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Amber Lee TORREZ





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: She claimed she was a government assassin of traitors
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 28-29, 2004
Date of arrest: March 29, 2004
Date of birth: November 5, 1984
Victims profile: John Hand, 55 (the founder of Colorado Free University) / Masfin Gezahgn, 45 (cab driver from Ethiopia)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
Status: Found not guilty by reason of insanity on August 27, 2006

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Amber Torrez Sentenced to 10 years Prison for Assault

July 25, 2008

A 23-year-old Denver woman who was found not guilty by reason of insanity, in two first degree murder cases in Denver, was in court today for sentencing on a Jefferson County felony conviction. Amber Lee Torrez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for an assault that took place just days before the murders in Denver.

Torrez was arrested in March, 2004 on a Jefferson County warrant following an attack on a 20-year-old disabled man who had been her friend. The victim, Ian Daugherty, was disabled with a back injury from a car accident which left him wearing a brace on one leg, using a crutch to walk and with little use of his left arm or hand. Torrez and co-defendant Dayle Karry, 30, went to Daugherty?s house because Torrez was planning to attack Daugherty based upon something she believed he had said. At Daugherty?s house Torrez at first offered to rub his shoulders or neck, but then began her assault by trying to break his neck. Karry held Daugherty while Torrez severely punched and beat him in the face and head. They then tied his feet and hands, and covered his mouth with duct tape. Torrez poured alcohol over Daugherty intending to light him on fire, except that she could not find matches. Torrez and Karry stole property from Daugherty and pulled the telephone out of the wall before they left.

On June 3, 2008 Torrez pled guilty to second degree assault, a class four felony and a crime of violence. She has been in the custody of the Colorado Mental Health Institute (CMHI) since she was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the Denver cases in 2004. She will now be transferred into the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Co-defendant Dayle Brandon Karry, 30, pled guilty to third degree assault of an at-risk adult, theft, and false imprisonment on February 9, 2005. He was sentenced to five years Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP).


Insanity ruled in slayings

By Sue Lindsay - Rocky Mountain News

August 29, 2006

A woman who claimed she was a government assassin of traitors was insane when she stabbed two men to death in 2004, a judge ruled Monday.

Amber Torrez, 21, was tried Monday for the murders of John Hand, founder of Colorado Free University, and Freedom Cab driver Mesfin Gezahegn.

Hand, 55, was found dead of 30 stab wounds in his Denver apartment March 28, 2004. Gezahegn, 45, was killed the next day, stabbed 39 times near his cab at East 18th Avenue and Gilpin Street.

In the face of "unrebutted" conclusions from two psychiatrists and a psychologist that Torrez was delusional and psychotic when she killed Hand and Gezahegn, Denver District Judge Christina Habas said she was compelled to find Torrez not guilty by reason of insanity.

The judge ordered Torrez committed to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo until she is eligible for release.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed to a trial without a jury, in part because Torrez has adamantly insisted she is guilty and wanted to be sentenced immediately. Over her objections, her attorney entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

"It's been a long process - two years and five months since Amber Torrez savagely killed my brother," said Helen Hand. "I have to accept the conclusion reached today is appropriate. I will never be able to remove the images in my mind of how my brother lost his life."

Hand said her brother would be remembered as an "incredibly wonderful, vibrant, kind, life-affirming person" who leaves behind a legacy of his two children as well as Colorado Free University.

Gezahegn's brother, Haile Selassie Girmay, was upset with the trial, saying "there is no justice in this country."

He said he will not call his brother an American anymore - even though Gezahegn had become a U.S. citizen - because "America did not serve him justice."

T.C. Clinton, one of the prosecutors in the case, said he was not surprised by the judge's decision.

"The court's ruling was directly on point," Clinton said. "The court found that there were three unrebutted psychiatric opinions that she was legally insane."

Psychiatrists Karen Fukutaki and Mark Diamond testified that Torrez was insane when she repeatedly stabbed both men to death.

She viewed herself as a vigilante of morality, they said.

"She felt she was on a mission," Diamond said. "She believed they were traitors and needed to be killed. She believed it was her duty to get rid of these people, and the world would be a better place."

The doctors said Torrez believed she had a mandate from the government to recruit a global army of 700 assassins for her Shadow Angel Industries, a group that would kill enemies of the government, particularly robbers, rapists, prostitutes and their patrons.

Torrez understood that mainstream society would perceive her acts as wrong, Diamond said, but "she felt she had a higher calling."

The psychiatrists said they found no evidence that Torrez was faking her mental illness, noting that defendants falsely claiming to be insane rarely want to plead guilty.

Torrez had been diagnosed with mental illnesses since age 14 and had begun to craft her delusional Shadow Angel Industries in her mind at about that time, Fukutaki said.

Her condition worsened after she was brutally attacked by an ex-boyfriend at age 15, whom she believed was not appropriately punished, Fukutaki said. Torrez has post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result, the psychiatrist said.


'04 Cabbie killer found not guilty

By Howard Pankraft -

August 28, 2006

A woman charged with fatally stabbing two men in 2004 was found not guilty by reason of insanity Monday.

Amber Torrez was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of 55-year-old John Hand on March 28, 2004, and Denver cab driver Masfin Gezahgn the next day. Gezahgn, 45, was stabbed 39 times; Hand, the founder of the alternative Colorado Free University, was stabbed 30 times.

Torrez had repeatedly tried to plead guilty to the killings. But Denver District Judge Christina Habas rejected Torrez's request and entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial was scheduled for two days, but Habas was able to complete testimony Monday.

During testimony Monday, Denver police Detective Shawn Webster gave a gory description of the crime scene at Hand's home. "There were obvious signs of a struggle," he said. "There was lots of blood. There was blood in the living room near the couch and a lot of blood in the work area."

Two psychiatrists have determined that Torrez was insane at the time of the killings.

But one doctor, Karen Fukutaki, said that while Torrez was insane when the men were killed, Torrez was sane when Hand was robbed - just moments after he was stabbed to death.

Early in the day, defense attorney Holly Lucas made a brief statement, asking Habas to find Torrez not guilty by reason of insanity.

Webster testified Hand was pronounced dead soon after police responded to calls from a neighbor. "The person in the downstairs unit called 911 after he heard his upstairs neighbor yelling he was being killed," he said.

Webster said that there was a blood trail leading for blocks away from the home. DNA found in the blood matched Torrez's DNA, he said.

The surveillance cameras at the Denver gas station where Torrez allegedly used Hand's credit card showed something white wrapped around her fingers, the detective testified. Torrez told investigators that she was injured while stabbing Hand, he said.

Webster also testified about detectives the next day responding to an area near East 18th Avenue and Gilpin Street where Gezahgn was found dead.

In prior court hearings, Dr. Mark Diamond, chief of psychiatry at the Colorado Mental Health Institute, testified that Torrez was schizophrenic, has a bipolar orientation, which makes her manic and difficult to control, and has an antisocial/borderline disorder.

Fukutaki testified at an earlier hearing that Torrez told her at the age of 15 she was attacked by a man who held a knife to her throat and at age 18 was knocked out with a date-rape drug.


Woman To Stand Trial In Brutal Stabbings

Judge Rules Torrez Competent To Stand Trial

October 3, 2005

DENVER -- A woman accused in the brutal killings of two Denver men will stand trial on first-degree murder charges.

Amber Torrez, 20, was ruled competent to stand trial Monday by a Denver District Court judge.

She is accused in the fatal stabbings of John Hand, the founder of the alternative Colorado Free University and Masfin Gezahgn, a cab driver from Etiopía.

Hand was killed March 28, 2004 in his Hilltop home and Gezahgn was killed the next day in front of his apartment near East 18th Avenue and Gilpin Street. Hand was stabbed 30 times and Gezahgn was stabbed 39 times.

She told one doctor who examined her that she was a government-paid assassin and that she planned to hire 700 killers to form an army of assassins. That doctor said she was delusional. A second doctor said she is competent to stand trial.

Amber's next court appearance is a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 24.


Woman Accused Of Killing 2 Men Found Incompetent

Judge Says Amber Torrez Unable To Assist In Her Defense

December 14, 2004

A Denver judge said a 19-year-old woman accused of back-to-back killings earlier this year is incompetent to stand trial.

Amber Torrez is charged in the brutal stabbing deaths of two Denver men.

The preliminary ruling came Monday in the case of Amber Torrez, after psychiatrists at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo evaluated her.

Torrez is charged with first-degree murder in the March stabbing deaths of two men.

John Hand, 55, the founder of Colorado Free University was stabbed at least 30 times inside his own home. Mesfin Gezahgn, 45, was a Denver cab driver who was found dead the following day. He'd suffered at least 39 stab wounds.

Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter has until Jan. 4 to accept or reject the judge's finding. If Ritter rejects the ruling, he could argue that Torrez should stand trial or be re-evaluated.

Deputy District Attorney Kevin VanDonselaar said the incompetency ruling means Torrez isn't thinking clearly enough to assist in her own defense -- but that does not mean she is insane.

In addition to the murder charges, Torrez also faces charges of beating and robbing a man in Jefferson County. Authorities say she then doused the man with alcohol and threatened to set him on fire. That was two days before she allegedly killed Hand.

Torrez remains in custody in Pueblo at the Colorado Mental Health Institute. When she is ruled competent, she will stand trial.

Friends said that Torrez told them she was raped at the age of 16 and her throat was slit.

A relative said Torrez got into drugs after that incident and is a completely different person now than she was before she was allegedly raped.


Denver Stabbing Suspect Had Throat Cut 3 Years Ago, Friends Say

Torrez' Life Went Down From There, Grandmother Says

June 29, 2004

A 19-year-old Denver woman charged in fatal knife attacks on two men was raped and her throat cut three years ago, a relative says.

Amber Torrez is charged in the brutal stabbing deaths of two Denver men.

Amber Torrez appeared in court Monday amid extra security after a futile escape attempt. Her preliminary hearing in the murders was rescheduled to August.

Friends said that Torrez told them she was raped at the age of 16 and her throat was slit. The scar is visible in her police photo.

A relative said Torrez got into drugs after that incident and is a completely different person now than she was before she was allegedly raped.

She is charged in the stabbing deaths of John Hand, 55, found in his apartment on March 28 and Mesfin Gezagn, 45, found near his cab the next day. Hand was stabbed 30 times and Gezagn was stabbed 39 times.

Earlier this month, Torrez allegedly attempted to escape from her high-security lockup by climbing bars between her cell and the shower, according to deputies. She refused orders to come down and pushed ceiling tiles aside in an apparent effort to get away, but found her way blocked by concrete, deputies said.

The sheriff's department added extra security for her court appearances and have rated her an escape risk.


Cabbie Stabbed to Death

Amber Torrez Arrested

March 29, 2004

Denver police are investigating a deadly stabbing that occurred around 2:45 a.m. in front of an apartment building near 18th and Gilpin.

Police say they were answering a 911 call about a fight when they found a Freedom Cab driver lying on pavement with numerous stab wounds. The man was rushed to Denver Health Medical Center where he died.

Amber Torrez, 19, was taken into custody. Police said she was found leaving the scene and had what appeared to be blood on her clothes when police confronted her.

There's no word on what the motive may have been or what the relationship was between the man and the woman.

The stabbing occurred inside the cab in front of the man's apartment. After he was stabbed repeatedly, the man apparently stumbled toward his home, but collapsed on the pavement, where family members found him lying in a pool of blood.

The man's cab was towed away with one of its turn signals still blinking and its engine still on. Neighbors told police that they heard arguing.

The man, who has not been identified, had worked for Freedom Cab for years and was an employee in good standing, the company said.


Founder Of Colorado Free University Killed

Police Have No One In Custody, No Motive

March 29, 2004

Denver police are looking for attacker after the founder of Colorado Free University was stabbed to death over the weekend.

John Hand, 55, was stabbed inside his Hilltop apartment on the 700 block of Elm Street around 1 a.m. Sunday.

The landlord called police after hearing a struggle in one of the adjacent apartments. The landlord started to climb upstairs to help when he heard Hand shouting that someone was trying to kill him. The landlord then rushed to call 911.

When police arrived, they found Hand alone on the floor suffering from a stab wound. Hand was transported to Denver Health Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.

Investigators do not have any one in custody or a possible motive. The landlord did not see anyone leave or enter the complex, police said.

Friends describe Hand as a gentle yet passionate person who wanted to challenge people to grow personally and empower communities to connect. His community-based school for adults opened in 1987 and offers low-cost classes in a variety of topics ranging from investing, gardening to cooking and clubbing.

The school posted this statement on its Web site "In light of the recent events, the Colorado Free University staff would like to thank the community for its condolences and support at this tragic time. Our offices will remain open and classes will run as scheduled. We are doing our best to keep the Free University running as we feel John Hand would have wanted. We will post any further information as it becomes available, including service arrangements."



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