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Jim Tatum Killed by wife Ann Tatum in Colorado
Jim attended AHS till Senior year, when he transferred to newly-built Burgess and was in their 1st graduating class.  This account begins with the latest news and reads backward to November 29th 2007, when Jim's wife Ann shot him to death at their home near Trinidad Colorado. 


 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS  (http://www.rockymountainnews.com)

Wife who killed spouse cleared
By James B. Meadow
January 7, 2009

More than a year after the shooting death of Trinidad attorney Jim Tatum by his wife, Ann, a prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges.

The shooting in the Tatum home just outside Trinidad ended a stormy marriage.

Although Ann Tatum never denied shooting her husband multiple times in their kitchen - the event was witnessed by a deputy sheriff - Jim Tatum's pattern of violence against her surfaced early on as a possible legal defense.

After the 13-month investigation, spearheaded by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, 16th Judicial District Attorney Rod Fouracre concluded: "Given the knowledge of Mrs. Tatum as to Mr. Tatum's prior violence, and the violence he inflicted upon her on November 29, 2007 . . . it would not be proper to charge her for killing Mr. Tatum."

Jim Tatum grabbed his wife by the hair and hit her in the ribs, according to an arrest affidavit.

Ann Tatum broke free and ran to her purse, pulling out a handgun and firing repeatedly at her husband, the affidavit said.

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Comments

January 7 2009, 5:20 a.m. - ruffryde997 writes:

So someone beats you up and you are allowed to shoot them? even under the given circumstances she murdered the man and although she probably shouldn't spend the rest of her life in jail or anything, she should be charged with something....

6:22 a.m. - Denverboy1 writes:

chances are this event was not an isolated case...He most likely had beaten her before...So you could charge her with SELF- DEFENSE......

8:43 a.m. - OldSailor writes:

Anyone who kills a bully, "a**hole" like that should be given a medal.  There should be a bounty paid for killing mean people like that.  Women, nor anyone should be expected to put up with mean treatment like that.

8:55 a.m. - Hoppin4 writes:

We're talking about a grown up woman in her 50s who'd lived with this alleged bully for many years -- IF HE BULLIED HER, BEAT HER, MISTREATED HER, WHY DIDN'T SHE JUST LEAVE??  I'll tell you why, $$$$$$$$ -- Jim made a lot of money and Ann wanted it all.  Ann is a conniving murderess and should be charged as such.  Most people in this town are upset that Ann is getting off scott free, she must give great head is all we can figure, and maybe she's sharing her blood money profits.

9:34 a.m. - littlebitofjustice writes:

I am sure all was justified. I wounder if this was dismissed as a crime of passion?

1:24 p.m. - El_Guapo writes:

The State of Colorado would save money (and perhaps generate revenue) if it simply issued licenses to kill to any woman who requested one. The woman would swear under oath the intended victim was "abusive." She could then hire a peace officer, such as a deputy sheriff, to off the victim for compensation. She could even sell the movie rights to help offset the cost.

No need for 13-month CBI investigations that waste everyone's time. After all, every woman has the legal right to kill any man she thinks deserves it. It's somewhere in the Constitution, I'm certain.

1:27 p.m. - HowieStupid writes:

So when is Ann going to marry the deputy that witnessed this? Why did the deputy let her shoot him? Was the deputy neglectful in his duties? Most law enforcement officers shoot anyone that even pretends to have a gun.  Just a bunch of questions still remain.

2:06 p.m. - SICKANDTIRED74 writes:

And what was the deputy sheriff doing while she ran to her purse, got the gun and fired multiple shots killing her husband in "self defense"???

If a man was to shoot his abusive wife he'd be spending life in prison!! I'm not saying that this woman deserved life but I think there should have been some consequences for taking a life (whether he was abusive or not). If she was able to get to her purse to get a gun, she could have gotten to her purse, grabbed her keys and got the heck out of there leaving the deputy there to handle the husband and throw his butt in prison for abuse!!

There are so many questions that remain!!!  El Guapo wrote "It's somewhere in the Constitution, I'm certain." but now we know that the Constitution doesn't mean anything in Colorado!!!

7:15 p.m. - Hand writes:

I've known Jim and Ann for a long time and have spent many nights at their home over food and drink. If anyone was abusive it was Ann!   Oh did we forget, Jim was close to the Deputies wife.  There was motive allover the place, unfortunately this county is blind with corruption and incompetence.  Jim's and Ann's friend


 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
 
(http://www.rockymountainnews.com)

The death of Jim Tatum: A case of justifiable homicide
After long study of flamboyant couple, D.A. sees it her way

Jim and Ann Tatum 1991.
   Jim & Ann Tatum, 1991

One year, one month and eight days after it happened, the shooting death that stunned but didn't surprise a small Colorado town was quietly laid to rest by a prosecutor who called the case "difficult," "unusual" and "perplexing."

He also called it "justifiable homicide."

And with that, 16th Judicial District Attorney Rodney Fouracre declined to file charges against Ann Tatum, who in November 2007 shot and killed her husband, Jim Tatum, in their Weston ranch house, following what would be the final bout of domestic violence in a marriage that covered 24 tempestuous years.

"Given the knowledge of Mrs. Tatum as to Mr. Tatum's prior violence and the violence he inflicted upon her on Nov. 29, 2007 . . . it would not be proper to charge her for killing Mr. Tatum," Four acre wrote in his final report.

When informed of Fouracre's decision, Ann Tatum attorney Pamela Mackey said, "We're thrilled; we couldn't be happier. He [Fouracre] obviously reached the exact correct conclusion."

Asked why she thought it took so long for Fouracre to render his decision, Mackey said, "He's a very thorough attorney."

Prosecutor comfortable

For his part, Fouracre acknowledged that year-plus span between the shooting and his decision was "a little unusual," but "some cases take that long because of the way the evidence is. I wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything inconsistent with all the evidence that was tested forensically."

Fouracre's insistence on evidential corroboration meant more time was needed. Plus, he added, "You always want to make sure that you've done the right thing."

And he is.

Although Fouracre said he's made a justifiable homicide finding only one other time in his 20 years as a prosecutor, he emphasized that "Based upon all the evidence we have, I'm very comfortable with the decision."

For those who knew the Tatums and their penchant for drama, it probably wasn't surprising that the investigation of a shooting that was witnessed by a deputy sheriff and confessed to by Ann Tatum should have gone on so long. The Tatums seemed to do things in a big way.

Texans by birth, persona and principal residence, Jim and Ann Tatum quickly became neon- bright figures in Colorado when they arrived in 1983, building a ranch they called "Solitario" 27 miles from Trinidad.

Loud, forceful, a big cigar perpetually jammed into his mouth, Jim Tatum was an attorney who one local described as someone who "always thought he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof."

Only slightly less flamboyant than her husband, Ann Tatum shared his affinity for western attire and edgy attitude. Locals grew used to seeing them in cowboy hats and chaps, spurs on their boots and pistols in their holsters.

Whether it was the 5-foot-10, 250-pound Jim Tatum thundering around town as a highly visible county attorney, or the stylish and attractive Ann Tatum running for Las Animas County commissioner, the Tatums maintained a high profile in Trinidad even though by some reports they lived in Houston nine months of the year. Over time they also became known for loud, profane - and public - arguments. As one person put it, "If they weren't screaming and yelling at each other, they weren't communicating."

There were some in town who saw evidence that the battles weren't confined to words. More than once, Ann Tatum was seen with bruises and black eyes.

Some of the fights grew out of Tatum's alleged affairs with other women. That apparently was what sparked the final one.

The fatal fight

According to Fouracre's report, the fight began in the kitchen when Ann Tatum accused Jim of sleeping with Ales Martinez, the estranged wife of John Martinez, a Las Animas County sheriff's deputy who was a houseguest of the Tatums at the time.

The yelling escalated to violence. Jim Tatum attacked his wife with his "huge hands," slapping her, grabbing her by the hair, tearing her sweater.

Martinez, who was present, testified that he tried to intercede but was pushed aside and hit his head. As he lay dazed, he heard gunfire.

Finding a gun in the Tatum house wasn't hard. In the kitchen alone, there were three handguns and three rifles. Besides these, the report says the Colorado Bureau of Investigation collected "sixteen handguns, eight shotguns, and twenty-six rifles."

One of those guns found its way into Ann's hands. She emptied its bullets into her spouse. Despite being shot multiple times, Jim struggled to his feet and moved toward his gun, which was in a holster. He and Ann Tatum fought for the weapon. More gunfire. The autopsy showed Tatum was shot seven times.

It was not the first time he had been shot by his spouse. His first wife, Elizabeth, shot him in 1981 during an altercation in which she claimed he attacked her. A Texas grand jury declined to bring charges against her.

Still more to come?

Despite Fouracre's comfort with his decision to not charge Ann Tatum, there were aspects of the case he found "perplexing."

For instance, having a police officer - Martinez - as an eyewitness to a shooting in a home is, Fouracre said, "pretty unusual."

Fouracre's report mentions that Martinez submitted to "three lengthy video recorded interviews and agreed to a polygraph test as well." Polygraphs are not admissible in court, but, Fouracre wrote, "the fact that Deputy Martinez took one of his own volition" was "worth noting."

Fouracre's decision to not charge Ann Tatum because she acted in self defense does not mean the case is closed.

