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
They wound through residential roads in his sporty car, ending up on a street whose name she did not take note of. The polite stranger parked outside a mustard-colored house partly obscured by hedges, got out, walked up to the house, briefly talked to someone inside, and returned about 10 minutes later.
But now, she says, he was entirely different. He drove off, started to say something, turned a corner — then went quiet. “He asked me, ‘Why did you dog me out?’” she recalls. She had no idea what he was talking about. He called her by the name of a well-known local prostitute who walked the streets around Normandie Avenue and looked like Margette, except the streetwalker wore an auburn wig while Margette’s black hair was cropped short like a boy’s.
Margette remembers thinking that his weird use of the streetwalker’s nickname was an odd coincidence, because a few days earlier somebody else mistook her for the auburn-wigged woman. But Margette, a tough young woman who’d been involved in a few scraps, wasn’t scared. She was much bigger-boned than her thin, spindly-looking companion, and she was irritated by his hostile tone — something she heard often from the malingering drug dealers and gangsters in her area.
“Who do you think you are talking to?” she responded, showing him some attitude. He suddenly pulled a small handgun out of a pocket on the driver’s side of the Pinto, and shot her in the chest as he drove along the residential streets.
Incredibly, Margette did not lose consciousness, panic or flee. More than anything, she remembers being utterly baffled as blood began dripping down her blue-and-white peasant shirt. “That was something that stuck in my head,” she says. She demanded to know: Why had he shot her? And who would take care of her kids if she died? She felt blood trickle down her face, and her blouse grew wet with it.
She blacked out, but was startled awake by the bright flash of a Polaroid camera. The creep had taken her picture and sexually assaulted her. She remembers grabbing at him, and the two struggled. She pleaded to be taken to a hospital. He refused. Despite her half-conscious condition, she’s almost certain he told her he couldn’t take her to a hospital because he didn’t want to get caught.
The gunman peeled off through the night, Margette bleeding beside him. He finally pulled over, beat her senseless with his gun, opened her door and pushed her onto the darkened street.
But police say the Grim Sleeper had never met a victim quite like Enietra Margette. She picked herself up, and, in what is assumed to have been a state of shock, walked the many blocks to her best friend’s house, leaving a bloody meandering trail along the street and smeared on parked cars.
She pounded on her friend Lynda Lewis’ front door, but nobody answered. Lewis, sitting down during Margette’s last stop on a macabre tour conducted for the Weekly one warm afternoon several weeks ago, explains that her children were home alone that night, and “the kids were afraid to open the door” to the horribly bloodied Margette. “She was screaming my name.”
In fact, Lewis had gone on to the party when Margette didn’t show. She and her husband returned at about 1 a.m. and found her nearly incoherent friend lying on the porch. Lewis recalls, “I was shocked and scared to death. [Enietra] said, ‘He hit me in the head with a gun!’?” After the ambulance arrived, says Lewis, “the paramedics were trying to make her stay still.”
It was while recovering in the hospital from her collapsed lung that Margette got a visit from LAPD detectives. She described her attacker to a sketch artist, and drawings hit the streets. Detectives searched Department of Motor Vehicles records for an orange Ford Pinto, but there were thousands of those small hatchbacks — or cars that looked like them — in California. Detectives took Margette to look at a car in Long Beach one day, but it didn’t pan out.
The police tried to insinuate she was a prostitute, which still riles her today. “I didn’t solicit the man,” she huffs. “My friends had a search party looking for him, they were so pissed.”
Police knew they had multiple dead victims, but kept Margette in the dark. They were focused on several murders in which the victims “were passengers [in the killer’s car],” says retired detective Rich Haro, who investigated the eight linked killings as well as Margette’s assault.
Trying to find some method to the suspect’s madness, police had dubbed the killings the “strawberry” murders — a street term for troubled women who casually trade sex for drugs. The serial killer would coax women into his car, police believed, then “the suspect leans over and shoots them.” Police “worked around the clock” to determine which of the many killings were the work of the suspect, Haro recalls, and used a “pathologist [who] was familiar with the wounds we were looking for.”