Sunday, April 12, 2009

Case Notes: Dead Meth Head

Dead Meth Head

There is video of the police officers approaching the parked Cadillac under the streetlight.

There is footage of the police officers discussing how to get into the trunk.

The camera holds, then someone enters frame with a crowbar and the officers do something to the lock that you can’t see because they block the camera’s view with their bodies.

There is footage of them opening the Cadillac trunk. And then everything stops for a few heartbeats while the officers fathom individually what they are collectively seeing.

Within seconds, all heads move forward, then shoulders hunch as upper bodies move towards the car’s trunk in the synchronistic dance cops do when taking a closer collective look on a crime scene.

What the video doesn’t have is sound.
So you can’t hear them discussing what they found.
What you see is the camera zooming in on a foot dangling out the carpet with a Nike shoe on it.

They found Jess.
He was 24 years old, wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the truck of old Cadillac. And though nearly a year dead, he was my new client. His two sisters hired me to bring Jason’s true killers to justice.

The thing is, the policed knew who killed Jess. It was his best friend and Co-Meth Head Dave

He was the first and final suspect for two reasons:

First, Dave owned the Cadillac Jess’s corpse was in.

Second, the night Jess’s body was found, Dave called a few neighbors for help loading something in his trunk. Only one, Willie, offered to help. Willie later said he was afraid of Dave so he figured he’d help Dave do his thing then just get home and be done with it.

As they entered the garaged and loaded what appeared to be a rolled up carpet into the corner onto a dolly, neither man said a word.

When they got to the Cadillac trunk, Dave opened the truck and the two men hoisted the carpet in the truck. It was heavy and gave Willie the willies, he said.

As they were maneuvering the carpet, to get the last of the carpet roll in the car trunk, Willie noticed some of the plastic fall out of the carpet’s hole hole. Through the plastic he could see what looked like a shoe. Willie looked closer and saw flesh above the shoe line.

Willie said, at that point, he was done.

He turned on his heels and walked away from his car without a word; went across the street to his house and called 911. Willie told the operator he thought his neighbor Dave just put a body in the trunk of car.

911 asked Willie how he knew this.

Willie said because he helped Dave load something in the trunk of the car and didn’t realize it was a body until he saw
What he thinks was a human foot with a shoe on it.

That’s what brought police to the rear of the Cadillac that cold winter night when they found Jess, wrapped in plastic and carpet in the trunk turned tomb

By the time the SWAT team arrived to bring Dave, Jess’s alleged killer into custody, they discovered justice was already self-inflicted with a gunshot wound by Dave to his own head.

Seems Dave was hiding out in his neighbor’s house when police were struggling to offload Jason’s body from the trunk of his Cadillac to the waiting Coroner’s van.

It was 30 degrees outside. A layer of snow was on the ground; the carpet, which was jammed into the truck, was frozen and stuck to 3 of the trunk’s interior walls.

Dave watched from his neighbor’s window as investigators struggled with the massive carpet roll, which didn’t come out as easily as it went in.

I look at the timer on the video I am watching of this process. It took 15 minutes to get the body out of the car.

During those 15 minutes the neighbor whose house he was in has had no clue what was going down. The neighbor was a single woman in her late 70’s. Dave occasionally stopped by to watch TV with the lady at night.

The SWAT team got the old lady safely out of the house.
That’s when they found Dave on her living room floor.
They called it suicide.

And that’s precisely what it was.
Because Dave knew the police knew he was the one who killed Jess, so Dave chose the quickest way out.

He put a gun he always carried to the right temple of his head, pulled the trigger and blew blood and brain matter out the hole in his skull the bullet created; splattering the stuff all over the old lady’s pink shag carpet and up the ruffle of her vintage floral sofa.

I study the crime scene, the blood and grey stuff that flowed out of Dave’s head wound. The gun he shot himself with lays next to his hand.

What a mess the crime scene is, I recall thinking.
I wondered if -- and how -- the old lady ever got Dave out of her floor.

It seemed simple enough, a police officer told me.

One Meth Head kills another Meth Head. Happens all the time. Meth makes people crazy, intensely paranoid, and violent. All their crimes are over the top, showing an excess of violence.

Both Jess and Dave showed high levels of Meth, alcohol and other drugs in their system. They were known Meth users and occasional dealers. Case closed, the police said.

Jess’s sisters, however, felt differently. They didn’t believe Dave was a Jess’s only killer.

Because, the sisters explained, when Jess’s body was brought back to the Medical Examiner’s office and the plastic was unwrapped, six separate gunshot wounds were found on Jess’s body. And Jess was beaten heavily about the face with multiple blunt force hits to his body.

His sisters believed more than one person had to have done this to him. They believed Dave by himself could not have shot, pummeled, then wrapped their brother in plastic.

They were friends, the sisters said. They bought and shot Meth together. It had to be the combined efforts of many Meth Heads the sisters said.

They hired me to find those people.
I brought in an attorney.
We re-opened the case and investigated for months.

We met with the Investigating officers. We re-examined the scene evidence in a police evidence warehouse on the edge of Seattle. Ads I write this, I still smell the blood-soaked plastic and the stench of the shoes as they evidence was reopened and photographed for the private investigation.

We talked to Meth Heads, visited scenes, reviewed witness statements, and talked to neighbors. And we came up with the answer the family didn’t want to hear

Jess, their brother, with high levels of Meth in his system, kicked in the door of his friend Dave’s house in to collect money. Jess’s footprint was on the door. Jess told a witness he was going to Dave’s to collect some money Dave owed him from a Meth buy.

Kicking down Dave’s door was the first blow. Dave responded. Bigger than Jess by almost a foot, a violent fight ensued. Jess was shot, pummeled, shot some more until he was dead. During a neighborhood canvas, some neighbors report hearing gunfire that night.

Dave cleared out his living room; dragged plastic from the garage and wrapped his former and now dead, best friend in plastic sealed with duct tape.

Then Dave rolled the plastic-wrapped corpse in the living room rug.

He got the hand truck from the garage, hauled the carpet on the hand-truck by himself; rolled the hand-truck through the back entrance to the garage and stood the whole rug package up a corner against the garage wall.

Some time passed as Dave cleaned his living room and left all his supplies in a corner. Close to midnight, Dave decided to move the body from the garage to his Cadillac. He called a couple of neighbors for an assist until Willie agreed.

Dave was an auto body rebuild guy. The plastic, the duct tape, the carpet was his. So were the bullets in Jess’s body.
Yes there were still questions, there always are. But we had more evidence to support the fact that Dave killed Jess. There were no indications of anyone else on the scene.

And nothing we did would change that fact or bring Jess back.

The sisters, unwilling to accept the truth they wanted to hear, berated the police. They said the police investigation was tainted, biased and limited. They called the detective’s superiors; a second investigation was opened, then closed, as the seconds police investigation confirmed what the first one did.

They hired, and then fired, their first private investigator.

Then they hired and ultimately fired me when I came to the same conclusion.

Being fired didn’t affect me. My investigation was done and the truth is the truth. Even when you don’t want to hear it.

They never heard it.

Last thing one of the sisters said to me, her parting words were, “To hell with you P.I.’s and police, I’m handling the case myself.”

It was and still is, I believe, her unique and futile way of keeping her dead brother’s memory alive.

The two sisters wear solid gold orbs on their neck holographed with Jess’s image. They speak of him like a revered deity. And they speak of all the investigators on the case, the police; the first P.I.; and then me, as fools.

I walked away and still look back.

Because every now and then, another Meth Head shows up wrapped in plastic. It’s usually the Meth Heads that do it.

I guess that’s why the police call it, “population control.”


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