{mosimage}For Gabriel Goillen, night manager of Mel’s Drive-in on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, the events of May 13 still don’t register. Goillen was working the night that police say Angela and Michael Sheridan, a young couple, murdered guitarist Rod Poole in the parking lot of Mel’s.

Despite the viciousness of the knifing attack, Goillen says that earlier in the evening the Sheridans and other family members sat in a booth near the front entrance and appeared to be calm, posing “no problems,” to their server. They were regulars at Mel’s and were friendly with several members of the staff. The couple had never caused trouble before. That night, Goillen says only that the Sheridans were “maybe a little drunk, but nothing more — and certainly not violent.”

But sure enough, there it was on the video.

“It was 9:20 exactly,” says Goillen, describing what he later witnessed on Mel’s security video, now in the hands of police. “[Angela Sheridan] was driving — a white Honda Civic. She backed up and almost ran over one of our employees and [Rod Poole]. I guess [Poole] had some words for them, and that’s when they got out of their car.”

Moments later, according to Goillen, the video shows Poole crumpled on the pavement of the popular hamburger joint’s parking lot, suffering multiple knife wounds — allegedly at the hands of Michael Sheridan. He later died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“It was absolutely senseless,” says Goillen.

On the surface, there are few words more appropriate to describe the murder of Poole, a popular microtonal guitarist featured in a 2001 L.A. Weekly profile. After the initial investigation into the murder, LAPD detectives seemed to agree.

Vickie Bynum, the LAPD Hollywood Division detective investigating the case, downplayed the initial confrontation, calling it “a minor incident that simply escalated out of control.” Detective Larry Cameron, also working on the case, described the incident, with a cop’s understatement, as “incredibly dumb.”

While it would be impossible to disagree with those characterizations of the assault, what has been portrayed thus far as a tragic but freak occurrence of road rage may not have been so incidental after all.

As it turns out, the murder of Rod Poole was merely the most recent in a series of violent acts allegedly perpetrated by Michael Sheridan that went unchecked, year after year.

May 13th was Mother’s Day, so on the night of the murder the Sheridans, Angela, 24, and Michael, 25, weren’t dining at Mel’s alone. Michael’s mother, Sandra, was with them, as was the couple’s 4-year-old son. Angela paid for the Mother’s Day meal, and all four Sheridans exited the restaurant and got in the white Honda together.

Meanwhile, Rod Poole and his wife, Lisa, were just arriving at Mel’s after attending a Laura Martin concert at the Dangerous Curve art gallery downtown. Like the Sheridans, the Pooles were regulars at Mel’s, although police say the two couples had never met.

Walking alongside the Pooles was an off-duty Mel’s employee, German Garcia. As Angela Sheridan backed up the Honda, court documents state, she struck Garcia in the leg — narrowly missing the Pooles as well. According to witness testimony from the Los Angeles County Superior Court file, Poole allegedly responded by telling Sheridan to “learn how to drive, bitch.”

Hearing this, the documents state, Angela Sheridan stopped the car, jumped out and confronted Poole. “What did you call me?” she demanded, getting into Poole’s face as her preschooler and mother-in-law waited inside the car.

“What does it matter?” Poole replied.

But meanwhile, according to police accounts, Michael Sheridan snuck up behind Poole. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with! I’ll kill you, motherfucker!” he reportedly yelled before pulling out an eight-inch kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbing Poole in the upper torso, stomach and chest.

As Poole fell to the ground, witness interviews from the court file say, Angela Sheridan kicked the mortally wounded Poole in the chest, and possibly in the head.

The timing of the Mother’s Day murder was tragic all around. Though Mel’s once had on-site security every night, the restaurant recently scaled back to Friday and Saturday nights only. On this particular Sunday, no one was around to intervene. Before any of the employees or diners inside Mel’s could stop them, the Sheridans jumped back into their Honda and drove off.

The entire incident lasted only 30 seconds. And Michael Sheridan’s mother and tiny son witnessed the whole thing.

Less than two hours later, Angela Sheridan was in police custody — traced by Hollywood cops using a license plate number culled from Mel’s security video as well as information obtained from the credit card she used to pay for her own Mother’s Day meal.

Quickly fanning out to catch Michael Sheridan, police arrested him several hours later, apparently hiding at the home of an aunt. Police also later recovered the bloody knife — in the couple’s South Los Angeles apartment. Crime-scene photos reviewed by the L.A. Weekly show that Michael Sheridan’s blood-stained clothes were discovered by police draped over the side of his son’s firetruck-shaped bed.

When Michael Sheridan Warned Poole, “You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he wasn’t boasting. As one might expect from a man who carries a large kitchen knife out for a Mother’s Day dinner with his family, Poole’s murder was far from an isolated incident in the troubled life of Michael Sheridan.

According to court records, police reports and the testimony of former neighbors, Michael and Angela Sheridan have criminal pasts.

Angela, a law clerk at Munger, Tolles & Olson — one of L.A.’s most politically connected, powerhouse law firms — was previously arrested for theft and burglary, and eventually pleaded to and was convicted of petty theft. But despite occasional troubles, her indiscretions paled compared to her husband’s, whom neighbors describe as a house-bound, chronically unemployed recluse prone to alcohol abuse.

An Army veteran who served from 2000 to 2003, part of that time at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, Sheridan amassed quite a criminal record in his 25 years. In 2002, he was arrested in Culver City and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Several months later Sheridan was arrested again — this time for drunken driving. At the time of his arrest, charged with Poole’s murder, Sheridan had an outstanding warrant in Culver City on domestic-battery of his wife, Angela.

But perhaps his most serious alleged offense is the one for which he never got caught.

