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Cover Story February 28th, 2008

  Untitled Document

Crazy Lucy and other stories from
the Cop House . . .

cover

by lyle e davis

First off, her name isn’t Lucy. But we didn’t change her name to protect the innocent. Far from it. Lucy is about as guilty as you can be on a lot of counts. But . . . Lucy is still alive, she’s still a human being, though a rather sorry example, and she is entitled to some privacy . . . though Lucy is one of those individuals who doesn’t much give a damn what you or I think about her. Her life is a tragic one. By all accounts, Lucy was a fairly normal teenager in high school. Very good looking in fact. She was of Mexican heritage. A bit big for her age . . . but a fairly nice person.

That would change.

Dramatically.

In the past 30 years or so, “Crazy Lucy” had developed such a reputation with the Escondido cops that when dispatch received a call involving her, two police cruisers were dispatched, not one. One officer was usually insufficient to handle Crazy Lucy when she was on one of her drunken rants and raves.

In her adult years Crazy Lucy had taken to drinking and possibly using drugs. She had become a prostitute . . . though I reckon a man would have to be pretty desperate to even think about climbing into bed with Lucy.

Back in 1994, a young then-rookie policeman, Craig Carter, got a call that Lucy was creating a disturbance at the local Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store that was then located near Pennsylvania Avenue and Hickory. He responded and tried to remove Lucy.

“You ain’t touchin’ me!” she said. “You ain’t putting no handcuffs on me. You ain’t arrestin’ me!”

“Lucy,” said the young officer, “you’ve got to come with me. You need help. You’re creating a disturbance. There are moms and little children here.”

"Step back or I’ll take off all my clothes!“ she said.

And then she did.

What’s more . . .she then proceeded to go to the bathroom. Right there in front of the customers and staff . . . in the middle of the floor.

Lucy was eventually reclothed, removed from the scene and transported to jail. But Officer Craig Carter had met Lucy for the first, but not the last time.

A retired Escondido police sergeant told me . . . “Lucy? She was a mess. Always drunk, and filthy. When she was arrested she would pee in the patrol car and puke, no one wanted to deal with her. Remember, this was back when the car seats were made of cloth, not plastic. You couldn’t just hose them out like you can now. A real sad case. Lucky for me, I never arrested her and never had to put up with her peeing and bitching.”

Another source told me Lucy used to rent a taxi and take her daughter up into the hills and avocado groves surrounding Escondido where she would pimp out her own daughter as a prostitute to the grove workers, as well as service customers herself. Lucy had become an alcoholic, a prostitute, a pimp, and a major challenge for police.

I met Lucy several times when I owned “Lyle’s at Dixon Lake” in Escondido. She would come up to the lake from time to time.

One day I made a big mistake.

I noticed Lucy had a new, yellow dress on. “That’s a pretty dress you have on, Lucy,” I said.

Apparently Lucy thought I was hitting on her. She wouldn’t leave me alone for the rest of the afternoon. Pestering me, asking questions.

An hour or so later, another woman came and asked me to call a park ranger. Lucy was in the women’s restroom, washing her underwear . . . and the restroom smelled like a garbage dump. Lucy had a major body odor problem.

Another time, my former sister-in-law thought she’d be nice and offered Lucy a ride down the hill from Dixon Lake. She couldn’t get Lucy’s smell out of the car for a month. While talking to the people who had contact with Lucy, the older cops (some of the newer cops don’t know the Lucy story), former classmates, family members, we found out what may have set Lucy off into her crazy world.

Remember when we said she was a very attractive, normal girl in high school? Well, she was viciously raped at about age 17. They arrested the guy that raped her and he went to prison. He’s dead now, a drug addict and generally bad guy all around. Not too many tears were shed when he departed this earth.

Lucy appeared to have recovered from this trauma . . for awhile at least. In time, she would marry a surveyor from Rancho Santa Fe. That marriage ended and somewhere along the line, Lucy began to drink. Then drink more and more, to the point she became an alcoholic. We don’t know if she also got into drugs, but it would not be surprising. In the later years it was not uncommon to see Lucy walking around town with a bottle of wine inside a paper bag, and she was drunk, challenging anyone who dared to look at her.

I am told that today Lucy is a bit more settled. She apparently has an apartment in Escondido and has not been a major police problem for a few years. One police lieutenant told me he bumped into her at a sandwich shop recently and she was drinking a couple of beers but was not causing any problems. She occasionally has breakfast with her brother at a well known restaurant.

I suspect the rape at age 17 was a major contributor to the wild life of Miss Lucy. Including Lucy, I’ve known four women who were raped, three of whom became promiscuous, one of whom, apparently, enjoys a normal love life. Psychologists tell us that some raped women become promiscuous because they somehow equate sex with the bestowing of affection upon them, whether real, artificial, or forced.

We don’t really know what went wrong with Lucy . . . but we do know she has become a legend in Escondido . . . and not a legend of the best kind. We wish her well.

Requiem

Cops are supposed to be hard as nails. Nothing fazes them. They’ve seen it all. Done it all.

That’s pure BS.

They might be able to handle difficult situations a bit better than you and I, both as a result of training and experience. But, deep down, they bleed real blood . . . and they sometimes cry real tears. An Oceanside police officer named Dan Bessant was shot to death by a teenager when the officer responded as backup to a traffic stop. A cop for three years, Bessant left a wife and a 2-month-old son.

His funeral cortege featured police cars from multiple jurisdictions, as is traditional. As the long line of police cars wound its way eastbound on Highway 78, they turned off at College Avenue, and then south to a left hand turn lane.

photo
Officer Dan Bessant -
Killed In the Line of Duty


Escondido Police Captain and Assistant Chief of Police, Cory Moles


“And there they were. A man and his wife and two small children, standing there, with a simple sign that said . . “We are so sorry.”

“I was in absolute awe. And, yes, I teared up. I still do, when I think about that simple, honest expression of sorrow by that family. You don’t forget things like that.”

•••••

There is high drama and sometimes sadness in police work. But from time to time there is also laughter. Stories that sometimes don’t make it into official police reports.

Retired Escondido Police Sergeant Nick Ponce recalls back when the city wasn’t as large as it is today . . . and those on the graveyard shift often got bored. Every once in awhile a rookie cop would join, all fired up, ready for action, ready to catch bad guys.

The graveyard shift cops, when it was particularly slow, would set up at Juniper and Valley Parkway so they might observe, as well as participate. All the cops were in on the plan, including the Supervisor, who would run the show.

The supervisor would get on the radio, in a frantic voice, to the rookie . . . “I just witnessed a theft from a vehicle. Suspect is headed in this direction, wearing a white shirt, blue pants.” The rookie cop would fire off in that direction looking for the perpetrator. Another cop would get on the radio, “he’s coming this direction now. He’s on the northeast corner . . he’s right there. He’s right by you. If you get out of the car you may be able to see him. He’s got a muffler in his hands.”

photo

Sergeant Nick Ponce, EPD, (retired)

All the cops would have a good laugh, the rookie cop was properly embarrassed . . . and the early morning hours boredom had been broken. The cop had finally spotted the Joor Muffler Man statue.

The stunt was pulled two or three times . . . then word finally got out so the new rookies were wise to the scam. So the force had to come up with some other plan. In time, Escondido grew and cops were too busy, even during the graveyard shift, to play fun and games.

Retired Lieutenant John Wilson, now living in Modesto, told us of several other stories from “the old days.”

Way back when, a cop by name of Ed Starr wore badge #1. He was an old time cop . . . he told Wilson that Escondido was at one time known as “Sin City.” Escondido was, in fact, a major red light district back in 1942, during the war years.

It got that way because, though distant from the San Diego metropolitan area, and its neighboring military bases, it was also a very small town with very little law enforcement . . . and what city government it had was probably corrupt.

The judge was a local plumber and was being investigated for embezzling fines. Strangely, his pickup burned up one night, destroying all of the court records so the investigation had to come to a quick halt.

Much later, when John Wilson had become a police officer, he observed an amazing series of events.

There was a town drunk by the name of Wendell Ward. The department had only recently begun numbering case files and Wendell earned himself #22. Whenever the cops found Wendell out on a toot and needed help, they’d pick him up, transport him to the jailhouse, let him sleep it off, and then send him on his way the next day. Kinda like Otis in the town of Mayberry with Sheriff Andy Taylor. Like Otis, Wendell was always a very pleasant guy and it became almost legendary when cops would monitor the radio traffic and hear that an officer was enroute to the police station with #22. The cops all knew that was Wendell. Again.

