When Pamela Jean Beaulieu was delivered to foster mother Susie Lockrem more than three decades ago, she was six months old and weighed just 13 pounds.
"She was so sick and so tiny," said Lockrem. "She just had no will to thrive."
Lockrem pulled out a photocopy of a picture of Beaulieu at age 2. She wore a frilly dress and big smile. She seemed healthy, happy and full of attitude. "Pamela was a beautiful girl," said Lockrem. "I have nothing but love for her."
A few feet away, people had gathered around the coffin of Beaulieu, some weeping. Many of those at her wake were homeless -- her friends -- and some of the others worked for the social service agencies Beaulieu often relied on during her short and brutal life.
On Nov. 18, Beaulieu was killed at the Lakeland Motel in St. Louis Park, her body found by a maid in a bloody, ransacked room. She was 32.
If Lockrem's photo shows a confident, active kid, later pictures reveal the steady wear of life on the streets. A mug shot from Beaulieu's early 20s reveals a pretty, finely boned woman with coal black hair and piercing eyes. A few years later, her face was puffy, and she looked like she'd been crying.
In the last mug shot, taken a few months before her murder, Beaulieu's face is badly bruised and swollen.
Lockrem knew Beaulieu only as the vivacious child who loved to dress up and look at herself in the mirror. She carried a doll with her everywhere she went and loved to listen to Lockrem read Disney stories.
"She thought she was just the tops," said Lockrem. "She ruled the roost."
Lockrem wanted to adopt Pamela and her brother, Jason, and sister, Lisa. But because they were American Indian and Lockrem is white, the adoption was denied, and the kids moved back to Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Pamela came back for a visit when she was 17. "She won awards for dancing at powwows," said Lockrem. "She said she wanted to be like her mother and have 11 children. But she couldn't leave the drink alone."
Amy Beaulieu said her sister had a big heart and could be kind and funny "when she was sober." But addictions ate away at her "and she always ended up back out there on the street" despite many attempts to help her. "She cried about her kids a lot," Amy said.
Two of her daughters, in their early teens, sat at the back of the room with friends, paying respects to a mother they barely knew.
Beaulieu had become well known around Stevens Square in south Minneapolis, as well as Peace House Community and St. Stephen's Human Services.
Her name pops up in the minutes of the neighborhood group almost monthly. From 2004 to the time she died, she had the second most offenses -- 35 arrests -- of anyone in the area. Her crimes ranged from public drinking and drug possession to prostitution and theft. She had spent several months in the workhouse for assault, so she had been sober for an uncommonly long stretch.
Essie McKiernan, an outreach worker for St. Stephen's, visited Beaulieu three days before her release. "She was in a good mood and we had a lot of laughs," said McKiernan. "I expected to see her any day."
But a drug dealer may have picked her up from the workhouse, one friend said. Twenty-five hours later, Pamela Jean Beaulieu was dead.
"This didn't have to happen," said Monica Nilsson, street outreach director for St. Stephen's. She said that when authorities and social services focused on "the downtown 100," the most active offenders, and got them a safe place to stay, crime dropped dramatically. Those 100 offenders cost the city $110,000 a year, while housing costs a small fraction of that. Because shelters are full, the homeless are pooling their money and staying in motels like the one where Beaulieu died.
"Tree," who met Beaulieu at Peace House, said he'd like to think her murder was a wake-up call to those who knew her, but he realizes addictions sometimes make bad outcomes inevitable.
"It's tough on the street," said Tree. "We all make our own beds. She was funny and she loved her kids, but she was struggling with demons.
"Death, it comes and goes."
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