Questions linger in Fine-Gallagher double murder
Top ten story No. 01
A fusillade of gunshots rang out in a quiet Grand Junction neighborhood on an autumn Saturday morning. Two people died, a well-known Grand Junction dentist, Terry Fine, and Flo
Gallagher, the wife of former Mesa State College President Mike Gallagher.
Two other people were wounded and the one who survived seemingly unscathed was left to ponder why it was that he, his wife, two friends, and a neighbor ended up in the sights of a killer none ever had met, much less knowingly angered.
The violent outbreak in which the five were targeted, apparently at random, is the biggest, most chilling and least understood story of 2008.
“The Fine-Gallagher tragedy is one of the worst of my career,” Grand Junction Police Chief Bill Gardner said. “That was the most tragic and difficult and dark crime in our city this year.”
Investigators still are hoping to learn what prompted a 22-year-old Alaska man to open fire on five people on Chestnut Drive the morning of Oct. 11.
The man, Stefan Alexander Martin-Urban, turned the gun on himself shortly after the killings, leaving his motive subject to speculation.
Investigators have obtained Martin-Urban’s computers and are going through his files looking for cyber clues to explain why he chose to open fire in Grand Junction.
Martin-Urban, who had moved to Lakewood about eight weeks before, had followed a trail from Alaska to Los Angeles to St. George, Utah, and then Lakewood before doubling back for that final, unexplained drive to Grand Junction.
The Fines and Gallaghers that morning were setting out on a road trip to Las Vegas in the Gallaghers’ silver BMW, Gallagher told The Sentinel in an exclusive interview.
It was in the cul-de-sac in front of the Gallaghers’ home that the episode apparently began.
When Mike and Flo Gallagher pulled out of their house about 8 that morning, they noticed a dark green Honda CR-V that rolled by the house, turned around and headed out, just in front of the Gallaghers.
When the Honda slowed, Mike Gallagher steered his car to the left, thinking only that the other driver seemed distracted.
The Gallaghers had much else to occupy their minds. Though Flo had officially retired from Grand Junction High School last June, she took on a long-term substitute job for a pregnant friend as school began in August.
Her last day in that job was Oct. 10, so she was on her first day of real retirement.
Flo Gallagher had jumped into the back seat so she could later talk with Linda Fine during the trip, while Terry Fine and Mike Gallagher could converse in the front seat.
“It’s going to look like I’m chauffering you,” Gallagher remembered telling her.
Neither thought of the Honda until they pulled into the Fines’ driveway several minutes later, where Terry and Linda Fine were waiting inside.
The Fines emerged as the Gallaghers pulled into their driveway.
Flo Gallagher and Linda Fine were outside the car and their husbands set to arranging the luggage in the trunk when the Honda again rolled by.
“I think that’s the guy who was in our cul-de-sac,” Gallagher remembered telling his wife.
“Yeah, that’s weird,” she said.
It’s the last time he remembers hearing her voice.
The Honda driver parked, got out and strode toward the Fines and Gallaghers, approaching Terry Fine first.
It seemed to Gallagher that Fine said something and the man raised his right hand, which was hidden behind his back to show a semiautomatic pistol, later determined to be a Ruger 9 mm.
The gunman said nothing to anyone, Gallagher remembered. He shot Fine, then moved toward the back seat of the BMW, where Linda Fine was seated, screaming.
He shot several times at Linda Fine and then shot Flo Gallagher, who had jumped out of the car. The shot wounded her mortally.
Gallagher believed Flo was still in the car and knew that Linda Fine was in the back seat, bleeding from several bullet wounds.
There was only one target left: Mike Gallagher.
The gunman leveled the barrel at Gallagher and ... nothing.
The slide was back, meaning he was out of ammunition.
Gallagher knew that meant he had but a moment to move out.
The gunman, moving swiftly, popped his empty clip out and loaded a fresh one.
“I couldn’t believe how quick he did it,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher had started the car, but couldn’t throw it into reverse until he tapped the brake pedal.
As he spun back and away from the gunman, the pistol cracked and a bullet slammed into the hood in front of him. A second shot hit just left of it. Then a third hit the forward window post and the fourth slammed into the middle window post.
In between the second and third shots, Gallagher remembered seeing Flo sprawled on the ground.
“That was the hardest thing of all of this because I’m leaving my wife laying on the ground,” he said later. “But you know the other side of that is God told me to just keep your foot on the accelerator and just go, because I knew Linda was dying.”
Gallagher sped out of the neighborhood, stopping for a moment to scream a warning to a jogger not to head down the street.
The jogger, Richie Hahn, who had been a placekicker for the Mesa State football team during Gallagher’s tenure as Mesa State president, didn’t recognize the driver.
Hahn did remember seeing smoke pouring from the interior of the BMW when Gallagher
rolled down his window.
Gallagher used all the BMW’s horsepower to get Linda Fine to St. Mary’s Hospital, where she was treated for multiple gunshot wounds.
The gunman returned to his vehicle and headed out the same way when neighbor Paco Larson stepped in front of him.
The gunman fired twice through his windshield. One shot struck Larson, who survived, though doctors left the bullet in his back.
Moments after Gallagher left, Hahn flagged down a deputy Mesa County sheriff who happened by on his way to work. As Hahn spoke with the deputy, the dark green Honda drove by.
It seemed to Hahn the driver had something on his mind.
“We made eye contact,” Hahn said. “I’m thinking he wanted to say something, but then he saw the sheriff.”
The man he saw in the Honda, without a doubt, was Martin-Urban, he said.
Martin-Urban shot himself in the head as police surrounded his Honda several minutes later near the 26 1/2 Road bridge over Interstate 70. He died the next day.
Mourners filled Robinson Theater at Mesa State College and the Avalon Theater downtown for the services for Flo Gallagher, 60, and Terry Fine, respectively.
“For 41 years, I went with the Flo,” Mike Gallagher said of his relationship with his wife and best friend.
“Thank you all so much for coming here,” Fine’s son Brad said. “You know, this is sad, but we have to celebrate. I am so proud to have been his son.”
Mike Gallagher spoke about the shooting nearly a month later and said he believed God had saved him.
What happened to their daughter, Lauren, at Salt Lake International Airport as she flew to Grand Junction after the shooting was no mere coincidence, Mike and Lauren Gallagher said.
Lauren and her boyfriend, Dave Weiss, “had a 2 1/2 hour layover there and decided to head to the bar to grab a beer after the rough morning we had,” Lauren said. “We sat down, ordered some beers and food. As soon as the beer came out, Dave and I toasted to my sweet mom.
“As soon as our glasses clinked, Bob Seger’s ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ came blasting on the radio at the bar. I knew right then and there that my mom was OK ... I knew it was her way of telling me that she was OK and that I, too, would be OK.”