Portrait of the Soul-Jacker

Police call Bernard Temple the meanest hit man ever to roam the gang-infested streets of Bayview-Hunters Point. Temple calls himself a soul-jacker -- someone who kills to steal the spiritual power of his victims.

If these developments do not destroy the two cases, they do illustrate how hard it is for the government to penetrate and break up the loose criminal structure characteristic of most crack gangs.

Floyd Andrews understands this. "If it wasn't a tough case, it wouldn't be a gang case, and I wouldn't have it," says the prosecutor, who has specialized in gang investigations for the past two years.

Bernard Temple was born and raised in Bayview-Hunters Point. When he turned 18 in 1986 -- as he stepped into manhood -- crack cocaine hit the streets big time.

The yellowish-white nugget changed everything. Crack took the African-American neighborhoods of the city by the feet, held them upside down, and shook them until they were sick.

There seemed to be no escape.
"I don't think you could find someone of our age group who didn't get caught up in drugs, in using it and selling it," says one of the federal task force's confidential witnesses. "It was in our homes. It wasn't hidden from you. It was out there on Front Street."

Temple and other young men in his neighborhood had plans that were bigger than crack. But the force of crack -- the easy money, the prestige that went with it, the simple thrilling rush of the drug itself -- always pulled them back into what is known in Bayview-Hunters Point as, simply, "the life."

"We had long-term goals," the informant says. "We wanted to use our street savvy to create something of ourselves. Bernard wanted to get into boxing. But you have to throw back to the day. Understand what Oakdale [a main strip of crack commerce in Hunters Point] was like [in the mid-'80s]. Everybody from the Bay Area came there. It was a party all the time."

Long before Bernard was arrested on murder charges, the black hole of drugs and violence had consumed the life of his twin brother, Lernard.

Lernard Temple had strikes against him from day one. He was borderline mentally retarded and suffered from hyperactivity syndrome and attention deficit disorder, according to the assessment of Dr. Thomas Hilliard, a court-appointed psychologist. In 1984, the twins' mother, Betty Temple, told a psychologist that Lernard was "mentally slow, immature, unable to comprehend events around him very well, and possessing little common sense."

A former associate of the Temple twins says Lernard was a hit man for crack dealers, just like his brother. The associate describes the twins' relationship simply: "Bernard was the bully, and Lernard was his backup."

At 16, Lernard was sent to Log Cabin Ranch, a Bay Area juvenile detention center, for grand theft. The next year, rushing to defend Bernard in a gang-related fight, Lernard shot a rival gangbanger with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle. He pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and spent three years in a juvenile detention facility.

In another psychological report on Lernard, CYA staff psychologist Dr. Larry Nicholas came to a conclusion that mixes the comic, the tragic, and the delusional: "It appears this somewhat passive youth, feeling himself to be vulnerable and inadequate to deal with threatening situations, used this gun as a crutch to bolster his self-confidence and his psychological defenses."

Lernard Temple's life was all but completely circumscribed in 1993 when he was handed a life sentence for killing two people in Sacramento, a gang rival and a man named C.C. Cottonreader, a 400-pound cross-dresser who took care of the Temple brothers' dying grandmother.

During his trial in Sacramento, Lernard frequently quoted from the Bible, and referred to God in asides.

"I remember his saying things like, 'My arms are too short to box with God,' " Sacramento Assistant District Attorney Steve Grippi says.

The Temple twins and their two brothers and one sister were apparently damaged by their parents' marriage, which can be described as rocky, at best.

During the mid-1980s, Betty Temple split from her husband and left for the state capital with Lernard and the other children. (The couple now live together in Sacramento; both declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Bernard stayed behind in San Francisco and lived with his father, Lawrence, a City College custodian. Not yet a self-styled Soul-Jacker, Bernard racked up a "very vicious" juvenile record, filled with rape and assault, says Inspector Hendrix.

Bernard excelled at football, track, wrestling, and basketball at Woodrow Wilson High School, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years, and at Mission High School, where he graduated with a C+ average in 1986. He was known as a smooth talker and a sharp dresser. "He had those smooth edges," says James Calloway, a former dean at Mission High.

Beverly Hubbard, a former counselor at the school, says she remembers Temple being interested mainly in the time and location of the next party. "He was one of the students who I would ask about plans for the future who didn't have any," she says. "I remember the ones who had plans, and I don't remember him that way."

His graduation year, Temple was arrested for locking a girl in a schoolroom and sexually assaulting her. Details of the event are scarce in the public record; the case was dismissed after Temple spent three days in jail, according to court documents. But Inspector Hendrix, who is familiar with the case, says, "As I remember, his friends held the door while he went in there and brutalized the girl."

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