In the early morning hours of this past Valentine's Day,
twenty-three-year-old Najai Turpin caught a bullet to the head while
sitting in his car outside of the James Schuler Memorial Gym in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Turpin's death was immediately declared to
suicide, which isn't surprising given that there seems to be a lot of
that going around these days. Some reports claimed that Turpin's
longtime girlfriend was in the
car with him at the time, but other accounts held that she was
outside of the car. Many reports made no mention of anyone else
being on the scene at all.
If you don't yet know who Najai Turpin was, you probably will soon. He
was, you see, one of the sixteen contestants who are about to make
their network television debuts on what many in Hollywood are hoping
Mark Burnett-produced 'reality television' sensation: "The Contender."
At the risk of sounding cliché, it must be said that life hadn't
easy for Najai
Turpin. A product of the housing projects and mean streets of
Philadelphia, Turpin lost his mother at the age of eighteen and
thereafter served as a surrogate parent to a younger sister and a
and nephew. At the age of twenty-one, he had a daughter of his own. To
support his family, Turpin reportedly worked two menial jobs, while
also training for his matches. Not long before before signing on
to do "The Contender," he reportedly was carjacked and robbed at
Like so many other 'inner city' youth, Turpin's dream was that boxing
would be his ticket out of the projects. Unlike most of these young
dreamers, Turpin appeared to be on the verge of actually seeing his
true. A promising young boxer with a record of thirteen wins and just a
single loss, Turpin had recently caught what an Associated Press
as "the break of a lifetime when he was selected by NBC's upcoming
reality TV program, 'The Contender.'"
A local ABC
that the "suicide of a promising boxer in
West Philadelphia has raised a number of questions with few, if any,
definitive answers ... Family and friends are only left to speculate as
to why 23-year-old boxer Najai Turpin might have killed himself. His
network debut on the reality show 'The Contender' was just weeks away:
his ticket out of obscurity to realize his dream."
In addition to being just weeks away from his prime time television
debut, Turpin also had a firm commitment from Mark Burnett and company
executive producers of the show are Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester
Stallone) to actively promote his boxing career. While he was cooling
his heels waiting for the show to debut, he was collecting $1,500 a
week from NBC -- far more money than he had ever earned cleaning
seafood in the back of a restaurant or taking his lumps in the ring.
Life, it would seem, had never
been better for Najai Turpin.
Turpin's older brother, Diediera, can't understand what happened. "He
was going to be somebody," said Diediera, "None of this makes any sense
to me." Sister Launita has said that her brother was thrilled with his
participation in the show: "He couldn't wait to see the expressions of
people when they saw him on TV." Custus "Buster" Percy (or Percy
Custus, according to some reports), Turpin's proverbial
trainer/surrogate father for the last eleven years, said that "None of
us really knows what brought this about."
Initial reports floated the notion that Turpin was despondent over
being unable to fight, which he was contractually obligated to refrain
from doing prior to the airing of the television series' finale. In
other words, we are to believe that he was depressed over the fact that
he was being paid the
equivalent of $80K a year and didn't even have to work for it.
Later reports claimed that Turpin was quarreling with his girlfriend
over custody of their daughter, or that Turpin was
upset that the show had looked into his personal life.
None of that seems to explain Turpin's curiously timed 'suicide,' since
he had certainly endured greater hardships in his young life than
getting paid a comfortable salary to await his network television
debut. As is
so often the case, this story didn't really add up for me. So I
decided to follow the trail to see where it might
lead. But where to begin? News reports provided little detail, save for
a few interesting tidbits of information here and there: police don't
know how or
where Turpin got the gun that he allegedly pulled the trigger of; the
gun was not registered to Turpin; just before his death, he had
abruptly left a training camp to return to Philadelphia. Then, at the
tail end of an Associated
report, this throwaway fact caught my eye: "Turpin worked
out at the James Shuler Memorial Gym, a haven for serious fighters from
a rough and impoverished neighborhood. Tybius Flowers, another boxer at
the gym, was murdered last year shortly before he was to appear as a
key witness in a murder trial." Hmmm ...
Tybius Flowers was, like his longtime gym-mate, Najai Turpin, a
promising young boxer for whom Custus served as - you guessed it -
trainer and surrogate father. In the early morning hours of March 2,
2004, Flowers was cut down in a hail of gunfire as he sat in his car
near the corner of Eighth and Butler. At the time of his death, Flowers
was facing a possible twenty-year prison sentence on state and federal
charges for allegedly operating a stash-house for crack cocaine very
near the drug-infested corner where he was killed.
Six years earlier, on March 19, 1998, the very same Tybius Flowers had
allegedly stood on that very same corner and witnessed the murder of
Lassiter. Both Flowers and another witness, Corey Williams, had
reportedly identified Lassiter's assassin as Kaboni Savage, who had
fairly recently been - what else? - a promising young boxer, unbeaten
fifteen amateur fights and one professional match.
