Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine
Loss
Inspiration piece

My Tawdry Story
By Robert Haydon Jone
s
Response piece

Chances are you know me from your Evening News or Dateline NBC or 60 Minutes. I’m the highly respected, senior citizen from Connecticut whose DNA recently matched up with semen found at an unsolved rape-murder in Miami more than 30 years ago. Here is my side of the story.

I knew both detectives from way back. Tommy Massielo had been my second baseman for two years on the Legion team I had managed for twenty years back in the day. Bill Murphy had been a pal of Kevin, my second son.

When they rang my doorbell mid-morning on a sunny Saturday early in June, I thought maybe they were looking to raise money for the PAL – or some other good cause.

I opened up and I could tell right away this wasn’t about fund-raising. They wouldn’t look at me straight. “Hey, Mr. Moran,” Tommy said, “How are you doing? Sorry to disturb you. We need you to come in to the Station and help us out with an ID on an old, cold-case from out of state.”

I told them I would be glad to help. When did they want me to come in? “Well,” Tommy said, still not looking at me straight, “We’ll give you a ride to the station right now. The Chief wants us to get right on this.”

Well, obviously an alarm bell went off for me right away. But it was a tinkle not a bong. I am a pretty solid citizen. Been on the straight and narrow for 28 years – clean and sober – and still actively working 12 steps a day at a time.

Actually, it was their demeanor that bothered me the most. They were very nervous for detectives looking to straighten out a routine matter. They were very, very, uneasy – they seemed embarrassed and fearful.

Marilyn, my wife, was at her exercise class, so I texted her that I was going to the Station with Tommy and Bill to help out with an ID. “I’m texting my wife,” I said. “Any idea how long this will take?” Tommy said he didn’t know how long.

So, I walked straight out with them to their unmarked sedan and rode on to the Station. An hour later, the Police Chief and an FBI Special Agent were telling me that I was the person who had raped and murdered Angela Greely, a 27-year-old single mother, 31 years ago, in Hallandale, Florida.

They told me they were certain I was the perpetrator – that there had been a DNA match of semen. The certainty was hundreds of millions to one. They urged me to confess.

Well, I was shocked and horrified and terrified. I didn’t say a word. The FBI guy showed me a glossy, 8×10 color photo of Angela Greely with her two boys, about 8 or 9. I recognized her immediately. I even sort of remembered the kids.

I think they saw me recognize her. They told me to give it up and confess. They said they had me cold. The DNA was all they needed. I could make things easier for everyone by confessing.

I didn’t say a word.

Then the FBI guy dealt out graphic color glossies of the gory crime scene to me. (I recognized it as Angela’s bedroom.) And then, one-by-one, shots of poor Angela.

She had been posed – she was naked – bound, stretched and splayed on the four-poster bed. There was what looked like a steak knife sticking out of her right side under her big, silicone, tit and an alligator belt wound so tightly into her neck that her skin overlapped it.

She had been stabbed a lot – there were at least ten stab wounds I could see – and when she died, it appeared her face had frozen in a scream. My guts roiled. I’ve seen a lot – but this was awful.

“Why don’t you man up you freak,” the FBI guy said. He was a tall, fiftyish, Irish-looking guy with his gray hair buzz cut. He had a big nose and a hard face. He was wearing a cashmere, Zegna, blazer and Brooks Brother’s cordovan loafers. “Let’s wind this up. Maybe you had a reason. But the time has come for you own this.”

The Chief held up his hand as if to shield me from the FBI guy. “Terry,” he said, “I’ve known you all my life. As far as I am concerned, you’re a good guy. When you got back from the Marines, you were a problem. The booze and the drugs were ruining you – and you were crazy angry.”

He was holding a folder with my name on it. “Eight assault arrests in five years. …but the judges gave you a break because of your service record. Judge Foley, probably saved your life on your last beef – remember, he gave you a choice of a year in jail or ninety days in rehab.”

I did remember. Judge Foley, a wizened little old man with wispy red hair had locked on to me with his bright blue eyes after I agreed to not contest my latest two assault charges. “Terry”, he said, “You’ve played the Marine card for the last time. You’re a drunk and a drug addict and a brawling disgrace to your family and this town. You either get straight or you go to prison. It’s your choice.”

I really was pretty crazy then. I remembered I did hesitate for a moment. I’d heard you could get drugs pretty easily in the prisons. But it was a year versus ninety days—so I chose the rehab.

I was one of the lucky ones who gets it the first time through. I had a long, tough, detox, but when I emerged clean for the first time in eight years, AA’s 12 Steps made a lot of sense to me. I’d been living in hell for a long time. I’d been an alcoholic since I was a teenager – but when I started hard drugs when I got back from the Marines, I went straight down the chute to hell.

Once I got the poison out of my system, I never wanted to go back there again. So I did what they told me. I got a Sponsor. I went to Meetings and I worked the Steps. I changed. I’d been clean and sober for 28 years. I wasn’t perfect but I was doing life on life’s terms. Judge Foley had shown me the way.

