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Plea of insanity, p.36
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       Plea of Insanity, p.36

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  Julia stared at the brass nameplate on Rick’s desk. Ricardo A. Bellido, Esq. In a fleeting moment of happiness weeks back, she’d once actually said the name Bellido aloud after her own, just to hear how it sounded. God, how life could do a complete 360 on you in just the blink of an eye. Again.

  She knew in her heart that their relationship was dead. But it was so hard to walk away from something she thought she could’ve made work, even though right now, with the way he was looking at her, she felt dirty and small and stupid for ever having thought that. The failure of her relationship with her aunt and uncle already rested squarely on her shoulders and she didn’t think she could also carry the weight of a failed romance as well right now. She wasn’t ready to hear the news yet.

  And then there was the one final thought that made it impossible for her to run and hide somewhere. If nothing else, today had proved that.

  What if he really was insane? What if they were wrong about him?

  Although it certainly wasn’t her job to play defense attorney, she couldn’t subscribe to the ‘win at any cost’ mindset of her own teammates. She’d seen even Mel Levenson compromise his arguments to keep his membership in the Good Ol’ Boys Club. This case was getting so out of control. No one played by the rules anymore, and she was the only one who could see that. The vice squeezed tighter and tighter.

  The choice was hers and she knew it. Her abrupt departure would raise questions that they both knew Rick would not want to have to answer in an election year. Any dissension in the ranks would be a PR nightmare that Mel would be sure to exploit in the press. Office policy sexual harassment violations would be political suicide.

  She shook her head and wiped the defiant tears from her eyes before they even fell. She didn’t look at him. ‘No. Ican handle it just fine,’ she said, not sure what question she’d answered.

  Then she walked out of his office and headed back over to court.

  75

  It took five full days to finally pick a jury. Like Mel had said, it was unrealistic to think that they could find twelve people in the pool who hadn’t heard the name David Marquette. And they didn’t. What they did find was twelve people who said they hadn’t yet formed an opinion on the case, could put aside everything that they had heard, could render a verdict based solely on the evidence presented to them in court, and could vote for the death penalty. Three men, nine women. Six whites, four blacks and two Hispanics. They ranged in professions from a retired college professor to an ex-preacher at the Cowboys for Christ Evangelical Ranch in Homestead.

  ‘We just seated the last one this afternoon,’ Julia said to Lat over the phone at her desk. She pulled her hair off her face and swallowed a yawn. ‘Farley swore them all in maybe an hour ago.’

  ‘I saw it on the news. You sound tired.’

  ‘It’s been a long week. Where are you?’ she asked.

  ‘At the Alibi with Brill.’ The Alibi Lounge was a favorite haunt of cops, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and the occasional defendant. Conveniently located just down the block from the courthouse, the Graham Building, the PD’s offices and the jail.

  ‘Rick said he wanted to go over some of your testimony for Tuesday. I think he wants to put you on after Pete Colonna and Demos, the Gables sergeant. Can you come back over?’

  ‘It’s six thirty on a Friday night. I’m off the clock. If Ricardo wants me, he can go over my testimony here, while I have a cold one and enjoy the NCAA finals.’ His voice softened a little. ‘Hey, why don’t you join us for a beer, Julia? You’ve been working so hard lately. Too hard. He doesn’t cut you much slack, and,’ he paused for a moment, carefully considering how to word his next sentence, ‘you can’t expect to take care of everybody else if you can’t take care of yourself. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that?’

  She swallowed the lump and ignored the question. She knew she was starting to look like she was feeling – tired and stressed. She’d lost a few pounds, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but her clothes weren’t fitting right. Her relationship with Rick was obviously looking strained, too. Even in court, they were barely talking. She hadn’t agreed with his juror picks; he hadn’t really cared. Next week was sure to be even more difficult unless a truce was called. This was not how she envisioned trying her first murder. ‘Maybe we’ll come over there, then,’ she said with a sigh. Maybe a drink or two would help ease the overall tension that everyone was feeling. It was better than spending another night at the office until ten. Moose was getting ready to disown her and she was about to have to take out a loan to pay for his doggy day care, which all too often was turning into an overnight boarding when she couldn’t make it home before they closed. She pushed thoughts of her aunt and uncle out of her head. There was no time to go there.

