Lies, broken marriage led to tragic death of Brighton High graduate
Commerce City Sentinel Express
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Author: Gene Sears
This article marks the third and final story in a series about the mysterious 2004 death of Nancy Mason. Mason's parents, Bill and Miriam Gaede, live in Brighton.
Born and raised in Brighton, Nancy Gaede built a substantial portion of her life here – attending local schools and graduating from Brighton High School . It was during her tenure at BHS that she began to realize a dream held since third grade, joining the ambulance corps, riding along with the ambulance crews by age 16, with special permission from the school.
"She carried a Plectron then, (a specialized VHF/UHF single-channel, emergency alerting radio) and when she would get the call, she would get up out of class, they would pick her up on the corner and away she'd go," Nancy's mother, Miriam, recalls.
Nancy liked the work so much she convinced her father, Bill, to join as well, and they attended classes together, both becoming emergency medical technicians.
Eventually becoming neonatal nurse by trade, Nancy worked first as a candy striper in the old Platte Valley Hospital, then attended nursing school at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
"When she graduated, I asked her to take a picture with her cap on, and she said, ‘Mom, they don't do that,'" Gaede said. "I told her just to do it for her mother, and she did."
It was during this period in Nancy's life that she wed Todd Linville. They would have three sons, Wiley Matthew, William Benjamin and Wesley Daniel, each of whom go by their middle names.
Nancy married Linville in 1977, when he was just shy of 20, and she was 21.
"She was his legal guardian for a while," Gaede recalls, eyes lighting up at the memory. "They met at church camp. They went to church camp when they were like 17. Then they spent two summers together down there as youth directors. So, they had just been together forever. We just thought that was going to be forever."
Forever lasted until 2002, when the couple divorced, the marriage another victim of Linville's secret life of bilking clients of their life savings while living an extravagant lifestyle that included a private plane, a farm in Tennessee and a penchant for strippers and strip clubs. By the time the smoke cleared, Linville was facing a 32-year prison sentence for thefts totaling in excess of $3 million.
Nancy, unaware of Linville's alternate lifestyle at the time of the thefts, became acutely aware of Linville's transgressions when she discovered a receipt for a Rolex watch, purchased for another woman. She eventually threw Linville out of the couple's home. Following their subsequent divorce, Nancy joined a support group for survivors of divorce, looking to make some sense of her shattered life, and maybe a few friends. According to Nancy's long-term friend Sherry King, that was when the real trouble started.
"Nancy was a very social person, she was strong around other women. But with men, she was more of a co-dependent type person," King explained, noting the rapidity with which Nancy moved from her divorce from Todd Linville to her subsequent remarriage to Dan Mason, a decision that King feels was a "very bad move."
"From the very first time I met him, I did not like Dan," King said. "Did not like him. He was a user, he lied, and Nancy and I had an agreement to disagree about him. She didn't tell me she was marrying Dan, because she knew, she knew I would come down hard against that."
King spent a significant time in Mason's proximity before the marriage, but considerably less following the union. Far from hitting it off, King and Mason shared an animosity that deepened over time, as King watched Mason move himself deeper and deeper into Nancy's life. Worse yet was the unshakeable feeling that Mason was using Nancy. Quick to move into Nancy's house, Mason refused to share a bed with Nancy, citing his religious beliefs. Those religious beliefs weren't an impediment to Dan's idea for a quickie Vegas wedding, however.
"You know, I swear to goodness Dan is gay," King said. "I don't think there was any love there, I just think Nancy just needed someone to be there. She told me once, she said, ‘Sherry, you can't be with me 24/7.' I was trying to help her get counseling for codependency and to take time to get know herself before she got involved again."
It was counseling she sorely needed after the destructive last years of her marriage to Linville, who King says engaged in destructive comments continually near the end.
"It was awful, the belittlement there," King said. "Todd took all the self-esteem Nancy had away."
