Stafon Thompson, older by a month, would be arraigned in a minute or so. First up was Brian Lee Flowers, case No. 27-CR-08-29636.
He was wearing an orange jail shirt and appeared behind the safety glass that separates the courtroom from the prisoners, stepping up to a sort of bank teller's window where he stood, trembling.
Is your name Brian Lee Flowers, Judge John McShane asked.
The kid nodded feebly, resting his chin in his left hand. He was crying like someone who had lost his mother.
The judge told him he had to speak for the record. Nodding wasn't enough. Are you Brian Lee Flowers?
This time the kid wailed yes, covered his face with his hand and convulsed into sobs.
You were born June 21, 1991? Yes, the kid said. The judge set bail at a million dollars. Might just as well be a billion.
It only took a minute, and the kid was gone from the teller's window, shuffling through the glass cage, back toward jail. As he went, he let loose a long heart-wrenching cry, a wounded, woeful outburst that cut through the courtroom and seemed to say: Yes, I am Brian Lee Flowers, 17 on Saturday, charged with murdering Katricia Daniels, a woman I called "Mom," accused of stabbing and bludgeoning and chasing her to her slaughter and then her son, Robert, 10 years old.
A horror show, brief and brutal as a crime. Brian Lee Flowers and Stafon Edward Thompson appeared in the teller's window and left a courtroom hallway full of weeping relatives of the dead and loved ones of the accused. It was stunning, and ugly.
Back on the block where the murders took place, the feeling was much the same. Unspeakable things have happened. But on the block, there are blood stains. Some as old as the bad old label "Murderapolis."
In 1995, a former college football star who had a cup of coffee in the pros was shot in the same duplex, 3639 1st Av. S., where last week's murders took place. Michael Payne, 36, died trying to protect his family from gunmen who kicked in the door. He fell in the yard, his blood leaching into the dirt. Thirteen years later, the spot where he died is still bare.
"They sod it and seed it and it just won't grow any grass," Angel Madison was saying. "Maybe it's the blood."
Angel, 45, lives next to the duplex, where this decade's blood can be seen through a window, and there are blood stains on the front door, turned garishly purple by chemicals applied by investigators, as if it was sprayed with grape soda. The sad duplex, clad in flesh-toned shingles, slumps heavily, as if it has seen enough. The stacked front porches look as if they might fall at any moment.
"It seems like everybody who ever moved into that place has had problems," said Angel, who has lived on the block for 20 years with his wife, Wanita, and their children. "One guy used to beat his girl just about every damn day. Another family was pretty violent, too. And now this poor woman gets slaughtered with her son. It is crazy what is going on."
Angel says he is a "strict dad" who has raised eight kids and tried to keep his family a step ahead of trouble. Literally.
Last year, a careening Cadillac Escalade came around the corner too hot, lost control, plowed into his yard, ripped through a chain link fence, debarked his maple tree and narrowly missed his wife and daughter who dove for safety.
The house on the other side of Angel's has a skull and crossbones in the window with a sign: "Just Keep Moving."
"You can't let down," he says. "You got to keep your eyes open."
There are worse blocks. But this one has three vacant homes and has had its share of troubles. A decade ago, there were drug houses on the block, and hookers on the corner. That's when decent folks got mad. The cops cleaned up the block, Angel said. But it's a day-to-day struggle to make sure the decent people have the upper hand. And there can be misunderstandings:
Angel used to work construction but is disabled by back problems. He was tasered when he came out of his house one night and didn't "get down" fast enough when ordered by cops investigating a street crime. He's still irritated about that, but the next-door killings of a mom and a 10-year-old are hard to believe and harder to understand.
"It's almost like they were animals in the wild," Angel says, shaking his head. "They used to call this woman 'Mom,' and then, suddenly, they turn on her. Isn't that like a wild animal? To turn on the person who cares for them?"
Flowers and Thompson are not animals, and are not convicted. But everyone is horrified by a crime of stunning cruelty and pointlessness.
"I don't even like to look out my window anymore," Angel said as he got ready to take a grandson fishing. "You don't want a cemetery next door. That's how I feel. It's like I'm living next to a cemetery."
Nick Coleman • 612-673-4400 email@example.com