  ‘First round’s on me,’ Lat said. Then he yelled out, ‘Whoa. That’s a bullshit call!’ Presumably at the TV.

  ‘I have some things I have to finish up here first,’ she said quietly, her voice trailing off as she stared at the UCR, NCIC and ViCAP reports from Investigations that Marisol had left on her desk. UCRs were the Feds’ Uniform Crime Reports, which assembled nationwide statistics on all types of crimes, including murder and sexual assaults. ViCAP was the more powerful investigative tool. The acronym stood for the FBI’s Violent Crime Apprehension Program, a nationwide law enforcement data information center that collected, collated and analyzed violent crimes – specifically murder – and included solved or unsolved homicides or attempts, especially those that involved an abduction, or were apparently random, motiveless or sexually oriented, or were known or suspected to be part of a series. Serial killings.

  She hung up the phone and chewed on the tip of a pencil. The long and the short of it was, she just didn’t trust Rick anymore. She’d seen first-hand what he could do to the truth for his own benefit. Maybe David Marquette was the inhumane monster everyone said he was. Maybe Rick was right and the signs were all there and she was the only one unable or unwilling to read them for what they were. But she knew it was time to determine the facts for herself, rather than have the information spoon-fed to her by someone with a hidden agenda. So, in addition to asking for UCR statistics on solved and unsolved homicides, she’d had one of the analysts upstairs in Investigations run certain information through both the ViCAP system and the NCIC death files to find Florida homicides connected with either a sexual battery or attempted sexual battery over the past five years. There were a whopping 487. Of those, 72 remained unsolved, with most being either prostitution-related, drug-related or both. But then there were the 17 special ViCAP unsolved case sheets the investigator had set aside that more closely matched the parameters of Julia’s requested search. The Tebin and Dell murders were in that pile. But there was one more case sheet that caught her attention.

  LEON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATIVE REPORT

  Victims: Charlene ‘Charley’ Handley, age 39; Kaitlyn Handley, age 4; Tyler Handley, age 9.

  City/State/Jurisdiction: De Leon Springs, Florida

  County: Orange

  Cause of Death: Homicide: multiple stab wounds, blunt trauma.

  Weapon: Kitchen knife, baseball bat (suspected, still unknown).

  Sexual Assault: Probable, Charlene Handley.

  Suspects: Unknown.

  Investigative Notes: Unknown subject(s) made entry possibly through first-floor front door of one-story ranch residence. Residence is located in rural community in central Volusia County. No visible sign of forced entry. Body of victim Charlene Handley located in master bedroom. Autopsy determined 22 stab wounds to upper torso and neck area. Weapon found at scene, left inside victim Charlene Handley. Victim had been sexually assaulted with unknown object. No semen, or other DNA sample currently known available. Victim Tyler Handley found in bedroom, northwest side of house. Cause of death: blunt head trauma with unknown weapon resulting in multiple skull fractures and brain swelling. Weapon used: unknown, possible baseball bat, based on diameter of skull ind
entations. Victim Kaitlyn Handley found in bed, back bedroom, northeast corner of house. Cause of death: blunt trauma to the head with an unknown weapon, same as above. Footprints left at scene were casted, but too distorted for comparison. Victim Charlene Handley is estranged as of 2/05 from husband Ronald Marcus Handley, D/O/B 2–16–67, SS#; 126134256, an attorney who currently resides in New York: 2123 West 93rd Street, New York, New York.

  Three women alone in the house with their children. Bludgeoned and stabbed and raped in their beds in the middle of the night while they slept. The Handley murders were almost identical to the Tebin and Dell murders. And except for the presence of David Marquette in the bathroom with a knife stuck in his gut, the facts looked identical to the Marquette murders as well. She searched the case sheet frantically for the date.

  Was he a serial killer or a bizarre victim of circumstance?

  December 31, 2005.

  She closed her eyes as the room started to spin. David Marquette was in jail on that date. There had to be somebody else.

  76

  … I’mjust advising you what you probably already know, Detectives: mentally ill people make false confessions to crimes all the time. Statistically, schizophrenics top that list.

  Julia had read enough mental-health treatises, articles and books to know all about the bizarre, but not uncommon, phenomenon of false confessions. Some studies placed the number made in criminal cases to be as high as twenty-two percent. And just a few weeks ago, the State’s very own psychiatrist had conceded the possibility in this case.

  What if David Marquette really was schizophrenic? What if the delusion that he had killed his family had seemed real in his mind, but what if he didn’t do it? What if someone else had been in that house, attacked his family, ejaculated on his wife, and, after being surprised to find Marquette there when he was supposed to be out of town, had stabbed him, too? What if someone else knew the alarm code? What if Marquette had told that person the code himself?

  She grabbed the 911 tape from the Marquette file box on the floor and popped it in her boom box. Her mouth was dry, her mind racing with possibilities.

  Beep.

  ‘Police and fire. What’s your emergency?’

  Silence buzzed the line.

  ‘This is the nine-one-one operator. Is there an emergency?’

  Still nothing.

  ‘This is the nine-one-one operator. Do you have an emergency?’

  ‘Help us …’

  ‘Okay, I can help you. What’s your name, hon? Can you speak up? ‘Cause I can barely hear you.’

  ‘Help us … please.’

  ‘I’m going to help you, honey. I need you to stay on the line and tell me exactly what’s happened.’

  I think he’s coming back.’

  ‘Who’s coming? Are you hurt? What’s your name?’

  I think he’s coming back.’

  ‘Who’s that? Has someone been hurt? Do you need an ambulance?’

  ‘Uh-oh. No, no, no. Sshh, sshh, shhh …’

  Hello? Hello? Are you still there? Hello? Is there someone on the line? Is there anyone there? This is the emergeny operator.’

  ‘No, no … Oh, no, no, no …’

  ‘Emma?’

  No, no, please … no, Daddy!’

  It could go either way. Emma never said on the tape that it was her father stabbing her. She only said ‘Daddy’. Maybe she was calling out for him, not naming her attacker.

  Maybe there was someone else in the house.

  It was a bit bizarre – definitely a long shot – but stranger things had happened. Julia knew the walls of the PD’s office and The Innocence Project were filled with pictures of the mentally ill who had been wrongfully convicted. Marquette had never gone into detail about exactly what had happened that night, stopping short of actually describing the murders with all the psychiatrists. Dr Barakat had called that blame deflection, a psychopathic character trait. Even when admitting something, the psychopath won’t ever take full responsibility, hedging his bet to see how much you really know. Avoiding responsibility. I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. And if you did see me do something, it wasn’t my fault anyway.

  She grabbed her purse off the bookshelf and stuffed her briefcase with the case sheets and files and hurried down to Rick’s office to show him what she’d just found out. In spite of all that had happened in the past week, she still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he didn’t know about the Handley murders. It had probably been entered in the ViCAP system after Lat and Brill conducted their initial investigation months back, after they’d run the profile. There would be no need then to run another report after Marquette was behind bars. No one in De Leon County would have thought of a connection to the Marquette murders, as David Marquette was in custody at the time, seemingly having confessed to his crimes just a few days before Christmas.

  The halls were eerily quiet and deserted. On Fridays, the office pretty much cleared out by five. By seven, the only souls still left hanging around were pushing a vacuum or standing around in a uniform and listening to their iPod downstairs in the lobby. Even the crazy press was long gone, having headed back to their hotels as soon as Farley swore in the jury.

  On two, she slid her security badge through the access doors and walked down the black hallway. She passed the empty secretarial maze and stopped at Rick’s door. For some strange reason, she hesitated for a moment, her hand barely touching the handle. Her eyes focused on a crack in the door. Light was shining through.

