Dealing With the Devil

Brandy DuVall went through hell before she died. She left no angels as witnesses.

And Sammy. The prosecutors have said that when all of the trials are over, they will seek the maximum penalty of 96 years in prison for Samuel Quintana. But Theresa doesn't believe them. She thinks they will find a way to reward him for giving up the others.

Theresa has cut Sammy out of all her family photos. Still, it's hard for her to hate Sammy, who came to live with her and her three kids when his parents were divorcing, or to blame him for what he is doing. She just wishes she could believe he's doing it because his conscience bothers him.

Theresa points to a recent photograph of three young children playing--Danny's twin sons and Sammy's daughter. "All they've been told is that their fathers are in jail for something they did," she says. "But they see each other all the time. They don't know what's going on. We take Danny's sons to the jail to see him, and she goes right along." If the boys are visiting Sammy's daughter when that family goes to see Sammy in jail, Danny's boys go, too. "The boys love Sammy and write him letters. And we all love his little girl...yeah."

It isn't that she is trying to excuse Danny. "He made his own choices." But no one offered him a second-degree-murder plea agreement.

Then again, Danny took off when it became clear the police were closing in. "I begged him not to run," Theresa says. "I told him, 'Let's give it up to God and go face this together.' But he ran anyway."

Six months later, after Danny was finally caught, he balked at a deal that would have dropped a potential death penalty in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole. Danny wouldn't go for it because the prosecution demanded that he write a statement describing not only his role in Brandy's murder, but that of the others. Danny wouldn't snitch.

Nor is he now accepting responsibility. "He says he was drunk and doesn't remember," Theresa says. "He says he can't read the transcripts from Frank's and Pancho's trial...that he tries, but he can't. I tell him he has to if he's determined to go through with a trial. But he won't talk about it.

"He's real down on himself. I tell him, 'The Lord won't judge you for one incident. You have to look back and reflect that you were a very good person at other times in your life and ask for forgiveness.' But he's confused. I got a letter from him today that he probably wrote on Christmas. He talked about his sister visiting him and this and that, then at the end he wrote, 'I want to come home.'"

Danny still thinks there's a chance he can beat the rap. His lawyers tell him he's "fantasizing." Little Frankie didn't beat it. Pancho didn't beat it. It didn't take their juries much longer than the time needed to fill out the conviction papers before they returned with guilty verdicts. But Danny wants to believe that someday he will be free.

Theresa stops to wipe a tear off her cheek. "Things are shitty for him," she says, "but nothing compared to what that little girl went through. There is no excuse. I feel for that family and think of her mom all the time." The mother who will be sitting on the other side of the courtroom when Danny goes on trial.

Theresa's friends have tried to prepare her for Danny's trial by feeding her bits of information about Brandy's final hours. But they're worried about her emotional state and have tiptoed around the worst of it. So Theresa prepares herself in ways she would have otherwise avoided. She reads the transcripts from the trials of Pancho Martinez and Frank Vigil so that nothing that is said will shock her. She forces herself to watch movies that are violent to women so she'll become numb to brutality, just as she believes an entire generation of urban kids have been numbed by violent films and rap music.

"I read horror and murder stories," she says. "I don't like them, but Danny's lawyers are afraid of what my reaction will be in the courtroom. They don't want me making any public displays."

Neither does she. In fact, Theresa would rather not go out in public at all. There are days when she doesn't want to get out of bed, much less go to work--or much less than that, go visit Danny and try to keep his spirits up while hers drag along the bottom.

At times Theresa feels nearly overwhelmed by guilt. Not just for what her son and his friends did to Brandy DuVall. But for whatever deficiencies she had as a mother, for the lifestyle she exposed her boys to that made it impossible for her to fight the gangs for the souls of her sons. If there is anything to be gained in all of this, it's that some young mother might hear about this tragedy and realize that what she does in front of her children does matter.

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