At best, body paint reveals a woman's beauty.
At worst, it leads to men pawing at women. Which leads to arguments. Which lead to shoves. Which lead to gunfire. Which leads to death.
Or so it went in September 2012 at the Halo Ultra Lounge near 175th Street and West Center Road.
Before a mistrial was declared Friday, a Douglas County courtroom got a glimpse of the root of the dispute that led to the death of Delayno Wright, 24.
A body painted. A buttock pinched.
In the words of attorneys in the case, there was no way to gloss over the surreal and stupid scene that led to Wright's death. Avery Tyler is charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting.
Before Halo was stripped of its liquor license for offering unlimited drinks to patrons, the bar's owners decided it would be a good idea to have about a dozen young women strip down to G-strings and pasties.
They then would get painted as panda bears, peacocks and zebras. Or something resembling a zebra.
“I was a white Siberian tiger” — not a zebra, one of the women quickly corrected prosecutors.
The kicker: Her job circulating among the patrons at Halo's “circus night'' was on a “volunteer basis.” The women's only compensation: free drinks and passes into the VIP area.
The burdens would far outweigh the benefits on this Labor Day weekend.
Brittany Ashline, 25, took the stand and broke down as she described the events leading up to the death of her longtime boyfriend, Wright.
A guy named Eric had recruited Ashline and some of the other dancers from the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen's Club in Carter Lake.
Tyler's attorney, Public Defender Tom Riley, asked what Spearmint Rhino was.
Riley: “It's a strip bar?”
Ashline: “It's a gentlemen's club.”
Riley: “OK. What does a gentleman do there?”
Ashline: “What do you mean?”
Riley: “You say it's a gentlemen's club. What do they do there?”
Ashline paused, incredulous.
“It's a strip club,” she conceded.
But the Spearmint dancers wouldn't be stripping on this night. The women already were stripped down and then painted over. Several dancers showed up at Halo the afternoon of Sept. 2 to get painted. An artist painted Ashline with black and white stripes.
That led most of the lawyers in the case to incorrectly declare that she had been painted as a zebra.
Ashline said it was a better paint job than her friend's. The Halo painter had sprayed the friend to look like a panda bear — a pink and black panda.
The friend was so unimpressed that she showered off the paint and went to the bar in her best negligee.
Ashline testified that she and the other women began working the Halo party about 8 p.m. In addition to the circus-themed animals, some women were painted as fairies, some were simply in nighties.
At one point, Riley asked if any men were wearing body paint.
“Uh, no,” one of the customers testified.
“What was the purpose of the body paint?” Riley asked.
“I don't really know,” said the customer, 26-year-old Laroy Rivers. “Maybe it's a perk so they can fantasize about these women.”
Rivers said he was there to meet up with his cousin, Wright, not to gawk at the women.
Rivers testified that he had never met Wright's girlfriend until he saw her that night, stripes and all.
Ashline and Wright had known each other for seven years and had lived together for three. Wright was known as a laid-back guy who worked a lot of hours at an O'Reilly's auto parts store. Ashline was a little more feisty.
That night, Rivers said, Ashline wasn't concerned that Wright was ogling any of the other body-painted models. She was upset that two young, fully clothed women were in Wright's extended group.
The couple, who had lived together for three years, bickered that night. Ashline acknowledged that she had yelled at Wright.
“Jealousy,” she said.
Ashline said Wright didn't yell back. He just walked away, as he was known to do when tensions escalated.
At one point, Ashline saw Wright and Rivers leaving the bar and she remembered: She had given her phone and car keys to Wright to store in his Chevy Blazer.
“I didn't have pockets,” she noted.
As she followed Wright and Rivers to the SUV, prosecutors allege, Tyler and a friend, Ron King, were walking toward Halo.
Ashline said one of them — prosecutors believe it was King — grabbed her buttocks.
Ashline spun in his direction.
“What the (expletive)?” she yelled.
At that, Wright hollered: “Hey, why'd you touch my girl?”
King apologized. And he and Rivers tried to quash things.
But Wright kept stepping toward Tyler and King.
Ashline said she shoved Wright four times in the chest, telling him to turn around and walk away.
Wright nudged her aside, she said, so Ashline stormed back toward Halo.
The rest was a blur.
Shoves — maybe swings — were exchanged. Wright and Tyler each started walking away, hollering something.
Rivers saw a dome light go on — prosecutors say it was Tyler going to his girlfriend's car to get his gun.
Rivers said he heard Tyler yelling something about a gang. Ashline said she thought Tyler was yelling something about “my 'hood.”
Eight shots rang out. Wright, who was running away, was hit in the back.
Ashline scrambled inside the bar and later caught a ride to nearby Lakeside Hospital.
There, she screamed at hospital staff, asking to see her boyfriend.
In an emergency room, Wright gasped a vague description of his shooter — “black male, tattoos” — to a police officer before he died.
Ashline wasn't allowed to see him. Nor was another friend, made up as a peacock.
“You never saw him again?” Riley asked.
Ashline's face wrenched at the question.
“No,” she said.
At that, she dropped her head and wept, tears streaking her mascara.