Lost and Found

Baby Girl has one last chance at a new life.

Baby Girl got deep into the game. She calls the women who bought crack from her "mommies"; the homeless men on the corners are "uncles." Everyone on the lookout for crack along Colfax knows Baby G, everyone from the dope man to the hustlers, the hookers, the crackheads and the cops.

Twenty-seven-year-old Baby Girl claims not to remember much of her childhood in north Denver, except for burning down a bedroom in the apartment where she lived with her mother. After that, she went to live with Grandma and Grandpa, who raised her in a nice house with almost everything a kid could need.

"The hugs and the 'You're doing good' and shit wasn't there," she says. "It was always 'You could do better.'"

Mark Manger
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on 
call 24/7.
John Johnston
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on call 24/7.

Grandma says Baby Girl's mother abandoned her. Baby Girl's mother says Grandma took her child away.

Baby Girl failed four attempts at her freshman year of high school. At sixteen, she ran away and joined a Crip set on the north side; small tats on her neck and at the corner of her eye are reminders of her gangbanging days. She got knocked up by a gangster five years older than she was and returned to her grandparents when she was eight months pregnant. They cried, but they took her in. By the time she went into labor, the baby's father was in prison doing a ten-year stint for manslaughter. She had the child and then met another boy down the street and got pregnant again.

Although the boy was locked up for most of Baby Girl's pregnancy, he was there at the birth -- twins. Baby Girl was seventeen with three kids, living in a house provided by her grandparents. She worked in a nursing home, but her boyfriend "wasn't doing shit." So when a tax refund came in the mail, an older brother showed her the cocaine business. She bought an ounce of coke for $400 and made a thousand-dollar profit.

"So I'm in the bar at seventeen years old, slanging powder," Baby G remembers. She avoided snorting, but she was still a "baller with a bad attitude," $800 in her pocket every day, new shoes on her feet and on her kids' feet, and enough coke to keep her mother and her mother's boyfriend high in exchange for their cleaning the house.

Baby G had never controlled her own life, but now she controlled the lives of dope fiends with the sacks in her pockets.

Baby Girl's mother walked the streets then. Between 1995 and 2000, she was arrested in Denver six times for prostitution -- the last when she allegedly offered a detective a $20 blow job off Colfax -- and once for possession of narcotic equipment. She was a heroin addict and a crack addict -- "for a bit," she says. Once, she was kidnapped off the street and beaten beyond recognition.

The twins' father stuck around and lived off Baby Girl's drug-dealing profits for a few years. Then she caught him cheating and bought a .22. "I was going to kill him and dump the car, but I knew I was going to get caught," she says. "The only thought in my mind was, 'I'm not going to work tomorrow, I'm not going to see my kids tomorrow, I'm going to jail for murder.' I knew it."

Baby G dropped the kids off at his mother's house and picked up her boyfriend, then pulled the gun on him in the car. But he escaped -- and kept the twins. She got her oldest child back, but she was lonely. She cried a lot and started drinking. She kept calling and going to the boyfriend's house, trying to get him back, tormenting his family. She broke their cat's neck and left the dead pet at the front door. "He bought me that cat," she says.

Ultimately, he and his family moved away. She hasn't seen the twins for eight or nine years.

Then Baby G started sleeping with a man who got her to try cocaine for the first time by using the "If you love me, you'll take a line" line. She kept the party going, often bringing people home when the bars closed, trashing the house that Grandma and Grandpa were letting her stay in. Gang brawls erupted. The drunken Baby G encouraged the fights, waking up to stories and scratches on her face and hands.

Baby Girl got pregnant again. The father was her "dope ho," more in love with her steady stream of yay-yo than he was with her. Even though she was carrying a baby, he hit her -- her first and only physically abusive relationship, she says. But she snorted lines of coke through the pregnancy, and even smoked crack. She took her first hit off a crack pipe with her mother.

"That's a lie," her mother says. She knows her daughter smoked crack before.

Baby G's fourth child ended up with its father's mother, and then her first went to live with her grandparents, a third generation for them to raise.

"So then I hit the streets," Baby G says. "I found my mom where she's been, out here." Baby G stayed in an apartment filled with crack hos behind a porn shop off Colfax.

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