With prodding, detectives subdue a witness and make their arrest

June 11, 1991|By David Simon


In an excerpt from the book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," published in yesterday's Sun, Baltimore homicide detectives Rich Garvey and Donald Kincaid were investigating the murder of Lena Lucas, a 40-year-old woman found shot and stabbed in her westside row house.

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 suspects have emerged: Robert Frazier, the victim's cocaine-dealing boyfriend, and Vincent Booker, who has been sellingdrugs for Frazier and is Purnell Booker's son. In an interview with detectives, Frazier offered an alibi for the murder and suggested that Vincent Booker probably was the killer.

But the alibi hasn't held up, and an eyewitness has come forward to say she saw Frazier with Lena Lucas on the night of the murder.

Garvey and Kincaid respond by picking up Vincent Booker, searching his room and hauling him downtown.

Their interrogation continues:

... Vincent Booker waits for the second round with his back against the near wall, his hands cupped in thefolds of his sweat shirt. Kincaid takes the far seat, facing the kid. Garvey sits between the two, closer to Vincent's end of the table.

"Son, lemme tell you something," says Garvey, in a tone that suggests the interrogation is already over. "You have one shot here. You can tell us what you know about these murders and we'll see what we can do. I know you're involved in some way, but I don't know how much and the thing for you to think about is whether you want to become a witness or a defendant."

Vincent says nothing.

"Are you listening to me, Vincent? You better start thinking about every f - - - - - - thing I'm saying here because a lot of shit is going to be coming down."


"Are you worried about Frazier? Listen to me, son, you better start worrying about yourself. Frazier's been in here already. He's trying to f - - - you. He's telling us about you."

That gets it. Vincent looks up. "What's Frazier sayin'?" he asks.

"What did you think?" says Kincaid. "He's trying to put you in for these murders."

"I didn't . . . "

"Vincent, I don't believe this m - - - - - - - - - - - Frazier," says Garvey. "Even if you're involved in one or the other, I don't believe you killed your father."

Garvey pushes his chair closer to Vincent's corner of the room anddrops his voice to little more than a whisper. "Look, son, I'm just trying to give you a chance on this. But you've got to tell us the truth now and we'll see what we can do with that. You can be at the defense table, or you can be on the prosecution side. That's what we can do. . . . We do a few favors now and then and we're doing you one right now. Are you smart enough to see that?"

Probably not, thinks Garvey. And so the two detectives begin to lay it out to young Vincent Booker. They remind him that his father and Lena were both shot with the same kind of ammunition, that both murder scenes are identical. They explain that right now, he's the only suspect who was known to both victims. After all, they ask him, what was your father to Robert Frazier?

At this, the boy looks up, puzzled, and Garvey stops talking long enough to reduce this abstraction to paper. On the back of a lined statement sheet, the detective draws one circle on the left hand side of the page, then writes the name "Lena" inside the circle. On the right-hand side of the page, Garvey draws a second circle with the name "Purnell Booker" written inside. Then, Garvey draws a third circle in between the two, with its arc intersecting the circles of the two victims. Inside that third circle, he writes, "Vincent."

It's a crude little creation, something any algebra teacher would know as a Venn Diagram, but it gets Garvey's point across.

"This is our case. Look at it," he says, pushing the sheet in front of the boy. "Lena and your father are killed by the same gun and right now the only person who has any connection to both of the victims is Vincent Booker. You're right in the f - - - - - - middle of this thing. You think about that."

Vincent says nothing and the two detectives leave the room long enough to allow the geometry to sink in. Garvey lights a cigarette and watches through the one-way window in the interrogation room door as Vincent holds the crudely drawn diagram to his face and traces the three circles with his finger. Garvey shakes his head, watching Vincent turn the sheet with the diagram upside down, then right side up, then upside down again.

"Lookit this f - - - - - - Einstein in here, will you?" he says to Kincaid. "He's about the dumbest m - - - - - - - - - - - I ever seen."

"You ready?" says Kincaid.

"Yeah. Let's do it."

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