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Family had feared violence but hadn't foreseen victim

Relatives had sought protection for a witness to a crime. Then her mother was shot to death.

October 20, 2009|By Scott Glover and Joel Rubin | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
  • Karen Slider, left, helps console her niece Dechanne "Daisy" Lane at the place where Pamela Lark died. Michael Slider, right, is a police detective.
Karen Slider, left, helps console her niece Dechanne "Daisy"… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Second of two parts

Michael Slider was home on a day off from his job as a Los Angeles police detective when his phone rang shortly after 10 in the morning. It was his teenage niece.

"They shot Grandma. Someone shot Grandma," she said over and over.

Slider's mind raced. The girl had spent the night before with her grandmother, Pamela Lark, and Lark's daughter, Khristina Henry. For months, mother and daughter had been living in fear. Slider's stomach tightened with panic as he grabbed his keys.

He sped down the freeway toward his sister-in-law's Mid-City apartment, listening on his LAPD radio to police arriving at the scene. One asked for a supervisor, another for dispatchers to send 10 more patrol units. A third ordered someone to string up yellow crime tape. "Jesus," he thought to himself, "this is bad."

By the time he arrived, Lark had been rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors pronounced her dead.

"I know who did this," Slider told a lieutenant who tried to console him at the crime scene. "His name is Tyquan Knox."

Four months earlier, in September 2006, Khristina had been robbed at gunpoint in a parking lot outside a bowling alley and had identified Knox as the gunman to police. Knox had been a highly touted but troubled football phenom from Crenshaw High School who had dreams of making it in the NFL.

After the robbery, Knox's mother and others had contacted Khristina and Lark several times, proclaiming his innocence and trying to dissuade the teenager from testifying.

Slider had urged Lark and Khristina to ask LAPD detectives for help moving to the safety of another part of the city. The detectives told Lark that money was available to help her relocate, but she had to find a new apartment before getting the funds.

Lark had tried but failed to find a place. Now, she was dead, four days before Khristina was to testify against Knox.

Police officers canvassed the neighborhood and found two women who had noticed a young black woman sitting behind the wheel of a Chevy Impala about a block from Lark's apartment. The new car, which still had temporary dealership license plates, had caught the women's attention because it was double-parked on the wrong side of the street. Minutes after the shooting, they saw a man dressed in black jog up the street and climb into the car.

From the witnesses' description, detectives traced the car to a Hawthorne dealership. A check of sales records turned up a handful of people who had recently bought Impalas. One was Knox.

Police put the house Knox shared with his mother and stepfather in South L.A. under surveillance. Late that afternoon, Knox arrived with a friend and went inside. He was arrested as he tried to leave.

A few miles away, about the same time, police arrested 18-year-old Keeairra Dashiell, Knox's girlfriend. Officers took her into custody as she tried to drive away from her family's home in an Impala with temporary dealer plates.

Sitting in a cramped interrogation room in the Wilshire Division police station, Dashiell gave homicide detectives a convoluted account of the morning: She had awoken early for a doctor's appointment. Tyquan had lent her the Impala and, as she left the house, an acquaintance who she knew only as Justin or by his gang moniker, Rampage, approached.

He asked for a ride and she agreed, dropping him off somewhere on Washington Boulevard. Dashiell told police she waited for Justin, never having asked what he was doing. It was still early, Dashiell said, and she fell asleep in the car. She awoke when Justin returned hours later.

The homicide detectives sitting across the table from Dashiell were having none of it. They believed that Knox was the shooter and that Dashiell was covering for him. But Dashiell wouldn't budge.

At one point, after Knox had been escorted into a nearby room, she yelled through the wall that she loved him and had said nothing to the police. "They trying to say that you set it up. But I don't know what they're talking about, so don't let them lie," she is heard saying on an LAPD video reviewed by The Times.

"Girl, chill out," Knox replied.

Near dawn, more than 12 hours after her arrest, Dashiell's parents met with police. A detective laid out the situation: A woman was dead and their daughter's boyfriend was the prime suspect. Dashiell, the detective told them, had essentially placed herself behind the wheel of the getaway car, but she was refusing to give up Knox.

"She won't be the first woman that's serving life in prison as a getaway driver," one detective said. "What I'm hoping you guys will do is talk some sense into her.

"She's probably a very smart girl," he added. "But when love gets in the way. . . ."

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