On one particularly cold December night . . . everything was freezing. Someone called in a body at Grape Day Park. An officer went out. and found Wendell Ward, who had apparently perished in the cold, cold, winters night. Someone said, we’d better call the coroner’s office.

Wendell had gone to the big Whiskey Bottle in the Sky . . the Might Tavern Way Up Yonder.

One of the officers rolled Wendell over.

‘NOT SO FAST!’ boomed a mighty voice. Sure enough. It was Wendell. Still alive. . . . he was hypothermic . . .but alive. Apparently all that liquor had served as an anti-freeze.

He would live to continue being the town drunk.

Wendell did eventually die. It was in a house fire near 5th street, a tiny shack not too far from the police department.

After he died, however, an interesting discovery was made. Wendell had over $500,000 in a bank. This town drunk, this wino, had substantial assets and could have lived a comfortable, if not sober life.

Wilson tells of another unusual story:

“This was sometime in the early 1980’s. There was a brand new Sergeant named Gary Roberts. I had just been promoted to Lieutenant when Dispatch alerted me one day to something unusual. ‘Lieutenant, I think someone is playing a prank on you. . . . this lady called the PD to make a complaint. I heard another voice in the background say . . . ‘I told you if you did that I was gonna kill you! Bang, bang, bang.’ I turned to Sergeant Roberts and said ’I Think it’s a joke but we’d better check it out. We had reverse 911 then so we checked the address. I went out with the officer. A drunk meets us at the door. ‘We have to come in and check this out,’ we said. We went in and there, sitting in a chair was a woman with five bullet holes in her head. She had been on the phone all day and he told her if she made one more call he was gonna kill her. She did. And he did.

Roberts later quit the Escondido Police Department in the mid 80’s and moved back to be Chief of Police in a small Pennsylvania town.
Current Lieutenant Craig Carter tells us of a particularly vicious rape that occurred near El Norte & Broadway several years ago. A call came out on an assault at a retirement home. A Hispanic male had broken into the retirement home . . . and committed a violent rape. He escaped out the window on El Norte and headed toward Centre City. Police got information on the direction of travel and the description of a very dirty Hispanic male, heading toward Reidy Creek. Carter, then a young police office, pursued, stopping first at a car wash. The ASTREA helicopter was up above, looking for the rapist, a number of police units were on the scene and a major search was under way.

Carter, on a hunch, went into the flood control channel and soon spotted a guy who matched the description perfectly; he was hunched down then began to run. Craig, with the aid of the helicopter and other units, chased him down and caught him. A positive ID was made, he was convicted and sent to prison.

In prison the other inmates exacted prison justice. This inmate died at the hands of other inmates. Men who rape babies and old ladies are not popular within a prison population. They occasionally wind up dead. Very few tears were shed at his demise.

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Lieutenant Craig Carter, Escondido Police Department

Again, Retired Police Sergeant Nick Ponce:

“I was privileged to be the first motorcycle officer ever in the Escondido Police Department. It was experimental. The department and the city wanted to see how it would work, how the public perceived it. The initial mission was simply to work the downtown area for pedestrian violations. We knew that motorcycles would be more maneuverable downtown than cars . . .and, we thought, correctly as it turned out, they would be more effective.

One time, when I-15 was still under construction, but ready for an upcoming ribbon cutting ceremony with CalTrans and other officials, we went out to the overpass with Valley Parkway with Chuck Askegreen who was then our traffic sergeant. We were there for preliminary planning. I noted that I-15 was still closed to public so I got on my bike and said, ‘Watch this, Chuck,” and I headed southbound to Felicita, turned around, then headed northbound at a high rate of speed, whizzing by Chuck, at over 100 mph. I said to myself ‘Self, you’re the first guy to ever ride a motorcycle over 100 mph on I-15.”

There were no other cars on the road or I would not have done it.

After six years, Ponce left motorcycles as he was promoted to Sergeant. He retired 10 years ago, is still a consultant for the Police Department, acting as Administrative Hearing Officer for parking citations. He handles disputed parking tickets, spending about four hours a month.

Sometimes the stories from the Cop House are both touching and amusing. Witness these gems from retired Sergeant Ron LePanto:

“The town in the 50’s, used to be very quiet. One one graveyard shift a police officer found a duck walking across the street. The officer was able to capture the duck. In those days people still had poultry in their back yard. We had a little holding area at the old police station where we would book, fingerprint and search the prisoners. The officer put the duck in there, figuring in the mornig we’d turn it loose again. Later that evening, however, other cops arrested a drunk and put the drunk in the holding room, not knowing about the detained duck. The officer went up front to fill out paper work. Soon, he heard the inmate screaming . . .”There’s an animal in here!” The officer opens the door, out walks the duck, marching down the hallway . . . saying, “quack, quack, quack.”

Another time, there was this downtown building with a bunch of small hotel rooms. This guy calls, said there was an animal under his bed. The guy sounded panic stricken. We figures he was probably drunk . . .but we went to look into it anyway.

I shined my flashlight under the bed and saw the biggest eyes you ever saw. There was, in fact, some type of furry creature under that bed. I took my trouser belt off, made a loop, got it around the animals neck and pulled him out. We took it to the humane society the following morning; that’s when the humane society was at Broadway and Mission, where Kaiser Permanente is now. Anyway, the Humane Society figured out the animal was a Kinkajou, a nocturnal animal. At that time the Humane Society was not equipped nor able to take care of the animal so I wound up taking it home. It was friendly as could be but it had large claws as it is a digger. I chained it up to a dog house in the back yard but, being a nocturnal animal, you would hear the chain clanking at night. I found out they were fruit eaters so it became pretty easy to keep it well fed. Near as we could figure out, there used to be a pet shop in town. The Kinkajou somehow managed to get away; the owner, perhaps he didn’t have the proper import papers or something, never made a police report. If that is in fact what happened we have no idea how the kinkajou made its way to the hotel, the hotel room, or found its way under the bed. When a town is small, like we were then, things happen.

We wound up giving it to a local family who had lots of space and resources to care for it. Remember, at that time we didn’t have a Wild Animal Park at our back door. This family cared for it as a family pet; it had its own cage and eventually died, probably of old age.

From Jerry Ford, retired Lieutenant, Escondido Police Department:

“Back when I was a rookie I was assigned a three wheeled motorcycle. That was the assignment for all rookies back then. I went around downtown, checking parking violations, checking the parking lots, checking expired meters.

One day, unbeknown to me, the city had installed meter poles to put parking meters on. People parked all along that street, next to these poles. The problem was, after all these people had parked, the city came out and installed the meters . . . and didn’t tell me about it. So, my next run, I ticketed every single car there because all the meters had the expired red flag on them.

When the error was discovered, all of the parking tickets were immediately dismissed. And Ford had to go back and retrieve all the tickets from the windows of the cars.

As Ford progressed in his police career he saw more and more in the way of crime. Still during his early career he vividly remembers working in a beat cruiser when he got a call about an 911-interrupted call for help out on Oak Hill Drive.

“There were four police cruisers working that night. I was coverd by Charlie Peterson, another old timer. We pulled up at same time, walked up to the door. There was glass all over the front porch. A guy came to the door. He said there was no problem but we said, ‘we have to come in and check things out.’” We pushed our way in. A woman was standing in the kitchen, all bruised and battered. Knowing Charlie was behind me I started to talk to her. ‘Look out!’ she said. I turned just in time to see the guy had picked up a chair and threw it at me. Thanks to her warning I was able to duck the chair. I went after the guy, trying to handcuff him and we were both sliding all over the broken glass. Here comes Charlie with tear gas spray. Before I could say, “Charlie, no!” he hit me right in the cheek, below my eye, with a full dose of tear gas spray. I couldn’t see a thing. Somehow, we got him cuffed. While Charlie took the bad guy off to jail I began to flush out my eye. I spent 30 minutes on the front porch trying to flush my eyes out with a water hose.”

On another occasion, Ford was in the right place at the right time . . . and his conversational ability helped solve a mystery:

“There was a cab driver who was murdered. He had been taken from Escondido over to San Marcos and killed, execution style, with a shot to the back of his head. I was on the graveyard shift, had actually come in a bit early. It was about 10pm and the whole police station was filled with people, FBI, detectives, Sheriff’s deputies, everyone was working this apparently senseless murder.

I got a call from Dick Deaver, an old time police officer, to meet him at Rose and East Valley at a bar. There were two young guys in a car that seemed suspicious. We approcahed the car, got them out of the car, and ran a check on them. One guy was a local; I remember he reminded me of James Dean.

