Longform

The Girl Who Played Dead

Page 6 of 16

Jimmy Oudems instinctively thought about his son. He'd arrived at home in a cab earlier that evening, ran inside and took a shower, then handed his father a $10 bill: "Here, Daddy." Then he jumped in the cab and was gone again.

His mother found out first: That's my Daryl. "She was so tore up," Jimmy Oudems says. "She fell on her knees, went to praying. We both went to praying and crying."

Meanwhile, at Dallas' biggest trauma center, three teen-agers were fighting for their lives. Daryl Oudems was at Parkland Memorial Hospital, with doctors trying to stanch the blood flowing from an artery in his thigh.

Covington was also there; a bullet had plowed through his brain. LaTonya Williams was immediately ushered into surgery. She'd been literally shot full of holes, suffering 10 or 11 bullet wounds, just about everywhere but her head and heart. For a while, the police didn't know if the kids would pull through.

A few days later, they were still hanging on. Sergeant Hudson remembers his first words to LaTonya: "I can't believe you're still alive." He came to the hospital on June 5 to show her lineups of suspects in the shooting. Williams had another surprise: Even though she was groggy and in pain, she was able to pick out four men from some 30 photos Hudson showed her. Since her arm was in a cast, Williams signed "Tonya" in chicken scrawl on the back of each photo she recognized. In another room, Covington picked out three men.

Daryl Oudems, however, wouldn't even look at the photos. He knew the rules of the street, and he was appropriately terrified. He'd later explain in court why he didn't cooperate: "Because I didn't want to get shot no more."

Lizzie Williams, though unhurt, didn't recognize any of the gunmen's faces except Money Mike.

Still, Hudson had solid IDs on five suspects, all of whom had been in trouble with the law before. After the shooting, in fact, Dallas police had been flooded with information. People in South Dallas were sick of the violence and, in a trend that cut squarely against the stereotype, phoned in numerous bits of information, Hudson says. On June 7, he released the names and photos of five suspects: Mark Anthony Larmond, 19, known by the street name "Uzi"; Randy Shawn Brown, 19, who used his dancehall DJ stage name, "Trouble" (short for "Trouble Ranking"); Michael Charles Edwards, 19, better known as Money Mike; Christopher Barronette, 20, who had several aliases; and a man with a distinctive burn scar on his throat, Phillip King, 21. All except Money Mike were natives of Jamaica. Each was indicted for Mahan's murder.

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."

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons