The Denver Police Department arrested a 45-year-old man on Friday in connection with a 2020 cold case homicide of a local musician three years ago.
Patrick Apostol, stands accused of firing a handgun into the rear of a car driven by 31-year-old Zackary Smith on Sept. 10, 2020, fatally striking Smith in the back of the head as he was driving away just before 4 a.m.
Two and a half hours after the shooting, DPD investigators noticed surveillance cameras on a nearby residence and knocked on the door. Apostol, who was not a suspect at the time, answered the door wearing a black robe. However, the video footage captured by Apostol's doorbell cameras was suspiciously not available at the time.
Smith Would Visit Apostol's Girlfriend When He was Not in Town
During the investigation, police learned that Smith and Apostol were seeing the same woman. The day after the shooting, a tipster came forward to police and told them about Smith's years-long, intimate relationship with the woman, who lived with Apostol.
Smith told the tipster "the only time he could see her was when her boyfriend Apostol was out of town," a DPD detective wrote.
The woman, who has not been identified as she has not been charged with a crime, admitted to police that she previously flirted with and kissed Smith. She stated to investigators they met outside Apostol's residence early in the morning and sat in Smith's car while Apostol was asleep and did not know Smith was coming over. She denied they had sex, according to investigators.
Apostol was Charged only on Drugs and Weapon Charges Due to Insufficient Evidence
But when investigators learned the woman actually lived with Apostol next to the shooting scene, and that the pair had flown to Florida the day after the shooting, they arranged a search of the couple's Denver residence.
Per federal case documents, DPD officers found a shed dedicated to turning marijuana into hash oil, banded stacks of cash in a basement, and ten firearms in the house, all but one of which were loaded. One of the guns was a short-barreled, .223 caliber tactical rifle with an illegal 100-round ammunition drum.
Two months later, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted its own search of the residence. ATF personnel concluded Apostol had continued to make and sell hash oil in the time since Smith's shooting, and arrested him.
While the DPD murder investigation languished, Apostol faced both weapons and drugs in federal court. He pleaded guilty to a single charge of intent to distribute and was sentenced in June 2022 to 30 months in prison. He was released from custody after 14 months
New Evidence Came to Light Due to Advancements in Technology
The Denver police resumed their investigation in July this year due to advancements in technology that allowed them to uncover new evidence in the case. The company responsible for storing the surveillance cameras recordings indicated the videos from the time of the shooting had been manually erased by Apostol.
The woman's DNA also came back as a positive match for the DNA found in the underwear Smith was wearing at the time of his death.
Detectives also renewed their effort to gain access to the cell phones that were taken from Apostol and the woman. While they found text conversations between Apostol and the woman immediately after the shooting had been erased, they did discover months of texts exchanged between the woman and Smith. The texts also showed Smith met up with the woman for "drugs and sex" in his car in the alley where he was found dead.
Moreover, Apostol's black robe tested positive for gunshot residue and a "gun trace" matched a handgun which Apostol allegedly purchased with the bullet fragment inside Smith's head.
Apostol, two and a half months after his release from federal prison, was arrested by police Friday. He was charged with 1st Degree Murder and Tampering with Evidence. His bond was set Saturday by a Denver court judge at $3 million.