Van Lee Terry Murder: Where is Robert Ziegler Now?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda: We Kill the Ones We Love’ chronicles the horrific murder of 21-year-old Van Lee Terry in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in January 1994. The investigators caught the perpetrators responsible for the murder with the help of old-school police work and the help of a confidential informant. 

How Did Van Lee Terry Die?

Van Lee Terry was born on September 19, 1972, in Amarillo in Potter County, Texas. He shifted to Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, in 1993 after he became a new father. According to family sources, he joined a college and wanted to further his education to provide better care for his child. He was a triplet with a brother named Dan and a sister named Jan Terry. On January 8, 1994, a white car pulled in front of the emergency room of the Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs a little after 1:00 am.

Two individuals rushed out of the car, seeking and crying for help, and the medical personnel wheeled two persons from the automobile. Both had been shot with a .380-caliber, and one of them was in critical condition. The first victim was Earl Pickett, then 21, who had suffered a grazing gunshot wound in the back. The second victim was Van Lee Terry, 21, who had been shot in the chest, and the injury looked fatal. Van had lost a lot of blood and succumbed to injuries within hours of arriving at the hospital.

Who Killed Van Lee Terry?

The hospital officials informed the Colorado Springs Police Department, and officers arrived within minutes. They found the car parked in the ambulance bay and observed a lot of blood inside the rear right end. There was so much blood that it had drained out onto the street. The detectives also noticed a small amount of blood on the front passenger side. Based on the amount of blood, they deduced Van was sitting on the rear-right side while Earl was in the front passenger seat.

The police officers observed two gunshot holes in the car near the rear-right passenger door with the window shattered. It was evident some gunshot went through the window, hitting the two victims. However, they were surprised to discover a .380-caliber weapon from under the front passenger seat, where Earl was supposedly sitting. The cocked weapon had an empty magazine, but there was no evidence that the firearm had been fired.

The detectives interviewed Earl to learn the 21-year-old was in the army and the owner of the car. He was Jan’s boyfriend and planned on going to the movies with her brothers. However, they missed the show and were hanging around and listening to music. Earl told the officers he was drunk, so Jan was driving the car. They were going down Platte Avenue near Institute Street a little after 11:00 am when a dark car with tinted windows pulled by their side, and someone fired shots at them before speeding away.

When questioned about the gun, Earl allegedly feigned ignorance before admitting it belonged to him. He also told the officers the gang had gone to a fast food restaurant downtown to take a leak when he got embroiled in a fight with a black male with braids. According to witnesses, the latter reportedly said something offensive to Jan, and Earl reacted to it by pulling out his empty gun and chasing the guy and his friends away. The only description of the individual they could get was he used blue rubber bands for his braids.

However, the detectives got a breakthrough when the robbery unit of the Colorado Springs Police Department apprehended a burglar named Mike Edmonds. He agreed to divulge the names of the perpetrators involved in the drive-by shootout in exchange for a lighter sentence. According to Mike, he was hanging out with two acquaintances of his burglaries, 19-year-old Matthew Gorman and 20-year-old Ronnie E. Wilcox. They told him they were involved in the shootout, with Robert Ziegler, then 23, being the shooter.

Robert Ziegler is Serving His Sentence Today

The police learned Robert was a habitual offender with more than 30 charges to his name and was out on parole. He was the guy with the braids who allegedly initiated the fight with Earl. With the help of his parole officer, Robert was arrested within a few weeks of the crime. His accomplices, Ronnie, Matthew, and Sue Kline, then 18, were also arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

According to the show, Robert was infuriated when Earl threatened him with the gun and wanted to get even. Court records state Matthew helped him find the murder weapon, and the four of them went out looking for Earl’s white car. After driving for nearly half an hour, they found the concerned vehicle, and Robert shot several rounds at them before speeding away.

Robert pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 76 years in prison. The other three were convicted of being accessories to murder, with Ronnie being handed a 10-year sentence, Matthew a 14-year sentence, and Sue a 9-year sentence. According to court records, Robert, 52, is serving his sentence at the Sterling Correctional Facility. His inmate records state his next parole date is July 2024, and his earliest release date is September 2066.

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