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Police also acknowledge that they don’t have the personnel or time to chase down every party, especially when most are advertised on the Internet.
“The Internet is so prolific,” says Mike Coffey, supervising detective at LAPD’s North Hollywood Division. “It is like dropping fliers out of a helicopter. It is easy to get the word out with the Internet. This isn’t a police problem, it is a citizens’ problem. We aren’t going to check the Internet to monitor the parties. We have units that can’t keep up with radio calls. The citizens who are initiating the parties, I think they should be legally or morally responsible for what happens at the party. Like at a bar. They should be liable for what happened. It should be on the family of the victims to sue and try to get some kind of compensation for injuries where someone created an atmosphere where someone got shot. There is a lot of liability there. Those parties are just time bombs. You have no idea what will happen, and when it explodes it is too late.”
Emmery Munoz was a typical teenager. She liked to sing, dance, hang with friends, talk on the phone, text message and play around on MySpace. The headline to her MySpace profile read: “Emmery Roxxx This Shit.” Though she was just 14 when she died, she listed her age as 17.
Munoz lived with her mother, two siblings and grandparents in City Terrace. Like many teens, she was a regular in the underground party scene. Her Vicious Ladies crew name was “Tears.”
Munoz’s death brought the dangers of the flier-party scene to the forefront for Hollenbeck Division detectives, whose purview includes the area where Munoz lived and died.
“It is not the first underground party where someone got hurt by any means, but Emmery is the one that really brought it to our attention,” says Hollenbeck homicide supervisor Dwayne Fields. “I am not trying to ruin a kid's good time. The attitude of ‘Whatever happens happens’ is an attitude that will get you dead. I am trying to prevent someone from being shot and killed.”
Munoz’s first party as a full-fledged member was on November 18, 2005, at the crew’s “Vicious and Spice and Everything Nice” party. She went to the party with her best friend Brandy and a male friend. It would be one of her last.
On the day of her disappearance, Munoz attended Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School as usual. She made tentative plans to go to the mall that night with a school chum. She also made plans with a male friend who wanted to meet up after school.
When she arrived home, she did her chores and changed into blue jeans and a white, hooded sweatshirt with “Tinkerbell” written across the front. Her mother last saw her at 4:30 p.m. in the front yard of their home, chatting with the male friend. Munoz asked her mother if she could hang out with Brandy that night. Her mother told her she could, but had to be home by 8:30 p.m. The male friend, who was later identified by police as being a member of a party crew, told authorities that Munoz walked him home. They chatted for a while, he said, and she left his house around 5:30 p.m.
When her mother returned home at 6:30 p.m., Munoz was gone. The only things she had taken with her were her cell phone and school identification.
Police said that Munoz used her cell phone to talk to a friend at 8 p.m. that night. A text message was sent from her phone at 10 p.m., though police don't believe it came from Munoz. When she didn’t return home that evening, family members began to worry. The following morning, Munoz’s mother called the police. At the time, the police suspected that Munoz was a runaway. Her mother, Maria Mejia, disagreed.
“I never believed she was a runaway. If she had an intention of running away, she would have taken her [phone] charger, clothes. She didn't take anything,” says Mejia. “Someone killed my daughter.”
On the morning of January 25, six days after Munoz disappeared, two workers who stopped by an old factory to pick up lumber discovered the 10th grader’s body next to a loading dock in the heart of Boyle Heights’ warehouse district — a well-known spot for underground parties because of its desolate location. A handful of used syringes, some garbage and a couple of beer bottles were strewn about.
When police arrived, they discovered a large hole in the chainlink fence that surrounded the property. Munoz was wearing the same clothes she was last seen in. The bottoms of her shoes appeared clean. So were her clothes. Police believe that she died somewhere else and her body was dumped. There were no signs of sexual assault. Her school identification was found in her pocket. The eight gold and silver rings she usually wore on her fingers were missing. So were her cell phone and the gold hoop earrings she received as a Christmas gift.