It's been 15 years since someone murdered Biggie Smalls outside the Petersen Automotive Museum and then disappeared forever down Wilshire Boulevard in a dark-colored Chevy Impala. The music world is still waiting for answers.
The family of Biggie, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, is among those still searching for closure. Every time a new theory or accusation rises to the surface, Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace, and his widow, singer Faith Evans, hope it will lead to justice, only to have their hearts shattered when nothing solid develops.
In October, it happened again, when retired detective Greg Kading, who led an LAPD task force seeking Biggie's murderer, self-published a book, Murder Rap, unveiling a new confession that implicated former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight. Before he left LAPD, documents show, Kading elicited a confession from the "baby momma" of one of Knight's children. Her name was changed in the book to "Theresa Swann," and she told police that Knight instructed her to pay his close associate Wardell "Poochie" Fouse to shoot Biggie.
For years, Voletta Wallace believed something quite different. She subscribed to the widely reported theory promoted by another former LAPD detective, Russell Poole, that Knight used dirty cop David Mack, convicted of robbing a bank in 1997, to help orchestrate the hit, on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. Poole's theory, popularized in the 2002 book Labyrinth by Randall Sullivan and in the 2002 documentary Biggie & Tupac by Nick Broomfield, spurred Voletta Wallace to hire famed civil attorney Perry Sanders and file a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over officer Mack's alleged involvement and subsequent alleged police cover-up.
Now, the ground is shifting in one of the most baffling cold cases in Los Angeles history. In an exclusive interview with L.A. Weekly, Wallace says that, while she has not ruled out dirty LAPD cops, she leans toward Kading's new evidence and wants to see Suge Knight in jail.
"Over all these years I've been trying to find the truth," Wallace says. "Now it seems that the 'truth' we originally found out may not be the truth. I believe everything in [Greg Kading's] book. So if Greg Kading found out all this truth, why isn't Suge Knight behind bars? What are the police waiting for? They murdered my son. LAPD, make a goddamn arrest."
About three weeks before the March 9 15th anniversary of Biggie's slaying, his widow, Evans, and Wallace's attorney, Sanders, secretly met at the L.A. County District Attorney's Office with several LAPD homicide detectives and Deputy DA David Walgren, the prosecutor who sent Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, to prison.
Sanders says he was grateful that Walgren agreed to the meeting, where, among other things, the discussion turned to whether the county DA's office would convene a grand jury to look into Knight's possible involvement in the murder. The meeting was described as emotional. Longing for someone to be held accountable for the death of her husband, Evans was in tears. When it was over, however, the Biggie team walked away disheartened.
"In keeping with the spirit of law enforcement and prosecutorial policy," Sanders says, "information is a one-way highway. So if we want to ask them questions [about convening a grand jury], like, 'What about this?' it's a one-way highway. They're never going to get back and say, 'Oh, here's the answer to that.' Which, of course, all victims, including my client, find a little bit frustrating. I think it's fair to say that this case is less unsolved than unprosecuted."
Voletta Wallace is even more outspoken about law enforcement's lack of action in the wake of the new evidence. "Even after you have [Swann] come forward and say, 'This is what happened,' and LAPD still can't make an arrest? It makes no sense."
Walgren declined to comment on the secret meeting or the status of the case, and there is no indication that the DA's Office is actually pursuing it. Kading and Sanders, it seems, are the two last men standing, working in the background to find answers and hold someone responsible.
Both men believe sufficient evidence has been unearthed to indict Knight for the murder. Knight could not be reached for comment despite repeated efforts by the Weekly.
Both Kading and Sanders say Swann's confession is solid, unimpeachable evidence. Kading, however, says that DA Steve Cooley has a policy not to prosecute murders based on a single witness.
The problem is with corroborating the dark confession by the mysterious "Theresa Swann" detailing hit money flowing from Knight to her. In Kading's book and in law enforcement documents, she says she was the go-between.
For the second witness, Sanders is relying on a jailhouse informant who implicated Knight. But, muddying the waters, the informant also has espoused Poole's theory that corrupt LAPD cops were involved in killing Biggie. Kading says that will never fly with L.A. prosecutors, who he believes will not consider any evidence or testimony that supports former detective Poole's theory.