Verceles walks out of the house and yells at the dog. He still has the barrel chest of a Marine, but now the softened facial features and stomach of a workaday mechanic. He is cheerful and speaks in something of a controlled shout.
“Come on in!” he says, and leads me into the home, which opens to a basement staircase and, straight ahead, a hallway that leads to a living room.
The arrest somehow seems to have only deepened the friendship between Verceles and Ponzo. “I thought he was just some computer nerd,” says Verceles, who has developed a newfound appreciation for, and fascination with, the friend he’s learning to call Enrico Ponzo. “This guy is probably the smartest guy I have ever come across.”
When I ask what he means, he leads me to an office to the left of the hallway. Shaw used to keep this door shut and padlocked at all times, he says. Verceles opens it. At first it looks like any other home office. Then I glance at the wall: entire shelves of law books — United States Code, law journals, a legal dictionary, “law books, law books, law books,” Verceles says. “Every night he would work on his case.”
I ask how he knows that. “Cara told me,” Verceles says. “‘Every night he would work on his case.’”
So his ex knew about his past? Verceles gives a pained look. “Well, that’s my assumption if she’s telling me that.”
They met in Phoenix, Verceles says, where Ponzo lived after he fled Boston. It can be difficult to piece together the past of a man who’s taken such deliberate steps to conceal it, but Verceles’s account does seem to square with what I could dig up. Online property records show Pace living in a Phoenix rental in the 1990s. Her former landlord, George Davidson, remembers her and the boyfriend she lived with, mostly because he had to evict them. According to Phoenix property records, the name of the male on the eviction notice was Laramie Giddeons. Davidson issued that eviction notice not long before Pace and Jay Shaw turned up in Marsing.
Sitting in his living room, Verceles tells me he still speaks with Ponzo at least once a week, and that he thinks he now understands why Ponzo never wanted his name on anything. That explains, among other things, why he was self-employed, Verceles says, and why he and Pace never formally married. Ponzo thought everything through, Verceles says. He settled down in some of God’s sparsest country, Owyhee County, with only three sheriff’s deputies to cover roughly 300 miles. And look at the house he built: At first it could be any ranch home. But notice how it’s set at the back of the property, at the end of a long driveway. All the windows look out onto the driveway, and the lone door is at the house’s rear. Ponzo would have plenty of time to see anybody coming. He also trained his dog in German, so that no English command from anyone approaching would quiet the dog.
Then there’s the master bedroom downstairs, where Ponzo kept his safe. The room has no windows and only one door, and Verceles keeps finding stuff down there. He excuses himself now, heads down to the bedroom, and brings back a large, menacing metal rod with a square rubber base on one end. At first Verceles didn’t know what it was — until he saw that it was made by MasterLock. It was a door jam.
“Can you imagine having to go to sleep every night and the last thing you have to do is put that thing against your bedroom door?” he says. “It gives me chills.”
Listen to Paul Kix as he talks about his experiences researching Enrico Ponzo and reveals snippets of his interviews from his Idaho visit.