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Authors: Fred Rosen

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BOOK: Gang Mom
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Though there wasn’t a lot of blood on Aaron’s face, she wanted to use the towels to put pressure on the head wound.

“Hello, this is 911.”

“Yes, I need, ugh, help, an ambulance,” Janyce shouted, continuing to apply pressure to the wound. She cradled Aaron in her arms with one hand, while trying to support him with the other. It was a struggle just to keep his 230-pound, six-foot-five body from sagging to the floor.

The 911 operator, working out of Public Safety’s Central Lane County Communication Center, listened as Janyce described the head injury, then ordered Janyce to “get him on his back.” Aaron was on his side. Janyce’s hands were still preoccupied stemming the blood flow, so she used her legs to flip her son over. That’s when she saw the wound on the other side of his head. That made two, front and back, where someone smashed his head in, Janyce thought.

“Keep the kids out of here! Keep them out of here!” she screamed at Tina. It was a strange scene, everyone running around wildly like Europeans at a soccer match, Aaron lying on the floor with a serious expression on his unblemished face while a pool of blood formed around his head in a sort of halo that seeped out farther and farther until it reached the vestibule of the doorway. Janyce picked up the phone. The 911 operator was still there.

“Where are you?” the operator asked calmly.

“We’re in a panhandle, we’re in a panhandle!” she kept repeating into the phone, and then gave the address. “You can’t see our house from the street, you know, but the address is out there,” Janyce continued, growing hysterical.

Aaron’s head lolled to the side and Janyce picked it back up, trying to keep his airway open. Putting her other hand on the wall for balance, she continued to apply pressure to the head wounds. She paused for a second and listened. Thank God he was still breathing.

“What’s your address?”

On the other end of the line, Janyce could hear the operator typing into her computer.

“1310 Rutledge Street.”

“Okay, an ambulance is on the way.”

It seemed like an eternity, but finally, Janyce heard the sounds of sirens approaching. The ambulance pulled into the driveway and she could hear a door being opened, a stretcher being wheeled out and in between, the talk of cops who had arrived on the scene and the static and crackle of their CB radios.

The paramedics pushed Janyce out of the way, and began working on Aaron. Uniformed cops, prompted by the 911 report, flooded into the house. Once he was stabilized, the paramedics loaded Aaron onto the gurney. By then, Carrie was still in the living room in a state of shock, the kids were in the kitchen wondering what was going on and Janyce was ready to hop in the ambulance with Aaron. As she started out with her son, a plainclothes cop, who had recently arrived on the scene, stopped her.

“But I’m going to the hospital with my son,” Janyce protested.

“I don’t think so,” said the cop. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“What do you mean? That’s my son! Somebody bashed him in the head.”

The cop looked sad. He looked around and saw the kids. “Why don’t you go into the kitchen with your kids?” he suggested in a gentle but firm tone. Somewhat confused, Janyce went into the kitchen, catching the barest of glances as Aaron’s ambulance sped off for Sacred Heart Hospital. The ambulance siren receded into the distance.

What the hell am I waiting for
? Janyce thought.
Why are they making me wait
?

It seemed to Janyce that she was kept in the kitchen for a long time. There was a cop posted at every door of the house, and two or three were always with her in the kitchen. Sometimes, the cops thought they heard some noise outside, and one of them always went to check it out. Each time they came back and said, “Nothing,” sounding disappointed.

What was actually happening, though Janyce didn’t know it at the time, was that the cops were securing the crime scene and hoping that whoever had hurt Aaron might be coming back for something they had left. Such things did happen, though rarely.

Janyce looked down at her hands and suddenly discovered that they were covered with Aaron’s blood. In all the excitement, she had forgotten about that. She went over to the sink to wash it off. She turned the faucet on, fiddled with the hot and cold water, and was just about to plunge her hands in when one of the cops yelled, “Stop!”

No one, least of all police officers, wanted someone to be killed just so that they could solve the case. But they were prone to boredom just as much as the next guy. A year could go by in law enforcement without anything really interesting happening. Oh, there’d be an occasional homicide, a crime of passion where a husband killed his wife for cheating on him, or vice versa, nothing some rookie couldn’t solve, and then
Kaboom
! There’d be a case that tried everything in you and you were right back in it again.

In the Eugene Department of Public Safety, there were four trial teams that worked homicides. Jim Michaud was a trial team leader. In short, that meant that when his number was punched, he had a murder to solve. So when his beeper awoke Michaud out of a sound sleep, the best he could hope for was a case really worth getting out of a warm, comfortable bed for.

He pulled his lanky body up, reached for the beeper, looked at the number on the LCD, picked up the phone beside the bed and dialed. After a moment, someone answered.

“Michaud here,” he said in a flat, nasal twang. Listening, he nodded a few times. Next to him, Paula slept soundly. She had been through this before.

“Yes, I know where it is,” he said into the receiver, then hung up.

In the decade prior to the Iturra murder, some believed that the power and ability of the Eugene Police Department to do their jobs had been compromised by a string of city managers who had de-emphasized the department’s role in maintaining public safety. Perhaps it was the liberal leanings of the town that had brought the changes on. Whatever it was, cops on the street no longer felt that they had the support of their bosses.

Lately, the Chief had been floating a new plan around. The idea was to take experienced investigators like Michaud and rotate them back to uniform. This way, everybody got a chance to move up the ranks, and seasoned veterans got to go out on the street again. Never mind that inexperienced officers would just muck up a crime scene. Michaud had found that logic had nothing to do with the decisions the brass made.

By the time Michaud arrived at the crime scene in his 1993 Ford Taurus, it was threatening rain. Still, Michaud never wore a rain coat or carried an umbrella. He figured it was bad luck.

Jim Michaud strode through the crowd of cops and medical personnel who were milling around out in front of the house. With his tall, rangy good looks and confident stride, he looked like a professional athlete, instead of what he really was: a senior detective in the Violent Crimes Squad of the Eugene Department of Public Safety.

“Hi, Steve,” he said to Steve Skelton, the d.a.’s man.

“Jim,” Skelton nodded.

Skelton, an assistant district attorney, was there to provide support if the detectives had any legal questions regarding removal of evidence, interviewing subjects or anything else that might have a legal bearing on the case.

“Hey, Les, what have we got?” Detective Michaud asked his partner Les Rainey.

“A kid was shot. Execution style. One to the head. Looks like a forty-five,” said the detective, consulting his notebook. “He’s not expected to make it through the night. Mother’s in the kitchen. She’s pretty upset about the gunpowder test.”

Before he went in to talk to the mother, Michaud entered the garage bedroom and looked at the crime scene. There was a pool of blood on the bed where the victim was shot down, with spattering on the walls. A crime-scene photographer stood off to the side taking shots of the room from various angles.

It used to be that the Eugene Police Department sent their crime-scene shots out to local Pacific Photo for developing. Lately, a police lab had been established to do the work, which in Michaud’s opinion was unfortunate, because Pacific Photo had done a better job.

“Have you found the bullet?” Michaud asked one of the crime-scene technicians who was examining the blood spatter on the walls.

“Not yet,” he muttered.

“Keep looking.”

He found Janyce seated in the kitchen. After Michaud introduced himself, she peppered him with questions.

Why did they keep her at the house? Why did they stop her from visiting her son? And why did she have to take that test? Michaud shot a look at the other cops at the scene, who wouldn’t meet his gaze.

“Oh, my God, you don’t know yet,” Michaud muttered.

“What?”

He took her outside to his car and sat her down.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you, but Aaron was shot …”

“What are you talking about?” Janyce asked innocently, almost defensively. “He had a gash over his eye.”

“Well, I hate to tell you this, but Aaron was shot in the back of the head.”

“So what was the wound on top of the head, on the forehead?”

“That’s the exit wound. The place where the bullet came out.”

“No way. No way. There’s no way! You can’t tell me that!” Janyce shouted.

“I have to tell you this. We’ve gotten a report from the hospital and it says he’s still alive. But, I don’t think there’s much of a chance.”

“Who would do this? Why would they do this?” Janyce asked, sinking into numb grief.

“We don’t know. What happened?”

