Recollections by Richard Bleil
That was a miserable phone. As the director of the forensic lab for the police department, I was required to answer the phone, any time, any day, with no holidays. If it rang, I had to be there to answer it, and believe me, nobody calls you at three in the morning to tell you good news.
I hated that phone.
But on the flip side of the coin, it was usually at least interesting. To keep them straight in my mind, I usually gave names to the stranger of the cases. There was no limit to the creativity, and true idiocy, of murderers.
One of the murders that I’ve always found interesting (and that I thought I had written about already but failing to find it on a search, here we are) was one I dubbed the Burrito Murder. It started in a “flop house”, an empty apartment in a complex that somebody had gained access to and was being used by homeless and drug addicts. The body was found on a stairwell landing with, yes, a burrito in his hand. The burrito had a bite taken out of it, but don’t jump to conclusions. No, not poison (it wasn’t from *insert your preferred taco joint’s name here as the butt of the joke*).
A lot of the people who used the room as a flophouse used drugs, often meth. As you might expect from a fall down the stairs, there was a lot of blood. But shrewd investigators have years of training and experience to teach them how to look for those subtle little clues that most of us would miss to help them piece together what happened, even if the “accident” was staged as was the case in the burrito murder. In this case, that very subtle case-busting clue was the trail of smeared blood leading from the body to the flop-house door that had more blood on the door hand handle.
Fortunately, the judge was in a good mood and granted the search warrant on this obviously flimsy evidence.
Inside were two men and a woman. Obviously, they were taken in for questioning. Apparently, the story is that the three men (including the then-living victim) and woman were “just hanging out” in the apartment, and, obviously, doing drugs. The victim apparently tried hitting on the woman. Although she was not in a relationship with any of them, the victim seems to have said something that one of the other men took to be offensive. And…a fight ensued.
The man who killed our victim claims to have lost awareness of what he was doing. He said that he was in such a rage that he didn’t remember what happened next, but what happened next was that, in view of the other man and the woman, he beat the victim to death. The other two asked him to stop, but apparently without much effort. “Heeeeeyyyyy, stooooooppppp…” Apparently, they went out for a walk mid fight, and by the time they returned, the victim was dead in the apartment.
Being the brilliant individuals that they are, they decided they didn’t have to leave if they just set it up to look like an accident. So, they hatched a scheme. An accident. Yeah, that’s plausible. He was walking along and, ummmm, oh, I know, he fell down the stairs. So, they dragged his body out of the apartment and chucked it down the stairwell.
Ah, but these were not ordinarily intelligent murderers, they were extraordinary. After all, why did he fall down the stairs? Oh, I know, he was distracted. I don’t like this burrito that I just took a bite out of, let’s put it in his hand. He was walking along, eating a burrito and not paying attention and fell, so put the burrito in his hand. It has a bite, so it’ll be like totally plausible. And he was drunk. Oh, I know, he was drunk. Here, put this can of beer in his other hand and we’ll call in an anonymous tip about a drunk guy who fell down the stairwell.
The funny thing is that the police didn’t find a beer. That came out during the interviews with the witnesses. There WAS a beer, but apparently, as they were leaving the body in a totally believable accident where a man fell to his death down a stairwell and the burrito in his hand was left completely intact, one of them was looking at the victim, and came to a conclusion. “This sonuvabitch doesn’t deserve a beer,” he reportedly said, and took the beer back.
In my mind’s eye, that’s the funniest part of the whole story. And, besides, if they left the beer in his hand, maybe, just maybe, the police would have fallen for the whole story.