Ya don’t wanna know…

It was a two bedroom unkempt basement apartment on Chicago’s west side. A fully clothed heavyset black male was lying in the narrow hallway that connected the two bedrooms with a messy kitchen. Beneath his head was a small pool of dark red congealed blood, the result of an apparent gunshot wound. Two more wounds were visible in his upper chest and shoulder. The body was cold to the touch and in full rigor.

There were signs of a struggle, upended kitchen chairs, some broken glass and traces of what appeared to be marijuana scattered on the linoleum floor. District personnel had secured the scene and the crime lab arrived the same time as Mike and I. We were working homicide out of Maxwell Street, the day shift, on this bright and sunny Sunday afternoon.  Easter Sunday to be exact.

I glanced at my watch; 3:00 PM. We were due to officially get off in two hours, but the evening shift had agreed to come in right after they finished their Easter dinners. Mike and I planned to take an early duck as soon as at least one team from afternoons was in place. But it was not to be. The office had scheduled absolute minimum manpower due to the holiday and there was no way they would allow the new team to take our murder. That would put them short right from the beginning of their shift. Mike and I knew this would be our job and we would be working overtime into the late evening hours. Easter dinner for us would be fast food, if we were able to find anyplace open later in the evening.

The crime lab crew had finished their pictures and began dusting for prints. I motioned to the white wall phone in the hallway just above the body.

“If you can get that next, I’ll call our office and tell them what we have.”

They nodded and gave the phone the once over with negative results. I grabbed some paper towel and wiped much of the fine black dust off the instrument. I straddled the body and then dialed our sergeant, holding the phone away from my ear as I spoke.

“You guys know you’ll have to take this one,” he said.

“We know, we know… just wanted to keep you updated”

Still straddling the body, I dialed my sister-in-law. She and her husband were hosting the family Easter dinner this year and they had arranged to delay serving until I could get there from work.

“I won’t be able to make dinner this afternoon—we got a late job—you guys go ahead and eat whenever you’re ready.”

“What happened? We can wait… we’ll just feed the kids and the rest of us will eat with you when you get here.”

“No, that won’t work. Mike and I will be working quite late tonight.” I was in an uncomfortable position and my footing wasn’t the best—the last thing I wanted to do is fall on the body.

“Are you sure? What happened?”

I shifted my position to get a more solid stance but stared down at the floor and saw my pant leg was now touching the victim’s body. Flies were already exploring his nose and ear cavities, continuing to add to their eggs to those no doubt already deposited.

“We’ll fix a plate for you… you eat anytime you get here. What happened?”

“Ya don’t wanna know, you really don’t—I gotta go!”

* * *

It was a warm summer evening in mid-July and Mike and I were working a rare midnight watch assignment for the next few weeks. The call was “… a body in a garbage can…” and Mike volunteered us for the job even though we were not the next crew up.

“And tell me again, just why we’re taking this job?” I asked facetiously. We were already en route to the Taylor Street address.

“Because…” he feigned the part of a patient teacher speaking slowly… “It’s not going to be a body. It’s going to be a dog… or rotten meat… or something like that. And that will be our job and the next one… the real murder… will go to the next crew.”

He was right—it wasn’t a body… it was two bodies, one partially dismembered, each in his own pristine 55 gallon drum, complete with compression bands around the tightly sealed lids.

We weren’t exactly sure what we had at that moment but initial examination showed the “whatever” in each drum was dressed in winter clothing—definitely not appropriate for July. The street deputy that night was the city-wide homicide commander and he stopped by the scene.

“Have the wagon take the drums to Cook County Hospital as is and have them pronounced, then empty them at the morgue. I want you guys to be there when that happens and then call me when you know what you have.”

An hour later we met the Crime Lab personnel in the basement of the old Cook County Morgue. They readied two trays on the floor and then wrestled the drums to the end of each tray and tipped them gently as Mike and I helped gingerly from the closed end of each drum. The contents sloshed out of each drum and mostly into the trays but also onto the morgue floor where we could not avoid walking in it. Each body was a gelatinous mass but not unduly decomposed considering we were looking at two individuals dressed in heavy winter clothing. One of the victims was missing both lower legs—they would be discovered back at the crime scene, packaged separately. Apparently he was too tall to fit into his drum.

It was hours before we returned to our office. No way would we be going home at 9:00 AM. We tied up the final pages of our report shortly after noon, making exceptionally good progress due to the lack of interruptions—nobody wanted to come into the room where we were typing. I called my wife just before I left the office.

“Honey, take my robe and slippers and hang them in the garage. Make sure the washer is empty—I’ve got clothes that need to be washed… the rest dry cleaned.”

