Death Trip

A joyride from Jefferson County to score some dope dead-ends with a murder on the city's streets

And even with frequent patrolling, Pollihan says, incidents like Jason's murder are not easily preventable. "I don't think this was a situation where they [the dealers] were blatantly out there selling for hours," he notes. "In this case, the victims were riding around and approached the drug dealers. I don't know how you could stop something like this -- an opportunistic crime that happened in a very short period of time."

Four months after the murder, there are still no arrests. "It's a solvable case," asserts Col. Ray Lauer, deputy chief of detectives, but he admits the police still lack a solid lead. "The difficulties are that we've got a dead kid who's not able to identify anybody, and his friends aren't able to provide good descriptions, either. Also, it was night and it was dark. There weren't a whole lot of people on the street at the time who would've seen much. Now, likely there are people in that neighborhood who know something about the shooters -- they may have talked or bragged about it -- but they aren't coming forward. You need some proof, and it can be frustrating trying to get at that proof."

Word on the street travels, and folks in the 'hood might well be privy to information about that September night, but they're not apt to share it with the police. One young woman, who wants to remain unidentified, says she knows someone "who knows someone who did it." Four boys pedaling their bikes along Potomac Street put on the brakes to talk. One of them claims that he pulled the mortally wounded Jason off the street and onto the sidewalk. He maintains that the cops and the newspaper got the story wrong: It was the kids looking to buy that tried to rip off the dope dealers. "But to shoot that boy was wrong," he adds. Others on the street simply tell transparent lies. "Oh, this is a peaceful neighborhood," says a smirking teenager, part of a small, idle gang gathered out front of a home on Wisconsin Avenue. "I never seen nobody run up to no car, looking for drugs."

Stopped as he walks down the middle of Wisconsin, trying to avoid a spill on the snow-covered sidewalks, James, an old man with one good eye, best sums up the real world of Marine Villa: "You don't fuck with no one. You keep to yourself. What you see, don't see. What you know, don't know."

Back at Parodi's, Barry takes a sip of his Coke and muses: "It was just one of those things. They went down there looking to have a good time and get high, and things turned nasty. I don't know what more his mom and I could've done. We were there all the time for our son. We tried every avenue of help. At that age, they think they're all grown up -- they don't need Mom and Dad anymore. Their friends mean more to them than you do."

Barry gazes at the Halloween decorations garlanding the bar: jack-o'-lantern lights, a beautiful witch with a Bud longneck in her hand. "We're not out for blood," he says intently, a tear forming at the corner of his eye, "we're out for justice. The shooter has no business being out on the street, because he might do the same to someone else. Jason had no animosities toward anybody. He was just young and immature and didn't think things like that would happen. What Jason did was wrong, but, still, to kill somebody? It's senseless. If they had to shoot, why not shoot in the leg? Why shoot to kill?" He pauses. "Twenty bucks -- that's a pretty cheap life. You know, his mom still leaves the light on every night, like she always did when he was out late."

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