By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
A WORKER MADE THE GRUESOME DISCOVERY January 25 behind a Boyle Heights warehouse. There, lying near the loading dock, were the decomposed remains of a 14-year-old girl named Emmery Munoz. She’d been missing for six days and was expected to attend a flier party that Friday night. The 10th-grader at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School was last seen wearing a white-hooded sweatshirt with “Tinkerbell” written across the front and blue jeans.
“I don’t think she ever made it to a party,” said Los Angeles Police Department homicide Detective Joe Preciado.
Her body was found next to a handful of used syringes, garbage and a couple of beer bottles likely left by the homeless who seek shelter in some of the old abandoned buildings that stretch for blocks through the neighborhood’s warehouse district. The area is also a well-known spot for underground parties — it’s desolate, especially at night, and its distance from homes makes it ideal.
Now, nine months later, detectives have made little progress in solving her strangulation murder.
“Everybody knows that area,” said Emmery’s friend, 16-year-old Karen Estrada. “Everybody who goes to parties would know that area.”
Emmery was a typical teenager. She liked to sing, dance, hang with friends, talk on the phone, text message and play around on MySpace.com. Her nickname was “Tears.” The headline to her MySpace profile read: “Emmery Roxxx This Shit.” She listed her age as 17.
Like many Los Angeles teens, Emmery was a regular in the underground party scene. She was also a new member of the Vicious Ladies, an all-girls party crew of 25 that began last October as an extension of Vicious Entertainment, a party crew started by five childhood friends who grew up in Highland Park and throw parties in northeast and east Los Angeles. The crew promotes parties on MySpace and on their Web site, viciousladies.tk, and typically throw parties in houses rented for the night. Crew members wear badges with the Louis Vuitton insignia bearing the Vicious Ladies logo. The fliers tout cheap drinks, massive sound systems and happy balloons filled with nitrous oxide.
“The Vicious Ladies are the biggest and most talked-about crew,” said one of the original “Vicious” founders who didn’t want to be identified. “The girls are real pretty. Most of the girls in the scene wear bootie shorts and are nozz heads. The Vicious Ladies aren’t like that. It makes the crew look bad if the girls are ho’s.”
However, there are dozens of party crews in L.A. Many of the parties, which typically cost $5 to enter, are held in abandoned warehouses or homes. The parties are unsupervised, and the security is generally lax. Estrada said that she had been to a party in the warehouse district about a year ago. It was closed early because a gunfight broke out. She went to the party with Emmery, she said. It is not uncommon for flier parties to turn violent. In 2004, 13 people were killed at flier parties in Los Angeles, an L.A. Weekly review of LAPD records found.
On the day of her disappearance, family members said that Emmery went to school as usual and was picked up by her grandfather. She did her chores and was last seen by her mother at 4:30 p.m. in the front yard of their home chatting with a male friend. The male friend, who was later identified by police as being a member of a party crew, told authorities that Emmery walked him home. She left his house around 5:30 p.m. Her friends claim they never saw her again.
“That is the last place we have her,” said Preciado. “This is kind of holding like a gang mentality. These party crews have a kind of gang mentality. They don’t like to talk. That is why we offered a $50,000 reward. We are hoping that someone will step forward and tell us what they know.”
Preciado said that Emmery made a call to a friend on her cell phone around 8 p.m. Her last text message was two hours later, at 10 p.m. The phone was never used again.
Emmery’s body was found at 9 a.m. six days later next to the loading dock. The warehouse had been used to store wood. When police arrived, they discovered a large hole in the chainlink fence that surrounded the property. She wore the same clothes she was last seen in. There were no signs of a sexual assault. Police believe that she died somewhere else and her body was dumped. The bottoms of her shoes appeared clean.
“The location where she was dumped was known to have several rave parties in the past,” said Preciado. “A person who wasn’t connected to the underground party world wouldn’t have come to this location to dispose of the body.”
Her “Vicious” friends don’t believe that her death had anything to do with the party scene and deny that there even was a party that Friday night.
“They [police] want to blame it on the party scene and nozz,” said the co-founder of Vicious. “If she had kicked it with us more often she would have been safe.”
LAST WEEK, POLICE OFFICERS held a press conference near the site where her body was found, hoping that a reward might induce someone to come forward with information. Details of the case were both a relief and a shock to family members. “Yesterday was the first day we found out she was strangled,” said the girl’s aunt Sandra Briggs. “They were telling us it was inconclusive. There were markings on her neck. It is just disheartening for this family. It is disheartening that a 14-year-old could die that way and it not be solved. She wanted to become a nurse. She was naive and smart at the same time.”
Preciado said that Emmery’s death was first considered inconclusive because they were waiting for toxicology results. They wanted to rule out an overdose of nitrous oxide, he said.
“We made a special request for the coroner to be checking that,” said Preciado. “We informed the coroner that she may be involved in rave parties and to do a thorough check on toxicology. We specifically asked for nitrous oxide.”
The day after Emmery’s body was discovered, friends put up a makeshift shrine with candles and scribbled notes at Indiana Street and Union Pacific Avenue, a few blocks away from where she was found. Her MySpace account receives dozens of postings from friends weekly. A few months after Emmery’s death, the Vicious Ladies held a rave in her honor. Party favors included strawberry-flavored happy balloons.?The crew donated $700 to Emmery’s family to help pay for funeral expenses.