Runaway Train (Part II)

As Castro's Street's bars close at 2 a.m., well-dressed young men pour into Rolling Pin Donuts for a quick carb fix before hitting the hay or the after-hours clubs. While they laugh and chat, a table of young punks sit glassy-eyed under the harsh fluorescent lights. They stare out the front window at the passing throngs, slump over a card game, nurse cold cups of coffee, or flirt with the customers for a free jelly roll and a couch to crash on.

Read Runaway Train (Part I)

Open 24-7, Rolling Pin is a prime hangout for street kids, a makeshift community center, information booth, and welcomat for seasoned vets and recents runaways, like Tricia, who blow into town and find that instant access to the grapevine is only one new friend away. When there's no place to sleep, they can keep warm inside and kill time till dawn, when the soup kitchens and coffeehouses open and another day of panhandling, dealing, and hanging out begins. If they nod off, the young counterpeople shake them by the shoulder, joke “this ain't no hotel,” ask them why they don't just do a line of crack or sleep in Collingwood Park.

San Francisco is a magnet for runaway youth; a conservative estimate pegs the street community at 1,500 strong. They come from small towns across the state and the Pacific Northwest, from Nevada and Arizona, even all the way from the East Coast, where harsh winters make sleeping in heatless squats more unbearable than it already is. They come in their teens, even as young as 12. For these kids, any place is better than home, even if it means living dirty and dangerously.

The first year on the road is a big adventure, a chance to live by your own rules and remake yourself into someone new. Kids take on nicknames, like Gremlin or Hangman or Spider or Judas, make up exciting pasts, shave their hair into mohawks or dye it black. They claim territories, whether the fairgrounds of Castro and Haight or the seediness of Polk and Civic Center. When they get sick of one street, they renounce it for another. The search for identity leads to allegiances to minute subcultures; kids navigate between drunk punks, chaos punks, peace punks, house punks, gutter punks, skins, crusties, goths, freight-hoppers, tweakers, nihilists, anarchists, seculars.

Junker, aka Junkman, aka Jeff Flaster, 21, describes himself as a “gutter fag.” Tattooed on his hand is a big blue Universal Product Code symbol; he's sporting a mohawk and scruffy clothes. Intelligent and jittery as a Chihuahua, Junker tries in vain to keep his motormouth in tune with his racing thoughts.

“If I weren't so tired I'd be making more sense,” Junker keeps apologizing as we sit at Rolling Pin one weekend night. He tells me that he fits the prototype of the average street kid: Emotionally and physically abused by his parents and ostracized for being gay, he left his middle-class upstate New York home about a year and a half ago.

Time and again while interviewing kids like Junker, I was struck by their extravagant effort to re-establish the very thing they've fled: a tightly defined order and a binding ethical code, not to mention a family. Like Tricia, Junker is searching for a new tribe of kinsfolk; he calls his best friend his “brother.” For a time, he lived with the gothic rocker “family” at the Dolores Street Baptist Church squat.

“All the kids wanted to kill Martin and Galaxy when they found out what happened,” he says. “If you murder someone in a squat, you're not welcome anymore. It's sacred ground.”

Junker met Martin at the Rolling Pin last fall. “He liked me in the beginning. He hit on me,” Junker recalls. “I grabbed him by the tie and sucked his face, and he said, 'I'm with the FBI.' Then the story turned from the FBI to being a special police agent.”

“He's not a stable person,” Junker continues. “One Halloween he took off all his clothes and walked around naked. He tried to create a totally fake life. You know, I have a twin, I'm from England. He's like, 'See that star? I had sex with him.' He was scary in the way he did things, erratic.

“I love Martin, but he was the group joke, a junkie, a scammer, a loser, a trickster. Someone who feels he needs to get a higher clout, so he has to knock other people down.”

While Martin often affected the dyed-black hair and vampirish attire of a goth, Galaxy was a skinhead punk, of the radical, not racist, variety. “In New York we'd call them 'skunks,' ” Junker says. “A junkie is what she was.”

“She'd fight with everybody, beat them up,” he says. “She was kicked off the Haight by kids, 'cause she was starting trouble. Galaxy was the type of person to incite things. One day she was like, 'We're gonna start a riot!' ”

In the months before Tricia's death, Martin was trying to start a coven to properly practice his druidic rituals. Martin says Galaxy was his only real recruit. He was training her to become his priestess. The occult (wicca, druidism, satanism, voodoo) has long fascinated disenfranchised youths – punks, goths, metalheads, and hippies alike. For troubled kids, learning “magic” is a means of empowerment, of protecting themselves from bad forces, be they cruel parents or fate.

