A guard at Limon Correctional Facility who had a "more than just professional" relationship with an inmate tipped him off to an upcoming drug bust - information that later got him killed, authorities say.
Now two men are facing the death penalty in the 2004 killing of inmate Jeffrey S. Heird, who prosecutors say was stabbed 20 to 30 times because he didn't warn gang members about the bust.
The guard, Gina Kirkland, 30, denied the relationship when she took the witness stand in a preliminary hearing last year. She also said she never leaked information to Heird. Reached by phone this week, she declined to comment.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said that Kirkland was moved to another position while an internal investigation was conducted, but that Kirkland "is no longer with us."
The possible relationship between the married guard and an inmate serving time for kidnapping and murder is just one revelation contained in the case files of accused murderers David Bueno and Alejandro Perez.
The documents, filed in Lincoln County court, paint a picture of a prison occupied by more than 170 gangs, where contraband was regularly coming in and the drug trade lucrative enough that a disruption of business may be reason to kill.
Heird was convicted of kidnapping and killing a gas station attendant in Cortez in 1991.
In prison, he was a power weight lifter who worked for a while as the facility's plumber. He met Kirkland when he went to the visiting area to do plumbing work, she testified during a 2006 hearing for Bueno and Perez.
Kirkland, whose husband still works in the prison's transportation department, conducted background checks on visitors and from time to time, monitored phone calls and visits, she said.
Kirkland testified that she knew Heird for about a year and a half before he came to work as one of her porters in the visiting area. She also said they never had a sexual or more than professional relationship.
Taking the witness stand immediately after Kirkland, Heird's mother, Mary Foote, testified she spoke with her son twice a week while he was in Limon, and that they talked about his relationship with Kirkland.
She said the two had a relationship for one or two years. She didn't think the relationship was ever sexual, but said it was "more than an employee-inmate relationship."
Heird and Kirkland had "deep discussions," including one about Heird wanting Kirkland to have his child, Foote said, according to a transcript of the proceeding. She also said she was troubled by the relationship because if prison authorities found out about it, her son would be in trouble.
"It's like if they had gotten caught having sex or something, then (Heird) - they could have hollered rape and (Heird) would have faced charges," Foote said.
Rocky Mountain News