Chapter 11: Rockstar

March 17th, 2010

Caught after California car chase, Kimball starts facing serious questions

By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer

Barreling down a highway in California’s Coachella Valley, Scott Kimball grabbed his cell phone and called his girlfriend.

It was March 14, 2006, and he was racing up to 80 mph in a Ford F-350 as a contingent of U.S. marshals and sheriff’s deputies from Riverside County gave chase.

Nickelback’s “Rockstar” blasted through his truck’s speakers.

“I’m through with standin’ in line to clubs I’ll never get in,
It’s like the bottom of the ninth and I’m never gonna win,
This life hasn’t turned out quite the way I want it to be.”

Kimball had been living in a rented casita in the California desert and dating 31-year-old Denise Pierce since fleeing Colorado two months earlier. Federal authorities had finally issued a warrant for his arrest on multiple probation violations, and they’d used his cell phone to trace his location.

Pierce told Kimball to pull over and turn himself in. Kimball refused, insisting the cops would kill him if he stopped. He knew things, he told her, and police kill people who know things.

He blasted south through the valley, past Indio and Thermal and toward the pungent shores of the Salton Sea. Deputies, equipped with assault rifles and body armor, stayed on his heels.

“I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame,
I’d even cut my hair and change my name.”

Mid-afternoon slipped into evening. Kimball turned off on dirt roads, careened through orchards and rolled over irrigation pipes in a farmer’s field.

Finally, out of gas, he rolled to a stop in a field on the western outskirts of Mecca, an agricultural community largely made up of migrant farm workers.

Dressed in a black T-shirt and sunglasses, Kimball emerged from the truck a couple of times — phone pinned to his ear — only to return to the driver’s seat within a few seconds.

He stayed in his truck. The officers waited. Darkness fell.

Scott Kimball surrenders in a field on the western outskirts of Mecca, Calif. He has not been out of prison since. (Courtesy of KESQ)

Around 7 p.m., Kimball got out of the truck, knelt on the ground, put his hands to his head and surrendered.

“Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar.”

Spring 2006

A lot of people wanted a word with Scott Kimball.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver was seeking him on several federal probation violations.

Lafayette police wanted to know what happened to $55,000 Kimball appeared to have swindled from an optometrist and family friend, Cleve Armstrong. They were also curious about the trailer found at Kimball’s former home after he reported it stolen and collected a $10,000 insurance claim.

And the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office hoped to find out more about the missing daughter of Kimball’s wife. Lori Kimball had reported 19-year-old Kaysi McLeod’s disappearance to the detective who questioned her in the Armstrong case.

FBI Special Agent Carle Schlaff had also told Lafayette Detective Gary Thatcher that Kimball was likely connected to the disappearance of Jennifer Marcum, who had gone missing half a year before Kaysi.

“It couldn’t be a coincidence,” says Amy Okubo, the veteran Boulder deputy district attorney assigned to Kimball’s case. “There were too many people missing that he was last known to be with.”

But coincidences, even compelling ones, don’t amount to much in court, and Okubo knew it. She had no bodies and no witnesses and, as such, not much of a murder case.

She did, however, have fellow prosecutor Katharina Booth, who had watched with frustration as Kimball beat an attempted-murder rap involving his son a year and a half earlier.

May 2, 2006

Together, Booth and Okubo would methodically build a case against Kimball, starting with his lesser offenses and moving on to the missing-persons case, as the evidence allowed.

Prosecutors Katharina Booth, left, and Amy Okubo, tagged by Kimball as "the Boulder bitches," pose for a photo in Courtroom Q of the Boulder County Justice Center. (Marty Caivano / Camera)

But if they were ever going to open up an aggressive murder investigation that reached beyond Boulder County, they would need added firepower.

In downtown Denver, the Boulder prosecutors met with several FBI agents, federal prosecutors and members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and laid out what they knew about Kaysi and Jennifer.

They hoped the feds would jump into the fray.

But neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office nor the FBI launched a missing-persons probe.

“We called them a couple more times, but we couldn’t get anywhere,” Okubo says.

Summer 2006

Booth and Okubo had no time to lose. Building a case, even a white-collar one, would take months. With Kimball’s complicated criminal record, the women weren’t sure how much prison time he owed on any of his outstanding crimes.

“We didn’t know if we could keep him locked up for as long as we felt society needed him locked up,” Okubo says.

They homed in first on Kimball’s check and insurance scams in Lafayette, where they had a clear paper trail.

They painstakingly worked through the evidence coming in from Detective Thatcher, who had interviewed tellers and managers at various banks where Kimball had cashed forged checks.

Then, they got a warrant for Kimball’s arrest on charges of theft, forgery and false reporting.

2007

Transferred to Colorado months after his California car chase and arrest, Kimball sized up his Boulder-based opposition. He figured he didn’t owe much time on the Lafayette case and would soon be rid of this prosecutorial pair.

But Okubo and Booth had studied Kimball’s skills of persuasion. Booth copped an attitude with Kimball, refusing to look at him during meetings and rolling her eyes when he spoke.

“The first time I met him, he could sense my disdain for him,” she says.

As time wore on, it became clear to Kimball that waving Okubo and Booth away wouldn’t be easy.

They were tenacious, dogged and smart. They planned to use Kimball’s six previous felony convictions to paint him as a habitual offender, allowing for a quadrupling of prison time when it came to sentencing him on the new white-collar charges.

Kimball grew frustrated. In jailhouse phone conversations, he labeled the pair with a name that would stick through the rest of the case. A name the prosecutors came to wear as a badge of honor: the Boulder bitches.

“He realized that Katharina and I were not going away,” Okubo recalls proudly. “The Boulder bitches weren’t going away.”

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