“As far as the witchcraft went, people were telling me he didn't know anything,” Junker laughs. “People create a personality out here, and they get so into it they really start to believe it.”

As dawn approaches, we agree to meet again. Three days later, Junker has helpfully written a very detailed guide to squatting terms and ethics (“spanging”: panhandling; “squat nazi”: someone who claims a spot for himself and decides who stays there.) He's also penned a segment of his road autobiography. [page]

“To get away from politics, religions, education, and family values we create our own,” Junker writes in tiny print with magic marker. “We're for safety in numbers.” Family means the family you have on the streets. Wear all your clothes or else they'll be stolen. Never “tax” anyone; that is, rip off another squatter. A squat is supposed to be for everyone who needs a place. If someone is hungry, you get what they want, although everyone is generally out for himself.

The downsides of squatting are myriad. Drug abuse is rampant; older junkies will break in and steal stuff. The frequent police rousts and the unpredictability of squatmates complicate your life, not to mention the often unbearable living conditions of squats: no electricity or running water, shit and piss and needles and garbage covering the floor, bugs and rodents everywhere. It sounds like a cross between a communal utopia and Lord of the Flies. Tricia's first night in a squat must have been a shock compared to the careless comfiness of the Sullivan house.

“Well, it's a different type of oppression,” Junker says, “one people choose because they've been so abused and neglected. Like, beating up your friends is a way of showing love.”

“I basically hang out with people I hate, and who want to kill me,” he continues. “You have to learn how to avoid them, or convince them otherwise.”

We talk about what happens to people who've been on the streets too long, that ghostly junkie pallor, the telltale dead eyes, the coiled-spring tension that so easily erupts into violence. Junker offers an anecdote about a speed freak that he finds analogous to Tricia's death:

“Someone once saw a driver hit a pigeon … and he punched through the car window, and grabbed the guy, screaming, 'You killed a pigeon!' He's a tweaker, so his caring about animals got all twisted and distorted.”

Ken Quigley, Martin Androus' court-appointed lawyer, lifts the lid od the aquarium at his South of Market office to feed his three triggerfish. True to their natures, they all attack the same nugget, fighting each other for bites as other pieces float by unmolested. The biggest fish gets all the food, of course, because the little ones are too stupid to pounce on another chunk.

“Ever see a dead body?” aks Quigley as he thrusts a police photo of the pulpy, mangled face of a shooting victim under my nose. The impromptu photo exhibit seems gratutious, but Quigley is preparing me for the full-color pictures of Tricia on the autoposy table and at the crime scene. A kindly, down-to-earth type, Quigley is drawn to underdogs. His last big case was representing the Warmwater Cove gang rape defendants.

“You want to know why my client was first released?” asks Quigley. “At that point, the [police and DA] didn't know that anybody cared about 'Stevie,' and so they didn't care either.”

Quigley believes cops are insensitive to crimes against the socially dispossessed like Tricia, citing some special police jargon: An NHI stands for “no humans involved” in the case of black-on-black crime; BDI for “bitch deserved it”; PSK for “public service killing.”

“Are you sure you're ready for this?” Quigley asks as he hands me the police photos.

“She has such a baby face,” I mutter, looking at an image of Tricia stuffed into the 23-by-36-inch ladder well that led to the church's defunct bell tower. She's lying on her back in the closet, her legs slightly spread and up in the air, her head turned to one side. The 5-foot-4-inch, 134-pound teen had recently cropped her hair short. She wears brown lace-up Esprit shoes, ripped tights, and a sports bra and Mylar blouse under a flannel shirt. According to the coroner's report, morphine was detected in her bile, indicating that she had recently used heroin.

SFPD Inspectors Alex Fagan and Michael Johnson handled the initial investigation into Tricia's death. Under the law, the arrest reports they compiled are public documents, but it took several weeks of repeated requests – and an appeal to SFPD brass – before Inspector Johnson finally released the reports.

“It's my policy that I don't release my cases,” Johnson says.
According to the police reports, “Hurricane” Frank Rouse told Inspectors Fagan and Johnson that Marting and Galaxy led Tricia up to the choir area of the tower early on the morning of May 12, but that he stayed behind. An hour and a half later, Martin and Galaxy descended from the choir. Rouse said that Martin told him that Tricia had “bit her tongue” and that Galaxy said, “She finally went to sleep; now she's at peace.”