  She heard the rushed, heavy breathing inside. The familiar, intimate sounds that only a few days earlier she herself had been making in his arms. She saw the blur of body parts through the sliver of open door, but couldn’t place who it was, or what exactly they were doing.

  No, that was crazy. She knew what they were doing. She knew just who was in there with him.

  Julia closed her eyes and let go of the handle, backing away, as if it were electrified. Then she turned and ran back down the hall.

  77

  The Alibi Lounge was located in the lobby of a Travelodge, just off 11th Street and 11th Avenue. Removed from the glitz of SoBe by more than a few miles, and sitting on the fringe of Liberty City, there were no sun-worshiping Miami tourists holed up in this part of town. People stayed at the Travelodge for one of two reasons: either they were a witness in a criminal trial; or they were visiting a sick relative up the street at Jackson Memorial, Cedars Medical Center, Baskin Palmer or Sylvester Cancer.

  Julia had never been to the Alibi before. As she pulled the Honda into the parking lot, she wondered why she was even here. Why she hadn’t just gone home to cry with Moose and finally finish off the rest of that bottle of Stoli in the cupboard.

  She spotted Lat right away at the bar, talking with Brill and a couple of PDs.

  ‘Hey there,’ he said with a grin, motioning her over when she hadn’t moved. ‘Let’s get you a seat.’ He turned to Brill, ‘Go get another bar stool, man.’

  ‘What the fuck do I look like?’ Brill barked.

  ‘Be gracious for once in your life. The lady needs a seat.’

  ‘Give her yours,’ Brill grumbled. Then he looked at Julia and sighed. ‘Ah, for you, Jules, I’ll do it. Mainly ’cause you stood up to that asshole today.’

  ‘Speaking of the devil,’ Lat said, looking back at the door after Brill had stomped off. ‘Where’s Bellido?’

  ‘He’s not coming.’

  ‘Why not?’

  ‘I didn’t get a chance to actually ask him.’ She looked straight at the bar, focusing on a bottle of Hennessy on the top shelf.

  ‘What?’

  ‘He’s busy. Or he was. I suspect he’s done now.’

  ‘What the—’ he started to say, then he finally found her eyes, which picked that moment to swell with tears. ‘Oh shit.’

  She hung her head. ‘I think I need a drink,’ she said quietly, her voice catching. She never should’ve come here tonight.

  ‘It would
n’t be the first time,’ Lat said after a moment.

  ‘No?’

  ‘Nah. Ricardo’s got quite the reputation with the ladies. Most of it of his own making, though. I haven’t heard too many impressive tales from the other side.’

  ‘How did you know?’ she finally asked.

  ‘Julia, please. Everyone knew about you two. If it makes you feel any better, everyone also knows he’s an asshole.’

  She said nothing.

  ‘Who was it?’ he asked.

  ‘My DC, I think. It was hard to tell. I never heard her moan before.’

  Lat shook his head.

  ‘I feel like a fool. An idiot.’ She looked helplessly around the room. ‘And I don’t know why I’m here …’

  He pushed himself back from the bar. ‘Stop. Enough. Let’s go.’

  ‘What?’

  ‘We’ll get you that drink, love, but somewhere else.’ The bar and pool tables were crowded with private defense attorneys, PDs, correction officers and cops. Odds were that the Travelodge guest list included a few reporters who were mixed in as well. ‘There’s too many people here who would love to see you cry, Julia, and then spend the next hour or two wondering why. Let’s go. I’m out back.’

  Brill walked up, bar stool in hand.

  ‘No need, brother. We’re out of here,’ Lat said, grabbing his leather jacket that hung on the wall. He slapped Steve on the back. ‘Thanks.’

  ‘Where we going?’ Brill called out.

  ‘I’ll call you in the morning,’ Lat yelled back.

  Julia quietly followed Lat past the pool table and through a back door that led directly to the parking lot. To her surprise, he walked past the police cruisers and a black Taurus over to a polished red and silver Harley.

  ‘Technically, today’s my day off. And this is what I ride on my day off. Here,’ he said, unsnapping a helmet off the back and handing it to her.

 
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