By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Police quickly arrested Randy Brown after a tip that found him napping outside an Oak Cliff car detail shop, then Larmond and Edwards, who'd holed up in a cheap motel north of downtown. Under police questioning, the three suspects immediately cracked and began implicating each other. In their rush to finger each other as triggermen, all of them made a huge tactical mistake: They placed themselves at the scene of the crime and admitted they took part in a robbery of drugs and money. Their confessions would be crucial pieces of evidence.
On the surface, the Dallas police investigation was going amazingly well. Behind the scenes, in the minds of the young survivors, fear was creeping in. Barronette and King were still at large, and police knew that more men had taken part in the attack, including a Jamaican who went by the street name "Soldier." He is mentioned repeatedly in Edwards' and Larmond's confessions, but none of the victims could attach a name or face to him. Somewhere out there, more suspects were lurking.
At some point, Covington, depressed and recovering from his head wound--which essentially gave him a bullet-induced lobotomy, Hudson says--had a change of heart. He stopped cooperating with police and the prosecutor assigned to the case, Keith Anderson. Something happened that seems to have put Covington in a squeeze. It could have been the "visitors." While he was still in the hospital in a supposedly secure area, the Jamaicans sent up some emissaries to threaten him, or so he told Anderson. LaTonya, who also says some of the Jamaicans' women tried to see her at Parkland and sent her a gift of stuffed animals, is certain the Jamaicans "got to" Covington.
Anderson, who worked hard to develop a rapport with Lizzie, LaTonya, Covington and Oudems and is now a county judge, practically shouts when the name Ken Covington first comes up. "Oh, boy, do I remember him," he says. "The one person in this mess I remember quite well. He cooperated with me fully initially. Then Robert Rose got a hold to him. Oh, God. When Robert got through with him, Ken didn't know nothing."
Robert M. Rose is a disgraced former criminal defense attorney who relinquished his law license in 1995 while facing discipline by the State Bar of Texas for a federal tax-evasion conviction. Rose represented bathtub suspect Phillip King, who was placed at the scene by one of the suspects, but, most important, had been picked out of a lineup by Covington. The state was forced to drop the murder charges against King and Christopher Barronette in November 1990 for lack of evidence. Anderson says Rose had persuaded Covington to sign a statement that King wasn't at the scene of the crime, and Anderson couldn't convict him, or anyone else, solely on the statements of a co-defendant. Anderson knew Covington was lying, and Covington knew that heknew. The teen simply said he was sorry.
When Covington recanted, Anderson knew he needed the Williams girls--his best remaining witnesses--to hold up under the pressure. Anderson instantly took a liking to the South Dallas girls and particularly appreciated LaTonya's keen mind. The first time he met her, in fact, LaTonya had played a joke on him. While Paul Wimer, Anderson's investigator, looked on poker-faced, LaTonya handed the prosecutor a bullet she'd found. Anderson picked it up, examining the hulking .45 slug, turning it in his fingers. Then LaTonya told him where it came from: "out my butt." Anderson shrieked and threw the bullet straight in the air, while LaTonya and Wimer laughed. The two hit it off: the wisecracking, street-tough witness and the down-home prosecutor who wouldn't give up on the bathtub case, despite the many challenges it posed. "I had more trouble with that case than you could shake a stick at," Anderson says. "You know what the facts were; it's hard for someone who's dealing drugs to admit what they're doing. It was a hard case. Really hard."
But now, LaTonya and Lizzie had decided to make themselves scarce. Terrified of retaliation, they'd run--in different directions.
As the trial date approached for the first defendant, Mark Uzi Larmond, a Jamaican drug dealer well-known to police, Anderson could hardly blame the girls. He'd tried to persuade them that his best shot at keeping them safe was getting the thugs off the street forever. "The girls were very nice," Anderson says. "They were just scared. I wouldn't lie to them. I told them it could be dangerous--things could happen. But if you don't testify against these people, they'll probably get you later on." Jamaican gangsters, in fact, had once put out a contract on Anderson's life.
The subpoenas went out anyway. And Anderson waited to see if any of his witnesses would dare to show up.
It's a part of Dallas you never knew was there, a thatch of dense woods east of the Cedar Crest Golf Course along Southerland Avenue. It's a favorite place for illegal dumpers, as the piles of dead tires and toilets attest.
If you scale the limestone ledge along the road and step down into the hollow, you're no longer visible from the street; surrounded by rock and trees, you could just as well be somewhere in East Texas. Other folks have obviously figured this out. In the brush you find an empty wallet, a gutted checkbook.
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