“Terry,” the Chief was saying, with a sympathetic smile on his face, “I’m talking to your good guy, the man I know who is clean and decent, who helps others recover, who mentors fatherless boys. You did this murder back a long time ago when you were addicted. But you have to own it now Terry. You’re the one – there’s no question about that. DNA does not lie.”

I didn’t say anything for about a minute. They were looking hard at me. The Chief had stopped smiling. The FBI guy had balled his big hands into fists. I shuffled the glossy photos together, turned them face down and slid the pile back to the FBI guy.

“I want to call my lawyer”, I said.

******************************************************************************

So now we get to the second part of my tawdry story, which features Lawyer Don, my amazing lawyer and friend.

They did my “Perp Walk” for the cameras when I was indicted in the Federal Court in Bridgeport, a few miles up the line. I was on every Evening News in the whole wide world I do believe. I have a tape. I’m handcuffed. Two big cops have me by the elbows. I look guilty as sin. The wiry, curly haired guy walking next to me is Don. He looks pissed.

DNA has a magic to it. It is as well known for freeing wrongly convicted good guys as it is for nailing bad ones. It is never wrong. So when they announced that the semen they found in poor Angela was from Yours Truly – everyone knew for sure I was guilty. Hell, even I was rattled by it.

Don didn’t care about the DNA. “There’s no way it’s you, Terry”, were the first words he said to me when he met with me in the holding cell at the town jail.

I’d known Don a long time in good times and bad. We were high school baseball teammates. Over the years, he had become a famous lawyer. When I called him, I was thinking he would delegate my case to one of his associates. But Don came half an hour after I called him.

I told him I had known Angela pretty well. I had met her in the bar of the Clubhouse at Gulfstream Race Track in the Hallandale section of Miami. I was pretty far-gone on booze and coke at the time.

I was also flying high on my gambling habit and had run my dinky disability check into $25,000 in just three days. Angela was a long-time coker working the high rollers in the bar – when she asked me back to her place a couple of blocks from the track, it worked for me.

I stayed with her for nearly a month until my luck changed and I ran out of money and coke. We matched up well – we both were full blown addicts so there was no pretending. We did drugs had sex and slept together on her extra big bed as a matter of course.

I mean the sex was part of the drugs – we got high and had sex (or tried to) sort of by the numbers. I remember the first time, before we got down to it, she just reached out to her night stand and there was a stack of condoms there and some toot straws. Sometimes we were too blitzed or too lazy to bother with the condoms.

She went with me to the track every day. And on nights when we weren’t too high to eat, I took her out to eat and to the Clubs – and I liked it when people looked at us. She was a petite, big-breasted, strawberry-blonde pretty with a sweet, slightly gap-toothed smile. We were on the same page. Getting high was the priority. We got along really well.

Like I said, after about a month, my luck ran out and my coke supply was going fast. Angela was pretty matter of fact about it. She had already sent the kids to her mother’s place in Tampa for a few weeks, so I moved my stuff into their room and Angela started turning tricks on a regular basis again.

Not much changed. We went to the track together almost every day. And when we weren’t too wired to eat, we ate together and some times we went clubbing and we got high together on the big bed when we could. We played a lot of backgammon.

Some times I had to dodge a trick, but it was no big deal. I remember once Angela came straight from doing a trick in her room to me lying there reading The Racing Form in her kids room – and we got off. I didn’t think anything of it. She was in the life and so was I.

My coke habit had really accelerated – and I was drinking a lot more booze to chisel the speedy edges off – and Angela was getting heavy into Speedballs, which is coke and heroin mixed. (Boy & Girl together in the parlance.)

One night at Club Bongo, we ran into Leon and Rachel, a very hot couple in their late twenties from New Jersey. Rachel had a pretty nice trust fund – and they both were heavy tooters. They came back with us – they had a lot of coke – and we all ended up in Angela’s big bed – we got off there and stayed and played back and forth there on a naked run of almost four days.

Rachel’s rich aunt owned a house on Fire Island up in New York, and Rachel invited me and Angela to come stay with them for a while. It was summer and the racing in Florida was winding down – so I decided to go.

Angela was going to come – but she changed her mind right before we left. She said she wanted to spend some time with her kids. The last time I saw her we did an all-nighter with Leon and Rachel – and then the three of us took a cab to the airport. Angela walked us down and gave me a big hug and a long kiss by the cab. “Take care of my sweetie”, she said to Leon and Rachel. She waved goodbye as we drove off and flashed that little-girl-lost smile

Well, I stayed on Fire Island for three weeks – and then I went with a 40-something woman, who was sitting on a ton of coke, up to her house on Martha’s Vineyard. We ended up in Italy in the fall.

I sort of hop scotched from place to place and person to person after that. A couple of years later in New York, I heard that Leon and Rachel had jumped off a hotel roof in Bombay holding hands. Some where along the way, I think at Pamplona in Spain, someone told me that Angela had been murdered – but, frankly, I was so stoned at the time I couldn’t decide if someone had told me or I had dreamed it.

