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In memory of Terry and Green Eyes, who lived on skid row

The pair — Teryl Ann Sageser and Randall Milton — were asleep Saturday night when a car jumped the curb and ran over them.

November 02, 2012|Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times
  • Diane sits beside the memorial she built at Crocker and 4th streets for Terry and Green Eyes, two friends who were killed in front of her by an out-of-control car.
Diane sits beside the memorial she built at Crocker and 4th streets for Terry… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

His name was Green Eyes. But five or six black men with light eyes go by that name on L.A.'s skid row. So he was known as the Green Eyes who sold lighters and cigarettes, a quarter each.

Her name was Terry, but she also liked to be called Tracy. She wore her dishwater blond hair in bangs and a high ponytail like in "Grease" or "American Graffiti."

They were 51 years old, both of them. Terry had lived many years with a man named Blaine on the streets near the "Hippie Kitchen." But she and Blaine got into it, and she moved five blocks away to Crocker and 4th streets with Green Eyes.

That corner belongs to Diane. Diane is bristly in brightly colored beads and a plaid hat with sunglasses perched on the bill. It's a good corner because 4th Street is one-way and you only have to check one direction to see if you have to put your beer away because police are coming.

Most of the storefronts near the corner are boarded up and gated. But day laborers lean on their bikes outside a model car store. A pot paraphernalia shop advertises "Crazy Pipes" in crazy lettering. White pigeon droppings lard the sidewalk.

Around midnight Saturday, some do-gooders arrived on Crocker to hand out food from their car. Diane crossed the street to eat her taco. Green Eyes and Terry would have come too, but they were already asleep on the sidewalk, right out on the pavement, blankets and spreads pulled over them.

Diane was walking back to throw her trash away when a 1989 Mercedes sedan took the corner too fast. It jumped the curb, bounced off the wall and ran over Green Eyes and Terry. "They didn't even have time to lift their heads up," Diane said.

LAPD Det. Felix Padilla, who is investigating the case, said they were trapped under the car and dragged more than 50 feet. Diane said she stuck her head under the carriage and called to them, but there was no response.

The teenage driver was hauling a carful of young adults from a pay-to-enter house party in Silver Lake to another party, the detective said. Some of the passengers jumped out of the car and ran down the street, but they came back.

The driver is remorseful, Padilla said. Prosecutors say she had been drinking and charged her with vehicular manslaughter. Padilla said he might be investigating the party too, but nobody seems to remember where it was.

Terry and Green Eyes were not the first. People lying motionless on sidewalks and traffic islands are part of the streetscape here. When a car flies out of control, it might as easily strike a human being as a hydrant or a light pole.

"I've seen it in that area, and I've seen it in Toy Town and in downtown in general," Padilla said.

Green Eyes turned out to be Randall Milton. He was from Louisiana, but he'd been on and off skid row for decades, friends said. He has a sister in Moreno Valley and a brother in Los Angeles who spoke to him a week ago, Padilla said.

Terry was Teryl Ann Sageser. Her father, Bob Sageser, lives in Ojai. They exchanged letters regularly. A letter from him was waiting at the Hippie Kitchen when Terry died. Terry's driver's license or state ID card, which she had eagerly anticipated, had also arrived.

She too had lived endlessly on the streets. Terry's father said she was raped at age 13 "and that was how it started." The family had her in and out of facilities for years, but she always moved on.

"I had her at UCLA and they couldn't put their finger on it," he said. "I'd been expecting a call like this for years."

Both Sageser and Milton had long records of narcotics violations, "not that it mattered," Padilla said.

Terry was well-known at the Catholic Worker Hippie Kitchen, Green Eyes less so.

At lunch Tuesday, Jesse Lewis, a Catholic Worker, said Terry smoked cigarettes and had a "raspy voice." Sometimes she lay down on a bench in the soup kitchen's leafy dining garden or put her head down on a table and slept. Her legs would swell from having to walk around on pavement all day, said Ann Boden, another kitchen volunteer.

Pepper, a wiry street person who's taken a lot of sun on his face, brought flowers to the Hippie Kitchen in Terry's honor. Among the blossoms was a toy scarecrow with a jack-o'-lantern for its head.

"Terry was family," Pepper said. "She was like me, built to last."

Sharon Horton, who is back on skid row after years in an apartment, said she'd known Green Eyes for 35 years, although she didn't have an inkling about his background. "We don't share stories like that down here," she said.

Horton said the skid row community took the deaths hard. Sunday morning on Crocker Street was so quiet "you could've heard a rat piss on cotton," Horton said.

Skid row can be a hard place. But "there's so much love here. And food," she said.

Diane said Terry was OK. "She always said, 'Hi, Diane,' and sat there doing her crossword puzzle or reading her Bible," she said.

Diane got flowers for a street shrine from a church group: red roses and orange marigolds. On Thursday, Diane said somebody had stolen one of the teddy bears left among the candles and notes.

A small man in rubber boots and a white hard hat came out of a building to hose off some of the bird droppings. He carefully avoided the shrine.

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