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BMF - Hip-hop's shadowy empire - part 1

Big Meech" Flenory and the Black Mafia Family were hip-hop royalty. But investigators say they had a darker side. Part 1 of 3"

Cover1 Meech1 1 31
Photo credit: David Stuart
THE BOSS: Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory made himself a legend.

Editor's note: For more details about BMF, as well as notes describing the sourcing of the story, click on the "Deep Background" link at the end of each section.

Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory doesn't just walk into the club. He arrives.

The first sign he's coming: the cars. They coast to the curb like supermodels down a runway. Bentleys and H2s, Lambos and Porsches. And, when the crowd swells to full ranks, tour buses. In front of clubs from Midtown Atlanta to South Beach Miami, the streetlights bounce off the million-dollar motorcade, and it's blinding.

Next, the crew. As Meech likes to say, all members are family: "Everybody moves like brothers. Everybody moves as one." But as with any entourage, there's a definite hierarchy. Pushing into the crowd (if that was possible), you'd first find the guys hovering on the fringes, moving with a slightly menacing sway. Go deeper, and the vibe starts to change. Guards come down. Egos edge up. Keep going and you encounter a steady calm. The aura is one of jaded confidence and quiet control. That's when you know you've reached Meech. "All Meech did was walk in the spot," one woman posted on an SOHH.com message board, "and panties got moist."

Of course, his seemingly impenetrable cool can be challenged. There are some things Meech doesn't tolerate. And one of those things would take place on Nov. 11, 2003.

It would be "the big one," the very event that Meech — as well as jittery Buckhead residents — had long feared. Though for different reasons.

The Buckhead bar district had suffered in recent years from a spell of well-publicized violence. The most notable crime was the post-Super Bowl stabbings for which Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was arrested (and, aside from a misdemeanor, acquitted). That was three years earlier, outside Cobalt Lounge.

CLUB CHAOS: Meech and his crew crossed paths with P. Diddy's former bodyguard
CLUB CHAOS: Meech and his crew crossed paths with P. Diddy's former bodyguard

About a block away, near the corner of Peachtree and East Paces Ferry, a nightclub of similar glitz and stature was earning its name. Chaos was one of the "it" clubs. Shaquille O'Neal and Eminem had partied there. And Monday's hip-hop night was the club's biggest draw. Hundreds of people would show up on what, for other clubs, was the slowest day of the week. At Chaos, the only thing slow about Mondays was the line.


On that particular night, you couldn't walk along the club's lacquered wood floors, you couldn't lean against its exposed brick walls or grab a seat on its minimalist leather sofas without catching sight of Meech's guys. Anthony Jones must have known that. Yet Jones, better known to the masses as "Wolf" — and more importantly, as Wolf-Who-Is-P.-Diddy's-Former-Bodyguard — did something that stood a good chance of starting an all-out war. Wolf got rough with his ex-girlfriend. And she wasn't just any ex-girlfriend. She was an ex-girlfriend who was hanging out with Meech's crew.

Even then, the crew was known as a force that shouldn't be crossed. And that goes double for Meech. He was rumored to have built a powerful empire with skills picked up 20 years earlier on the streets of Detroit. And he was fiercely protective of the "family" that helped him along the way.

Meech stepped in and told Wolf to quit fucking with the woman. Wolf's next mistake was to ignore the demand. But before Meech had much of a chance to react, club security stepped in, and Wolf was bounced.

Meech and his boys went back to doing what they were known for doing — ingesting an obscene amount of champagne and spending an even more obscene amount of cash. It was only 1:30, after all, and the bar wouldn't close for another two-and-a-half hours.

Wolf, banished from the cozy confines of the club, stepped into the cool night and made his way toward the parking lot behind the building. He called his friend Riz, whom he'd known since they were kids growing up in the Bronx. And he began to wait.

Toward the end of 2005, Debbie Morgan was finally getting her life back together. It hadn't been easy, but she'd found a distraction. Her goal was to open a restaurant on April 1, a little more than three months away. There were permits to obtain, gas lines to run, a counter to build, windows to replace, menus to print. On top of that, her daughter — her baby, the youngest of four — was pregnant. So she had that to think about, too.

The restaurant would serve the recipes Debbie grew up with in eastern Jamaica: curried goat, grilled plantains, barbecue tofu, jerk chicken. Like the food, the work was nourishing. And though the idea of making her deadline was starting to seem improbable, the countdown gave her a way to fill the hours. It offered an escape.
Debbie felt like she'd been aging lately, though it wasn't evident in her singsong lilt and sparkly black eyes. With her cropped hair and petite frame, she looked more like a pixie than an overworked restaurateur. But the past was weighing on her. She couldn't stop the constant loop in her head, the one that reminded her of what happened in the summer of 2004 to her son.

FALLEN PRINCE: Rashannibal 'Prince' Drummond was attacked in the parking lot of the Velvet Room in Midtown. Photo courtesy of Debbie Morgan.
FALLEN PRINCE: Rashannibal 'Prince' Drummond was attacked in the parking lot of the Velvet Room in Midtown. Photo courtesy of Debbie Morgan.

Rashannibal "Prince" Drummond was a sweet boy, a big kid who threw big parties. (His 22nd birthday celebration the year before lasted two days.) He was the type who tried to be everywhere all the time, wherever the action was. And on July 25, 2004, he and his friends wound up at a club in Midtown called the Velvet Room.


It was 4 a.m., and last call had come and gone. That left little for Prince and his friends to do but hang out in the parking lot. There was a fleet of high-end cars parked there that night, and a crew of guys climbing into them. One of the cars nearly ran over Prince.

From there, it quickly escalated to the part that Debbie tried to forget.

After she got the news about her son, she laid in bed for months. Through the haze of grief, bits and pieces of what had happened seeped in. Her nephew, who'd been with Prince that night, awoke from his coma three weeks after the incident. He remembered very little of what happened. Others were piecing together more.

Debbie would learn from investigators that they believed the men in the parking lot already had been attracting attention, and not just because of their fancy cars. Atlanta Police, DEA agents and Fulton County prosecutors had heard earlier rumblings about a crew and its alleged leader, Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory. There had been another incident, in Chaos' parking lot, eight months before. And by the summer of 2004, money that would later be traced back to the men had been confiscated in traffic stops from Georgia to Missouri to Texas — first $140,000, then $425,000, then $720,000. Drugs linked to the crew were also seized: 17 kilos of coke in Flagstaff, Ariz., followed by 27 kilos in Crawford County, Ark., followed by a whopping 100 kilos — with a street value of $9 million — outside St. Louis.

Investigators reached the conclusion that the men responsible for what happened to Prince might not be mere street thugs. They might be part of something big, something organized, something called the Black Mafia Family.

In the fall of 2004, two Atlanta rappers happened to brush shoulders at Walter's, a shoe store downtown. Gucci Mane was passing out CDs and offered one to an impressive-looking guy loaded with diamonds. Young Jeezy took the CD and complimented Gucci on his skills; he'd already heard some of the up-and-comer's tracks.
Though the rappers came from different territories — Gucci from Atlanta's east side and Jeezy, by way of Macon, from the Old Fourth Ward — they shared similar backgrounds. And both had been effective in channeling their street experiences into more professional ones.

Jeezy, however, was the bigger name. The 27-year-old had risen from Macon mixtape hawker to Atlanta hip-hop royalty. He was a street-level entrepreneur who had sold tens of thousands of mixtapes through his indie label, Corporate Thugz Entertainment. Around that time, he was busy flooding the streets with his record, Trap or Die. And thanks to a logo that likened him to a menacing snowman, Jeezy had cemented his ties to the street. (On the streets, "snow" is cocaine and the "snowman" a dealer.)

An affiliation with the Black Mafia Family didn't hurt, either. Jeezy wasn't shy about showing up on camera flanked by BMF members and saying things such as, "This is my muthafuckin' homeboy. It's love. It's family, dog," or dropping verses such as, "You don't want me to get the streets involved, better yet make a call and get Meech involved (yeah BMF)."

Though Meech had launched a record label earlier that year, Jeezy's affiliation with him stopped short of the label's roster. He would ink a deal with Def Jam Records instead. Thanks to the infusion of funds from Def Jam, Corporate Thugz Entertainment would be better equipped to cultivate Jeezy's own stable of artists, which included the rapper Slick Pulla, the group Blood Raw, and if all went according to plan, a trio from Macon called Loccish Lifestyle.

Gucci wasn't looking to join CTE's ranks when he ran into Jeezy at the shoe store. He'd already signed with Atlanta-based Big Cat Records. But that didn't mean the two rappers couldn't collaborate. The next day, Gucci showed up at Jeezy's studio with a track he'd been toying with, a song called "Icy." Jeezy laid down a few verses, and Gucci said he paid him for his work. It was a coup for the more underexposed artist to have a guy like Jeezy contributing to the track.

The camaraderie, however, was short-lived.

To say that someone is "icy" is to imply he's heavy with diamonds. The term applied to Jeezy that day at Walter's, and it applied just as much to Gucci when it came time in April 2005 to shoot the video for "Icy." On the set, he wore a blue-and-yellow, diamond-studded "Jacob" (as in a $50,000 watch designed by New York hip-hop jeweler Jacob Arabo) and a 37-carat pendant that spelled the words "So Icy" in $40,000 worth of diamonds.


"Icy" also happened to describe the hostilities that formed between the two rappers after the song became a surprise hit. In the spring of 2005, Gucci and Jeezy had a bitter — and rather public — falling out.

Gucci claimed that once "Icy" was hot, Jeezy wanted to use it on his soon-to-drop album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101. Jeezy's attorney claimed that was bullshit; Gucci was just looking to drum up press. As if to make his feelings on the matter abundantly clear, Jeezy released a "diss song" slamming Gucci — and placing a bounty on his $40,000 necklace: "I want that muthafuckin' bullshit-ass icy chain," Jeezy sneered on "Stay Strapped." The title of the track doubled as a threat. If Gucci wasn't already carrying a gun, he ought to start.

Gucci was quick to fire back. In his response, "Round 1," which featured fellow Big Cat artist Black Magik, Gucci rapped, "Jeezy can't make a hit with a Louisville Slugger," "You're a thug imposter, you deserve an Oscar," and "Put a dress on, nigga, you Meech's bitch."

By then, however, Jeezy appeared to have turned his attention elsewhere — to Loccish Lifestyle's Henry "Pookie Loc" Clark, Carlos "Low Down" Rhodes and Shannon "Luke" Lundy. Jeezy was interested in signing the group to CTE. The deal appeared to be moving along.

But in May 2005, when Luke and Pookie Loc headed to Atlanta from Macon to meet with CTE, one of them would be diverted. Something would go wrong. And an unwitting Gucci Mane would find himself back in the picture.

To understand the story of Big Meech, you must first understand that the Black Mafia Family was two things: an alleged drug crew called BMF and a legitimate company called BMF Entertainment. And Meech was believed to be the leader of both.

At BMF's height, investigators in a half-dozen jurisdictions had reason to suspect that the crew was one of the nation's major drug-trafficking organizations, moving hundreds of kilos of cocaine a month. Federal prosecutors would estimate that BMF pulled in tens of millions of dollars annually — at least $270 million since the organization got its start.

An enterprise of that size pretty much guarantees that its leader could have anything money could buy. But in 2004, Meech had his sights on new territory. He wanted to become a credible name in hip-hop.

DOUBLE EXPOSURE: In the summer of 2005, the covers of BMF Entertainment's magazine ''The Juice'' featured Meech on one side and Young Jeezy on the other.
DOUBLE EXPOSURE: In the summer of 2005, the covers of BMF Entertainment's magazine ''The Juice'' featured Meech on one side and Young Jeezy on the other.

In March of that year, an entity distinct from the alleged drug crew, a record label and promotion company called BMF Entertainment, was incorporated. With Meech as CEO, BMF Entertainment proceeded to throw some of the most opulent parties Atlanta has ever seen (replete with elephants, ice sculptures and painted, naked women). It bankrolled a $500,000 music video, "Still Here," by the label's sole artist, Bleu DaVinci. It published a glossy lifestyle magazine, The Juice, that featured Meech and Jeezy on opposite covers. And it built tight allegiances with rappers who benefited from BMF's ascent as much as BMF benefited from theirs.


BMF Entertainment was a legitimate business, trafficking a commodity that's unique to the hip-hop industry. It wasn't cocaine or records. It was street cred. Rumors of drugs and violence, and the buzz surrounding BMF Entertainment's parties, made BMF purveyors of the ultimate hip-hop fantasy.

BMF Entertainment had found its niche. And Big Meech had a new calling: He was the master marketer of hip-hop hype.

To keep the buzz going, though, BMF Entertainment had to constantly outdo itself. The parties had to be more resplendent, the crew's cars more expensive, the champagne more plentiful. And the money that paid for the ice sculptures and Bentleys and cases upon cases of Perrier Jouet obviously wasn't coming from record sales. In its race to keep up appearances, BMF Entertainment drew the wrong kind of attention.

Investigators quickly concluded that the company was more than an overexposed business with a shameless name. They were uncovering evidence that though BMF Entertainment operated legitimately, it was funded by the drug proceeds of the Black Mafia Family — and that the family was more like an actual mafia than common sense would have you believe. After all, why call yourself a mafia if you're actually a mafia?

According to the feds, Meech and his brother Terry "Southwest T" Flenory (who allegedly held down BMF's L.A. hub) were the organization's dons. And the mob they ran was much like the ones in the movies. The Flenory brothers instilled an almost unshakable loyalty among the men and women who served them. A blanket of silence — a true "mafia code", as one observer described it — remained wrapped around the enterprise. Dishonor was the ultimate sin. And Meech was held up as a kind of demigod.

Yet Meech failed to take into account that investigators might find him as intriguing as those in the hip-hop scene did. The DEA had begun to suspect as early as 2000 that a crew that would later call itself BMF was moving mass quantities of coke through Atlanta, Detroit and L.A. And in the fall of 2003, local law enforcement began piecing together the crew's violent proclivities. Two months before Meech and Wolf crossed paths at Chaos, Atlanta Police investigated a home invasion that turned up some suspicious evidence.

On Sept. 7, 2003, two men were robbed in a townhouse off Boulevard by invaders who appeared to know what they were after. One of the men shot one of the invaders, which brought police to the scene. When officers arrived, they found a safe the size of a small room inside the townhouse. And in a tight passageway flanking the safe, they found a lone shoe and a single kilo of cocaine.

Detectives suspected that the safe had housed far more drugs — probably not long before they arrived. And they believed there was a link between the men who lived in the townhouse and a previously unknown group called the Black Mafia Family.

Rand Csehy, a former Fulton County senior prosecutor who headed the BMF investigation for the DA's office, remembers thinking, "There's no way we have this black mafia running through the city." But the evidence he and other investigators would soon gather — through the use of surveillance and wiretaps, and advanced by a couple of strokes of pure luck — appeared to prove him wrong.

Within two years, investigators would link BMF to a group of unresolved killings and other violent acts. And many of those crimes weren't exactly low-profile. Among those affected were luminaries such as P. Diddy, Bobby Brown and Mayor Shirley Franklin.

One thing's for certain: All the allegations against the Black Mafia Family — the accusations of drug-trafficking, the intimations of violence, the claims that BMF Entertainment was financed with dirty money — have served the singular purpose of sharpening the BMF myth. The family might be dismantled now, but the myth lives on.

The brand has survived the product.

It was after 4 a.m. and Chaos' owner, Brian Alt, was running the night's totals. Mondays at the club were good money. Customers were known to spend big on hip-hop night. It was an environment well-suited to Meech's habits.

Among Meech's distinguishing characteristics is his insistence that every guy in the crew be given his own bottle of Cristal or Perrier Jouet — even when the crew numbers 50 or more. It's one of the obvious ways he builds allegiances, but it's not the only way.

Meech grew up far from extravagance, amid the scourge of crack that pervaded southwest Detroit. He and his brother, "Southwest T," allegedly joined the game early, working on the street level in high school and slinging $50 bags of crack. When Meech was 20, he was busted with several thousand dollars' worth of cocaine, for which he was sentenced to probation. For the next 18 years, though he was arrested several times, he would avoid another conviction.

In that time, he became a legend in the Atlanta and Miami party scenes. He was seen in a Cadillac one day, a Lamborghini the next, and not long after, a Bentley. He handed out pendants with "BMF" spelled in diamonds to members of his crew. He lived in houses where the monthly rent rivaled some starting salaries. And he took people with him.