"The victim's family could ask the court to do independent review," he said. "But that's rarely done - and rarely ordered."

There are reports that some of Jim Tatum's seven surviving children - none from his marriage to Ann - are considering a civil lawsuit against her. An estate battle also is likely.

If or when these legal contests occur, few would be surprised if they are difficult, unusual, perplexing - or lengthy.

A Tatum timeline

* Jan. 9, 1939: James Eddie Tatum born in Graham, Texas.

* Apr. 6, 1981: Jim is shot by his first wife, Elizabeth, during a fight. A grand jury declines to file charges against her.

* August 1983: Jim marries Ann Fechtel Neville.

* 1983: Jim and Ann buy land in Weston, Colo.

* 2001-2003: Jim serves as Las Animas county attorney.

* 2004: Ann Tatum runs unsuccessfully for Las Animas County commissioner.

* Nov. 29, 2007: Ann fatally shoots Jim in their home during a fight.

* Jan. 6, 2009: 16th Judicial District Attorney Rodney Fouracre declines to file charges against Ann, saying she acted in self defense.

Comments

January 9, 2009 - 6:15 a.m. - leroypaula writes:

Taking the law into your own hands is not right. There is always something else to do or go.

6:17 a.m. - glycerine831 writes:

Shot by two different wives? Guess he had it coming.

6:34 a.m. - HolierThanThou writes:

If they'd had any kids running around, they both would've been shot by toddlers playing with loaded pistols.

6:52 a.m. - leavemealone writes:

LOL.... Talk about two clowns in real life....Wow!

7:47 a.m. - Hand writes:

Let's see, Ann shoot's Jim because he's running with Ales and Deputy John is just a witness.  Fouracre nees to find work in a another field.  Maybe garbage disposal.

7:58 a.m. - leavemealone writes:

Hand, You got that right!  This whole thing smells like tuna.

8:30 a.m. - Noia writes:

It's hard to buy the whole abused scared wife story when she was known to go toe to toe with her husband in public.

Then add in this tidbit from the arrest report:

"Ann Tatum then reportedly broke free and grabbed a .38 from her purse, firing it several times at Jim Tatum. He then reportedly went for a nearby .45, but the affidavit states that it was pulled from his grasp by Ann Tatum and allegedly used to shoot him again."

If she was able to have pulled a gun from his "huge hands" then shoot him with that gun, that's sounds more like she decided on ending the marriage without divorce, not self defense.

Someone needs to check that DA's bank account for a very large deposit...

8:31 a.m. - El_Guapo writes:

"Fouracre's decision to not charge Ann Tatum because she acted in self defense does not mean the case is closed."

Is it justifiable homicide or is it self-defense? The two are not the same. Self-defense requires that one's life be in immediate danger. Neither the DA nor the wife claimed that. What the DA claims is that because of "Mr. Tatum's prior violence and the violence he inflicted upon her on Nov. 29, 2007... it would not be proper to charge her." The DA justified the homicide on the basis of the husband's alleged abuse, not on the basis that Ann's life was in immediate danger. If the DA believed her life was in danger, he should have stated that belief.

The fact that the grounds for the decision not to file charges are constantly shifting does not convince me justice was done in this case.

8:32 a.m. - Cowboy63 writes:

leroypaula wrote "Taking the law into your own hands is not right. There is always something else to do or go." -- I suppose she could have just taken the beating (and possibly be beaten to death herself). Some guys just need killing. He was one of them.  Just desserts.

8:48 a.m. - enginerd writes:

leroypaula, There are times when one must take the law into one's own hands. For instance, when the lawman is lying dazed on the floor and the man who put him there is coming after you.

Hand, Read the article again. She didn't shoot him because he slept with the other woman. She shot him after he had hit her, pulled her hair, torn her sweater, and decked the deputy. It is quite reasonable to assume that she feared that more violence was coming unless she acted to stop it.

9:25 a.m. - El_Guapo writes:

"I suppose she could have just taken the beating (and possibly be beaten to death herself). Some guy just need killing. He was one of them."

They were married 24 years. She could have left him at any time instead of just "taking the beatings." Murder was not her only option.

"It is quite reasonable to assume that she feared that more violence was coming unless she acted to stop it."

But that does not necessarily include murder. Even the DA never claims her life was in immediate danger, which is necessary for a claim of self-defense. That he doesn't make that claim is telling, as it would be the best justification for his decision.

9:30 a.m. - HoosierGuy writes:

24 years does seem a long time......

9:33 a.m. - Willy writes:

"Loud, forceful, a big cigar perpetually jammed into his mouth, Jim Tatum was an attorney who one local described as someone who "always thought he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof."

Only slightly less flamboyant than her husband, Ann Tatum shared his affinity for western attire and edgy attitude. Locals grew used to seeing them in cowboy hats and chaps, spurs on their boots and pistols in their holsters."

Exactly the perception most long time Coloradoans have of Texans LOL

10:31 a.m. - LazyR writes:

I wish those kinds of Texassans would stay in Texass

11:24 a.m. -redfive writes:

Alright, posters.....
Who's going to play which roles for the made for TV movie (on Lifetime)?

12:18 p.m. - leatherneck writes:

He also called it "justifiable homicide."  BS.  If a male does the same thing to a woman, no matter what the history was, the man gets life...... The woman is always the victim....... In this case it sure sounds like she was in fact the victim, but men in most cases are always declared the violent ones no matter what history the woman has.

12:41 p.m. - davies writes:

Bummer Mr. Tatum:

I can see you getting up to the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter shows you a little video clip of your life in which not only are you shot to death by your beloved wife, but the video ends with the DA concluding that you deserved it!

Then St. Peter points down, and two demons come to escort you the Other Place (the one that's hotter than Texas on the 4th of July). No sooner do you get to your new room down there, and open the door, when what do you see? OH MY GOD NO!  Not Mrs. Tatum!!!

1:34 p.m. - LS writes:

leatherneck, that tide is turning now, as well it should be. This is an interesting ruling that took place in California only about 3 months ago http://links.sfgate.com/ZFCN (should open in PDF format).

If you Google battered men syndrome you'll see that often times the instigation rate happens nearly as often with women as with men, but because of the social stigma of men being compelled to appear stronger, the incidents go unreported.

1:35 p.m. - Heidi writes:

davies....too funny!  Either that or they both come back as bison living on Colorado land next to a Texas landowner.

4:02 p.m. - LockNLoad writes:

Justifiable? You betchya!  Her only mistake was that she first shot him with the .38. The .45 should have been her weapon of choice to stop the attacker. A .38 will only pi$$ him off.

4:04 p.m. - leavemealone writes:

Looks like she had only one black eye?  At least he didn't have to tell her twice.  LOL

5 p.m. - sweetater writes:

So does this mean I could of killed someone who abused me and gotten away with it?  Or do I need to wear chaps and a cowboy hat?

7 p.m. - hand writes:

I don't know were Mr. Meadow got his info for his story, but first of all Ales never took the name Martinez and I've spent many hours with Jim moving cow's, eating dinner and having drinks and he never acted in the manner described. Jim was one of the easiest guys I know, Now, Ann when drinking, would try to get him worked up and get aggressive, she was the one that always tried to fight.  I know all the parties involved in this tragic encounter and believe Mr. Fouracre screwed up in a big way.

2:29 p.m. - El_Guapo writes:

Hand--

Glad to see someone post who knew the couple. I only know what I read in the paper and this decision doesn't sit right with me. The killer and the witness both had reasons for wanting the victim dead. The killer accused the victim of having an affair with the witness's wife, so both the killer and the witness had motives for wanting him dead. They are the only source of info we have on what happened that night and could have cooked up the story of the victim's violence to justify what happened.

This case should have gone to trial so a jury could decide the truth. That would be fairest to the victim. As it is, maybe his kids will have success in their lawsuit.

The decision also sets a very bad precedent. The DA would never have made this decision if the killer was a man. No man could get away with killing his wife by alleging she was abusive. As a result, a lot of women will conclude men are fair game--kill your husband, allege abuse, walk away. Problem is, what goes around comes around.

January 12, 2009 - 11:44 a.m. - jackietatum writes:

I've read some intelligent and insightful comments.

You should all know that Ann Tatum was repeatedly advised of the type of man she was marrying in my father. My mother and my sisters and I all told her in explicit detail the type of abuse he engaged in and were able to provide documented proof of same. She married him anyway, willfully ignoring those warnings and took her young children into danger with her. She made a decision then that her finances were more important than her children's safety.

Ann went so far as to tell the 3 younger girls that my mother and we 3 older girls were trying to brainwash them against their father. Unfortunately, the 3 younger girls had been witness to multiple violent acts and did not need brainwashing to reach their own conclusions as to the type of man their father was. Ann later sued my mother when I as a teenager helped her son escape from my father's abusive household. She testified under oath at that time that he was not an abusive husband or father, that there was no abuse in her home. The motivation for this testimony was a financial award won against my mother.

Ann was in no way forced into a marriage with my father and has not had the excuse of young children to support for many years. He did not care if she lived with him, so the argument that he may have threatened to kill her if she left does not ring true. He was always very up front with conditions regarding his finances - if you expected to benefit from his largesse, you had to be a part of his life. I made the decision at 14 years of age that it was better to be without his financial support than to put up with his abuse. She stayed in the marriage and I leave you to your conclusions as to what motivated her to do so.

