Being Thanksgiving, it seemed appropriate to set the day off a bit more decadently than usual, with a luscious lemon cake from Audrey’s — a blog written by someone not named Audrey, perhaps a hark back to her days as a public defender in a rather notorious case, for which she took a tremendous amount of criticism – initially bringing comparisons to the O.J. trial – but for which she was ultimately vindicated, if not recognized so, generally, amongst the greater public.
If memory serves, that all took place sometime back in the late ‘90’s – there had been a series of rather gruesome murders in the area and the prosecutor and powers that were in the police department made a huge deal over the arrest and charges brought against a local indigent, putting on a big show to laud themselves for the regional cooperation between departments and quick resolution, removing a monster from our midst. The announcement brought a huge relief at the time, though, in retrospect, the scenario that was painted always strained credulity, sort of like a milk truck launched nuclear weapon, Colin.
The murders began in a northwestern suburb of the city, a mother and father discovered with their throats slashed. They had four children – three younger children that were unharmed and an older boy from an “accident” in high school, that was missing. He was presumed to be a victim, as well – or, perhaps the target of the entire event, though there was never developed any motive why that would be the case, and he was not known to have any serious conflicts with anyone. The night of the murders, the older boy – Andrew, or, Andy, as he was called by most people that knew him – had his best friend over for the night: It was this friend that found bloodied sheets in the bath tub and then, discovered the parents, in their room.
Nothing had seemed amiss, apparently. Andy was purportedly well liked, a member of his school’s football team and had never had any problems, or been in trouble of any kind. It was so unlikely that he had any involvement, that the investigation concentrated specifically on the people with whom he’d crossed paths, looking for any reason someone would want to bring him harm: There was a very embarrassing theory floated in the media about a disgruntled member of an inner-city rival team, every minutia of that family’s life sifted over and condemned, an advent heavily endorsed by the overzealous and wishful police investigators.
That eventually came to day as the bullshit it was, sadly, not before a tremendous amount of distress to that family, focus finally turning when a young couple – apparently stranded on the side of the road, near where the original murders took place – were found with their throats slashed, the young woman with her arms bound behind the seat, the young man with his arms free but severely cut. The detail that linked them with the murders of the parents, were small injection marks on the forearms of each of the victims.
It has never been clear what this was for. Initially it was hypothesized that the victims were sedated prior to their murders – but the young man was certainly not very sedate, and there was controversial forensic evidence that the injections took place sometime after death.
The murders were a profound curiosity at that point, an unusual aberration in a wealthy suburb, localized, and most of the fear contained in a small community. That spread and raised to a near panic throughout the region with the murder of a young itinerant family that had been sleeping in their van on the west side of the city proper. The parents were similarly killed – the father’s throat slashed, likely while still asleep, and the mother, also with slashed throat, but additionally with numerous injuries to her face, throat, abdomen and arms.
Most appallingly, there was a very young girl in the van as well. Her throat was not cut – instead, she had suffered horrifying injuries, her abdomen and chest stabbed so viciously that the ribs on her left side shattered. She miraculously clung to life but the injuries were devastating, and the day by day updates on her condition fed the growing fear – only exacerbated, when the friend that found the original bodies, was also found murdered by the same method, with the same small mark on his forearm.
The politicians and police departments became frantic to solve the case as public pressure stepped up and worked up to a frenzy until the announcement of an arrest.
It was odd to begin with. The gentleman was not unknown, a casualty of the transition to community care, but a person without community, and so, left to the streets and stints in prison. He was not liked – he liked to talk about cheese and he liked to give hugs. He was a large, well-built black man, balding over his forehead, and his approaches to embrace were perceived as a threat, several times leading to incarceration. He lived downtown, he meandered through midtown – the proposition that he had made his way to the suburbs, repeatedly, with a trip back to the west side, should have shown any critical eye the fraud for what it was.
At the time, people just wanted an explanation and conclusion; the arrest and charges brought relief. The usual exposes on mental health confirmed the stereotypical biases carried in pop-culture and the media toward mental illness and the fellow was condemned as a paranoid schizophrenic, drug user, sexual deviant and criminal. He loved cheese: To eat, to experience, to consider and discuss. And he loved to give – and receive hugs. In a decent world, he would have been given his contentment of both; in ours it made him a threat and convenient scapegoat.
To Not-Audrey’s credit, she didn’t buy in to the story from the start. There were clearly holes in the timelines and explanations and the evidence was suspicious, to put it charitably, gathered to support the prosecution, rather than leading to it. She was young and inexperienced, and her selection was by design, with the hope that the case would move quickly, with little opposition and quickly allay the fear in the community.
However, N.A. committed herself to the appointment with unrelenting dedication, going so far as to hire a team of forensic experts at her own expense, after the prosecutor repeatedly blocked access to the evidence. What they found was a very sloppy effort to make an undesirable fit the crime, even ignoring the fact that he was actually incarcerated on the night the young, stranded couple was killed. Despite all of that, she was widely derided in public and the press, receiving numerous threats against she, and her family, and the charges remained in place – until, the little girl that had been attacked, was finally able to speak.
The description she painted of her attacker, very much matched that of the son, Andy, a dissonance that everyone other than N.A. had difficulty resolving, and it took several months, still, for all charges to be dropped against the man she was representing.
N.A. likes to tell the story of how she brought the news to him, herself, and when the gate was opened, he reached out suddenly and grabbed her, pulling her towards him, brusquely, setting the guards to alarm and she as well. But he just gave her a hug, and once she realized that, she gave him one of the few hugs he’d ever received, back. She placed him in a local homeless shelter, and started to make arrangements for him to receive mental health and social services. Most importantly, she says, she followed up a few days later and presented him with a large round of cheese. She says he broke into tears when she gave it to him, and he insisted on repaying the gift to her with a single, bruised lemon that he had been carrying in his pocket, for no known reason. Sadly, a few days later, he was beaten to death in that same shelter.
If you asked, most people would still lay blame for the murders on him, or, mention the high-schooler that had previously been implicated. Very few people believe that Andy could have actually been the one behind the string of murders, not helped by the fact that he has not been seen since, and there isn’t much to link him to them, other than the little girl’s description and his connection to three of the victims.
However, he had no connection to the girl and her family, nor the couple that was killed in their car. Additionally, there was no known reason for him to kill his parents, and later his friend. There was nothing in his history, on his computer, nothing in his room or anything unusual leading up to the murders that would lead anyone to believe he would turn to violence.
By all accounts, Andy was happy and well liked. He doted on his younger siblings and got along well with his parents. He and the friend that was killed, had been inseparable since the day they started preschool together. No one could come up with a rational explanation to implicate Andy, so most that followed the story closely and understand the forces behind the attempted molding of it – most presume that the girl’s description is a coincidence. Disturbingly, she has unfailingly pinned him as her attacker when given a photo line-up. Not once or from a single photo, but every time, and using multiple different snapshots of Andy. Since she was three at the time, she is generally disregarded.
While the murders and controversies are largely presumed concluded, a faded unpleasantry, that is not entirely the case, though that is also not publicly acknowledged and will usually elicit noticeably passive-aggressive, often angry responses if broached with the local leaders and especially, police department. However, once in a while, you can fuel enough beer into one of the old guys down at the depot, or, occasionally a recently retired officer will let loose a vent on the forums and broach the topic, and they will state unequivocally that the murders didn’t stop, they just changed.
Instead of seemingly random attacks on families – specifically, in the suburbs – the victims have become more targeted and infrequent. Those that have been killed in the past decade, have come from the city itself, and have been homeless persons, the mentally ill, drug addicts, prostitutes and inner-city youth – people that elicit little sympathy in the media and fit the profile for the typical victim of violent crime. By some accounts there have been over 200 murders that fit the m.o. – the slit throat and the injection site on the forearm.
If you can get one of the old guys to talk, they’ll tell you the investigation remains open and is a priority, but kept quiet to prevent a repeat of the hysteria that originally swept over the area, easy enough, so long as the victims are – like the unfortunately charged gentleman that liked cheese – undesirables.
They will also tell you that whomever is behind it, has become extraordinarily good at what he does, leaving “clean” bodies, no traces, no witnesses, and no progress has been made on the case since the early days, when the forced focus on the cheese guy likely distracted from valuable leads that could have led to the actual perpetrator.
What, if anything, is injected remains a mystery. What happened to Andy remains a mystery. The motive – if Andy is behind it – remains a mystery. Most of the guys I’ve talked to believe he is, but are at a loss as to how he has remained so elusive, and as to why.
For N.A., it has been a bitter journey, much like the lemon sauce for this cake if you do not add as much sugar as prescribed. My mother has very strongly conditioned an obsessive preoccupation with certain ingredients, and sugar is one, often reduced by a third or more, impulsively. In the cake, that served well: Do not do that in the sauce.
Despite a slightly more sour than perfect presentation, the cake was a delightfully refreshing start for the morning, the sweetened blueberries compensating for the too-tart-topping. Not Audrey posts some beautiful pictures of their food, and the cake was as good as it looked.