By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Police officer Eddie Morales was assigned to the PSP probe. But when he filed his report last month, it wasn't what McBride had expected. Instead, Morales came back in the Walkers' favor. The officer tells Westword that, although the department plans to continue monitoring the house and may even use plainclothes detectives as part of that operation, he believes the criminal activity at the Walker place has "dried up." According to Vasquez, the plumbing is repaired, the electrical wiring has been restored, and the property is cleaned up inside and out. "The property's looking a lot better since we came back," says Morales. "They're making an honest effort."
McBride, however, says the recent absence of trouble is just the result of neighborhood vigilance--and cold weather. "We've gone through this 'We're gonna be good neighbors' before," McBride says. "After the first few continuous warm days, we'll see what happens."
Not all neighbors have such a bleak view of the family.
Mary Pat Holliday, a teacher at nearby Gilpin Elementary who lives behind the Walkers, says that she's had no trouble with the family. She also says she feels uncomfortable with neighbors taking their troubles to the city or the police. "If I had a personal problem with my neighbor, I'd go to my neighbor," she says. "People in the city sometimes play music too loud. So do I. People work on cars--done that, too. No one's tried to sell me anything. I haven't witnessed anything."
Even Robert Heath, Debbie Weis-Heath's husband, takes a live-and-let-live attitude. "They're more a pain in the ass than dangerous," he says. "More talk than anything. As long as you keep it on your side, turn it down when I say turn it down, I don't give a shit what you do. I'm not out to save the world."
Captain Allison, however, refers to the Walkers as an "infection," and he says there's only one cure. "Until the Walkers are removed from that house, this is not going to be resolved, in my opinion," says Allison. "There was progress made the first time, more progress made the second time. Now with the PSP, the same ground is being revisited again. When that attention comes, usually there is an improvement. [But] unless their hearts are in it for the long term, problems will likely rear their head."
Michael Walker looks tired and irritated one recent weekday evening. His sister Audrey died recently in California, he says, and he's on his way to the funeral. "The police came by today," says Michael. "They just waltz right in, asking the same questions. 'Is the power on?' 'Is the water on?' They says this is a gang house. I let 'em come on in. If you don't let 'em in, they have a tendency to sit out front and harass."
A few days later, the Walkers are in the process of scraping off old paint to repaint their house. The front yard is all torn up in preparation for new sod. ("I would be shocked if a lawn actually went in it," says Weis-Heath.)
Health inspector Dave Emge comes by and says the house is in 50 percent compliance--enough to earn the family another grace period to fix the problems. Emge still has complaints--the kitchen floor is in disrepair, the kitchen sink drains into a bucket--so he issues the family a court summons. But for the most part, he's satisfied. "I'm happy with this," he says. "I think they've come along good."
After three police officers arrive to "reinforce" Emge--standard procedure at the Walker house--Michael and Kenneth get impatient. All this attention from the city, they say, is keeping them away from work.
Michael says that since he came back from Minnesota last year, things have been mellow. "We got a bad reputation, hard to live down," he says. "We're bettering ourselves."
But Walker sounds unfazed--or exhausted--from the neighbors' criticism. "They say we're over here fightin' and killin' each other," he says. "We'll either end up in the penitentiary or the grave. Apparently we must not be breaking them [laws] enough.