Channel: Colorado cold cases, Denver unsolved murders, crimes — The Denver Post
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Springs Safeway manager kidnapped, shot


Victim’s name: Victor Dee McClendon, 32
Where body found:Adams County barn
Investigative agency: Colorado Springs Police
Date kidnapped: Jan. 11, 1975
Cause of Death:Shot
Suspect: None identified

Victor D. McClendon’s silver wire-rim glasses, suit and bushy eyebrows made the young Safeway grocery manager appear much older than his age of 32.

Victor McClendon, 32, courtesy Colorado Springs Police Department.

Victor McClendon, 32, courtesy Colorado Springs Police Department.

The La Junta native had been working at the store for five years including posts as produce manager, grocery clerk and assistant manager up until only a month earlier when he was promoted to manager. He was married to Jo Ann and the couple had two boys, ages 2 and 5.

But no amount of experience would have prepared him for what happened on the morning of Jan. 11, 1975.

On that morning he left his wife at about 7 a.m. wearing a bronze shirt and striped brown tie to get the store ready for its 9 a.m. opening.

Three Safeway employees were also working in the store at the time when he arrived for work at 2300 E. Pikes Peak Ave. They saw him at 7:45 a.m., but did not see or hear the robbery.

A back door to the store was open and sources speculated that is where robbers entered. McClendon may have heard a knock at the door and thinking it was a delivery man opened it. At some point, they confronted McClendon and forced him to open a safe. A total of $1,400 cash was stolen. The entire confrontation took less than 15 minutes.

By 8:15 a.m., one of the other Safeway employees saw that the cage doors to the store safe were ajar, according to accounts by a series of Denver Post articles from January 1975 to 1977. The employees searched inside and outside the building and when they couldn’t find McClendon but did see his car in the parking lot, they called police at 8:39 a.m.

McClendon was very trustworthy and his boss immediately concluded that he was kidnapped. Furthermore, he had access to another lock box filled with money in the store, which wasn’t touched.

Police immediately initiated a widescale dragnet, using a helicopter to search for him.

The FBI put out a five-state bulletin searching for his whereabouts, according to the Denver Post article.

The case was immediately a big story that triggered odd reactions.

The day after the kidnapping, a 21-year-old El Paso County Sheriff’s dispatcher allegedly demanded a $100,000 ransom over a citizen’s band radio. He was arrested that Sunday and denied involvement.

The following Saturday at 4:20 p.m., only a week after his disappearance, five children who were hunting pigeons found McClendon’s body in an abandoned garage near East 54th Avenue and Franklin Street.

He was blindfolded and still wearing an apron with his Safeway badge pinned to it. Adams County Sheriff’s deputies identified him using identification cards in his wallet.

Investigators believed that someone using a shotgun shot McClendon in the back. There was a gaping hole in his back and powder burns.

Safeway offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The grocery chain closed seven stores in Colorado Springs on the day of McClendon’s funeral so its employees could attend.

The next month, police arrested Charles Brown, then 23, after he allegedly cashed 13 gift certificates from the Colorado Springs Safeway store where the robbery happened in a Denver suburb.

He had cashed the gift certificates the day after the kidnapping using the alias Jerome Curtis.

Authorities later charged Myron Dawson, then 24, and Brown with kidnapping and murder. Those charges were dismissed in 1977 on a technicality linked to a grand jury that indicted the murder suspects.

Judge Donald E. Campbell tossed the case on the grounds that only the foreman and not the entire grand jury saw the indictment document before it was handed down by the panel on April 11, 1977.

Although prosecutors vowed to file charges again against the pair, those charges were never brought.

Contact information: The Colorado Springs Police Department can be reached at 719-444-7613 or CSPDHomicide@springsgov.com Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell at 303-954-1206 or kmitchell@denverpost.com

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