Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Warren Fulton on the Key Bridge in Georgetown (1988)

Twenty-five years ago, on Saturday, December 3rd, 1988, I left my good friend, Warren Fulton, and his girlfriend, Rachael, at a pub in Washington, and went home for the night. Months earlier, I’d given Warren a key to the apartment that I shared with two other students; he crashed on our couch so often, he became a roommate. He might’ve meant to stay with his parents at his official residence in Vienna, Va., or he might’ve wound up at Rachael’s place, but he and Rachael were never seen again, alive. For two days, they were missing. Warren hadn’t materialized Sunday night in particular, which was odd, since he had weights with the baseball team early Monday mornings, and his crash pad, i.e., my pad, was mere blocks from the gym. By Tuesday, the radio news announced the discovery of two bodies in a field near a highway in Virginia. One of my roommates and I decided to drive around, into Virginia, back to D.C., and so forth, all the while listening for developments. I never wanted to get word of Warren’s death, but not knowing his plight was excruciating, too. (I would better comprehend the complexities of “wanting a resolution” a couple years later, when my brother lay comatose in the ICU, his body ruined by metastatic disease, a machine breathing for him.) By Tuesday evening, a group of friends had gathered at the apartment. A TV news anchor revealed that Warren and Rachael were the “two bodies”; they’d been murdered. We hugged each other. We screamed “No!” together. I slugged a wall pretty good. How should one react?

Police could not solve the murder straight away. The killer, who had abducted the two in Rachael’s car, drove the same car to New York, where it sat for a while before being ticketed, of all things. Detectives had not developed a motive, had not identified a suspect, and had not discovered a weapon, although they had recovered DNA evidence from the crime scene. In time, the DNA evidence would link the same killer to another open murder investigation in Northern Virginia; my friend, apparently, had been slain by a serial killer. Much time would pass between breaks in the case. Seventeen years after Warren and Rachael had been killed, police at last matched the DNA to a California inmate who’d been sentenced to that state’s Death Row for torturing and killing a 15 year old girl. He was extradited to Virginia, where, in 2007, he stood trial for the double-killing, a process that would become nearly as epic as the hunt to identify him in the first place. The initial trial, which I attended, resulted in a mistrial, after one juror ‘impeached’ his own verdict. (He changed his mind, that is, after he had willingly participated in declaring a unanimous guilty verdict.) A second trial would end in a capital murder conviction, but its sentence, a death sentence, would be washed out on a technicality. A third trial, which retried the penalty phase alone, concluded with the jury recommending a death sentence that the judge upheld. The killer was defended by the same law firm and the same team of lawyers who represented the infamous “D.C. Sniper.”

I won’t comment on the crime, which was barbaric, and I won’t comment on the killer, who is suspected in other slayings beyond the four mentioned here, and I won’t comment on the sentence the killer received, (one he continues to appeal), and I don’t want to speak of the other victim, Rachael, as I didn’t know her very well. I’d like to say a few words about Warren, who’s had an influence on my life. To begin, he cared about poetry and he enjoyed writing. This spurred me to write, and what little I may have accomplished as a writer, in some way, doubles back to the pleasure that Warren took from poetic expression. I’ve published pieces about him in magazines and many of the same pieces can be found in my two books. Mostly, he wielded what I’ll call “A Formidable Wit.” He had a way of attacking you when you were moping. His practical jokes were estimable. I could tell you the midnight Atlantic City story, the woman who lost her bikini top story, the “what’s happening, dude?” story, the Taco Bell grande story, the stealing second base and what the umpire said story, the “well, there’s no other way to put it story, and among others, the goof off day story, during which, Warren needed dough and decided he would acquire these funds by marching into 7-11, spending $2 on a scratch-off lottery ticket, and winning, which he did, he won enough bread to fund an ensuing goof off night for the two of us. “I didn’t need a Plan B,” he said. “I was always going to win that money!” If you never met him, I wish you could have. He was my friend.

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