It wasn't just to the after-parties at the Buckhead Westin presidential suite, either. Meech's relationship with his crew — from his bodyguards to his promoters to his label's singular artist — was rooted in seduction. There were VIP rooms and beautiful girls and all kinds of money to be spent on whatever you could imagine. And Meech would be in the middle of it, his hand resting on your shoulder like the father you never had, the one who lets you drive the car your real father could never afford, the one who takes you everywhere with him, wherever the business is. "I'm a good leader," Meech said a few years back in Miami. "So I got good people that follow."

The philosophy worked for him. His crew's loyalty was like armor. It very nearly made him impenetrable. The crew had his back, always.

The confrontation in Chaos' parking lot was no exception. When Meech and company poured out of the club in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 2003, they found Wolf and his friend Riz waiting. Wolf had positioned himself in uncomfortable proximity to the Cadillac Meech had driven to the club. And he had a gun.

About three hours earlier, Alt's security team had given him a heads-up that Wolf had gotten aggressive with a woman, and the incident had escalated. That wasn't unusual; Mondays had gotten so charged that, unlike other nights of the week, Chaos patrons had to pass through a metal detector.

Alt believed he had diffused the situation. He had told Wolf it would be better if he left, and Wolf left without a fight. So when Alt got the news shortly after 4 a.m. that there was a disturbance in the parking lot, he knew it was bad, but he didn't think Wolf was involved.

There were gunshots outside. Lots of them.

Alt raced to the parking lot behind the club. When he got there, he found a bartender, a security guard and two off-duty medics attempting to keep the two men lying on the ground alive. One of the men made it to the hospital. The other didn't.

Riz was dead. A gun lay at his side.

At Grady Memorial, Wolf was rushed inside. He had suffered several gunshot wounds to the chest. Within minutes, he was dead, too.

Back at the crime scene, one of the officers working the double homicide, Atlanta Police Investigator J.K. Brown, got a call. The woman on the line had been transferred to him from 911. She said she knew who one of the shooters was. She saw him reach into the waistband of his pants and pull a pistol. By her estimation, he fired at least seven times. As she ran, she heard more shots. She said the people involved had a lot of money. They had a lot of drugs. And she told Brown that he didn't know what he was getting into.

She would not give her name. She said she was scared for her life.

Before the sun came up, police managed to pinpoint the suspect whom the woman had described. It turned out he was an easy catch.

In the early morning hours not long after the incident, two men showed up at North Fulton Regional Hospital. One of them had been shot in the foot. The other guy's injury was more serious. He'd been shot in the ass. And unlike his friend, he wouldn't be getting off so easily.

Atlanta officers picked up both men at the hospital and brought them down to police headquarters for questioning. After interviewing the man with the foot injury, police released him. They charged the other man with the murders of Anthony "Wolf" Jones and Lamont "Riz" Girdy.

Big Meech was in big trouble.

Eight months later and four miles down Peachtree from Chaos, a flood of people was pouring out of the Velvet Room. While security guards were working crowd control in front of the club, Prince, his cousin and two of their friends were working the crowd out back. Or at least trying to. They were vying for the attention of some girls when a small motorcade of high-end cars started leaving the club. A Porsche SUV nearly backed into Prince.

Prince tapped the side of the Porsche. "Yo homeboy," he called out to the driver. "You hittin' me." The driver, a chubby guy with a goatee, jumped out. The rest of the crew was close behind. An eyewitness at the scene would later place Meech among them.

For the last few months, Meech had been waiting for the prosecution's next move in the Wolf and Riz case. He'd only just been cleared of house arrest. Under such circumstances, it's usually advised to keep a low profile. What happened behind the Velvet Room was anything but that.

Prince and his friends said they didn't want trouble. But the crew formed up anyway and started swinging.

A few minutes later, a chain of rapid gunshots rang out. One of Prince's friends dropped to the ground, rolling along the pavement toward the rear end of another friend's car. He couldn't see his friends, but he saw the crew running off in different directions. He jumped up and started chasing one of them.

That's when he noticed Prince's cousin on the ground. He stopped short and ran to him instead. Crouching close to his face, he realized that no, the cousin hadn't been shot. But he'd been beaten, badly. Both his eyes were swollen shut. His left eyelid and cheek had been cut. He was not coherent. And he would not wake up for a while.

Where was everyone else? He looked up, scanning the parking lot.

All he saw was Prince.

He started running, again, but before he could get to Prince someone grabbed him from behind — club security. What took them so long? The fleet of luxury cars was speeding out of the parking lot by the time off-duty cops working crowd control made their way out back.

He started yelling for an ambulance and wouldn't stop. When the uniformed officers showed up, they locked him in the back of a patrol car. He was still there when the ambulance came.

The paramedics didn't even try to help Prince. They just put a sheet over him.

Before Loccish Lifestyle had officially formed, its three members decided to test their talent. They came to Atlanta in 2000 for a freestyle rap competition at the Atrium. Low Down, Luke and Pookie Loc didn't even have a song ready, Low Down recalls, "just a beat from somewhere, and the name."

The group's name refers to a way of life on the streets of Macon — a lifestyle that Low Down likens to that of the Crips. "We had good chemistry," he says. "That's probably what did it. We was all on the same tip."

The Macon trio that came to Atlanta without a song managed to take home the prize. They spent the next five years putting out two albums on their own and building their name on the street. Several of Loccish Lifestyle's tracks got heavy play on local radio and in the hip-hop clubs. The sound was moody and introspective — and the lyrics unapologetic. "Trying to muse on how we're living," is how Low Down sums up the music. Loccish Lifestyle's single "Ridin' High" puts it more bluntly: "I'm gettin' high as I wanna be," "ain't no stopping me," and "don't blame me, nigga, blame the gang."

The group had been hustling for five years when Jeezy, whom they knew from his Macon days as "Lil Jay," wanted to make them an offer. Loccish Lifestyle wasn't big in Atlanta's hip-hop scene. But a deal with CTE might change that.

Yet Low Down was holding out. He wasn't exactly opposed to CTE's offer; he just wasn't yet convinced it was the right move. Luke and Pookie Loc were more enthusiastic. When the two of them checked into the Marriott Courtyard downtown in May 2005 to go over some details with CTE, they were eager to sign. But before the deal was official, Pookie Loc would be diverted.

He had been in trouble before. But as far as Low Down was concerned, Pookie Loc's past didn't make an impression against the daily realities that go with the lifestyle. "If you know him for being wild, I guess you could say he was being wild," Low Down says. "If you know him for being cool, he probably was cool."

As for what happened shortly after Loccish Lifestyle landed in Atlanta, Low Down expresses similar stoicism: "The situation is what it is. I mean, shit happens."

The situation would plot Pookie Loc against Jeezy's nemesis, Gucci Mane. And it would put Loccish Lifestyle's deal on indefinite hold.

On May 10, 2005, Gucci went with a friend to the Blazin' Saddles strip club down on Moreland Avenue. After a while, they decided to head with one of the strippers, a woman named Foxy, over to her house. They weren't there long when company arrived.

STAY STRAPPED: Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane received a warning from his nemesis, Young Jeezy, to carry a weapon. Photo by Tommy Boy.
STAY STRAPPED: Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane received a warning from his nemesis, Young Jeezy, to carry a weapon. Photo by Tommy Boy.

Five guys rolled in. One had a set of brass knuckles. Another had duct tape. Several had guns. Their intentions did not appear to be good.

The guy with the knuckles punched Gucci in the head. One of the other guys pistol-whipped his friend. Someone said something about killing them.

Gucci saw his chance. "Stay strapped," he'd been warned.

He aimed and fired.

Part II of "BMF: Hip-hop's shadowy empire" – traffic busts in Missouri, wiretaps in Atlanta, and a double homicide with a connection to the mayor's son-in-law.



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  string(22722) "At 10:15 a.m. on June 6, 2008, a woman shopping at a Target in Florida was interrupted by a phone call. Her daughter's number flashed on the screen. Rachel, who lived in Atlanta, called every morning. Even when Rachel was home visiting, she'd call her mother from the next room just to let her know she'd woken up.

But when the woman answered the call, it wasn't Rachel on the line. Instead, she heard a young man say, "Is this Rachel's mom?"

He then made an odd claim. "Rachel came to my house with drug paraphernalia," he blurted out.

"What do you mean 'drug paraphernalia?'" the woman asked.

He mumbled that Rachel was carrying drugs and needles in her purse, and that he'd had to call the police.

"Where is Rachel?" her mother asked.

"The hospital," he said.

"Was she breathing?" her mother asked.

At some point, he said, he thinks she stopped. But he performed CPR and she was all right. He mentioned that several cops were at his apartment.

"Let me speak to the police," the woman asked.

"They're busy," he replied.

He gave her his phone number and said his name was Warren. He spelled out his last name — U-L-L-O-M.

About a half-hour later, the woman learned her 32-year-old daughter was in full cardiac arrest when she'd arrived at the hospital. In the opinion of the physician on duty, Rachel was already dead by the time she got there.

Warren hadn't slept at all the prior night. He'd been in the throes of heroin addiction for a while by that point, so sleepless nights were nothing new. But last night was different. Rachel, who he'd met two nights earlier in the parking lot behind the Five Spot on Euclid Avenue, had come to his apartment around midnight. Even through his smack-induced haze, he was drawn to the tall, beautiful woman with dark hair and amber-green eyes. And she was doubtlessly intrigued by him, a fashionable rocker who fronted a promising local power-pop band called the Judies.

Warren would later claim that Rachel knew he was into hard drugs and wanted to party with him — and that she was adamant he not tell anyone about it. After trying what Warren later described as a small amount of heroin, Rachel nodded out on his couch. For the next five hours, Warren attempted to revive her. But his methodology was seriously — by professional accounts, fatally — flawed. He called on his coke dealer, the Sweet Man, to come over and help.

Sweet obliged, but he was wary of Warren's plan: to offset the woman's heroin overdose with a shot of cocaine.

Sweet would later allege that Warren injected an unconscious Rachel twice with coke. Sweet, who'd shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail, was in and out of reality himself. But there was a point, around 8 a.m., when he realized Rachel was really bad off. She was turning blue.

Sweet wanted to call 911. He claims Warren didn't. Unbeknownst to Warren, Sweet defied him; he stepped out of the apartment, called 911 and started walking home.

But Sweet couldn't give the exact address to the operator. The ambulance got lost. In the meantime, Warren sent Sweet a text message saying Rachel was better and the ambulance wasn't needed.

Warren was wrong. Thirty minutes after the text, Warren called 911 himself. By the time paramedics finally got to his apartment, it was too late.

Shortly after calling Rachel's mother, Warren received word that Rachel had died. He got in touch with Rachel's friend Jenny, an acquaintance who'd introduced him to Rachel. They decided to go to the hospital together to find out more about Rachel's death. Jenny picked up Warren at the Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the way, Warren started rambling about Rachel's curiosity about heroin.

"I told her not to do it," he said. "She wanted to do boy."

At the hospital, Warren kept asking the staff when Rachel stopped breathing. It was clear that Warren was wasted, so Jenny jumped in and told him to shut up. She'd talk to the nurse herself.

On the ride home, Jenny asked if she could come inside his apartment to see if any of Rachel's things had been left behind. Jenny didn't find anything of note — a fact that would soon become significant to Rachel's family and, later, law enforcement. An important item was missing, something valuable that would help elevate the investigation of Rachel's death from an accidental overdose to something allegedly more sinister.

It's a point of contention as to whether Warren was aware of the thing that went missing. But he was well aware of another factor that complicated — and criminalized — the events of June 6, 2008: the cocaine injection. It would be better for him if no one were to know about that. It would be better if the police were to treat Rachel's death as what it appeared to be on the surface: a tragic but run-of-the-mill overdose.

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What Warren didn't know was that a federal drug task force was already sniffing out his and Sweet's heroin dealer. Roger "Batman" Hammond was slinging an unusually strong batch of smack — one that would be tied to at least one other death — so the feds were eager to track down any connections to drug-related fatalities in order to make an even stronger case for a lengthy prison sentence.

Warren didn't account for Batman. He also didn't figure that Rachel's sister would realize something was very wrong with the story she was being told about Rachel's death, that she would push Atlanta police to look beneath the surface, and that she would provide several clues to help authorities dig.

Finally, he didn't anticipate Sweet would turn on him.

On the afternoon following Rachel's death, Warren called Sweet with a desperate plea. As Sweet would later tell investigators, Warren's message was succinct: "If the cops ask," Sweet recalled Warren saying, "don't tell them about the cocaine."

To understand the mind of an addict, you first must understand an addict's concept of time. There's no comprehension of the expansive chronology around which most people structure their lives. When you're strung out, the future is much more constricted.

"It became very difficult to see farther into the future than 12 hours," Warren writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., his residence of the past several months. He writes that in the year or so leading up to June 2008, he was little more than "a pain-filled automaton convinced that I was near death all of the time."

Although there's little he can or is willing to say about the night Rachel died, he claims that somewhere inside his sickened mental state, he believed he was trying to save her.

He also says that a few weeks after Rachel's death — which would have been before police started investigating him — he worked to get clean.

He called his parents in Cincinnati and told them he needed to come home. He had one obligation to fulfill before he left Atlanta. He had to play a show — "at the Graveyard of all places," he writes. About 400 people showed up. After the set, he recalls, "everybody was congratulating me, lying to me and telling me how good I looked."

He didn't stick around.

It was pouring rain outside, "huge raindrops all lit up orange by the city streetlights." He got on his motorcycle and wandered around deserted downtown Atlanta, sobbing inside his helmet.

The next day, he sat in a men's room stall at the Greyhound station and — for what he says was the last time — injected heroin into his emaciated arms. A 12-hour bus ride later, he was standing on a footbridge overlooking downtown Cincinnati, waiting for his dad to pull up in the family Jeep.

He says that for the next 11 days, he didn't sleep at all. His concept of time slowed to a crawl. Being able to see 12 hours into the future began to seem like a luxury. He couldn't even see 12 seconds ahead. "Every day got worse, compounded by the fact that to me, days, hours, even seconds were relative, and they seemed to stretch out in slow motion, a minute for single tick."

He says that for the first time in his life, he considered killing himself.

"The pain was so unabating that suicide popped up as a hypothetical consideration for ending that pain," he writes. "More importantly though, I realized I would rather kill myself than turn to heroin to solve my problem. That's why I have never relapsed."

In words that eerily channel the final hours of the woman he's now imprisoned for killing, Warren sums up his recovery in meticulous terms: "I was never in my life going to feel that feeling again, the slow torture of dying without dying."

Something was very wrong about the details surrounding Rachel's death. Her sister Pamela knew it right from the start.

Rachel was healthy and strong and independent, and her loss was devastating to her adoring family. Faced with that magnitude of grief, it would have been easy to get lost in the misery. It would have been easy to not ask the right questions. But Pamela was determined.

On Friday, June 13, she was in Atlanta picking up the belongings Rachel left behind. As Pamela rifled through Rachel's things, she noticed something missing: a pair of 3.5-carat diamond earrings. Worth about $3,000, they'd been a gift from Rachel's former boyfriend. It seemed certain that Rachel would have been wearing them. She always wore them.

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The hospital staff told Pamela that the earrings were not on Rachel when she arrived. So Pamela texted Warren to ask him.

The only thing Pamela knew about Warren was that he'd been with Rachel when she died. Still, she had no reason at first to doubt what he told her: that he remembered seeing the earrings on Rachel, and that he'd look around for them.

The next day, Warren texted Pamela, saying the earrings must have fallen off as the paramedics carried Rachel out of his apartment. Pamela found that hard to believe. Diamond earrings of that size screw on. It's really hard to get them off. She was so bothered by this that she took the information to the police. No one cared.

Nor did anyone seem to care when Pamela tracked down the person who, according to the police report, first called 911: the Sweet Man. For six days, Pamela left messages for Sweet. When he finally answered, he asked, "Would you like me to tell you what I saw?"

Sweet told Pamela a very different story about Rachel's death than what Warren had told police. Sweet said Warren had called him with the hope of being able to revive Rachel with cocaine. He said he'd gotten to Warren's around 3 a.m., and that Warren injected Rachel twice with the coke. That's when Rachel started having trouble breathing, Sweet claimed. He said he told Warren that Rachel was dying. Sweet also said Warren was freaking out on him and didn't want him to call 911.

