The Gang's All Fear

The Crips who raped a retarded girl sprang from a 'hood where too many kids aspire to the thug life

T-Bone

I, Taron Lamar Auzenne, have been a member of the Park South Crips gang since, at least, I was ten years of age. I have the gang name or 'moniker' of T-Bone. . . . On or about February 15 and 16, 1997, I participated in the kidnap and sexual assault of [the victim]. The [crimes] were committed to intimidate the victim and the surrounding neighborhood. The above-listed crimes assisted the Park South Crips by establishing their dominance over the victim and the 'neighborhood.'

-- January 14, 1998, affidavit, later recanted

The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.
Paolo Vescia
The house on East Chipman Road where the gang rape occurred in February 1997.

As Detective Stuart points out, TaRon Auzenne's upbringing was benign compared with some of his co-defendants. Auzenne -- who grew up on Chipman across the street from the scene of the rape -- was blessed with a hardworking single mother and maternal grandparents with whom he lived as an only child.

His mother, Sherry, is a computer operator for the State of Arizona. His father -- with whom Auzenne has had a relationship despite his parents' estrangement -- owns a small business in south Phoenix.

A court-appointed psychologist noted in 1997, "The [Auzenne] family system seems to have cohesiveness, close ties, shared interests and extended family support."

Those ties apparently didn't run deep enough to keep Auzenne from joining the Park South Crips when he was 10. Phoenix police first linked the youth to the gang in June 1993, when he was 13.

Early the following year, he was suspended from school for carrying a realistic-looking toy cap gun on campus.

In March 1995, police listed the 15-year-old Auzenne as a possible suspect in a drive-by shooting, but never busted him. That summer, his mother turned him over to juvenile authorities, saying the boy was incorrigible.

Auzenne was back home a few days later.

Within the year, Phoenix police detained Auzenne for possessing marijuana, after a car chase. Juvenile authorities ordered him to perform community-service work, which he apparently never completed.

In April 1996, Phoenix police stopped Auzenne on South 21st Street and searched him for drugs. They found 20 white rocks, which turned out to be fake crack cocaine. Auzenne allegedly had been peddling the stuff on the street. They also confiscated a .25-caliber handgun, with five live rounds. Auzenne again was placed on juvenile probation, after three days in custody and two weeks of "home detention."

This was the same young man about whom his longtime next-door neighbor -- an elementary school teacher -- says, "He has always been courteous and respectful to me. He is basically a good boy who made a poor choice [in the Chipman Road incident]."

And this was the same person whose half-brother, a fifth-grader, says, "One thing that I know is that TaRon may have done something wrong, but he is a good brother to me. He cares about me, and he doesn't want me to get into any trouble, and he won't let me get into any trouble."

Auzenne certainly looked the part of a classic blue-clad gangbanger when he surrendered himself for questioning in late February 1997. Wearing a blue-and-white ball cap, blue shirt, blue tennis shoes and blue bandana, he told detectives he was a Park South Crip, and said he'd been part of the action involving the young girl at the Chipman house -- which he claimed hadn't been rape.

"What is a hood rat?" Detective Mark Calles asked him, after Auzenne used that phrase to refer to the young girl.

"A hood rat is a girl that don't respect herself, and let anybody and anyone have sex with her," Auzenne replied.

He would become the sole Chipman Road defendant who agreed to testify against his cohorts, in return for a plea bargain that would have freed him from jail in less than two years. That deal fell apart in late 1998, after Auzenne decided -- for reasons that still are uncertain -- that he'd take his chances at trial.

Detective Rusty Stuart says Auzenne likely will be targeted as a snitch in prison, even though he never did testify against his co-defendants. He cites a rap lyric about Auzenne that co-defendant Dennis "LuLay" Watson composed in early 1998. Titled Backstabber, it includes the lines:

"He showed a lot of love
"That niggah was my bro
"But he done turned
"From a friend to a mother-fuckin'
  foe
"As soon as I turned my back
"I got stabbed -- it was so drastic
"But niggah what I really want to
  do
"Is lay you in a casket"

In a twist of legal fate, Watson is a free man these days, out on probation.

TaRon Auzenne is in prison.

Defense attorney Carmen Fischer -- an excellent advocate for Auzenne at trial -- doesn't believe he is a marked man.

"Word is that the other guys don't consider him a snitch," she says. "He gets along with them, and there's no hatred."

Auzenne's mother wrote to Judge Martin before her son's sentencing, "It has not always been easy raising TaRon. Sometimes he has been willful and stubborn. But . . . he is a decent human being who used bad judgment."

Adult probation officer Jean Scott concluded in her presentencing report, "This writer does not accept as justification statements to the effect that [he] is easily led, impulsive, desensitized and conditioned to a different set of values because he is a resident of South Phoenix, and, by default, became a gang member in order to survive in his environment."

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