As for justice, my father was a cruel and violent man who delighted in inflicting terror on his children. That he died a violent death is proof that what comes around goes around. So, I've heard Ann has had some trouble dealing with her actions and well she should. It must be a little nerve wracking waiting for your karma to catch up with you.

12:31 p.m. - luckychucky writes:

Wow. Another stellar report from the RMN staff. Really went in-depth on this article.

Wonder if the $622,000.00 check that the Tatums got from the coal company just a few months before the killing had anything to do with it?  Ya think?  Hmmmm....


 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS  (http://www.rockymountainnews.com)

DA's decision in killing is disturbing
- Paul C. Robbins
January 15, 2009

The decision not to file murder charges against Ann Tatum for the murder of her husband, Jim, raises troubling questions ("A case of justifiable homicide/After long study of flamboyant couple, D.A. sees it her way," Jan. 9). That she killed him was not in dispute, nor did she raise the issue of self-defense.  Instead, she claimed he was "abusive," and the district attorney agreed.

But what is abuse? And how much abuse is required to justify homicide? Is one incident sufficient? Two? Or is it necessary to establish a pattern? And who decides if the allegation of abuse is true? Do we try a dead man to determine if he's guilty of abuse? What if we find him innocent? Do we bring him back to life?

If Colorado is going to permit wives to kill their "abusive" husbands, the state should pass legislation defining precisely how much "abuse" is necessary before the homicide is legally justified. And surely a jury is the proper body to determine if the victim was indeed "abusive." Otherwise, some wives might get the idea they can kill their husbands with impunity - and some husbands might get the same idea about their wives.

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Comments on RockyMountainNews  [http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2009/jan/15/das-decision-in-killing-is-disturbing/] :

January 15, 2009, 6:29 a.m. - Mike_In_Hartsel writes:

A little touchy, are we there Paul
 
  • 7:55 a.m. - dilligaf writes:

    Paul we pay prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to investigate these matters. We can only hope they do their jobs in a manner that the decisions they make are responsible. So all we can do is assume that this guy was abusive enough that this women killed in self defence. And if this is true good for her.
     

  • 7:58 a.m. - sheepherder writes:

    Any man that would hit a woman has it coming...in spades!

    11:35 a.m. - Acemon writes:

    Hey Paul, Perhaps the police and district attorney have information not available to the public. Thankfully your "opinion" means nothing in a court of law.
     

  • January 16, 2009 - 7:40 p.m. - El_Guapo writes:

    As the letter-writer, here's my response re Mike_In_Hartsel's comment, "A little touchy, are we there Paul?"

    The wife had a motive for killing the husband besides his alleged violence: she believed he was having an affair. The DA claims Jim suddenly became belligerent and hit her for no good reason. A plausible alternative explanation is that Ann had a gun with her because she intended to kill him. Jim figured out what she was up to and defended himself. His self-defense became "domestic violence" so his murder became "justifiable homicide." That vitiates a long-standing legal right.

    Re dilligaf's "...all we can do is assume that this guy was abusive enough that this women killed in self defence. And if this is true good for her." -- You're right. The DA's decision left us with nothing but assumptions and hypotheticals. A clear finding of self-defense would have served justice better.

    Re sheepherder's "Any man that would hit a woman has it coming...in spades!" -- I suspect that's what the DA concluded--the man deserved to die whether Ann's life was in danger or not. The DA basically put the victim on trial and concluded he was guilty. But a dead man cannot speak in his own defense, so it was hardly a fair trial. And the primary witness against the victim was likely the killer, who had good reason to lie about any past violence.

    Re Acemon's "Perhaps the police and district attorney have information not available to the public. Thankfully your "opinion" means nothing in a court of law." -- No, but on the opinion page my opinion means as much as yours. And you apparently agree that the story as reported makes no sense.

    For example, in one story the reporter writes that a gun "found its way into Ann's hands." Whenever magic is used to explain a crucial fact in a murder case, I suspect the truth has not been found. When and how Ann obtained the gun is crucial. If she pulled the gun out before she shot Jim, his violence was in self-defense. If she pulled out the gun after he became violent, her self-defense claim is more plausible. Why not simply state precisely how and when Annie got her gun? Perhaps because only Ann knows how she got the gun--and telling the whole truth does not serve her interests. The DA apparently didn't bother to press her on the issue, so we're expected to believe an inanimate object magically came to life. That's bad reporting or bad lawyering.

  •  ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS  (http://www.rockymountainnews.com)
    Friday, January 11, 2008

    DA delays charges in Tatum case
    Prosecutor says investigation of shooting ongoing


    Jim Tatum


    Ann Tatum

    At 10 the morning of January 11th in the Las Animas County Courthouse, when District Attorney Rodney Fouracre appeared to formally bring charges against Ann Tatum in the shooting death of her husband, two things were missing.

    One was Ann Tatum.

    The other was the charges.

    "The investigation in this case is ongoing.  I'm not prepared to file charges at this time," Fouracre said.

    Ann Tatum, 57, was arrested on a warrant of second-degree murder in the Nov. 29 shooting of her husband Jim Tatum, 68, the former attorney for Las Animas County, in their ranch house about 20 miles west of Trinidad.  A cash bond of $175,000 was subsequently paid by her father.

    The case involving the colorful, high-profile couple has generated widespread interest.

    Formal charges were first scheduled to be filed Dec. 5, but Fouracre, the district attorney in Otero County who was appointed prosecutor after Las Animas District Attorney Lee Hawke recused himself, requested an extension to Jan. 11.

    On Thursday, Fouracre advised Judge Claude Appel of the 3rd Judicial District that instead of murder charges, he will only be filing a motion to return Tatum's bond money.  He will not ask for a specific court date for filing charges, he said.  Fouracre maintained nothing should be read into this delay.  

    "I'm still getting investigation stuff from the CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) . . . I will still be making a decision whether to file or not to file," he said.

    Asked when he might be ready to file charges, Fouracre said, "My best guess is what I've told the defense attorney - between one and six months."  Fouracre said his "rationale in doing this" stemmed from "not knowing how long the investigation may take."

    Asked whether this open-ended delay was unusual, Fouracre said "I don't know whether it's unusual or not.  Each case runs its own race, so it's hard to make generalities. But if you're asking do I do this often, the answer is no."

    Fouracre said that Ann Tatum's attorney, Pamela Mackey, had asked permission for her client to "appear by phone," and that the judge apparently will allow it.  Mackey, who defended Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant during his rape case in Colorado in 2003 and 2004, did not return a call to her office.

    According to local defense attorney Scott Robinson, Fouracre's decision could be construed as "unusual."   But not necessarily in a bad way.

    "Most prosecutors tend to file first and start asking the questions later," said Robinson, adding, "which is not necessarily a good thing."  Although not familiar with all aspects of the case, Robinson said, from what he did know, "This is clearly a case of there being more than meets the eye."  Given this, "In some ways, it's laudable that the prosecution wants to make sure of what they have before they file."


    Posted by concerned on February 29, 2008 at 2 p.m.

    buglemountain, you say your appalled to read remarks about gossip, yet you say this was planned. I guess this means you can read minds and have known this family for the past 30 years.

    Please explain how your comments are not gossip? If anyone is posting gossip it is you. Can't you just keep your comments to yourself or do you need to feel empowered and wanted. I see a desperate cry for someone from you. Do you need a hug?


    Posted by natashatatum on February 29, 2008 at 2:24 p.m.

    Concerned, I'm not sure that buglemountain can read minds but I do know he has known the family for well over 30 years. As a matter of fact, he is family. He is my dad's first cousin. He is not needing to feel empowered nor wanted, he is simply grieving. In a perfect world, we could all keep our comments to ourselves, including you. However, for whatever reason, certain comments strike a fire to our fingertips and we can't resist the urge to respond. Buglemountain knows more about the situation than most everybody and felt compelled to state his opinion. Lastly, yes he does need a hug, probably a lot of them; after all, he recently lost a close friend, relative and hunting buddy.

    Once again, I ask all of you to allow the people who feel the need to grieve to do just that.


    Posted by buglemountain on February 29, 2008 at 3:05 p.m.

    It is normal for those such as concerned to respond out of lack of knowledge. I expect that, however, be sure I do not read minds. I would rather not get in contest of who knows who. When the time comes, I believe who I am will be learned. I do not need, nor do I wish to be impowered. My cousin, my friend, a father and grandfather did not need to be murdered. Have nice day.


    Posted by concerned on March 7, 2008 at 12:21 p.m.

    Buglemountain, I understand how you feel and did not know you were a relative. I apologize. I am also sure that who I am will be learned when the time is right. I assume you are from the Elm Creek area given the details you talked about.

    Like you I am frustrated and grieving. There have been so many nasty comments posted on this site and as Natasha mentioned, they almost make you comment, especially when you know the comments and the situation a lot more intiment than the others.

    The bottom line is that the person I knew as a great man is dead and regardless of the situation, he is not comming back and all that is left is the memories.

    I hope you understand that my comments were in defense of the remaining family and accept my apology as I too lost someone special and now all that is left is the pictures, memories, and questions.


    Posted by buglemountain on March 10, 2008 at 8:51 a.m.

    I thank you. It would be nice if all people had the decency to apologize. Yes! I am sorry and hurt for this foolish thing to have happened. Jim did not have very long as it was.  He was sick and did not feel well.  He did not deserve to be murdered.  I hope to make your acquaintance one day.  Have nice day.

     

     ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
    Monday, December 24, 2007

    PART 2: Death at the River of Lost Souls in Purgatory - An uncommon end, an uncommon man and a set of very uncommon circumstances


    Jim Tatum at his ranch, circa 1991



    Ann Tatum

    Jim and Ann Tatum's adobe-style home in Solitario, located in a valley leading to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and along El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio (The River of Lost Souls in Purgatory), 25 miles outside Trinidad.   The night Tatum was shot, the report came from a deputy sheriff who was present.

    To some people in Trinidad, Jim and Ann Tatum weren't exactly a paradigm of marital bliss.  "If they weren't screaming and yelling at each other, they weren't communicating," said one local, commenting on their high-decibel arguments.  

    "I heard him belittle her in restaurants, primarily when he was drinking," said Trinidad native Carol Cometto. "He'd call her 'stupid b----' a lot. He could be pretty nasty to her."

    Although some friends claim not to know of any churning rifts in the marriage, others do. They speak of separations, of Ann heading to Texas - alone - for extended periods of time.  Ann's coming and goings aside, some of those who claim to have heard the verbal bouts insist that Ann Tatum is no shrinking violet.  "With that mouth, she could push anybody's buttons," offered one woman. "I guess any man would get abusive if he had to listen to that mouth."

    Although Jim Tatum's alleged trysts with other women in town likely contributed to a volatile atmosphere, many eruptions centered on money.  As one person put it, "When the money flow was good, things were OK. When the flow stopped, they'd fight."  Once, when one local lawyer remarked on Tatum's increased caseload, he replied glumly, "Ann wants more money."

    By most accounts, Ann Tatum had expensive tastes. It was not unusual for her to boast of trips to Paris to update her wardrobe.  Sometimes she made more unusual boasts. According to one former employee, Ann spoke about the time Jim came home with a huge amount of cash - "I don't know, she said it was $500,000, $750,000, something like that" - and scattered it on their bed. "Ann told me she took off her clothes and laid down in it because she wanted to bathe in it 'before it got dirty.' "

    But money couldn't wash away the stain of violence. Although dark rumors of domestic abuse loomed in Trinidad, not much in the way of official documentation exists. As far as anyone seems to know, the only time anything was noted occurred on April 10, 2004.

    According to an incident report, at about 1 a.m. two deputy sheriffs were dispatched to Solitario to look into a report of a "disturbance." The call was made by Deputy Sheriff John Martinez. The report isn't clear on whether Martinez was actually at the ranch house.  When the deputies arrived, they were met by Ann Tatum, who was bleeding from a cut to her scalp. She told the officers that her husband and a ranch hand identified only as "Rick" were involved in a "verbal argument." When Ann tried to break it up, she "fell" and cut herself.  She, her husband and Rick all told the same story. All denied there had been any domestic violence. Six days later, Ann Tatum was questioned again. Again, she denied there had been domestic violence. No charges were filed.

    At least that's what the sheriff's department said, meanwhile refusing to release the incident report. Instead, Sgt. Reynaldo Santistevan summarized the contents.

    But Kenneth Haynes didn't need a report to verify what his eyes witnessed.  "I've seen her (Ann Tatum) with her eyes busted up - black eyes, yeah. Nose all twisted; looked like it might have been broken. Bruises on her arms. She was what you'd call a battered wife," said Haynes, staring at his cup of coffee. Then, "What I could never understand was why she would keep coming back."

    One of Jim Tatum's motives for staying together was clear to the friend who said, "He told me a divorce would cost him millions."

    Although some speculated that Ann's motives for remaining with Jim despite the abuse also were linked to money, others pointed to another reason.  "Ann told me, 'Loving someone this much shouldn't hurt so bad,' " said a friend. "There is no doubt in my mind she loved that man."

    Perhaps to death.

    On Nov. 29, about 8 p.m., a call came in to the Las Animas County sheriff of a "domestic disturbance in progress with possible weapons involved" at 12630 Colorado 12. The person who made the call was Deputy Sheriff Martinez, a confirmed house guest at Solitario. While en route, deputies learned shots had been fired and "the male party involved was possibly deceased."

    It took them about a half-hour to reach Solitario. There, they found blood - and Jim Tatum's body - in the kitchen. They also found Martinez, who told them he had witnessed what happened.

    According to the arrest affidavit, the Tatums were in the kitchen when Jim "suddenly became belligerent with Ann. Ann asked James to be civil at which time James walked over to Ann's location in the kitchen and slapped her in the face."

    Hearing this, Martinez left his bedroom and saw "James . . . hit Ann Tatum in the ribs" and grab her by the hair. When he (Martinez) intervened, he was pushed and struck his head, "dazing him momentarily."

    Ann broke free of her husband's grasp, crossed a distance of "about eight feet and pulled a revolver from her purse then turned toward James Tatum and began to fire several times."

    Wounded, Jim Tatum fell down with a "grunting noise." He then got up and moved for another pistol that was sitting on a counter. He pulled the gun from its holster "at which time Ann also grabbed the revolver pulling it from James and turning the gun at James and firing the weapon."

    A deputy who later accompanied Ann Tatum to the emergency room reported she made a "spontaneous statement . . . that she did shoot James again and again."

    Also in the affidavit is a notation made by Undersheriff Derek Navarette that Ann "could have continued to flee through a doorway."

    Although it seemed like a fairly cut- and-dried incident, as was often the case with Jim Tatum's life, there were swirling currents. First, there was the fact that twice in three years, John Martinez had been the one to call in a disturbance at the Tatums' house.

    That Martinez was a house guest was, on the surface, not surprising, given the Tatums' history of taking in people. But the fact that Martinez's wife was Ales Graeff, and they were in the process of divorcing, and Graeff had been Tatum's secretary, and Jim Tatum had reportedly told several people that he had paid for her nursing school education raised some eyebrows.

    Another curious footnote was that after the shooting, Ann Tatum was placed under detention by the sheriff and registered in a motel. A warrant for second-degree murder was not issued until 11:10 p.m. Nov. 30 - more than 24 hours after Jim Tatum's death. Ann Tatum finally was arrested an hour later, at 12:15 a.m.

    Asked about the delay, Sheriff James Casias deflected questions to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. When contacted, CBI Agent Marc Micciche said, "I have no information that I can share with you, as this is an ongoing investigation."

    Still, according to Las Animas County District Attorney Lee Hawke - who recused himself from the case - a 24-hour lag in arresting someone who had already admitted to a shooting "is unusual."

    Ann Tatum's bail was set at $175,000 - curiously, cash only - but she didn't stay in jail long. On Dec. 5, bail was paid by her father, Robert Fechtel. Prior to meeting bail, she had hired prominent Denver attorney Pamela Mackey to represent her. Mackey successfully defended professional basketball star Kobe Bryant in his 2004 rape case in Eagle County.

    The next step in the case against Ann Tatum is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 11, when prosecutor Rodney Fouracre, the district attorney of nearby Otero County, files formal charges in the Las Animas County Courthouse - the same building where County Attorney Jim Tatum once had an office.

    Between now and Jan. 11 - and probably longer - opinions and gossip will continue to bubble. Most of the talk will be off the record. Trinidad is a small town, and people don't want to risk censure by their neighbors for talking out loud to strangers. There is also the fact that, as one man who knew both the Tatums well said, "Hey, man, this is a murder case."

    But not talking on the record isn't the same as not talking.

    There is, for instance, anger: "The consensus around here is, 'If it was one of my daughters that got beat like that, she wouldn't have had to take care of it. I'd have done it myself.' "

    There is conflict: "Part of me goes, 'How could she do that to him?' And part of me goes, 'She wouldn't have shot him just because she was mad, would she?' "

    There is resignation: "I was shocked by the shooting, but not really surprised that something happened. You could see something coming for a long time."

    What a lot of people didn't see coming was Ann Tatum arranging and attending her husband's memorial service, a service that was attended by not one of his blood children.

    As such affairs go, it was low-key. A few stories, a few more tears, some poems and some songs, including a country- western number called Common Man. Which was kind of ironic considering that very little about Jim Tatum - the way he lived, the way he died - was common.

    But it figured that there would be ironies clinging to Jim Tatum right to the end. That there would be inconsistencies in his Texas-sized folklore. Loose threads that twist and meander across the landscape, like onrushing tributaries of the River of Lost Souls in Purgatory.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________

    Add your memories/comments

    to the AHS Jim Tatum page

     


    Comments posted on Rocky Mountain News:

    Posted by sherrie4fr on December 24, 2007 at 9:02 a.m.

    Today I'll be first.  In total, the story was pretty good; not perfect but pretty good.  I can tell you I will be glued to the next part which is the arraignment.  It does not surprise me that none of Jimmy's daughters were there at the memorial, but perhaps they went to where ever his remains were spread or burried.  Jimmy was with them, the same way he was with Liz and Ann and a who knows how many other women.  You just don't beat a woman - period, end of story.  Over my life, I've been mad at a few of them - sure; but never beat a woman. No brag, just fact.  rj
     


    Posted by natashatatum on December 24, 2007 at 11:44 a.m.

    I would like to start by saying that none of Jim's girls were in attendance at the memorial service because we were not informed of the service in time to get there. Furthermore, we were told that if we did make it, there would not be room for us to stay at the house. Lastly, when the daughters asked if the service could be held just a little later in the day so that one of us could make it there we were told that "there was no room for negotiations".

    The article states that his remains have been sent back to Texas. I would like to make it known to everybody that despite Colorado's law that states "A person who has been arrested on suspicion of having committed... any felony offense... involving the death of a deceased person shall not direct the final disposition of the deceased person or arrange the ceremonies for the deceased person...", Mr. Murphy (the funeral director) has released my dad's remains to Ann and she is refusing to give them back.

    Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that Texans are not well liked up there because despite every exhausted effort for help (law enforcement and otherwise), and despite the fact that the law is as clear cut as it is; we will be having our dad's memorial service without his remains.

    Both Mr. Murphy and Mackey have lied to us and our attorney about the return of my dad's remains.

    Sad isn't it! Ann kills him and then gets the opportunity to say farewell and yet we, his own children, do not. Our intent was to lay him to rest, in Graham, with the rest of the Tatum family. Colorodo may hate Texas, but at least our laws exist for a reason down here.
     


    Posted by sherrie4fr on December 24, 2007 at 12:38 p.m.

    I'm so sad that the Memorial in Trinidad went down the way it did as explained by Natasha Tatum.
    I feel as she does that something isn't right with the handling of the memorial. It was wrong and the people in charge - as it has happened - should feel ashamed.  Other comments have been rough with their wording on Texans but do they condone this type of Law Enforcement in Trinidad, Colorado?  Jimmy, good or bad, is gone but he should at least receive the decency from those making arrangements to coordinate with his daughters that wanted to be there for the memorial.  I surely believe this makes a pathetic statement on the part of the persons involved, with such ludicrous and downright ugly decision making.   rj
     


    Posted by coyote on December 24, 2007 at 1:21 p.m.

    He was born in Graham, Texas, let him return to Graham, Texas to be with his parents and other kinfolks. Give the children their father's ashes. It seems the right and proper thing to do.
     


    Posted by Braided on December 24, 2007 at 2:44 p.m.

    Natashatatum- your father was our attorney. And we loved him. I am from Trinidad, my husband from Texas and I want you to know that you are welcome here anytime. Since the horrible death of your father, we have learned that Ann has taken his remains to Texas - most likely to the home she very recently purchased, she also transported all the liquor (?) and a classic car with her. We have also been informed that your father's belongings, including horses are being sold. Several horses have been sold for $100 each. We feel that your father is being disgraced. And it's a shame that despite the charges Ann is facing, she has been allowed to leave the state at this time. We are very outraged how everything has happened and has been handled. Your father would not stand for all this injustice and small town BS. Please, please, please let us know if we can help you and your family in any way possible. We are more than glad to act as an extended hand for your family. We feel that your father needs to be with your family.
     


    Posted by hand on December 25, 2007 at 7:41 a.m.

    Regardless, of all Jimís faults, Ann had the opportunity to walk away, but leaving would mean starting over again, in all aspects of life, the most important one would be loosing the money and she was not about to do that.  Ann found her self in the same position as Liz, and Ales Graef was sitting were Ann sat twenty one years ago. Ann witness first hand Jimís talents as an attorney when he represented him self against Liz back in Houston, she new if they divorced, she was walking away with her shirt on her back and Ales was on the move to be the next Mrs. Tatum. That left her with only one option. Jim had to die. But how? She needs a strong alibi. The answer. Deputy Martinez. John Martinez is Ales Graefís husband, and he to wanted to see Jim dead for steeling his wife.  So what better than to have a deputy sheriff as your accessory, or witness depending on what you believe or witch side of the fence youíre standing on.  I donít know how this became a Texan issue, Texan or not, Jim Tatum didnít need to die.  Ann and John had the opportunity and took it.
     


    Posted by natashatatum on December 25, 2007 at 8:51 a.m.

    Hand, you are absolutely WRONG; there is no comparison between my mom and Ann. My mom had to make the decission to leave with 6 children in tow and take on the responsibilty to do that on her own. Most importantly, she did walk away with only the shirt on her back and her children.
     


    Posted by BigHorse on December 25, 2007 at 4:26 p.m.

    HAND, Your posts are quite interesting and very much to the point. Further, you don't seem to be the least bit bothered by such insignificant issues, as per se defamatory statements, or libelous publications.

    Nor do you seem to understand that "an alibi" is only useful when one is not present at the scene of the alleged crime. There seems to be no dispute that Ann Tatum was present at the scene and at the time of Jim's death, thus negating the need for Mr. Martinez to provide her with an "alibi" as you suggest.

    Some, though not all, of what you say seems obviously based on your first-hand knowledge and I don't doubt that you know from which you speak.

    By the way, there have been plenty of photos of Jim and Ann in the paper, since this all happened, I wonder why there are no photos of the deputy or his wife.

    Just out of curiosity, I, for one, would like to know what a woman, who was "allegedly" having an affair with the "older man" in the photo at the top left hand corner of "Part 2" of this article, and who, "was on the move to be the next Mrs. Tatum" (your quote Hand), looks like. I assume she is a very nice person or Jim would not have chosen to spend his time with her, in the manner as you Hand, have stated in your post above. A picture would just be useful to round out the reporting.

    Jim's "Kirk Douglas look-alike" days were definitely behind him. At his age, he looks more like Kirk Douglas's grandfather, (this statement is not meant to be a slight to Jim's looks in any way, just a reference to his nearly 70 years of age).

    I'd also like to know what the deputy, who was staying at the home of the very man who was "allegedly" having an affair with the deputy's wife, who, "was on the move to be the next Mrs. Tatum" (your quote Hand), looks like. This statement is in no way meant to be disparaging to Mr. Martinez, who I assume is also a very nice person.

    The whole situation just seems to defy credulity to me, anyway, but then truth is often stranger than fiction.


    Posted by Barbaratatum on December 25, 2007 at 9:20 p.m.

    I'm wondering if any of the people who say that they saw Ann with a bruised-up face know whether or not Ann has had any plastic surgery. I want to make it clear that I have absolutely no personal knowledge of whether or not she has; I merely thought that the question was worth asking, since plastic surgery can leave one with black eyes, an apparently broken nose, and horrific-looking bruises, in short, looking like a domestic-violence victim. Just a thought.


    Posted by BigHorse on December 26, 2007 at 10:36 a.m.

    Hand, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings in my earlier post. I did not mean to do so, but in re-reading it, I can see where I might have. I should have pointed out that you later correctly stated the concept that you meant to say when you used the word "alibi." Further in your post, you used the term "witness" and a "fact witness" is is what you were trying to get across, and it did come across that way.

    I also was wrong to take you to task for the way you presented your scenario. I am certain that everyone understood that you meant that it was your opinion of how it might have occurred.

    I hope I have not discouraged you from future posting. A forum should be a free exchange of ideas and thoughts, but we should all be careful, including me, not to get carried away and we should all remember that a man is dead and be respectful in that regard. Please accept my apology if I offended you in any way.


    Posted by FromTrinidad on December 26, 2007 at 12:51 p.m.

    This is the typical cover up work that authorities in Trinidad and Las Animas County should be accountable for. From the Sheriff, Bob Parsons to Mr. Hawke. There are some payoffs going down. This is funny. You used to see the two couples double dating around Trinidad. Now the deputy is getting a divorce, Ann has killed off the wealthy husband there are guns laying around everywhere and the deputy (who is living there?) witnessed the whole incident? People in Las Animas County need to open there eyes and get something done about this!
     

    Oh, Steal any cars lately Bob?
    Posted by sugarbear on December 26, 2007 at 3:22 p.m.

    I did know Jim.I am from Graham, I do also know Jim's family. I would so pray that for his children that they can find peace for all this wrong doing. Jim was good to Ann, I know of one time that she had a pair of dogs disappear when they lived on the ranch close to here. Jim had put out a $25,000.00 reward for the return of Ann's dogs. He did take good care of her. They had their moments but I never seen any sort of abuse to her. I would like to see his ashes be brought back to Graham, or Jean where his aunt lives. This poor woman help raise him, and hurts just as much as to loving daughters.We continued waiting to hear of any return of his body, we finally found out that Ann had him cremated. There are others that would like to say goodbye to him.


    Posted by Braided on December 27, 2007 at 1:09 p.m.

    I would think that Colorado Law Officials would correct the funeral home director's mistake. If in fact Colorado's law states "A person who has been arrested on suspicion of having committed... any felony offense... involving the death of a deceased person shall not direct the final disposition of the deceased person or arrange the ceremonies for the deceased person..." then shouldn't someone step in VERY SOON before Jim's ashes are scattered - before it's too late? Come on! Why is there so much slack in this case? This reminds me of a Las Animas County case where a woman was found growing a large amount of marijuana by Law Enforcement - they seized her crops the day of discovery but did not arrest her until almost 8 months went by. Where is the Law? Is Mrs. Tatums attorney THAT intimidating? Come on! I assure you that if it were a poor minority that faces the same charges as Mrs. Tatum - the minority would not have privilages of leaving the state or having the remains of the deceased.
    I understand there may be some underlining issues in this case - it is emotional for the family - the local law enforcement probably doesn't have expericence in this kind of case - the high profile lawyer - the large amount of money the Tatum's acquired - but come on! The Law IS the LAW. Cut and dry.


    Posted by Braided on December 27, 2007 at 1:21 p.m.

    I pray that this case doesn't turn out as how one of the LAC/HC judges said during a hearing, "Well Mr. Tatum, there is the law and then there is the law."


    Posted by hand on December 29, 2007 at 5:37 p.m.

    BigHorse, I don't have easy access to the net, but anyway my statement was not to bash Liz Tatum in anyway, it is my frustration in regards to Ann and Martinez.  I've spent a lot of time with both Ann and Jim. To me Jim was always a stand up guy.  Sorry to all Jim's daughters and ex.  I hope that more people will stand up for Jim.


    Posted by BigHorse on December 30, 2007 at 6:27 a.m.

    Hand - No problem. I can tell that you are just trying to stand up for Jim, and you have every right to do that. Since Jim is not here anymore to defend himself, he needs your help, and yes that of others too.

    Post the truth as you know it from your own knowledge, or if what you post is based upon your opinion or speculation, then state it that way, so others will know the basis behind what you are saying and so there will be no misunderstandings. You sound like a good person Hand, and a good friend to Jim.


    Posted by Braided on December 31, 2007 at 12:22 p.m.

    I just learned :  When the Colorado attorney who was handling your case dies, you should contact the
    Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1800, Denver, Colorado 80202, Phone: (303)866-6400 or Toll Free: 1-877-888-1370.  If you call, speak to the operator, tell her that you were Jim Tatum's client, he died, you need your case. You will then be forwarded to someone who will help you.
    I have been informed that the counsel is aware of the situation and that they are trying to gain access to Jim's caseload. Once they are able to get in there, you will be contacted to get your file. However, I suggest you just call the counsel now and let them know who you are. If you have your case number - give it to them when you call.
     


    Posted by kimtatum on December 31, 2007 at 8:28 p.m.

    I would like to suggest that unless you have the guts to use your real name, keep your opinions to yourself. You may want to feel self important, but you are helping no one with your rhetoric. 

    I for one, don't feel the need to hide behind false names, why do you?  Are you afraid that what you say may be false, and therefore get you sued?  I wonder.?

    All of you hiding behind user names need to ask yourselves why.


    Posted by concerned on January 6, 2008 at 11:59 a.m.

    what is amazing to me is that with all that is going on in the world today you have to post comments about this causing more hurt to the family and friends. I am disgusted at the fact that the Rocky Mountain News only interviews people that think they know the family and then expand on the comments in a self serving way. I would like to know where your getting the pictures as some of them were private. Your damm lucky you cropped one of them, but I am sure your interests were to protect the interest of Jims family.

    Jim cared for his dogs just as much as Ann did. He use to travel with several of them. Jim cared about his family and yearned for them. Ann was the one that would shop for presents for Jims family, wrap them, and have him sign a card. She tried for years to build relationships.

    The bottom line is they both cared and are and were great people. I ask you to think about the long term psycholicial stress that articles like this cause and the blogs that do nothing but build up the author.

    Let Jim lie in peace and let the family and friends grieve and move on.
     


    If you want to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion, here's the direct link to the RockyMountainNews.com article: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2007/dec/24/death-at-the-river-of-lost-souls-in-purgatory


     

    Previous Articles/Photos/Comments:

    Death at the River of Lost Souls: Folklore of Jim Tatum, a larger-than-life Texan, flourishes in Colo. as suspicions swirl around wife

    Saturday, December 22, 2007


    El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio

    El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio - the River of Lost Souls in Purgatory - runs through Solitario, the ranch Jim Tatum bought near Trinidad in 1983.  Tatum, who "always thought he was 10-feet tall and bulletproof," was slain at his Colorado ranch Nov. 29.


    Attorney-bondsman Jim Tatum, right, pays off a backlog
    in forfeited bonds to sheriff's Capt. J.L. King in Texas.

    PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES

    TRINIDAD - It was a cold, raw day - temperature barely flirting with 30, gray sky not sure if it wanted to spit snow or freezing rain - when 60 people gathered on Main Street to say goodbye to a man who was part legend, part gunslinger, part SOB and 100 percent Texan.

    In a way, it was surprising that the chapel at the Mullare-Murphy Funeral Home wasn't even half-full for Jim Tatum, a guy who "always thought he was 10-feet tall and bulletproof." Then again, maybe it wasn't surprising. For in the 24 years that Tatum had swaggered, blustered, charmed and just-plain made his presence felt in Las Animas County, he had generated friends and enemies as effortlessly as most people blink.

    "I bet a lot of people would go to a funeral for him just to make sure the SOB is finally dead," said one longtime resident who didn't show up to the memorial service and didn't like Tatum.

    The man didn't much care for Ann Tatum, either. That was Ann over there, in the front row of the chapel, gazing at the easel adorned with Jim's cowboy hat and spurs, sometimes softly weeping, head resting on her son's shoulder. For those of you who aren't from Trinidad, Ann was Jim's wife, now his widow, and - if the charges stick - his killer.

    Of course, the trial is a long way off, probably a year or so. The murder charge hasn't even been formerly entered, even though, according to the sheriff's arrest affidavit, Ann Tatum told a deputy that on Nov. 29, in the kitchen of their home, she shot at her husband "again and again."

    Six times. With two different guns.

    With so much time to go before a trial, the vacuum has been filled with speculation and gossip, with old rumors of infidelity and violence. And joining the gossip and the rumors is the folklore of Jim Tatum, a folklore he helped create and artfully embellished. A folklore of a lawyer, ladies man, hunter and rancher. A folklore that sashays across 68 years, between Texas and Colorado. A folklore as sinuous as the river that flows through his ranch, the river they call El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio - the River of Lost Souls in Purgatory.

    Wherever Jim Tatum's soul resides - and its precise location is a subject of vast dispute among those who knew him - his ashes are back in Texas. What remains in Colorado is his myth. But even that has started to crack a little.

    After all, if there's one thing we know for sure about Jim Tatum it's this: In the end, he was not bulletproof.

    It wasn't like Trinidad was a virgin when it came to characters. At one time or another, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday - even Al Capone - had resided in Las Animas County. Still, even some of the area's more jaded citizens had to scratch their heads when Jim and Ann Tatum rolled into town in 1983.

    Physically, you couldn't overlook Jim: 6-1, maybe 6-2, broad shoulders, an easy 240 pounds, sharp blue eyes, granite jaw, still traces of the rugged good looks that led one friend to liken him to Kirk Douglas.

    For her part, Ann was nothing to sneeze at either: a 5-foot-8 blue-eyed blonde, easy on the eyes, always dressed sleek and stylish.

    But there were other reasons you couldn't miss the couple.

    It wasn't rare to see them out and about, decked out in cowboy hats and chaps, spurs jangling, six-guns nestled in holsters, "strutting around," to one local's way of thinking, "like they owned the world. They were bossy, too, always wanting something. And not just right now, but five minutes ago."

    Of course, truth be told, most anybody from Texas arrived in Las Animas County with two strikes against him.

    "People here have always had a hard time with Texans," said native Brian Mondragon. "For some people, it didn't matter how good a person you were - and I think Ann and Jim are wonderful people - if you were a Texan, you weren't worth s---. I've seen bumper stickers like, 'It's hunting season, shoot a Texan.' "

    Not that any of this seemed to bother Jim Tatum.

    "Oh, he was a Texan through and through," is how Raymond Mondragon, Brian's father, saw it. "And proud of it."

    But Tatum wasn't just a Texan, he was, said a native, "a real cowboy, a Wild West guy, a throwback to another time." Added another, "He was all bluster and bravado."

    Take those big cigars of his. You hardly ever saw him without one jammed between his teeth. Sometimes he'd be smoking it, sometimes not. Just have it jutting out of his mouth, like it was his own portable headline.

    The cigar was only part of the gunslinger package. His clothes were another. Sure, lots of lawyers wore cowboy boots to court, but Tatum went them one better. You'd never see him without his hat, his jeans, his tan leather jacket. A tie? Not likely, partner.

    To a lot of people, Tatum's cigar, his outfits were just ways to get him noticed. Apparently, it was important to him to be noticed. Didn't matter if the room held one person or 20, Tatum had to be the center of attention. You sat down, he'd stand up. You showed up on time, he'd be late.

    But it wasn't just the attention.

    "He tried to be imposing, he tried to intimidate you with his size," is how one man put it. Even when he sat down, he had this way about him - casual but emphatic. Like how he would plop down in a chair in your office and prop his boots up on your desk. It wasn't unusual for those boots to have spurs attached. Kind of like he was leaving his mark.

    He could be cordial and good-old-boy you to death, but more often than not he was loud - "adamant, he didn't care what people thought about him" is how local attorney Nancy Lake put it. You could disagree with him, but only at your own peril.

    "If you thought you knew something, and he thought another way, he'd fight you to the last ditch," said Robert Parsons, an 89-year-old rancher who had numerous dealings with Tatum.

    Contentiousness was part of his DNA. During his stormy two-year tenure as Las Animas county attorney from 2001 to 2003, Tatum was frequently embroiled in sharp disagreements with the county commissioners.

    According to one county insider, Tatum's style showed guts. "Jim simply would not tell the commissioners what they wanted to hear; he was brutally honest."

    But others say Tatum's idea of truth wasn't always so pristine.

    More than that, when confronted he could turn combative. During one heated meeting, he challenged commissioner Robert Valdez to a fistfight, an odd thing to do since Tatum worked for the commissioners. Not that anybody in Texas would have found that behavior unusual.

    "He was a talented trial lawyer because he had absolutely no fear of any man or beast, but he was also mean and crazy," said Dick DeGuerin, the lawyer for Tatum's first wife in their divorce. "He'd fight at the drop of a hat."

    In September 2003, to no one's surprise, Tatum's contract was not renewed. He claimed he'd been fired, but county administrator Bill Cordova told the Pueblo Chieftain, "He was not fired or terminated, we just couldn't reach terms on a new contract."

    In truth, it wasn't just about money. Although he made more than $70,000 in salary and perks from the county, Tatum insisted on using his office in the courthouse to conduct his lucrative private law practice, which annoyed the commissioners who were already fed up with his combative style. They rescinded his free office, angering Tatum. And he was not a man to suffer in silence.

    There was also the matter of Tatum's secretary, Ales Graeff. When Graeff requested permission to attend classes at a local junior college during office hours, the commissioners refused. Tatum gave her permission to attend the classes anyway.

    Of Tatum's departure, one county insider would say, "It was his demeanor, his persona. If something wasn't done his way, he'd find reasons to oppose it. He was belligerent." His exit brought a feeling of "relief."

    Tatum's legal modus operandi caused him grief with the courts on at least three occasions for threatening to file a grievance against a judge if he didn't issue a continuance, co-mingling a client's business funds with his own funds, and misconduct in a water case. Twice - Colorado in 2006, Texas in 2007 - his license was suspended for three months.

    Again, his dust-ups with the court system weren't stop-the-presses news in Texas.

    "Jim Tatum was an anachronism," said Houston attorney and friend Ted Hirtz. "He had this macho attitude, almost as if he were a Viking taking on modern civilization . . . . He adopted the persona of the toughest hombre on the block and that no one should mess with him."

    The toughest hombre on the block liked hanging with some pretty rough customers in Texas.

    Said DeGuerin: Tatum "ran with some really rough, known criminals. Toward the last of his time in Houston, he was running with a crowd with a known hit-man and some other pretty disreputable people. He was really a dangerous person."

    Neither was he secretive about his clients. During the many years he moved between Texas and Colorado, Tatum would occasionally bring them to Solitario, his ranch near Trinidad.

    "He told me a lot of his clients were drug cases," said Kenneth Haynes who, along with his wife, Beverly, lived at Solitario when both worked for the Tatums. "They were mean-looking guys."

    That Tatum would meet with a violent end didn't surprise many people. That he would meet with a violent end allegedly at the hands of his spouse wasn't shocking, either. After all, Tatum's first wife put a bullet in him.

    James Eddie Tatum was born Jan. 9, 1939, in Graham, Texas, although he mostly grew up in El Paso. As a teen he was, according to remarks read at his memorial service, mostly interested in "hot rods, horses, guns and girls."

    His love of fast cars was so strong that his first career choice was to race them. For a time, he and his father ran a hot-rod shop, although W.H. Tatum's main business was overseeing his string of condom vending machines - samples of which would be in great supply at Solitario. Eventually, he steered his son away from racing. After graduating from the University of Texas, Jim earned a degree from the South Texas College of Law in 1966.

    He quickly became a colorful icon in Houston courts, known for impassioned defenses of drug dealers, tax protesters and - in one juicy case - a topless dancer. Here, his strategy hinged on the woman performing in court, to show that her dances weren't lewd.

    DeGuerin said Tatum "knew the judge was an irascible guy who would enjoy seeing some girl shake her t--- at him."

    Sometimes, it seemed, he generated as much litigation as he handled. Tatum, said Hirtz, "got into a dispute with almost every business dealing he went into - land deals, cattle deals, everything he was involved in."

    His litigious side wouldn't diminish in Colorado. Over the years, Tatum was no stranger to the plaintiff's role in court, suing Las Animas County over road access on his property, as well as a mining company - more than once - for damages to his home. He mostly won, too.

    Away from court, Tatum was a notorious ladies man, which wouldn't have been a problem if he hadn't been married and the father of eight children, seven with Liz, his wife whom he married in 1961. Tragically, in 1973, their 15-month-old son, Greg, accidentally drowned in a pool.

    Some said Jim blamed Liz. Never forgave her. Never got over the boy's death. The marriage went into free fall. There were his affairs, his hard drinking. There were, by many accounts, his violent attacks on Liz. Attacks on his daughters - like the time he hit Sheryl, 16, and broke her rib, finger and ear drum.

    It all came to a head April 6, 1981. Liz and Jim were divorcing. She was tired of the beatings, tired of his philandering. He was livid at the affair she was having.

    Jim had been drinking and, as Liz would testify, he called her a "whore and a slut."

    She slapped him. He kicked her out of the bed, knocking her to the floor. She ran to the den where a gun was kept - guns were all over the house; "more guns than a gun store," said one friend. She loaded it. Returned to the bedroom. Cocked it.

    "Go ahead and shoot me," he shouted, cursing at her from bed.

    She did. Right in the chest, near the heart, with a .22 Magnum.

    The shooting would become one of the fundamental tenets of Tatum's folklore, a story he told over and over, sometimes enlarging the bullet to a .357 Magnum, sometimes concluding his tale with the boast, "There isn't a bullet tough enough to kill me."

    Apparently, there wasn't sufficient cause to try Liz for a crime. The case went to the grand jury, which declined to file charges.

    During the bitter custody hearing that followed, the Tatum girls sided with their mother, backing her stories of violence with tales of their own. According to Jackie, 14, her father was "violent and mean. He's scary. He's really big. He threatens to break your arm, knock out your teeth. He grabs me by the throat. He terrifies me."

    The court's psychiatrist believed them. His report said Tatum had a "moderately serious" narcissistic character disorder, concluding, "Mr. Tatum is an extremely aggressive, very forceful and very intimidating man," unable to control his anger.

    With Liz in the rear-view mirror, Tatum began dating a divorcee named Ann Fechtel Neville, who he married in August 1983. That same year, he bought land in Weston on Colorado 12, about 27 miles from Trinidad, "up the river," is how locals put it. Although their primary residence would remain Houston for two decades - many people remember them in Colorado only about three months a year - their ties to this state would grow thick as rope.

    Tatum's cowboy soul was nourished at Solitario. He loved raising cattle, loved his horses, loved his 20-odd dogs that barked up a storm from their kennel. "My alarm clocks," he'd call them.

    As much as he loved raising animals, Tatum savored shooting them even more. A zealous hunter, he went on safaris in Africa; the walls of his home and office were festooned with heads of exotic game like lion and water buffalo. Not that he wasn't happy with more prosaic prey like deer, elk and coyote, frequently hiring Brian Mondragon to guide the hunts he arranged for himself and the friends he invited up from Texas.

    Oddly, Mondragon wouldn't have any stories of Tatum not paying him, making him something of a rarity in Las Animas County. For, as Parsons would say, "Jim Tatum was a man who wouldn't keep his word."

    There was, for instance, the time Parsons agreed to harvest and bale hay on Solitario. In return, Parsons was to receive some of the hay plus grazing rights for his own cattle. Only that wasn't how Tatum remembered the deal when it came time to settle up.

    Haynes knew all about that side of Tatum. He'd be working at Solitario, seeing his boss when he came up, usually during haying season. "He'd tell you what a good job you'd done. Give you a bonus. But then there'd be no paycheck for three months."

    It wasn't just the hired hands who had issues with the Tatums. One local merchant was forever butting heads with them over unpaid bills, sending and resending invoices that went ignored. Finally, the exasperated merchant asked Ann what she intended to do about the debt. The reply? "Sometimes you just have to bend over and take it."

    Not that there weren't personal kindnesses. The Tatums were known for taking in strays - and not just the four-legged kind. Folks down on their luck had a good chance of finding a bed at Solitario, even if it meant lending a hand with ranch tasks.

    Then there was that time in 2004. Nadine Mondragon had long been suffering from severe abdominal pain that baffled local doctors. Hearing of this, the Tatums took Nadine and her husband, Raymond, to Houston.

    "They put us up at their house and made all the arrangements for us to see doctors at the Houston Medical Center. We stayed for three weeks. That's the kind of people they were," said Raymond, tearing up at the memory.

    To many, Ann Tatum was a force, a woman who was, said a friend, "one of those people who just makes the party."

    According to Dick Makloski, who ran a car repair shop, Ann was a "a go-getter. She's the kind of person who's dealing with the day after tomorrow; really getting after it."

    Maybe a little too much.

    "She could be awful graspy," said Parsons. "When she wanted things, she wanted 'em now."

    Ann Tatum became a candidate for county commissioner in 2004 - the year after Jim had been let go as county attorney. She made a spirited run, too, becoming the first candidate ever to open a campaign headquarters, proving to be very serious about winning.

    Former District Attorney Frank Ruybalid said, "Anne asked me a lot of questions about funding and budget issues. It really impressed me how she tried to educate herself."

    Despite losing, Ann Tatum was apparently undaunted. Several people, including current DA and family friend Lee Hawke, heard "she was planning to run for commissioner again."

    But where friends saw a spirited, aggressive go-getter, others saw someone else.

