Few of Lt. Joe’s shows have a bright spot. This one does, at least off screen.
The victim, Jimmie Stevenson, is a police informant, a snitch. “There is no more dangerous occupation,” Lt. Joe points out, “than being a police informant.” But did Jimmie die because he was a snitch?
Most quoted lines: “He [referring to Barney Davis] is a one-man crime wave. If he’s awake, he’s doing something criminal.”
“A homicide investigation is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Your guy is doing something. You’d better be doing something.”
Summary: It’s a summer night, 1993. People are gathered in the parking lot of a convenience store when two police officers approach. The crowd starts to disperse. A shot rings out. The two officers find a man lying dead on the ground. They know him. He’s Jimmie Stevenson, a police informant.
When the call comes in, Lt. Joe is at his office. It’s 10 PM on a Friday night, & he is just finishing up for the weekend. Now, as he says, “We’re gong to work until we run out of things to do, whether it’s four hours or four days.”
Jimmie Stevenson was one of Lt. Joe’s most valuable informants. Police appreciate help from people like Jimmie, whose information can be critical. Jimmie had a minor criminal record. He had trouble holding his life together. And there were those with a motive to kill him.
As Lt. Joe explains, “Snitching, as it is referred to on the street, is something that is frowned upon to the point of death.”
Jimmie is dead by one bullet to the heart. It was a perfect shot. The killer is either an expert marksman–or lucky. One 9mm casing lies near the body. The bullet is lodged in a hole in a fence behind.
Just two hours before, Jimmie had talked with police in the same parking lot. He had told them he had information about drugs. Could this conversation have led to murder?
A young woman has been standing by the public telephone. She waited for a call that never came. But she did see a car speeding away.
This leads to an interesting character. The license plate of the car reads KINGPIN. That certainly sounds like a criminal moniker.
Instead, Lt. Joe finds that the “king” is Marlin King, age 17. He’s a teenager with no criminal record. He lives in the suburbs with his mother. But he likes to act like a tough guy, & sometimes he hangs out in the city’s worst neighborhoods. His mother lights into him. This kind of behavior is very much against her maternal rules. He tells Lt. Joe he departed that parking lot scene in order to get home in time for his curfew. Lt. Joe decides Marlin King is just a “want-a-be, hang-around kind of guy.” Maybe the “king” gets a kick out of disobeying his mother.
In interviews back at the scene, police talk to an apartment building manager, who saw two men moving guns into one of the apartments. It’s the middle of the night by now, & Lt. Joe & other officers make what could be a dangerous entry into Apartment 4-B. But they find shotguns not handguns. There’s no evidence of murder here. But a woman who lives there does admit she had a call from a friend who was at the scene of the shooting.
This is Ebony Jones, who lives in an apartment one floor up.
Police move up for another potentially difficult entry. They find Ebony Jones, asleep. She doesn’t want to talk, even after they show her a disturbing photo of Jimmie Stevenson lying in a pool of blood. She claims she ran away before the shooting started. She is obviously afraid to snitch. Lt. Joe can’t force her to talk, so he decides to leave her alone, temporarily. “Let her stew in it for a while. Sometimes the mind is its own worst enemy.”
Ebony Jones was a down-and-out teenager then. Nearly twenty years later, as she appears in interviews for this show, she is good looking & articulate, with a competent & confident air. She probably looks healthier now than she would have back then.
Next, Lt. Joe goes to talk with Jimmie’s parents. They are distraught, as is Jimmie’s sister, Stephanie Riley.
Stephanie says she has spent the night conducting her own investigation. She says that as she drove around the neighborhood, another car almost ran her off the road. Driver shouted, “I killed that mother-f—er.” She says this is Barney Davis. Lt. Joe describes Barney as a one-man crime wave. He had been harassing Jimmie for the last few months, ever since Jimmie witnessed a murder outside a nightclub.
Lt. Joe decides not to talk with Barney Davis. There’s no point. As he puts it, “Somewhere between the ‘Barney’ & the ‘Davis,’ he tells you to drop dead.” But, of course, he tracks down Barney. Alas, Barney has an alibi. At the time of this murder, he was in police custody, under arrest. His other crimes provide an alibi for this crime.
Stephanie confesses she was not telling the truth about Barney Davis. She is emotionally distressed & pleads with Lt. Joe to find her brother’s killer. He promises he will.
In a surprising twist, a woman calls. She tells Lt. Joe that she is concerned about her 15-year-old daughter. Her daughter, she says, witnessed just enough to know something about who the killers are. She says a woman is responsible, Michelle Shalazar, along with twin sisters, Shawna & Sheena. “That girl,” she says about Michelle, “is crazy.” According to this woman, Jimmie owed money to the twins. There was reportedly an argument at school that day. (These people go to school?) She says that Michelle has a gun, a 9 mm. handgun, just what Lt. Joe is looking for.
This information is hearsay. It is not sufficient evidence to arrest Michelle or the twins. Lt. Joe needs an eyewitness. He needs to go back to Ebony Jones. “She is fearful for a reason,” he says. “She watched them kill somebody.” This time, he takes Ebony for interrogation at the police station. “The purpose,” he says, “is to take them away from their comfort zone.” Before they reach the interrogation room, there are no fewer than six locked doors “between her & sunshine.” He has her under psychological control. He threatens to arrest her as an accessory. But he also promises that, if she talks, he will protect her.
Ebony talks. Shawna & Sheena have been dealing drugs. Jimmie owes them $40. On that night, Ebony was in one car with Shawna. Michelle & Sheena were in a second car. They were cruising around, when by chance, they come across Jimmie in that fateful parking lot. They demand money. He doesn’t have the money. Michelle rants, calls him names, threatens him. He still doesn’t have money. Michelle works herself into a murderous rage. She pulls the trigger because she is angry, not because it will get her the money.
Ebony recalls seeing Jimmie fall in slow motion. She runs away. The murder, she says, was “senseless & stupid.” About the non-existent money, she says, “You can’t get blood from a turnip.”
With Ebony’s testimony, Lt. Joe issues three warrants for first-degree murder. All three turn themselves in. All three are 17 years old, & are charged as adults.
With a plea bargain, Michelle is convicted of second-degree murder & sentenced to twenty years in prison. Sheena is sentenced to eight years’ probation. In a jury trial, Shawna is acquitted.
Ebony Jones describes herself back then as “young & dumb & crazy.” Under a witness protection program, she relocates & starts a new life. She goes to church. She works in the community. She says she does her best to be a good person.
Lt. Joe summarizes this taking of a human life over a small amount of money & at the hands of a teenager. It “doesn’t make much sense.”
The murderers: You won’t be surprised to hear that Lt. Joe describes these three women as “scum of the earth.” He figures the IQ level at 85. One twin may have been acquitted on this case, but soon enough, she was in prison on other convictions. Lt. Joe doesn’t know for sure, but he believes all three are now either dead or locked up. That’s certainly how they were tending.
The sentences: In this case, the plea bargain makes sense. This actually was second-degree murder, an unplanned killing. Michelle didn’t plan to find Jimmie that night. She found him by happenstance.
The motive: Killing Jimmie was not going to pay his debt. So the killing wasn’t really about money. It was about rage, Lt. Joe says, & because this young woman had the ability to kill.
A sort of happy ending: When all this happened, Ebony Jones was 17 years old & alone. She had no father, & as Lt. Joe puts it, her mother was “in the wind.” She was hanging around with bad people. Given the difficult decision about whether to talk to police, she had no one to advise or guide her.
Imagine where this life was taking her. She was on a path toward prison or an early grave. On the witness protection program, she moved to Arizona. She started a new life. She appears to be on an entirely different life path.
Lt. Joe says he could have moved her to the next block, & the dimwits of her neighborhood would never have found her.
But note that on screen, all these years later, she is wearing dark glasses & a large hat.