Left For Dead

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That's where her memory gets blurry. Tracey doesn't remember the ride home, but she recalls parking in her usual space and turning up the radio to listen to music as loud as she wanted without disturbing her neighbors. Tracey can't say how long she sat there before the boys burst in and took her to the field. She remembers pleading with them for almost 30 minutes, but she fainted after the first two shots. "I was target practice," Tracey says. "Like a fucking tin can in a field."

Her next memory is stepping off the curb and onto the street. She saw a light in the distance and jogged toward it. Her face felt like it was hanging off, but other than an aching, throbbing pain, she didn't feel any injuries. Tired, she kept falling down. Each time, she picked herself up and kept moving. Tracey served three years in the army, has a black widow spider tattooed on her leg, and on her back is a Chinese symbol that means positive, forward thinking. She didn't want to die alone, and she didn't want those boys to get away with what they had done.

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.

"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.

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman