He had a booming voice, a strong presence and exuded joy.
He was an entertainer, intentionally or not.
That's what the loved ones of Colorado State Patrol Trooper Cody Donahue said when they gathered for his memorial service Dec. 2. The 34-year-old husband and father of two was struck and killed by a passing vehicle while investigating a property damage accident on Interstate 25 south of Castle Rock on Nov. 25.
Donahue's funeral at the Denver First Church of the Nazarene drew a crowd of hundreds, with an overwhelming show of support from area emergency responders. Uniforms from the state patrol, Castle Rock police and many other departments blanketed the sanctuary.
"Cody, we love you, we're going to miss you," said Capt. Jeff Goodwin, who works at the state patrol's Castle Rock station, where Donahue was based.
At the front of the room rested Donahue's casket, draped in an American flag and attended by two guards at all times - their heads bowed, their arms crossed and standing motionless next to their fallen comrade.
Before the service, men and women in uniform stood in stoic salute both inside and outside of the church, near the intersection of Hampden Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.
Donahue's sister, Erin Donahue-Paynter, opened the service. It was an honor to be his sister, she said, and she knew he wouldn't like such sadness.
"I want Velma and Leila and Maya to feel all the love in this place today," she said of Donahue's wife and two daughters.
At her request, the crowd stood to its feet with applause, whistles and cheers for a minute straight.
"You gave him the family he always wanted. You were his purpose in life," she said to Donahue's wife, Velma. "He loved every part of being a dad."
Colorado State Patrol Chief Scott Hernandez described Donahue, who lived in Parker, as a tenacious team member whose service saved lives.
"I am so proud to have known Cody, and I am so proud to have worn this uniform with Cody," he said.
Goodwin said Donahue was a fixture in the Castle Rock office. His voice could be heard throughout the building. He spent time talking to his colleagues on any topic. His stories were special simply because of the way he told them.
"He was our entertainer," Goodwin said.
And, they knew he loved his family immensely. When Donahue talked about weekend plans he didn't speak using "I," Goodwin said. He used "we," whether that meant taking the family to the mountains, to the movies or tool shopping, he joked.
Goodwin noted the tough past 18 months experienced by CSP.
Authorities say Donahue was struck by truck driver Noe Gamez-Ruiz, 41, of Denver, at about 1:50 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Gamez-Ruiz faces charges of careless driving resulting in death, a misdemeanor, and failure to yield right of way to an emergency vehicle, a traffic infraction.
Donahue was the third state patrol trooper killed in the past year and a half. Trooper Jamie Jursevics was struck and killed by a drunken driver on I-25 Nov. 15, 2015, and Trooper Taylor Thyfault was struck and killed on Colorado 66 by a fleeing suspect's vehicle May 23, 2015.
Longtime friend of Donahue's, state patrol Trooper Jeff Gowin, recalled some of his favorite memories with Donahue before breaking down into tears.
Recently, Gowin was hit by a Taser in their ongoing "torture agreement" in which the two agreed to play practical jokes on each other.
"Because (Donahue) leaned over and said, 'I'm not going to do this alone am I?' "
It got the crowd laughing.
In another instance, Donahue the entertainer had a video of him slipping, sliding down a hill and catching himself on a guardrail while on a call, and he showed it to anyone who would watch.
Donahue was the first to criticize and laugh at himself, Gowin said.
"He did have his faults," Gowin said. "He was clumsy. He was stubborn."
Again, to the crowd's laughter, Gowin went on to describe his friend's loyalty and giving spirit. Mostly in the past week, he heard Donahue described as genuine.
"He really liked to share his light," Gowin said in an emotional end to his speech. "I'm going to miss you brother."
The outlets opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, and remained open until 9 p.m. on Nov. 25. Entertainment included jugglers, balloon artists, music and a dance floor.
The outlets began hosting Moonlight Madness in 2007. This year's Black Friday turnout was up from 2015, a spokeswoman for the shopping center said. Although a number was not available, last year's Moonlight Madness attendance was hindered by cold temperatures and snow around the holiday, according to the spokeswoman.
