Relatives of slain stripper want justice
Nearly five years after the slaying of stripper Tamara Greene, family and friends aren’t sure how to interpret the new publicity surrounding her killing.
But their desire for justice hasn’t changed.
“It’s still a very raw issue for us,” said Greene’s grandmother Bertha Powell of Columbus, Ohio. “It still hurts a lot and we try not to talk about it. If there’s something new, we want to know what it is.”
In the wake of the controversy surrounding Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, an attorney for Greene’s 14-year-old son made headlines by seeking access to possibly millions of text messages among city employees in an effort to prove a cover-up in her death.
“This is a sweet kid who deserves a whole heck of a lot better than he’s gotten,” Birmingham lawyer Norman Yatooma said, referring to the son of Tamara Greene. “He has been absolutely, positively railroaded because his mom was a stripper.”
Greene, 27, who danced at strip clubs under the name Strawberry and worked as a prostitute, was fatally shot at 3:40 a.m. during an April 30, 2003, drive-by in northwest Detroit.
She was rumored to have danced at a party at the mayor’s Manoogian Mansion in the fall of 2002. It has never been proved that such a party happened, and state Attorney General Mike Cox concluded the story was an urban legend.
But a memo to then-Police Chief Jerry Oliver from then-Deputy Chief Gary Brown described an allegation “that Mrs. Carlita Kilpatrick,” the mayor’s wife, “was involved in a physical altercation with a female dancer, causing bodily injury requiring medical attention.”
Brown was fired in May 2003. Last September, he and former mayoral bodyguard Harold Nelthrope were awarded a total of $6.5 million after a jury accepted their claims that they were forced out of their jobs by Mayor Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, his then-chief of staff. The former cops said they were ousted after they began investigating claims about the mayor’s security staff — allegations that could have dealt with the long-rumored party and revealed an extramarital affair between the mayor and Beatty.
Last month, the Free Press reported the text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty that confirmed the affair and referred to Brown’s firing. The controversy alerted Yatooma to the possibility of text messages that could help his case.
Family and friends describe Greene as bright, ambitious and beautiful.
“She was a genuinely good person,” said Dennis Mitchenor, a friend and personal attorney. “She was not a throwaway.”
Yatooma, who represents Greene’s son Jonathan in a federal lawsuit against the city, is now seeking text messages sent by any city employee during the four hours that included the shooting of Greene at Roselawn and West Outer Drive.
Yatooma’s lawsuit says covering up facts about the crime violated Jonathan’s constitutional rights. Jonathan’s father, Ernest Flagg of Detroit, also is a plaintiff.
Greene’s death became more controversial when former Detroit Police Lt. Alvin Bowman sued in 2004, charging that Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, Kilpatrick and Beatty conspired to silence him by transferring him out of the homicide division for investigating Greene’s death.
Kilpatrick and Beatty later were dismissed from the lawsuit before it went to trial.
A jury awarded Bowman, a 31-year police veteran, $200,000 in October 2005.
Bowman, 57, who left the department after filing his suit, told the Free Press on Wednesday that he is standing by his theory that Greene’s death was a planned hit.
He said Greene was killed by shots from a .40-caliber Glock handgun — a model that is standard issue for Detroit police.
But Bowman said he’s skeptical that her death will ever be solved.
“I’m sure this lawyer is going to uncover a great deal of information, personal information about city officials,” he said. “Where it’s going to lead, there’s no telling.”
Police spokesman James Tate said the case remains open.
Yatooma said that although he’d love to solve the case, his mission is to show that the lack of investigation violated his client’s constitutional rights.
“If police say they’re doing something, I’d love to know what they’re doing, because they’re not talking to the people I’m talking to,” Yatooma told the Free Press this week.
Powell said she hasn’t heard from the police in years.
“I can’t imagine what would be new in the case,” she said. “No one has told us anything.”
Greene’s great-aunt Christine White, 65, of Mobile, Ala., said she used to visit Greene in Detroit. The two had a close relationship.
“I hope and pray to God that they are really looking into it,” White said. “I hope it’s not just publicity. Down in my heart of hearts, I just want them to find her killer. She deserves that much.”
Shortly before she was killed, Greene was in the process of opening Tammy’s Secrets, a lingerie store on the city’s west side catering to dancers.
Greene’s former attorney and friend Mitchenor, who lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, said she needed about $10,000 to acquire inventory for the business. He was assisting her in opening the store.
“This business was going to be her exit,” he said. “She wanted to get away from the dancing.”
On the night she died, Greene pulled her 1997 green Buick Skylark up to a curb to drop off her boyfriend, who was 32 at the time. A white Chevrolet Blazer pulled around the corner. A man opened fire.
Her boyfriend staggered to a house, calling 911 from his cell phone. He was taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital for a neck wound.
Mitchenor said he always figured the boyfriend was the target. Now, he’s not so sure.
“The more rumors I hear, the more frightening it becomes,” he said. “This thing won’t die. I can’t think of anything that young lady would have done that would deserve her getting slaughtered like that.”