Ivy Leaguer accosts car stabs driver 2am

My attention was grabbed by a recent headline, IVY LEAGUER STABS BOSTON TEEN.
But let me tell you another story. In Colorado Springs, April 26, 2002, a friend of mine was driving back from a Thursday night concert in Boulder. Her girlfriend was half asleep, half intoxicated in the passenger seat. It was around 2am as they were driving through the Colorado College campus within a block of their home. Slowly rounding a quiet street corner, the girlfriend remembers something struck out at the car, perhaps a rock.
Lest I betray how this tale ends, I must point out that the subsequent events are entirely the recollection of the tired, inebriated passenger. The driver, Jocelyn Sandberg, 41, community activist, KRCC radio station manager and beloved on-air personality, did not survive the encounter.

Suddenly the car window was down and Jocelyn was having a shouted exchange with a youngish man on the street. Before the girlfriend could refrain her, the door was open and Jocelyn was getting out to confront the man. Jocelyn was very confident physically. Stocky, not butch, Jocelyn was back-on-her-heels jocular, the kind of girl it wouldn’t occur to you to offer to see safely to her car after dark. In fact Jocelyn usually worked a second job as a baker, walking there and back in the middle of the night.

The girlfriend remembers yelling for Jocelyn to return to the car. She watched as Jocelyn confronted the man at the curb. The man was in his mid-twenties or thirties. He struck Jocelyn, she fell to the ground face forward and he ran off. The girlfriend got out and ran to Jocelyn, but before she could get to her, Jocelyn had risen and taken after the man, north into the campus. Yelling after Jocelyn, she saw her disappear behind an administration building. Disgusted at Jocelyn’s typical stubbornness, the girlfriend returned to the car, climbed into the driver’s seat, and drove the last block home. While waiting for Jocelyn inside the house, she fell asleep.

When the girlfriend awoke an hour later, Jocelyn had not returned, so she called the police. By the time the officers arrived, Colorado College maintenance and security personnel had already discovered Jocelyn’s body. Jocelyn had bled to death on the SW side of Armstrong Hall, two hundred yards from where her car had been stopped. She suffered stab wounds in the face, neck and chest. The first cut may have been struck at the initial altercation at the curb.

Except for the girlfriend’s foggy description of the man, there were no witnesses. This was neither a robbery nor a premeditated assault. As for leads, Colorado College is a fairly insulated campus, buffeted by upscale neighborhoods, with very tight security. It’s not on the migratory route to anywhere, and the campus grounds present an inhospitable and unlikely hangout for transient males.

The girlfriend was of course considered the main suspect because it seemed improbable that a man could accost a moving car at 2AM in the morning. However other Colorado Springs residents can recall having snowballs thrown at their cars, in that same general area, by Colorado College students who would then dash off, leaving drivers unable to reciprocate their frustration.

When the police failed to produce any leads, the most persistent rumor was that the knife-wielding man had been a Colorado College student who was then perhaps whisked off campus by well-heeled, politically-connected parents. This could also explain the lack of concern shown by the college administrators. There was plenty of DNA evidence at the scene to test against the student population but such tests were not done.

A year later a stabbing in Boston revived that rumor. On April 12, 2003, a Saturday night around closing time, a Colorado College grad, Alexander Pring-Wilson, now studying at Harvard, was stumbling home drunk. On the way home he accosted a stationary car and stabbed the driver. Immediately after the event, still drunk, Pring-Wilson left this message on a friend’s answering machine:

“Hey, Jen. How’s it going? I just, um, I got attacked. I just got attacked by a group. I fended them off. I stabbed him a couple times and, don’t repeat this to police, um, but yeah, I’ve got a fucking killer headache. I just walked a couple of miles home. I think I’ve got a concussion. Anyway, I had a swell time tonight. I hope you guys made it home. Okay, bye-bye.”

Colorado Springs police were alerted to the stabbing death of Michael Colono and noted the similarities of the MO. Colorado Springs Detective David Edmondson inquired about obtaining DNS evidence from Pring-Wilson to test against the Jocelyn Sandberg stabbing case, Pring-Wilson’s lawyers refused.