Top-selling items this year were outerwear, shoes and bags, she said.]]>
Preliminary evidence shows Jennifer Laber died from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound and her two sons, Adam, 3, and Ethan, 5, died from a single gunshot wound each, according to Sgt. Tim Beals, of the Lone Tree Police Department.
A timeline of events released from the police department shows that Laber purchased a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun at about 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 29. She then picked her sons up from school between 1:30 and 2 p.m.
Officials aren't calling the case a murder-suicide, though Beals said police are not looking for any suspects.
"We just aren't ready to put that label on it yet," Beals said at a Thursday news conference.
The handgun purchased by Laber was found inside the vehicle, officials said. The manner of death for Adam and Ethan is still pending investigation by the Douglas County Coroner's Office.
"In these situations, it is so critical that we have every piece of evidence we can find," said Douglas County Coroner Jill Romann.
Laber was last seen picking up her two children from Bear Canyon Elementary School in Highlands Ranch at around 2 p.m. She had not returned home to the area of North Hampton Court and Hibiscus Drive.
Laber and her sons were reported missing at approximately 8 p.m. on Nov. 29, according to a news release from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
At the time law enforcement was notified, there were no red flags, said Chief Deputy Steve Johnson, of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
"We certainly did not see this horrific ending that this case has come to today," Johnson said Nov. 30.
Laber's husband, Ryan, is not a suspect and is cooperating in the investigation, officials said.
A passerby found the vehicle in the parking lot of the vacant Sports Authority on County Line Road and called police at about 7:50 a.m. on Wednesday. The van was found near a loading dock-type area, officials said.
Beals said officials won't speculate on a motive.
"Anything that possibly led up to this are things we are certainly looking into," he said.
The condolences are sweet, innocent - words neighbors also used to describe Adam and Ethan Laber, who lived in the home.
"They were just kids," said Brandon Tartler, a neighbor. "Their biggest goal was, 'Can I play?' "
Highlands Ranch was hit with tragedy the morning of Nov. 30 after learning resident Jennifer Laber and her two sons, Adam, 3, and Ethan, 5, had been found dead in Laber's van in Lone Tree. Preliminary evidence shows Laber died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Lone Tree Police Department. Her sons died from a single gunshot wound each.
Laber was last seen picking up her children from Bear Canyon Elementary at about 2 p.m. The three were reported missing at about 8 p.m. on Nov. 29, officials said.
The neighborhood on Hibiscus Drive, a quiet street lined with single-family homes, is in shock, Tartler said.
"We were convinced she was driving back to Minnesota to see her parents," he said. "We were blindsided."
Jennifer Laber, her husband and their two sons moved to Highlands Ranch from Minnesota a couple of years ago. Laber was a stay-at-home mom and a member of MOPS, a Mothers of Young Children group at Cherry Hills Community Church.
Tartler described her as a loving and protective mother, adding that she struggled with depression and mental health. Adam and Ethan were playful and innocent kids, he said.
"I'd see them playing in the backyard," he said. "They would ask if my kids could play."
Andrew Pena, also a neighbor, described Laber as a great person who laughed readily. Pena said he and Laber would text back and forth about any issues or to schedule a play date for their children.
"Jen was really happy as a stay-at-home mom," he said. "She loved spending time with her kids."
Now, the neighborhood is rallying for the husband and father, Ryan Laber. A private meeting was held at the cul-de-sac the night of Nov. 30 to discuss ways to help, including bringing meals to the house and scheduling a vigil.
Ryan is handling the tragedy "as well as it can be expected," Tartler said.
Bear Canyon Elementary, where Ethan was a kindergartener, is helping parents decide if and how to explain a tragedy of such depths to children.
"As parents, you are the very best support system in meeting your child's needs. Knowing what to say to your child is often difficult," the school's principal, Kelly Ursetta, wrote in a Nov. 30 email. "When no other words come to mind, a hug and saying, 'This is really hard for all of us,' may provide comfort."
The Douglas County School District Crisis Team is working with school counselors and mental health professionals at the school during this time, Ursetta said. Bear Canyon staff will not be announcing the information to students, but staff is prepared to address any questions students may have.
"We will pull together and support each other and each and every student through this sad time," Ursetta wrote.
She told parents to hug their kids a little tighter that night, a piece of advice that echoed on social media.
"In light of the recent tragedy in our community, as a father of four I would like to encourage fathers to hug and kiss your babies," resident Chris Unruh wrote on a Highlands Ranch Facebook page. "But, most importantly, express your love and appreciation to your wonderful spouses."
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy because I enjoy an action/ thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat every time.
What is your favorite pre-competition meal?
Over-easy eggs on toast because I just like eggs.
Why do you participate in sports?
I participate in sports for the challenge to win and beat the other opponent and also because I love competition.
What is your favorite type of music and who is your favorite artist?
My favorite favorite types of music are rap and classic rock. My favorite band is Led Zeppelin.
What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school is biology because I love learning more about the world we live in.
Do you have any pre-competition superstitions or rituals?
I do. My pre-game ritual is when I get into the car, I put on my music and look out the window until I get to the rink, then we go out for team warmups once we are all at the rink.
At about 5 p.m., the sheriff's office said on Twitter that the vehicle crashed and its six occupants attempted to flee on foot.
According to the tweet: "5 males and 1 female were apprehended utilizing K-9 units and foot chase."
About 30 minutes later, a separate crash, just south of Santa Fe and Titan, forced the temporary closure in both directions of Santa Fe. The sheriff's office tweeted that it was "an injury accident involving multiple vehicles." Three people were transported to a hospital, according to the sheriff's office.
No further information was immediately available on either incident.
"They were a makeshift bar/-restaurant basically," said Angus Hicks, co-owner and head chef of Jozi's Kitchen and Shebeen, "kind of like a speakeasy."
Secrecy was key to survival for traditional shebeens, but Hicks is hoping word about his new venture gets out.
In early September, Hicks, his brother John and Denver restaurateurs Omar and Nadia Malik opened Jozi's in the plaza at 10971 S. Parker Road. The restaurant's d cor celebrates South African culture just as the menu features what Hicks describes as his homeland's version of "comfort food."
New patrons can't help but notice the South African-themed ambience, featuring pictures of Nelson Mandela and the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
It doesn't take long before they notice the exotic lingo on the menu, either.
Items with names like chakalaka, bunny chow and monkey gland sauce --; a gingery barbecue glaze that, according to Hicks, contains no monkeys or glands --; stand out. Even the name "Jozi" is an homage to the South African nickname for the country's largest city, Johannesburg.
"First-timers are typically blown away," sous chef Gentry Smith said. "The names of the food give people pause, but then they try it and they realize it's more familiar than they thought."
The unique names and combination of exotic ingredients is a result of more than 400 years of foreign rule, Hicks said. Different empires came and went throughout Africa's history, each bringing their favorite foods with them.
The English brought curry, the Dutch brought sausage and the French simmered stews in cast-iron braiis, the large pots seen used in the restaurant's logo. Malaysian, Portuguese and Indian influences helped shape the blend of sweet and savory flavors that characterize Jozi's hearty fare.
Response from the Parker community has been positive, Hicks said, but word-of-mouth has expanded the restaurant's customer base beyond the Denver-metro area.
"A lot of saffers come in from all over Colorado," Hicks said, explaining that "saffer" is slang for a South African citizen. "Some of them even cry."
Lisa and Farzad Farshad of Aurora are Yelpers, not saffers, but they were glad they gave Jozi's a try and said they'd be back to try out more of the restaurant's unique dishes.
"I don't think we really had any expectations," Farzad said. "We like to try different things."
Sarah Hinckley, a longtime friend of Hicks' who works at Jozi's, said the Farshads aren't the only satisfied customers she's served lately.
"I've never worked in a restaurant where I've picked up so many clean plates," she said.]]>