Then I got clean and sober and you pretty much know the rest. How did my DNA get in the national database? Well, one of the sixth graders I mentor got leukemia and they were looking for a bone marrow donor. So I sent in a swab. Like they say,

No good deed goes unpunished.”

Well, like I said, the rest of the story is about Lawyer Don. DNA may not lie but Don found out that the cops and FBI guys don’t always tell the whole truth. It turned out that semen from two other men had also been retrieved from Angela.

Then Don showed that the time of death was about the time when I landed on that plane in New York with Leon and Rachel. (Don found us on the manifest) The kicker was that Don found that I had never signed the form I sent in with my swab for the bone marrow match authorizing them to include my DNA in the national database.

So, by law, the cops and the FBI couldn’t use my DNA. Without it they had nothing. They had to let me go. You didn’t see that story on the Evening News or 6o Minutes, did you? That’s why I wanted to write down my side of the story and get it out on Spark.

It was quite an ordeal. After all that time clean and sober, it was hard looking back. Of course, there are quite a few people around here, even in the 12-Step rooms, who look at me funny. I can’t blame them.

When it comes down to it, I think on what Lawyer Don said to me when he came to pick me up at the jail when they set me free. “ Just remember I’ve always known you didn’t do it, Terry, even if you’ll never really be sure.”

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15 Comments

  1. Sean Beaudoin
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm | #

    Whew. This one’s a barn-burner. The best RHJ story yet. You can almost smell the 70’s and see the crowd at Gulfstream in polyester print shirts and Farrah haircuts. No punches pulled. Great last line.

  2. Dave Monroe
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm | #

    Chilling story. Depicts how insane one can get in the throws of alcoholism and drug addiction, and shows what a beast alcoholism and addiction can be — one can be a monster, a murderer, and not even remember. Plus I sensed and everyman thing going on — maybe none of us are ever far away form this nightmare, as the horror, the horror is within us, not up some river in some other guy. Nice picture, too.

  3. Carl Jacobs
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm | #

    ok,ok,ok but where were the qualudes, miami in the seventies, a fine piece, did u do it? don’t tell me

  4. Evan Owen
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm | #

    Makes you sort of rifle through your own dim rolodex containing memories of farewells at long-since renovated airports, and forgotten swabs. Hmmmm. That’s good evocative storytelling.

  5. lawyerdan
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm | #

    As with much of the writing, this leaves one wanting more. Nice to see a plug for the legal profession; most of us try to do our best. There may be too many lawyers, as people say; but there still aren’t enough good ones and there’s always room for another good one.

  6. Posted June 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | #

    A profound illustration of the roiling rolling effects and tsunamis arising from addiction and the isms.We cant get away with it . Its a well written tale and most creditable and it scared the shit out of me.

  7. Charles L. DeFanti
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm | #

    More Jones magic. Here he manages cop talk and street talk with equal élan. No, Carl, Jones is classy fiction writer, not an autobiographer, though it’s hard to tell the difference under the veneer of such skill. Jones is hard-boiled, but not in a way that would discomfit you. The mess is only in the prose.

  8. John H. Tucker
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 12:08 am | #

    Whoa, great kicker.

    This is straight outta a movie. I can see the buzz-cutted FBI dick right now in his cashmere sweater … turtle-neck, right? And Leon and Rachel TOTALLY hang out at Club Bongo, don’t they?!

    What a breeze to stroll through. I couldn’t decide if I was jealous of the narrator’s affair with big-breasted Angela and the polyamorous romps on the big bed, or saddened by the pathetic addiction. Probably both.

  9. Chris
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm | #

    Why are the cops always the bad guys & the swine junkie the victim? Maybe they’re the victims of too many junkioes.

  10. Ed Lambertson
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm | #

    Best yet!! from Mr. Jones. A tightly wound yarn that would make for a “Best yet” CSI episode.

  11. Joe R
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm | #

    Impressive Rob. First paragraph hooks and doesn’t let go.

  12. Posted August 11, 2011 at 1:04 am | #

    Could’ve been me, but I would’ve ended up with a sentence!! Had me in the grip of it all. Great prose, but disturbing….it touched the core!

    Thanks

  13. Posted August 26, 2011 at 1:11 am | #

    Great piece…you can smell the sweat, feel the heat, taste the stale booze. Awesome job!

  14. paul zalon
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm | #

    Great story!
    Elmore Leonard does a qualification? Tough to be hard boiled, lean and dramatic while dancing around one guys’ recovery. A lot is evoked in a short piece of work. Could easily see this expanded without losing the momentum. Excellent.

  15. Emmaleah
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm | #

    A fascinating story. I find it very interesting that the nature of the writing itself (the slight ramble of memory, the circuitous patterns of the storytelling) is indicative of the speaker himself; through the diction, we get a glimpse into the mind of the innocent but impulsive addict. Well done!

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