Much was now made of the fact that Jocelyn’s witness described their assailant as weighing perhaps 150 pounds, not 200. And being 5′ 8″ instead of 6′ tall. But there was enough doubt. In a woman’s world, couldn’t 150 pounds denote a heavier person? And Jocelyn’s passenger was not making her observations from a sober perspective. Otherwise the age, hair and clean-cut description did fit.

When asked to present evidence of Pring-Wilson’s whereabouts on the 2002 date, lawyer Jeffrey Denner produced emails and credit card charges as proof that the suspect had been in Boston. Pring-Wilson had “accessed a Boston server” to send his mom an email. Likewise his credit card was charged on the next day. Naturally Colorado Springs police regarded this evidence as inconclusive.

But circumstantial evidence drawing Pring-Wilson to Colorado Springs grew. Pring-Wilson maintained a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend in Colorado Springs. And friends recall seeing him regularly at his alma mater. A fellow CC rugby forward estimates seeing Pring-Wilson back on campus “maybe 10” times in the two years following their graduation in 2000.
On a map showing the locations of Colorado Spring’s downtown bars, including Jose Muldoons which featured a Raggae band that night, and Pring-Wilson’s residence, the most likely route between the two points intersects with the corner where Jocelyn Sandberg’s car was accosted.
It should be an easy thing to prove or disprove: flight schedules, cell phone statements, Colorado College alumni events or no. Certainly his girlfriend Janice or his parents should be able to say either way.
  Walking off a drunk

Pring-Wilson’s family and friends are petitioning the governor of Massachusetts to reduce his sentence for the Boston stabbing. By their descriptions Pring-Wilson seems like a nice enough guy: accomplished, dedicated, compassionate, gentle -when sober, no doubt. No mention of his drinking. And according to everyone he was unassailably non-violent, notwithstanding having been captain of the Rugby team, playing forward, the offensive position. And how many gentle souls carry around four-inch Spyderco knives? Pring-Wilson’s drinking companions in Boston recall seeing the knife in the bar that evening. Seeing the knife in the bar?! Not everyone is agreed obviously that it’s such a common thing to carry around.

Could it be we’re talking about a sweet guy -with a drinking problem? Friends who haven’t signed the Pring-Wilson petition do attest that he was an obnoxious drunk. So we’re talking about an obnoxious drunk with maybe a chip on his shoulder and certainly a knife in his pocket. Maybe we’re talking about a 200 pound drunkard who cannot be dissuaded to do anything but whatever he wants. A person who parties hard, then wants to walk home, to walk it off, a couple of miles whatever, alone.

In October 2004 Pring-Wilson was convicted of the voluntary manslaughter of American-Puerto-Rican teenager Michael Colono and sentenced to six to eight years. The killing was found not to have been in self defense because the evidence indicated that Pring-Wilson had fisted his knife before the altercation began. Also, if he was jumped by the two teenagers as he claimed, Pring-Wilson came out of it relatively unhurt. Most damning, the knife blows were struck straight into Colono from a position above, not from wild slashing from a defensive position beneath, as Pring-Wilson claimed.

In their petition to Massachusetts Governor Romney urging him to remand their son to home-custody, the Pring-Wilsons threaten: “You must know that if any harm should come to Mr. Pring Wilson during the duration of his sentence you will be held accountable along with the Commonwealth of Mass.”

Strong words from understandably desperate parents, but who then shall be held responsible for the death of the Puerto-Rican teenager? Jose Cuervo? Spyderco knives?

Why do the parents not suggest, at the very least, that their son promise to disavow heavy drinking and knife-wielding? Nothing against gentle 200 pound rugby forward Alexander Pring-Wilson, it’s his knife-carrying drunken alter-ego that might be a danger. (Knives, drinking, middle of the night personas? A combination not unknown to the annals of crime or western literature.)

How often exactly did Pring-Wilson drink and insist on walking home alone, after his friends had taken cabs? Once a year? Spring break? One less aggressive drunk guy on the street with a deadly knife on Saturday nights would be a good thing for everyone.

There are also hundreds of Jocelyn’s friends in Colorado Springs who would like to hold somebody accountable for her death. Maybe Pring-Wilson could step up to the plate so that we could eliminate the possibility it was him. The sooner we can identify the aggressive man who stabbed Jocelyn Sandberg, the sooner we can prevent him from picking a fight with someone else’s car.

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