By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Some of the drifters had been booted out by their parents because they were unruly, or pregnant, or gay, according to social-service workers. Others were sexually or physically abused, so they ran away. Many were outsiders who had heard about the Promenade through a network of runaways who drift from town to town. And then there was Shevawn.
Unlike the runaways, Shevawn had a home to return to each night, but she tried to fit in, emulating the tough lifestyle and look of the "Promenade rats." "I was attracted to her tough exterior," said her best friend, Tanya Zerkov, 17, who hung out first with skaters on the north end of the Promenade. "The mouth she had, the way she could tell you to fuck off by just her look. Shevawn was always the youngest and she was the shortest and she had this baby face. She had to prove herself."
The first time they met, Shevawn was kneeling down on the Promenade biting her dog, Misery, who had just bitten her. "I had never seen anything like that," Tanya recalled. "I said, ‘Hi, I’m Tanya.’ She said, ‘Hi, I’m Shevawn,’ and she went back to biting her dog."
"She was an individual, and she wanted to test the limits of everything," said another of Shevawn’s friends, Kim Calder, 16, who drifted to Santa Monica after running away from her Nevada home. "She was so passionate about everything. A situation that was trivial was like the end of the world for her."
At 13, Shevawn ran away from home for the first time, venturing to Hollywood, where a drifter’s life is dangerous and crime rampant. By the time she ran away a third time, her parents had installed a caller ID box on their telephone (Shevawn always checked in at home) and followed her trek on a map. She made it as far as Knoxville, Tennessee, where she lost her dog and spent her 14th birthday living in a tunnel.
"The driver of the van she was in drove away without her dog," Geoghegan said. "That broke her heart in a way I couldn’t tell you . . . It was the thing that finally broke her runaway thing. She found out the street was not that attractive."
Shevawn, who prosecutors say was sexually active before she hit her teens, first met Glen Mason on the Promenade and began an on-and-off relationship with him nine months before her death. Like many of the squatters who drift from town to town — Tucson, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley — the Texas native ended up in Santa Monica, where he lived in abandoned buildings battered by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
"He came into town, and I remember Shevawn saying, ‘Who’s that cute squatter?’" Tanya said. "He walked on the Promenade and stood in front of Woolworth’s and just stared. He had on tight black pants, really, really dirty. He stunk. You could smell him."
"He had something about him — you just had to listen," Kim said. "He had this captivating presence, this clarity and otherworldly quality. His eyes burned through you. He was mysterious."
Kim and Tanya soon learned that Mason, who went by the street name Jason Ballis, was dabbling in Satanism and had ambitions of becoming a Generation X Charles Manson, even imitating the cult killer’s intense stare.
"He talked about being like Charles Manson," Kim said. "People see that confidence and power, and they grab onto it. That was his whole thing. He wanted to be compared to something evil. He craved attention, and he craved power."
Mason soon began to preach and practice Satanism. He read Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, which became a handbook of sorts. He also followed the incantations and spells from the Necronomicon, a mock treatise said to have been written in Damascus in the eighth century by the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred. He even gave a copy to Tanya and Shevawn. "We were scared at first," Tanya said, "but we read three pages of it and started laughing."
But Mason took seriously the book whose cover promised to reveal "the long-forgotten formulae for evoking incredible things, beings and monsters into physical appearance." "He decided that there really was this race of ancient spirits he was going to summon from below," Kim said. "He was a Satanist. He really believed it."
In the boarded-up Flamingo Motel next door to the RAND Corp., the Cold War research center near the Santa Monica Pier, Mason practiced his Satanism, studying LaVey’s book and scrawling inverted pentagrams on the walls. When the 81-unit motel was raided by police, triggering a stampede of squatters, Mason moved into the abandoned Euclid Street mental-health facility, where a decade earlier social worker Robbyn Panitch was stabbed to death by a demented patient.
"I think [Mason] picked that squat," Kim said. "He wanted the creepiest, most fucked-up squat he could find."
"I didn’t like the idea of an abandoned mental hospital," said Tanya, who never stepped inside. "When you look at the outside of that squat, you start making up stories of what could have happened there."
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