Murder and cover-ups

For years now, News Hits would have bet big that Kwame Kilpatrick had no hand in the 2003 murder of exotic dancer Tamara "Strawberry" Greene, who was rumored to have performed at the infamous Manoogian Mansion party that, officially, anyway, never actually happened.

The same non-party that then-Detroit First Lady Carlita Kilpatrick didn't show up at unannounced, and didn't send one of the dancers to the hospital, the victim of a clubbing that also didn't happen.

We would, by the way, also bet big money that all those things did happen.

Partying with strippers is one thing. So is juggling multiple mistresses, retaliating against cops whose investigations could expose all that, and then lying under oath in an ill-fated attempt to protect himself. For all that and more, Kilpatrick well deserves our scorn. 

But as venal as we believe the Kwamster to be, the thought that he would actually have someone killed in order to cover up his debauchery and hold onto power seemed far-fetched, even to the supreme cynics here at the Hits.

It could be, though, that we aren't cynical enough.

What has us thinking that is last week's report by Channel 4 ace investigator Kevin Dietz, who got his hands on some sworn depositions given in a civil suit brought last year by Detroit police officer Ira Todd. The officer claims he was transferred from an elite investigative unit after uncovering a connection between a hit man suspected of possibly being involved in the Greene murder and a Kentucky man who claimed to be tight with Kilpatrick.

The allegations aren't exactly new. Many of the claims are made in the whistleblower lawsuit Todd filed against Kilpatrick and the city last year. That same sort of suit is what eventually led to the downfall of Kilpatrick, who fired Deputy Chief Gary Brown and retaliated against Officer Harold Nelthrope after they attempted to look into the rumored party. Those cops were represented by attorney Mike Stefani, who also represents Todd.

What Dietz revealed is that four other officers have come forward, giving depositions that support Todd's accusations.

"I think these guys are awfully credible witnesses," Dietz tells News Hits. "These are investigators who excelled at what they did. That's why they were on this task force." 

Created to combat violent crimes, the task force includes law enforcement officers from the FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, Michigan State Police and others.

At one point, it is claimed, Todd was interviewing Vincent Smothers — who had already confessed to a number of murders, including the alleged contract killing of the wife of a Detroit police officer — when a supervisor stepped in and halted the questioning.

"This is bigger than you. Bigger than me. Bigger than the both of us," the supervisor, according to court documents, is alleged to have said.

Todd was investigating Smothers, who may have been involved in 10 or more murders, when the trail led him to Kentucky, where Smothers and a suspected accomplice sometimes went to lay low after committing a murder, Todd's lawsuit alleges.

The alleged accomplice has a brother named James Davis who lives near Lexington, Ky. Todd contacted cops there, and was told that Davis "claimed to have connections, both personal and professional," with Kilpatrick. Davis was also believed to have "been involved in a major development project in the Detroit area," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleged that the task force obtained information that Smothers and his accomplice "were observed leaving the scene of a Detroit area homicide in a late model Cadillac with Kentucky license plates." According to a confidential source, the alleged accomplice's brother, James Davis, owned the vehicle.

That vehicle matched the description of the one driven by Greene's assailant. The same vehicle "was later located in Detroit in a burned-out condition with a murder victim in it," according to the lawsuit. 

Todd reportedly wanted to go to Kentucky to follow up on the leads. Instead, he was transferred out of the elite unit and given a desk job.

It was part of a pattern, wrote Stefani in the lawsuit, saying Kilpatrick had "created an unwritten but very real policy within the Detroit Police Department to the effect that officers who report possible wrongdoing on the part of the mayor, his family or any member of his staff or Executive Protection Unit are to be dealt with swiftly and harshly."

Included in Dietz's report were comments from attorney Norman Yatooma, who represents Greene's son in a lawsuit that claims the investigation of his mother was wrongfully quashed.

"Certainly," says Yatooma, "if Kwame Kilpatrick had no culpability here, he would bend over backwards to make this investigation possible, open the file, let everybody see what there is to see. Right? If you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing. But he hides everything, everything that can touch him or those close to him."

Asked by an anchor why these officers were just coming forward now, Dietz replied that, with Kilpatrick now out of office, the cops finally felt it was safe for them to step up and tell the truth.

Where that truth may lead, News Hits can't say. All we can hope is that, with a new administration in place and Kilpatrick's appointees no longer running the Police Department, the investigation into the killing of Tamara Greene will finally be conducted with the diligence that should have been applied from the start.

As for any future bets, we'll be hedging them.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
Scroll to read more Metro Detroit News articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.