Williams later recanted his identification of Savage, and still later
was himself sentenced to three life terms following convictions for
various other murders. Flowers was left as the state's remaining star
a role he was only filling, by some accounts, because the state was
hanging a long prison sentence over his head. According to family
members, Flowers received harassing phone calls and thought he was
being followed. Nevertheless, he purportedly refused offers of police
Just days after the DA's office inexplicably announced that he would be
in the Kaboni Savage murder trial, and a few days before that trial was
set to open, Flowers was killed outside the home of his aunt, Andrea
Flowers. Ms. Flowers reported that after the murder of her nephew,
she received threatening phone calls from an unidentified male warning
her that "somebody's going to die."
Following Flowers' murder, the state's case against Kaboni Savage, aka
Yusef Billa, fell apart and
Savage was acquitted on March 23, 2004. A few weeks later, on April 13,
Savage was arrested and charged with being one of the leaders of a drug
trafficking and money laundering ring that had allegedly moved hundreds
of kilos of cocaine and laundered millions of dollars in drug money
over a 4-5 year period. Even while under house arrest following his
for the murder of Lassiter, Savage allegedly moved massive quantities
In May, Savage was named along with twenty-six other suspects in two
federal indictments aimed at breaking up two interlocked drug
trafficking rings. One ring was allegedly run by Kaboni Savage and
Gerald "Bubbie" Thomas, aka
Bahaar Jabbaar. The other ring was allegedly run by Byron Darby, a
retired defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, who some of you
may remember from the recent Superbowl.
Among the indicted suspects was Dawud Bey, a close associate of Kaboni
Bey was a prime suspect in the murder of Raymond Nina, who was shot
nineteen times in the back on April 18, 2004. Bey was also
investigated, along with Savage, in connection with the murder of
Tybius Flowers. Bey and another suspect, John Tillman, had visited
Savage in prison just four days before Flowers was killed.
For years, Bey allegedly charged Philadelphia drug dealers a "street
tax" to peddle their wares. His chief enforcer was a man named Edmund
Thomas, who was said to be "untouchable" (it is unclear whether Edmund
Thomas is any relation to Gerald Thomas). In 2003, Bey made local
newspaper headlines for his involvement in a stolen house scam
(although it is unclear, to me at least, how one goes about stealing
Are you following all of this so far? I hope so, because this story
gets even better.
The investigation of the drug rings led to a dubious character by the
name of Imam Shamsud-din Ali, whose telephone conversations with both
Gerald Thomas and Dawud Bey were intercepted by wiretaps. These
conversations included discussions of payments requested by, and
apparently made to, Ali. The two
alleged druglords were known to visit with the local community leader
at his posh home and at the Philadelphia Masjid Mosque and the Sister
Clara Muhammad School, both of which are run by the Imam.
Ali had himself served five-and-a-half-years on a
conviction in the 1970s, before he got that conviction overturned. He
later emerged as a leader of the local Muslim
community and a strong supporter of, and fundraiser for, both
Philadelphia Mayor John Street and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
Once the investigation had expanded to include Ali, it quickly expanded
further still, when wiretaps picked up calls from Ali to attorney
Ronald White, a close friend and major fundraiser for Mayor Street.
This then led to the bugging of Street's office, which resulted in
considerable controversy and local media attention when the bug was
discovered in October 2003, just before the Philadelphia mayoral
The political scandal, involving wide-ranging financial swindles, soon
eclipsed the drug trafficking investigation, and the two investigations
were, not surprisingly, claimed to be unrelated matters. Curiously
enough though, both Imam Shamsud-din Ali and alleged drug kingpin
Kaboni Savage are represented by the very same attorney, Tariq
In late June 2004, twelve people, including attorney Ronald White, were
charged with defrauding the city of Philadelphia. With the exception of
former City Treasurer Corey Kemp, city officials seem to have walked
away clean, as did Shamsud-din Ali, who has not been indicted in
connection with either the political scandals or the drug trafficking
investigation, even though he appears to be a central figure in both.
Meanwhile, in October 2004, Kaboni Savage allegedly ordered the arson
two women and four children in a Philadelphia home. One of the adult
victims was Marcella Coleman, a correctional officer and the mother of
longtime FBI informant Eugene "Twin" Coleman, who was arrested in
connection with the murder of Tyrone Tolliver. Coleman had admitted to
helping clean up the Tolliver murder scene and dispose of the body, but
that Tolliver's actual murderer was Kareem "Bree" Bluntly, an associate
of various principals in this sordid tale. Bluntly was shot six times
and killed on January 9, 2004, two months before Tybius Flowers was
gunned down. "Bree" had reportedly turned informant and was armed when
he was killed.
Other bodies scattered along this bloody trail include those of
brothers Terrance Swanson, shot eleven times on August 29, 1999 (Edmund
Thomas was charged with the crime, but later acquitted); Kevin Jackson,
shot multiple times in the head and torso on February 7, 2001; and
Terry Swanson, who was shot once in the head on November 24, 2001.
Terrance and Terry were identical twins who, bizarrely enough, even had
identical tattoos and nearly identical names. All three of the brothers
were gunned down as they sat in their cars, as were Tybius Flowers and,
course, Najai Turpin.
I am sure that there are many more dots that need to be added to
connect-the-dots puzzle, and there are undoubtedly many more
connections that could be drawn
between the dots already penciled in. So how deep does this particular
rabbit hole run? I don't really know. I got tired of digging and had to
come up for air.
* * * * * * * * * *
"The bottom line: BTK is arrested."
So said Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams at a weekend news
conference. But the real bottom line, as Chief Williams is no doubt
aware, is that 'BTK' couldn't possibly have been arrested because there
isn't now, and there never has been, any such person. In truth, the
'BTK' killer is a fictional entity manufactured by law enforcement and
In November/December of last year, I was interviewed by Al Hidell of Paranoia Magazine. That interview -
a promotion for my new book, Programmed
to Kill (you know, the one that I spent four years working on,
primarily for the benefit of the three or four of you who have
actually bothered to read it) - will be appearing in an upcoming
edition of Al's magazine. Here is a sneak preview:
believe another killing, that of the Otero family in 1974, may have
also had military connections. You suggest the so-called “BTK” serial
killer was a legend created after the fact to cover up the true motive
for the slaughter of the family, right?
Yes, that does appear to be the case – but that is far from being an
unusual situation; yet another motivation for the CIA/FBI’s creation of
the serial killer mythos is to provide a handy way for the state to
disguise politically motivated assassinations as random, motiveless
Until the so-called “BTK” killer was recently resurrected by the police
and media (for reasons that are unclear at this time), it was a
relatively obscure case. I didn’t come across a single reference to it
in all the reading that I did while researching my book. But with the
case now in the media spotlight, I was inspired to take a closer look.
And as it turns out, some interesting new facts have only recently
emerged, courtesy of a surviving family member of the first purported
On January 15, 1974, four members of the Otero family of Wichita,
Kansas were brutally slaughtered in their family home (not unlike the
Ohta family, who were slaughtered in Santa Cruz, California just a few
years earlier). Indications are that this was not a random act of
violence, but rather a targeted assassination likely carried out by
multiple perpetrators who were known by the primary victim, Joseph
Otero, a 20-year Air Force veteran. Joseph Otero’s words and actions in
the days leading up to the slaughter indicate that he had reason to
believe that he and his family had been targeted.
Charlie Otero, who discovered the bodies of his parents and siblings,
is convinced to this day that his father was killed because of
something that happened during his secretive work in the military –
work that sometimes kept him away from home for months at a time
(Joseph Otero was involved with the Inter-American Air Forces Academy,
which is essentially an Air Force branch of the U.S. Army’s notorious
School of the Americas, which has long been associated with death-squad
training and drug trafficking in Central and South America). Charlie is
also convinced that there is no possibility that a sole assailant was
responsible for the carnage in the Otero home. Joseph Otero was a
trained commando and a former champion boxer – and he had been watching
over his shoulder in anticipation of an attack. His wife, Julie, was
trained in self-defense, as were the two Otero offspring killed that
day, Joseph II and Josephine. The family also kept a large and
reportedly vicious guard dog. As Charlie has noted, it seems extremely
unlikely then that a random psychopath would have been able to enter
the Otero home in broad daylight and simultaneously subdue, bind and
kill all four family members present at that time.
It wasn’t until nine months after the deaths of the Oteros that the
legend of “BTK” was born, purportedly through phone calls and letters
received by the media and authorities. After that, a few more local
murders were lumped in with the Otero killings and the whole package
was written off as the work of a lone serial killer. But the truth is
that the Otero family was almost certainly targeted by multiple
perpetrators, and there was very likely a specific motive for the
crime. All of that was swept under the rug after the fictional “BTK”
killer purportedly took credit for the murders.
Interestingly enough, a recent Dodge
City Daily Globe report noted that, even though “Police said
earlier this year that the Otero killings had ‘special significance’
because they were the first in a string of killings … [they] have
refused to discuss the case beyond carefully scripted statements
periodically released.” Charlie Otero has said that “BTK” investigators
have not spoken to him in more than twenty-five years.
In an LA Times
March 2, 2005, a woman named Sheryl Smith, identified as a childhood
friend of one of the Otero kids, had this to say: "This was a family
that had a vicious dog, where everyone knew martial arts ... It never
made sense to me what happened."
(P.J. Huffstutter "Suspect in BTK Serial Slayings Is Charged With 10
Murders," Los Angeles Times
March 2, 2005)
And it never will make sense within the framework of the official
story. But why should it? It's not as if any other 'serial killer'
stories ever make sense.
My book, by the way - which, once again, is entitled Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial
- is available in an Adobe e-book format for the low, low
price of just $6.00. You can get it here: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-77446-6
If that price is still a little too steep for you, you can browse
through it for free here: http://books.iuniverse.com/viewgiftoc.asp?isbn=0595326404&page=1.