Homicide A Year On The Killing Streets

June 09, 1991|By DAVID SIMON | DAVID SIMON,From the book "Homicide" by David Simon, published by Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, copyright 1991 by David Simon. Reprinted by permission.



No witnesses, no motive, and a forty-year-old woman stabbed, stabbed some more, and then, it would seem, shot once in the head at close range. At least, Rich Garvey tells himself, she's dead in a house. A decent crime scene.

Wilson, the lab tech, stops flashing pictures long enough to reload his camera, and Garvey uses the respite to walk through the bedroom one more time, running through the mental lists. You can almost hear file cards turning inside his head.

"Hey, where's your buddy?" Wilson asks.

The detective looks up, distracted. "Who's my buddy?"

"You know, your partner, McAllister."

"He's off tonight."

"Left you all alone, huh?"

"That's right, stick ol' Garvo with the tough ones . . . You got a shot of the clothes, right here by the door?"

"I took a few."

Garvey nods.

Charlene Lucas was found by a neighbor, a middle-aged man who lives in an upstairs apartment and, on leaving for work at 5 a.m., noticed that the door to Lena's apartment was ajar. When he came back from work just after 4 p.m., the door to the second-floor apartment was still open. Calling Charlene Lucas' name, he wandered far enough into the back bedroom to see the woman's legs stretched across the floor.

The paramedics pronounced her dead at 4:40 p.m., and Garvey pulled up on Gilmor Street fifteen minutes later. The scene was secure, with the Western uniforms keeping everyone but the other residents outside the red-brick building. The three-story rowhouse had been recently renovated into a cluster of small, one-bedroom apartments, and from all appearances, the contractor had done a respectable job. Nestled in one of the more ragged west side sections, the building in which Lena Lucas lived could only be called a credit to the neighborhood.

Making his way up to the second-floor landing, Garvey notes right away that there is no sign of forced entry, either at the front door or at the door of the victim's apartment. In both the living room and back bedroom, the windows are secure.

Lena Lucas is on her back, centered in a pool of coagulated blood that has stained the beige carpeting in a wide, even circle. Her eyes are closed, her mouth is parted slightly and, except for a pair of white panties, she is nude. The blood pool suggests that there are serious wounds to the back, but Garvey also notices matted blood around the left ear, a possible gunshot wound. The woman's face is further marred by perhaps a dozen shallow cuts -- some of them little more than scratches.

Head north, feet south, the body rests just beneath the side of a double bed in the cramped rear room. On the floor near the bedroom door are the rest of the victim's clothes, and Garvey notes that they are nested in a small pile, as if she had undressed from a standing position, leaving the garments at her feet.

Lena Lucas had no problem taking her clothes off in front of her killer, Garvey reasons. And if she had undressed before the murderer's arrival, she had apparently opened her apartment door without bothering to put anything on.

The bedroom itself, as well as the rest of the apartment, is largely intact. Only a metal dressing locker has been ransacked, its doors flung wide and a handful of garments and purses dumped on the floor. In one corner of the room, a bag of uncooked rice has been broken and strewn across the carpet; near the rice lies a small amount of white powder, probably cocaine, and about 100 empty gelatin capsules. This makes sense to Garvey; uncooked rice retains moisture and is often packed with cocaine to prevent the powder from crystallizing. Two marijuana cigarettes are also visible on a dresser.

Garvey examines the wooden headboard of the bed. Near the corner closest to the victim's head is a series of vertical, jagged scratches, fresh damage that is consistent with the downward thrusts of a sharp edge. There is also a small amount of blood spatter near that corner of the bedsheet, and, on the floor near the bed, lies a kitchen knife with a broken blade.

Theory: The woman was lying on her back in bed, head north, when the knife attack began. The killer struck at her from directly above, with his wayward thrusts damaging the headboard. Either from the force of the attack or from her own efforts to escape, the victim rolled off the side of the bed and onto the floor.

Near the dead woman's head are a pillow and pillow case punctured by a single hole and blackened with what looks like gunpowder residue. It isn't until the M.E.'s people arrive to roll the body that Garvey finds the small, irregular lump of dull gray metal, surrounded on the beige carpet by a small amount of blood spatter where the victim's head had come to rest. The coup de grace was no doubt delivered with the victim prone on the bedroom floor.

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