    "If she could make you feel two inches tall she'd do it," said Beverly Haynes, more than once the target of Ann's caustic tongue.

    Others described her as vulgar, someone who "when it came to cursing could make most of your sailors, Army, Air Force and Marines look like timid kids."

    Like her or not, few people were inclined to underestimate her. As Makloski said, with more than a trace of admiration in his voice, "One thing about Ann - she's not afraid to look the devil in the eye."

    As it turned out, there may have been times when it seemed that the devil was the man she married.

    Comments:

    Posted by Andrea on December 22, 2007 at 11:21 a.m.

    "part SOB, 100% Texan"....how about if I wrote an article that said, ..."part SOB, 100% Journalist" or "part SOB, 100% Mexican" - I've experienced so many rude comments about being from Texas since I moved to Denver last January. There is WAR in Iraq but Coloradoans....still don't get that we're all from ONE Nation...and there is no such thing as being 100% Texan anyway. And whatever "100% Texan" is supposed to connotate here is ridiculous...it's purposely a prejudicial statement meant as a stereotypical insult.  I resent buying your newspaper and being from Texas and having a story written this way. Use your education and use your gift for words...not to help perpetuate a stereotype and a hatred...but to show that this man had an anger mgmt issue.  Who were his parents? Where were his parents from?  I got to Texas because my Greatgrandfather was a Journalist from Wisconsin who went to cover the 1900 Galveston Texas storm. He got hired by the newspaper in Galveston and then was tranferred to Dallas because Dealy owned both....that doesn't make ME 100% Texan.  I've never seen anyone else referred to as "100% Mexican" or "and he was 100% African American...wore his cap backwards, had a ghetto blaster with rap music coming out of it all the time...just your typical black person."  So HOW DOES THAT FEEL? Does that feel good? That is symbolic of how this story is wanting to portray a tall man with an anger problem who wore rancher clothes - same as they do up in the mountains here and in Wyoming and California....and anywhere else, where you work on a ranch.

    Actually writing that "anyone from Texas already had two strikes against them" ... imagine if you were to write that about any other person from any other state besides Texas or another nation.  There are much more creative ways to write about this man than to ddescribe him as the devil and equate that with it being because he was from Texas. Give me a break.
     


    Slain attorney was shot at by first wife too

    Incident occurred when Jim Tatum was high-profile trial lawyer in Houston

    Trinidad lawyer Jim Tatum was gunned down in his kitchen by his wife, according to a Las Animas county deputy who witnessed the shooting.

    But, by all accounts, this isn't the first time Tatum was shot at by a spouse.

    Tatum's current wife Ann, 57, was arrested in his murder last Thursday on a charge of second-degree murder. She was released Wednesday afternoon after her father posted a $175,000 cash bond, according to court records.

    In the early 1980s, Jim Tatum's first-wife, Elizabeth, grabbed a .22 from the nightstand in their bedroom and shot Tatum, who ran out of the house naked to a neighbor's house for help, said Dick DeGuerin, the Houston lawyer who represented Elizabeth Tatum in the divorce.

    "His death is 27 years overdue," DeGuerin said. "He was slapping her around and she reached for a gun. Unfortunately, she got a .22 instead of the 9 mm next to it."

    Tatum was shot in the forearm and the bullet exited the back of his upper arm, DeGuerin said.

    "He ran away, thinking she might take another shot," he said. "He ran down the street naked to a neighbor's house and called police. By the time they got there, Liz had left."

    DeGuerin said he can't remember what, if any, charges were filed against Liz Tatum, but thinks "we kept her from being charged." If a charge was filed, the case was ultimately dismissed, he said.

    Tatum was representing himself in the divorce and showed up a few days after the shooting with a bandage on his arm for a deposition of his ex-wife's alleged lover.

    "In the deposition, he kept pulling out this lock-blade knife, about 4 inches long, opening it up and cleaning his fingernails with it as if he was going to cut my throat," DeGuerin said.

    Elizabeth Tatum, through her family, has declined to be interviewed.

    The shooting incident is described in the book Sleeping with the Devil, a 1991 account of a Houston murder in which Tatum is mentioned as serving as a lawyer for some of those involved.

    As author and lawyer Suzanne Finstad describes it, Tatum had recently filed for divorce from his then-wife, Elizabeth, and was asleep in bed when she "picked up a .22 revolver, pointed it at him, fired and missed."

    Tatum "leaped out of bed and ran down the street, naked, screaming for help," Finstad wrote.

    The book describes Tatum as a "criminal lawyer with a major reputation in Houston" in the 1980s. Finstad said he was referred to as "the cowboy of the legal profession." She said he wore cowboy boots to court "with his blazers and shirt boldly unbuttoned to reveal a muscled, machismo chest."

    DeGuerin says that lots of attorneys in the West wear cowboy boots, but he recalls Tatum showing up for a deposition wearing jeans and spurs.

    Tatum had a free-wheeling reputation as a lawyer.

    "He was a talented trial lawyer because he had absolutely no fear of any man or beast, but he was also mean and crazy," DeGuerin said. "He'd fight at the drop of a hat. He was always armed and he ran with some really rough, known criminals. He often had a .45 stuck in his belt."

    Tatum told a number of his friends about the shooting, although in their accounts, he was shot in the chest, the buttocks or other parts of his body.

    Jobeth Hines, who knew Ann and Jim Tatum in Houston, said Tatum told her that his wife had chased him with a shotgun as he ran naked down the road and shot him in the buttocks.

    She said Tatum told her about this while she and her husband were contemplating a divorce in 1995.

    "He advised us not to get a divorce because we made too much money," she said.

    When Hines told Tatum that her husband would have to give up his girlfriend, she said Tatum replied, "Oh, honey, this is Texas. You can't make a man give up his girlfriend."

    He said, "My wife and I were married 22 years before she shot me." He laughed it off like it was a big joke, Hines said.

    "He was the kind of a guy that would drive a woman crazy like that," she said.

    Mary Heafner, another Houston friend and lawyer, said she visited Tatum in the hospital after the shooting.

    "Jim was standing in front of Liz naked and she came in with a gun and threatened to shoot him," Heafner said. "Jim told her to go ahead and shoot and she did. He went to a neighbor's house for help, and fortunately for him, she missed all his vital organs.

    "Ann is a better shot than Liz was," Heafner said. "I went to see him in the hospital and he said that he guessed that he was 'now certified bulletproof.' Apparently that was not the case. He was a wonderful and fascinating man who did not deserve to be gunned down by Ann."

    Hines said she was sorry to hear about Tatum's death.

    "He was a pretty colorful character," she said. "It's a shame. I really liked him a lot.

    "He was just a typical Texas kind of guy, a hard-drinking two-fisted guy. There are a lot of them down here. He made his own rules."

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Earlier article:

    Deputy witnessed domestic dispute that turned deadly

    The wife of former Las Animas County Attorney Jim Tatum shot her husband repeatedly in their kitchen during a violent argument witnessed by a deputy sheriff, according to an arrest affidavit.

    Ann Tatum, 57, is being held on $175,000 bond for second-degree murder.

    Jim Tatum, 68, died Thursday after he was shot in the home he shared with his wife outside the small town of Weston, Colorado about 20 miles west of Trinidad.

    The shooting was witnessed by deputy sheriff John Martinez, who was staying at the Tatum home, said Las Animas County Sheriff James Casias.

    Martinez said the Tatums were talking in the kitchen when Jim Tatum "suddenly became belligerent with Ann.  Ann asked Jim to be civil at which time he walked over to Ann's location in the kitchen and slapped her in the face, grabbed her by the hair and hit her in the ribs, according to the affidavit.

    Martinez said when he tried to break them apart, he was pushed aside and struck his head, "dazing him momentarily."

    Ann Tatum broke free and ran to her purse, pulling out a .38 revolver and firing repeatedly at her husband.

    Jim Tatum fell to the floor, "made a grunting noise," then stood up and grabbed a .45 revolver from a holster on the kitchen counter, the affidavit said.

    Ann Tatum grabbed the revolver from her husband and turned it on him, firing again, as Jim Tatum fell to the floor.

    Ann Tatum set the two pistols side by side on the counter and left the kitchen, the affidavit said.

    Martinez called 911. Deputies found Jim Tatum in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor.

    Martinez said he later found Ann Tatum in a bedroom and "she appeared to be in shock."

    Ann Tatum, who was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries she sustained during the during the altercation, told deputies that "she did shoot James again and again."

    Five shots were fired from the .38 and one shot was fired from the .45 caliber revolver, according to the affidavit. Both guns were cocked and ready to fire again when deputies recovered them, the affidavit said.

    Jim Tatum was shot in the left shoulder and lower spine, the affidavit said.

    He served as Las Animas County attorney until 2003, when his contract was not renewed.

    He opened a law office in Trinidad after leaving the county attorney's office.

    Casias said he expects the case to be assigned to a special prosecutor because local prosecutors have worked with Jim Tatum in the past. The case already has been assigned to District Judge Claude Appel, who normally works out of Walsenburg.

    Jim attended El Paso area public schools including AHS through his Junior year, and transferred to Burgess in Fall of 1955.  He owned and operated the El Paso Hot Rod Shop for a few years in the late 50's, and graduated UT Law School in the mid- 60's.  He married Elizabeth McKee and was a prominent attorney in Houston.  In later years he moved to Colorado with his 2nd wife Ann.