Raven was one of the youngest and toughest Hollywood street runaways, her MySpace page filled with horror, beauty and bitterness. Split from her disaster of a mother, the troubled teen from suburban Glendale tried to fashion a normal life with the lone kids she met. So beautiful and so extreme was Raven that it seemed almost inevitable when actress Dyan Cannon stumbled across the 12-year-old brunette four years ago and chose to make her a key figure in a yet-to-be-completed documentary. The last time Cannon taped Raven, the teen prophesied her own death — in a dark, gothic poem that was a trademark of her writings.
And then a year ago, the homeless teen vanished. She was found strangled and wrapped in a green tapestry comforter, a CSI-style clue that Los Angeles Police Department detectives followed to a comforter manufacturer, then to the gritty Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, which buys those very covers for its beds.
In a stroke of dark luck that seemed a fitting tribute to Raven’s desperately short life, Los Angeles detectives quickly discovered the existence of a motel surveillance video, and on that video, police say, are the shocking images of a suspect carrying a body wrapped in a green tapestry comforter.
The trial will soon begin of Raven’s suspected killer, a registered sex offender and convicted drug dealer who had been out on the streets for only four days when Raven’s body was found. Meanwhile, Raven’s MySpace site has become an epic poem and digital history by the street kids who knew her, maybe even idolized her — but who no longer want to be like her.
Raven’s real name was Alyssa Gomez, but “Raven” was an affectionate nickname given to her by an ex-boyfriend, and it seemed to evoke her darkness — her lush, long, near-black hair, her morbid street fashions, her black humor. When she first hit the boulevard, she played things tough, calling herself CODE, or “Cause of Death: Ecstasy,” a name she clung to after watching a friend overdose on the drug.
Her MySpace page, “Ravenous Vagrant,” was a testament to the disturbing world in which she lived, the murkier, less acceptable side of the now dressed-up, redeveloped Hollywood filled with yuppies and monied young partiers.
Like some hellish version of the “parallel universes” theory in physics, Raven and her invisible friends slinked along the same streets as the glittering new BMW crowd that occupies Hollywood each night, slipping past lines of suburbanites, college kids and tourists waiting to gain entry to Les Deux Café and Goa. Many of them mere children, they live in the alleys and back lots, where beatings are commonplace, drugs are plentiful, and prostitution means a meal or a much-needed fix. The photo Raven chose for her cyber page looks like it could have been pinched from the gloomy, occult crime comics by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. The caption for a drawing of a raven-haired woman and man locked in a seductive kiss reads: “I’m the maggot in ever dead.”
Raven listed her age as 101. She looked and acted 30. She was 15. She listed her favorite movie as: “to watch you attempt suicide.” Her favorite TV show was “Childrens [sic] lonely and bitterness.” Her heroes: “my rapeing [sic] fingers.” Her hometown: the “underworld.”
Raven’s last log posting is dated July 11, 2007. As if putting one final flourish on the nihilistic existence she chose, her post appeared more than a month after her June 4 death.
In the months since her murder, Raven’s MySpace page has become a cyber memorial to the lost teen, and to hundreds of children for whom the streets of Hollywood and Los Angeles seem no different from Third World Sao Paulo or Calcutta, gritty urban places that lure children into a game of survival that they may not win.
Two days after her death, Raven’s counselor at a Hollywood drop-in center, named “Ebony,” wrote: “I only wish I had done more for you. I know that you are not suffering anymore. ... We will get it right. If not in this lifetime, then in the next one.”
The following day, a pal calling himself “Caneada” scribed: “rest in peace raven i loved you like my little sister and a young women i wish i was there with you when it happen but i wasn’t now i feel like i have to become a better man to let u know that u will always be in my heart.”
More recently, “Paxil” penned: “To My Beautiful Morbid Angel. Forever I will hold you in my heart. I’m sorry I wasn’t out of jail to keep you with me. I’ll never forgive myself.”