The Merrill Junior High School student was in history class that day — April 8, 1992.
“How sad,” she told her classmates. “That was someone’s sister, daughter and mother.”
As it turned out, it was her own mother.
But Ciari had no idea initially because she had been living with her grandparents since she was 9 years old.
“I got a note in class that said go straight home,” Ciari said.
She was rebellious and sometimes took the long way home, but the note was so odd, she rushed to her house.
When she arrived, her grandfather, who never cried, was sitting on the couch sobbing. A stranger was in the living room. He stood and said he was a victim assistance officer.
“Is my mother dead?” Ciari asked immediately.
“Please sit down,” he said.
“Is my mother dead?” Ciari repeated.
“You need to sit down,” he said.
When she did, the officer confirmed what Ciari feared would happen ever to her mother since she was a small child.
“When she was a mother, she was the best mother you ever asked for, but I didn’t always get those moments because she was on drugs,” said Ciari, a mortgage industry analyst in California.
Ellyn Leslie Hoge started using drugs when she was 15 and was in and out of jail for drug and prostitution charges most of her adult life. Ciari was her only child.
They had a haphazard existence. She recalled her mother driving a powder blue Dodge Colt, searching for drug dealers to score dope. But Hoge also read to her and encouraged her to achieve more than she had.
“The drug addiction clearly put a lot of stress on the relationship,” Ciari said.
There were some harrowing moments. When Ciari was 7, she saw her mother burst out of a house, dash to her car and dive in. But before she could speed away, a man ran out and put three bullet holes in the car’s bumper.
Another time, her mother was in a hotel room, convulsing, vomiting and sweating.
“I couldn’t get her to drink water,” she said.
Ciari and her mother had a relationship in which the two were brutally honest with each other. She could tell her mother that she hated her and her mother would admit her drug addiction.
“You want your parents to be something more,” Ciari said. “We moved every six months. I think the prostitution started about the time I moved out.”
After Ciari went to live with her grandparents, her mother sent her cards for Halloween, Christmas and her birthday. She often called and told Ciari that she loved her no matter what was happening in her life.
The last months Hoge’s life, she was living in a halfway house for drug addicts and waitressing at a local Waffle House. She escaped from the halfway house while on probation.
A few days before she was murdered, Hoge called her daughter Jennifer on the phone to tell her she had to get a suitcase.
On April 7, Hoge was apparently so terrified she ran onto Interstate 25 near the 18th Street exit, trying to flag down cars. It was 3 a.m.
The 36-year-old woman didn’t have a stitch of clothing on and was bleeding from several wounds. Some witnesses say they saw a man chasing her.
A tractor-trailer truck couldn’t stop. It slammed into her, throwing her more than 100 feet. The accident finished what someone had apparently been trying to do. She was dead.
When police found her body in the highway they could tell why she was running. Someone had stabbed her numerous times, and she had run into the busy highway in a last desperate attempt to save her life.
Ciari was only a teenager, but she wanted to hear exactly what happened to her mother. She asked a detective how many times her mother had been stabbed.
He told her that her mother’s body was so mangled that they couldn’t be sure, but the detective’s best guess was between nine and 13 times.
The detective said the killer may have stripped her while searching for money she was to get from Western Union. She also may have been raped.
“When you experience these things as a kid, it’s no surprise that your parent dies like that — only when they die,” Ciari said.
A decade after her mother was murdered, Ciari returned to Colorado and pulled all of her mother’s criminal records.
Despite her mother’s failings, Ciari still loved her and wanted to know everything about her life.
“She was somebody,” Ciari said. “She could have been a lot more. I loved her.”
Contact information: The Denver Police Department can be reached at 720-913-7867. Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell at 303-954-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.