another Maryland man, a convicted crack cocaine dealer, who also was at the treatment center.
Now Colorado officials are wondering how felons such as Paige and the second man get out of prison and receive permission to travel to Denver for drug treatment. Hudson said that there is a voluntary interstate compact in which state officials are supposed to notify one another in cases like these but that Maryland officials had not sent word to Colorado authorities.
Leonard A. Sipes, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said that the compact governs executive branches of state governments and that the actions that brought the offenders to Colorado were taken by the judiciary "without the input of the executive branch."
Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Joseph S. Casula suspended Paige's 20-year sentence in October after Paige sent him a letter pleading for a chance to enroll in a drug treatment program, which he said he was unable to receive at the Roxbury Correctional Institute in Hagerstown, Md.
Paige had been sentenced to 20 years in prison, with half the sentence suspended, after pleading guilty in November 1996 to an armed robbery in which he had threatened a store clerk with a knife.
But after less than two years in prison, Paige wanted out. "I don't ever want to come back to this place," he wrote the judge. "I've hit rock bottom, and there is nowhere to go but up from here."
Casula agreed to reduce the remainder of Paige's sentence if he went into drug treatment. It is not unusual for inmates to be sent away from their communities to keep them from spending time with old friends who might be poor influences, authorities said.
Upon his release, Paige went to Denver to enroll in a rehabilitation program operated by the Stout Street Foundation on Gaylord Street in the city's residential City Park neighborhood.
City Park also was Peyton Tuthill's neighborhood.
Tuthill, a cheery, brown-haired young woman, had graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina in 1997 and fell in love with the West after a trip to Colorado with a college friend. The pair returned to Denver, got a third roommate and settled into a maroon, century-old Victorian house on the same block as the treatment center.
Tuthill took a job in a temp agency, began looking for full-time work and spent time on the slopes learning to ski. On the morning she was killed, just two weeks after her 24th birthday, Tuthill had interviewed for a job with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
According to Denver newspaper accounts, police say they believe Tuthill surprised Paige in her apartment. He had been kicked out of the treatment center the day before because of disciplinary problems, the papers said.
Three days later, Paige was jailed in the Laurel convenience store robbery. That's where Denver homicide detectives found him. He is being held without bail at the Prince George's County jail as authorities decide whether to try him for the robbery before sending him back to Denver to face murder charges.