On the night of August 6, 2005, police and emergency medical teams in Highland Park responded to a 911 call at the Sheridans’ apartment at the time. According to Northeast Division police, they arrived to find a man with multiple stab wounds lying in the street outside the Sheridans’ apartment — with a trail of blood leading inside the Sheridan home.

Rodolfo Zepeda, who lived in a bungalow next to the Sheridans’ place on the same lot, remembers the night well.

“They [Angela and Michael] had a huge fight,” he told the Weekly. “All kinds of screaming.” For Zepeda, this behavior wasn’t at all unexpected from his rowdy neighbors, so at first he paid it no mind. “Every Friday night they’d start drinking and wouldn’t stop fighting until Sunday afternoon,” he says.

But soon, he realized the intensity of this fight was something different — culminating in someone screaming, “Help me! I’m dying!”

Zepeda says he ran outside to see a young, black man lying in the street, bleeding severely from a knife wound in his side and a slash across his neck. As he got closer, Zepeda saw Angela Sheridan in the street, attempting to pull the man into her car. He recalls that he demanded she stop. “I said, ‘What are you doing? This man is going to die — we need to call an ambulance.’?”

Angela Sheridan eventually relented and left to call 911 while Zepeda applied pressure to the man’s wounds in an effort to stem the bleeding. “There was blood everywhere,” recalls another neighbor who came outside to investigate the noise, “up the driveway, on the curb, in the street.”

An ambulance arrived soon after and rushed the victim to the hospital — where doctors were able to save his life. Neighbors say Los Angeles police roped off the entire block and questioned Angela Sheridan for the next several hours. Police asked Zepeda’s wife, Maria, to watch the Sheridans’ toddler, just 2 years old at the time. With Maria’s own house roped off as part of the police investigation, she watched their small son for the next several hours in another neighbor’s yard.

Like the Hollywood stabbing, the neighbors believe that the child was present during the entire knifing.

After the knifing, Michael Sheridan was nowhere to be found. Months passed before any neighbors saw him again. Most assumed he was sent to jail for the stabbing. In actuality, he was never charged. According to Detective Rick Ortiz of the Northeast Division’s Gang Unit, Michael Sheridan, who was separated from Angela at the time, made a surprise visit home to find her with another man. A violent conflict ensued, leading to the stabbing of Angela’s lover.

“The victim was a known gang member with long-standing ties,” explains Detective Ortiz. “What often happens is that these gang members won’t talk to the police on principle. It looks like Michael Sheridan was the only suspect, but since neither his wife nor the victim would identify him as the attacker, and because there were no other witnesses to the actual stabbing, they couldn’t charge Sheridan with anything.”

But while no one was charged with the stabbing, the repercussions of the incident didn’t end that night.

According to Zepeda and other neighbors, several days after the attack, a car showed up outside the Sheridans’ door packed with several women who initiated a shouting match with Angela Sheridan. As she went out to confront them, the women emerged from their car and proceeded to jump her — with one of the women wielding a monkey wrench.

“They beat her pretty bad with it,” says Zepeda, “really messed her face up.”

Despite being outnumbered and facing armed opponents, Angela managed to hold her own. “She took a beating, but she gave it out just as good,” says another neighbor of the incident. “She took on all of them.”

Not wanting to deal with the authorities, and possibly fearing the intervention of social services — who might have removed the toddler from the violent home — neighbors say Angela never called the police. The harassment continued, and Zepeda remembers the angry women returned more than once.

Shouting matches between Angela Sheridan and the group of women became frequent — and they weren’t always face to face. “The phone would ring all the time and you could hear Angela scream, ‘Stop calling here, bitch!’?” according to Zepeda. He suspects the calls and the visits were from relatives and friends of the stabbing victim.

While Angela tried to steer clear of police involvement, the stabbing wouldn’t be the last time officers were called to the couple’s Highland Park apartment.

According to a temporary restraining order filed in court on December 1, 2005, stemming from a Thanksgiving Day incident, Michael Sheridan returned to live with his wife — and beat her severely when he did.

In the complaint, Angela accused her husband of tackling her, dislocating her shoulder, and pinning her to the ground while he “socked me in my head repeatedly.” Again, the couples’ son was in the house throughout the Thanksgiving attack.

Michael Sheridan was arrested on domestic-abuse charges, but the temporary restraining order was lifted when Angela, who would not testify in the earlier knifing, again enabled her husband’s violence — by failing to show up for the domestic-abuse court hearing.

When Michael was eventually released from jail, the couple reunited. But all indications are that the abuse Angela suffered that night didn’t stop. “Her husband beat the hell out of her,” said a neighbor at the couple’s most recent South Los Angeles apartment complex. “She’s a fair-skinned woman — all the signs of abuse were visible to everyone: bruises, marks, all that.”

The man, who wouldn’t give his name, saying, “It’s not my business,” had known Angela Sheridan for two months before the Poole murder, and was friendly with her. “She brought her son to my child’s birthday party. She was a sweet lady.” He claims, “It was her husband that was no good, but she couldn’t get out. She just couldn’t bring herself to leave him. And now look where it got her.”

Perhaps that realization finally occurred to her as she entered the courtroom in late May for a preliminary hearing in the murder case against her and her husband. She silently cried as tears fell down her cheeks. Her husband casually stood next to her.

As the day’s proceedings ended, I asked Michael Sheridan’s public defender whether the Sheridans, now incarcerated in separate jails, are nevertheless still together.

“They’re husband and wife, aren’t they?” she replied.


Tony Mostrom wrote about Rod Poole for L.A. Weekly in December 2001.

LA Weekly