[Hpn] Homeless people MURDERED in Modesto CA USA (fwd)
Tue, 9 Jan 2001 11:52:21 -0800 (PST)
FWD Modesto Bee - Monday, January 08, 2001
HOMELESS ON EDGE AFTER KILLINGS
By SUZANNE HURT
BEE STAFF WRITER
Recent killings of two homeless people have sent a chill through the
streets of Modesto.
Homeless people are taking precautions, at least temporarily, in the wake
of the killings late last month.
Some women living along the Tuolumne River are talking about going to the
Modesto Union Gospel Mission. Other people are leaving the mission after
one of the killings happened nearby. Some have left for other cities.
"People are moving on. Families are moving on, going elsewhere," said Mark
Gilliam, 41, while waiting to eat lunch at The Salvation Army last week.
Some people staying at the mission are worried about the killing near Dry
Creek and Yosemite Boulevard because it happened nearby and because they
fear someone might get into the mission with a weapon, said Jason Van
Clief, 25, who stayed there until Thursday.
"I've been very, very scared," he said. Van Clief and three other men left
the mission after a man they believe may be connected to the suspect in the
latest killing threatened Van Clief for talking to police.
They're not the only ones finding new places to sleep.
"A lot of the homeless don't want to stay along the river. They're finding
other places to stay, other means," he said.
Some are finding shelter in abandoned houses. Single women sleeping near
the river -- including some with children -- are moving their blankets,
boxes and makeshift shelters closer to each other. Women are more afraid to
walk alone and are keeping boyfriends nearby at night. Some who stay at the
mission are going inside earlier.
"I know a lot of people on the streets are scared," said Jackie Hughes, 34,
a recovering drug addict who was getting a free checkup after leaving the
streets three weeks ago.
Relatives have come to get some of them off the street. One woman's brother
showed up Thursday at Moose Park, where she was hanging out with other
street people. He gave her $100 to pay her share of the rent so she
wouldn't have to sleep along the river.
"My brother's freaking over it," said Nedda Cartright, 45, as she sat on
the grass. "He told me on the phone, 'You're not staying out there.'"
Cartright said she feels safe when she's with Vietnam veterans such as Mike
Bishop, 48. Younger women are leaving the streets altogether, Bishop said.
"A lot of girls are running home," he said.
Jesse Alfredo-Federico Origel, 18, has been charged in the case.
Detective Jon Buehler, who is heading the investigation into Polly's death,
said police sensed fear in the homeless community, and help from the
homeless was critical in Ward's arrest.
"Some of the homeless were concerned, no doubt, and that may have helped
us," Buehler said. "When word spread (about the killing), it made the
difference in catching him Ö because he could have left the state and
committed more crimes."
Staff at several agencies said no one has come seeking shelter out of fear
over the killings. Those agencies include Community Housing and Shelter
Services, Telecare SHOP, Sunshine Place, The Salvation Army, the county's
Community Services Agency and the Homeless Healthcare clinic.
People are just sleeping "with one eye open," Gilliam said.
"I'm not really worried about it. I have some pretty hidden places nobody
knows about," he said. "You've just got to be real careful where you go to
sleep and try to pick your friends real carefully."
They're also watching out for one another. Al "Cowboy" Davis said they
don't want any more problems with outsiders.
"It's time for this to stop," said the 40-year-old, who has spent three
years on Modesto's streets. "We're not out here to harm anybody. We stay to
ours; they should stay to theirs."
Niki Lane, an advocate for homeless people, said the killings highlight
Modesto's need for a public shelter, which remains a distant possibility
nearly a year after a community task force first proposed one.
"It's needed now more than ever," said Lane, who is helping to start a
local branch of the National Coalition on Homelessness.
The "home guard" -- street people who have lived in Modesto for years --
say they're checking out newcomers more quickly now, but they won't be
"There's a lot of Vietnam vets out here. We're not going anywhere. We've
got a lot of friends," said Bishop, pointing out that the killings were not
related. "It's not like it was in Denver where somebody was going around
There's concern that some residents are minimizing the significance of the
"People are saying it's just another homeless person," said Teresa Olson,
nursing supervisor for the Golden Valley Homeless Healthcare Program
And people like Tara Blodgett worry they could be next. Blodgett, 20, has
lived on the streets since she was 16.
"I'm afraid, because when things like this happen, it reminds me there are
still people like that in the world who would do something like this.
They're still out there, and it could happen again," she said. "It reminds
us the world is a dangerous place."
[ Bee staff writer Daryl Farnsworth contributed to this report. ]
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