Reader Jeff Dege linked to a follow-on story about the slaying of New York actress and playwright Nichole duFresne. It seems the police have apprehended her nineteen year-old killer, and (surprise!) he has a significant record and a violent past.
Accused murderer Rudy Fleming’s troubled past includes guns, gangs, jail, emotional disturbances
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
By MELISSA ANELLI
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
An emotionally troubled teen with gang affiliations and a death wish may have pulled the trigger on his life last week, when he allegedly answered a young actress’ comment with a mortal gunshot to her chest.
The senseless shooting may be the end of a downward spiral for Rudy Fleming, 19, who could face life in prison if convicted of murdering Nicole duFresne, an aspiring actress and playwright from Brooklyn.
His descent also may have pulled down Tatianna McDonald, 14, of Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn, said to be his girl friend.
She was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree murder and robbery in connection with duFresne’s death after being taken to the 73rd Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn by her mother.
At least Ms. McDonald’s mother understands the difference between right and wrong and is willing to make her daughter face up to it.
Fleming, who grew up in the West Brighton public housing complex, labeled a member of the Bloods gang by neighbors and police documents, led a young life checkered by crime and violence — one that couldn’t be fixed by the correction system.
That’s because the “correction system” isn’t. It’s warehousing for criminals, and that’s about it.
In records of his first arrest, which call Fleming emotionally disturbed, he appears tormented, his only statement after pointing a loaded gun at officers in 2001 being, “You should have shot me. You should have shot me. I want you to kill me. I want to die.”
Given his subsequent actions, perhaps they should, but hindsight is always 20/20. However…
He was imprisoned for over two years in connection with the scary incident — to “ensure that he learns his lesson well,” said the prosecuting attorney who asked for the sentence.
Except the “lessons” he learned were probably how to be a better thug, and how, even in prison, the authorities cannot protect inmates from brutalizing each other, nor can they keep drugs out of what are supposed to be secure facilities.
WEST BRIGHTON KID
In 1991, Gertrude Fleming ushered then-6-year-old Rudy, four siblings and a cousin through the doors of a tattered West Brighton housing project building on the 700 block of Henderson Avenue, police sources said.
The high-rises smell of urine and takeout food, and face a church whose door bears this sign: “No Weapons Allowed In Building!!!”
And in “gun-free” NYC, just how much compliance do you think that sign inspires?
The family lived crammed into a second-floor apartment, their door facing a long and dank hallway.
Fleming’s mother still lives in the project.
What a sterling example of how well the “War on Poverty” has worked! Just about as well as the “War on (some) Drugs.”
When a reporter informed her, two days ago, that her son was in trouble, she reacted casually, as if she had been waiting for such news. But when told the charge was murder, Mrs. Fleming retreated into her apartment.
Yesterday, she remained secluded, only shouting through the blue metal door that she didn’t want to speak to anyone.
Her son Nicky, convicted of assault in 2002, is serving a six-year term in upstate Alden, N.Y.
Which reminds me of Bill Cosby’s questions of just a few weeks ago, “I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange jumpsuit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn’t know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?” All good questions. No good answers.
Rudy Fleming hasn’t returned to West Brighton since his first arrest, but the gloomy building where he used to live is home to many thoroughly unsurprised residents. Yesterday, they offered vague shoulder shrugs and heard-it-before sighs when presented with the news.
“It’s not abnormal around here, that’s for sure,” said a woman named Mona. Looking resigned, she ticked off a list of those she knew in the area who had been killed, including her nephew.
“It needs to stop,” she said.
Yes, it does, and I’ve written about it before. But it won’t as long as it keeps being treated as a War on Drugs problem or a War on Guns problem, or even a War on Poverty problem. It’s a failure of the society to address the realities of “violent and predatory” versus “violent but protective.” Once again I’m reminded of Heinlein’s “History and Moral Philosophy” lecture explaining that human beings have only the moral sense that is instilled in them, and that education is normally done by older males. In this case, as Heinlein wrote in 1959,
These juvenile criminals hit a low level. Born with only the instinct for survival, the highest morality they achieved was a shaky loyalty to a peer group, a street gang. But the do-gooders attempted to ‘appeal to their better natures,’ to ‘reach them,’ to ‘spark their moral sense.’ Tosh! They had no ‘better natures’; experience taught them that what they were doing was the way to survive.
And Rudy and his brother apparently learned only that low morality.
Only Fleming’s neighbor, “Breezy,” registered surprise.
“Shocking,” he said.
Fleming was usually unflappable, he said.
“He was chill,” Breezy said. “I knew him to do stupid s—, but not stupid s— like that.”
At Susan Wagner High School, sources said, Fleming was given several superintendent’s suspensions — usually for grave infractions — and he was subsequently transferred to Port Richmond High School.
Again, straight from Heinlein:
“Back to these young criminals — They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sentence was: for a first offence, a warning — a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses a sentence of confinement but with sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested may times and convicted several times before he was punished — and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that mild punishment, be given probation — ‘paroled’ in the jargon of the times.
“This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, with no punishment whatever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. Then suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called ‘juvenile delinquent’ becomes an adult criminal — and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder.”
He had singled me out again. “Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house … and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken — whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?”
“Why … that’s the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!”
“I agree. Or a child. Whose fault would it be?”
“Uh … why, mine, I guess.”
“Again I agree. But I’m not guessing.”
Neither am I.
In May 2001 he was issued a ticket for disorderly conduct outside his brother’s apartment in the West Brighton Houses, in a building on the 1000 block of Castleton Avenue.
Six months later, then 16, he brandished a loaded .380 high-point semi-automatic pistol at truancy officers in the basement of St. Peter’s R.C. Church, New Brighton.
The gun incident prompted the Truancy Reduction Alliance to Contact Kids (T.R.A.C.K.) program, which helps round up hooky players, to require officers to use metal detectors and physical searches for weapons before transporting any student.
Officers managed to talk the gun away from Fleming. While they were doing so, he admitted at a later parole hearing, he “had a little accident in my pants.”
Convicted of gun possession and sent to Washington Correctional Facility in Comstock, N.Y., after two years Fleming said at a parole hearing that he wanted to get out and start his own business, perhaps become a masseuse.
“You are a young guy. You should be going to college, not sitting here in prison like a jerk,” an officer said to him at the meeting. “You could be a doctor, lawyer, or any of the fine professions. … You don’t have to live this life.”
And here was the “appeal to his better nature” – a “better nature” that he didn’t have because no one had ever taught it to him.
He was denied parole, the report noting that “there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without violating the law.”
But under state law, Fleming was granted a conditional release in June — required after an inmate completes six-sevenths of a sentence, provided there are no major infractions on his or her record.
His release was conditioned upon treatment, said Scott Steinhardt, spokesman for the NYS Division of Parole, though he declined to specify what type.
Had Fleming been required to serve his entire sentence, he would have been released in November 2004 with no restrictions, Steindhardt said.
“He was not a [parole] board release, and that’s important,” Steinhardt said.
Meaning “It’s not our fault he killed someone!”
At the time of last week’s shooting, Fleming held a job at a Manhattan restaurant, had a curfew and appeared to his parole officer to be getting his life on track: All his reports were positive.
But Breezy said he saw Fleming about a month ago at a Bronx bar. Fleming liked women and getting high, Breezy said, and that night looked to be enjoying himself.
“Getting high” is apparently “positive.”
The violent elements of Fleming’s life came together early Thursday morning, as he prowled the streets of the Lower East Side with four other young men and two girls.
And a .357.
They encountered Ms. duFresne, her fiance, Jeffrey Sparks, and another couple, Scott Noth and Mary Ann Gibson, who had just left a bar.
Fleming pistol-whipped Sparks and grabbed Ms. Gibson’s purse, witnesses said.
“What are you going to do, shoot us?” Ms. duFresne is said to have remarked.
Fleming responded by firing his .357 Magnum revolver once into her chest.
She was pronounced dead later that morning.
Fleming was picked up by police at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in St. George late Sunday.
Sources say he had another emotional episode when he was arrested for the killing, an echo of the “EDP” (emotionally disturbed person) mark of his first arrest.
This time Fleming complained that he was sick, banged his head against a wall and said he was dizzy. Police said they didn’t believe him, but he was brought to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Fleming is now being held without bail on murder, robbery and assorted charges. The gun and a scarf he was allegedly wearing at the time were found in his godfather’s Manhattan apartment, where he had been staying.
Yesterday prosecutors said life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty were the likely possible outcomes for the young man.
In pictures of him being transported to a holding facility, Fleming, his head against the window of a police vehicle, is apparently crying, his death wish perhaps granted.
It’s a difficult lesson to learn, and one that we as a society seem completely unprepared to face, but the kids being produced by these conditions are, as Theodore Dalyrmple illustrated in The Frivolity of Evil, not recoverable. We don’t have the resources in this society to make a dent in the problem once these kids reach their teens. No society does. Ms. duFresne’s death is the result of decades of bad social policy, but it is Rudy Fleming’s crime. It was his decision. It was not his fault that delinquent adults were never there to instill a moral sense in him before he reached adulthood, but now that he’s an adult, he must live with – or die by – the results of his actions, and people like Ms. duFresne and her loved ones must suffer from the failure of society to instill a moral sense in these abandoned, vicious children.