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Focus on Colorado parolee in prison chief's slaying

Friday, March 22, 2013 - 9:00am

Colorado investigators are in Decatur, Texas, Friday morning eager to examine evidence found in a black Cadillac whose driver might have been involved in Tuesday's slaying of Colorado's prison system chief.

The driver, shot at the end of a high-speed chase that followed the wounding of a deputy, died Thursday evening.

"We have received information that (the suspect) is a parolee and identified as a gang member in the prison system," said Paula Presley, the undersheriff of El Paso County, Colorado, where Tom Clements was shot to death. "That is information that we're receiving from the Department of Corrections."

Investigators are trying to figure out if there was possibly a conspiracy inside the prison system to kill Clements, Presley told CNN.

And, she added, investigators have evidence from the scene of Clements' killing in Monument, Colorado, that they believe they can link to the Cadillac.

"There is evidence in that vehicle that will be of interest of us," Presley said.

The 58-year-old corrections chief opened his door Tuesday night and was shot dead.

Denver media are reporting the name of a person they say was the driver of the black Cadillac in Texas. The car matches the description Colorado authorities were given this week by witnesses who said they saw the car in Clements' neighborhood the night he was killed.

'Running about 100 mph'

Thursday night a Montague County, Texas, deputy tried to pull the car over, authorities said, and the driver responded by shooting him twice in the chest. Another bullet grazed his head. The deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and managed to call for help, according to law enforcement. He is in serious condition at a Dallas-Fort Worth-area hospital.

That incident sparked the high-speed chase, which ended about 30 miles away in Decatur, where city police tried to pull the driver over. The driver fired at a patrol vehicle and at Decatur police Chief Rex Hoskins, whose car was parked in the median.

"I would say he was running about 100 mph, and he had his left arm out the window and he was just shooting," Hoskins said.

Then, the driver turned his Cadillac onto another road and slammed into an 18-wheel truck, according to authorities. With the front of his car crushed, the driver got out and started shooting again.

He didn't hit any officers, but they shot him.

The driver was taken to the hospital and kept alive on machines, but died later Thursday night, according to authorities.

CNN has not been able to confirm the driver's identity.

Another twist in the case is emerging. Denver police say there's a strong connection between Clements' killing and the murder of a 27-year-old pizza deliver driver Sunday in a remote area outside the city.

Nathan Collin Leon disappeared from work in Denver and was found dead in Golden.

Investigators from that case are also in Texas looking for answers.

Saudi national's case considered in probe

The Texas incident came the same day that Colorado investigators said they were looking closely at one criminal among the thousands that Clements' oversaw in the state's prison system -- a Saudi national named Homaidan al-Turki.

On Thursday Undersheriff Presley acknowledged the media speculation over al-Turki, who was convicted of sexually assaulting his housemaid at his Aurora, Colorado, home seven years ago.

Earlier this month, Clements denied al-Turki's request to serve the remainder of his Colorado prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, records show.

Investigators, she said, are still trying to determine whether "there may have been some motivation or legitimate threat" related to al-Turki's case, adding that "we have not identified that specifically as a threat."

Al-Turki is now at the Limon Correctional Facility. CNN has not received a response to its requests for comment from his lawyers.

Late prisons chief described as 'amazing man'

Clements had been chief of Colorado's prison system for a little over two years. He took the job in January 2011 after working for 31 years as part of Missouri's Department of Corrections.

In his time in Colorado, he'd made a big impression.

"He was an amazing man, an amazing man," Alison Morgan, spokeswoman for Colorado's Department of Corrections, said Thursday. "An inspirational leader."

Some witnesses said they saw a man driving a vehicle -- possibly a Lincoln Continental or a two-door Cadillac -- away from the neighborhood a short time after the shooting. Others reported seeing a black, boxy vehicle with its engine running but no one inside on Clements' street.

Asked Thursday whether the prison chief's killing may have been a professional hit, Presley from the El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff's Office said, "We don't have any specific information that would lead us to that."

The central Colorado county sheriff office's major crimes unit has received more than 100 solid tips about the incident, including a growing number of witnesses describing a black car then in the area.

Meanwhile, the mourning continues for Clements.

His funeral will be held Sunday, Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said, and he'll be remembered at a public memorial service in Colorado Springs the next day.

--
Jim Spellman reported from Colorado and Ed Lavandera from Texas. Ashley Fantz wrote this story in Atlanta.
 

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