The Girl Who Played Dead

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Still, it would take several days and fingerprint analysis to determine that the body was that of 20-year-old Kenneth Covington. His lean frame suggested he'd started using his own product; with that as a given, anything can happen. The murder has never been solved.

At the same time police were puzzling over the identity of the young man in the woods, Keith Anderson stood at the foot of a mountain, one he had to climb with the shakiest crew imaginable. He had to rely on his young, scared witnesses to demonstrate uncommon courage in the moment of testing; he had to transport the jury to their alien planet, a place where sweet 16s hang out in crack houses. It was Anderson's job to demystify South Dallas.

The challenge only got bigger on January 15, the first day of Mark Larmond's trial. Lizzie was there; so was Oudems, but what he'd say from the stand was anyone's guess. But there was no Covington--Anderson didn't know one of his witnesses was already dead--and, worst of all, no LaTonya Williams. That was potentially devastating: LaTonya was the only witness who could identify Larmond in a police lineup.

It is remarkable to consider what Anderson accomplished in obtaining the convictions of Larmond, Edwards and Brown in quick succession. In Larmond's and Brown's trials, the juries were presented with an oft-confusing stew of testimony from police, experts and most of all the eyewitnesses, who tried to freeze-frame and dissect the most terrifying moment of their lives.

Anderson's opening statement in the Larmond trial indicated he knew this could come out any which way. "You'll have to wait and see what they say when they get up there," he said of his witnesses. "It's a different world you're going to hear about, an entirely different world than you're used to. I guarantee you."

In Larmond's trial, neither Lizzie nor Oudems could testify that Larmond fired a shot. LaTonya, of course, didn't testify. Anderson melted down his argument to a single sentence in closing:

"I can't tell you who pulled the trigger, but I don't care. He's dangerous."

The jury took only 30 minutes to find Larmond guilty of murder, then slapped him with 99 years. They were clear about one thing: They never wanted to see this man again.

Two months later, Edwards was set for a jury trial, and once again, the chief witness, LaTonya Williams, didn't show up. Her testimony was crucial. She had seen Money Mike shoot her, the only clear identification of a specific triggerman in the three cases. (The prosecution never established for certain who fired the first shot at Covington, though the witnesses' descriptions of the gunman pointed to either Brown or Larmond.) Anderson negotiated a plea bargain with Edwards for 25 years, and Edwards agreed to testify against Brown, the man in the black ninja suit.

One intriguing bit of information came up while Edwards was in court, according to a 1991 story in The Dallas Morning News. Edwards testified that Gregory Allen, whom he identified as the mysterious Soldier, had told him in jail that he was going to arrange a hit on Covington and the other bathtub witnesses. Allen was in jail in connection with the 1988 murder of a man named Orville McLean; the charge was later dropped when the sole eyewitness refused to testify.

Edwards' morsel of information sent the police scrambling for a while, but they were never able to identify a suspect in Covington's murder.

By the time Randy Trouble Brown was set for trial in May, Anderson resorted to extreme measures to get his best witness in the courtroom. One day, police called LaTonya downtown, supposedly to look at more lineups. Instead, they arrested her and threw her in jail for contempt of court.

LaTonya testified with a vengeance, offering the clearest picture of who was in the bathroom when the shots were fired. Her testimony pointed straight to Brown, though Lizzie and Oudems were less clear on the suspects' clothing, nicknames and weapons. Lizzie testified that Covington had called Brown "Babyface," but Brown looked anything but. He'd been in a police chase in 1989 that wrecked out, seriously injuring him. He'd broken his jaw in seven places, his nose in five and had nearly lost an eye. Now his features were twisted into a screwface, and a large scar ran across his scalp from ear to ear.

Anderson said he sure "looks like Trouble," not Babyface, and he hopped over the conflicting testimony in his closing argument. "You saw these kids," he said. "They're not rocket scientists. They just tried to tell you what happened that day. I'm sorry that everything's all messed up...That's the way it happened. It's not like Mission Impossible."

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons