Longform

Bad trip

Page 4 of 10

Bryan Embry, one of the two kids who were with Malina when he died, told police that drugs were more readily available at these weekly Plano parties than at college. The party host, in turn, told police that Milan and some others were "haranguing" Chris Cooper to get them chiva, a blend of heroin and antihistamines that is snorted or injected. Rocky Battista said he overheard Cooper saying he was "out of it and had none on his person, but he would make some phone calls and try to hook some deals up."

Eventually, the party shut down, and Cooper drifted over to Battista's, where Milan and another addict were. At that point, Cooper says, he agreed to take them to his supplier, a Plano grad in his mid-20s who dealt to support his own addiction. Police reports say that the other kid gave Cooper the money and that Cooper turned the heroin over to Malina and his friend. Cooper made nothing on the transaction and went home without sampling the drugs.

"I was trying to quit," he recalls. "And I knew if I went back [to Battista's], I'd end up doing it. We had a long talk about it, and Milan knew what I was trying to do. He said, 'I'm proud of you for trying to stay clean.'"

Milan and the other kid returned to Battista's, where they did some more chiva, then passed out. From there, the tale gets vague. The other kid, who told police he remembers little of that night, woke up at 7 a.m. and ran home. Battista and Embry said they tried to wake Milan several times that morning, and both apparently knew he was in trouble, since they took his pulse, attempted to administer his asthma medication, and even held a mirrored coaster to his nose and mouth to see whether he was breathing. (They got the idea, Embry told police, from watching Pulp Fiction.) They went back to bed, and when they finally awoke at 1 p.m., they "noticed a chunky yellow substance oozing out of the mouth of Milan," police reported. Noting that his "appendages were very cold," they rifled his pockets. The two told police that was when they discovered the chiva, which they flushed down the toilet before heading for the hospital.

A few days later, police tried to interview Chris Cooper over the telephone.
"I said, 'I'd like to help you, but I really can't answer any questions without an attorney," Cooper says. He also told them he "felt guilty" about having to protect himself when a friend had died. "That was the last I heard from them for five or six months," he says.

When they got to Columbia Medical Center, George and Joanne Malina were escorted in to see their son's body. They recall that the Plano Police Department was with them the whole time, guiding the grieving family. "They were totally prepared," marvels George Malina. "They had a preacher there in uniform, under the employ of the Plano police...They make sure they are the vent for the parents, so it never gets out of hand." Malina shakes his head. "And I know when I'm being handled. I was handled by the best, and taught how to handle [other] people, because it had to stand up in court."

Although the Plano police didn't know it, George Malina is a former FBI informant.

"About 20 years ago," Malina explains,
"I was indicted. For extortion, money laundering, that sort of thing. I beat the charge," he says.

In 1990, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York indicted Malina again, this time for possession of stolen securities. Rather than fight the government this time, he became an undercover informant. (Federal authorities confirm that Malina was an informant working on a range of cases, from illegal arms deals to credit-card fraud, but they declined to provide any details.)

At the time of Milan's death, Malina knew little about heroin or addiction. What he knew was that his son was dead and his family devastated. A short, dark bulldog of a man, Malina recalls his first response: Somebody should pay. He badgered Plano police, who, in his view, were being less than aggressive in the pursuit of his son's killers.

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Christine Biederman