We found out a traffic ticket was outstanding. I arrested him on the outstanding traffic ticket. booked him in, and began talking to him. His last name was West, he had come out here from St. Paul, Mn. That’s where I was from. He knew the same neighborhood where I had gone to school. After I booked him in, I got a blanket for him and went into the jail, where we talked all about “home.” I remember he had a 1964 Kennedy half-dollar. Back then, we collected those. I swapped him a half dollar for the Kennedy half dollar. We had seemed to bond, somehow. He began to open up. In fact, the next morning he told everyone else he was the guy who had executed the cab driver. It was cold blooded, absolutely no reason. I had alerted the higher-ups as to several statements he made that seemed to implicate him. They brought in the brass and began the interrogation.

The interrogators learned that he had committed a bank robbery in Minnesota and had shot someone back there as well.

Today, Jerry Ford is retired.

While he recalled interesting stories from his rookie and early years as a cop, he would go on to a distinguished career, serving in a variety of posts. He was a hostage negotiator for 25 years, and was its senior member of that team. He served three years in patrol, also served in Juvenile, as the school liaison. He has worked homicide as well.

During his last two years with the department he worked the Internal Affairs Section. In fact, he wrote the only manual the department has ever used as a guide for Internal Affairs procedures.

Escondido Police Captain and Assistant Chief of Police, Cory Moles

Every cop has one case that stays with them throughout their career. This one, from October 3, 1988, is that case for me. I’ll never forget it:

Shortly after midnight the 911 dispatcher put out over the air the sounds of a female struggling. The call came from an apartment unit in the 1300 block of Grand Avenue. It happened that I was just across the street when the call was received. We drove over there, raced to the door, and attempted entry.

We had to kick the door in to gain entry. She had been viciously murdered. We found JoAnn Clemens in one of the interior rooms with her throat slashed and multiple other stab wounds

Because we were so close and responded so quickly, the bad guys couldn’t leave by the door. We heard them through the door . . .but when they heard us trying to gain entry we surmise they jumped from the balcony. This was on the third floor so we’re kinda surprised they weren’t injured in the jump. They fled from the area.

However, we had some witnesses who gave us a description of some guys that looked suspicious. One witness had seen the guy that jumped from the balcony. We got clothing descriptions, height, weight . . . and began an immediate search of the area.

We caught one guy within a half- hour. One of our responding perimeter units spotted him and took him into custody. In time, two others would be taken into custody, tried, convicted and sentenced.

It turns out the daughter of the woman killed was also arrested. She, in fact, was the instigator of it all. She had persuaded her boyfriend, Kurt Michaels, a recently discharged Marine, to kill her mom for the insurance money. Michaels was sentenced to death and is still on death row; Darren Popik got life, the other, Joseph Paulk, the driver of the getaway car, a long term, I believe 18-20 years.

I guess the reason this case sticks with me is it was so needless, senseless, so brutal, so vicious.

Court records show that 16 year old Christina Clemens was living with her mother temporarily while on leave from an adolescent rehabilitation
facility. Michaels, who was known as “Moccasin Kurt,” was 22 at the time of the killing. He served in the Marines for 3 1/2 years, was married briefly, had a child, and divorced. He received a psychiatric discharge from the Marines in 1987. Since then, he lived on money he made from selling drugs and other illegal activities. He was working at a carnival in Oceanside at the time of the murder.

Michaels presented evidence at trial that his girlfriend, 16-year-old Christina Clemens, had been sexually abused repeatedly by her mother. She testified at trial that she asked Michaels to kill her mother and that, if he didn’t, she would commit suicide.

An autopsy showed numerous stab wounds and blunt force injuries to the head. Two stab wounds to the neck were fatal.

Police caught Popik near the apartment complex and arrested him. A witness identified him as one of the persons she had earlier seen working at a carnival in Oceanside. On October 17, 1988, police arrested Michaels at the carnival. He confessed immediately after his arrest.

In the first case at the Vista courthouse to result in a death sentence, Michaels was convicted of the throat-slashing murder of his girlfriend's mother, JoAnn Clemons, 41, of Escondido.

Superior Court Judge J. Morgan Lester imposed a death sentence July 31, 1990.

The state Supreme Court upheld a death sentence in July, 2002.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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