Maria White answered the door, expecting a buyer for the crack they sold from the trailer with the baby-blue trim. It was her place, and 32-year-old Kim and her two girlfriends had been squatting there for a month. They all fed their crack addiction by selling it to others. Glass pipes and lighters littered the floors. Maria had heard Kim's reasoning for getting high every day: so she could hide the memories of 34-year-old Ciro's abuse, how he used to punch and beat her daily. But Maria didn't recognize the man that stormed past her into the kitchen.
"Are you going to give me the papers to the car?" Ciro demanded of Kim. She was sitting at a small folding table lighted by the sunlight from the trailer's kitchen window on the morning of July 17 last year. He wanted the title to the car they had bought together and also demanded the birth certificates for their two children. But really, he wasn't leaving without her.
"They're in the car," Kim answered. "Go take it. I don't care."
"Well, are you going to come with me?" Ciro asked, his short and muscle-filled frame -- just five feet, six inches tall but 179 pounds -- loomed over Kim. He had a wide, scarred face that projected a nasty scowl.
"No. I'm tired of being hurt."
From the living room of the double-wide, 36-year-old Lucia "Lou Ann" Alvarado got nervous. She was the unelected leader of the women. "I don't like how he looks," Lou Ann said to the fourth girl in the trailer, Rhonda Kennedy, before ducking into the rear bedroom for a gun she kept under a mattress.
Meanwhile, Kim had turned her back to her husband. "I'm not going with you," she said, looking out into the weed-filled backyard. Ciro took a couple of steps back and grabbed a seven-inch knife with a beige handle from the kitchen counter. He grabbed Kim's shoulder and jabbed the blade through the tender skin of her lower back. Kim screamed as Ciro stabbed her again and again. The knife ruptured Kim's spleen and split her intestines, spilling the dark blood that flows through those organs.
From the bedroom, Lou Ann emerged with a silver Raven handgun. She saw Ciro plunging the knife into Kim, perhaps four or five times now. Florida law allowed Lou Ann to shoot Ciro dead in an effort to protect her friend. She was about to try.
Lou Ann pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Her father's lessons on how to shoot a gun came back to her. She undid the safety, cocked it, and this time fired three shots into the roof of the trailer as a warning. The sound of the .25-caliber handgun reverberated off the metal walls and plywood floors, and Ciro took notice. He ran for the door with Lou Ann following close behind.
Outside, Ciro's silver Isuzu pickup with a white camper top waited just steps away in the circular driveway. Jose Bertrand, whom Ciro had asked to accompany him that day, stood by, shocked at the sight of the woman chasing his neighbor with a gun.
Lou Ann stepped into the frame of the trailer door. Now the law forbade her from shooting Ciro because her friend was no longer in jeopardy. If she shot him now, even though she had just saved Kim's life, she could face murder or manslaughter charges and possibly spend her life in prison. As Ciro ran toward the truck, Lou Ann wildly unloaded the rest of the Raven's four or five bullets at Ciro's back. A bullet pierced Ciro's right hand, just below his wrist, and a second slammed him in the left shoulder. The slug passed through his back, punctured his lung, and came to a stop just before coming out of his chest.
"I can't drive," Ciro said to his friend, handing him the keys to the Isuzu. The knife dropped into the crabgrass of the front yard. Blood spilled over Jose as he helped Ciro into the bed of the pickup. Jose jumped into the driver's seat and angled the truck toward the road.
Meanwhile, Lou Ann ran back inside for a basket in the hallway where she kept spare bullets. She loaded two more in the gun, watching through the kitchen window as Jose loaded Ciro into the truck. With the gun reloaded, she stepped outside again. "You bastard!" she yelled as Jose turned onto Gun Club Road. Lou Ann ran for the driveway, unloading the gun again at the truck as she ran.