“What happened?”

“Ya don’t wanna know.”

Less than an hour later I walked in the back door of our home in my bathrobe, carrying my clothes under my arm.

“Where are your shoes?” she asked.

“In the garbage… I’m going to shower”

“What happened?”

“I really don’t think you want to know honey… at least not right now.”

* * *

It was a few days before Christmas and Mike and I were dispatched to Mount Sinai Hospital from morning roll call. Two year old Antoine Jarrett was DOA when his mother brought him in by fire ambulance. Child abuse was suspected. The Emergency Room staff was visibly disturbed and an intern angrily showed us to a private room where we examined the body of an emaciated two-year old boy lying on a gurney. In spite of death, his skin was grotesquely red. Mike and I looked quizzically at the doctor.

“Burns!” he was almost shouting. “From his shoulders to his feet, 95% of his body, second and third degree! His mother is with the beat officers in the police room.”

Back at our office, mother told us that when she had returned home from work two days earlier, her boyfriend told her that Antoine had soiled himself and boyfriend washed him in the tub with hot water. Momma noticed the redness of his skin, but Antoine appeared to be sleeping. They put the toddler in a cardboard box next to their bed and he alternated between moaning and sleeping. When the moaning got bothersome, they would push the box further under the bed. For the next two days, Antoine had nothing to eat or drink as momma and boyfriend “waited for him to get better.” This morning when he was totally unresponsive, they called the ambulance.

We handcuffed mother to the wall of the interrogation room and went to the residential hotel on West Jackson Boulevard where they lived. Boyfriend was sleeping, but he admitted us to the apartment and readily told us about “bathing” Antoine. When we ran the hot water, it was actually boiling and spitting steam as it partially filled the tub.

“He too ol’ to be shittin’ hisself,” explained boyfriend. “Da hot water teach him!”

Back at the area office the States Attorney Felony Review unit responded and took court reporter statements from both momma and boyfriend. They both seemed a bit bewildered that we thought they had done anything wrong.

“I brung him to da hospital,” was momma’s only defense.

Felony Review approved Murder charges against boyfriend and Child Endangerment against momma, the rationale being the mother’s cooperation would be needed for a successful prosecution against boyfriend.

I missed supper at home that night, but I got there before the boys’ bedtime. My two-year old raced across the room, narrowly missed the Christmas tree, and jumped into my arms. I gasped involuntarily has he wrestled with me. I wrestled to maintain my composure.

“Are you alright?” asked my wife as she stared at me from across the room.

I dropped my head and nodded silently as my son scrambled to get the upper hand.

“What happened?” she asked gently as she approached the two of us.

My voice was strained and hoarse, barely above a whisper:

“You don’t wanna know, honey… you really don’t wanna know.”

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30 Comments on “Ya don’t wanna know…”

  1. Bob H - Woodstock says:

    And Padar belts another one out of the park. Great stories, Jim. These really need a book of their own to get them together

  2. Gene Troken says:

    Jim,
    I remember that double homicide. Two guys that were “hitmen” got their jusitfiable deserts. The target got the drop on them. I believed it happened in the 010th District in the rear of a sandwich shop near the 2000 blocks of Damen. The shop was owned by either Latin or Italian who owed money on a loan. The “victims” were 2 m/w long time outfit guys. I recall asking myself if I could dig through that mess without squeezing my stomach for six or seven months.

    • jimpadar says:

      Gee, thanks Gene for spilling the whole plot on a story I’ve scheduled for early next year. You have a superb memory, but your details are just a bit askew. No, I won’t correct you here “in public,” you’ll just have to read it when it’s posted. 🙂 The working title is “Janitors in a Drum.” Watch for it in the next few months.

      As always, thanks for reading and especially for commenting. People ask me frequently if these stories are true. Your memory validates my standard reply, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

  3. Mike Schwanz says:

    Hello, Jim:   Thanks for sending in this article; I will look forward to reading it.   Mike

    On December 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM “On Being a Cop…”

  4. Phil says:

    None of the assignments come easy. Some longer than others. Some more intricate than most. The missing time with friends and relatives are frequent on special occasions. The greetings of your family after something horrific you have seen, can be heart warming and wrenching at the same time. Too many times, our emotions are kept in check for the well being of others. But sooner or later, we have our moments.

    Just recently, many years after retirement, just sitting in front of the TV watching something that brought back memories of the past, and before I realized it, tears started to come. I was asked by my wife “What?” “You act like you saw Bambi getting killed!”

    You don’t want to know,… you really don’t want to know!

    Thanks again for a terrific piece Jim. Keep up the great work!”

