Jayden: What strikes me as being very odd though is because it’s truly blunt force trauma to the head, it’s pretty shocking that there would not have been something seen in the car. To strike somebody in the head with enough force to kill them, that’s a lot of blood, and there was no obvious forensic evidence in the truck. I find that hard to believe.
Neil Strauss: That is obviously because you can’t hide…or obvious because you can’t-
Jayden: Yeah, obvious is what they saw, what’s the difference between patent and latent evidence. With patent evidence, you can see it with your eyes. Latent evidence you need a scientific process to discover. But I just can’t imagine he could get that car clean well enough to where there wouldn’t be some blood stains on a seat. Even if he had leather seats, and I don’t know that he or didn’t, blood stains leather, like that amount of blood. It’s not like he whacked her over the head and then just pulled over and stopped and then took her right out.
NS-VO: It’s a violent and terrifying way to die. I can’t help but think back on the nightmare that Adea’s mother Nora had before Adea was found, where she actually visualized her daughter beaten like this.
Nora: I actually saw my family in front of me, my husband, my son, and her, and she was beat on the side. Then I said, okay, this is over.
NS-VO: I wonder what kind of monster would be capable of doing something so brutal to a five foot five, 25-year-old woman, who as far as we know has never really done anything to hurt anybody. So let’s reconsider what may have happened in light of these new facts. Since we already know from a preliminary look at Chris’s Google data that he didn’t stop anywhere except for a couple of gas stations for a few minutes each on his way to his father’s house, this leaves us with just three scenarios.
NS-VO: One is that he dropped Adea off somewhere on the way to his father’s house. Two is that he somehow hit her with something in the car, which seems unlikely given what Jayden is saying. And three is that when Chris arrived at his father’s, Adea was alive, a possibility that’s never been considered before.
NS-VO: We are more determined than ever, as is Adea’s family, to find out exactly what happened, who’s responsible, and why. It just so happens that I’ve been invited by Jade Spotz, Chris’ mom, to attend her son’s funeral in Fort Morgan, Colorado, where everyone we’ve been speaking with will likely be. Because of this, Jayden has some serious concerns for my safety.
Jayden: Turn on, let’s get it so it’s activated.
Neil Strauss: Okay.
Jayden: We’re activating now.
Neil Strauss: I see you’re pressing that green button.
Jayden: Yep, pushing the big button in the middle, we’re going to get initializing lights. One’s going to start flashing green, the other’s going to start flashing red.
Neil Strauss: It’s waiting for it to pick up signal. So tell me how this works. This is going to send a satellite ping to you every five minutes or something?
Jayden: Correct, and I’ll monitor it the whole time you’re up there. So every five minutes, it’ll send out your location and that’s obviously all waterproof, impact resistant, plenty of battery life until we need to come up there and recover you.
Neil Strauss: When you went there, you had a tracker on you.
Jayden: I did.
Neil Strauss: Who was tracking you?
Jayden: My wife. When you get up there, you’ll see. It’s a little eerie feeling driving into that little town and seeing the Spotz Brothers this and the Spotz that. It’s a little weird.
NS-VO: Jayden gives me a number of warnings. He feels that anybody there could be a suspect or have something to hide. For one thing, Chris Marez, Chris’ biological father, has told us that he’s planning on coming to the funeral. Jayden has been working to get some documents from the Colorado Sheriff’s Department that he believes will show another side of Chris Marez. While I trust Mary and the rest of Chris’ family, Jayden hasn’t directly communicated with them. When he was in Fort Morgan looking for Chris, he felt stonewalled.
Neil Strauss: Realistically, is there anything they would do?
Jayden: I feel like if somebody did that, it would under the guise of giving you some information. If they wanted to get you somewhere under some cloak and dagger thing, they would knock on your door and say, “Hey, we want to talk to you about something, we want to tell you something that’s real secret.”
Neil Strauss: Okay.
Jayden: Then I would not probably go back to their house or anything like that.
NS-VO: Chapter 22, Don’t Fight for Me.
NS-VO: Right now, I’m parked outside the home of Jade and Jack Spotz, Chris’ mother and stepfather. I’m exactly where Jayden told me not to go, but I’m also finding Chris’ family to be incredibly kind and welcoming.
NS-VO: Just a few hours earlier, they all sat in the pews of their church here in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Over a hundred of Chris’ relatives and friends were there to mourn him. Outside of a small police presence, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The procession continued to a cemetery nearby where messages for Chris were written on balloons that were sent into the sky. He was a sports star, a leader, an inspiration, a role model, someone who had a positive impact on those around him. There was not a single person who had anything bad to say about Chris, privately or publicly. Obviously, it’s unlikely that someone would be disparaged given the scenario, but it’s just hard to reconcile this image with that of a cold-blooded killer who lured Adea to Northern California, and somewhere along the way supposedly beat her to death and buried her. That’s why Chris’ family has me here. They’re finding this whole thing just hard to believe.
Jack Spotz: So the basement’s packed, too. So we have the office or our bedroom here.
Jade Spotz: Why don’t we go into the office and close the glass doors?
Jack Spotz: All right, there might be some background noise.
Jade Spotz: I think that it will be better.
Jack Spotz: Do you want me to carry anything?
Neil Strauss: Yeah, just grab…
Jack Spotz: Okay. Thank you for coming to see the funeral and everything. I’ve just been totally thrilled.
NS-VO: Jade and Jack set up a space in their office for me to conduct interviews. After it’s arranged, I walk outside to the backyard were Chris’ friends are drinking beers and talking about college basketball. Mary is here, Brian is here, and Chance is here. Sitting off to the side with his girlfriend, his head in his hands looking haunted by the experience he had with Chris, I sit down with Chance and we begin talking about his last conversations with Chris. He tells me how it wasn’t just the police and the Albanian mob that Chris was worried about.
Chance: Well, he said it was just a matter of time before it got leaked to the press, and his agent had told them that if that happened they were going to drop him because it was going to be the end of his acting career, no matter what the outcome, and he would be a complete and total failure and have absolutely no future in Hollywood. That’s what his fucking agent told him.
NS-VO: As we’re speaking, Mary approaches him.
Mary: How are you doing? I feel compelled to have a conversation with you.
NS-VO: She’s never spoken with Chance before. Not just about what happened on Chris’ final road trip with him, but ever.
NS-VO: I speak for a while with Brian, one of Chris’ oldest friends, who Adea’s loved ones strongly believe was in Adea’s apartment after she disappeared deleting her computer data. Brian and I review our conversation from after Chris died and I learned that Brian wasn’t even in LA at the time Adea disappeared. His girlfriend and others confirm that he’d already moved back to Colorado. Brian has some things he wants to ask about the investigation, and I have more questions for him, too. So we make plans to speak on the phone later. Everyone here is just confused and wants answers, and each seems to hold a different piece of the puzzle.
Jack Spotz: … I’ll give you a spot for your stuff.
Neil Strauss: I’ll make a little circle, semi-circle.
Jack Spotz: See, we could use another chair probably or two.
Jade Spotz: What about this table, too, for equipment?
Jack Spotz: Do you want me to grab Chance?
NS-VO: As the gathering dissipates, Mary, Jack, and Jade gather in the office for the first time together, to make sense of some of the things that have happened. They start off by talking about Chris’ last words as the police were chasing him, which were not to Chance, but to Mary and Jade.
Mary: They made a phone call to me to tell me, “I’m breaking up with you. Go live your life. I love you.” He must have said that to me like five times during that phone call. So I was like, “Chris, what’s going on?” He’s like, “Nothing, nothing, Mary. Nothing is going on. Did you talk to the lawyer?” “No.” “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and he hung up. I called him back, and he said, “Talk to the lawyer.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I love you.” Then he hung up and I couldn’t reach him again. That’s why he called, just to set me free so I could go live my life. My life was with him.
NS-VO: On this final ride, Chris also called his mother Jade. As with Mary, he didn’t tell her what was happening.
Jade Spotz: When he called me on the drive and he said, “Mom, what are you doing?” and I said, “We just had the Pope’s over here. We were praying for you.” He said, “Listen to me, mom, I got to tell you something important.” So I put him on speaker phone. He said, “First of all, I want to say I love you. You’re amazing and you were the best mom. You rocked it.” I said, “Well, you’re pretty amazing, too, sweetie.” He said, “I want you to tell Robbie, Shane, and Bailey how much I love them. Tell everybody how much I love them, mom. I don’t know how things are going to shake out here, but I’m good. You don’t have to fight for me. I’m good.” I know he was saying I’m good with God.
Jade Spotz: He said, “I’m good. Just remember, you’re the glue that holds this family together, so you have to be strong.” But he was so calm. I didn’t know he was in a high speed race. I didn’t know everything that was going on. He said, “I love you, mom.” Then he hung up. If I had known that was the last time I was going to talk to him, I would have said a lot more things.
Neil Strauss: What do you think he meant by don’t fight for me?
Jade Spotz: I think he meant don’t fight with big Chris. I think he was afraid that Chris Marez would come after me again.
NS-VO: That’s one interpretation of Chris saying, “Don’t fight for me.” Another interpretation is that perhaps it was a veiled confession. Either way, we really need to know more about Chris Marez. Fortunately, while I’ve been in Colorado, Jayden has gotten ahold of police records about him. He told Jayden and I that he’d be attending the funeral, and I was hoping to talk to him in person. But I didn’t notice him there at all.
Neil Strauss: By the way, one thing I was going to ask, was Chris Marez there at all or no?
Jade Spotz: No, he was not.
Jack Spotz: Well, he was the reason that the police were there, just to make sure nothing crazy would happen and we could remember Chris the way we wanted to. He was the main reason, and to make sure if the press tried to pull into that parking lot, at least they would be moved off the property.
NS-VO: I tell them about the police documents that Jayden has just obtained, and that’s when they tell me the full story of Chris Spotz and his biological father, who is alternately referred to as Chris Morez and Chris Marez.
Jade is sharing this story after much discussion and after decades of terror. She has gone to the police numerous times for protection, and for many, many years, they did nothing to protect her or keep her safe. But she hopes that by getting her story out there, especially in this time when our culture is changing and these stories are starting to get told, enough people will know about it, that if anything happens in the future, there will be safety, support, and justice.
NS-VO: Her story begins when she was 15 and Chris Marez was 14.
Jade Spotz: Chris and I were never married. I was very young. Chris and I had been boyfriend and girlfriend, but then one night things went too far. I felt like I had been attacked, so we didn’t see each other. Then I found out I was pregnant and I had to tell him I was pregnant.
Neil Strauss: I’m assuming when you said attacked, it was something that was against your…
Jade Spotz: Yes, I felt like I had been pressured or attacked by Chris. I didn’t feel comfortable. But like I said, we had dated. There wasn’t date rape back then. You got yourself in these situations, and then you couldn’t get yourself out. You didn’t make a big deal out of it, because it was always the girl’s fault, at least I felt.
Jade Spotz: Well, then his grandparents, who lived here, came to our house and said, “You two have to get married now.” My mom said, “Yes,” and I was just terrified, terrified of him. I just said, “No, no, we’ll raise this baby together, but I can’t marry him.” I just begged my mom not to make me. He was always very scary to me.
NS-VO: Jade filed statements and documents about Chris Marez with four different police departments in Colorado. According to one of the statements, filed in Aurora, Jade was in the car with Chris Marez about four months after Chris Spotz was born. He was supposed to drive her home, but when Chris Marez started driving down back roads in another direction from her home, Jade jumped out and began running.
NS-VO: The statement continues. “He caught me, threw me on the ground, and started telling me how much he loved me, that I’d put him through hell. He was saying all that while he was undoing his pants on top of me. I was screaming, crying.” According to the statement, Chris Marez then sexually assaulted her. When she threatened to tell the police, “He just laughed and stated no one would believe me.”
NS-VO: A year and a half later, according to the statement, Jade was at her mother’s house with Chris Marez, while Chris Spotz, still an infant, slept on the couch. She told Chris Marez that she wanted him out of her life, and he became angry and punched a hole in the wall. When Jade threatened to call the police, the statement continues, Chris Marez slapped her on the face and she fell to the ground. The baby woke up and began crying and, “I tried to get up to calm my son, when Chris grabbed me by the throat and said that I could never leave. He then started choking me. I remember thinking I was going to die.”
NS-VO: Chris Marez then picked up the baby, kicked Jade in the stomach, and told Jade, and I quote the statement here, “He could kidnap my son so easily that I would never see him again, that I better behave myself or he would do it.”
Jade Spotz: As soon as I could get away, I got away. So Chris and I moved to Aurora, and within weeks big Chris had found me and slashed my tires. He always just wanted to scare me. So he was working at the beef plant here in town, and they have big knives, meat-slicing knives…
NS-VO: In less than 10 years, Jade moved 12 times trying to get away from Chris Marez, but he would always find her. According to police records, Chris Marez would threaten to kill her and himself if she ever slept with another man. He would call her employers and accuse her of fraud. He would follow her, spy on her, harass her, steal things, and break into her house. Jade describes one such incident.
Jade Spotz: We spent the night at my mom’s house. The next morning, I was driving home and as soon as I drove home, I knew something was up because the front gate wasn’t closed like I had closed it. So I told my kids, “Wait right here, let me go in.”
Jade Spotz: When I went in, the living room was fine, the kitchen was fine, but as I went to the bedrooms, I could see in the corner of my eye, my bedroom, the walls had been knifed, all my clothes were on the floor, the dresser drawers were out, my underwear was everywhere, and the bed had been stabbed several times, and there was a huge knife left in my bed.
NS-VO: When Jade called the police, they refused to believe that it was Chris Marez, but years later, Chris Marez’ roommate, a man named Mike Gomez, came forward to the police and confessed to having written the note for Chris and waited outside for him while he was in Jade’s house. I’ve seen a copy of the note from the Aurora Police records and it reads, “Hello. I have been watching you. I know where you live. I know where you work. I know where you are all the time. I know where your boyfriend lives. I know where he works. But that doesn’t matter, because he can’t help you. No one can. I will be watching you.” The letter is then signed with an upside down cross.
NS-VO: A few days later, Jade received another note, this one in the mail. It read, “Hello. How have you been since I got into your house and seen all of your private thing, and your fucking boyfriend’s thing? I have been watching you every day and my lust for you grows deeper. I can’t control myself any longer. You shall soon be mine. So watch out, because I will get you sooner or later.” There is a P.S. at the bottom of the note and it reads, “When are you going out again? Ha ha ha ha.”
Jade Spotz: Because I was so terrified, I was running like a rat in a cage because I would tell people it was Chris Marez, and even some of my own family would say, “He loves you and he loves Christopher and he’s so nice.” No one believed the things that were happening was Chris, and I couldn’t convince him. People in our church, my family members, they didn’t believe me. They said he was such a nice guy. He could have caught me. He could have caught me, and that’s what they would say. “If Chris wanted to kill you, he would kill you.” If he wanted to catch me, he could have caught me. He didn’t want to catch me. He wanted me to be afraid.
NS-VO: Eventually Chris Marez moved to Northern California, but as Chris Spotz grew up, he began asking questions about his father. Until one day, when Chris Spotz was eight, Jade took him to meet his dad.
Jade Spotz: He would say, “Who am I like? Why am I this way?” My family, who loved Chris Marez, would always say, “Oh, you’re just like your dad. You’re just like Chris Marez.” So he wanted to see him.
Jade Spotz: So I took Christopher to California, to Sacramento. Nothing had changed with Chris Marez. The very first night we were there, I put Christopher to bed and Chris Marez says, “He wants to sleep with me, he wants to sleep with me. Let me sleep in that room with Christopher. You’ve already got him asleep. Let me just sleep in that room with him.” So I said okay because I felt like an idiot saying, “No, I don’t trust you.” Well, then what in the hell was I doing in California if I didn’t trust him? All these things were coming back, so I said okay. I let Chris and Chris Marez sleep in the same room together.
Jade Spotz: I fell asleep in another room and that very first night was woken up with Chris on top of me holding my mouth closed. Nothing had changed. Nothing had changed. Then afterwards when I said I was calling the police, he reiterated, “Who’s going to believe that?” I flew all the way out to California. Come on, I must have wanted that.
NS-VO: When Chris was around 10, Jade managed to have an arrest warrant issued for Chris Marez on charges of stalking. But Chris Marez was never found and the warrant expired a few years later.
NS-VO: Chris Marez did not return several recent phone calls and texts that I made to ask for his response to these specific allegations, but I will continue to follow up so that I can get his comments. As for Jade, she ended up marrying Jack Spotz, a childhood friend, 24 years ago.
Jade Spotz: Chris Marez allowed Jack to adopt Christopher when he was 10. That was just a relief. I mean, it was a wonderful thing, but it was such a relief to me because I didn’t have to be afraid of him lurking around anymore.
NS-VO: Then suddenly, after years of complete silence, Chris Marez called Jade out of the blue. This call came right after Adea disappeared.
Jade Spotz: He said, “Chris came. Do you know where Chris is?” I’m like, “No.” He said that Chris had come and seen him, and he said, “You know, I don’t know, I don’t know, he was here 15 minutes, like 15 minutes, he wanted to fight me. So he was here only 15 minutes. He would drive five hours to see his dad 15 minutes.” He just kept saying 15 minutes.
Jade Spotz: When I was telling Chris about the call, I said, “How long were you really there?” “I don’t know, mom.” I said, “I know it wasn’t 15 minutes because if it was, he wouldn’t have said it like 25 times. How long were you there? And what were you doing there?” Chris wouldn’t tell me. He just said that he was an idiot and he said, “I didn’t stay there, mom. I went to a hotel.” But Chris, he goes, “Don’t even talk to him. If he calls you, don’t talk to him anymore.” I said, “Unfortunately, I’ll always talk to him. He is your father, and I’m not going to make him want to hunt me down.”
Jade Spotz: Every time that Chris called though, he would reiterate that Christopher was there for 15 minutes. So just the way that he would do it, I knew something was not right with that.
Jack Spotz: We even wonder, it seemed like the press connected him first, and he pointed him towards us to deflect attention from himself.
Jade Spotz: He gave my phone number to Adea’s family, and they started calling me.
Jack Spotz: That even type of deflection.
Neil Strauss: He gave them your number? Wow.
Jade Spotz: And my name, yeah.
Neil Strauss: I’m shocked that he gave all your numbers.
Jade Spotz: Oh, he would throw anyone under the bus for himself.
NS-VO Jade shares one last significant memory. It’s about a stop Chris made before leaving Colorado on his final road trip with Chance. As Jade speaks, I recall Chance telling me that Chris felt that the only person he could still count on besides Chance was his grandmother.
Jade Spotz: One other thing, my mom said that Christopher and her were talking one-on-one and that my mom was crying and said, “I love you so much, Christopher. Other than your mom, I love you more than anyone in this world.” And Christopher said, “Grandma, do you love me enough to kill someone?” My mom said, “Chris, that would not be love. That would be doing something to control you. You don’t kill somebody out of love for someone else. You kill someone to control the person that you think you’re doing a favor for.” That was probably two days before Chris left Colorado to go there. My mom told me about this conversation.
NS-VO: And he was referring to Chris Marez when he was talking to your mom.
Jade Spotz: That’s what we think. Both me and my mom think, oh my god, he was referring to Chris Marez.
NS-VO: As the conversation ends, I thank Chris’ parents for their time and for sharing so much with me.
Neil Strauss: And I hope it’s nice, it’s good to talk about today. I hope it’s not…
Jack Spotz: Totally good.
Jade Spotz: It is.
Neil Strauss: Okay.
Jack Spotz: Just in the fact that you care about what really happened. We don’t need somebody who’s going to say, “I’m on Chris’ side.” If somebody is going to look for the truth, that’s all we want. If it doesn’t come out that way, we’re going to live with it. But we’d like the truth, and I don’t think we have much truth right now.
Jade Spotz: I told Christopher, I said, “Chris, you’ve never had to lie to me. You don’t have to now. If you have done something bad, I am not your judge and juror, Chris. I realize you are human and people can get pushed to the brink. If you have done something bad, please tell me so that I know how to stand. If I need to stand in a humble stance, apologizing for you, praying for forgiveness for you, tell me the truth. Otherwise, I’m standing like you’ve been the victim and like I need to protect you. Just tell me the truth.” He said, “Mom, I didn’t hurt anyone, but I should have never dropped her off. I knew she was in danger.”
