The Infectious Metalhead and His Dangerous Secret

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That spring a grand jury indicted Warren on four counts of Aggravated Assault on a Family Member with a Deadly Weapon, a first degree felony. Warren was arrested on a Saturday in June at The Rail Club, in front of his family, friends and band members. His bond was set at $5,000. A friend, Derrick "D-Rock" Walker, spoke with him not long after he bonded out. "I don't know, man," Warren told him. "It has something to do with someone named [Carol], but I don't know anyone by that name."

When Warren failed to appear at his first hearing, a new warrant was issued — only this time the bond was set at $10,000, which might as well have been a million dollars to someone who, according to court documents, spent the last five years earning $150 a month. That July, Warren was living in his mom's RV just outside of Azle and working odd jobs for people who lived in the RV park. For two weeks, his mother, Judy Helton, had seen the unmarked cars watching the small RV park. She told her neighbors, "Somebody's been watching us." They replied, "You're just being paranoid." Then one day, she was sitting in her car, talking to her son, when patrol cars swarmed her home. The police officers made her get out of the car as they arrested her son and left her standing in the middle of the dirt road as they took him away.


The last night Warren took the stage at The Rail Club in October 2013, no one knew it would be his final performance. He was decked out in metal glam, and his long, braided beard was still streaked with red dye as a tribute to Dimebag. He seemed in good spirits as he fell into the rhythm of his music.

Warren had tried to kill himself a year earlier, around the time of his first arrest, by overdosing on a mixture of alcohol and Xanax. Paramedics arrived in time to revive him, says friend Jennifer Norred. He told some of his friends that he didn't mean to do it; he'd just been partying too hard. But he told Norred, his former roommate, he'd tried to kill himself because he'd been fighting with Jordan, who had just discovered that he knowingly infected her and their unborn daughter with HIV.

Warren hadn't planned to tell anyone about his illness, but when Carol posted on Facebook that he was knowingly infecting women, he had no choice. According to bassist Jerry Galvan, Warren told everyone at a Labor Day barbecue party at Norred's house. "Yeah, it's true," he told them. "I've got HIV. I've been trying to keep it a secret, but it came out anyways." He didn't mention he was dying of AIDS. Galvan says Warren didn't tell anyone because he was afraid people were going to treat him differently. "But I just told him, 'Man, I've known you for 20 years, why would I treat you any different?'"

That night at the Rail Club, as he rushed across the stage, Warren seemed to have forgotten the way his life was quickly crumbling in on itself. His trial was fast approaching. Fantasy Ranch and other strip clubs were refusing him entry, and some of the rock clubs were following their lead. Rumors were spreading throughout the metal community. It was just a matter of time before the truth was fully revealed.

Two weeks after that last show, Helton says, Warren was drinking with a neighbor in the RV park when he fired a few shots at a target with the neighbor's gun. He was depressed, she says, because he wasn't practicing or playing gigs. He felt like his exes were bullying him, and he thought they were calling the clubs and spreading lies.

"I could see it happening," Helton says, "and I was just begging him to hang on, please."

The gunshots woke her.

She put on a coat and walked to the neighbor's house two doors down.

"Did y'all hear that?" she asked.

"No," they said.

"Donovan, you need to go on home."

She knew he shouldn't be drinking.

Warren wouldn't listen.

His mom went back to the RV and tried to sleep.

When he finally did come home, Warren climbed into his loft, shut the curtains, pulled out his cell phone and started recording. He looked up at the pictures taped to the ceiling, of his older daughter from a previous relationship, of family, of friends. He started recording them. He stopped at each and lingered for a moment, as if trying to lock the memory away. When he made it to the last one, the picture of his daughter, he turned his cell phone around. He wasn't wearing his usual bandanna, just a black hat turned sideways. His eyes looked sad, not angry. He started whispering.

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.