It was a progressive deconstruction that King found hard to watch, both as a friend to the couple and a confidante of Nancy's.
"Not from the beginning, but the last two or three years, it was like a plan he had.
For example, Todd would go to client gatherings, and tell Nancy she couldn't go because she wasn't a size 2. I don't know if you've ever seen Todd, but he sure wasn't a size 2. He was a very big man."
Despite the emotional battery, King stuck with Nancy, shoring up her friend's self-esteem when she needed it most. It was a difficult task.
"Trying to get Nancy to know what a great person she was, was tough," King said. "What a smart person. It's not just anybody that can be a neonatal nurse. She was such a great person."
From the beginning, King saw red flags in the Mason marriage, some simply curious, others that alarmed her.
For their honeymoon, the couple had taken a cruise to Mexico. On one of the on-shore excursions, Dan failed to accompany Nancy, choosing instead to go ashore by himself to "meet someone."
"He went and met someone he knew," King said. "And then Nancy said that when he came back, he was acting really, really weird. It's just so strange that he would have gone off on his own."
After their honeymoon, Nancy told King that Mason would not allow her to look at his computer, ever.
"He said it was because he was planning a trip for her," King said.
Unless it was the fateful trip to Chaffee County, that trip never materialized.
Alarm bells began ringing again when King realized the amount of control Mason was exercising over Nancy's day-to-day life.
"When they first got together, we would go out to lunch, the three of us, Little Tony and Nancy and me," King said. "Dan would call every five minutes to see what she was doing, what she was talking about, when she was going to be home. He was so controlling in that way."
Dan's control of Nancy had a more ominous face, according to King.
"Nancy would tell me he would say things like, he was a black belt and he could break her neck. She said he would just tell her these things, he would be drinking and just tell me these things."
The marriage quickly began to drag Nancy back down, causing her to avoid time with Mason.
"Towards the end, before they went to Salida, Nancy would come up to the house after I got off of work and she didn't want to go home," King recalls. "She just didn't want to go. She would hang out with me until she just had to go."
King recalls an unusual telephone conversation that she had with Nancy the morning of her death, part premonition, part apology, King isn't exactly sure.
"It was so strange, because Nancy called the morning they were going to say she was sorry for being such a bad friend and telling me about her aunt who had broken her neck and died," King said. "It was really strange, that phone call. I do, I really do think she knew something, because she called just to say that, sorry for being such a bad friend. Why would you say that? And then she told me about her aunt who had broken her neck. I mean on the same day?"
King doesn't buy the story about Nancy fishing on a cliff side near Chalk Creek, either.
"With all of her foot problems, for Nancy to walk somewhere, it wasn't happening," King said. "We all went down to Punta Ala, Mexico, and our husbands had gone fly fishing. We were stuck on this little island all day. Stuck. We could have walked to a lighthouse, and she wasn't doing it. And this was on flat ground. She wanted nothing to do with it. And when they wanted to go fishing, there was no way that she was going to fish with them. We might have gone along, but we would sit, or read books or be scrapbooking. There was just absolutely no way."
King is quick to note that her friend was active, if not particularly mobile.
"I don't want to give the wrong impression; Nancy wasn't just a couch potato. We went to Curves together, she lifted weights, she had a stationary bike that she rode. She tried her best to exercise, she just couldn't do things like walking or aerobics because of her feet."
King remembers Mason as someone who didn't even really know Nancy, nor care to.
"It was evident, even at the funeral, right down to the shade of lipstick Nancy wore in her casket," King said. "It was an orangey color, that wasn't something that Nancy would have ever worn. Nancy hated red and orange. She would have never worn that, never, and I asked who made that decision, and they said Dan. So how did he even know her?"
King also shares the opinion of funeral goers who were surprised at Mason's behavior at the service. "He (Dan) was real fidgety," King said. "He was such a fake. He was trying to be emotional, but he wasn't. He just didn't care."