Left For Dead

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Morphine, Demerol and Darvocet didn't kill the constant pain. "They could not give me enough drugs to make the pain go away," Tracey said. "I felt like I'd been in a prisoner-of-war camp."

The week before Robert's trial, Tracey dreamed spiders were crawling all over her as people tried to kill her. She slept with the light on and the door open.

In the courtroom June 2, Tracey held Robert's eyes for five seconds. "I was trying to look for any understanding; I was searching for something in his eyes," she said, but he broke her gaze and looked down. "It was bizarre seeing him with his head held down like a meek and mild little boy," Tracey said. "This kid was pure evil."

When a psychiatrist asked Robert the difference between right and wrong, Robert said it was a trick question. Robert failed both the first and sixth grades, he has an alcoholic father in El Paso, and his mother, Lucy Lechuga, is on probation for welfare fraud. His parents divorced 14 years ago; Robert lives with his mother in a battered blue trailer. His older brother, Eric, says Robert dresses like a "gang wanna-be" in big, loose clothes. As a freshman at Sam Rayburn High School, Robert's grades are 70s or below. Robert's a Broncos fan, loves the band Lil' Keke and spends most of his time playing PlayStation. He had just finished a community-service sentence for a curfew violation; he wants to be a probation officer. In juvenile jail Robert cried daily, couldn't sleep and tested positive for chlamydia. When a psychiatrist asked Robert to describe himself in three words, Robert couldn't think of anything to say.

In Robert's version of the story, he had a fight with his girlfriend (she caught him with another girlfriend) and was at her house apologizing when his homeboy dropped by. Kevin pressured him to ditch his woman and go cruising. For safety, Robert took the gun his mother keeps under her mattress. Robert says Kevin did all the shooting.

Robert's attorney's basic defense was that Robert is a teenager, and teenagers do stupid things. "A 16-year-old has mush for brains," Cervantes said. He said Robert is timid and like a daughter to his mother (he does the cooking, cleaning and laundry). Since Robert was sitting in the car with the radio on and the windows up, Cervantes said he didn't hear Tracey being shot and couldn't have stopped it. "The guy who's got the gun calls the shots," Cervantes said. But Robert could have called 911.

The jury sentenced Robert to 75 years. "He won't last very long in prison," Rick said. "They don't like child abusers or people who shoot women."

A week after Robert's trial, Tracey spent an hour sitting in the hammock in her backyard. Guarded by Odie, the Deels' German shepherd-chow mix, and a six-foot fence, Tracey still couldn't relax. She was going crazy locked both in the house and in her memory. Her mind was always full; there wasn't a minute that she didn't think about the shooting. "It's never not on my mind," she said. "Never."

Tracey's father, determined that she never see the Honda again, turned it in to the dealership to be auctioned. Tracey bought a new white truck and spent a lot of time in the garage polishing it. She had it a week before she drove it alone; Kevin hadn't been convicted yet, so she was still worried.

On Wednesday afternoon, July 5, Tracey arrived at the criminal courthouse wearing a hot-pink dress. "I'm feeling sassy," Tracey said, psyching herself up. Her family and friends wore black.

Kevin's family didn't watch him plead not guilty. It wasn't his first court date; the FBI had Kevin's fingerprints on file for shoplifting, evading arrest and making terroristic threats. The 18-year-old was serving probation as a sophomore at the Community Education Partnership, a school for students with criminal records and behavior problems. Kevin failed the first and fourth grades; he plays chess and says he wants to study electrical engineering at Yale. He sings at 15-year-old girls' birthday parties and wants to be the next Ricky Martin. Kevin quit his job at Burger King, but he told his mother he was saving to buy her a $100,000 house.

In the courtroom, Kevin held his head up and looked remarkably calm as he leaned back in his leather chair. Assistant District Attorney Vic Wisner played a video slowly following Tracey's blood trail step by step. Every few feet the camera pans from the ground to the faraway apartments. Next, Wisner showed the jury pictures of Tracey covered in blood; the photographs were so gory one of the eight female jurors couldn't look. Tracey sat by the window outside the courtroom with Dani Hochleutner, the woman she's dating. "Everybody looks pale when they come out," Tracey said. "Aged."

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman