Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part II 

Warren Ullom: A talented musician's recovery, incarceration and swan song

Page 3 of 5

The hospital staff told Pamela that the earrings were not on Rachel when she arrived. So Pamela texted Warren to ask him.

The only thing Pamela knew about Warren was that he'd been with Rachel when she died. Still, she had no reason at first to doubt what he told her: that he remembered seeing the earrings on Rachel, and that he'd look around for them.

The next day, Warren texted Pamela, saying the earrings must have fallen off as the paramedics carried Rachel out of his apartment. Pamela found that hard to believe. Diamond earrings of that size screw on. It's really hard to get them off. She was so bothered by this that she took the information to the police. No one cared.

Nor did anyone seem to care when Pamela tracked down the person who, according to the police report, first called 911: the Sweet Man. For six days, Pamela left messages for Sweet. When he finally answered, he asked, "Would you like me to tell you what I saw?"

Sweet told Pamela a very different story about Rachel's death than what Warren had told police. Sweet said Warren had called him with the hope of being able to revive Rachel with cocaine. He said he'd gotten to Warren's around 3 a.m., and that Warren injected Rachel twice with the coke. That's when Rachel started having trouble breathing, Sweet claimed. He said he told Warren that Rachel was dying. Sweet also said Warren was freaking out on him and didn't want him to call 911.

Three weeks after Pamela extracted Sweet's story, police started taking Pamela seriously. Over the phone, she gave investigators both Sweet's and Warren's numbers. A few days later, she met with someone on the force who was very interested in what she had to say: APD Investigator Jeff Gunter. Pamela tipped off Gunter about the Sweet Man and the cocaine injections and the missing earrings. She mentioned other inconsistencies, too. In the police report, Warren said Rachel had only passed out for an hour and a half. But Sweet told her — and cell phone records would soon prove — that Warren called Sweet over to the apartment at 3 a.m., which meant Rachel was unconscious for five excruciating hours. Warren also initially claimed that Rachel had asked for the cocaine — and that she'd shot herself up. Impossible, Pamela said. Sweet, who brought the cocaine, said Rachel was out cold from the moment he arrived. What's more, paramedics found that only Rachel's right arm had been injected. But Pamela knew that Rachel was so uncoordinated with her left hand that she couldn't even work a remote control, let alone inject herself.

After recounting all these details to Gunter, Pamela had one thing left to say: She thanked him for being the person who finally cared enough to hear her story.

The investigation moved quickly from there. Gunter followed the leads Pamela delivered. He talked to the last of Rachel's friends to see her alive. He talked to her mother. He requested Warren's cell phone records for the 24 hours surrounding Rachel's death. And through that, he and the federal task force he linked up with soon discovered that Warren's investigation tied neatly into Batman's.

The probe into Batman and his midlevel heroin operation dated back at least four months, to March 2008, when a confidential informant working with the feds orchestrated an undercover buy from Batman — $3,000 for 20 grams of heroin. The deal went down in the informant's car, but a glare on the windshield prevented a clear surveillance video of the transaction, and the wire the informant was wearing didn't turn up anything incriminating. Two more undercover buys, for 30 and 50 grams, were similar failures.

Then investigators caught a break. Batman was pulled over for following a Honda Accord too closely on I-20. The trooper asked him to step out of the car, frisked him and found 35 grams of heroin and $10,000 in his pockets.

Batman was hauled into an interrogation room with Gunter and a fellow task force agent. He quickly confessed that he'd made at least 100 large heroin purchases and that his most recent supplier had the best smack in the state: "Pure, uncut and A-1 grade." He boasted that one user turned blue after shooting up. In addition to Rachel's death, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would later tie another fatality to Batman's heroin.

In fact, the spring of 2008 saw an unusual spike in heroin-related deaths in Fulton County, particularly among a demographic that doesn't typically show up in the coroner's files. Over a 12-day period, four young people — including 28-year-old blues prodigy Sean Costello and 21-year-old Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts — died from complications involving heroin. By comparison, only four heroin deaths were recorded in Fulton over the previous four months, and only one of the victims was younger than 30.

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