We pulled up to 41 st and Michigan and saw at least a half-dozen squad cars parked around and in front of the building located at 4101 S. Michigan. The area was slowly being gentrified and restored since I first got there in the 80’s. Greystones, Brownstones, old multi-unit brick buildings were getting a new facelift, and 4101 S. Michigan was one of the first to undergo the rejuvenation of the neighborhood. It was so well done I couldn’t tell if it was new construction or an incredibly well-done rehab. I could see that some of the original entry doors on the 41 st street side had been completely removed and replaced with a huge metal garage door allowing for enclosed parking below the residences. My partner Jessica had taken off for date night, so I had Jim Corcoran and Collin Murphy with me. This would be their first homicide scene since being promoted. Both were excellent patrolmen that didn’t need supervision in as much as they just needed to see the inside of a crime scene and learn the protocol of a homicide investigation. Without being told both jumped out with their notebooks and were eager to canvass the building. That’s a good thing to do and a great thing to see. Young detectives are realizing the importance of a thorough canvass of the building’s occupants along with the immediately surrounding buildings and residences. Some new people just get it and take to detective work like ducks to water. I grabbed my notebook, flashlight, and latex rubber gloves out of the unmarked when Sgt. Ware from the 002nd District walked up. Ware was a handsome, Billy Dee Williams kind of pretty, but built like Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. Ware looked sharp as always, but his face looked drained.
"We meet again, Detective Nolan.”
“Hey, Sarge what’s happening?”
“Did you see all that shit that jumped off downstate in Arcola on the news this morning?”
Arcola Illinois was a small town of about 2900 people and about 163 miles to the south of Chicago along I 57 Highway. A town semi-famous for the Lawn Rangers, a precision broom and lawnmower team that performed in parades. They took their name from the Lone Ranger TV series and in fact had the Lone Ranger himself, actor Clayton Moore, as the grand marshal at some of the parades. The morning news had shown footage of heavily armed law enforcement personnel surrounding a bank that had been taken
hostage by someone.
“Yeah I watched it. Something with a high-speed chase and a bank takeover?”
Sgt. Ware nodded, “Well the car those dudes used belongs to this guy up on the third floor, and he is dead.”
“Apparently after all the excitement ended downstate the State Police went to tow the car the desperadoes abandoned along the highway and ran the plate.” “Came back to Arnie Graves from this address except there was no Arnie Graves downstate or in custody.”
“So, they called this one into us. This is the second time we’ve been here Nolan.”
“The second time?” “Why?’
“Earlier this morning around 0100 hours, a unit went on a “shots fired” call to the same address.”
Sgt. Ware went on to say the responding officers found a locked front door, no complainant, and no rapid access to the interior of the building. They radioed dispatch and asked for a complainant or a call back number. When that turned up negative, they pushed all the resident doorbells until someone buzzed them in. A common ploy the police used that almost always worked. The officers searched the lobby, the main level, and then all three floors. The callback number came from an out of state area code, and they weren’t picking up when 911 tried to call them back. When the officers finished, they coded the call out as no service necessary.
“I got to warn you, Nolan, some family members are here, and they are pretty distraught.”
“Well, who told them?”
Sgt. Ware went on, “State Police told them. They sent an Illinois State Police unit over to the parents’ house on Avers Street looking for Arnie Graves. After they told the family what had occurred downstate some of the family tried calling Arnie and received no response.”
It was always a potentially volatile scene when family members were close. At times, it is the proverbial double-edged sword. On top of the incredible group shock, a violent death is to the entire family and friends, what made it worse was that it was happening right before their eyes. Many times, we have had family members rush the scene and grab hold of the body. We understood that they needed and wanted to hang onto their loved one no matter how futile it seemed. But we also understood that the body and everything around the body was now our crime scene. Regardless of whether the family would cooperate or didn’t want to press charges, we were going to find out who did it, arrest them, and get them charged. If not for the family, then for us because that’s what we worked hard to do. We were to be the vehicle of revenge for the deceased and the sword of justice for the family. It was as basic as that. Homicide was the ultimate crime and catching the bad guy was what the policeman tried to accomplish.
I could see some people milling about near the street and parked cars, but meeting with the family would be the last thing we do tonight, after processing the scene.
It took experience and savvy to approach and inform family members about their loved one when they die. It is worse when they die violently and unexpectedly. Conversely, often having the family there sometimes leads to immediate clues and suspects. They may be a fountain of information on the victim’s last few hours and actions. This would prove to be true in this case.
The front entrance to the three-story was on he west side of the building and required a key or a doorbell buzzer to gain access. An officer was stationed there and had the door propped open so that we could get in. A small foyer that contained the mailboxes led up three steps to the lobby door. That door had no lock. The lobby contained two elevators in its center and a stairway entrance door on the left.
We climbed the stairs to the third floor instead of using the building’s elevator to kill two birds with one stone. You never know if someone or something from the crime scene might be found, and it gave us the opportunity to get a clearer picture of the access to the third floor. Once at the landing I could see another patrol officer and yellow crime scene tape blocking a walkway along an open atrium courtyard. That is a good sign. Some sergeant or officer determined the boundaries of the outside perimeter and had it protected.
The crack of police radios rang out to my left as I approached the tape and walkway leading to apartment 304. Three officers from the 002nd District were chatting outside the entrance door to the apartment. District Sergeant Moravec along with Officers English and Tornes responded to the second call that night at 4101 S. Michigan.
They stopped when we approached. “What’s happening crime fighters?” I asked.
“Nada detective what’s new with you?”
There is a familiarity with the persons and places you have worked that removes the newness and awkwardness of meeting people for the first time. The police department was no different. You just have a connection with them regardless if you have ever met or worked with them before. That’s what makes being a police officer so great. No matter where you go, it’s like part of your family is waiting when you get there.
English and Tornes had received the assignment, and they were now the assigned paper car. It was their job to document the entire incident, who responded to the call, who had crime scene protection and to notify all the big bosses. English got right to the point, “The resident’s nephew along with his mother, Angelique Graves, and Investigators from the Illinois State Police came over to the condo when Arnie Graves did not answer his phone.” “The nephew looked through this side window and saw his uncle laying on the floor, not moving.”
Moravec added, “We knocked on the door and received no answer. I sent Officer English into the apartment through the bedroom window that was unlocked to take the deadbolt off the front door.”
English had gotten all the way through the window when he saw Arnie Graves naked, lifeless body, splayed out on the floor of the bedroom. English drew his weapon, stepped over Arnie Graves body, and entered the hallway. Pausing for a moment to listen for any movement or noise and to confirm that he was alone, English unlocked the dead-bolted door and let his partner and Sgt. Moravec into the residence. The three officers crept through the apartment in search of any other persons or a possible offender. Then they backed out the way they came making sure nothing was touched or disturbed.
Blood red crime scene tape spanned the width of the decorative metal security door blocking the entrance, and one of the officers pulled it up so we could pass through. No one, not even snoopy command rank bosses, supervisors, or looky-loo coppers were to enter that scene except the assigned detectives and the Evidence Recovery Team. I let Murphy and Corcoran go ahead of me as we entered the scene.
Standing just inside the doorway, I noticed that nothing looked out of place except for what appeared to be a line of white liquid traversing through the hallway and into several other rooms. The first door to my left was a bedroom, where Officer English discovered the body of Arnie Graves. Corcoran and Murphy froze staring down into the room from the doorway.
I was in my twenty-first year on the job and my tenth year of being a homicide detective in a city that is arguably one of the most violent places on the planet. I have seen horrific acts of violence, accidents, suicides, and child murders. I have responded, worked, solved, and prosecuted every type of violent crime imaginable. I looked at Arnie Graves body and saw the unimaginable.
He was laying 5 feet inside the room and on his back like Michelangelo’s “The Vitruvian Man.” Both arms were out away his body at a 45-degree angle. A pool of blood formed behind his head. He was completely naked except for his shower shoes. His legs were spread open and revealed an apparent gunshot wound to the outside of his right thigh that passed through and into his groin. A large gaping wound on his forehead had soaked his hair with blood which had streamed down and into the carpet. His head, tilted to the right, held his lifeless gaze staring at the ceiling. There was a bullet wound between his nose and the left eye that had formed a huge hemorrhage under his eyelid.
I saw what looked like stab wounds to the left side of his neck and clavicle that were more than likely
post-mortem since very little blood had come out from either wound. A box of baking soda leaning on his right arm explained what must be the powder like substance that blanketed his body from head to toe. It had given Arnie the appearance of an African Tribal Warrior that you would see on National Geographic or the History Channel.
The DVD movie of HANNIBAL about a fictional serial killer, still in its wrapper, and propped up on its end, rested near his chin. Another DVD, RED DRAGON, the prequel to HANNIBAL sat on his chest. On top of that DVD and perpendicular to the body rested a large 12-inch black handled blood-stained butcher knife. I saw that a dime on his penis heads up. A piece of white paper lying on the right side of the victim’s chest had the faintest of writing on it like the pen was running out of ink. On the note written in childlike penmanship are the hand-printed words,
Really? Was this moron of a suspect thinking that his half-assed attempt at staging a scene was going to send my partners and me careening off into spooky, occult, serial killer land? Thanks for the help pinhead. What you think is some brilliant attempt at gruesome fake evidence to cover your tracks, just gave me your planning and intent to a First-Degree Murder Charge.
Near the left forearm of the victim was a large wooden handled hammer. Probably the weapon used on Arnie Graves to cause that wound to his forehead. Sitting on its end and above his left shoulder was a Hallmark birthday card to Arnie from one of his best friends, Ace Smoothers. On the card written in smeared blood are the words,
“AC DUE IT.”
I looked at the hands of Arnie Graves, and I could see blood on the right index finger of the right hand.
This killer is one ignorant son of a bitch. It is one thing to commit a murder. It is worse to desecrate and humiliate the victim. But to have the forethought to try and frame someone by dipping Arnie’s dead finger into his blood to write out that clue, well that took some hatred towards both Arnie and Ace. I now took this murder personally. I still do to this day.
Hatred. That was it. At least two bullet wounds right off the bat due to the trajectory on the body that could have occurred as soon as the front door had closed. At least two knife wounds post-mortem, the bashed in skull, and then all this desecration to the victim. This attack was personal. There was no forced entry to the downstairs door. No footprints or pry marks to the apartment door. The offender had a key or was let in by Arnie Graves or someone else. Arnie was not blitzed at the door like some wild home invasion. Nothing seemed out of place in the hallway. In fact, nothing seemed out of place anywhere in the room.
Certainly, everything I learned during detective training and everything I had read by the FBI along with the encyclopedia of murder: Practical Homicide Investigations, pointed to a knife attack usually being very personal. Horrific, brutal knife attacks and murders are common in domestic disturbances, usually because of the proximity to a knife. Knife attacks occurring in domestic relationships were common, and the LGBT community was not immune to them. On the contrary, they were quite high. It was something to consider.
I noticed two circular stains had lightened the surrounding beige carpet underneath both hands of the victim. I knelt to get a closer look and could smell bleach. Perhaps a killer covering his DNA tracks? Or so he thought. Using bleach was no guarantee that a forensic scientist could not pull a DNA profile from the sample. I was going to have the hands bagged by the Evidence Recovery Team when they arrived.
I started working my way out from the body and examining the scene from a wider perspective. On the west wall was cast off blood starting about three feet off the floor and fanning upwards in an arc for another three feet. To the north near the door, a mirror hung on the wall which also had cast off blood. Two feet away from the victim’s feet stood a glass and chrome shelving unit. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the blood spatter was not on top of the individual shelves, it was underneath them. So, Arnie was already down on the ground, and either blood cast off from the hammer, or the cast off from the knife caused the spatter on the bottom side of the shelves. Another good clue that this was a very personal murder.
A white linen shade that covered the window Officer English had entered had a blood smear that was at about head high. I walked over and pulled the shade away which gave a view of the outside walkway and the front doors to several other apartments. So, after the shots rang out the killer peered out the window to see if anyone had been alerted. What was a more disturbing thought being that the killer could have been watching the police search the hallways when they responded to the first call. By pulling the shade back, the killer did not realize he had left blood smear behind. That might help.
To be continued...