Dealing With the Devil

When the Deuce-Seven Bloods went hunting for a snitch, they shot Venus Montoya instead.

"Yes," he answered weakly.
She turned on the lights. The picture window had a large crack running through it; five holes appeared in the pane. She realized then that it was Jimmy who had screamed. He lay on the couch, wearing only his pants, and blood was everywhere. He'd been shot in both arms, both legs and once in the abdomen. Every time his heart beat, blood spurted from the stomach wound.

Danny rushed into the room and scooped up Jimmy's terrified children. He ran upstairs and hid them under a bed in case the shooters returned. Theresa's mother took one look and hid in the laundry room, where she ran around in little circles, crying.

Theresa rode with Jimmy to the hospital. Although her brother's scream kept reverberating in her mind, all she could think was: They were trying to kill my son. They thought Jimmy was Danny. They wanted to kill my son.

The next day, Theresa attended Antonio's sentencing. He was given two years at the Lookout Mountain juvenile detention center.

Still sleepless, Theresa returned to 2727 California and worked with Danny to clean up the blood. But for a case of mistaken identity, she kept thinking, on this day she could have had one son in the hospital fighting for his life, the other incarcerated. Her worst fears were coming true, and she had no idea what to do about it.

The boys' father, Danny Martinez Sr., was no help. Under a variety of aliases, he's been arrested 31 times--beginning with simple assault in 1974 and then going on to seven more assaults, five driving-under-the-influence citations, burglary, drug charges, auto theft and weapons charges.

"He was as much a part of the gangster lifestyle as they were," Theresa says. His nickname, "Bird-dog," was "as familiar on the streets as 'Boom' and 'Bang'... He never tried to stop them; he went right along with them."

Theresa called Bill Rollins, her ex-husband in California, and explained the situation. Despite their breakup, they'd remained friends, and she knew he still cared about the boys. Bill suggested that she send Danny to him.

Surprisingly, Danny went without much fuss. He knew as well as she did that the bullets had been meant for him. And the only two members of his gang he could count on to watch his back--Antonio and Pancho--were locked up at Lookout Mountain.

Jimmy lived, but Theresa's mother never returned to 2727 California. She said she couldn't stay there, not with the memory of her son's life spurting out of him. She moved in with another daughter and had the house boarded up. She said she was going to get rid of it.

When Danny and Antonio heard about their grandmother's intentions from their sister, they begged her not to sell the house. It was the closest thing to a permanent address they'd ever known; it was their house. "If you don't want it, give it to our mother," they said.

After their grandmother gave in, they called Theresa. "Grandma says you can have the house if you want it."

Theresa didn't want it. There'd been too much blood. Too many shots and sirens. But her sons begged and pleaded, promising to turn their lives around, to get out of the gang. So Theresa agreed to keep 2727 California.

She glances at the new picture window. Her reflection stares back. "It took me a lot of years to get the sound of Jimmy's scream out of my head." She shakes her head. "I hate this house...yeah."

January 14, 1998
Before they begin their deliberations, the jurors in the trial of Frank "Little Bang" Vigil Jr. observe a moment of silence for the murdered girl. Brandaline Rose DuVall.

Never in their worst imaginings, not even after warnings from both the prosecutors and defense attorneys at jury selection, did the four women and eight men expect to hear anything so grim. Pancho, he told Danny Boy to get out of the way and put that broom in her butt. He was laughing. She was crying, 'It hurts, don't do that.'

During a break in Jose Martinez's testimony, the jury didn't witness Brandy's grandmother, Rose Vasquez, moaning in the hallway outside the courtroom--Oh, dear God, dear God--as her family tried to dissuade her from going back in. To skip the rest of his bizarre, nauseating, podium-pounding account of the gang rape of fourteen-year-old Brandy. There was blood everywhere...I thought the bitch was on the rag. Rose waved them off. Brandy was her youngest granddaughter; they had been particularly close. She had to be there, no matter how much it hurt.

But day after day, the jurors couldn't help but see the grieving family weeping in the front rows as the prosecution paraded its witnesses--dressed in jail jumpsuits, handcuffs and shackles--in and out of the courtroom.

The gang members who'd found the girl at a bus stop on South Federal Boulevard a little before midnight on May 30, 1997, and invited her to a party: the Warren brothers, David and Maurice, and Jacob "Smiley" Casados. They had all pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault and agreed to testify in exchange for first-degree-murder charges being dropped.

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