Little Miss Murder 

A Livermore love triangle. A jealous teen sociopath. A cold-blooded plot. And one of the most chilling crime tales the East Bay has ever seen.

Page 7 of 8

At about 12:30 a.m. on March 1, Katie and Jeff picked up Aspen as planned and drove to the designated spot. Katie had brought along some Jack Daniel's she pinched from her mother's liquor cabinet to get her pal buzzed before they set the scheme in motion. Aspen mixed the liquor with Dr. Pepper and drank up. Meanwhile, Jeff went back to his car and put on blue surgical gloves so he wouldn't leave any skin cells on the rope, Katie later told detectives.

Aspen sat on the ground with Katie in front of her, and Jeff began to give her a massage after he got a hand signal from his cohort to take Aspen out. He fumbled around, picked up the rope, and put it around her throat. Just before Jeff began to strangle Aspen, Katie allegedly said, "I killed Jenna, and now I'm going to kill you." According to police reports, Katie then leaned forward, placed her right hand over Aspen's mouth, and held the girl's nostrils closed. Katie, too, had donned surgical gloves for the task.

The tenth grader fell backward and Katie held her down. Jeff strangled Aspen for several minutes and she began to lose consciousness. Feeling an unbearable pressure on her windpipe, Aspen believed she was going out much the same way Jenna did. Her vision became blurred and she blacked out briefly. Her limbs began to turn purple as she clawed at the rope to no avail.

Then, out of nowhere, an unbelievable stroke of luck.

Out on a routine patrol of the area, Timothy Phillips, a police officer for East Bay Regional Parks, drove up in his cruiser and spotted the three. After Katie and Jeff saw the headlights, they stopped what they were doing, Katie later told detectives. Hamilton stuffed the rope in his pocket and Katie began hugging Aspen. "I'm sorry. Don't tell anybody," she reportedly said.

Phillips walked over and asked what was going on. Lum, who was lightheaded and having difficulty breathing, said nothing. Katie told the cop that Aspen was sick and they were helping her. Then, according to police reports, she pretended to be repeating something Aspen had told her and said loudly, "Oh, is it that time of the month?"

Asked about the surgical gloves, Hamilton told the officer "he put them on in case Aspen threw up." Katie, hoping to deflect any questions about the rope sticking out of Jeff's windbreaker pocket, loudly said, "Do you still have that string?" to which he replied, "Yeah, I forgot to take it out after work," the officer later wrote in his report.

Katie helped Aspen up and the officer asked if she was okay. Aspen said she was fine and gave the cop her home phone number. She later told police she was frightened and confused, and also afraid that if she told the truth, Jeff and Katie would kill Phillips, too.

The officer asked police dispatchers to contact the girl's family, but no one answered at her house. Katie assured him that they'd take Aspen, who lived on nearby Mines Road, straight home. Phillips said okay, and the duo drove off with their victim.

Two minutes later, dispatch radioed back: They'd heard from Aspen's father, who said his daughter was missing from her room and he believed she'd run away again. Phillips took off in pursuit. He located Jeff and Katie a few miles away, minutes after they'd dropped Aspen off at home, and detained the pair.

The officer again contacted the dispatchers, who had some alarming news: Aspen had told her parents Katie and Jeff had tried to kill her. The parks officer sat tight in his cruiser awaiting deputies from Alameda County, who swooped in to make the arrests.

At first, Katie tried to deny everything. "I would never hurt Aspen," she said in a written statement. "I care for her too much. I do not have any idea how Aspen got the marks on her neck. Jeff was never alone with Aspen and I'm sure he didn't hurt her either." Questioned further, she changed her story and tried to blame the attempted murder on Jeff. She insisted she was simply too scared to intervene.

But Jeff, who, according to the detective who took his statement, "did not show any emotion or remorse for his actions," held nothing back. He told his interrogators all about both Aspen and Jenna. In a second interview that morning, Katie corroborated everything. And although the two were interrogated separately, they told near-identical tales about both alleged crimes.

Mike Simons was arrested later that day by San Joaquin sheriff's detectives. When brought in for questioning and asked if he knew why he was there, Mike, who said he'd spoken to Aspen earlier that morning, said it was because his friends had "tried to kill a girl that liked me." He wiped away some tears and then added, "Personally, I think they were trying to frame me for it."

This summer, all three are expected to go on trial for the murder of Jenna Nannetti near Stockton. Along with the videotaped confessions, detectives have amassed quite a bit of evidence, including the bat and gun they believe were used in Jenna's brutal slaying. Both were located exactly where the defendants said they'd be.

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