Longform

The Girl Who Played Dead

Page 5 of 16

The gangsters--one in a black ninja suit, others wearing towels wrapped loosely around their faces--kicked over furniture and demanded to know where the kids had hidden the money and drugs. One pistol-whipped Mahan until his face was covered with blood. Others yanked off Oudems' necklace and kicked him in the head. More gunmen milled around outside, distracting Pops, an old crackhead who stayed in a first-floor unit at the complex.

Inside the trap the kids cowered and Covington cried. But LaTonya looked boldly into the gunmen's faces. "What the hell?" she thought. "I'm gonna die anyway." One kid she recognized immediately was a boy she'd known from Lincoln High School, a South Dallas wannabe called "Money Mike." Her courage--or plain ornery nature, to hear her tell it--would later be a key to cracking the case.

No one knows how long the gunmen were there, but at some point the atmosphere shifted. The gangsters found the dope and money--chump change--and what started as a robbery turned to something else. By then, the pregnant woman and man, so eager to score a rock, had slipped out the door, never to be seen or heard from again.

One of the gangsters ordered the boys to strip naked and climb into the apartment bathtub, and Youngster got in first while a man armed with a pump-action shotgun guarded him. The other boys joined him later, butt naked and terrified. The girls were next: Lizzie did as she was told and pulled off her clothes, but LaTonya defiantly hung on to her bra and panties, fearing she'd be raped. They crouched beside each other, heads down, flesh against flesh.

One gunman turned on the faucet, and cool water started gushing into the tub; he might as well have cued up the scary music. Another stood beside him in front of the tub, weapon in hand, and Money Mike was in the bathroom doorway, LaTonya would later testify, one foot in, one foot out. Covington started chattering nervously, asking Money Mike if they were going to kill him. At one point, he addressed one of the gunmen as "Babyface."

"Kenneth, you remember that name you used?" the gunman shot back in a West Indian accent. "Don't ever use it again."

He fired a single shot. It blew out Covington's eye. LaTonya glanced over and saw an eyeball in his mouth.

Lizzie reacted instantly. She ducked on her knees, head to the floor, pretending she'd gone down with the first shot.

Just then, LaTonya says, Money Mike shot her. Her arm jerked up and back, she says, like it had been blown from her body. She yanked it back and was holding it with her teeth when the room blew up in light and sound. Someone sprayed the tub with semiautomatic gunfire. LaTonya passed out.

The kids' recollections are fragmented after that. One remembers hearing the gunmen talk about leaving by the back stairs; moments afterward, Oudems, shot four times in his leg, arm and side, pulled himself out of the tub and staggered down the apartment hallway, leaving streaks of blood. He stumbled down the outside stairs and sprawled on his face on the sidewalk. Youngster lay there, bleeding profusely, when he saw a man's feet beside him. "Oh, man, no," he heard the man say, and he recognized the voice. It was Junior, his Jamaican boss.

"Help me, help me," Youngster groaned.

Junior rushed up the stairs to the apartment, gun in hand, looked inside and ran back down. When he heard sirens in the distance, he tore out of there and left the boy, who nearly bled to death.

The cops who arrived at Cleveland Street just minutes later would call it one of the bloodiest crime scenes they'd ever seen, like an "assassination." One officer would testify that paramedics were pulling out the naked body of a girl covered in blood. He figured that was it; then someone shouted, "There's more!"

By then, the water had overflowed and left a bloody residue on the tile floor. The drain was clogged with bullets and bits of flesh. Covington was still in the tub, critically wounded in the head.

And Juniores Ray Mahan was dead.

Fear

Word filtered out on the street, passing from dope fiend to drifter until it reached clear across South Dallas to Elihu Street, where Daryl Oudems' father, a user himself, was hanging outside with some buddies. Out of the darkness came some crackheads with horror in their eyes. "You hear what happened on Cleveland? Man, they did a bloodbath. They put these young kids in a bathtub and shot 'em."

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons