Reggie “Gumby” Cole committed his first murder in the C-yard of California’s Calipatria State Prison. He was a member of the 49 Deuce Crips, had a prison tattoo that read “Ghetto Star” on his shoulders, and another of “92 DEUCE” in block letters across his stomach. “Everybody knew that if you fuck with Gumby, he will stab you,” Cole says, but he was typically not a brawler. He had maintained his innocence since first being charged with homicide at the age of 18, and spent much of his time in the law library researching his case. In a place known as Kill-a-patria, where violence is power, Cole was the rare inmate who proudly claimed not to be a killer.
That is, before he became the target of Eddie Clark, aka “Devil,” a Crip from South Central who had spent half of his life behind bars — first as a juvenile for beating another teenager to death, then for sexually assaulting an elderly woman and shooting her son during a robbery as an adult. To be marked by the Devil was to be marked for either death or sexual servitude. Cole seemed to be facing both. After he refused to follow a gang order, the Devil had stabbed Cole twice and then promised that Cole would be his bitch. That left Cole with four options: submit, snitch, kill or be killed.
In the C-yard, inmates get patted downs before returning to their cells. It was not uncommon for guards to find a weapon hidden in the sole of a shoe or tucked into a waistband, if not someplace more obscure. According to the official report, a guard placed his hands on Devil’s hulking 200-pound frame. The Devil extended his arms outward for inspection, revealing a tattoo of a hand gripping a sword on his right forearm (he also had a tattoo of his own self-portrait in the act of slitting a man’s throat on his right ribcage). Cole watched a few feet away, clutching a six-inch shiv fashioned from a shard of metal and a melted potato chip bag.
As the guard bent over to pat Devil’s legs, Cole leapt forward and stabbed the Devil in the neck. The blade punctured Devil’s voice box. Blood spurted into the air, and the guard — who had never seen a prison murder before — pulled his pepper spray out of its holster. “Get down!” he yelled. All the men in the yard sat on the ground. Cole lay on his belly. “I already know what I did,” he told the guards. Devil staggered onto a patch of grass, helplessly pressing his hand against a gushing one-inch wound. “My first thought was like, ‘I gotta go help him,’ Cole says. “It was very terrifying. I’d never seen someone bleed to death. He was looking at me the whole time.” By the time a doctor attended to him thirty minutes later, the Devil was dead.
Cole was serving life without parole for the 1994 murder of Felipe Gonzalez Angeles. Now, he faced the death penalty for killing the Devil. His trial, held in Imperial County, should have been a swift affair — there was little to dispute his guilt. But as the case wore on, Cole’s lawyer became increasingly convinced that his client had been wrongfully convicted in the first instance — there was no physical evidence linking Cole to the crime and serious concerns that the police investigation had been flawed from the start. But that only raised more troubling questions for his case: If the state had falsely imprisoned Cole, was he now accountable for the violence that resulted from the error?
Felipe Gonzalez Angeles was murdered on the corner of 49th and Figueroa Street in South Central Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27, 1994. He had gone out for beers with two friends, Victor Trejo and Luis Jimenez, and then asked to stop at “Johnny’s House of Prostitution” to see a woman named Melinda. Angeles, who was 29 years old, had recently come to L.A. from Mexico, where he had a wife and four kids, and found work at a factory attaching cloth covering to stereo speakers. After they pulled up in a blue 1986 Mazda, Angeles got out with a can of malt liquor in his hand and rang the bell.
The brothel at 4826 South Figueroa Street, a pale green cinderblock building with a bail bondsman on the first floor, had been in business for over fifteen years. Its proprietor, John Jones, an ostentatious ex-felon with shoulder-length Jheri curls, ran an efficient operation. He managed the schedule of over twenty prostitutes, fining those who were late or caused trouble, and provided amenities like condoms and packs of cigarettes to his customers. Around 11:30 p.m., Angeles appeared at the door wearing a white T-shirt and asked to see Melinda.
A surveillance camera installed within the vestibule offers the only glimpse of what happened next. Through glass double doors, a broad-shouldered man with white hair and a goatee tells Angeles, “She’s busy.” Angeles doesn’t seem to understand, and asks again for Melinda. “She’s busy!” The doorman says. “Come on back later. Mañana. Comprende?” Angeles walks back the way he came. Less than two minutes later, shouting is heard outside — someone yells, “Where you going to?” — then four quick gunshots and the sound of screeching tires. Inside the building, someone says, “They’re shooting out there.” Five more gunshots ring out, though these seem distinct from the previous ones — the discharges fade like fireworks and there are pauses between each trigger-pull. Two young men unlock the brothel’s door to look outside. One goes out to inspect the scene; the other, wearing a suit vest over a white T-shirt, calls back inside, “Man down!” A woman’s voice yells, “Who?” To which, the guy in the suit vest responds, “A Mexican.
By the time Detective Marcella Winn arrived, Angeles was already cold, his body sprawled belly-down in a pool of blood beside an empty malt liquor can. He had been shot once in the back. His two friends were at the hospital being treated for injuries — Trejo was struck in the chest and ankle; Jimenez in his legs. Both survived. Their blue Mazda was shot at least once in the passenger seat, and a bullet had also shattered the windshield of a green El Dorado parked on the corner, littering the streets with shards of glass.
Detective Winn had been promoted from financial crimes to homicide just two weeks earlier; she hadn’t even passed all of her detective exams yet. Then, as now, female African-American detectives were rare within the LAPD — a report from the time found that over 80% of the force lived in white suburbs. Winn was a tall, confident and outspoken native of Crenshaw, the childhood stomping ground of both Ice Cube and Ice T. She had a broad smile that revealed a gap between her two front teeth, and a weakness for fancy clothes — designer suits and Ferragamo heels. To her first homicide scene, she wore a gold linen blazer and green rayon slacks. It was a cold spring evening, and Winn regretted not wearing a warmer jacket.
She had been assigned to work with Detective Peter Razanskas, a wisecracking veteran homicide detective with slicked-back hair and a penchant for cowboy boots. A Los Angeles Times journalist named Miles Corwin, who was working on a book, had arranged to follow Winn and Razanskas everywhere. “I was with them in the interview rooms when they interrogated suspects,” he writes in The Killing Season: A Summer Inside an LAPD Homicide Division. “I was with them when they notified parents that their children had been murdered.”
The force was in need of good publicity. At the time, the LAPD seemed to be fighting an unwinnable war — 400 people were murdered in South-Central alone in 1993. Four years earlier, Leslie Vernon White, one of the jailhouse informants LAPD used to convict at least 225 suspects — 30 of which were death penalty cases — boasted on national television that he habitually faked witness testimony. Memories of the 1991 Rodney King beating and subsequent riots still lingered. Later that year lawyers in the O.J. Simpson trial skewered Detective Mark Fuhrman on the witness stand, leaving millions of viewers with the suggestion that members of the homicide division were in the habit of planting evidence. Corwin told me the detectives he shadowed seemed overwhelmed and many of their cases went unsolved. He also said that he had been determined to write the truth, whatever that might be.
Although Winn was the primary investigator on the case, Razanskas quickly took charge at the crime scene. “Razanskas enjoys working with trainees at murder scenes,” Corwin writes. “This is his stage and he is playing his favorite part — the lead.” Razanskas instructed Winn on the benefits of being friendly to prostitutes — “they can be a good source of information” — and not to be too precise in her notes — “Always say ‘approximately.'” The Angeles shooting was like many others in South Central: committed at night, with few witnesses, no clear motive and little forensic evidence. According to Corwin, Winn was concerned “that murder cases might exceed her abilities,” and initially thought the Angeles case was a “loser.” “She bemoans her rotten luck,” Corwin writes. “Why did she have to get stuck with this one?”
Then John Jones, who lived on the top floor with his wife and two daughters, leaned out of an upstairs window. “Pssst!” he signaled, pointing east. “They went that-a way.”
Jones claimed to have seen everything. He told Winn that three or four African-American men, wearing long trench coats and carrying silver revolvers, had approached the Mazda and demanded money from Angeles and the others. One of the shooters, Jones said, had “sharp” features; the other “close-cropped” hair. He also thought that an “unknown citizen” had shot one of the gunmen in the leg. He had heard someone yell, “Ouch,” he explained. The detectives should be looking for someone who is limping. That would be the right guy.
Winn put out an APB for a black man with a gunshot wound in the leg. A security guard at Martin Luther King Hospital, in the heart of South Central, had told her someone matching that description had checked in on the night of March 28th. The patient arrived with a friend, the security guard said, and was limping from a bloody gunshot wound. But when Winn and Razanskas followed up, there was no record of the admission.
However, a break came just before the case hit the one-month mark. Winn received an anonymous tip from an unknown caller who told her, “Baby Day from Five Deuce Avalon Crips made a move on 49th Street 9 with two guys, and it went wrong.”
Winn ran the moniker “Baby Day” through the LAPD computer database. There were over a dozen hits. It wasn’t uncommon for ex-arrestees to have the same or similar street names, but one stuck out: Michael Miller — known as “Day Day” — had been arrested three weeks after the Angeles murder for a carjacking in a neighboring precinct. Other details seemed to jive as well. Miller was booked along with Obie Anthony — a 19-year-old Hoover Deuce Crip from South Central known as “Little Day Day” — and another young black man, Reggie Cole. They were all awaiting trial in the L.A. County Jail.
Cole, who was then 19, had never been in serious trouble. He was described as a class clown, an animal lover and a loyal friend. Tall and skinny, with his hair often worn in tight braids, he’d moved with his mother and siblings to Los Angeles from Louisiana when he was still in grade school. Shortly after they moved to South Central, his older brother Kenny was killed in a gang-related shooting. Cole was 10. “We was from the country,” he says. The ways of Death Alley, the part of South Central where they lived, could seem like a foreign land to his family.
Anthony and Miller were arrested while driving someone else’s car and accused of carjacking. During interrogation, Miller told the cops that Cole had participated in the robbery as well, and directed them to a hotel where Cole was staying. When the cops arrived, Cole was inside the room smoking a joint, and there was money and a gun stashed in a dresser drawer. Once in jail, Cole told his family that he was innocent of the carjacking, and spoke confidently that he would soon be released. “I’m in jail for this bozo crap,” Cole said. “Whatever they are talking about, it’s not me.”
Winn and Razanskas circled back to their eyewitnesses — the hospital security guard, John Jones and the surviving victims, Trejo and Jimenez. Both Jones and Trejo identified Anthony as the killer. Next, the detectives went to the county jail to interview Cole and Anthony. Cole was brought into an interrogation room, where he was searched by Razanskas, with the reporter Corwin observing. Cole had to ask what the meeting was about. “It’s about murder,” Razanskas told him. At that point, the detective was inspecting Cole’s legs, where he spotted a gnarled scar on the left shin. Corwin writes that Razanskas said, “Bingo,” and in the hallway gave Winn a thumb’s up.
“They find that I was shot,” Cole says now about the search. And it was true. Cole had been shot — six years earlier while visiting relatives in Louisiana. It had been an accident. To match the suspect in the shooting, the wound would have been just a few months old. At the time of the interrogation with Razanskas, it was a completely healed scar. Cole says he didn’t know why they were examining his leg — he only knew that Winn and Razanskas seemed excited when he returned to the room fully clothed. “Like, ‘Ah ha!'” he says. Winn charged Cole and Anthony with robbery and capital murder. Cole says he had no idea about the additional charges until he was called to report to the booking office after chow time. “They called my name,” he says. “Dude gave me a paper with about fifty charges on it. It’s all in penal codes.” The clerk told him, “Man, they got you for murder. You’re facing the death penalty.”
Cole had to sit down. “I’m speechless, like this is crazy,” he recalls. “I don’t have the slightest idea what they are talking about.” He went in search of a phone to call his mother, and ran into Anthony, who had just received his own list of additional charges. “You, too?” Cole asked. (The carjacking charges were eventually dropped after the victim recanted; Miller, who had not been identified by any of the eyewitnesses, was not charged for the Angeles murder and was released.)
At the preliminary hearing in September, Jones, the hospital security guard and Trejo all fingered Anthony and Cole for the murder. Corwin published an article about the case in the Los Angeles Times Magazine in March 1995, in which he details inconsistencies in the witness testimony. Both Trejo and the security guard initially picked out non-suspects in the photo lineup, and then were only able to identify Anthony. Only Jones identified both Anthony and Cole in photo- and live-lineups, and a public defender noted that Jones had a charge pending for pandering at the time. Cole says he was unaware of the details of the case until Corwin published the piece. “[Anthony and I] didn’t even know that somebody had been shot,” he says. “Then the article comes out and then we understand what is going on. I hadn’t been shot.”
Less than a year later, a jury convicted them of first-degree murder. A probation report completed at the time of Cole’s sentencing described him “like a hunter stalking wild game,” with a character so “entrenched in corruption that rehabilitation would not be a realistic, nor attainable, goal.” Both Cole and Anthony were sentenced to life without parole. “Deep inside I figured that justice was gonna prevail,” Cole now says. “Somewhere along the line they are going to figure out they got the wrong dude. When is this going to stop? It never did.”
When he first got to prison, Cole made an effort to be a model inmate. He made his bed every morning and was always prompt for count. “I figured what to do was obey all the rules and regulations because I didn’t belong there,” he says. “I thought that somebody would take notice that this guy is not like everybody else.” He also began studying religion “to get some peace of mind,” he says. “I studied the gamut of them. I was pretty much trying to figure out why God put me in prison for shit I didn’t do.”
Early on, his cellmate was repeatedly raped by one of the “older homies.” “I think about that, the begging and pleading,” he says. “That shook my whole situation. I wasn’t worried about getting killed. If the police shoot and kill me, that’s an honorable death. But being raped? I couldn’t kill your ass in enough time.”
He soon found his way among other Crips from his old neighborhood, what’s called a “car” in prison. A seasoned inmate broke down the various social categories, dividing the world between inmates, convicts and prisoners. “Inmate, is you, one of those mother fuckers who is trying to be good by helping the police,” he told Cole. “That’s some bullshit.” Convicts, he continued, were “the ones who have accepted prison life. His world exists of jail. He don’t have no expectations of getting out. The third option is a prisoner. That’s someone held against his will. They are fighting for their freedom.”
Cole knew in which category he belonged. “I’m a prisoner,” he said. “I’m being held against my will.”
Cole says Calipatria was a “money prison.” It teemed with unchecked violence and drugs were rampant. Inmates often hid crack and heroin beyond the sphincter so they wouldn’t drop out during a “squat and cough” check. One inmate testified that the drug runners knew how to conceal the balloons if they were on “potty watch” — they retrieved and swallowed them moments before, which could result in disintegrating bits of balloon getting stuck in their digestive tracts.
Among the leaders of the Crips in Calipatria was, of course, Eddie Clark, aka the Devil, a “shot-caller” who had spent 20 years incarcerated in California state prisons. Clark was allowed to wear an orange doo-rag on his head, which “represented his power” over inmates and guards alike. About two years after he entered prison, Clark fell in love with Lisa Finch, a correctional officer who worked on his tier. He wrote her an eight-page love letter in which he said she had “75%” of his heart. Finch eventually quit her job, and they married. According to a corrections department report, she began visiting Clark in prison, supplying him with PCP-laced cigarettes that he sold to other inmates.
Clark also manufactured vast amounts of “pruno,” alcohol brewed from the gallons of orange and grapefruit juice he purloined while working in the kitchen. As Clark’s substance abuse issues grew worse, he became excessively violent and sexual with other inmates. “When he was drunk,”Cole says, “he was a fucking animal. If he raped you, nobody’s going to say shit. Words are farts in the wind.” A group of fellow Hoover Crips even tried to stage an intervention. He was, in the words of a fellow inmate, “a time bomb waiting to go off.”
One day on the handball court, someone fired an eight-inch dart from a homemade slingshot at a correctional officer. It missed — the dart struck a nearby gatepost — but a shiv was found in a cotton glove on the ground next to the Devil’s cellmate. Cole happened to be in the yard, painting on work duty, and the Devil called on Cole to take responsibility for the weapon. It would mean time in solitary, plus criminal charges, so Cole refused. According to another inmate, The Devil decided he had to “take out” Cole.
On the morning of November 28, 2000, the Devil approached Cole in the yard and stabbed him in the side with a “flat” — a piece of stainless steel sharpened to a point — and whispered that Cole was now his “bitch.” The Devil tossed the weapon into the grass. Cole slinked off to nurse his wounds. None of the guards noticed the attack. Even if any of them did, it wasn’t unprecedented for inmates to withhold details of a Devil attack: another of Devil’s stabbing victims had told guards that he was “stung by a bee.”
Cole killed the Devil in the C-yard later that same day. “I was innocent, and I still had to be a convict,” he says. “That’s something that I gotta explain to God. This was a human being who had a family, and their family hurt just like mine did.” At the memorial service, held in Compton, with R. Kelly’s “I Wish” playing as attendees filed through the doors, Devil was described as a “legend” who liked “sports, fishing, camping and dancing.”
Cole was now facing the death penalty, and awaited trial in solitary confinement. For his defense, he chose Christopher Plourd from a list of county-approved attorneys. Plourd had worked on several high-profile death penalty trials (and would later join the defense team for Phil Spector). Plourd’s rumpled, slightly baggy suits and wire-rimmed glasses belied a sharp intelligence. Cole says that Plourd described this as part of his strategy. He wanted “to dress down and pounce on people.” His specialty was the “cold case” — and his tactic for defending Cole was to conduct his own investigation into the Angeles murder. “I explained to him, ‘The only thing I can do is put the jury in my place,'” Cole says. “‘I’m an innocent man fighting for my life.'”
It ultimately took over three years to reinvestigate, but Plourd almost immediately found problems with the conviction. Transcripts of police interviews had not been introduced as evidence, and a number of witnesses had never spoken to the police. Plourd also unearthed a set of case files that had been “lost for over a year” in a “broom closet in a courthouse in Compton.”
Inside he found preserved fingerprint analyses, taken from the windows of the 1986 Mazda, that didn’t match either Cole or Anthony. A pathologist Plourd hired to reexamine Angeles’ autopsy discovered that the fatal gunshot could not have been fired from ground level. The entry point was at a 40-degree angle; it had to have come from either an upstairs window or the roof. (A forensic analysis similarly found that the bullet in the windshield of the Cadillac was fired from an elevated position.) Plourd also found a police report from April 1st, just three days after the Angeles murder, that described Cole fleeing from police. According to the report, Cole jumped off the handlebars of a friend’s bicycle and ran down the street without a limp, an impossible feat for someone nursing a fresh bullet wound in the leg.
It was clear that the investigation, as detailed by Corwin and tried in court, did not match what actually happened on March 28th, 1994. Plourd also knew calling into question the details of Winn’s investigation would not make him very popular. “She was the heroine,” he says. “At the time I was litigating, [Winn and Corwin] had a movie deal.”
Plourd went to the former brothel on Figueroa Street, stood on the roof and tried to envision how the crime went down. There were bullet holes near a second-floor window, meaning someone had shot up, perhaps returning fire. Who, Plourd wondered, could have been on the roof firing on the carjacking scene down below?
In the Los Angeles Times Magazine article, Corwin describes a scene where Winn and Razanskas ask Jones to describe what he saw, and Jones tells them to “look into whether one of the suspects got shot.” “Razanskas and Winn look puzzled,” Corwin writes. “Then they suddenly understand who fired the third gun on the tape. Now they know why the Cadillac took a bullet through the windshield.”
In his book, Corwin describes going onto the roof with Winn and Razankas and pocketing “six rusty slugs” that Razansksas found there. No mention of the found bullets or any suggestion of Jones or one of his employees shooting from the roof was disclosed at trial. When the slugs Corwin pocketed resurfaced in 2008, they matched a gun found in Jones’s brothel. (Corwin says that the bullets appeared old, and he didn’t think they were relevant.)
During an internal investigation, Winn said that she had entertained Jones, whose criminal record included a conviction for shooting his ex-girlfriend, as a suspect as a “fleeting thought.” Instead, he became the prosecution’s star witness. A few days after the Angeles murder, Jones was arrested for pandering, but he received only five days in jail and probation. The district attorney for Jones’ case remarked later that the deal was “remarkable” — he had been facing 6 to 12 years. “He has a history,” Plourd says. “Couldn’t believe that he walked away from that.” The next year, after Cole and Anthony were charged, the police raided Jones’ business. He appeared on the local news handcuffed to his office chair, wearing a Malcolm X hat and a turquoise T-shirt, telling the reporter that business had been good for 17 years “until tonight.”
In 2007, as part of trial prep, Plourd’s investigator interviewed Jones in Avenal State prison. Jones told the investigator that he remembered the night of the 1994 crime clearly, and admitted that he had invented much of his story. Jones said that he had “never seen Reggie Cole.” Worried the police would implicate him or take away his kids, Jones said he had lied under the assurance from detectives that his family would be “left out of this.” Detective Winn had guided his testimony, Jones said, and “tapped her finger on [the suspect] she wanted me to identify.” He claimed a report Detective Winn wrote was “pure fiction.” He never admitted to being the other shooter — the “unknown citizen” in his original testimony — but many of his comments on that point were clearly contradictory. “I never wanted any trouble with the LAPD,” he wrote in an affidavit. “So I cooperated with the police and prosecution.”
At the start of Cole’s death penalty trial, the deputy district attorney, Wayne Robinson, was incredulous at the suggestion that Cole had been wrongfully convicted in the Angeles case. He had been a prosecutor on prison crimes for 10 years. It’s not uncommon for the defendants he tries to claim their innocence. “When they first started with the theory that he was actually innocent,” Robinson says, “of course I didn’t believe it.” But he also knew that Plourd was a formidable opponent. He had “a reputation for being a hard charging defense attorney who leaves no stone unturned,” Robinson says. “That’s how he took on every case that was being handled.”