Three weeks after Pamela extracted Sweet's story, police started taking Pamela seriously. Over the phone, she gave investigators both Sweet's and Warren's numbers. A few days later, she met with someone on the force who was very interested in what she had to say: APD Investigator Jeff Gunter. Pamela tipped off Gunter about the Sweet Man and the cocaine injections and the missing earrings. She mentioned other inconsistencies, too. In the police report, Warren said Rachel had only passed out for an hour and a half. But Sweet told her — and cell phone records would soon prove — that Warren called Sweet over to the apartment at 3 a.m., which meant Rachel was unconscious for five excruciating hours. Warren also initially claimed that Rachel had asked for the cocaine — and that she'd shot herself up. Impossible, Pamela said. Sweet, who brought the cocaine, said Rachel was out cold from the moment he arrived. What's more, paramedics found that only Rachel's right arm had been injected. But Pamela knew that Rachel was so uncoordinated with her left hand that she couldn't even work a remote control, let alone inject herself.

After recounting all these details to Gunter, Pamela had one thing left to say: She thanked him for being the person who finally cared enough to hear her story.

The investigation moved quickly from there. Gunter followed the leads Pamela delivered. He talked to the last of Rachel's friends to see her alive. He talked to her mother. He requested Warren's cell phone records for the 24 hours surrounding Rachel's death. And through that, he and the federal task force he linked up with soon discovered that Warren's investigation tied neatly into Batman's.

The probe into Batman and his midlevel heroin operation dated back at least four months, to March 2008, when a confidential informant working with the feds orchestrated an undercover buy from Batman — $3,000 for 20 grams of heroin. The deal went down in the informant's car, but a glare on the windshield prevented a clear surveillance video of the transaction, and the wire the informant was wearing didn't turn up anything incriminating. Two more undercover buys, for 30 and 50 grams, were similar failures.

Then investigators caught a break. Batman was pulled over for following a Honda Accord too closely on I-20. The trooper asked him to step out of the car, frisked him and found 35 grams of heroin and $10,000 in his pockets.

Batman was hauled into an interrogation room with Gunter and a fellow task force agent. He quickly confessed that he'd made at least 100 large heroin purchases and that his most recent supplier had the best smack in the state: "Pure, uncut and A-1 grade." He boasted that one user turned blue after shooting up. In addition to Rachel's death, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would later tie another fatality to Batman's heroin.

In fact, the spring of 2008 saw an unusual spike in heroin-related deaths in Fulton County, particularly among a demographic that doesn't typically show up in the coroner's files. Over a 12-day period, four young people — including 28-year-old blues prodigy Sean Costello and 21-year-old Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts — died from complications involving heroin. By comparison, only four heroin deaths were recorded in Fulton over the previous four months, and only one of the victims was younger than 30.

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Less than a month after their interview with Batman, investigators received the cell phone records they'd requested on Warren Ullom. In the two weeks leading up to June 6, 2008, he'd traded 90 calls with the busted heroin dealer.

And it would turn out that, following those four Fulton County fatalities in which heroin played a role, Rachel had been the next to die.

It was only after the toxicology results came back that investigators could determine how great a role Warren might have played in her death.

The toxicologist discovered heroin, alcohol and an unusually large amount of cocaine in her blood. He concluded that she was alive for at least an hour after the cocaine entered her body. The question was, could investigators prove Warren administered the cocaine without her knowledge or consent?

The answer arrived in October 2008, when Sweet walked into the federal building downtown offering to tell investigators everything he knew about the events surrounding Rachel's death. He described all of it: How he got to know Warren over the past year by selling him blow; how he introduced him to Batman when he learned Warren was into heroin; how Warren called him for help when Rachel ODed; how Warren tried to revive her with cocaine and CPR; and how Warren tried to keep the paramedics away until it was too late.

He later would show authorities the text from Warren — sent at 7:33 a.m. on June 6, 2008 — that read: "she is better no ambulance."

Sweet himself could have been prosecuted. But the fact that he voluntarily came forward and incriminated himself helped him avoid that, according to his lawyers. Sweet also agreed to call Warren several times while the feds monitored the conversation with the hope of getting Warren to open up about Rachel's death. On one occasion, Sweet met with Warren while wearing a wire. According to his attorney, John Nuckolls: "The U.S. Attorney's office saw that in order to get to the truth, there needed to be some special consideration for him."

The final autopsy report was issued shortly after Sweet turned government witness. By then, investigators and the coroner's office were ready to make a call on the level of Warren's responsibility: "Because Ms. San Inocencio's death was due to the actions of another individual," the autopsy states, "the method of death is classified as a homicide."

To round out its investigation, the government needed one more witness: Warren's now-former girlfriend. The two had been living together at the time of Rachel's death, and the ex had been sitting for months on a valuable piece of information.

Warren's girlfriend had left town hours before Rachel showed up at the apartment, but she'd left Warren money to cover his heroin addiction for the weekend. The plan was for him to try to get clean when she returned from her trip.

Warren had called his girlfriend several times the night of Rachel's death, and in November 2008, she recounted to police Warren's concern that the ODing woman had stopped breathing.

But the most interesting information she shared had to do with a pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. According to his ex, Warren showed her the earrings a few days after Rachel's death. He allegedly told her that the earrings belonged to an old flame and that they should pawn them. She agreed.

Warren's defense team vehemently denies her claim. They counter that it was the ex who came to Warren with the earrings, presumably after she found them in the apartment, and told him they were her grandmother's.

One thing is clear: On June 9, 2008, Rachel's earrings were pawned. Investigator Gunter visited the Buckhead pawnshop where the diamond studs were traded for $400. It turns out a surveillance camera perched outside had captured footage of Warren and the girlfriend walking into the store. The girlfriend's name was on the receipt, which was dated three days after Rachel's death and several days before Rachel's sister, Pamela, called Warren looking for the earrings.

In January 2009, two months after the interview with Warren's ex, Gunter and a team of fellow officers showed up at the Inman Park condo where one of Warren's bandmates lived. His father answered the door. Gunter asked if Warren was there. The man said he was.

Warren was sitting at the kitchen table, typing on a computer. Gunter ordered that he stand up. Warren complied, and was placed under arrest for distribution of heroin and cocaine, theft by taking, and the murder of Rachel San Inocencio.

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From the time of his arrest until his sentencing a year and a half later, Warren had one primary objective. "I felt that it was my duty to do right, and to create beauty, and to celebrate existence," he says in the letter sent from prison. "There were things I felt that I needed to say to specific people, emotions so acute that they could only properly be conveyed through art, so I wrote these songs."

The songs caught the attention of Slush Fund Records founder Dave Prasse and local filmmaker George King, both of whom had a hard time reconciling the seemingly reformed young man with the depraved person described in court documents.

"Back then, he was a different person," says King, who's recorded close to 70 hours of footage and twice visited Warren in prison. "He went through this ellipse. He descended into this dark place. And then he came back."

Once he was back, King says, Warren manically tried to fill his life with meaning, knowing he was short on time.

Warren led the Judies through a frenzied pace of shows and a relentless recording schedule. The band headlined that year's Corndogorama, played the Star Bar on New Year's Eve, performed a Criminal Records in-store, released a self-titled album, and, in the days before his final court date, recorded several new tracks and videos at Prasse's Ormewood Park studio.

"While everyone in the band was handling it differently, we all had a goal that was bigger than making a record," Warren says. "We were immortalizing a moment."

On June 7, 2010 — two years and one day after Rachel died — Warren pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Fulton County Superior Court. Part of the condition of his plea was for the D.A.'s office to drop the theft charge. It was the most crucial allegation that Warren's defense team would have fought had he gone to trial. They wanted to dispel any notion that Warren let Rachel die because he was after the earrings.

"Warren didn't use any kind of good judgment that night," says the Judies' longtime manager, Kahle Davis. "But when it comes down to it, he tried like hell to save her life while respecting her instruction that no one could know she was using heroin."

Warren received a sentence of 20 years. Less than a year into his incarceration, he says he sustains himself with thoughts of making music again, and the possibility of one day being able to help young people prevent addictions.

"Maybe sharing my experiences will help prevent these kinds of tragic events," he writes. "I can see myself working with addicts who feel hopeless, a feeling I remember all too well."

It's a second chance that won't be afforded to Rachel.

In a letter filed in Batman's court file, her sister Pamela describes the ongoing trauma of Rachel's loss. She says she's not angry or looking for revenge, but that she, too, would like to see something positive come from this tragedy.

"So far, all I have seen and experienced is the most painful heartache imaginable," she writes. "Day by day we are all learning how to cope. My mom doesn't leave the house much. She calls Rachel's phone number daily. She questions her faith and battles with thoughts of what she could have done differently in her life so that Rachel would still be here today.

"Our father works the same as always. He never has taken a break except to bury his daughter. If he even hesitates I believe he will fall apart and it will all come crashing down.

"As for me, I do my best. I have faith, and that gives me comfort in knowing where she will spend eternity. It does not, however, keep me from missing her like crazy. I still cannot get my mind around the truth that Rachel is gone."

About the story: This narrative was pieced together with court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Certain names have been withheld of individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges."
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(22778) "At 10:15 a.m. on June 6, 2008, a woman shopping at a Target in Florida was interrupted by a phone call. Her daughter's number flashed on the screen. Rachel, who lived in Atlanta, called every morning. Even when Rachel was home visiting, she'd call her mother from the next room just to let her know she'd woken up.

But when the woman answered the call, it wasn't Rachel on the line. Instead, she heard a young man say, "Is this Rachel's mom?"

He then made an odd claim. "Rachel came to my house with drug paraphernalia," he blurted out.

"What do you mean 'drug paraphernalia?'" the woman asked.

He mumbled that Rachel was carrying drugs and needles in her purse, and that he'd had to call the police.

"Where is Rachel?" her mother asked.

"The hospital," he said.

"Was she breathing?" her mother asked.

At some point, he said, he thinks she stopped. But he performed CPR and she was all right. He mentioned that several cops were at his apartment.

"Let me speak to the police," the woman asked.

"They're busy," he replied.

He gave her his phone number and said his name was Warren. He spelled out his last name — U-L-L-O-M.

About a half-hour later, the woman learned her 32-year-old daughter was in full cardiac arrest when she'd arrived at the hospital. In the opinion of the physician on duty, Rachel was already dead by the time she got there.

__Warren hadn't slept__ at all the prior night. He'd been in the throes of heroin addiction for a while by that point, so sleepless nights were nothing new. But last night was different. Rachel, who he'd met two nights earlier in the parking lot behind the Five Spot on Euclid Avenue, had come to his apartment around midnight. Even through his smack-induced haze, he was drawn to the tall, beautiful woman with dark hair and amber-green eyes. And she was doubtlessly intrigued by him, a fashionable rocker who fronted a promising local power-pop band called the Judies.

Warren would later claim that Rachel knew he was into hard drugs and wanted to party with him — and that she was adamant he not tell anyone about it. After trying what Warren later described as a small amount of heroin, Rachel nodded out on his couch. For the next five hours, Warren attempted to revive her. But his methodology was seriously — by professional accounts, fatally — flawed. He called on his coke dealer, the Sweet Man, to come over and help.

Sweet obliged, but he was wary of Warren's plan: to offset the woman's heroin overdose with a shot of cocaine.

Sweet would later allege that Warren injected an unconscious Rachel twice with coke. Sweet, who'd shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail, was in and out of reality himself. But there was a point, around 8 a.m., when he realized Rachel was really bad off. She was turning blue.

Sweet wanted to call 911. He claims Warren didn't. Unbeknownst to Warren, Sweet defied him; he stepped out of the apartment, called 911 and started walking home.

But Sweet couldn't give the exact address to the operator. The ambulance got lost. In the meantime, Warren sent Sweet a text message saying Rachel was better and the ambulance wasn't needed.

Warren was wrong. Thirty minutes after the text, Warren called 911 himself. By the time paramedics finally got to his apartment, it was too late.

Shortly after calling Rachel's mother, Warren received word that Rachel had died. He got in touch with Rachel's friend Jenny, an acquaintance who'd introduced him to Rachel. They decided to go to the hospital together to find out more about Rachel's death. Jenny picked up Warren at the Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the way, Warren started rambling about Rachel's curiosity about heroin.

"I told her not to do it," he said. "She wanted to do boy."

At the hospital, Warren kept asking the staff when Rachel stopped breathing. It was clear that Warren was wasted, so Jenny jumped in and told him to shut up. She'd talk to the nurse herself.

On the ride home, Jenny asked if she could come inside his apartment to see if any of Rachel's things had been left behind. Jenny didn't find anything of note — a fact that would soon become significant to Rachel's family and, later, law enforcement. An important item was missing, something valuable that would help elevate the investigation of Rachel's death from an accidental overdose to something allegedly more sinister.

It's a point of contention as to whether Warren was aware of the thing that went missing. But he was well aware of another factor that complicated — and criminalized — the events of June 6, 2008: the cocaine injection. It would be better for him if no one were to know about that. It would be better if the police were to treat Rachel's death as what it appeared to be on the surface: a tragic but run-of-the-mill overdose.

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What Warren didn't know was that a federal drug task force was already sniffing out his and Sweet's heroin dealer. Roger "Batman" Hammond was slinging an unusually strong batch of smack — one that would be tied to at least one other death — so the feds were eager to track down any connections to drug-related fatalities in order to make an even stronger case for a lengthy prison sentence.

Warren didn't account for Batman. He also didn't figure that Rachel's sister would realize something was very wrong with the story she was being told about Rachel's death, that she would push Atlanta police to look beneath the surface, and that she would provide several clues to help authorities dig.

Finally, he didn't anticipate Sweet would turn on him.

On the afternoon following Rachel's death, Warren called Sweet with a desperate plea. As Sweet would later tell investigators, Warren's message was succinct: "If the cops ask," Sweet recalled Warren saying, "don't tell them about the cocaine."

__To understand the mind__ of an addict, you first must understand an addict's concept of time. There's no comprehension of the expansive chronology around which most people structure their lives. When you're strung out, the future is much more constricted.

"It became very difficult to see farther into the future than 12 hours," Warren writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., his residence of the past several months. He writes that in the year or so leading up to June 2008, he was little more than "a pain-filled automaton convinced that I was near death all of the time."

Although there's little he can or is willing to say about the night Rachel died, he claims that somewhere inside his sickened mental state, he believed he was trying to save her.

He also says that a few weeks after Rachel's death — which would have been before police started investigating him — he worked to get clean.

He called his parents in Cincinnati and told them he needed to come home. He had one obligation to fulfill before he left Atlanta. He had to play a show — "at the Graveyard of all places," he writes. About 400 people showed up. After the set, he recalls, "everybody was congratulating me, lying to me and telling me how good I looked."

He didn't stick around.

It was pouring rain outside, "huge raindrops all lit up orange by the city streetlights." He got on his motorcycle and wandered around deserted downtown Atlanta, sobbing inside his helmet.

The next day, he sat in a men's room stall at the Greyhound station and — for what he says was the last time — injected heroin into his emaciated arms. A 12-hour bus ride later, he was standing on a footbridge overlooking downtown Cincinnati, waiting for his dad to pull up in the family Jeep.

He says that for the next 11 days, he didn't sleep at all. His concept of time slowed to a crawl. Being able to see 12 hours into the future began to seem like a luxury. He couldn't even see 12 seconds ahead. "Every day got worse, compounded by the fact that to me, days, hours, even seconds were relative, and they seemed to stretch out in slow motion, a minute for single tick."

He says that for the first time in his life, he considered killing himself.

"The pain was so unabating that suicide popped up as a hypothetical consideration for ending that pain," he writes. "More importantly though, I realized I would rather kill myself than turn to heroin to solve my problem. That's why I have never relapsed."

In words that eerily channel the final hours of the woman he's now imprisoned for killing, Warren sums up his recovery in meticulous terms: "I was never in my life going to feel that feeling again, the slow torture of dying without dying."

__Something was very wrong__ about the details surrounding Rachel's death. Her sister Pamela knew it right from the start.

Rachel was healthy and strong and independent, and her loss was devastating to her adoring family. Faced with that magnitude of grief, it would have been easy to get lost in the misery. It would have been easy to not ask the right questions. But Pamela was determined.

On Friday, June 13, she was in Atlanta picking up the belongings Rachel left behind. As Pamela rifled through Rachel's things, she noticed something missing: a pair of 3.5-carat diamond earrings. Worth about $3,000, they'd been a gift from Rachel's former boyfriend. It seemed certain that Rachel would have been wearing them. She always wore them.

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The hospital staff told Pamela that the earrings were not on Rachel when she arrived. So Pamela texted Warren to ask him.

The only thing Pamela knew about Warren was that he'd been with Rachel when she died. Still, she had no reason at first to doubt what he told her: that he remembered seeing the earrings on Rachel, and that he'd look around for them.

The next day, Warren texted Pamela, saying the earrings must have fallen off as the paramedics carried Rachel out of his apartment. Pamela found that hard to believe. Diamond earrings of that size screw on. It's ''really'' hard to get them off. She was so bothered by this that she took the information to the police. No one cared.

Nor did anyone seem to care when Pamela tracked down the person who, according to the police report, first called 911: the Sweet Man. For six days, Pamela left messages for Sweet. When he finally answered, he asked, "Would you like me to tell you what I saw?"

Sweet told Pamela a very different story about Rachel's death than what Warren had told police. Sweet said Warren had called him with the hope of being able to revive Rachel with cocaine. He said he'd gotten to Warren's around 3 a.m., and that Warren injected Rachel twice with the coke. That's when Rachel started having trouble breathing, Sweet claimed. He said he told Warren that Rachel was dying. Sweet also said Warren was freaking out on him and didn't want him to call 911.

Three weeks after Pamela extracted Sweet's story, police started taking Pamela seriously. Over the phone, she gave investigators both Sweet's and Warren's numbers. A few days later, she met with someone on the force who was very interested in what she had to say: APD Investigator Jeff Gunter. Pamela tipped off Gunter about the Sweet Man and the cocaine injections and the missing earrings. She mentioned other inconsistencies, too. In the police report, Warren said Rachel had only passed out for an hour and a half. But Sweet told her — and cell phone records would soon prove — that Warren called Sweet over to the apartment at 3 a.m., which meant Rachel was unconscious for five excruciating hours. Warren also initially claimed that Rachel had asked for the cocaine — and that she'd shot herself up. Impossible, Pamela said. Sweet, who brought the cocaine, said Rachel was out cold from the moment he arrived. What's more, paramedics found that only Rachel's right arm had been injected. But Pamela knew that Rachel was so uncoordinated with her left hand that she couldn't even work a remote control, let alone inject herself.

After recounting all these details to Gunter, Pamela had one thing left to say: She thanked him for being the person who finally cared enough to hear her story.

__The investigation moved quickly__ from there. Gunter followed the leads Pamela delivered. He talked to the last of Rachel's friends to see her alive. He talked to her mother. He requested Warren's cell phone records for the 24 hours surrounding Rachel's death. And through that, he and the federal task force he linked up with soon discovered that Warren's investigation tied neatly into Batman's.

The probe into Batman and his midlevel heroin operation dated back at least four months, to March 2008, when a confidential informant working with the feds orchestrated an undercover buy from Batman — $3,000 for 20 grams of heroin. The deal went down in the informant's car, but a glare on the windshield prevented a clear surveillance video of the transaction, and the wire the informant was wearing didn't turn up anything incriminating. Two more undercover buys, for 30 and 50 grams, were similar failures.

Then investigators caught a break. Batman was pulled over for following a Honda Accord too closely on I-20. The trooper asked him to step out of the car, frisked him and found 35 grams of heroin and $10,000 in his pockets.

Batman was hauled into an interrogation room with Gunter and a fellow task force agent. He quickly confessed that he'd made at least 100 large heroin purchases and that his most recent supplier had the best smack in the state: "Pure, uncut and A-1 grade." He boasted that one user turned blue after shooting up. In addition to Rachel's death, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would later tie another fatality to Batman's heroin.

In fact, the spring of 2008 saw an unusual spike in heroin-related deaths in Fulton County, particularly among a demographic that doesn't typically show up in the coroner's files. Over a 12-day period, four young people — including 28-year-old blues prodigy Sean Costello and 21-year-old Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts — died from complications involving heroin. By comparison, only four heroin deaths were recorded in Fulton over the previous four months, and only one of the victims was younger than 30.

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Less than a month after their interview with Batman, investigators received the cell phone records they'd requested on Warren Ullom. In the two weeks leading up to June 6, 2008, he'd traded 90 calls with the busted heroin dealer.

And it would turn out that, following those four Fulton County fatalities in which heroin played a role, Rachel had been the next to die.

__It was only after__ the toxicology results came back that investigators could determine how great a role Warren might have played in her death.

The toxicologist discovered heroin, alcohol and an unusually large amount of cocaine in her blood. He concluded that she was alive for at least an hour after the cocaine entered her body. The question was, could investigators prove Warren administered the cocaine without her knowledge or consent?

The answer arrived in October 2008, when Sweet walked into the federal building downtown offering to tell investigators everything he knew about the events surrounding Rachel's death. He described all of it: How he got to know Warren over the past year by selling him blow; how he introduced him to Batman when he learned Warren was into heroin; how Warren called him for help when Rachel ODed; how Warren tried to revive her with cocaine and CPR; and how Warren tried to keep the paramedics away until it was too late.

He later would show authorities the text from Warren — sent at 7:33 a.m. on June 6, 2008 — that read: "she is better no ambulance."

Sweet himself could have been prosecuted. But the fact that he voluntarily came forward and incriminated himself helped him avoid that, according to his lawyers. Sweet also agreed to call Warren several times while the feds monitored the conversation with the hope of getting Warren to open up about Rachel's death. On one occasion, Sweet met with Warren while wearing a wire. According to his attorney, John Nuckolls: "The U.S. Attorney's office saw that in order to get to the truth, there needed to be some special consideration for him."

The final autopsy report was issued shortly after Sweet turned government witness. By then, investigators and the coroner's office were ready to make a call on the level of Warren's responsibility: "Because Ms. San Inocencio's death was due to the actions of another individual," the autopsy states, "the method of death is classified as a homicide."

__To round out its investigation__, the government needed one more witness: Warren's now-former girlfriend. The two had been living together at the time of Rachel's death, and the ex had been sitting for months on a valuable piece of information.

Warren's girlfriend had left town hours before Rachel showed up at the apartment, but she'd left Warren money to cover his heroin addiction for the weekend. The plan was for him to try to get clean when she returned from her trip.

Warren had called his girlfriend several times the night of Rachel's death, and in November 2008, she recounted to police Warren's concern that the ODing woman had stopped breathing.

But the most interesting information she shared had to do with a pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. According to his ex, Warren showed her the earrings a few days after Rachel's death. He allegedly told her that the earrings belonged to an old flame and that they should pawn them. She agreed.

Warren's defense team vehemently denies her claim. They counter that it was the ex who came to Warren with the earrings, presumably after she found them in the apartment, and told him they were her grandmother's.

One thing is clear: On June 9, 2008, Rachel's earrings were pawned. Investigator Gunter visited the Buckhead pawnshop where the diamond studs were traded for $400. It turns out a surveillance camera perched outside had captured footage of Warren and the girlfriend walking into the store. The girlfriend's name was on the receipt, which was dated three days after Rachel's death and several days before Rachel's sister, Pamela, called Warren looking for the earrings.

In January 2009, two months after the interview with Warren's ex, Gunter and a team of fellow officers showed up at the Inman Park condo where one of Warren's bandmates lived. His father answered the door. Gunter asked if Warren was there. The man said he was.

Warren was sitting at the kitchen table, typing on a computer. Gunter ordered that he stand up. Warren complied, and was placed under arrest for distribution of heroin and cocaine, theft by taking, and the murder of Rachel San Inocencio.

[page]
__From the time of his arrest__ until his sentencing a year and a half later, Warren had one primary objective. "I felt that it was my duty to do right, and to create beauty, and to celebrate existence," he says in the letter sent from prison. "There were things I felt that I needed to say to specific people, emotions so acute that they could only properly be conveyed through art, so I wrote these songs."

The songs caught the attention of Slush Fund Records founder Dave Prasse and local filmmaker George King, both of whom had a hard time reconciling the seemingly reformed young man with the depraved person described in court documents.

"Back then, he was a different person," says King, who's recorded close to 70 hours of footage and twice visited Warren in prison. "He went through this ellipse. He descended into this dark place. And then he came back."

Once he was back, King says, Warren manically tried to fill his life with meaning, knowing he was short on time.

Warren led the Judies through a frenzied pace of shows and a relentless recording schedule. The band headlined that year's Corndogorama, played the Star Bar on New Year's Eve, performed a Criminal Records in-store, released a self-titled album, and, in the days before his final court date, recorded several new tracks and videos at Prasse's Ormewood Park studio.

"While everyone [in the band] was handling it differently, we all had a goal that was bigger than making a record," Warren says. "We were immortalizing a moment."

On June 7, 2010 — two years and one day after Rachel died — Warren pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Fulton County Superior Court. Part of the condition of his plea was for the D.A.'s office to drop the theft charge. It was the most crucial allegation that Warren's defense team would have fought had he gone to trial. They wanted to dispel any notion that Warren let Rachel die because he was after the earrings.

"Warren didn't use any kind of good judgment that night," says the Judies' longtime manager, Kahle Davis. "But when it comes down to it, he tried like hell to save her life while respecting her instruction that no one could know she was using heroin."

Warren received a sentence of 20 years. Less than a year into his incarceration, he says he sustains himself with thoughts of making music again, and the possibility of one day being able to help young people prevent addictions.

"Maybe sharing my experiences will help prevent these kinds of tragic events," he writes. "I can see myself working with addicts who feel hopeless, a feeling I remember all too well."

It's a second chance that won't be afforded to Rachel.

In a letter filed in Batman's court file, her sister Pamela describes the ongoing trauma of Rachel's loss. She says she's not angry or looking for revenge, but that she, too, would like to see something positive come from this tragedy.

"So far, all I have seen and experienced is the most painful heartache imaginable," she writes. "Day by day we are all learning how to cope. My mom doesn't leave the house much. She calls Rachel's phone number daily. She questions her faith and battles with thoughts of what she could have done differently in her life so that Rachel would still be here today.

"Our father works the same as always. He never has taken a break except to bury his daughter. If he even hesitates I believe he will fall apart and it will all come crashing down.

"As for me, I do my best. I have faith, and that gives me comfort in knowing where she will spend eternity. It does not, however, keep me from missing her like crazy. I still cannot get my mind around the truth that Rachel is gone."

''__About the story__: This narrative was pieced together with court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Certain names have been withheld of individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges.''"
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  string(23855) "  Rachel was amazing.  Warren was trash compared to her.  Where is her voice?  I read this, and she's an object to the junkie who robbed her body of the expensive earrings she received as a present when I was there.  He robbed her alive, all the money in her purse - else what would he party on for so long - and her earrings, did he wait for her to die first, or did he take them from her while she was still alive?  I'd really like to know.  She was an athlete.  She would carry me on her shoulders at concerts.  She hung in for 6+ hours.  She tried to live.  She went through hell.  She wanted to live.  He killed her.  He murdered her.  He needs to rot in prison.  Hearing is the last thing to go.   My mother was an RN.  I have MD friends.  I read the autopsy report.  He is a monster.  He deserves no more press CL.  Please, never again.  Warren Ullom: A talented musician's recovery, incarceration and swan song   2011-03-24T08:01:00+00:00 Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part II   Mara Shalhoup 1223634 2011-03-24T08:01:00+00:00  At 10:15 a.m. on June 6, 2008, a woman shopping at a Target in Florida was interrupted by a phone call. Her daughter's number flashed on the screen. Rachel, who lived in Atlanta, called every morning. Even when Rachel was home visiting, she'd call her mother from the next room just to let her know she'd woken up.

But when the woman answered the call, it wasn't Rachel on the line. Instead, she heard a young man say, "Is this Rachel's mom?"

He then made an odd claim. "Rachel came to my house with drug paraphernalia," he blurted out.

"What do you mean 'drug paraphernalia?'" the woman asked.

He mumbled that Rachel was carrying drugs and needles in her purse, and that he'd had to call the police.

"Where is Rachel?" her mother asked.

"The hospital," he said.

"Was she breathing?" her mother asked.

At some point, he said, he thinks she stopped. But he performed CPR and she was all right. He mentioned that several cops were at his apartment.

"Let me speak to the police," the woman asked.

"They're busy," he replied.

He gave her his phone number and said his name was Warren. He spelled out his last name — U-L-L-O-M.

About a half-hour later, the woman learned her 32-year-old daughter was in full cardiac arrest when she'd arrived at the hospital. In the opinion of the physician on duty, Rachel was already dead by the time she got there.

Warren hadn't slept at all the prior night. He'd been in the throes of heroin addiction for a while by that point, so sleepless nights were nothing new. But last night was different. Rachel, who he'd met two nights earlier in the parking lot behind the Five Spot on Euclid Avenue, had come to his apartment around midnight. Even through his smack-induced haze, he was drawn to the tall, beautiful woman with dark hair and amber-green eyes. And she was doubtlessly intrigued by him, a fashionable rocker who fronted a promising local power-pop band called the Judies.

Warren would later claim that Rachel knew he was into hard drugs and wanted to party with him — and that she was adamant he not tell anyone about it. After trying what Warren later described as a small amount of heroin, Rachel nodded out on his couch. For the next five hours, Warren attempted to revive her. But his methodology was seriously — by professional accounts, fatally — flawed. He called on his coke dealer, the Sweet Man, to come over and help.

Sweet obliged, but he was wary of Warren's plan: to offset the woman's heroin overdose with a shot of cocaine.

Sweet would later allege that Warren injected an unconscious Rachel twice with coke. Sweet, who'd shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail, was in and out of reality himself. But there was a point, around 8 a.m., when he realized Rachel was really bad off. She was turning blue.

Sweet wanted to call 911. He claims Warren didn't. Unbeknownst to Warren, Sweet defied him; he stepped out of the apartment, called 911 and started walking home.

But Sweet couldn't give the exact address to the operator. The ambulance got lost. In the meantime, Warren sent Sweet a text message saying Rachel was better and the ambulance wasn't needed.

Warren was wrong. Thirty minutes after the text, Warren called 911 himself. By the time paramedics finally got to his apartment, it was too late.

Shortly after calling Rachel's mother, Warren received word that Rachel had died. He got in touch with Rachel's friend Jenny, an acquaintance who'd introduced him to Rachel. They decided to go to the hospital together to find out more about Rachel's death. Jenny picked up Warren at the Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the way, Warren started rambling about Rachel's curiosity about heroin.

"I told her not to do it," he said. "She wanted to do boy."

At the hospital, Warren kept asking the staff when Rachel stopped breathing. It was clear that Warren was wasted, so Jenny jumped in and told him to shut up. She'd talk to the nurse herself.

On the ride home, Jenny asked if she could come inside his apartment to see if any of Rachel's things had been left behind. Jenny didn't find anything of note — a fact that would soon become significant to Rachel's family and, later, law enforcement. An important item was missing, something valuable that would help elevate the investigation of Rachel's death from an accidental overdose to something allegedly more sinister.

It's a point of contention as to whether Warren was aware of the thing that went missing. But he was well aware of another factor that complicated — and criminalized — the events of June 6, 2008: the cocaine injection. It would be better for him if no one were to know about that. It would be better if the police were to treat Rachel's death as what it appeared to be on the surface: a tragic but run-of-the-mill overdose.

pageimage-1
What Warren didn't know was that a federal drug task force was already sniffing out his and Sweet's heroin dealer. Roger "Batman" Hammond was slinging an unusually strong batch of smack — one that would be tied to at least one other death — so the feds were eager to track down any connections to drug-related fatalities in order to make an even stronger case for a lengthy prison sentence.

Warren didn't account for Batman. He also didn't figure that Rachel's sister would realize something was very wrong with the story she was being told about Rachel's death, that she would push Atlanta police to look beneath the surface, and that she would provide several clues to help authorities dig.

Finally, he didn't anticipate Sweet would turn on him.

On the afternoon following Rachel's death, Warren called Sweet with a desperate plea. As Sweet would later tell investigators, Warren's message was succinct: "If the cops ask," Sweet recalled Warren saying, "don't tell them about the cocaine."

To understand the mind of an addict, you first must understand an addict's concept of time. There's no comprehension of the expansive chronology around which most people structure their lives. When you're strung out, the future is much more constricted.

"It became very difficult to see farther into the future than 12 hours," Warren writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., his residence of the past several months. He writes that in the year or so leading up to June 2008, he was little more than "a pain-filled automaton convinced that I was near death all of the time."

Although there's little he can or is willing to say about the night Rachel died, he claims that somewhere inside his sickened mental state, he believed he was trying to save her.

He also says that a few weeks after Rachel's death — which would have been before police started investigating him — he worked to get clean.

