Fairplay, Colo. Simon Ewing Sue had a knack for winning friends. Some say he used it to form a murderous cult around himself.
According to police, the one-time honors student was such a skilled manipulator that he persuaded two classmates to join his wannabe paramilitary organization and kill a couple and their teen-age grandson.
The Jan. 1 slayings of Carl and JoAnna Dutcher and Tony Dutcher, 15, shattered any sense of security in Guffey, a community of fewer than 50 people. The victims were stabbed and shot to death at their trailer home.
"These people died for such a small reason. That's the scary part of it," said district attorney's investigator Leonard Post. "It was very brutal but it was also such a senseless murder."
In December, Sue gave two of his cohorts until Jan. 8 to kill the Dutchers because, he claimed, the Dutchers were racist, authorities said. Sue is of Chinese and Indian descent and had lectured his followers about the evils of drugs and racism.
The Dutchers, along with the three other suspects in the slayings, are white. And according to Post, Carl Dutcher had uttered racial slurs.
Sue allegedly ordered the slayings as a way for one of his cohorts, Isaac Robin-McCain Grimes, to redeem himself. Sue had put Grimes on probation for supposedly misspending the group's money and failing to complete a previous mission, Post testified at a court hearing.
Sue ordered "a hit on the Dutcher family," Post testified. If Grimes failed, "he would be killed and his family would be killed."
Sue, 19, Grimes, 16, and Jonathan E. Matheny, 18, were jailed on charges of murder, racketeering and robbery. Glenn Urban, 17, is accused of destroying the murder weapons. No trial date has been set for Sue.
"His story is he's innocent," said Sue's attorney, Ann Kaufman. "It's as normal and regular a situation as if your family lived in Florida."
Sue called his circle the Operations and Reconnaissance Agents group and claimed it was the paramilitary arm of Guyana's ruling party. Sue's parents had moved to the United States from Guyana before he was born.
Investigators said that the group existed mostly in Sue's imagination and that there is no evidence it had any underground contacts in Guyana or included anyone other than the four young men, all of whom went to Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, about 40 miles east of Guffey.
Grimes' father, Robin, described Sue as outgoing with a powerful, charismatic personality, and said the young man was akin to a cult leader. He said Sue befriended his son over games of chess and took him to coin shows.
Grimes, Matheny and Urban began paying the group 10 percent of their paychecks from after-school and summer jobs, Grimes told police. Sue kept ledgers of their payments, and Grimes believes he paid up to $3,500, police said.
Grimes and Matheny were routinely put on probation for misusing funds or disobeying Sue, according to court papers.
On the eve of the slayings, Grimes was to spend the night with his friend Tony Dutcher, Post said. Shortly before midnight, Grimes slit the boy's throat, then Matheny came to the trailer home and shot the boy's grandparents, investigators said.
The next day the killers allegedly called Sue, who was visiting family in Toronto, to tell him the mission had been completed.
Three months later, Grimes confessed and implicated the others, investigators said.
Lawyers for Matheny and Irvin said they have not decided whether to pursue a plea bargain. A lawyer for Grimes refused to comment on what her client is going to do.
"We have two young men who have literally thrown their lives away at such a young age," Sheriff Fred Wegener said. "Grimes may never know the pleasure of driving a car, may never know what it's like to go to prom. It's just pathetic that one would choose to do something like this."