By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Other than his criminal record, however, the police had little on Danny Lopez. There were rumors that he had been involved in drive-bys, but nothing that could be proved -- and such information, especially if it was supplied by rival gangs, was always suspect. But he bore watching.
Danny seemed determined to prove them right. He quit his job at the Pepsi Center. All he could find after that was temporary work -- nothing that paid much, certainly no benefits. He and Barbara argued constantly. He didn't hit her anymore, but he also never cried, not even when she knew he was down and frustrated. And when they argued, he would leave to go be with his friends. She might not see him for several days, though he would call Mariah frequently.
And now he took Dustin with him. The younger boy dressed in red like his older brother and got in trouble with the law -- a car theft, a couple of assaults for fighting with other boys. But he wasn't Danny. Dustin was what his family thought of as a "pretty boy." He was only five-foot-four and 130 pounds; he ironed his clothes and made sure every hair was in place before going out. He liked parties, not the rough gang stuff. And he was the one who often talked Danny out of doing "the stupid stuff" that might get him sent back to prison.
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"Dealing With the Devil"
Although they constantly dressed in red, the boys hid most of their gang activities from their mother. She'd talk to them about the colors and cry sometimes, but they'd just tell her not to worry. How could she not? She'd be driving them somewhere and pull up at a stoplight next to a car filled with other boys. Her sons and the others would get into staring contests, and she'd wonder if someone in the other car had a gun. She'd ask her boys to stop, but they'd respond, "They're staring at us. What do you expect us to do?"
But just when she'd get so mad at Danny, there he'd be with a bouquet of roses and a card telling her he loved her, begging her forgiveness.
In December 1998, Danny broke the conditions of his parole by skipping a meeting with his parole officer. All of the kids and grandchildren did show up, however, for Christmas at his mother's house. It was the first time in four years that Danny got to spend the day with Mariah. He'd always made sure that she had something special from him, but this was better, because he could hand it to her himself.
He was still on the run when he and Barbara got married on February 23, 1999. Barbara thought Danny was making headway toward a new life. He still insisted on wearing his red clothes but, he said, he was just being himself, not really doing the hardcore gang stuff. He talked about getting a good job, about doing right by her and Mariah and staying off the streets. A week later, he was apprehended and sent back to prison -- where he'd sworn he wouldn't go.
And when he returned to prison, so did the gangster within. Out of self-protection, he said. The Deuce-Seven was a blemish, even for gangs, and it was dangerous to be a member -- even one who was not connected to Brandy DuVall's murder.
Danny swore again that he would never go back to prison once he got out. His family hoped that meant he would choose a different lifestyle. In July he was sent to a community corrections halfway house, where he was able to work during the day and see his daughter and wife outside a jail setting. If he'd stuck with it, he would have finished his sentence in January.
But Danny still wouldn't give up who he was. In July he attended Danaia's wedding dressed from head to toe in bright red. Even his sunglasses were rose-tinted. When his wife and family complained, he shrugged and said he didn't have anything else to wear. Dustin was only a little better, showing up in a Cleveland Indians jersey with bright-red lettering on the logo. His brother had set the example, and he was following it.
Rather than change, Danny seemed to give up. At least once a week, when Barbara was picking him up or driving him back to the halfway house, he would tell her, "I want them to cremate me, Barb. I don't want to be buried." The first time she brushed it off as just talk, but the regularity of the comment began to frighten her.
In August, Danny and Barbara got into a fight. Somehow that led to him quitting his job, which was discovered by the authorities at the halfway house. He tried to smooth things over, but he'd already been reported to the police. He told Barbara that they said he would be in just as much trouble if he turned himself in or if he ran.
Barbara said she didn't think that could be true. She urged him to turn himself in.