(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

I don’t watch standard TV “procedurals.” I don’t like the format where a crime is introduced, investigated and then solved in 42 minutes (minus commercials). Life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes the bad guy never gets caught. Sometimes shit happens that’s caused by shitty people and the shit never hits the fan for them (so to speak).

Unfortunately, this is the story of a crime left unpunished, and the damage remains.

I don’t watch shows like CSI or Cold Case but I sure know a lot more now than I did then. I know that when two people have an encounter like Jeanette did with her attacker, there is always an exchange of DNA. There was DNA in that room, and I naively thought someone would collect it. I don’t know why they didn’t. I don’t know if it was simply a different time with insufficient technology. I don’t know if the LAPD is so saddled with crimes that they can’t fully investigate all of them. I don’t know if only murders get the once-over with a fine-toothed comb. I can only tell you that if I knew then what I know now, I would have either tried to collect DNA evidence myself or hired someone to do it for me. And I would have really used Cagney as my partner. The truth is, I was probably lead detective on this case, and if I’d know how or if I’d known that I could, I would have driven this train in a very different way.

I don’t have regrets, but I do have lingering questions.

When I went to the police station earlier this week, I discovered that there was no detective of record assigned to the case. I stood there, dumbfounded, as some round-faced woman in an LAPD pullover scanned her computer screen. She told me that between 1999 and 2000 the department was “changing over the system.” She said that maybe not all of the information was manually entered into the database. But I suspect that there wasn’t a detective of record because the first detective on the case didn’t work very hard, and Cagney didn’t have any cases of record.

The crime that happened at my house on February 8, 1999, had been entered into “the system” but that might be all I get to know. I asked if it would be possible for me to read any of the case files. “No,” the woman told me. The best I could do was to call the number she wrote down on a pink slip of paper, give them the DR number she wrote down beneath it and see if I could get a crime report. “But,” she added, “they don’t keep reports past eight or ten years.”

I was angry when I left the station. I had always imagined that I’d get to see Cagney’s notes on the case because she’d give them to me herself. But then I’d always imagined I would write about this story well before now.

I called the number on the pink paper expecting to get a live person on the phone. Silly me. The number was connected to a recording that gave information only and didn’t accept messages. The recording informed me that if I included all the pertinent details (victim’s name, date and location of event) along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope with $23 in the form of a check or money order to the LAPD, I would receive a copy of the crime report in 12 weeks.

I don’t want the crime report; I want the case files.

So I called my buddy Jay, the guy who “knows people” to see who or what he might know. He said that if there’s no detective of record, the case is basically inactive and the files have gone to a central filing facility. The information still exists, he assured me, but it’s unlikely I could get it. Jeanette can get it, though, he said. She has a right to see her case files, and she can either ask the DA to get them for her or she can go to central filing and have them pulled.

Jay asked if there was any DNA evidence collected. I told him that I didn’t think so. I told him they dusted for prints but didn’t find any. He said that often the hospital will collect samples—they might have swabbed Jeanette’s teeth, scraped her fingernails or pulled something from her clothes. If they did, that information would be in the case files.

I’m interested in those files. I’m interested in knowing what Cagney did, who she talked to, what she wrote down and what she followed up on. I believe Cagney did her due diligence; I just want to know what that was.

Jeanette, in her favorite place on earth: behind the camera

As for Jeanette, people are curious. I get emails and texts with questions. People want to see a photo, they want to know how she’s doing, where she’s living and if we’re still in regular contact. For the moment, Jeanette teaches in the film department of Ohio University in Athens. And, according to her, the assault has been the gift that keeps on giving. Despite the masterful work of some very capable surgeons who restored her physical appearance, Jeanette’s facial problems are ever enduring and, often, hard for her to endure. Having metal in your face means weather changes can create problems, and getting the common cold can lead to sinus infections that can spread to implanted tissue like wildfire. Suffice to say that when your head gets beaten violently against a tile floor and you’re left for dead, there are bound to be ongoing, lifelong physical issues.

Mentally and emotionally and spiritually, Jeanette is a beacon of light. Six years ago she wrote a one-woman play about the event from her perspective. It was performed by a brilliant actress named Holly Twyford in an incredible theater in DC. A local magazine, The Washingtonian, wrote a review.

Jeanette and Mary

Mary, the friend with whom Jeanette stayed during the early days of her recovery, moved out of the country and then eventually made her way back to DC. Mary and Jeanette just completed a 300-mile bicycle ride from New York to DC. In the rain!

My neighbors Rob and Amy moved back to New York. Our friendship is as filled with dimension as ever—length, depth, breadth.

Melissa Mora will always be my partner in crime, and the finest example of a “woman in blue” I will likely ever know.

I lived for another five years in the house and then moved from the ghetto of Venice to the high-rent district just down the street from Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins. I now call myself an International Blogger. As of this writing, nearly 150 people from 14 countries have clicked through 1500 pages of this site. I love that! And while this story has come to an end (at least for now), I’ll be starting another, yet to be determined.

Perhaps I’ll finally write about my 525-mile trek through Spain…