Left For Dead

Tracey Deel was shot a dozen times by two teens who wanted her car. She dragged herself the length of three football fields determined not to be just another homocide statistic.

Tracey dragged herself 950 feet -- the length of three and a half football fields -- to The Point, an apartment complex at the corner of Windmill Lakes and East Haven. She followed the cracked, uneven sidewalk until she reached the red brick driveway. Her plan was to bang on someone's door or window, but like at her own "safe" apartment, the gates were locked. She thought if she could find a rock she could throw it over the fence, but she was too weak. Tracey grabbed a large gray landscaping brick and banged on the hood of a white BMW parked in front of the rental office until the car alarm went off. She tried to scream for help, but all that came out were moans and whispers.

Spencer Chaffin Jr. was on his way to work at a petrochemical plant in Alvin. It was about 4:30 a.m. when he stopped to check his mail; he saw Tracey standing by the BMW and heard her hollering, but he thought she was drunk. Spencer walked right by Tracey trying not to make eye contact. After he shut the mailroom door he glanced out the window and saw the blood.

A woman appeared on a third-story balcony. "Do you need help?" she called.

Tracey was more of a listener than a talker at Chances bar.
Tracey was more of a listener than a talker at Chances bar.
Kevin Rivas (top) and Robert Hidalgo got caught after a shoplifting spree.
Deron Neblett
Kevin Rivas (top) and Robert Hidalgo got caught after a shoplifting spree.

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"YES," Tracey screamed and collapsed on the sidewalk. At 4:51 a.m. the woman called 911 and sent her boyfriend downstairs with an armload of towels. Spencer, a former EMT, tried to slow the bleeding. He asked Tracey to describe her attackers and tell him what happened; he scribbled notes on the back of a maintenance slip. Tracey wanted to fall asleep, but Spencer wouldn't let her close her eyes and drift into death. When she heard the ambulance's air brakes, Tracey relaxed. As the firefighters walked toward her, she passed out cold.

Tracey's father spent two hours standing in the knee-high grass where she was shot. Rick followed the trail of his daughter's blood, trying to imagine what she went through. He walked it again and again and again, searching for any evidence the police might have missed. The detectives found Tracey's dog tags; her father found her shot-out yellow eyeglass lens.

Tracey calls her dad Land Rambo. He served in the air force, collects knives and broke his hand playing college football. At an HPD press conference that Friday, Rick broke into tears. "I've cried more this week than I've cried in my entire life," he said. "They will pay. Even if the police don't get them, God will."

Tracey's friends put up flyers and took out newspaper ads. Josie Timm, a radiologist who worked with Tracey, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of Tracey's attackers. The Saturday after Tracey was shot, women crowded Chances to raise money. Tracey was moved out of the ICU that morning; she wanted to go party. "The one night I'm not at the troll hole everybody's there," she told her best friend, Veronica Lopez.

Thirteen candles forming the shape of a triangle burned on the bar. "They're going to burn until Tracey comes back," the owner, Marlene Beago, told the crowd. Women sat shoulder to shoulder on the floor, on the pool tables and atop the bar. Chances comfortably holds 150 people; Marlene counted about 300. "I've never seen a person who acts like such a loner and has so many friends," Marlene said. These same women had lined the halls of the ICU.

Marlene recounted Tracey's story like an angry evangelist. She called the attackers lily-livered chickenshits and said she wanted to get her hands on them. "They wouldn't want to hurt anyone again," Marlene said. "They'd be singing soprano."

It was an impassioned Take Back the Night rally. Women cheered for Tracey, a one-woman army who deserved a Purple Heart. "She's a lesbian," Marlene screamed into the microphone, and the crowd cheered. "She's a sister," Marlene bellowed, and the crowd echoed. The emotion in the air was like when Americans stormed the streets on D-Day. They raised $3,600 selling $10 raffle tickets and auctioning posters of Patrice Pike and Sister 7 CDs.

"We all just felt so helpless," said Patrice, lead singer of Sister 7. She was one of the first people to visit Tracey in the ICU. "We were having a lot of confusing, angry, sad feelings." Along with pride, love and admiration, many women were filled with fear. Rumors were that Tracey had been abducted outside Chances. Women worried that the boys were outside, waiting.

Before she sang, Patrice talked about Tracey. Patrice believes in fate and destiny and God having a plan and a purpose. But she couldn't find a reason for this. Tracey has a nose ring, rocks out to Ozzy Osbourne and can drink a fifth of Bacardi without falling down, but she also owns the Barbra Streisand boxed set, rescues stray dogs and cried when Princess Diana died. "Maybe the reason it happened to Tracey is she was the only one strong enough to live through it," Patrice said. Women needed to learn from Tracey's story to be more careful and to watch out for each other, Patrice said. No woman walked to her car alone that night.

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