Reporter Peels Back the Layers of Infamous Student Shooting

Solid investigative work by Jacy Marmaduke.

A fellow journalist at newspaper the Coloradoan, Jason Pohl, tweeted: ‘You don’t see #truecrime storytelling like this often at local papers. Profound work by Jacy Marmaduke.’ We agree.

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Marmaduke’s front-page story revisits the Oct. 14, 1980 shooting in Fort Collins of Faisal Zagallai, a then-35-year-old student of Libyan descent doing graduate work at Colorado State University. She spent months working on the piece, digging up new details about the arrest and trial of Eugene Tafoya, a decorated ex-Green Beret:

Tafoya never paused before answering [questions in court]; never minced words; never “danced” with the prosecutor, as [lawyer Scott] Robinson calls it. Never followed a “yes” with a “but” — the cardinal sin of witnesses.

And most importantly, he truly seemed to believe the story he told the jury: [tycoon Edwin] Wilson hired him to “deliver a message” to Zagallai. He chatted with the Libyan dissident for 10 or 15 minutes, and when his wife left the room he leaned in close.

“You’ve been making and preparing broadcasts to the Middle East about things that are upsetting détente.”

“He got the message and just erupted,” Tafoya testified. “He started yelling and everything broke loose before I finished. He was yelling in Arabic. I tried to calm him down but he just kept yelling, and I heard glass breaking and his wife yelling in another room.”

Tafoya’s other lawyer, Walter Gerash, wore a green beret to court every day. We’ve deliberately here dangled a truncated morsel of Marmaduke’s work. Bookmark this one to read and savor over the holidays.