He called his parents in Cincinnati and told them he needed to come home. He had one obligation to fulfill before he left Atlanta. He had to play a show — "at the Graveyard of all places," he writes. About 400 people showed up. After the set, he recalls, "everybody was congratulating me, lying to me and telling me how good I looked."

He didn't stick around.

It was pouring rain outside, "huge raindrops all lit up orange by the city streetlights." He got on his motorcycle and wandered around deserted downtown Atlanta, sobbing inside his helmet.

The next day, he sat in a men's room stall at the Greyhound station and — for what he says was the last time — injected heroin into his emaciated arms. A 12-hour bus ride later, he was standing on a footbridge overlooking downtown Cincinnati, waiting for his dad to pull up in the family Jeep.

He says that for the next 11 days, he didn't sleep at all. His concept of time slowed to a crawl. Being able to see 12 hours into the future began to seem like a luxury. He couldn't even see 12 seconds ahead. "Every day got worse, compounded by the fact that to me, days, hours, even seconds were relative, and they seemed to stretch out in slow motion, a minute for single tick."

He says that for the first time in his life, he considered killing himself.

"The pain was so unabating that suicide popped up as a hypothetical consideration for ending that pain," he writes. "More importantly though, I realized I would rather kill myself than turn to heroin to solve my problem. That's why I have never relapsed."

In words that eerily channel the final hours of the woman he's now imprisoned for killing, Warren sums up his recovery in meticulous terms: "I was never in my life going to feel that feeling again, the slow torture of dying without dying."

Something was very wrong about the details surrounding Rachel's death. Her sister Pamela knew it right from the start.

Rachel was healthy and strong and independent, and her loss was devastating to her adoring family. Faced with that magnitude of grief, it would have been easy to get lost in the misery. It would have been easy to not ask the right questions. But Pamela was determined.

On Friday, June 13, she was in Atlanta picking up the belongings Rachel left behind. As Pamela rifled through Rachel's things, she noticed something missing: a pair of 3.5-carat diamond earrings. Worth about $3,000, they'd been a gift from Rachel's former boyfriend. It seemed certain that Rachel would have been wearing them. She always wore them.

pageimage-2
The hospital staff told Pamela that the earrings were not on Rachel when she arrived. So Pamela texted Warren to ask him.

The only thing Pamela knew about Warren was that he'd been with Rachel when she died. Still, she had no reason at first to doubt what he told her: that he remembered seeing the earrings on Rachel, and that he'd look around for them.

The next day, Warren texted Pamela, saying the earrings must have fallen off as the paramedics carried Rachel out of his apartment. Pamela found that hard to believe. Diamond earrings of that size screw on. It's really hard to get them off. She was so bothered by this that she took the information to the police. No one cared.

Nor did anyone seem to care when Pamela tracked down the person who, according to the police report, first called 911: the Sweet Man. For six days, Pamela left messages for Sweet. When he finally answered, he asked, "Would you like me to tell you what I saw?"

Sweet told Pamela a very different story about Rachel's death than what Warren had told police. Sweet said Warren had called him with the hope of being able to revive Rachel with cocaine. He said he'd gotten to Warren's around 3 a.m., and that Warren injected Rachel twice with the coke. That's when Rachel started having trouble breathing, Sweet claimed. He said he told Warren that Rachel was dying. Sweet also said Warren was freaking out on him and didn't want him to call 911.

Three weeks after Pamela extracted Sweet's story, police started taking Pamela seriously. Over the phone, she gave investigators both Sweet's and Warren's numbers. A few days later, she met with someone on the force who was very interested in what she had to say: APD Investigator Jeff Gunter. Pamela tipped off Gunter about the Sweet Man and the cocaine injections and the missing earrings. She mentioned other inconsistencies, too. In the police report, Warren said Rachel had only passed out for an hour and a half. But Sweet told her — and cell phone records would soon prove — that Warren called Sweet over to the apartment at 3 a.m., which meant Rachel was unconscious for five excruciating hours. Warren also initially claimed that Rachel had asked for the cocaine — and that she'd shot herself up. Impossible, Pamela said. Sweet, who brought the cocaine, said Rachel was out cold from the moment he arrived. What's more, paramedics found that only Rachel's right arm had been injected. But Pamela knew that Rachel was so uncoordinated with her left hand that she couldn't even work a remote control, let alone inject herself.

After recounting all these details to Gunter, Pamela had one thing left to say: She thanked him for being the person who finally cared enough to hear her story.

The investigation moved quickly from there. Gunter followed the leads Pamela delivered. He talked to the last of Rachel's friends to see her alive. He talked to her mother. He requested Warren's cell phone records for the 24 hours surrounding Rachel's death. And through that, he and the federal task force he linked up with soon discovered that Warren's investigation tied neatly into Batman's.

The probe into Batman and his midlevel heroin operation dated back at least four months, to March 2008, when a confidential informant working with the feds orchestrated an undercover buy from Batman — $3,000 for 20 grams of heroin. The deal went down in the informant's car, but a glare on the windshield prevented a clear surveillance video of the transaction, and the wire the informant was wearing didn't turn up anything incriminating. Two more undercover buys, for 30 and 50 grams, were similar failures.

Then investigators caught a break. Batman was pulled over for following a Honda Accord too closely on I-20. The trooper asked him to step out of the car, frisked him and found 35 grams of heroin and $10,000 in his pockets.

Batman was hauled into an interrogation room with Gunter and a fellow task force agent. He quickly confessed that he'd made at least 100 large heroin purchases and that his most recent supplier had the best smack in the state: "Pure, uncut and A-1 grade." He boasted that one user turned blue after shooting up. In addition to Rachel's death, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would later tie another fatality to Batman's heroin.

In fact, the spring of 2008 saw an unusual spike in heroin-related deaths in Fulton County, particularly among a demographic that doesn't typically show up in the coroner's files. Over a 12-day period, four young people — including 28-year-old blues prodigy Sean Costello and 21-year-old Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts — died from complications involving heroin. By comparison, only four heroin deaths were recorded in Fulton over the previous four months, and only one of the victims was younger than 30.

pageimage-3
Less than a month after their interview with Batman, investigators received the cell phone records they'd requested on Warren Ullom. In the two weeks leading up to June 6, 2008, he'd traded 90 calls with the busted heroin dealer.

And it would turn out that, following those four Fulton County fatalities in which heroin played a role, Rachel had been the next to die.

It was only after the toxicology results came back that investigators could determine how great a role Warren might have played in her death.

The toxicologist discovered heroin, alcohol and an unusually large amount of cocaine in her blood. He concluded that she was alive for at least an hour after the cocaine entered her body. The question was, could investigators prove Warren administered the cocaine without her knowledge or consent?

The answer arrived in October 2008, when Sweet walked into the federal building downtown offering to tell investigators everything he knew about the events surrounding Rachel's death. He described all of it: How he got to know Warren over the past year by selling him blow; how he introduced him to Batman when he learned Warren was into heroin; how Warren called him for help when Rachel ODed; how Warren tried to revive her with cocaine and CPR; and how Warren tried to keep the paramedics away until it was too late.

He later would show authorities the text from Warren — sent at 7:33 a.m. on June 6, 2008 — that read: "she is better no ambulance."

Sweet himself could have been prosecuted. But the fact that he voluntarily came forward and incriminated himself helped him avoid that, according to his lawyers. Sweet also agreed to call Warren several times while the feds monitored the conversation with the hope of getting Warren to open up about Rachel's death. On one occasion, Sweet met with Warren while wearing a wire. According to his attorney, John Nuckolls: "The U.S. Attorney's office saw that in order to get to the truth, there needed to be some special consideration for him."

The final autopsy report was issued shortly after Sweet turned government witness. By then, investigators and the coroner's office were ready to make a call on the level of Warren's responsibility: "Because Ms. San Inocencio's death was due to the actions of another individual," the autopsy states, "the method of death is classified as a homicide."

To round out its investigation, the government needed one more witness: Warren's now-former girlfriend. The two had been living together at the time of Rachel's death, and the ex had been sitting for months on a valuable piece of information.

Warren's girlfriend had left town hours before Rachel showed up at the apartment, but she'd left Warren money to cover his heroin addiction for the weekend. The plan was for him to try to get clean when she returned from her trip.

Warren had called his girlfriend several times the night of Rachel's death, and in November 2008, she recounted to police Warren's concern that the ODing woman had stopped breathing.

But the most interesting information she shared had to do with a pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. According to his ex, Warren showed her the earrings a few days after Rachel's death. He allegedly told her that the earrings belonged to an old flame and that they should pawn them. She agreed.

Warren's defense team vehemently denies her claim. They counter that it was the ex who came to Warren with the earrings, presumably after she found them in the apartment, and told him they were her grandmother's.

One thing is clear: On June 9, 2008, Rachel's earrings were pawned. Investigator Gunter visited the Buckhead pawnshop where the diamond studs were traded for $400. It turns out a surveillance camera perched outside had captured footage of Warren and the girlfriend walking into the store. The girlfriend's name was on the receipt, which was dated three days after Rachel's death and several days before Rachel's sister, Pamela, called Warren looking for the earrings.

In January 2009, two months after the interview with Warren's ex, Gunter and a team of fellow officers showed up at the Inman Park condo where one of Warren's bandmates lived. His father answered the door. Gunter asked if Warren was there. The man said he was.

Warren was sitting at the kitchen table, typing on a computer. Gunter ordered that he stand up. Warren complied, and was placed under arrest for distribution of heroin and cocaine, theft by taking, and the murder of Rachel San Inocencio.

page
From the time of his arrest until his sentencing a year and a half later, Warren had one primary objective. "I felt that it was my duty to do right, and to create beauty, and to celebrate existence," he says in the letter sent from prison. "There were things I felt that I needed to say to specific people, emotions so acute that they could only properly be conveyed through art, so I wrote these songs."

The songs caught the attention of Slush Fund Records founder Dave Prasse and local filmmaker George King, both of whom had a hard time reconciling the seemingly reformed young man with the depraved person described in court documents.

"Back then, he was a different person," says King, who's recorded close to 70 hours of footage and twice visited Warren in prison. "He went through this ellipse. He descended into this dark place. And then he came back."

Once he was back, King says, Warren manically tried to fill his life with meaning, knowing he was short on time.

Warren led the Judies through a frenzied pace of shows and a relentless recording schedule. The band headlined that year's Corndogorama, played the Star Bar on New Year's Eve, performed a Criminal Records in-store, released a self-titled album, and, in the days before his final court date, recorded several new tracks and videos at Prasse's Ormewood Park studio.

"While everyone in the band was handling it differently, we all had a goal that was bigger than making a record," Warren says. "We were immortalizing a moment."

On June 7, 2010 — two years and one day after Rachel died — Warren pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Fulton County Superior Court. Part of the condition of his plea was for the D.A.'s office to drop the theft charge. It was the most crucial allegation that Warren's defense team would have fought had he gone to trial. They wanted to dispel any notion that Warren let Rachel die because he was after the earrings.

"Warren didn't use any kind of good judgment that night," says the Judies' longtime manager, Kahle Davis. "But when it comes down to it, he tried like hell to save her life while respecting her instruction that no one could know she was using heroin."

Warren received a sentence of 20 years. Less than a year into his incarceration, he says he sustains himself with thoughts of making music again, and the possibility of one day being able to help young people prevent addictions.

"Maybe sharing my experiences will help prevent these kinds of tragic events," he writes. "I can see myself working with addicts who feel hopeless, a feeling I remember all too well."

It's a second chance that won't be afforded to Rachel.

In a letter filed in Batman's court file, her sister Pamela describes the ongoing trauma of Rachel's loss. She says she's not angry or looking for revenge, but that she, too, would like to see something positive come from this tragedy.

"So far, all I have seen and experienced is the most painful heartache imaginable," she writes. "Day by day we are all learning how to cope. My mom doesn't leave the house much. She calls Rachel's phone number daily. She questions her faith and battles with thoughts of what she could have done differently in her life so that Rachel would still be here today.

"Our father works the same as always. He never has taken a break except to bury his daughter. If he even hesitates I believe he will fall apart and it will all come crashing down.

"As for me, I do my best. I have faith, and that gives me comfort in knowing where she will spend eternity. It does not, however, keep me from missing her like crazy. I still cannot get my mind around the truth that Rachel is gone."

About the story: This narrative was pieced together with court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Certain names have been withheld of individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges.             13059228 2982284                          Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part II "
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Article

Thursday March 24, 2011 04:01 am EDT
Warren Ullom: A talented musician's recovery, incarceration and swan song | more...
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  string(18719) "Rachel was still breathing. She was still breathing after the ice bath. She was still breathing during the partying that continued even after she'd fallen out. (Yeah, he and the Sweet Man shot up with an ODing woman in the room.) She was still breathing when he plunged another needle into her limp right arm. Throughout all of it, for four hours or so, he convinced himself she would continue to breathe.

If statements he made to two people he spoke with that night are to be believed, Warren Ullom was aware of her breathing, breathing, breathing ... right up until she stopped.

Looking back on it now, from a sobriety of three years and an imprisonment of nine months — a mere fraction of the time he'll spend locked up for what he did that night — he doesn't have a lot to say about what happened. He was strung out in a way that's reduced his mental chronology to a series of disjointed snapshots, the majority of which are blurred beyond recognition. "An unintelligible negative to begin with" is how he describes it.

He says he doesn't remember, or isn't willing to remember, much about those hours, or that time of his life. "Just trying to delve into those frightening recesses of memory causes me more pain and remorse than anything else can, or probably ever will," he writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., 140 miles southwest of Atlanta tucked among the monotonous midstate plains.

But despite the blur of those months and days, he says one thing remains clear to him about the night Rachel died: "My actions, misguided as they were, were still based on the principle of saving her life."

Deep inside his addled brain in the predawn hours of June 6, 2008, beneath the alternating layers of murk and luster brought on by competing waves of smack and blow, he believed he had a solution. It was a solution he convinced himself would save her and keep the cops away. But he was wrong. About all of it.

He figured the Sweet Man held the key, the thing that could bring her back. What he should have done, though, was take one sober look at her and realize there was only one way she could be saved. But he wasn't one for sober looks back then. He should have listened to the Sweet Man's advice when Sweet finally tried talking sense into him. But he wasn't one to take advice back then, either.

On one level, you might say Warren was a bad person who would later do his best to become good. But when you're in that hard place, there isn't really any concept of good or bad, or how one slips from one to the other. There's just the sickness, and the distant hope that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you might someday get better.

He met her in a parking lot in Little Five Points the night before she died. Even through his personal haze, she was easy to notice. She was tall and lean and toned and strong. Her flawless olive skin and silky dark hair were at striking odds with her pale amber-green eyes. At 32, she possessed the kind of down-to-earth glamour gleaned from years spent riding horses and surfing in the South Florida sun. She was the type of girl whose boyfriends bought her expensive gifts, including a 3.5-carat pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. She was fun and daring and sweet and kind. Her name was Rachel San Inocencio.

Standing in the parking lot, what was her impression of him? He, the fashionable rocker, Bowie-androgynous and Iggy-skinny, clever in conversation and a devastatingly charismatic frontman. He was 22 years old and barefoot and wandering the warm asphalt. A mutual friend introduced them. He lowered himself to the ground, his head swimming in smack, to lie on the pavement and look at the sky. If he remembers correctly, she joined him.

Even if Warren wasn't her type, there was no doubt something magnetic about him. He was the jangly, swooning, pitch-perfect singer of a catchy rock 'n' roll band called the Judies, an act with the energetic momentum of the Walkmen and the soaring melodrama of Rufus Wainwright.

At the time Warren met Rachel, the Judies had been around for three years. They had played one of their first shows (under the short-lived moniker the Rewards) in 2005 at the old Lenny's, opening for Variac, the Selmanaires and Deerhunter. Following the show — and a house party where Warren caught his first glimpse of dreamy shoegaze rockers All the Saints — the then-19-year-old who'd been in Atlanta for a matter of months (by way of Cartersville and, before that, Cincinnati) was quickly indoctrinated into Atlanta's music scene. The four members of the Judies ran with a crowd that included Kill Gordon, Sovus Radio and Variac, and over the next few years, the band would contribute members to Ski Club, Gringo Star, Ponderosa, the N.E.C., and the Young Orchids.

pageimage-1
It was an exciting time, so much so that Warren and founding Judies drummer Mike Sprinkel could hardly contain their enthusiasm: "When we first started, Sprinkel and I had so much nervous energy that the momentum seemed to carry us off the stage and right into the next show."

Warren adopted a squirming, electrified, crawling-out-of-his-skin stage presence. For a while, before addiction got the better of him, it was a blissful, fitting release of his pent-up anxiety. "Everything is exploding and I am a powerline in a puddle," he writes of the sensation. "I see Dave and he is both totally losing it and completely holding it together at the same time, in time, and the audience is a howling, many-limbed sea monster, and in between songs you have to smile because you can't stop grinning, at the keyboard, at the floor, at Dave, back at the keyboard, at life."

As for his lyricism, it became increasingly informed by his budding drug problem. "I wrote into roughly two categories: 'reporting from the front,' and 'why am I doing this to myself?'"

His No. 1 temptation, though, was pretty girls — pretty girls who liked to party. At first, they were far more intoxicating than any of the drugs they introduced him to. Warren had more than enough friends to keep a steady stream of cocaine, mushrooms, Ecstasy, acid and Adderall flowing, and when he was hanging out with a girl, the two would spend days getting fucked up and accomplishing nothing.

In addition to playing shows and rehearsing, he managed to work full-time — and didn't sleep, even when he wanted to. Most nights, he'd find himself lying awake next to one of the girls, his heart still racing at 9 in the morning.

That's where heroin came in.

"The first time I had heroin in my veins, an 18-year-old girl put it there," he writes. "We had been hanging out, and she asked if I was interested in trying it. I was pretty dumbstruck. If she was into it, I was into it. As much as I faked cool in those days, if a girl as alluring as her was into running across the highway, well, I was into that too."

For so long, he'd had a hard time relaxing. Then, all of the sudden, he was more relaxed than ever.

"That's when the first cycle in my addiction began," he writes. "I developed a pattern of behavior where in the end, heroin was the final solution."

By the time he met Rachel two years later, he was a different person. His old weaknesses were amplified. He was strung out, bad. And there she was, a pretty girl who seemed like she wanted to have fun.

They exchanged numbers in the parking lot. She was only in Atlanta for a few more days, so why not? They agreed to meet up before she left town. Her plan was to return to the same summer job she'd held the past two years in the Hamptons. But before that, she had a more pressing obligation. On her way out of town, she needed to visit her elderly father in Milledgeville, to do his laundry and cook him enough food to fill his fridge and tide him over for a while.

Rachel was good like that. She wanted to help. She wanted to comfort. She wanted to be trusted, and she wanted to trust in return. In the eyes of those who knew her best, it was that last trait — her willingness to trust — that turned out to be her biggest downfall.

The day after the parking lot run-in, on her last night in Atlanta, Rachel cabbed it over to a girlfriend's place to talk her into going out. But her friend had cramps and wasn't feeling up to it, so Rachel decided to go out for a late bite to eat with her friend's neighbor. They ended up around the corner at the Highlander, for bar grub and a few drinks. Toward the end of dinner, Rachel got a call. She handed the phone to her dining companion. "This is Warren," she said. "He's going to give you directions to his apartment." Warren lived on Highland Avenue near Little Five Points, in a one-bedroom place his 20-year-old girlfriend recently rented. His girlfriend was out of town that weekend, but she didn't leave him empty-handed. She'd been kind enough to give him $100 to help cover his heroin habit until she got back. The plan was for him to quit using upon her return.

pageimage-2
It was nearing midnight when Rachel's ride turned off Highland onto a side street and pulled to the curb. Warren crossed the pavement to meet them, a gaunt and pretty figure cutting through the late summer night, dressed only in a pair of jeans. Rachel said goodbye to the guy behind the wheel, and she followed Warren into the darkness.

By June of 2008, Warren had been doing business with the Sweet Man for about a year. A mutual friend of theirs, a knockout blonde with a syrupy drawl, had introduced them the summer before at Sweet's old house in Kirkwood. Warren was there to buy coke, and the blonde piped up that Warren was also into heroin. Recently, he'd been scoring "boy" in the Bluff, the virtually open-air heroin market in bleak and blown-out west Atlanta. Sweet had a taste for boy, too, but he only sold blow. Still, he was happy to hook Warren up with his trusty heroin dealer, who was willing to meet clients at less sketchy locations. That was a much safer venture for a skinny white guy than the risk posed by trolling the Bluff.

Within a few months of Sweet's offer, Warren was buying heroin daily from his and Sweet's mutual dealer, "Batman." Sweet says the following spring, Warren helped Sweet shoot up. According to Sweet, it was only the second time he'd injected heroin. Up until then, he'd only snorted the stuff.

It was no surprise that things went downhill for Sweet from there. For a while, he held a decent, legit day job as a carpenter and could at least create the illusion of being a decent, legit guy. But by the time June 5, 2008, rolled around, he believed he'd hit bottom.

He'd lost his house that day and decamped to his workshop near Moreland Avenue and Memorial Drive. He was hoping to land a spot in an out-of-state drug rehab center, but when he called, they said they wouldn't have room for him for a few weeks. He'd have to float until then, to try to exist without consequence until he could get help.

He fell asleep at midnight, around the time Rachel's ride turned off of Highland Avenue.

At 3:30 a.m., he was awoken by Warren's call.

When a person ODs on heroin, there are several methods — some proven, some not — for bringing her back.

To the layperson, the most memorable of those (though far from the most advisable) is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, a bit of drug lore dramatized in Pulp Fiction. Upon receiving the injection, a brink-of-death Uma Thurman bolts upright, hypodermic dangling from her chest, and responds to the command "If you're alright, then say something," with a rattled "... something?"

Adrenaline is essentially speed. So is cocaine. And a junkie's logic can allow for a certain leap in which he can convince himself that a shot of cocaine could do wonders to revive the victim of a heroin overdose in the same way adrenaline can.

Heroin depresses the central nervous system. It slows your pulse and your breathing, which can kill you on its own. But it can kill you even more easily when mixed with other drugs, particularly cocaine.

Cocaine increases your pulse, often resulting in an uneven heartbeat. That abnormality, coupled with the slowed heart rate brought on by heroin, can create extraordinarily erratic blood flow to the body's internal organs, including the brain. For that reason, cocaine doesn't necessarily counteract the effects of heroin. Often, it complicates them.

Warren didn't know about any of that when he woke the Sweet Man that June morning in 2008. According to Sweet, Warren's hope, his grand plan, was to bring her back with cocaine — which meant he needed Sweet to supply some.

Sweet would later say he was reluctant. He'd been doing drugs all day and was worn out. But he would claim that Warren was convincing. Warren promised to pay Sweet well — a somewhat uncharacteristic claim, considering that, to Sweet's knowledge, Warren was usually pretty broke. Sweet told Warren that he was in no condition to drive. Warren countered that he'd cover Sweet's cab fare.

While waiting on the cab, Sweet grabbed two tiny pink baggies of cocaine, a half-gram each. He also pocketed some heroin and cocaine for himself.

Fifteen minutes later, Sweet stepped out of the cab. As promised, Warren was waiting and paid the cabbie. Sweet would later say that when he walked inside, this is the sight he was met with: Rachel on the couch, pale and unconscious, clad only in her panties. On the end table near the couch, there were a few small blue baggies — blue for boy. They were the kind Batman used to package heroin.

page
Warren told Sweet that Rachel had used just a small amount of boy. Look, he would later recall Warren saying, "She's breathing."

"Will she be OK?" Sweet asked.

"She's fine," Warren answered.

According to Sweet, Warren said he'd found himself in a similar situation with another woman. On that occasion, Warren said, he'd injected the woman with cocaine and her condition improved. It would be the same with Rachel.

Sweet handed Warren the two pink baggies of coke in exchange for $80. Before Warren had the chance to inject Rachel with the supposed antidote, Sweet went ahead and shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail.

From that point on, both Sweet and Warren were pretty far gone. Sweet would later recall that, looking down from his high, in the rare flashes of lucidity between stretches of drugged-out slumber, he saw Rachel continue to breathe, slowly. He would remember her mumbling incoherently here and there. He would claim to have noticed Warren injecting her with a second round of cocaine. He would say he observed Warren performing CPR on Rachel, and that she was fading.

At 7 a.m., three hours after he arrived, Sweet sat up, looked at Rachel and noticed she was turning blue. "This girl is dying," he told Warren. He said they needed to call 911.

They argued. Sweet says Warren wanted him to go home and get his pickup truck so the two could take Rachel to a hospital and drop her off. Sweet begrudgingly agreed. He says he believed Rachel was still breathing when he walked outside. But he did not go get his truck. Instead, he called 911.

At about that time, Warren's girlfriend called. She would later recall that Warren told her there was a woman in the apartment, that the woman had ODed, that she'd stopped breathing. He mentioned that someone else was at the apartment. He mentioned a pickup truck. His girlfriend was confused by him; he was borderline incoherent.

"Take her to the hospital," she recalls saying.

Warren hung up, called her back and hung up again. His girlfriend tried to get back through to him, but he was growing increasingly incomprehensible. Finally, Warren hung up on her.

Meanwhile, on the line with the 911 operator, Sweet, reeling from the buzz of drugs and blur of lack of sleep, relayed as best he could directions to Warren's apartment. He hung up and called Warren, telling him to get rid of any drugs left in the apartment because the paramedics were on the way. As he walked away from the scene, he heard the sirens screaming.

It's impossible to say for sure, but there's a chance that, had the ambulance found Warren's apartment at that moment, Rachel might have lived. But the ambulance was adrift. The driver had a general location based on what Sweet had told 911, but Sweet didn't give an exact address. The operator called Sweet back to say the driver couldn't find the place. But Sweet was blocks away by then and didn't know Warren's street number.

Around that time, Sweet got a text from Warren — a text that, four months later, he would show his lawyers and several federal prosecutors: "she is better no ambulance."

After circling the block a few times, the ambulance was called off. Over the next 25 minutes, Warren and Sweet called each other eight times. Then, almost exactly a half-hour after sending the text to call off the ambulance — and nearly five hours after making his initial distress call to Sweet — Warren finally called 911.

When the ambulance drew near, the paramedics saw Warren standing on the curb, flagging them down.

The EMTs hurried inside. They found Rachel propped up on the couch, slightly leaned over. She was soaking wet and wearing a T-shirt and panties. Her right arm was streaked with needle marks. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

Paramedics performed CPR and injected Rachel's left arm — which was clean of track marks — with epinephrine and atropine, drugs intended to kick-start her heart. Warren informed them Rachel had shot up with heroin four times and "went to sleep" about an hour-and-a-half earlier. He said he'd dumped cold water on her to try to wake her up.

The paramedics pulled Rachel's ID from her purse on the floor, loaded her onto a stretcher and rushed her into the rear of the ambulance. As they left, they saw Warren in front of the apartment building, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. He wrote, "We love Rachel." 

ABOUT THE STORY: This narrative was pieced together using court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Names have been withheld of certain individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Rachel's loved ones urge authorities to take a closer look at what police initially viewed as a run-of-the-mill overdose; a federal task force catches up with Warren and Sweet's dealer, "Batman," who'd been slinging a killer batch of high-purity heroin; Sweet wears a wire as part of an undercover investigation; and Warren gets clean — and races to record something meaningful — before confronting his fate."
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  string(18777) "Rachel was still breathing. She was still breathing after the ice bath. She was still breathing during the partying that continued even after she'd fallen out. (Yeah, he and the Sweet Man shot up with an ODing woman in the room.) She was still breathing when he plunged another needle into her limp right arm. Throughout all of it, for four hours or so, he convinced himself she would continue to breathe.

If statements he made to two people he spoke with that night are to be believed, Warren Ullom was aware of her breathing, breathing, breathing ... right up until she stopped.

Looking back on it now, from a sobriety of three years and an imprisonment of nine months — a mere fraction of the time he'll spend locked up for what he did that night — he doesn't have a lot to say about what happened. He was strung out in a way that's reduced his mental chronology to a series of disjointed snapshots, the majority of which are blurred beyond recognition. "An unintelligible negative to begin with" is how he describes it.

He says he doesn't remember, or isn't willing to remember, much about those hours, or that time of his life. "Just trying to delve into those frightening recesses of memory causes me more pain and remorse than anything else can, or probably ever will," he writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., 140 miles southwest of Atlanta tucked among the monotonous midstate plains.

But despite the blur of those months and days, he says one thing remains clear to him about the night Rachel died: "My actions, misguided as they were, were still based on the principle of saving her life."

Deep inside his addled brain in the predawn hours of June 6, 2008, beneath the alternating layers of murk and luster brought on by competing waves of smack and blow, he believed he had a solution. It was a solution he convinced himself would save her ''and'' keep the cops away. But he was wrong. About all of it.

He figured the Sweet Man held the key, the thing that could bring her back. What he should have done, though, was take one sober look at her and realize there was only one way she could be saved. But he wasn't one for sober looks back then. He should have listened to the Sweet Man's advice when Sweet finally tried talking sense into him. But he wasn't one to take advice back then, either.

On one level, you might say Warren was a bad person who would later do his best to become good. But when you're in that hard place, there isn't really any concept of good or bad, or how one slips from one to the other. There's just the sickness, and the distant hope that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you might someday get better.

__He met her in a parking lot__ in Little Five Points the night before she died. Even through his personal haze, she was easy to notice. She was tall and lean and toned and strong. Her flawless olive skin and silky dark hair were at striking odds with her pale amber-green eyes. At 32, she possessed the kind of down-to-earth glamour gleaned from years spent riding horses and surfing in the South Florida sun. She was the type of girl whose boyfriends bought her expensive gifts, including a 3.5-carat pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. She was fun and daring and sweet and kind. Her name was Rachel San Inocencio.

Standing in the parking lot, what was her impression of him? He, the fashionable rocker, Bowie-androgynous and Iggy-skinny, clever in conversation and a devastatingly charismatic frontman. He was 22 years old and barefoot and wandering the warm asphalt. A mutual friend introduced them. He lowered himself to the ground, his head swimming in smack, to lie on the pavement and look at the sky. If he remembers correctly, she joined him.

Even if Warren wasn't her type, there was no doubt something magnetic about him. He was the jangly, swooning, pitch-perfect singer of a catchy rock 'n' roll band called the Judies, an act with the energetic momentum of the Walkmen and the soaring melodrama of Rufus Wainwright.

At the time Warren met Rachel, the Judies had been around for three years. They had played one of their first shows (under the short-lived moniker the Rewards) in 2005 at the old Lenny's, opening for Variac, the Selmanaires and Deerhunter. Following the show — and a house party where Warren caught his first glimpse of dreamy shoegaze rockers All the Saints — the then-19-year-old who'd been in Atlanta for a matter of months (by way of Cartersville and, before that, Cincinnati) was quickly indoctrinated into Atlanta's music scene. The four members of the Judies ran with a crowd that included Kill Gordon, Sovus Radio and Variac, and over the next few years, the band would contribute members to Ski Club, Gringo Star, Ponderosa, the N.E.C., and the Young Orchids.

[page][image-1]
It was an exciting time, so much so that Warren and founding Judies drummer Mike Sprinkel could hardly contain their enthusiasm: "When we first started, Sprinkel and I had so much nervous energy that the momentum seemed to carry us off the stage and right into the next show."

Warren adopted a squirming, electrified, crawling-out-of-his-skin stage presence. For a while, before addiction got the better of him, it was a blissful, fitting release of his pent-up anxiety. "Everything is exploding and I am a powerline in a puddle," he writes of the sensation. "I see Dave and he is both totally losing it and completely holding it together at the same time, in time, and the audience is a howling, many-limbed sea monster, and in between songs you have to smile because you can't stop grinning, at the keyboard, at the floor, at Dave, back at the keyboard, at life."

As for his lyricism, it became increasingly informed by his budding drug problem. "I wrote into roughly two categories: 'reporting from the front,' and 'why am I doing this to myself?'"

His No. 1 temptation, though, was pretty girls — pretty girls who liked to party. At first, they were far more intoxicating than any of the drugs they introduced him to. Warren had more than enough friends to keep a steady stream of cocaine, mushrooms, Ecstasy, acid and Adderall flowing, and when he was hanging out with a girl, the two would spend days getting fucked up and accomplishing nothing.

In addition to playing shows and rehearsing, he managed to work full-time — and didn't sleep, even when he wanted to. Most nights, he'd find himself lying awake next to one of the girls, his heart still racing at 9 in the morning.

That's where heroin came in.

"The first time I had heroin in my veins, an 18-year-old girl put it there," he writes. "We had been hanging out, and she asked if I was interested in trying it. I was pretty dumbstruck. If she was into it, I was into it. As much as I faked cool in those days, if a girl as alluring as her was into running across the highway, well, I was into that too."

For so long, he'd had a hard time relaxing. Then, all of the sudden, he was more relaxed than ever.

"That's when the first cycle in my addiction began," he writes. "I developed a pattern of behavior where in the end, heroin was the final solution."

By the time he met Rachel two years later, he was a different person. His old weaknesses were amplified. He was strung out, bad. And there she was, a pretty girl who seemed like she wanted to have fun.

They exchanged numbers in the parking lot. She was only in Atlanta for a few more days, so why not? They agreed to meet up before she left town. Her plan was to return to the same summer job she'd held the past two years in the Hamptons. But before that, she had a more pressing obligation. On her way out of town, she needed to visit her elderly father in Milledgeville, to do his laundry and cook him enough food to fill his fridge and tide him over for a while.

Rachel was good like that. She wanted to help. She wanted to comfort. She wanted to be trusted, and she wanted to trust in return. In the eyes of those who knew her best, it was that last trait — her willingness to trust — that turned out to be her biggest downfall.

The day after the parking lot run-in, on her last night in Atlanta, Rachel cabbed it over to a girlfriend's place to talk her into going out. But her friend had cramps and wasn't feeling up to it, so Rachel decided to go out for a late bite to eat with her friend's neighbor. They ended up around the corner at the Highlander, for bar grub and a few drinks. Toward the end of dinner, Rachel got a call. She handed the phone to her dining companion. "This is Warren," she said. "He's going to give you directions to his apartment." Warren lived on Highland Avenue near Little Five Points, in a one-bedroom place his 20-year-old girlfriend recently rented. His girlfriend was out of town that weekend, but she didn't leave him empty-handed. She'd been kind enough to give him $100 to help cover his heroin habit until she got back. The plan was for him to quit using upon her return.

[page][image-2]
It was nearing midnight when Rachel's ride turned off Highland onto a side street and pulled to the curb. Warren crossed the pavement to meet them, a gaunt and pretty figure cutting through the late summer night, dressed only in a pair of jeans. Rachel said goodbye to the guy behind the wheel, and she followed Warren into the darkness.

__By June of 2008__, Warren had been doing business with the Sweet Man for about a year. A mutual friend of theirs, a knockout blonde with a syrupy drawl, had introduced them the summer before at Sweet's old house in Kirkwood. Warren was there to buy coke, and the blonde piped up that Warren was also into heroin. Recently, he'd been scoring "boy" in the Bluff, the virtually open-air heroin market in bleak and blown-out west Atlanta. Sweet had a taste for boy, too, but he only sold blow. Still, he was happy to hook Warren up with his trusty heroin dealer, who was willing to meet clients at less sketchy locations. That was a much safer venture for a skinny white guy than the risk posed by trolling the Bluff.

Within a few months of Sweet's offer, Warren was buying heroin daily from his and Sweet's mutual dealer, "Batman." Sweet says the following spring, Warren helped Sweet shoot up. According to Sweet, it was only the second time he'd injected heroin. Up until then, he'd only snorted the stuff.

It was no surprise that things went downhill for Sweet from there. For a while, he held a decent, legit day job as a carpenter and could at least create the illusion of being a decent, legit guy. But by the time June 5, 2008, rolled around, he believed he'd hit bottom.

He'd lost his house that day and decamped to his workshop near Moreland Avenue and Memorial Drive. He was hoping to land a spot in an out-of-state drug rehab center, but when he called, they said they wouldn't have room for him for a few weeks. He'd have to float until then, to try to exist without consequence until he could get help.

He fell asleep at midnight, around the time Rachel's ride turned off of Highland Avenue.

At 3:30 a.m., he was awoken by Warren's call.

__When a person ODs on heroin__, there are several methods — some proven, some not — for bringing her back.

To the layperson, the most memorable of those (though far from the most advisable) is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, a bit of drug lore dramatized in ''Pulp Fiction''. Upon receiving the injection, a brink-of-death Uma Thurman bolts upright, hypodermic dangling from her chest, and responds to the command "If you're alright, then say something," with a rattled "... something?"

Adrenaline is essentially speed. So is cocaine. And a junkie's logic can allow for a certain leap in which he can convince himself that a shot of cocaine could do wonders to revive the victim of a heroin overdose in the same way adrenaline can.

Heroin depresses the central nervous system. It slows your pulse and your breathing, which can kill you on its own. But it can kill you even more easily when mixed with other drugs, particularly cocaine.

Cocaine increases your pulse, often resulting in an uneven heartbeat. That abnormality, coupled with the slowed heart rate brought on by heroin, can create extraordinarily erratic blood flow to the body's internal organs, including the brain. For that reason, cocaine doesn't necessarily counteract the effects of heroin. Often, it complicates them.

Warren didn't know about any of that when he woke the Sweet Man that June morning in 2008. According to Sweet, Warren's hope, his grand plan, was to bring her back with cocaine — which meant he needed Sweet to supply some.

Sweet would later say he was reluctant. He'd been doing drugs all day and was worn out. But he would claim that Warren was convincing. Warren promised to pay Sweet well — a somewhat uncharacteristic claim, considering that, to Sweet's knowledge, Warren was usually pretty broke. Sweet told Warren that he was in no condition to drive. Warren countered that he'd cover Sweet's cab fare.

While waiting on the cab, Sweet grabbed two tiny pink baggies of cocaine, a half-gram each. He also pocketed some heroin and cocaine for himself.

Fifteen minutes later, Sweet stepped out of the cab. As promised, Warren was waiting and paid the cabbie. Sweet would later say that when he walked inside, this is the sight he was met with: Rachel on the couch, pale and unconscious, clad only in her panties. On the end table near the couch, there were a few small blue baggies — blue for boy. They were the kind Batman used to package heroin.

[page]
Warren told Sweet that Rachel had used just a small amount of boy. Look, he would later recall Warren saying, "She's breathing."

"Will she be OK?" Sweet asked.

"She's fine," Warren answered.

According to Sweet, Warren said he'd found himself in a similar situation with another woman. On that occasion, Warren said, he'd injected the woman with cocaine and her condition improved. It would be the same with Rachel.

Sweet handed Warren the two pink baggies of coke in exchange for $80. Before Warren had the chance to inject Rachel with the supposed antidote, Sweet went ahead and shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail.

From that point on, both Sweet and Warren were pretty far gone. Sweet would later recall that, looking down from his high, in the rare flashes of lucidity between stretches of drugged-out slumber, he saw Rachel continue to breathe, slowly. He would remember her mumbling incoherently here and there. He would claim to have noticed Warren injecting her with a second round of cocaine. He would say he observed Warren performing CPR on Rachel, and that she was fading.

At 7 a.m., three hours after he arrived, Sweet sat up, looked at Rachel and noticed she was turning blue. "This girl is dying," he told Warren. He said they needed to call 911.

They argued. Sweet says Warren wanted him to go home and get his pickup truck so the two could take Rachel to a hospital and drop her off. Sweet begrudgingly agreed. He says he believed Rachel was still breathing when he walked outside. But he did not go get his truck. Instead, he called 911.

At about that time, Warren's girlfriend called. She would later recall that Warren told her there was a woman in the apartment, that the woman had ODed, that she'd stopped breathing. He mentioned that someone else was at the apartment. He mentioned a pickup truck. His girlfriend was confused by him; he was borderline incoherent.

"Take her to the hospital," she recalls saying.

Warren hung up, called her back and hung up again. His girlfriend tried to get back through to him, but he was growing increasingly incomprehensible. Finally, Warren hung up on her.

Meanwhile, on the line with the 911 operator, Sweet, reeling from the buzz of drugs and blur of lack of sleep, relayed as best he could directions to Warren's apartment. He hung up and called Warren, telling him to get rid of any drugs left in the apartment because the paramedics were on the way. As he walked away from the scene, he heard the sirens screaming.

__It's impossible to say for sure__, but there's a chance that, had the ambulance found Warren's apartment at that moment, Rachel might have lived. But the ambulance was adrift. The driver had a general location based on what Sweet had told 911, but Sweet didn't give an exact address. The operator called Sweet back to say the driver couldn't find the place. But Sweet was blocks away by then and didn't know Warren's street number.

Around that time, Sweet got a text from Warren — a text that, four months later, he would show his lawyers and several federal prosecutors: "she is better no ambulance."

After circling the block a few times, the ambulance was called off. Over the next 25 minutes, Warren and Sweet called each other eight times. Then, almost exactly a half-hour after sending the text to call off the ambulance — and nearly five hours after making his initial distress call to Sweet — Warren finally called 911.

When the ambulance drew near, the paramedics saw Warren standing on the curb, flagging them down.

The EMTs hurried inside. They found Rachel propped up on the couch, slightly leaned over. She was soaking wet and wearing a T-shirt and panties. Her right arm was streaked with needle marks. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

Paramedics performed CPR and injected Rachel's left arm — which was clean of track marks — with epinephrine and atropine, drugs intended to kick-start her heart. Warren informed them Rachel had shot up with heroin four times and "went to sleep" about an hour-and-a-half earlier. He said he'd dumped cold water on her to try to wake her up.

The paramedics pulled Rachel's ID from her purse on the floor, loaded her onto a stretcher and rushed her into the rear of the ambulance. As they left, they saw Warren in front of the apartment building, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. He wrote, "We love Rachel." 

__ABOUT THE STORY:__ ''This narrative was pieced together using court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Names have been withheld of certain individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges.''

__''COMING NEXT WEEK''__'':'' ''Rachel's loved ones urge authorities to take a closer look at what police initially viewed as a run-of-the-mill overdose; a federal task force catches up with Warren and Sweet's dealer, "Batman," who'd been slinging a killer batch of high-purity heroin; Sweet wears a wire as part of an undercover investigation; and Warren gets clean — and races to record something meaningful — before confronting his fate.''"
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  string(19043) "    A talented musician. A beautiful woman. A fatal cocktail of heroin and cocaine.   2011-03-17T08:01:00+00:00 Warren Ullom: Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part I   Mara Shalhoup 1223634 2011-03-17T08:01:00+00:00  Rachel was still breathing. She was still breathing after the ice bath. She was still breathing during the partying that continued even after she'd fallen out. (Yeah, he and the Sweet Man shot up with an ODing woman in the room.) She was still breathing when he plunged another needle into her limp right arm. Throughout all of it, for four hours or so, he convinced himself she would continue to breathe.

If statements he made to two people he spoke with that night are to be believed, Warren Ullom was aware of her breathing, breathing, breathing ... right up until she stopped.

Looking back on it now, from a sobriety of three years and an imprisonment of nine months — a mere fraction of the time he'll spend locked up for what he did that night — he doesn't have a lot to say about what happened. He was strung out in a way that's reduced his mental chronology to a series of disjointed snapshots, the majority of which are blurred beyond recognition. "An unintelligible negative to begin with" is how he describes it.

He says he doesn't remember, or isn't willing to remember, much about those hours, or that time of his life. "Just trying to delve into those frightening recesses of memory causes me more pain and remorse than anything else can, or probably ever will," he writes in a letter sent from Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Ga., 140 miles southwest of Atlanta tucked among the monotonous midstate plains.

But despite the blur of those months and days, he says one thing remains clear to him about the night Rachel died: "My actions, misguided as they were, were still based on the principle of saving her life."

Deep inside his addled brain in the predawn hours of June 6, 2008, beneath the alternating layers of murk and luster brought on by competing waves of smack and blow, he believed he had a solution. It was a solution he convinced himself would save her and keep the cops away. But he was wrong. About all of it.

He figured the Sweet Man held the key, the thing that could bring her back. What he should have done, though, was take one sober look at her and realize there was only one way she could be saved. But he wasn't one for sober looks back then. He should have listened to the Sweet Man's advice when Sweet finally tried talking sense into him. But he wasn't one to take advice back then, either.

On one level, you might say Warren was a bad person who would later do his best to become good. But when you're in that hard place, there isn't really any concept of good or bad, or how one slips from one to the other. There's just the sickness, and the distant hope that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you might someday get better.

He met her in a parking lot in Little Five Points the night before she died. Even through his personal haze, she was easy to notice. She was tall and lean and toned and strong. Her flawless olive skin and silky dark hair were at striking odds with her pale amber-green eyes. At 32, she possessed the kind of down-to-earth glamour gleaned from years spent riding horses and surfing in the South Florida sun. She was the type of girl whose boyfriends bought her expensive gifts, including a 3.5-carat pair of princess-cut diamond earrings. She was fun and daring and sweet and kind. Her name was Rachel San Inocencio.

Standing in the parking lot, what was her impression of him? He, the fashionable rocker, Bowie-androgynous and Iggy-skinny, clever in conversation and a devastatingly charismatic frontman. He was 22 years old and barefoot and wandering the warm asphalt. A mutual friend introduced them. He lowered himself to the ground, his head swimming in smack, to lie on the pavement and look at the sky. If he remembers correctly, she joined him.

Even if Warren wasn't her type, there was no doubt something magnetic about him. He was the jangly, swooning, pitch-perfect singer of a catchy rock 'n' roll band called the Judies, an act with the energetic momentum of the Walkmen and the soaring melodrama of Rufus Wainwright.

At the time Warren met Rachel, the Judies had been around for three years. They had played one of their first shows (under the short-lived moniker the Rewards) in 2005 at the old Lenny's, opening for Variac, the Selmanaires and Deerhunter. Following the show — and a house party where Warren caught his first glimpse of dreamy shoegaze rockers All the Saints — the then-19-year-old who'd been in Atlanta for a matter of months (by way of Cartersville and, before that, Cincinnati) was quickly indoctrinated into Atlanta's music scene. The four members of the Judies ran with a crowd that included Kill Gordon, Sovus Radio and Variac, and over the next few years, the band would contribute members to Ski Club, Gringo Star, Ponderosa, the N.E.C., and the Young Orchids.

pageimage-1
It was an exciting time, so much so that Warren and founding Judies drummer Mike Sprinkel could hardly contain their enthusiasm: "When we first started, Sprinkel and I had so much nervous energy that the momentum seemed to carry us off the stage and right into the next show."

Warren adopted a squirming, electrified, crawling-out-of-his-skin stage presence. For a while, before addiction got the better of him, it was a blissful, fitting release of his pent-up anxiety. "Everything is exploding and I am a powerline in a puddle," he writes of the sensation. "I see Dave and he is both totally losing it and completely holding it together at the same time, in time, and the audience is a howling, many-limbed sea monster, and in between songs you have to smile because you can't stop grinning, at the keyboard, at the floor, at Dave, back at the keyboard, at life."

As for his lyricism, it became increasingly informed by his budding drug problem. "I wrote into roughly two categories: 'reporting from the front,' and 'why am I doing this to myself?'"

His No. 1 temptation, though, was pretty girls — pretty girls who liked to party. At first, they were far more intoxicating than any of the drugs they introduced him to. Warren had more than enough friends to keep a steady stream of cocaine, mushrooms, Ecstasy, acid and Adderall flowing, and when he was hanging out with a girl, the two would spend days getting fucked up and accomplishing nothing.

In addition to playing shows and rehearsing, he managed to work full-time — and didn't sleep, even when he wanted to. Most nights, he'd find himself lying awake next to one of the girls, his heart still racing at 9 in the morning.

That's where heroin came in.

"The first time I had heroin in my veins, an 18-year-old girl put it there," he writes. "We had been hanging out, and she asked if I was interested in trying it. I was pretty dumbstruck. If she was into it, I was into it. As much as I faked cool in those days, if a girl as alluring as her was into running across the highway, well, I was into that too."

For so long, he'd had a hard time relaxing. Then, all of the sudden, he was more relaxed than ever.

"That's when the first cycle in my addiction began," he writes. "I developed a pattern of behavior where in the end, heroin was the final solution."

By the time he met Rachel two years later, he was a different person. His old weaknesses were amplified. He was strung out, bad. And there she was, a pretty girl who seemed like she wanted to have fun.

They exchanged numbers in the parking lot. She was only in Atlanta for a few more days, so why not? They agreed to meet up before she left town. Her plan was to return to the same summer job she'd held the past two years in the Hamptons. But before that, she had a more pressing obligation. On her way out of town, she needed to visit her elderly father in Milledgeville, to do his laundry and cook him enough food to fill his fridge and tide him over for a while.

Rachel was good like that. She wanted to help. She wanted to comfort. She wanted to be trusted, and she wanted to trust in return. In the eyes of those who knew her best, it was that last trait — her willingness to trust — that turned out to be her biggest downfall.

The day after the parking lot run-in, on her last night in Atlanta, Rachel cabbed it over to a girlfriend's place to talk her into going out. But her friend had cramps and wasn't feeling up to it, so Rachel decided to go out for a late bite to eat with her friend's neighbor. They ended up around the corner at the Highlander, for bar grub and a few drinks. Toward the end of dinner, Rachel got a call. She handed the phone to her dining companion. "This is Warren," she said. "He's going to give you directions to his apartment." Warren lived on Highland Avenue near Little Five Points, in a one-bedroom place his 20-year-old girlfriend recently rented. His girlfriend was out of town that weekend, but she didn't leave him empty-handed. She'd been kind enough to give him $100 to help cover his heroin habit until she got back. The plan was for him to quit using upon her return.

pageimage-2
It was nearing midnight when Rachel's ride turned off Highland onto a side street and pulled to the curb. Warren crossed the pavement to meet them, a gaunt and pretty figure cutting through the late summer night, dressed only in a pair of jeans. Rachel said goodbye to the guy behind the wheel, and she followed Warren into the darkness.

By June of 2008, Warren had been doing business with the Sweet Man for about a year. A mutual friend of theirs, a knockout blonde with a syrupy drawl, had introduced them the summer before at Sweet's old house in Kirkwood. Warren was there to buy coke, and the blonde piped up that Warren was also into heroin. Recently, he'd been scoring "boy" in the Bluff, the virtually open-air heroin market in bleak and blown-out west Atlanta. Sweet had a taste for boy, too, but he only sold blow. Still, he was happy to hook Warren up with his trusty heroin dealer, who was willing to meet clients at less sketchy locations. That was a much safer venture for a skinny white guy than the risk posed by trolling the Bluff.

Within a few months of Sweet's offer, Warren was buying heroin daily from his and Sweet's mutual dealer, "Batman." Sweet says the following spring, Warren helped Sweet shoot up. According to Sweet, it was only the second time he'd injected heroin. Up until then, he'd only snorted the stuff.

It was no surprise that things went downhill for Sweet from there. For a while, he held a decent, legit day job as a carpenter and could at least create the illusion of being a decent, legit guy. But by the time June 5, 2008, rolled around, he believed he'd hit bottom.

He'd lost his house that day and decamped to his workshop near Moreland Avenue and Memorial Drive. He was hoping to land a spot in an out-of-state drug rehab center, but when he called, they said they wouldn't have room for him for a few weeks. He'd have to float until then, to try to exist without consequence until he could get help.

He fell asleep at midnight, around the time Rachel's ride turned off of Highland Avenue.

At 3:30 a.m., he was awoken by Warren's call.

When a person ODs on heroin, there are several methods — some proven, some not — for bringing her back.

To the layperson, the most memorable of those (though far from the most advisable) is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, a bit of drug lore dramatized in Pulp Fiction. Upon receiving the injection, a brink-of-death Uma Thurman bolts upright, hypodermic dangling from her chest, and responds to the command "If you're alright, then say something," with a rattled "... something?"

Adrenaline is essentially speed. So is cocaine. And a junkie's logic can allow for a certain leap in which he can convince himself that a shot of cocaine could do wonders to revive the victim of a heroin overdose in the same way adrenaline can.

Heroin depresses the central nervous system. It slows your pulse and your breathing, which can kill you on its own. But it can kill you even more easily when mixed with other drugs, particularly cocaine.

Cocaine increases your pulse, often resulting in an uneven heartbeat. That abnormality, coupled with the slowed heart rate brought on by heroin, can create extraordinarily erratic blood flow to the body's internal organs, including the brain. For that reason, cocaine doesn't necessarily counteract the effects of heroin. Often, it complicates them.

Warren didn't know about any of that when he woke the Sweet Man that June morning in 2008. According to Sweet, Warren's hope, his grand plan, was to bring her back with cocaine — which meant he needed Sweet to supply some.

Sweet would later say he was reluctant. He'd been doing drugs all day and was worn out. But he would claim that Warren was convincing. Warren promised to pay Sweet well — a somewhat uncharacteristic claim, considering that, to Sweet's knowledge, Warren was usually pretty broke. Sweet told Warren that he was in no condition to drive. Warren countered that he'd cover Sweet's cab fare.

While waiting on the cab, Sweet grabbed two tiny pink baggies of cocaine, a half-gram each. He also pocketed some heroin and cocaine for himself.

Fifteen minutes later, Sweet stepped out of the cab. As promised, Warren was waiting and paid the cabbie. Sweet would later say that when he walked inside, this is the sight he was met with: Rachel on the couch, pale and unconscious, clad only in her panties. On the end table near the couch, there were a few small blue baggies — blue for boy. They were the kind Batman used to package heroin.

page
Warren told Sweet that Rachel had used just a small amount of boy. Look, he would later recall Warren saying, "She's breathing."

"Will she be OK?" Sweet asked.

"She's fine," Warren answered.

According to Sweet, Warren said he'd found himself in a similar situation with another woman. On that occasion, Warren said, he'd injected the woman with cocaine and her condition improved. It would be the same with Rachel.

Sweet handed Warren the two pink baggies of coke in exchange for $80. Before Warren had the chance to inject Rachel with the supposed antidote, Sweet went ahead and shot up his own heroin-cocaine cocktail.

From that point on, both Sweet and Warren were pretty far gone. Sweet would later recall that, looking down from his high, in the rare flashes of lucidity between stretches of drugged-out slumber, he saw Rachel continue to breathe, slowly. He would remember her mumbling incoherently here and there. He would claim to have noticed Warren injecting her with a second round of cocaine. He would say he observed Warren performing CPR on Rachel, and that she was fading.

At 7 a.m., three hours after he arrived, Sweet sat up, looked at Rachel and noticed she was turning blue. "This girl is dying," he told Warren. He said they needed to call 911.

They argued. Sweet says Warren wanted him to go home and get his pickup truck so the two could take Rachel to a hospital and drop her off. Sweet begrudgingly agreed. He says he believed Rachel was still breathing when he walked outside. But he did not go get his truck. Instead, he called 911.

At about that time, Warren's girlfriend called. She would later recall that Warren told her there was a woman in the apartment, that the woman had ODed, that she'd stopped breathing. He mentioned that someone else was at the apartment. He mentioned a pickup truck. His girlfriend was confused by him; he was borderline incoherent.

"Take her to the hospital," she recalls saying.

Warren hung up, called her back and hung up again. His girlfriend tried to get back through to him, but he was growing increasingly incomprehensible. Finally, Warren hung up on her.

Meanwhile, on the line with the 911 operator, Sweet, reeling from the buzz of drugs and blur of lack of sleep, relayed as best he could directions to Warren's apartment. He hung up and called Warren, telling him to get rid of any drugs left in the apartment because the paramedics were on the way. As he walked away from the scene, he heard the sirens screaming.

It's impossible to say for sure, but there's a chance that, had the ambulance found Warren's apartment at that moment, Rachel might have lived. But the ambulance was adrift. The driver had a general location based on what Sweet had told 911, but Sweet didn't give an exact address. The operator called Sweet back to say the driver couldn't find the place. But Sweet was blocks away by then and didn't know Warren's street number.

Around that time, Sweet got a text from Warren — a text that, four months later, he would show his lawyers and several federal prosecutors: "she is better no ambulance."

After circling the block a few times, the ambulance was called off. Over the next 25 minutes, Warren and Sweet called each other eight times. Then, almost exactly a half-hour after sending the text to call off the ambulance — and nearly five hours after making his initial distress call to Sweet — Warren finally called 911.

When the ambulance drew near, the paramedics saw Warren standing on the curb, flagging them down.

The EMTs hurried inside. They found Rachel propped up on the couch, slightly leaned over. She was soaking wet and wearing a T-shirt and panties. Her right arm was streaked with needle marks. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

Paramedics performed CPR and injected Rachel's left arm — which was clean of track marks — with epinephrine and atropine, drugs intended to kick-start her heart. Warren informed them Rachel had shot up with heroin four times and "went to sleep" about an hour-and-a-half earlier. He said he'd dumped cold water on her to try to wake her up.

The paramedics pulled Rachel's ID from her purse on the floor, loaded her onto a stretcher and rushed her into the rear of the ambulance. As they left, they saw Warren in front of the apartment building, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. He wrote, "We love Rachel." 

ABOUT THE STORY: This narrative was pieced together using court records, medical documents, autopsy reports, a dozen on- and off-the-record interviews, and a letter sent by Warren Ullom in response to a list of questions about his addiction, his crime and his recovery. Names have been withheld of certain individuals who were accused of wrongdoing but did not face criminal charges.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Rachel's loved ones urge authorities to take a closer look at what police initially viewed as a run-of-the-mill overdose; a federal task force catches up with Warren and Sweet's dealer, "Batman," who'd been slinging a killer batch of high-purity heroin; Sweet wears a wire as part of an undercover investigation; and Warren gets clean — and races to record something meaningful — before confronting his fate.             13059078 2953058                          Warren Ullom: Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part I "
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Thursday March 17, 2011 04:01 am EDT
A talented musician. A beautiful woman. A fatal cocktail of heroin and cocaine. | more...
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  string(3051) "It's 6:36 p.m. on March 6, and I'm mid-flight between the place where I spent 23 years of my life and the one that will be my new home. I am, quite literally, suspended between my future and my past.

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Mara Shalhoup, whose last CL cover story will appear in these pages next week, was staff writer, news editor, senior writer, senior editor and, up until last Friday, editor-in-chief at Creative Loafing. She is now editor of CL's sister publication the Chicago Reader."
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Mara Shalhoup, whose last CL cover story will appear in these pages next week, was staff writer, news editor, senior writer, senior editor and, up until last Friday, editor-in-chief at Creative Loafing. She is now editor of CL's sister publication the Chicago Reader.             13058886 2910476                          Opinion - A goodbye, without regrets "
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Wednesday March 9, 2011 04:00 am EST
Ironically, CL's able staff makes it easier to leave without worries | more...
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?
His release party was last weekend. But the joint officially drops today on iTunes.

?
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Tuesday January 11, 2011 12:48 pm EST



?
His release party was last weekend. But the joint officially drops today on iTunes.

?

| more...
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  ["title"]=>
  string(41) "Opinion - Atlanta needs an all-seeing eye"
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  string(2329) "Some of you might think that the idea of a Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta is but the latest in a decades-old string of proposals best described as moronic. The World of Sid and Marty Krofft, anyone?

But hold on.

Downtown might not be fit for a theme park (unless the theme happens to be ghost towns or zombie apocalypses), but let me go on record and say that Ferris wheels are effing awesome. So what if the wheel in question, modeled after the wildly popular London Eye, is expected to cost as much as three other proposed downtown attractions combined? Who needs the College Football Hall of Fame, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a pirate (yes, pirate) museum if you've got a 443-foot revolving wheel with climate-controlled cabins that seat up to two dozen tourists apiece?

I'm pretty sure there are studies that show huge crossover between college football fans and fans of Ferris wheels. Civil Rights proponents? Huge Ferris wheel enthusiasts. And can you imagine the line of pirate-lovers snaking toward the Great Eye of Atlanta? I can't conceive of a more Ferris-wheel-embracing demographic than pirates.

Rather than waste our time (spin our wheels?) angling for this museum or that — especially when we're talking about things like a NASCAR museum (which majorly flopped in Charlotte), a patriotism museum (which majorly flopped in Atlanta) and a health care museum (oh, that's exciting) — why not aim higher?

In 1893, Chicago — in an attempt to best Paris — built the first-ever Ferris wheel as a sort of F-you to the Eiffel Tower. George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.'s idea for a 264-foot wheel revolving around a 142,000-pound axel was so grand, so ambitious, it seemed almost insane. But the wheel was a hit. It even withstood a frightening windstorm and provided a view of the deadly fire that raged through one of the buildings in Chicago's surrounding World's Fair.

Yeah, we're 107 years behind Chicago on this one. But so what. We're about 107 years behind Chicago on most things. And anyway, we have a better aquarium.

Still not sold? Well, just imagine the view: Buckhead to the north, Stone Mountain to the east, Hartsfield to the south and the Bellwood Quarry to the west. If only we'd thought of this sooner, we could have seen the Union soldiers and the zombie apocalypse coming. "
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But hold on.

Downtown might not be fit for a theme park (unless the theme happens to be ghost towns or zombie apocalypses), but let me go on record and say that Ferris wheels are effing awesome. So what if the wheel in question, modeled after the wildly popular London Eye, is expected to cost as much as three other proposed downtown attractions combined? Who needs the College Football Hall of Fame, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a pirate (yes, pirate) museum if you've got a 443-foot revolving wheel with climate-controlled cabins that seat up to two dozen tourists apiece?

I'm pretty sure there are studies that show huge crossover between college football fans and fans of Ferris wheels. Civil Rights proponents? Huge Ferris wheel enthusiasts. And can you imagine the line of pirate-lovers snaking toward the Great Eye of Atlanta? I can't conceive of a more Ferris-wheel-embracing demographic than pirates.

Rather than waste our time (spin our wheels?) angling for this museum or that — especially when we're talking about things like a NASCAR museum (which majorly flopped in Charlotte), a patriotism museum (which majorly flopped in Atlanta) and a health care museum (oh, that's exciting) — why not aim higher?

In 1893, Chicago — in an attempt to best Paris — built the first-ever Ferris wheel as a sort of F-you to the Eiffel Tower. George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.'s idea for a 264-foot wheel revolving around a 142,000-pound axel was so grand, so ambitious, it seemed almost insane. But the wheel was a hit. It even withstood a frightening windstorm and provided a view of the deadly fire that raged through one of the buildings in Chicago's surrounding World's Fair.

Yeah, we're 107 years behind Chicago on this one. But so what. We're about 107 years behind Chicago on most things. And anyway, we have a better aquarium.

Still not sold? Well, just imagine the view: Buckhead to the north, Stone Mountain to the east, Hartsfield to the south and the Bellwood Quarry to the west. If only we'd thought of this sooner, we could have seen the Union soldiers and the zombie apocalypse coming. "
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  string(2591) "    A Ferris wheel downtown? Sure, why not.   2010-11-24T09:00:00+00:00 Opinion - Atlanta needs an all-seeing eye   Mara Shalhoup 1223634 2010-11-24T09:00:00+00:00  Some of you might think that the idea of a Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta is but the latest in a decades-old string of proposals best described as moronic. The World of Sid and Marty Krofft, anyone?

But hold on.

Downtown might not be fit for a theme park (unless the theme happens to be ghost towns or zombie apocalypses), but let me go on record and say that Ferris wheels are effing awesome. So what if the wheel in question, modeled after the wildly popular London Eye, is expected to cost as much as three other proposed downtown attractions combined? Who needs the College Football Hall of Fame, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a pirate (yes, pirate) museum if you've got a 443-foot revolving wheel with climate-controlled cabins that seat up to two dozen tourists apiece?

I'm pretty sure there are studies that show huge crossover between college football fans and fans of Ferris wheels. Civil Rights proponents? Huge Ferris wheel enthusiasts. And can you imagine the line of pirate-lovers snaking toward the Great Eye of Atlanta? I can't conceive of a more Ferris-wheel-embracing demographic than pirates.

Rather than waste our time (spin our wheels?) angling for this museum or that — especially when we're talking about things like a NASCAR museum (which majorly flopped in Charlotte), a patriotism museum (which majorly flopped in Atlanta) and a health care museum (oh, that's exciting) — why not aim higher?

In 1893, Chicago — in an attempt to best Paris — built the first-ever Ferris wheel as a sort of F-you to the Eiffel Tower. George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.'s idea for a 264-foot wheel revolving around a 142,000-pound axel was so grand, so ambitious, it seemed almost insane. But the wheel was a hit. It even withstood a frightening windstorm and provided a view of the deadly fire that raged through one of the buildings in Chicago's surrounding World's Fair.

Yeah, we're 107 years behind Chicago on this one. But so what. We're about 107 years behind Chicago on most things. And anyway, we have a better aquarium.

Still not sold? Well, just imagine the view: Buckhead to the north, Stone Mountain to the east, Hartsfield to the south and the Bellwood Quarry to the west. If only we'd thought of this sooner, we could have seen the Union soldiers and the zombie apocalypse coming.              13056832 2402752                          Opinion - Atlanta needs an all-seeing eye "
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Article

Wednesday November 24, 2010 04:00 am EST
A Ferris wheel downtown? Sure, why not. | more...
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