In one of the biggest cons to shake Eugene, Oregon, an anti-gang activist secretly ran her own murderous mob Aaron Iturra was just 18-years-old when he was found dead in the bedroom of the Eugene, Oregon, home he shared with his mother and sister. Investigating the crime, Detective Jim Michaud found evidence pointing to an unlikely suspect: Mary Louise Thompson, also known as Gang Mom. Once a biker chick and police informer, she had become a locally famous anti-gang activist. Michaud soon learned Thompson was a modern-day Fagin who was running her own gang of juveniles—including her own son, Beau—which preyed on the unsuspecting city, dealing dope and burglarizing homes. When Thompson had found out Iturra planned to testify against Beau in a felony case, she put out a hit on him.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Fred Rosen, a former columnist for the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times , is an award-winning author of true crime and history books, including Gold! , Did They Really Do It? , and Lobster Boy. He can frequently be seen on the Investigation Discovery network’s Evil Kin and Evil Twins TV series, where he is a regular on-air commentator.
Read an Excerpt
SEPTEMBER 24, 1994
It was the first day of burning season and fires blazed all around Eugene, Oregon.
Jim Michaud stood at the front door of his rustic home on the outskirts of the city. As he sipped a martini, he thought back to the many burning seasons of his youth, when his father would set the barrels up outside their home, fill them with anything that needed burning, and set them on fire. Their neighbors would be doing the same thing, so a ring of controlled fire would encircle their neighborhood.
Burning season was the beginning of fall, a time to burn your detritus. Michaud liked to think that it was also an opportunity to burn from memory any sins committed against others, an opportunity to create a slate that was clean and purified by fire.
Some might consider such existential thoughts to be unusual for a country boy like Michaud. A true Westerner, he had grown up in the backwoods of Oregon where he hunted and fished, first as a child, then as an adolescent and now as a forty-one-year-old adult. Yet he was anything hut a backwoodsman.
That martini in his hand, for instance. Most guys he knew at work preferred a beer. His taste, though, ran to something a little more refined. He took a sip of the drink, made with Bombay gin and dry Martini & Rossi vermouth, then looked out at the fires again.
This time, the fires made him think about a pig roast he and Paula had thrown when they'd moved in last year. They had invited all their friends over, used a backhoe to dig a pit and filled it with white-hot charcoal and then added the piece de resistance, a full-size pig. The poor sucker was covered with earth and left to roast its guts out until later in the day when it was dug up and dug into. But again, Michaud was a man of contrasts. Pig roasts might be fun once every ten years, but he liked to cook more sophisticated dishes like beef bourguignon, adding the spices carefully on the "island" that stood in the kitchen of his home.
He looked down at his watch and pressed the dial that made it light up in that bright turquoise color that was all the rage now. It said 11:17. Time for bed. He liked to get into work early, before anyone else arrived.
Turning, he walked through french doors into the kitchen, then through the living room with its projection TV. Except for the modern appliances like the TV, the house might as well have been in Montana, decorated as it was with wooden beams and wooden flooring, Plains Indian blankets and Plains Indian art.
Michaud walked into the second bedroom on the left, furnished with a queen-size bed and two dressers. The room looked lived-in, with things out of place, sort of comfortable and confused at the same time.
Draped over a chair beside his bed was a crosshatched shoulder holster. It was a lateral draw, so the butt of his .45mm Sig Sauer automatic faced out, affording a quick, easy draw. On the front straps were a shiny lawman's star and a beeper.
He slipped into bed beside his sleeping fiancee Paula and heard the steady sing-song of her breath, in and out, in and out. He paused for a moment, contemplating her beautiful form beneath the sheets, and then put his hand on her, slowly caressing. Soon, she turned toward him and they intertwined.
Too many times, Michaud had been in the middle of making love when murder intervened. He hoped this would not be one of them.
The teenagers, who had gathered late at night in a park in the city, could see the flames from scattered fires. As they smelled the odor of leaves and other things burning, Wayde Hudson pressed the release on the stopwatch and shouted, "Go!"
Lisa Fentress jumped into a circle of white middle-class teenagers who had gathered in a deserted lot on the outskirts of Eugene. As the circle closed in on Lisa, she was pounded on all sides by fists and feet. Hudson kept looking at his stopwatch. His gang leader had told him that Lisa should go first, and that a proper jumping in, or gang-initiation ceremony, lasted a precise time, specifically seventy-four seconds. When seventy-four seconds were up, he shouted, "Stop!"
The gang members, Joe, Jim, Angel, Larry, Wayde, Linda, Jack, Cameron, Jasmine, Lennie, and Robert, all drew back. Lisa lay bruised and bloody, a cut across her bottom lip, her eyes already swelling shut.
"Welcome to the Seventy-four Hoover Crips," Hudson shouted triumphantly. He handed her a blue rag, actually a bandanna. Whenever she wore it, it would signify her gang membership because blue was the "official" gang color. "Lisa, you're now a full-fledged member of the gang," Hudson shouted. With that, the videotape recorder that had been brought to record the event was turned off.
The gang leader had told Wayde Hudson that there was a difference between mixing in and jumping in as a means of entry into a gang.
"Jumping in means that the gang beats you up until they consider you to be sufficiently beaten to be a member of the gang. Mixing in means taking the fall for somebody who is a gang member. If you take the rap for them and they avoid being prosecuted for something they've done, then you're mixed in."
Few if any of the 74 Hoover Crips had had prior gang experience, and therefore never questioned their gang leader's definitions. Had they, they would have discovered that there was actually no difference between mixing in and jumping in, that they were in fact the same thing.
The gang Lisa had joined was a bunch of punk-ass white kids, high school dropouts who thought that, because they banded together and took the name of a black street gang that controlled part of southeast Los Angeles, they were cool.
These were kids who, while they may not have grown up with silver spoons in their mouths, knew nothing of poverty, nothing of discrimination because of skin color and, most importantly, nothing of manipulation by a gang leader. They were not cynical, tired beyond their years from exposure to constant street violence, the type of kids who knew a con man when they saw one. They were kids, with time on their hands, looking for the thrill that violence affords, something exciting enough to get their blood going when they weren't stoned or drunk.
Like most middle-class kids who join gangs, Lisa felt alienated from her peers. As long as she remembered, she had always hated kids. They were always so mean to me growing up, she thought. And when I got older, all the girls wanted to do was talk about their boyfriends.
As for her home life, it was nothing if not strained. She felt impotent at home, at the mercy of her parents' whims, never free to assert herself, to be her own woman. The gang gave her the one thing she lacked. Power. People knew who she was. They wouldn't mess with her because she was a member of the 74 Hoover Crips. It was kind of like she, Wayde, Larry and all the rest had formed their own family.
What a wonderful feeling, that sense of belonging, of being part of something greater than yourself! Lisa Fentress cherished that feeling more than anything. It was a feeling unlike any other, a feeling so heady, so strong, so intoxicating that in order not to lose it, she was willing to chuck the belief system she had grown up with, that some things were wrong and some things were right absolutely. She decided that, for her gang, she would dwell in the gray area, neither wrong nor right, just what was right for the gang regardless of the consequences. That was why she readily agreed to become a button woman.
She was given the job of pressing a button on a guy. Put another way, Lisa's job was to finger a guy to be murdered. And since it was being done to maintain gang unity and loyalty, there was nothing wrong with that.