    • jimpadar says:

      Sometimes the comments, such as yours, are so on target you might think we have a mental telepathy thing going.

      No, I think it’s just a cop thing of shared experiences that bond us, albeit silently too many times.

      Thanks for being a reader and double thanks for sharing your insight.

  5. loadeddiceinvegas says:

    Got a job at Norwegian American Hospital on a very cold night. The 4 year old had 47 human bite marks and a shattered hip. Momma and boyfirend forgot all their English on being told they were under arrest. Even the judge at 025 was up in arms on the PC hearing. My partner said after it was all over that he never wanted to see me like that again. The whole thing still haunts me over 30 years later. I get by with a little advice from Father Tom, “Officer, remember who you work for”.

    We do (did) God’s Work…………………

    Merry Christmas Jim, and lets all hope for a better New Year.

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks… if there is one universal thing that gets to ALL cops, it’s crimes against children. We have all seen images we can never erase. Thanks for reading and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  6. loadeddiceinvegas says:

    Sorry Jim, I don’t know why my pen name appeared instead of my real one on my comment.  LDIV is really me. 

          “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.  To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

  7. John Northen says:

    Bravo! So true.

    BTW, Jim. Ya REALLY don’t wanna know. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  8. Once again, Jim, great story. I hope your shoes were inexpensive.

  9. John Klodnicki says:

    Jim, your stories bring back memories. My partner and I found a large corpse on the west side. It had been sitting there for at least a week, in the heat, blotted. As you have alluded too, It’s something e want to get our minds.
    Kep up tthe good work, see you soon.

  10. Roger Elmer says:

    I was going to do the same thing as Gene but will refrain until you publish the same story. At that time I will comment on how much of the whole story that I remembered correctly.

    Every citizen in this city should be required to read your stories to maybe get some idea of the things police officers see every day and have to cope with the rest of their lives. Thanks for putting in writing what many of us can’t.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

  11. Kent Erickson says:

    Some very poignant recollections in light of the tragedy in Newtown Ct. How many times, for the rest of their lives, are the first responders there going to be using those very words… “You REALLY don’t want to know,” when asked about the 20 murdered children that they had to process?

    What victim is harder to experience than an innocent, defenseless child?

    Nice job, once again, Jim

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks Kent… this story was posted 12:01 AM Friday the 14th, over 10 hours before the horrific shootings in Newtown. My experiences don’t come anywhere near close to the events that unfolded that morning. Never-the-less, maybe reading this story will give some people pause to give a second thought about first responders across the nation and what they see every day.

  12. MaryAnn Dykema says:

    Jim,
    We always hear how “jaded” cops are but you display emotional feelings that are very touching. Crimes against innocent children are abhorrent but especially when a parent is involved. Parents are suppose to offer a safe harbor from all that is dangerous and evil. I can’t even imagine how you deal with seeing this so often. God Bless you.

    I enjoyed the story line of “You don’t want to know”. Keep up the good writing. I wish you could post weekly!
    MaryAnn Dykema

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks for your compliments MaryAnn. I appreciate them as always.

      The truly sad thing is there are a small number of children who have never known protective or loving parent(s) and have never felt safe from the moment they were born. They grow up, if they grow up, thinking that their life is the norm because they have never known anything else.

  13. Fern says:

    Well Jim I learned my lesson. My wife asks about work but really does not want to hear it. My partner and I tracked down a murderer who killed his x girlfriends new man. We were in a car chase then foot chase. Eventually responding units help catch this fool. It was a euphoric rush filled with excitement. I decide to share my great pinch with the wife. As I’m sharing this story with excitement and detail and I looked at her face and she had a face horror, despair and then anger. She yelled at me for not thinking about my kids, her etc etc. Went on about how i should done this way etc etc. I never tell her anything now. And I will be borrowing your “you don’t want to know.”

  14. Mary Rita Shull says:

    Well done, Jim. I remember these cases well. I got the calls telling me “you don’t want to know”. Although, as you knew Mike very well, he usually said “don’t ask me any questions.” The cases of the abused children always tormented Mike the most. Thank you for sharing this one.
    Christmas Blessings to all.

  15. Silvia says:

    Catching up on unread email and sorry to say, I couldn’t continue. I guess I’ve been too far removed from the scene. I

  16. rd says:

    I should have stopped at the title because you were right, I didn’t want to know. Poor little kid and poor people dealing with it.

  17. John says:

    Jim, we’ve got burned before, catching ourselves being smart, grabbing the “guy shot in the leg,” only to get to the scene and find out “and one in the melon, did we forget to tell you?”


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