Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Art solves Crime

In 1999 I was working for a sober living facility in one of my first accounting/IT positions. I accepted rents from crazies, dealt with Housing Authority payments and reconciliations, social workers, and loyally served the Manager Ethan.

Most of the people living at this facility have broken brains, addictions, and are generally nuts. We had recently received a new tenant named Eli. He was in his early 40’s schizophrenic, overweight, greasy, fro headed, and a convicted rapist to boot. Eli was a very quiet resident who enjoyed sitting in the shade in corner of the complex working away on his sketch pad. He took it everywhere and always seemed to be drawing. He had been skulking about the community for about a month when Jennifer moved in. I am not totally sure what her deal was, but she definitely used drugs, and was very flighty. However, she was good looking, early 20’s, long blond hair, big bright smile, and a sunny disposition.

From the day Jennifer moved in Eli started following her around the complex and trying to talk to her. The manager directly above me, Ethan, was smitten by the girl as well so he was very alert of the freaky Puerto Rican keeping his watchful eye on the young lady.

Ethan and I were both on call on the weekends, but normally I did not get called in because Ethan was almost always available. This community, as you can imagine, had problems with drugs, fights, shootings, and even a couple of deaths in the 18 months I worked there. Every morning I would read through the security reports while I was getting my coffee. Stabbings, shouting matches, altercations of all types, residents arrested for drugs, theft, and even prostitution. It was a generally exciting place to work.

Ethan had notice that Jennifer had not been around for the entire day Friday. He flipped through the security cameras over and over again throughout the day, looking for the beauty strolling through the community, or going into the shared recreation area. Alas, all day he did not see her. Near the end of my shift he called her social worker and reported that she had not been seen and did not respond when he went to her door. Eli also had not been seen all day.

Saturday night at about 9pm I received a call from the police saying that they needed someone to come down and open up the office and talk to them about a missing girl. After the call from Ethan on Friday Jennifer’s social worker called her parents, who after the waiting period called the police and reported her missing. The police informed me over the phone that they were at the community waiting for me, they had a witness that they needed to interview, and needed to let me know what was going on. I burned up the road, thinking the whole time, “Witness? What would they have a witness to?” When I arrived the police officers were standing out front… next to Eli.

I opened the front door and showed them to a private room. One officer went into the room with Eli and the other one stayed in the hallway to update me. He informed me that they were following up on a missing person’s case (I thought that they had been responding very quickly to a process that police rarely follow up on diligently). Eli sought the officers out when they arrived at the arrived at the complex. I also thought this was strange because he does not speak English very well, and had only said 3 words to me in a little over a month. The officer continued to tell me about the other residents he had spoken with saying that the last person they saw her with was Eli. Apparently they had walked out of the complex together early Friday morning. At this point the other officer opened the door and said that I should hear what he was saying. Eli was telling the story in his own words.

I don’t know what kind of accent he had, but it must have been Puerto Rican. He spoke evenly but had great trouble pronouncing English words. This was his story…
“Me and Jennifer were good friends. We went to get something to drink from the store. I was gonna buy her something. She is very nice…. (pause and stares off over his shoulder at a blank wall, shakes his head and returns to the story) We walked about 10 blocks to the market, I got a beer and I bought her a coke. I stopped just outside the door to talk to a friend of mine, and she continued walking. When I was done talking to Fred I saw her next to a semi talking to a man. I ran to catch up with her but she was pulled into the truck and it drove away real quick.”

The officers looked at each other with skepticism then looked at me. I whispered to the one nearest me that he has a record for rape, and is schitzo. The officer nodded, and asked Eli if he could describe the man or the vehicle. Eli said that he could do better than that… He could draw them a picture. The cops thought that was a good idea and left him in the room furiously working on the sketch that would put all the pieces together.

The officers and I chatted in the hallway and they stated that they did not believe him. He most likely raped and killed her. In the middle of this conversation Ethan showed up. He looked pretty frantic. He clearly liked the girl more than he had let on earlier in the week. While Ethan spoke with the officers I talked to our security guard, and read his reports for Friday night.

Finally after almost an hour Eli signaled that he was done. We all piled into the room. One of the officers stepped behind Eli to look at the sketch. The look on his face was puzzling to me. The situation was so serious and he appeared to be smiling. Was it so good that he thought it cracked the case? Was it a criminal he recognized? Was it a picture of Eli raping and killing the poor girl. The officer said thank you, took the sketch from the pad and told Eli he could go back to his apartment. Eli edged past the officers nervously, staring off over his shoulder and skulked out of the building. When he was gone the officer showed the rest of us the drawing. This is an actual copy of the drawing... before the police left with it I asked if I could make a copy.

The next Tuesday we found out from her parents that Jennifer had gotten into the truck willingly and paid her way to the coast with sexual favors, and eventually called her parents to pick her up in San Diego. Ethan was heart broken. Jennifer never came back to live at the complex. Eli was so happy that he was able to help the police, and walked around the complex telling everyone that he was working for the cops helping them crack cases with his expert art skills. No one else in the complex had ever seen one of his drawings. He never showed his art pad to anyone else.

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