NS-VO: After I leave the Spotz’ house, my head is swimming with all this information and emotion. There’s so much I need to process and go through. I still need to take a full day to deep dive into Chris’ Google data and see what’s there.
But there’s one small detail that keeps nagging at me. Why did Chris Marez call Jade after so many years just to let her know that he’d gotten into an argument with Chris? There’s something off about that call.
So when I get back to LA the next day, I phone Jade and ask her more about it.
Jade Spotz: Do you know what? I have my notes. I have notes.
Neil Strauss: Really?
Jade Spotz: Let me just go look at my notes really quick. 2/24, Chris Marez called me, first time in a long time. He made it sound like he was going to fix everything. He was trying to be the hero. I remember he said specifically over and over again, “Girls go missing from LA all the time.” It scared me, and he said, “People go missing from LA all the time,” and it scared me. I said, “Is Christopher going to go missing?” He’s like, “No, no, the girl.” I said, “Oh my god, Mary, what’s going to happen to Mary?” He said, “No, the little one, the other girl, the little one.” I said, “How do you know this? How do you know this?” He said, “Oh, she’s missing, she’s missing.” None of that was on the news. None of that was anywhere yet.
Neil Strauss: Well, here’s the thing, Jade. How would he know she was little if he’s never met her?
Jade Spotz: Right, right, and he did say the little one.
Neil Strauss: What do you think was his intention in calling you, because obviously it’s not on the news yet, no one’s even looking for her?
Jade Spotz: I think that the whole time that he was talking to me, I felt like he was saying Chris had a problem and he came to me for help, not you. You don’t even know about this. I know it and you don’t.
Neil Strauss: What time was it that Chris Marez called?
Jade Spotz: Was it 1:20 or 11:20?
Neil Strauss: I asked Jade if she’s comfortable sending me her phone bill so I can verify the date and time that Chris Marez called. It seems hard to believe.
NS-VO: Before I go on, it’s important to remember a few details. Adea Shabani was last seen on Friday, February 23rd, leaving her building with Chris Spotz. Adea’s friends didn’t do a welfare check on her until two days later on Sunday, February 25th, and they didn’t file a missing person’s report until the following day, Monday, February 26th. But when I look at Jade’s bill, I see an 11-minute conversation with Chris Marez, her first call with him in years. The time is 12:20 p.m., and the date Saturday February 24th, a full day before anyone else knew that Adea Shabani was missing.
NS-VO: To Live and Die in LA is a production of Tenderfoot TV and myself, Neil Strauss, in conjunction with Cadence 13. The executive producers of this podcast are Donald Albright, Payne Lindsey, and myself, along with producers Alex Vespestad and Mike Rooney. Original music and score by Makeup and Vanity Set. Theme song Love and War by Fleurie and show art and design by Trevor Eiler. The editing is by Alex Vespestad, with additional mixing by Resonate Recordings.
NS-VO: Nationally, 7.5 million people are stalked every year. Approximately one in six women and one in 17 men have experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime. If this happens to you or to a friend, call Safe Horizon. Their phone number, it’s free, it’s 1-800-621-HOPE. That’s 1-800-621-4673. If you are in immediate danger, of course, call 911.
NS-VO: In addition to a hotline, Safe Horizon has an array of programs. They deal with domestic abuse, they help you navigate the criminal justice system, and they give you resources to help you heal yourself and your family from the psychological toll of this kind of terror. It’s all free and there are people out there who have experience who can help.
NS-VO: One of the reasons I’m doing this podcast is to specifically ask for information on behalf of both families now involved. So if you know anything about anyone involved, even if it doesn’t appear to relate directly to this case, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 213-204-2073. We can keep your name and identity completely anonymous if you want.
Neil Strauss: Special thanks to Rich Burner, Kevin Richter, Chris Corcoran, Oren Segal, Brian Fishbach, Oren Rosenbaum at UTA, Resonate, and the Nord Group.
Neil Strauss: Thank you for listening, for subscribing, and for your feedback.