San Diego As usual, Mayor Cianci was at the murder scene. "There was one body on the street. He was in perfect health, outside of a hole in his head. He was lying face down, and they turned him over, and the medical examiner, the coroner, came and did his thing. The police cordoned off the scene, and they took him away. I didn't go to the other one. Seen one, you've seen them all."
The city is Providence, Rhode Island. The bodies were those of two visitors from San Diego, James Edward Scott, 42, and Alberto Gonzalez Ortega, 23. It was three months ago, June 26. A Friday night around 10:00, in the Smith Hill area. The two men had just come out of the Foxy Lady strip joint. By the time Mayor Vincent Cianci, Jr., rushed over from his dinner a few blocks away, their bodies were lying a half-mile apart, on North Davis Street and West Park Street, at the edge of Providence's downtown. The two men were killed with a 9mm handgun.
Scott's and Gonzalez's deaths, Providence police chief Colonel Urbano Prignano, Jr., acknowledges, were not everyday killings. "Execution? Absolutely," says Prignano. "The night of the murders, when I saw the way the bodies were and everything, I called it right from the beginning. I said, 'This is definitely a narcotics hit.' "
"I don't know much about the people involved," says Cianci. "But they obviously were not Rhode Islanders."
"Over here it's easy [to track them] because they're from California," says Prignano. "But it's awful strange why they were up here."
All that is known about the last two days in Scott's and Gonzalez's lives is that they spent most of that time in the air, cruising across country at 150 miles per hour aboard a rented, single-engined Piper Cherokee Lance.
On Wednesday, June 24, Scott and Gonzalez climbed aboard their rented plane at San Diego's Montgomery Field. According to the plane's owner, Scott told the fixed-base operator that their destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"He didn't even file a flight plan," says the owner, who asked not to be named. "He told us where he was going, and he went someplace totally different."
Scott flew the plane to Albuquerque, all right, but he didn't stop there. He continued north to Chicago and then headed the little plane east towards Green Airport in Providence. But bad weather forced them to land just across the border in Massachusetts, at Norwood airport in the suburbs of Boston.
Police chief Prignano told reporters that the two San Diegans spent the night of June 25 in a Ramada Inn near Norwood and traveled to Providence the next day. They checked into the Westin Hotel about 11:00 a.m., then went to the strip club and spent the rest of the day there.
It was when they stepped out of the Foxy Lady around 10:00 that evening that at least one vehicle pulled up. Neighbors told reporters they heard gunshots and a pair of speeding cars. Police found two bodies lying on the pavement, half a mile apart. According to the death certificates, Gonzalez died of brain injury and skull fracture from a single gunshot wound; Scott from gunshot wounds to the lung, liver, and kidneys. "So what it looked like is [the killers forced both men into their jeep, and] they killed Gonzalez," says Chief Prignano. "[Scott] sees it done, jumps out of the vehicle, the other guy chases him, hits him with five slugs. I know it had to be a jeep, because the blood was coming out of his body, and [the jeep] went over it and left a tire mark. So they leave and dump [Gonzalez's] body off someplace else."
Scott's family told Rhode Island media that the two were in Providence to buy dry-cleaning equipment. But both men's records cast doubt on that story.
"Gonzalez, who was murdered here, was the same person who was involved in a sweep after the attempted assassination of Jesus Blancornelas [editor of Zeta, Tijuana's weekly paper] in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1997," says Prignano.
Gonzalez was one of three alleged "narco-juniors" (children of wealthy Tijuana families mixed up with drug traffickers) picked up after Operation 50, the December 3, 1997, police raids on 50 Tijuana homes.
After being released from a month of house arrest, Gonzalez fled to the United States, according to Prignano. The three narco-juniors under suspicion have all met disturbing fates: Pareyon Rosas was found shot outside his prominent labor lawyer father's home last April 21, Webber Herrera has disappeared, and now Gonzalez has been killed in Providence with one shot to the back of the head.
And Scott, says Prignano, "is definitely the same person" as the James Edward Scott arrested in 1985 on suspicion of involvement with a Peruvian cocaine-smuggling ring whose West Coast distribution network was allegedly based in North County. The arrests climaxed 18 months of investigation. The Peruvian network was responsible for up to 25 percent of all cocaine smuggled in from Peru, according to the FBI. Scott was one of over 98 people caught in the sweep.
A UPI report dated March 25, 1986, says Scott had allegedly traveled to San Diego County with $35,000 to buy cocaine, which he planned to sell in Michigan. But the report quotes assistant U.S. attorney Maria Arroyo as saying that Scott was not a major character in the conspiracy. In a July 28, 1986 judgment, Scott was convicted of being "accessory after the fact to use of a communication facility."
"On or about September 15, 1984," reads Scott's 1986 information sheet, "at approximately 2:12 p.m., John Stephenson Kerr did knowingly and intentionally use a...telephone in... facilitating the commission of controlled substance offenses....and defendant James Edward Scott knowing that said offense had been committed did receive, relieve, comfort, and assist John Stephenson Kerr in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial, or punishment..."
In other words, Scott was there when Kerr made a cocaine deal on the phone. He was sentenced to three years' probation.