Finding Lena Lucas' killer: search and interrogation

June 10, 1991|By David Simon


In an excerpt in the Sun Magazine yesterday, Baltimore homicide detective Rich Garvey was working on the murder of Lena Lucas, a 40-year-old woman found shot and stabbed in her westside rowhouse. Ballistics matched the crime to the similar slaying of Purnell Booker, an older man found dead the same evening in his home blocks away.

Two possible suspects emerge: Robert Frazier, the victim's cocaine-dealing boyfriend, and Vincent Booker, who has been selling drugs for Frazier and is Purnell Booker's son. In an interview with detectives, Frazier has offered his alibi for the night of Lucas' murder and suggested that Vincent Booker is the guilty man.

Now, more than a week later, Garvey prepares to confront the younger Booker.


Perhaps it's the job, perhaps it's the metallic squawk of the broadcast itself, but the speaking voice of the average police dispatcher falls somewhere between tedium and slow death. In Baltimore, at least, the world will not end with a bang, but with the weary, distracted droning of a 47-year-old civil servant, who will ask a patrol unit for the 10-20 on that mushroom cloud, then assign the incident a seven-digit complaint number.

Rich Garvey keys the mike again.

"Yeah, we're in your district, and we're gonna need two uniform for a paper," says Garvey, "and also a D.E.U. at Calhoun and . . . ah . . . Lexington."

"10-4. When do you need them?"

Unbelievable. Garvey suppresses an impulse to ask if th weekend after Labor Day is convenient for everyone involved.

"We need them as soon as possible."

"10-4. What's your 10-20 again?"

"Calhoun and Lexington."


Garvey returns the radio mike to its metal retainer and settle back into the driver's seat. He slips a pair of wide-framed eyeglasses down the bridge of his nose, then begins rubbing his dark brown eyes withthumb and forefinger. The glasses are an incongruous accessory. Without them, Garvey looks like a Baltimore cop; wearing them, he looks for all the world like the proper businessman his father wanted him to be. Except for the small lump that a .38 revolver produces on the back of one hip, the man fairly reeks of sales manager or, on a day when his blue pinstripe suit has been deployed, vice president for marketing. This image would shatter, of course, at the same moment Mr. Clean opens his mouth and emits the usual station house effluence. For Garvey, as for nearly all of the detectives in the unit, obscenities roll off the tongue in that practiced cadence that becomes, against a backdrop of violence and despair, a kind of strange poetry.

"Where are these m- - - - - - - - - - - - uniforms," Garvey says replacing his glasses and looking in both directions on Calhoun. "I don't want to spend all f- - - - - - day hitting this house."

"Sounded like you f- - - - - - had to wake that goddamn dispatche up," Donald Kincaid says from the passenger seat. "Now he's trying to wake up some other poor m- - - - - - - - - - -."

"Well," says Garvey, "a good police officer is never cold, tired hungry or wet."

The Patrolman's Creed. Kincaid laughs, then jerks open th passenger door and pushes himself up and out to stretch his legs on the sidewalk. Two more minutes pass before one radio car, then another, then a third, pull behind the Cavalier. Three uniforms gather on the corner, conferring briefly with the detectives.

"Anybody here know where your D.E.U. is today?" asks Garvey. It would help to have the district drug enforcement unit around in the event the raid produces dope, for the simple, selfish reason that submitting narcotics to evidence control, even in small quantities, is a pain-in-the-ass process.

"Dispatch said they won't be available," says one officer, the firs to arrive at the intersection. "Not for an hour or so."

"F- - - it then," says Garvey. "But that means somebody here is going to have to submit whatever drugs we find in there."

"So let's not find any," says the first officer's side partner.

"Well, I wanna take it if it's there, just to have something on the guy," says Garvey. "Normally, I wouldn't care. . . ."

"I'll take the dope," says the second patrolman. "I gotta run by headquarters anyway."

"You're a gentleman and a scholar," says a third uniform, smiling. don't care what them other guys say about you."

"Which house is it?" asks the first officer.

"Fifth house in. North side of the street."


"Yeah . . . one family in there. Mother, daughter and a young boy named Vincent. He's the only one we might have to worry about."

"Is he getting locked up?"

"No, but if he's there, he's going downtown. We're here for search and seizure."


"Which one of you is taking the back of the house?" Garvey asks.

"I got the back."

"OK, then you two go in the front with us."


"Let's do it."

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