In interviews with police on the day of the killing, Martin explained that Tricia wanted to commit suicide, and that he and Galaxy – and an unidentified third white male who may not exist – led her into the choir area. (There is no unidentified white male in Rouse's telling.) There, Martin drew red and black symbols on Tricia's face: on her forehead, a question mark flanked by five-pointed stars surrounded by a black ring. On her right cheek was the letter “L,” a black check mark, and an inverted red crucifix. On the left cheek, a large red dot between two intertwined black marks. Someone, possibly Tricia herself, used a needle and syringe to inject air into her veins in the hopes of creating a fatal embolism. According to the police report, Rouse said that Martin ran downstairs for some bleach to inject instead.

Meanwhile, Tricia and Galaxy allegedly decided on strangulation. Tricia is said to have looped a black cotton tie-off cord around her neck and placed her head in Galaxy's lap. As Galaxy allegedly tugged and tugged on the cord, Martin sat on Tricia's legs and held her hands as she struggled. Martin told police it took 20 minutes for Tricia to die. [page]

Mounting a defense for Androus will be difficult. If you give a person the rope to hang himself, a clever attorney can fashion for you a defense of assisted suicide -a felony punishable with a maximum penalty of three years. But under California Penal Code Section 401, active participation in a “suicide” such as Tricia's is considered homicide. When Androus is arrainged in late September, he could be charged with murder one. As a minor, Galaxy could draw a life sentence, although she would automatically be released from the Youth Authority at 25. Her attorney, Brad Knox, says there's a small chance she could be tried as an adult.

On May 22, more than a week after the two suspects were released, the Examiner quoted Inspector Fagan as saying that “the decision to let the pair go was made by the district attorney, who cited 'insufficient evidence.' ” Remember, this came after both suspects confessed to the crime.

“The DA wanted them released,” Fagan maintains outside his office. “It was a political hot potato. It's an election year, and [DA] Arlo [Smith] is worried about everything.”

One of Smith's worries, he suggests, is that the “suicide” aspect lent ambiguity to the death.

“This is a practice in the gay community,” he continues. “It's a euthanasia, Kevorkian kind of thing. People have loved ones who are dying of AIDS, and they do it.”

But Eugene Sweeters, the assistant DA handling the prosecution, explains that procedure, not politics, is the reason he ordered the two released. Galaxy triggered her Miranda rights to legal counsel by requesting an attorney, which police apparently igonored.

“After [Galaxy] said she wanted a lawyer,” Sweeters says, “they still asked her questions. In a trial, it would not be admissible if someone said that they want one in any fashion.”

Although Johnson and Fagan may have erred in their interrogations, the case is not necessarily lost. Precisely one week after the murder, high-profile homicide inspector Napoleon Hendrix entered the case, and he and Fagan reinterviewed the key witness, Frank Rouse. Rouse identified Martin and Galaxy from mug shots, according to the police report, and told Fagan and Hendrix that when he met with the suspects at Rolling Pin Donuts after their release from jail, they retold the story of how they'd killed Tricia with the cord. Their voluntary admission is likely to hold up in court.

Rouse isn't the only person to whom the duo bragged.
“They were so proud they were able to get past the law,” says Lordis Manzano, an employee of Rolling Pin, who considers Androus a friend. “Martin was very happy that night. I saw him after he got out of jail. He was so loud, showing off the everyone. He flashed me the newspaper articles,” she contiues.

“He said, 'We were just being good Samaritans.' … I don't even think he knows it was a murder. If you told Martin to jump off a bridge, he would.”

“They let them go, but then the parents come and oh, the big stink. But before, it was just another Jane Doe,” she adds.

Both suspects were arrested in late June: Martin Androus in Sacramento and Galaxy in San Diego. Androus awaits trail in jail at 850 Bryant; Galaxy is being held at Juvenile Hall.

In her mug shots, Galaxy resembles a wafish boy with giant saucer eyes. In one photo, her head is shaved bald, tattooed with what looks like a “666.” In another, taken when she was rearrested in San Diego, she's grown her hair out into a soft, mousy-brown crew cut. She's wearing a Les Miserables T-shirt. She and Tricia could be sisters.

Galaxy's parents split up when her mother, Maureen (not her real name), was pregnant with her, says Nancy Anderson (whose name has also been changed), a close friend of Galaxy's family who has known Galaxy since she entered her day-care program when she was 22 months old.

“I don't know if I ever had more of a shock in my life than when I found out Galaxy had veen arrested,” says Anderson, who deems Galaxy “sweet and loving, sharp as a tack, a totally normal girl” from a “churchgoing family.”

“I couldn't say there's an aggressive bone in her body,” Anderson stresses.
Galaxy and her older sister grew up happy but poor, says Anderson, and despite severe arthritis, their hard-working mother provided for the two girls. Maureen rose from secretarial to administrative business positions and eventually moved the girls from a rough neighborhood in San Diego to a nice house in suburban La Mesa.

Galaxy lived with her father for a spell, but when he remarried and moved to the South Bay she returned to her mother's house. Last fall, Galaxy cut her hair extremely short, which resulted in taunts by other students during the first few weeks of school.

“They thought she was a skinhead,” Anderson says, “so she ran away.”
Galaxy's mother informed the police, but they didn't find Galaxy. She telephoned home six weeks later and then came home for Christmas. She had been living in San Francisco, which she said she loved, and which isn't that far from her father, who now lives in the East Bay.

“She wanted to live by her own rules,” Anderson says. “She said she had wonderful friends and that they all had jobs and took care of each other.”

After Christmas, the family put Galaxy on a bus back to the city.
“Maureen said, 'Well, I can try to force you to stay, but I know you'll just leave anyway.' Galaxy told her she was right,” says Anderson.

Anderson says Maureen was “worried to death,” but had resigned herself to Galaxy's independence.

“No parent ever feels a child on the road can take care of themselves,” Anderson says, “but Maureen is a devout Christian, so we just prayed and put it into God's hands. There's nothing much more you can do when your child is on the road.” [page]

“Galaxy spoke very fondly of her family,” Fagan recalls. “She's a very intelligent young lady. She felt that she was doing a service, what Stevie wanted. They don't look at things the way you and I do. They did not seem contrite. They never metioned trying to talk her out of it.”

“The tragedy, as I see it, is rarely do the people who say they want to commit suicide really want to do it,” says Fagan. “They're reaching out. I think Sullivan would be alive today of you or I would have talked to her.”

But we didn't. Instead, fate brought Tricia together with the two worst people she could possibly meet on an evening she was feeling down: Martin and Galaxy, her peers.

Tricia's suicidal tendencies are likely to be raised by Androus' and Galaxy's defense attorney's, but her acquaintances here and her friends in Klamath Falls are divided on whether she was suicidal.

Marty Robinson, who slept in the church squat the night Tricia died, says she seemed happy the few times he met her.

“I never detected any type of depression,” Robinson says. “I wish I knew that was going on – I could have stopped it.” A pal at Horse Shoe Coffeehouse who demanded anonymity because “he's done with talking to police and reporters” says he never heard Tricia talk about ending her life, even the time she crashed at his place and they stayed up talking all night.

Jim Rogers, the 15-year-old Klamath Falls youth who ran away with Tricia, says that leaving K. Falls was his idea. He had gotten in trouble for breaking into an abandoned courthouse, and when he decided to leave town he took Tricia with him. They stayed in Eugene for two or three days, he says, then hooked up with a guy in face paint and tights who looked like the character from The Crow. He and Tricia hitchhiked, while Jim decided to hop trains.

“I said I'd try to come down and visit, but it never happened,” he says. He also claims that Tricia was suicidal even before they first ran away.

“She asked me to kill her once,” he says. “She was very serious.”
“Why would someone ask someone to do it for her?” I ask, distrustful of the swagger in his voice.

” 'Cause she's a chicken, in her own words. She didn't want to live or stay here. Instead, I said, 'I'll get you out of town.' ”

Jim says that Tricia was tired of what she called the “shitty relationship” she had with her parents. That she blamed her parents for not pursuing the rape case. That they left her in the car once while they went and ate dinner with the man who raped her. He claims he saw Mrs. Sullivan belt Tricia once because she hadn't done the dishes.

“One time in an attempted suicide, she scarfed down pills and her parents put her in the mental ward, Unit 36, for three days over Thanksgiving. They never even went up to visit her,” he claims.

“I went up there to visit her twice,” he adds.
Another of Tricia's close friends says she spent time in the hospital, not in the wake of an attempted suicide, but because “she got hit so hard she passed out!” She pauses. “But I'm not saying by who.” She mumbled something about a lawsuit preventing her from talking.

Told of the accusations, Mr. Sullivan lets out a long sigh. “No, that's not true,” he says. “All these supposed best friends are crawling out of the woodwork to be a part of the story. That Jim kid, every time we talk to him, he keeps changing his story.”

The night before my interview with Martin Androus, I had a dream: It's Christmas at my grandmother's house, and my cousin Michael is there. I hear him though I can't find him as I dash frantically from room to room. Then the front door slams and his footsteps pound down the front porch. He is visible from a window. He's carrying a revolver and walking to the pharmacy. Suddenly, my legs are frozen, and my scream goes mute. I stand paralyzed, dreading the inevitable sound of a gun blast.

