Sole Survivor

Howard Youngblood's roommates were shot to death, yet he clings to the place where it all went down

Though he is in the middle of the city's deadliest 48 hours, Youngblood is far from a hardened con when dealing with the police.

"They asked me, 'Why you sucking your thumb?'
"I told them, 'You make me nervous.'"
Youngblood said he explained to the detectives, "People got killed that wasn't supposed to."

How does he know that? Did he set up the victims in the Chipman house for Justin Monroe?

The cops, according to Youngblood, implied that he did. He is firm that he did not. But with so many corpses, any question is reasonable. And clearly the cops are mulling all the possibilities.

"They asked me if I was in the house at the time of the shooting," said Youngblood. "Wanted to know if I was an eyewitness."

While the police make Youngblood tense, they are the least of his troubles. In a neighborhood where crackhouses are a viable enterprise, the Chipman house is a valuable commodity as a venue.

The deadly truth is that Howard Youngblood does not have the stones to hold onto the house no matter what the lease states.

Last Wednesday, the evening got so tense that Youngblood slipped out of the house and asked his landlord to drive him to a homeless shelter, where he spent the night. Before leaving, he says he watched his new roommates depart with a semiautomatic carbine, a Mac 10 semiautomatic pistol and a handgun.

The owner of the house, Dean Callahan, picked up Youngblood and asked the others to clear out of the house.

"I tossed everybody," the owner says. "They carted out these rifles. One of them looked like it had this big curved clip.

"You ever been down there at 11:30 at night? It can be scary."
Youngblood returned the next day but said, "I went through hell last night."
When he's there, Youngblood's perch on Chipman gives him a dangerous perspective on a violent, drug-fueled neighborhood. He does things. He sees things. He hears things.

"They think I'm asleep and I'm not. I sit there and marinate over what I hear."

And he's pretty sure of one thing.
"Before this is all up, I've got a funny feeling that I'm going to know all what happened."

The last time Howard Youngblood got a funny feeling, five people died and four others were wounded. It's a lot of weight for a little man.

"I can't take it," he admits. "Too much more and I'm going to snap. I can't even leave my own house without watching my back. Bad things are going on around me."

Last Thursday night, Youngblood's new friends stomped him.
"Some of the guys in the neighborhood are giving him a hard way to go," Callahan says. ". . . they came into the house and beat him up. He's trying to be a nice guy to everybody and it doesn't work. They kicked him out of his house and took his keys. Some woman's got his keys.

"When the police showed up, Howard said everyone had already left.
"He's lost his glasses and there are bruises all over his face. I took him down to the shelter. I need to toss all of them out of there so Howard can take his house and see if he can make a go of it. He's not big enough to defend himself."

The owner does not readily concede that his property has been turned into a crackhouse.

"Well, Howard claims the ones doing this to him are dealers. But I have no proof. It's not healthy to accuse someone down there of being a drug dealer."

The very next day, Youngblood was ready to forgive the attack.
Although days earlier Youngblood claimed that drug dealers had threatened him for the house, after the beating he changed his story, and denied that his assailants want the house to peddle crack.

"I'm not from the 'hood, so it's a territory thing. I understand that," says Youngblood.

"People in the neighborhood would just rather keep it themselves than let someone from the outside get it."

Callahan confirms that other locals have approached him about the Chipman house.

"But they want to rent it, and I want to sell it," he says.
They don't want to rent it for the view.
The landlord feels apprehensive and powerless. He'd like someone to help him.

"The police never contacted me after the shootings. I talked to guys in a squad car. They said, 'Didn't you know that guy was dealing drugs, that it was a drug house?'

"No, I didn't know that. If they knew it was a drug house, how come they didn't bust it?"

Callahan believes South Phoenix is neglected.
"The city needs to clean the area up. I talked to a couple of people at the city after the shootings. I told them, 'You need to come down here when there isn't a big shooting.'"

Who would show the way to city officials?
After the last round of killing on Pueblo, Mayor Skip Rimsza visited the neighborhood. He was truly appalled that the 2-year-old who was wounded in the fusillade was the same age as his daughter.

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