Earl Ryan's first-degree-murder trial opened Tuesday with defense and prosecuting attorneys portraying Angela Crookham as a woman who played two hostile men against each other in a battle that ended with her 2-year-old son dead.
Ryan, who is being tried in Denver District Court, is accused of shooting Crookham's son, Noah, to death as the boy's father carried him out of his mother's home Oct. 12, 2008.
Ryan lived in a basement apartment at 1243 Madison St. Angela Crookham lived in the unit upstairs.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Amico told the jury that Tom and Angela Crookham's marriage had unraveled in late 2007.
Tom Crookham was so despondent that he attempted suicide with a knife. He later befriended Ryan and "spilled his guts," telling Ryan about his failed marriage and his attempted suicide and that he wanted to reconcile with his wife, Amico said.
Tom Crookham had no idea Ryan had affections for his wife and had been intimate with her, Amico said.
When Ryan realized Angela Crookham was letting her husband back into her life, Amico said, Ryan bought a .357-caliber Magnum pistol.
The next morning, Tom Crookham came to the house for breakfast and the two men argued. Ryan ran downstairs and returned with his gun. Ryan began firing at Tom, who scooped up Noah in his right arm on his way out the front door, Amico said.
As he listened to the story in the courtroom, Ryan lowered his head and began to cry.
Before starting her opening statement, defense attorney Jennifer Henslee placed large photos of Ryan and Noah cuddling in front of the jury. She then told them that Ryan fired his gun in the air the day Noah died, never intending to hurt anyone.
"Earl Ryan was a slow fuse that Angela Crookham lit 10 months before he exploded that day," Henslee said. "When he learned three hours (after the shooting) that Noah had died, he was absolutely, utterly devastated.
"Angela Crookham had been telling Earl that Tom was abusive, dangerous and that she was scared for her life. She told Earl that Tom Crookham had a Jekyll and Hyde personality with an explosive temper," Henslee said. "She told Earl about his suicide attempts with a knife, that he had been throwing things, punching walls."
As Angela Crookham began to reconcile with her estranged husband, she told him Ryan had raped her and was obsessive, jealous and dangerous, Henslee said. "She used the same descriptors for Earl Ryan that she used for Tom."
When the men argued, all Tom Crookham was thinking was "about the guy who had raped his wife," Henslee said. But Ryan "fired up, never intending to shoot Tom."
The trial is expected to last two weeks.