LAFAYETTE, Colo. – For nearly a month after she was stabbed to death, Linda Damm's body lay in the trunk of her car inside her garage while her 15-year-old daughter and friends used her debit card to "do teenage stuff," police say.
Three teens tried but failed to get rid of the body, investigators allege, once turning back because they got stuck in the mud of a nearby landfill and later retrieving the body from a grave they had just dug at the edge of a cemetery, fearing it was too shallow.
They were planning to drive north to Wyoming for a third attempt, investigators claim, when an anonymous tip led police to Damm's body on Feb. 28 in her modest house in Lafayette, a small town about 20 miles northeast of Denver.
Now Damm's daughter, Tess Damm, and Tess' live-in boyfriend, Bryan Grove, 17, are being held without bail, Grove on charges of murder, conspiracy and evidence-tampering and Tess on charges of conspiracy, accessory and evidence-tampering. Both are being prosecuted as adults.
Their attorneys either declined comment or did not return calls, and prosecutors have said little publicly.
But court records, family members, neighbors and Internet postings paint a picture of a tempestuous relationship between a troubled daughter and her 52-year-old mother.
Linda Damm's brother and two sisters issued a written statement saying she had struggled with alcoholism for years, leading to "a downward spiral in her abilities to properly care for herself and her daughter."
Neighbor Steven Weddig said Linda Damm was a single mom with a difficult life.
"We did hear the daughter scream at her from inside the house," he said. "Linda did tell me she was having so much trouble with her."
In online postings in November and January, someone identifying herself as Tess Damm said her life was "falling apart and deteriorating" and that her mother was an "angry, raging, functional alcoholic" who had lost her job and occasionally became violent.
Grove told police that he and Tess had spoken on Feb. 3 about "how much they hated Linda," according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Grove asked Tess if she wanted him to "take care of Linda for her," and she said yes, according to Grove's arrest affidavit.
Tess told investigators she replied "OK, whatever," because she didn't think he was seriously threatening her mother, according to her arrest affidavit.
Police said Grove went by himself to Linda Damm's home early on Feb. 4 and got into an argument with her. Police said Grove told them he became enraged when Linda Damm said she wished Tess hadn't been born so Grove wouldn't be living with the mother and daughter. She also blamed him for causing problems in the household, Grove's affidavit said.
Grove told investigators he choked Linda Damm until she was unconscious, then stabbed her in the neck and mouth until she stopped breathing, according to the affidavit. The affidavit said he then called a friend who helped him wrap the body in sheets and move it to the trunk of a car in the garage.
The friend, who is 16, has been arrested but charges have not been formally filed and the district attorney's office has not said whether he will be prosecuted as an adult.
For the next several weeks, Tess and Grove lived in Damm's home and used her debit card, police said. Neighbors said they heard loud music from the house, saw cigarette butts accumulating on the formerly neat lawn and saw Grove "car-surfing" on top of a car while Tess drove.
Police allege Tess and another friend, Jared Guy, 18, helped Grove on the two aborted attempts to dump Linda Damm's body. Guy was arrested March 2 on evidence-tampering and accessory charges, and his bail was set at $500,000. His attorney did not return a call.
Guy and Grove were both being held at the Boulder County jail, and Grove was on a suicide watch Friday because of unspecified comments that raised jailers' concerns, sheriff's Cmdr. Bruce Haas said.
Linda Damm's funeral was Friday, but a judge refused to release Tess from ajuvenile detention center to attend.
In their statement, Damm's brother and sisters said they wanted Tess to know they love her but they also believe "every person involved in this horrific crime that resulted in the death and desecration of our sister should be held accountable.