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Remembering Carmen October 2, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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4 comments

The latest shootings were almost a week ago, last Saturday. In the quiet days since the newspaper is full of stories of the person who tossed some kittens out of the window of their car on the Causeway bridge. Today there is mention of a reward for information on who did this. There is no reward mentioned in the paper for the killers of last Saturday’s three dead.

When it’s quiet like this its easy to forget that we live in a city where more people died by murder in 2008 than there were casualties in Afghanistan that year. Easy to forget for most, but not for me: every time I check my blog stats I see the number of people who have visited the posts in which I list all of the victims of the last two years.

Just yesterday I had 26 visits searching for Carmen Leona Reese, who died of two bullets to her chest last October 15. A bit of the story of the crime is told in New Orleans Magazine in a story titled Violent Night.* It’s more a tale of the frustrations of the homicide detectives than of the victims but it gives a thumbnail sketch of Carmen’s life shortly before she died. It doesn’t tell the story of how she came to New Orleans, or lost contact with her mother and step-father in Houston.

There are hints in the magazine piece and a few other odd places of a falling out, of some stress related to her mother and step-father’s deployments to Iraq. We do not learn what happened to her natural father. One immediately thinks of the tales we have heard of the rootless lives of Army brats. All we learn from the magazine is that somehow she arrived in New Orleans, fell into stripping and possibly prostitution in the French Quarter, and that her life ended in sex and death. She was only 18 at the time, just a year older than my daughter.

There is a picture of Carmon on the Internet, a pretty girl with curly hair and carefully plucked brows. She has a smile I might describe as wry if I saw it in my daughter’s year book, her head cocked with a you-must-be-kidding-me expression, her eyes coquettishly half closed. Or as if she were high. Looking at her face, she was certainly attractive enough to find work in the strip clubs that pander to the tourists who come to the Quarter for the casual sleaze of big ass beers and nearly naked young women.

The magazine piece tells of the detectives’ search to learn her identity, how they took pictures of her face and of her tattoos. As they search tattoo parlors and sleazy Quarter bars they find nothing. A guy at the first tattoo parlor they call on says her tattoos are homemade crap. They finally get an ID on Leona, and begin to look into her background for evidence that might help convict their suspect, who tossed Carmen into the weeds behind his trailer and left a bloody mattress cover and t-shirt in the trash can right outside his door.

They locate the club where she worked and talk to one of the girls there. She tells them Carmen was a good girl but was in some kind of trouble. ““She bounced around real bad. She was in a bad predicament”. They are trying to find the hotel where she was living, after learning from a friend in Nebraska who spoke with her a day before she died that she always kept a journal

The magazine story just sort of peters out there without resolving Carmen’s story, moving onto instead another murder, another day in the life of the homicide squad. You can almost her the Law & Order chime. The piece is meant as a verite’ snapshot staring the detectives. The victims and perpetrators are just bit players. Perhaps the free-lance true crime writer credited with the story figured out how to meet his word quota without the rest of the tale.

Maybe Carmen was not a part of the assignment. She wouldn’t interest the subscribers to New Orleans Magazine, who would rather read about a new restaurant or browse the ads for the boutiques of Magazine Street. She is just a stock character in this tale. There is just enough in the story to make it interesting, to titillate and satisfy their readers just as the club girls are just naked enough to satisfy the drunks. If those readers, hurrying to dinner in the quarter, ever notice the girls huddled around a club door trying to lure in customers it is just another part of scene, a distraction just barely more tolerable than the smell of rotten garbage and stale beer.

I don’t know how Carmen’s mother deals with this story, the one the detectives said telling her was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” the story of the fall before her daughter’s death. I only know that her mother grieves publicly on a blog with a handful of messages written to her daughter [all errors in the quote sic].

I know you were being a rebellious teen, but I know I also bear some responsibility for you actions. Telling you I am sorry that I failed in some respects will do nothing. You can’t hear me and now you are gone… Today, I’m supposed to go “talk” to someone about what’s been going on with me. What no one understands is that nothing seems to be going. My life seems to be stalled without you. I have a basic I don’t give a crap attitude. I hate it but it seems sometimes to take it a life of its own. Your brother will be here soon. I sure hope I can get my crap together before he arrives. He don’t know how much I need him. I don’t want to smother him. I think he already tries to make up for you not benig here. I’m sorry I have made him feel that way.
I will write more later. I can’t wait to see you and hear your voice. I know I will have to wait………how long? I don’t know. No matter the length of time, it has already been too long. My life is just going on, basically without me…without you. I still cannot understand how life can continue without you. Well in truth it’s time going on not life… I love you Carmen. My Carmen, I dreamed of you before you existed. Love mom.

What concern of mine is Carmen? Why do I publish the lists of the dead, the mostly low-life victims? Why do check the blog stats page for links into those posts and the Internet searches that bring them in? I wonder why I plucked the story of another young girl named Chanel Sanchell? The local newspaper story doesn’t tell us much about Chanel either, what lead her out of her house that night with someone her family didnt’ know who came to the door looking for her. All I know is here in New Orleans there are too many golems with guns, soulless shells who will take a life without much more thought than to take out and light a cigarette, and they move through the life of the streets like sharks through schools of fish, predators and prey trapped together in the currents of only place they know to live.

I remember what I wrote about Chanel and it applies to Carmen as well. Whatever lead them out into the night with a stranger, a night that ended with a gunshot, both were once small children not much different than my own, as innocent as lambs in the lap of Sunday school Jesus. If their deaths cease to matter to you, matters no more than the condition of the bad schools your children didn’t attend or the trouble on streets you never cross; if the broken families of people who pulled two or three tours in Iraq don’t bother you then consider this:

The next time you see some kid on the corner eyeballing you at the stoplight, the one in the chee-wee haircut with the long white t-shirt, don’t avoid his gaze. Look straight back at him. If that bulge at his waist looks like it might be a gun don’t turn away or run the light. Look hard, as if into a mirror at your own cold and soulless reflection in his eyes.

* New Orleans Magazine does not allow links to their online publication, which raises the question why someone who so little understands the fundamental premise of what the w-w-w in a url stands for, the world wide web of links. So I guess you will just have to type all of this into your browser so that I can avoid violating their requirement by including a working link. If this translates into a link in your browser, that’s not my fault: http://www.myneworleans.com/New-Orleans-Magazine/December-2007/Violent-Night/

Minor Update: Fixed a few tipos. Someday I will have an editor, who will fix my tipos and buy me lunch every now and then. Apply within.

Silence is Violence Remembers January 11, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Crime, Debrisville, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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Update: Not a day passes that this page isn’t visited by someone searching for the name of a person on the list below. As I suggested here in a more recent post, if you knew one of these people I encourage you to take a minute and leave a memorial comment. Be a part of the dialogue of remembrance.

Silence is Violence will mark the one-year anniversary of the New Orleans March on Crime with a press conference at noon today, Jan. 11 2008, on the steps of City Hall, and an evening concert at the Howlin’ Wolf.

Blogger md filter (formerly da po boy), who tracks issues around crime, lists those who died in needlessly in violence in 2007. The list is below.

Remember. Silence is Violence.

Corey Hayes
Cedric Johnson
Hilary Campbell Jr.
Randall Thomas
Kevin Williams
Helen Hill
Jealina Brown
Steve Blair
Jeffery Santos
Chivas Doyle
Christopher Ruth
Tyrone Andrew Johnson
Ronald Holmes
James McGittigan Jr.
Roy Warner Jr.
Eldon Gaddis
David Crater
Daniel Allen
Chrishondolaye Lamothe
Tamara Gabriel
Robert Dawson
Michael Dunbar
Damon Brooks
Ivan Brooks
Alden Wright
Harrison Miller
Roy Grant
David Cagnalatti
Lionel Ware III
Aaron Allen
Josh Rodrigue
Herbert Preston
Byron Love
Ronnie Keelen
Mitchell Pierce
Kevin Pham
Kevana Price
Warren Thompson
Glynn Francois Jr.
Sean Robinson
Larry Ramee III
Warren Simpson
Antoine Williams
Terry Despenza
Eldridge Ellis
Travis Johnson
Phillip R. Boykins
Charley Zeno
Carl Anthony McLendon
Terry Brock
Cleveland Daniels
Alexander Williams
Terry Hall
Dominic Bell
Gregory Singleton
Damont Jenkins
Troy Thomas
Artherine Williams
Keith Moore
Nicholas Smith
Eligio Bismark Espinoza
Daniel L. Prieto
Curtis Helms Jr.
Troy Dent
Curtis Brenson
Michael Combs
Jay Landers
Mark Oneal
Corey Coleman
Emanuel Gardner
Edward Charles Balser
Arthur Dowell
Montrell Faulkin
Anthony Placide
Ernest Williams
Harry Heinzt Jr.
Robert Billiot
Willie Simmons
Tammie Johnson
Larry Hawkins
Terrell Ceazer
George Hammond
Persale R. Green
Joseph Magee
Albert Phillips
Samuel Gonzales
Darryl Williams
Robin Malta
Jason Wynne
Jerrell Jackson
Christopher Roberts
Samuel Williams Jr.
Jeremy Tillman
Jennifer Williams
Gary Walls
Arthur Jackson IV
Henry Newman
Johnny Martin III
Travan Coates
Jeffery Tate
Jerome Banks
Eric Fobbs
Keith Page
Adrian Davis
Paul Burks
Leon Williams Jr.
Dallas Jerome
James Johnson
Anthony White
Dellshea LeBlanc
John W. Barrow III
Kevin Underwood
Pablo Mejia Jr.
unidentified man
Thomas Jackson
unidentified man
Demond Phillips
Michael Phillips
Luong Nguyen
Anjelique Vu
Terry Johnson
Chauncy Smith
Cornelius Curry
Nia Robertson
Kadeem Wise
Percy Read
Freddie Davis II
Edwin Stuart
Corwin Shaffer
Julio Benitez-Cruz
Wilford Holmes
Perry L. Oliver
Donald Gullage
Kong Kham Vongvilay
Wisan Inthamat
Boon Roopmoh
Louis Heim
Brandon Snowton
Carnell Wallis
Thomas Dominick
Larry Gooden
Gerald Howard
Larry Butler Jr.
Phillip A. Carmouche Jr.
unidentified man
Aaron Harvey
Mario Anthony Green
Jason Snyder
Perry Watts
Lionel J. Hills
Warren Martin
Dwayne Landry
Don Smith
Demetrius Gooden
Townsend Bennett
unidentified man
Thelonius Dukes
Gregory Hayes
Charles Miller
Eddie Bernard
unidentified man
Carmen Leona Reese
Cedrick Brooks
Waldon Howard
unidentified man
Antwon McGee
Jason Anderson
Archie Solet
Shana Thomas
Brian Lee
David Bryan Alford Jr.
Brett Jason Jacobs
Howard Pickens
Darryl Daggons
Matthew Qualls
Aubrey Powell
John Batiste
Toran Landry
Anthony Walker
Lester Denis
Cardero Davis
Javier Sanchez
Julian Mathins
Theodore J. Leach
Daniel Baham
Jubbar Scott
Tyrone Lanaux Jr.
Andre Toussaint
Eddie Spiller
Carlos Miller
Sheldon Dean
Rigoberto Dominguez
Angela Thomas Bryant
Brandon Brown
Jermaine Turner
Alejandro Pecina Ruiz
George Hankton III
Aaron Williams
Frank Whittington
unidentified person
Jesse Jones
Chanell Sanchell
James Jones
Wendell Millro
Elizabeth Chapman
Clayton Johnson Jr.