Left For Dead

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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.

"The cops better catch those boys before the lesbians do," one of Tracey's friends said.

Six days before Christmas, three Hispanic teens were shoplifting Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger T-shirts from the Ross Dress For Less at Beltway 8 and Pasadena Boulevard. The boys created an escape route by kicking a hole in a nearby fence. When the boys saw Pasadena patrolman D.L. Speights, they scattered and ran. "Anytime a person runs from a police officer, they're running for a reason," Speights said. He called for reinforcements. Officer Regio Saldivar vaulted a six-foot fence and caught Robert Hidalgo; the keys to Tracey's Honda were in his pocket.

The license plates were switched, speakers added and Tracey's Green Bay Packers sticker had been scraped off the windshield, but the vehicle ID number was wanted by HPD homicide. Robert told officers he'd seen the car parked on the side of the road and was just driving it around. Robert has a long, thin face, doe eyes and straight black brows; Tracey immediately identified him as the driver. HPD Detective J.C. Bonaby told Robert it was over; Robert cried and gave a taped confession ratting out his best friend, Kevin Rivas. "The dummy told them everything," said Robert's court-appointed attorney, Cruz Cervantes. Cosme Ramirez, the other boy caught shoplifting, is Kevin's quasi-brother-in-law (Cosme's sister and Kevin have a baby). Cosme confirmed Robert's story and gave a sworn statement. A warrant was issued for Kevin's arrest.

Even with the boys in custody, Tracey stayed locked in her father's house. Protected by her parents, an alarm and five dogs, Tracey still didn't feel safe. Some nights she sat in the living room watching TV until 3 a.m., too scared to walk down the hall to her bedroom. She told her parents, "I'd sleep with one eye open, but I only got one eye."

Tracey's father and mother took off the rest of the year from work. After the new year, and Tracey's 32nd birthday, her mother worked half-days trading shifts with her father. Tracey didn't want to be alone. She was tired and dizzy and felt awful all the time; she couldn't stand in the shower or walk to the bathroom by herself. Since she couldn't open her good eye without her blind eye hurting, Tracey spent her days with her head down, eyes closed, listening to the TV.

Tracey lay on the couch, with a heating pad wrapped around her head and a Q-tip stuffed up her nose, which wouldn't stop running. Her shot-out eye hurt so bad that if someone touched her eyelashes, Tracey screamed. On January 6 Tracey checked into Hermann Hospital for an overnight operation, but stayed 16 days because the surgeon found a spinal fluid leak in her brain (which explained her runny nose and watery eye). If they hadn't patched it, she would have died.

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman