By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Pretty good, huh?" Ripley says today. "It's like, 'No, we didn't get together on this.'"
The detective catches the sarcasm in his voice and retreats one step.
"Obviously, I can't say they're lying. It's not uncommon for accident victims to have amnesia. But where does the truth start here? I think that remains a question."
As her son died, Gloria Cavalera's plane was landing at London's Heathrow Airport.
She was on tour with her husband, Max Cavalera, the lead singer and guitarist for Brazilian speed-metal heroes Sepultura, who were booked to play the annual Donnington megafestival. Gloria was Sepultura's manager at the time. Davenport, her eldest daughter, was traveling with the entourage.
The Cavaleras and Davenport made the four-hour drive from Heathrow to Donnington. Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser knocked on their hotel room door shortly after they arrived.
"Andreas told me to come out in the hall, and he said, 'I'm sorry to tell you Dana has been in an accident,'" says Gloria. "I said, 'Please don't tell me he's dead.' He got a blank look and said, 'I'm afraid so.' Then I started screaming."
Heavy-metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, also booked to play the festival, lent the Cavaleras his private jet so they could fly home immediately.
Friends and family had already gathered at the house when the aggrieved trio landed. Max Cavalera and Metallica bassist Jason Newsted holed up in Dana's room, making a mix tape for the next day's memorial service. Gloria went to the funeral home to see her son.
"I just--I remember Dana in the coffin," she says. "He was covered in plastic. It's very hard. You don't ever plan on making funeral arrangements for your son."
Cavalera says her son was not close friends with Thomas and Graci. "He never brought them to the house. They were groupies. Sepultura groupies, and therefore Dana groupies." But the three grew up within a mile of one another--Wells and Graci were in the same fourth-grade class at Gold Dust Elementary--and moved within overlapping social circles of youth who shared two common traits: enrollment at Shadow Mountain High in the early Nineties, and a taste for aggressive rock music.
A hurricane of rumors hit those crowds in the wake of the fatal wreck.
"There was all sorts of shit being said, but from what I heard, this much was [consistent]," says Phoenix telemarketer Chris Pekor, 21, who went to Shadow Mountain with Thomas, Graci and Dana Wells. "Either Shawn or Miles or both [were] enemies with someone involved in a drug deal who wasn't paid. After leaving a party that night, they were followed and run off the road, and Shawn and Miles knew who followed them and who ran them off the road, and the amnesia was a con.
"That's what everyone was saying, but no one knew exactly where it was coming from. It was always, 'Oh, so-and-so talked to Shawn at a party, and he told them the whole story.' Or, 'I know so-and-so, and they visited Miles at the hospital, and he told them they were being chased and shot at by these gang guys,' that sort of shit.
"Knowing Shawn and Miles, I tend to think there was something foul about that accident, you know what I'm saying? Unfortunately, Dana had a lot of fake friends who wanted to have a connection to his family, and used him as sort of a person who could hook them up with concert tickets or whatever. Pretty fucking sad, if you ask me."
A month after the wreck, Gloria Cavalera and her daughter Cristina both say they received phone calls from a friend of the family who claimed he had talked to Thomas. The friend said Thomas told him they were chased by two members of a gang known as LCM who mistakenly thought Thomas and Graci had ripped them off in a crack deal. The friend said one of the LCM members went by the name of "Wolfie."
Independent of those tips, in early October 1996, the reporter of this article heard an account of the wreck from a member of Las Victoria Locas, a Tempe gang. This LVL member--who refuses to be identified, for obvious reasons--said he had spoken the day before with members of LCM, a north Phoenix gang.
He said the LCM members told him that two LCM wanna-bes--aspiring gangbangers--had fouled up, big-time, by accidentally killing Dana Wells, the stepson of rock star Max Cavalera.
The story as he heard it was this:
Two white boys burned the LCM in a cocaine deal. Someone in the LCM directed the wanna-bes to put a scare into the white boys. Late at night, the wanna-bes confronted the white boys in a parking lot, and flashed a gun. Wells took off, and the wanna-bes gave chase. They pulled alongside the car driven by Wells, and one of them pointed a pistol. Wells looked over, saw the gun, and swerved to the right, causing his car to spin and crash. Wells died. The two white boys lived. The LCM wanna-bes were blacklisted.
Four Shadow Mountain graduates interviewed for this article refused--out of fear, they said--to even be named as having heard the rumors.