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Did marijuana play a role in the murder of a Colorado mother of three?

Police and community members are left wondering what role marijuana may have played in the murder of a Denver mother on Monday night. The woman’s husband, Richard Kirk, has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder of his wife, Kristine A. Kirk, and according to a probable-cause statement published by the Denver Post, Richard Kirk told the arresting officer “without questioning that he killed his wife.”

The Denver Post reports that Kristine A. Kirk was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher for 13 minutes, telling the operator that “her husband was hallucinating, talking about the end of the world and asking her to shoot him.” Although Kirk told the dispatcher that they did have a gun in their house, she believed it was locked up in a safe. When her husband retrieved the gun, Kirk screamed for help. Her pleas were silenced with a single shot; when police arrived a short time later, they found the 44-year-old mother of three dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

The tragedy unfolded in an upscale neighborhood near the University of Denver, and neighbors told the Denver Post that 47-year-old Richard Kirk was “friendly, someone who always waved to those who were coming and going on the busy block.” Because of this, as well as Kirk’s claims that her husband was suffering from hallucinations, police are exploring the possibility that drugs may have played a role in the murder.

"We are looking at marijuana as a possible part of the investigation,” Sonny Jackson, a Denver police spokesman, told the Post.

At this point, all claims that marijuana played a part in the crime are speculative. Police was initially summoned on a domestic disturbance call and Kirk’s arrest affidavit makes no mention of marijuana. However, KUSA reports that their law enforcement sources said that Kristine “told the 911 dispatcher her husband Richard Kirk may have eaten marijuana edibles,” although in a snippet of the 911 call aired by 7News, the operator says he had been “smoking” marijuana.

More troubling than the possible marijuana connection may be the fact that the woman was on the phone with 911 for nearly 15 minutes before and during her murder. The Denver Police Department released a statement saying that they have “initiated an investigation into the emergency call and police response to the homicide.”

“Any time a person dies while communicating with Denver's emergency services we examine the circumstances to ensure that the incident was handled properly and we look for areas to improve upon,” the statement said. According to the Denver Post, “Police response times in Denver have continued to lengthen in recent years,” and the Denver auditor’s office is expected to release a study in June that looks at the issue of police response times.

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