Episode 135:

The Multiverse Trajectory

The Party Monster Murder of Angel Melendez

Georgia

The Story of Clarence and Melinda Elkins

Karen

Episode 135: The Multiverse Trajectory

Karen and Georgia cover the Party Monster murder of Angel Melendez and the story of Clarence and Melinda Elkins.

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The Party Monster Murder of Angel Melendez

The Party Monster Murder of Angel Melendez Notes:

Michael Alig (born April 29, 1966) is an American former club promoter, musician, and writer who served almost 17 years in prison for manslaughter. Alig was a founder and ringleader of the Club Kids, a group of young New York City clubgoers that became a cultural phenomenon during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In March 1996, Alig and his roommate, Robert D. "Freeze" Riggs, killed fellow Club Kid Andre "Angel" Melendez in a confrontation over a delinquent drug debt. In October 1997, Alig pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Both men were sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison; Riggs was released on parole in 2010, Alig on May 5, 2014.

While working at Danceteria, Alig studied the nightclub business and soon became a party promoter. His ability to stage memorable parties helped him rise in New York's party scene. During this time, Alig and other regular clubgoers began creating flamboyant personas, and later became known as "Club Kids". The Club Kids wore outrageous costumes that former Club Kid and celebutante James St. James later described as "part drag, part clown, part infantilism". They were also known for their frequent use of ketamine (known as Special K), Ecstasy, Rohypnol, heroin, and cocaine. Alig's Club Kids included (among others): "Ernie Glam", "Gitsie", "Jennytalia", "Superstar DJ Keoki", Amanda Lepore, Charlie "Dash" Prestano, "Richie Rich", Robert "Freeze" Riggs, RuPaul, and "Walt Paper". The Club Kids' outrageousness became a source of interest for the media, and articles about them appeared in such media outlets as Newsweek, People, and TIME. They also appeared on Donahue, Geraldo, and The Joan Rivers Show.

In 1988, Alig was hired by the owner of The Limelight, Peter Gatien. Alig's parties at The Limelight were such a hit that he began organizing parties for Gatien's other clubs: Club USA, The Palladium, and Tunnel. Alig's notorious "Outlaw Parties", which were thrown in various unconventional places including a Burger King, a Dunkin' Donuts, abandoned houses, and a subway, helped to revitalize the downtown New York City club scene which Village Voice columnist Michael Musto declared had atrophied after artist Andy Warhol died in 1987.

Alig's parties also became notorious due in part to his own "bad behavior". Alig would throw $100 bills on crowded dance floors just to watch people scramble for them. In other instances, he would urinate on clubgoers or urinate in their drinks, and stage falls wherein he knocked others to the ground.

As Alig's popularity in the club scene grew, so did his drug use. He was arrested several times for drug offenses and entered rehab, but continued to use drugs. In 1995, his boss, Gatien, sent Alig to rehab once again. Alig later claimed that after he completed his stint and was released, Gatien fired him.

Some of Alig's behavior could be explained by a personality disorder; he reports being diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, stating: "The doctor said I was the most extreme case he'd ever seen. Everything has to be completely over the top and exaggerated. It worked well for my job – I was a promoter."

Andre "Angel" Melendez was regular on the New York City club scene and worked at The Limelight, among other clubs (some not owned by Gatien, e.g., Webster Hall), where he sold drugs on the premises. After The Limelight was closed by federal agents and an investigation found that Gatien was allowing drugs to be sold there, Melendez was fired. Shortly thereafter, he moved into Alig's Riverbank West apartment On the night of March 17, 1996, Alig and his roommate, Robert D. "Freeze" Riggs, killed Melendez after an argument in Alig's apartment over many things, including a long-standing drug debt. Alig has claimed many times that he was so high on drugs that his memory of the events is unclear.

After Melendez's death, Alig and Riggs did not know what to do with the body. They initially left it in the bathtub, which they filled with ice. After a few days, the body began to decompose and became malodorous. After discussing what to do with Melendez's body and who should do it, Riggs went to Macy's to buy knives and a box. In exchange for 10 bags of heroin, Alig agreed to dismember Melendez's body. He cut his legs off and put them each in a separate garbage bag, then into separate duffel bags and threw them into the Hudson River. The rest of the body was put into a large box Mr. Riggs found in the basement of their apartment. Afterwards, he and Riggs threw the box into the Hudson River.

In the weeks following Melendez's disappearance, Alig allegedly told "anyone who would listen" that he and Riggs had killed him. Most people did not believe Alig and thought his "confession" was a ploy to get attention.

However, Michael Musto recalls: "By the time Alig sent out a party invite joking about the murder, a lot of people wanted to kill him (especially since a source was floating a more premeditated version of the killing)."

On April 26, 1996, Musto reported rumors of Alig's involvement in Melendez's death in a blind item, in his Village Voice column. Although no names were used, Musto's reports included the details of the murder. Musto had previously reported on Alig's firing from The Limelight and noted the buzz about a missing club person. The following day, the New York Post's "Page Six" column ran a lead item about the murder mystery, citing Musto's reporting as well as a New York magazine piece quoting an evasive Alig. Over the coming weeks, the Village Voice continued to report and make accusations about Melendez's murder.

Through September 1996, the police still had not questioned Alig about the murder; they were focused on his business partner, Peter Gatien, wanting Alig to testify against him. Since several months had passed, many people believed Alig would get away with murdering Melendez, until children playing in the water pulled a box containing a legless torso from the waters of Oakwood Beach at Miller Field, in New Dorp, Staten Island. James St. James recounted how Melendez's brother was baffled by what he regarded as callous indifference by the police and by the scenesters Melendez had considered friends.

In November 1996, the coroner reported the body had been identified as Andre "Angel" Melendez. Alig fled New York and, in November 1996, was located by police in a motel room rented by his drug dealer boyfriend, Brian, in Toms River, New Jersey. Alig was arrested as was Riggs. Shortly after his arrest, Riggs confessed to police: "On a Sunday in March of 1996 I was at home ... and Michael Alig and Angel Melendez were loudly arguing ... and getting louder. I opened the room and started towards the other bedroom ... at which point Michael Alig was yelling, "Help me!" "Get him off of me" [Angel] started shaking him violently and banging him against the wall. He was yelling "You better get my money or I'll break your neck"...I grabbed the hammer...and hit Angel over the head...

According to Riggs, he hit Melendez a total of three times on the head with the hammer. Then Alig grabbed a pillow and tried to smother him. While Melendez was unconscious, Riggs went to the other room; when he returned, he noticed a broken syringe on the floor. Riggs claimed that Alig was pouring "some cleaner or chemical" into Melendez' mouth, then duct-taped it with the help of Riggs. Alig disputes these claims, however, and cites the "Draino in the hypodermic needle" as one of the key dramatizations in Disco Bloodbath and Party Monster.

Alig claimed he killed Melendez in self-defense and helped to dispose of the body in a panic. Prosecutors were hesitant to charge Alig with first-degree murder, as they still hoped he would testify against his former boss, Peter Gatien, who had been arrested for allowing drugs to be sold in his nightclubs. They eventually offered both Alig and Riggs a plea deal: a sentence of 10 to 20 years if they accepted the lesser charge of manslaughter. On October 1, 1997, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 10 to 20 years.

While in prison, Alig told journalist Michael Musto, "I know why I blabbed. I must have wanted to stop me. I was spinning out of control. It's like the old saying 'What do you have to do to get attention around here - kill somebody?'"

While incarcerated in the New York State prison system, Alig was transferred from prison to prison; he also spent time in the psychiatric ward at Rikers Island. In 2000, he was placed in solitary confinement after he was caught using heroin. He remained in solitary for another two and a half years after a drug test showed that he was still using drugs.

In August 2004, Alig's longtime friend and mentor, James St. James, began a blog entitled "Phone Calls From a Felon". The blog contained transcripts of phone conversations between Alig and St. James about Alig's experiences in prison. After six weeks, Alig put a stop to the phone calls claiming, "People think I'm having a grand old time. Or that I'm trying to exploit my situation." While Alig was still imprisoned, Lucky editor Esther Haynes ran his Twitter account.

Alig became eligible for parole in 2006. His first parole request, in November 2006, was denied, reportedly after parole officers watched the film Party Monster (2003), a fictionalized account of Alig's life, starring Macaulay Culkin.[36] He was again denied parole in July 2008 after failing several drug tests. In an interview with his former fellow prisoner, Daniel Genis, Alig said that his time spent reading while in solitary inspired him to write his memoirs, which he titled Aligula, and he particularly identified with the character Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. In March 2009, Alig said he finally decided to stop using drugs and that he had been sober since then.

— Source: Wikipedia

The Story of Clarence and Melinda Elkins

The Story of Clarence and Melinda Elkins Notes:

Clarence Arnold Elkins Sr. (born January 19, 1963) is an American man who was wrongfully convicted of the 1998 rape and murder of his mother-in-law, Judith Johnson, Melinda Elkins's mother, and the rape and assault of his niece, Brooke. He was convicted solely on the basis of testimony of his 6-year-old niece who testified that Elkins was the perpetrator.

Brooke later voiced doubts about her identification, claiming that in her initial statement when she said "He looked like uncle Clarence", she simply meant that he reminded her of Elkins as opposed to being a positive identification and that she only identified him in her testimony because Summit County Prosecutor Maureen O'Connor (now Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court) and lead prosecutor Michael Carroll urged her to. Brooke recanted her statement and Elkins appealed on that basis, but his appeal was denied.

The family finally raised funding to test DNA found at the scene and he was excluded. Once again, his appeal was denied. The judge ruled that because the jury convicted Elkins without the DNA results, it was likely that he would have been convicted even if the DNA did not match.

Elkins' wife, Melinda, conducted her own investigation. She eventually identified Johnson's next door neighbor, Earl Mann, a convicted sex offender, as a likely suspect. Elkins collected a cigarette butt from Mann, who was serving time at the same prison, and provided it to his defense attorney for testing. Mann's DNA from the cigarette butt was found to be a match to the DNA found at the crime scene. Elkins was finally exonerated after serving 6.5 years in prison.

Elkins now works as an advocate to halt wrongful convictions and was instrumental in getting Ohio to pass Senate Bill 77, also known as Ohio's Innocence Protection Act. This bill contains provisions requiring the police to follow best practices for eyewitness identifications, provides incentives for the videotaping of interrogations, and requires that DNA be preserved in homicide and sexual assault cases. A 2009 documentary was made about the case titled Conviction: The True Story of Clarence Elkins. He was also featured on Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen in 2017. Also in 2017, Fox 8 Cleveland covered Elkins' trip to Chicago, where a procedure called "Stellate ganglion block" was performed on both he and his wife Molly, by Dr. Eugene Lipov. This procedure was done in order to reduce symptoms of PTSD.

In the early morning hours of June 7, 1998, Clarence Elkins' mother-in-law, 58-year-old Judy Johnson, and his six-year-old niece, Brooke, were brutally attacked by an intruder in Johnson's home in Barberton, Ohio. Johnson had been asleep on her living room couch when she was attacked. She was raped, stabbed, and beaten so severely that her nose, jaw, collarbone and skull were all fractured in the assault. Her cause of death was determined to be strangulation. Brooke, who was sleeping in her grandmother's bed, was awakened by the noise. She recalls: "I got out of bed and I went to the kitchen and I looked and I seen that there was a guy in the kitchen, but it scared me, so I ran back to the bedroom." She hid under the covers pretending to be asleep. The intruder entered the bedroom and struck Brooke in the face, knocking her unconscious. She was also beaten, raped, strangled, and suffered a small cut to her throat, but survived with no memory of the attack. She regained consciousness several hours later around 7 am and called a neighbor, leaving a message on their answering machine:

I'm sorry to tell you this, but my grandma died and I need somebody to get my mom for me. I'm all alone. Somebody killed my grandma. Now please, would you get ahold of me as soon as you can. Bye.

Brooke then walked to a neighbor's house, the home of Earl Mann's common-law-wife, and knocked on the door. Tonia Brasiel came to the door, told the nightgown-clad, bruised and bloody child she was cooking breakfast for her children and told her to wait on the porch until she could drive her home, which she did approximately 45 minutes later.

When the police questioned Brooke, she said that the killer "looked like Uncle Clarence" – Mrs. Johnson's 35-year-old son-in-law, Clarence Elkins. The police interpreted this to mean Elkins himself was the attacker. Brasiel also reported to Brooke's mother that Brooke had identified Elkins as the attacker. Years later, Brooke said she had grave doubts about the identification at the time but went along with it. "I just wasn't sure it was Uncle Clarence or not," Brooke said. "But I was too afraid to say anything." Elkins was arrested on the basis of this identification. She later described the situation on Larry King: "I woke up and I found my grandma dead, I went to a next door neighbor's house and I told her that it looked like my uncle Clarence and it sounded like him. So, she took me home and she told my mom that -- what I told her and then everyone just started freaking out. And then my mom and dad called the police and my mom and dad told the police that it was my uncle Clarence who did it." When asked how the identification could go so wrong, she replied, "Well, I told people that it looked like him and they just went like it was him. They didn't even listen to what I was saying."

At trial, the prosecution theorized that Elkins killed his mother-in-law out of frustration because she was meddling in his rocky marriage to her daughter, Melinda. The case against Elkins was largely built on the testimony of the 6-year-old eyewitness; however, investigators found no signs of forced entry, and no fingerprints or DNA linking Elkins to the scene. Hairs recovered from Johnson's body were excluded as having come from either Elkins or Johnson. He insisted he was drinking with friends until about 2:40 a.m. Sunday morning, a timeline that Melinda corroborated. She testified that she saw Clarence return home, and knew he remained there, as she was up most of the night caring for a sick child. The attack took place sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.; Johnson's residence is over an hour away. Elkins's alibi was also corroborated by his neighbors and friends.

Based on the testimony of Brooke identifying him as her attacker, he was convicted on June 10, 1999 of murder, attempted aggravated murder, two counts of rape by force or threat of force, and felonious assault, and sentenced to two terms of life-imprisonment. Elkins' case was first overseen by Judge Beth Whitmore, then tried under Judge John Adams in Akron, Ohio. It was the first murder trial over which Judge Adams had presided.

