The woman with the missing Sacramento police “red file” came to court with a plan. As far back as March, the prosecutor said, she told a detective that when the time came for her to identify Lionel Lee “Tiny” Jenkins as the killer of Jordan Parker, she’d say she couldn’t remember anything.
For two days this week, longtime North Sacramento streetwalker Debra “Blondie” Little took the witness stand and peppered the prosecution and defense attorneys with dozens of “I don’t knows” and “I don’t remembers” in recounting the events surrounding the April 19, 2013, shooting death of Parker, 25, in the Cancun Plaza Apartments on Plaza Avenue.
Lawyers for Jenkins, 44, and co-defendant Muhammad Joseph “Dreads” Ivy, 28, who is charged with attempting to dissuade a witness, sought to exclude Little’s testimony when the Police Department couldn’t find her secret “red file” like the ones the agency keeps on all its informants.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan, after weeks of pretrial hearings about the red files, rejected the defense effort earlier this month.
The judge’s ruling paved the way for Little’s testimony Wednesday and Thursday, but the witness delivered somewhat less than Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower would have liked.
Little testified she was walking to her apartment in the Cancun Palace the day of the killing when “I stopped and was talking to some guys, Tiny and some other guys that were there.” She said she quickly picked up on “some bad conversation going on.”
The issue, according to police and prosecutors, was a disputed $40 hair weave Parker’s girlfriend gave to Jenkins’ daughter, who didn’t like the work, and when she refused to pay, the victim went to the Cancun Palace – looking to collect – when he was shot dead.
According to Little’s trial testimony, “people were talking violently, and there was a problem.” She said “I realized there was a gun” in Jenkins’ hand, and that she recognized the weapon because she sold it to him for $75. Little testified she also thought she saw a sawed-off shotgun stuffed up the sleeve of Jenkins’ pea coat, so “I just got the hell out of there.”
Little told the jury she went to her apartment and was inside her residence when she heard nine gunshots. She said she locked her door and retreated to her back bedroom where she spent the rest of the night.
When police first made contact with her two months after the shooting, Little told them she had actually seen the fatal shooting. When Hightower pressed her on the discrepancy between her trial testimony and her statements to police, Little said her memory has since been ravaged by brain injuries she suffered in a car crash, although it was not clear in her testimony over the two days whether the traffic mishap occurred before or after the shooting at the Cancun Palace.
In an argument with Jenkins’ attorney, Linda Parisi, over the admissibility of Little’s prior statements to police, Hightower said she told police when they tracked her down March 16 that “she’s afraid to testify and will show up and say she doesn’t remember anything.”
Judge Meegan allowed Hightower to ask Little about the March conversation with police. Little answered she didn’t remember it. Shown a copy of the police report about the discussion, Little confirmed in her testimony “that I would show up and I would say I don’t remember anything, that I would refuse to testify.”
“I’m scared of repercussions,” Little added. “I’m afraid of being up here talking. I don’t want to be up here right now.”
“What happens to people who testify?” Hightower asked.
“They get hurt,” Little testified.
Little said the DA’s Office placed her in its witness relocation and assistance program and that she had been afforded more than $8,000 in housing and other benefits. She said she is no longer in the program “because I couldn’t do everything I was told.”
As for her past as a paid police informant, Little told Hightower she recalled working for her handlers on some occasions but that she couldn’t remember any details.
Parisi pressed Little harder on her days as a prostitute and a heroin addict and on her career that has generated 24 known criminal filings dating to 1989, including one as recently as this month.
In pretrial hearings, Parisi and Assistant Public Defender Rod Simpson, who is representing Muhammad Ivy, sought to have the case dismissed – or at the least, to have Little’s testimony excluded – over the failure of the Police Department to locate her informant’s red file.
Little testified under Parisi’s questioning that she doesn’t remember working under a contract with the police, or that, in the lawyer’s words, “It didn’t work out right.”
Parisi’s questioning suggested the police stopped using Little as an informant when she overstated the level of her relationship with a drug dealer who was the subject of an undercover officer’s operation.
The failure of Little to relate to the officer her more limited relationship with the dealer, according to Parisi, exposed the officer to an added level of danger. Little testified she didn’t remember anything about it.
Little completed her testimony Thursday. The trial resumes Monday.
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.