“Well, I—I was basically sleeping and I didn’t hear no gunshot or anything, didn’t hear no people or anything. Then I thought I heard the TV, got up, walked through the house and wound up in Aaron’s room. You know the rest.”

“Do you know anyone who would want your son dead, Mrs. Iturra?”

“No way!” Janyce repeated. “And how come they won’t let me wash my hands?”

“We need to test them for gunpowder. It’s routine in cases like this. Everyone in a house where a shooting takes place gets their hands tested for gunpowder residue.”

“There’s no way.” Janyce firmly shook her head. “You can test me but you are not gonna do my children. They have nothing to do with this.”

At that point, the technician who was going to administer the gunpowder tests arrived. After a briefing by Michaud, she began testing Janyce and her kids. As ridiculous as the thought of her or her kids shooting Aaron was, Janyce knew no point would be gained by arguing with the cops. Best to take the test and get it over with. When no trace of gunpowder showed up on her hands, Janyce felt momentarily smug.

“See, I told you,” she said.

“It’s just procedure,” Michaud answered sympathetically.

“Now please let me go to the hospital,” Janyce continued, looking at the kitchen clock that said 4 a.m.

“Best to wait until the representative from Victims Services arrives,” said Michaud.

Victims Services is a relatively new type of agency in law enforcement departments nationwide. They function as compassionate advocates for victims and their families, simultaneously helping them negotiate the treacherous waters of grief on one shore and the court system on the other.

Michaud didn’t want to take any chance that Janyce wasn’t telling the whole truth, that she might really know who had killed her son and go after them. He doubted it, but in his line of work, you learned that anyone was capable of murder with the right kind of provocation. Best to play this situation by the book.

At the same moment Jim Michaud was telling Janyce Iturra the grim news, Joe Brown stood at a secluded spot outside of Eugene on the banks of the Willamette River. Behind him was a station wagon, with its headlights on, illuminating the river. In front of him was raging white water, flashing in a quick torrent over rocks in the river bed. To his right, in the encroaching darkness, he just barely made out the dark forms of trees that lined the banks. To his left was a little island that had formed in the river where the water table had gotten too low. It was a perfect place for concealment. Dark, silent, alone.

Brown reached in his pocket and came out with the crumpled pack of cigarettes he had taken from the girl’s pocketbook. He shook one out and lit it, savoring the smoke going into his lungs, calming him down. Then quickly, he emptied the revolver of the remaining five bullets. Reeling back his arm, he threw them out as far as he could. He didn’t make the rapids.

The bullets sailed out into the water about fifty feet from the bank and fell into shallow water. Still, that was okay; the river bottom was brown. They’d just blend in. So would the gun, which he tossed in a moment later. It sank rapidly into the silt.

There. Over and done with like nothing had happened.

Joe Brown turned sharply and walked back to the car. He got in and closed the door. The wagon backed up and turned onto a ribbon of concrete that paralleled the river. They drove for a while, then turned down a side street, stopping to rest in front of Brown’s home. He got out, then leaned back in the open window and said to the driver, “See you tomorrow, Moms.”

The woman he had called “Moms” watched as he ran up the driveway and disappeared inside.

Lisa Fentress awakened from her marijuana-induced sleep to the sound of her phone ringing.

Who was that
? she wondered.

She couldn’t be sure, and she didn’t care. She liked where she was, half asleep and half awake. Didn’t have to deal with anything. Didn’t have to see anyone. Didn’t have to have any responsibility for what she’d done. Maybe, if she tried, she could make the phone go away.

After a while, the phone stopped ringing and Lisa floated back into cannabis dreams.

At 5 a.m., Lisa awoke when her pager went off. She dialed the number on the digital display.

“Aaron was taken care of,” said the voice on the other end of the line.

THREE

At 7 a.m., Heather Parr, the woman from Victims Services, finally showed up. She had come from home, where she left her sleeping daughter.

As angry as Janyce was that they had to wait, she had to admit that Aaron’s shooting had so shaken her up, she didn’t know if she would have had the wherewithal to drive herself and the kids to the hospital.

BOOK: Gang Mom
10.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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