Following the conviction, Elkins and his wife Melinda launched their own investigation and hired a private investigator, Martin Yant, who had previously assisted in the exonerations of numerous wrongfully convicted defendants.

Since the night of the crime, Judy's family had been split over the case, with some members certain of his guilt and others of his innocence. Brooke had not seen Melinda or her children since the trial. Three years after the trial, the family reconciled. Brooke confessed her uncertainty, stating, "It couldn't have been Clarence. The person that hurt me and me-maw had brown eyes. And Clarence has blue eyes."

Clarence's attorney interviewed Brooke on camera where she recanted her earlier implication of Elkins. Clarence appealed his conviction with this new evidence. The judge believed the child had been coached by relatives following the reconciliation; the appeal was denied.

Following the failed appeal, they decided to retest the evidence for DNA. The court ruled that Melinda could have access to DNA recovered from the scene, but she would have to shoulder the high costs of DNA testing. Melinda raised almost $40,000 on her own before turning to the Ohio Innocence Project for assistance. They convinced a lab in Texas to test two samples for $25,000, half their normal price. The results excluded Clarence Elkins. Clarence appealed the conviction again on the basis of the new DNA evidence. The court ruled that because a jury convicted him without DNA evidence, they would have convicted him even if it didn't match. Summit County Common Court Judge Judy Hunter denied Elkins' motion in July 2005. Following the second failed appeal, the family's further research turned up information regarding the next door neighbor, Tonia Brasiel, who had driven Brooke home the morning after the attack. It was discovered that Brasiel's common law husband, Earl Mann, was a convicted sex offender who had been released from prison just two days before the murder, on June 5, 1998. It had been overlooked that Mann's wife Tonia left Brooke, a severely beaten and bloody 6-year-old in immediate need of medical care, on the porch for more than 30 minutes instead of calling 911 immediately.

Melinda determined to collect Mann's DNA, but he was in prison by that time. Coincidentally, Mann was serving his time at Mansfield Correctional facility, the same facility Clarence was serving his sentence. Clarence Elkins collected a cigarette butt discarded by Mann. He sent the cigarette to his attorney who sent it to a lab for testing. It was a match.

Despite the DNA evidence connecting Mann to the murder, the district attorney declined to release Elkins. Elkins's attorney contacted Ohio State Attorney General Jim Petro. Petro personally contacted prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, on several occasions, regarding the case. He similarly discovered that she was not interested in revisiting the case. Petro then took the unorthodox step of holding a press conference, in order to publicly pressure the prosecutor to dismiss the charges. The prosecutors conducted another round of DNA testing on hairs found at the scene, and again, Mann was identified.

On December 15, 2005, the charges against Elkins were dropped, and he was released from prison. He filed for divorce in September 2006, which was finalized in 2007.

In 2008, ten years after the crimes were committed, in a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, Mann pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated rape and aggravated murder for the death of Johnson, as well as aggravated rape of Brooke. He was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison, and will not be eligible for parole until age 92.

Melinda Elkins Dawson was instrumental in getting Ohio to pass Senate Bill 262, also known as Post Conviction DNA Law. This bill contains provisions for DNA testing post-conviction, using outcome determinitive guidelines. Melinda also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for "Ohioans to stop executions". As a public speaker and victim advocate, she continues to fight for justice and to raise awareness of wrongful convictions.

Clarence Elkins was instrumental in getting Ohio to pass Senate Bill 77, also known as Ohio's Innocence Protection Act. This bill contains provisions requiring the police to follow best practices for eyewitness identifications, provides incentives for the videotaping of interrogations, and requires that DNA be preserved in homicide and sexual assault cases, among other things. Elkins spent countless hours pressing for what has been called the "national model" of innocence reform bills, and the "most important piece of criminal justice legislation in Ohio in a century."

Clarence also engages in public speaking about his case and wrongful convictions in general at universities and other locations across the United States.

— Source: Wikipedia

Fucking Hoorays!

Georgia:

I took Twitter and Facebook off my phone because it was causing me a lot of stress and anxiety, and I also called my psychiatrist to up my anxiety medication. It felt good to take some steps to help my anxiety.

Karen:

I got very bad news on Tuesday morning, and I haven’t processed it yet, but I do want to talk about it. My Aunty Ping died. She was one of my mom’s very best friends and had always been there for my mom during her illness and was there for my sister and I. She had a sudden heart attack and was just one of those people you didn’t think was gonna be gone. I’m just gonna say this: We are only here for only 15 fucking minutes, so if you can right now start living your life like you can lose the people you love tomorrow or you can die tomorrow I think it’s a smarter way to live. It makes you a little less self-obsessed and a little more outwardly oriented.