Plourd’s dogged reinvestigation eventually proved persuasive: forensic evidence showed that Angeles had been killed from above, not at street level; no fingerprints attached Cole or Anthony to the scene; John Jones had retracted his testimony; no eyewitness could identify Cole; and the bullet wound in Cole’s leg was shown to be many years old. The ruling came down in February 2008, by which time Cole had spent nearly 14 years in prison. The judge decided that Cole had been wrongfully convicted for the murder of Angeles. In the same trial that a man was facing the death penalty for an obvious murder, he had been cleared of the one he didn’t commit. “Never seen that, and you never will again,” Robinson says.
Robinson describes the Cole case as a “nightmare for any good prosecutor.” He now had to decide what charges to bring against Cole for the murder of Devil. The day before the start of the trial, Robinson was out in his yard, trimming a eucalyptus with a chain saw. A limb from another tree fell and knocked him unconscious. Robinson said he awoke with the chainsaw still running two feet from his face. A court reporter later joked that this was what Robinson got for defending the Devil. After getting a few stitches in his head, while his “state of mind was pretty cloudy,” Robinson decided to settle Cole’s case. He agreed to drop the murder charge to manslaughter. Cole would finish his time in solitary and then he was free to go.
Detective Winn retired in 2015. In 1997, while still working homicide, she arrested a woman named Susan Mellen for the murder of a homeless man. Mellen was exonerated in 2014 based on a finding that Winn had not followed up on evidence pointing to another suspect. In a 2009 interview with the L.A. Times, Winn maintained she believed Cole and Anthony were guilty. “This guy did this murder, and there’s no doubt in my mind and in other witnesses’ minds,” she said. “Mr. Cole is not innocent.”(Through a lawyer, Winn declined to comment for this article.)
Corwin now writes mostly fiction, and sometimes calls Winn and Razanskas for advice. Both detectives have visited Corwin’s writing class at UC Irvine. He told me repeatedly that he “did not have a dog in this fight,” but believes both Cole and Anthony were guilty. He encouraged me to examine “how strong” the original case was, particularly the eyewitness testimony.
This month, Reggie and I drove to the scene of the Angeles murder, blasting Tupac the whole way. A bodega called Blondie’s Discount Store and a medical marijuana apothecary now occupy the ground floor of what was once “Johnny’s House of Prostitution.” The neighborhood isn’t as dangerous as it once was — the apartment buildings across the street looks new — although women wearing tight clothes pace out front gathering in groups of two or three, then splitting off to talk on their cell phones. Cole warns me not to stand too close to the curb — someone might think I’m “working.”
Last year, Obie Anthony, who was exonerated shortly after Cole, received an $8 million settlement from the City of Los Angeles. He bought a home in Bakersfield and plans to use much of the money to start a center that provides counseling services and job assistance for exonerees. But while Anthony wears well-tailored suits to photo opportunities with elected officials, Cole is still waiting for compensation. In February 2015, with his civil case agains the city still pending, the attorney for the City of Los Angeles allegedly told Anthony’s lawyer that Cole would “be back in orange” before he ever saw a cent. Less than a month later, Cole was arrested for a three-year old shooting incident, and is currently out on a $1 million bond, wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. “What do you call too many coincidences?” he asks me. “All I got left is the truth.”
Now on the corner of 49th and Fig, Cole silently appraises the scene. “I’ve never stopped here before,” he says. “We was 18 years old. What the hell we’d be doing around here?”
While Cole awaited his capital murder trial and eventual release, he was placed in solitary confinement where he sat in near-darkness surrounded by the files from his case. “I was walking around in boxers and shower shoes, possessed,” he says. Now he excitedly retraces the crime scene, pointing out where Angeles’ body must have been, where the Cadillac was parked. Looking up from the sidewalk, he thinks he can still see a few bullet holes in the plaster around the windowsill. “The forensic pathologist said that’s how you figure out where the bullet came from,” he says, pointing from the ground to the roof. “You trace it back.” The full details of the murder may never emerge — including, who actually shot Angeles and who, if anyone, shot one of the gunmen — but Cole is still trying to piece it together. There’s a larger mystery he still needs to sort out: how he became fated to kill after going to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. “I got blood on my hands,” he tells me. “I was never supposed to be there.”