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Learning to hit a lick Part II

The first part of "Learning to Hit a Lick," chronicled a teenager's passage from strip club dancer to murderous prostitute. This week, the story picks up minutes after the shooting deaths of Ray Goodwin and Claudell "Doc" Christmas.

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"You want my jewelry?" he pleaded. He began to pull off his rings and flung them on the ground. Pumpkin crouched down to grab one. Falicia says Mechi lunged for her, so she shot him, again and again [22]. A neighbor heard the gunshots - five, she guessed - at around 2 or 3 a.m. [23].

"I just let go on the trigger," Falicia would later say, "and all of them bullets emptied" [24].

They made off with the gold Maxima Mechi had rented, and $650 [26].

AUGUST 17-AUGUST 25, 2002

Gloria Twitty returned to Akron the morning of Saturday, Aug. 17, after attending a gospel music workshop in Detroit. She spent the day running errands and was pulling into the driveway of her three-bedroom ranch house when she heard the phone ringing inside. It was her son's friend, Marshelti Townsend.

"Nobody has seen Mechi since Thursday," Marshelti told her. The day before, one of Mechi's coworkers at Hair Untouchables knew something was up when Mechi's clients started coming in and Mechi was nowhere to be found. Nor would Mechi answer his phone [27].

"Go to his apartment," Gloria told Marshelti. "Now."

Marshelti said he'd call as soon as he heard something. Gloria dropped to her knees and prayed. She'd seen Mechi only a week earlier when he came to Akron to bring his 10-year-old son to the boy's mother. Before he headed back to Atlanta, Gloria and Mechi talked until 4 a.m. He told her things were going well. He was happy in Atlanta, despite what went down with Jacinth and Richard.

Almost an hour passed from the time Marshelti called to the time the phone rang again. It wasn't Marshelti this time but Gloria's godson, Marlin, the one who'd been with Mechi the night Jacinth and Richard were killed. "Did Marshelti call you back?"

Marlin asked.

"No," she said.

Marlin lost it. "No, Gee-Gee," he cried. "No. I gotta go."

Within minutes, Marlin's mother was at the door.

"What?" Gloria asked, filling with dread. Before the woman had a chance to answer, Gloria knew what Marlin's mother had come to tell her.

***

When Marshelti got to Mechi's apartment, he knocked first. Then he kicked the door in. The television and all the lights were on. Mechi was facedown in the middle of the living room. Five shell casings and an unused condom were scattered around his head, and an air mattress had been thrown over him. But Marshelti could still see the blood.

He called 911. When DeKalb County police showed, they found Marshelti outside. He was yelling over and over, "I can't believe this shit!" [28].

Inside, police found the body and the casings, but no gun and no obvious signs of a burglary. At first, there was little aside from the caliber of the bullets - they were .32s - to link Mechi's murder to Ray's and Doc's. Shoe-leather detective work would soon help investigators gain on Falicia and Pumpkin. But ultimately, the girls would give themselves away.

Detectives quickly moved in to question everyone who talked to either Ray or Doc in the hours leading up to their deaths: John "G." Martin; Ray's sisters, Smokey and Sherita; Doc's wife, Paulette Jones; and Ray's girlfriend, Audrey "Denise" Turner [29].

Denise relayed to police what Ray had told her around 7 on the night he died: Two girls named "Peaches" and "Snow" were at the apartment. She said she knew who the girls were, and that they had a pimp named Mike. She also said the bathroom attendant at Goosebumps strip club might be able to tell police where the girls stayed.

Less than five hours into the investigation, two DeKalb County police detectives made their way to the downtown Atlanta strip club. They scooted in just before last call, around 3:30 a.m. They were moving fast, but they were too late. By then, Mechi most likely was dead [30].

Later that morning, some other DeKalb detectives received word that two prostitutes called Peaches and Snow might be working out of InTown Suites, a seedy motel overlooking a bowling alley and a Mrs. Winner's off Piedmont Road. An InTown Suites security guard and a resident both told detectives that girls named Peaches and Snow hung around the hotel, under the command of "Mike the pimp." But they weren't there that night [31]. That was Friday. By Monday, police still hadn't narrowed in on them.

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