Some people will do anything to escape themselves. My cousin really wanted to die; in my heart, I know Tricia Sullivan didn't. Like many teen-agers, she expressed her intense, overwhelming pain in the most hyperbolic terms possible: the desire for self-annihilation. She did not act upon herself, though, she enlisted the will of two other people. That's what haunts me about Tricia's murder: That as death circled around her neck, and the reality of it hit her, she surely changed her mind. By running away, she proved she still had hope, that a better home or a more loving family was only a bus ride away. Or did all hope die in San Francisco?

Complete strangers risk their lives trying to stop bridge jumpers and other attempted suicides. Ninety-nine percent of the people Tricia could have met that night would have done at least something to talk her out of it. But destiny introduced her to two people so accustomed to the bleakness of their lives that they saw no reason to save hers. And they slept while her body was still warm.

Martin Androus looks more like a nervous rabbit than a druidic priest. Short and slight, he's swimming in his baggy orange prison garb, a grown-out mohawk riding his skull like a yellow median strip. Androus moves his hands as he speaks, twitches his shoulder, taps his foot, arrhythmically slaps his thighs.

Lordis Manzano of Rolling Pin Donuts characterized Androus as “one step away from being insane,” but he seems more clueless than anything else, rambling uncensored about his troubled life, eager to please and basking in all the attention. He appears oblivious to the seriousness of the charges against him. Later, he will tell Junker during a jailhouse visit that “he's going to be bigger than Charles Manson.” [page]

His attorney, Ken Quigley, is present in the cramped visiting room, taking notes. I've agreed not to ask Androus about the crime itself or his mental state during the preceding hours as a precondition of the interview.

Born in Chico, Androus says he was physically abused by his biological parents as an infant, taken away, and pushed through the foster care system until Richard and Theresa Androus adopted him. Theresa was 18 and had just had a stillborn child. They divorced when he was 7, and he says his mother lived off welfare and “bounced between men.”

“I started to act out,” Androus says, “set fire in my bedroom, stole food, just things to say, 'Hey, look – I'm here.' ”

Androus alleges that one of his mother's boyfriends physically and sexually abused him, but she wouldn't believe him. She later remarried, and Androus claims that the new husband knocked him unconscious for breaking one of his pot plants. Then, at the age of 13 1/2, he came out of the closet to his mother.

“She was not happy,” Androus says. “Things never got better.”
As his relationship with his mother deteriorated, he entered a labyrinth of foster care homes and counseling from which he periodically escaped by running away. He says his mother waged custody battles over him and that when she set out to remove him from a foster home he liked, he swallowed a bottle of Allerest in a clumsy suicide attempt. “At least my allergies went away,” he laughs.

“Nowadays, I look at [the ethics of suicide] depending on whether it's a cowardly way out, or a blessing,” he says. “If a person had cancer or AIDS, then I think it should be allowed. It's a cowardly way out if it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

He says he got into drugs like pot and acid. At around 18, he tripped with two friends and vandalized a graveyard. When his mother refused to accept custody of him, he ended up serving nearly three years in the state's Youth Authority for the crime.

He says he moved here about two years ago and hasn't spoken to his mother for five. Told that “Hurricane” Frank Rouse informed on him, Androus says, “I figured out it had to be him.” He alleges that he and Rouse were lovers. “Me and my now ex-lover had a room on the ground floor.”

Androus' monologue is a fascinating mix of truths, half-truths, wishful thinking, and tall tales. He says he once chased one of his mother's boyfriends with a butcher knife; that his mother once put a gun to his head; that he saved a 5-year-old neighbor girl from her abusive father; that he could communicate with the spirits before he even did LSD; that he is HIV-positive and that Tricia told him she had full-blown AIDS; that the Hell's Angels issued deaths threats to him and Galaxy.

He adds that he experienced a full druidic intiation rite when he was a teen. In Chico.

“I was put face to face with different death possibilities to see how I dealt with it,” Androus says. He considers Celtic-paganistic druidism his “religion,” and says he was trying to start “the Castro Oi Coven.”

“Priests will sometimes play the role of the dark god,” Androus says. “Sometimes when people are dying they'll be there at the point of death to assist in the transition.

“Stevie was getting involved with wicca and had asked me to put her religious symbols on her face, so that even when she died her religion would be obvious.”

“Do you feel like you did anything wrong?” I ask.
“No. Given the circumstances, I believe that what I did was best,” he says. “I feel firmly that she needed to rest. Basically, when she asked me if I'd help her die, she said she was in so much pain, both emotionally and physically. She said she'd do it herself or find someone else to … She said living was too frightening.”

“Didn't you consider her a friend?”
He assumes a haughty expression.
“I wouldn't do what I did for just anybody.

Read Runaway Train (Part I)

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