DETROIT – Stripper Tamara Greene has found more notoriety in death than she ever did dancing under the name “Strawberry” in dimly lit topless clubs and private parties around Detroit.
The attractive, 27-year-old mother of three was shot several times in the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 2003, while sitting in a parked car outside a home on the city’s northwest side.
Six years later, Greene’s killing remains unsolved. But since her death, her legacy has become rife with intrigue after she was rumored to have performed at a supposed wild party at disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s mansion.
Many in Detroit question if her death was linked to the unproven party, and if some in city government may have conspired to cover up any connection to the former mayor.
On Friday, the Republican attorney general who wants to be Michigan’s next governor is set to give a deposition in federal court as part of a $150 million civil lawsuit. The suit isn’t seeking to find Greene’s killer, only to prove Kilpatrick, high-ranking police and other city officials stifled an investigation into the slaying.
Attorney General Mike Cox has defended his investigation of the rumored party, which he’s dismissed as an “urban legend.” His office investigated reports of the party, allegations of misdeeds by police protecting Kilpatrick and rumors that the mayor’s wife beat a stripper, but not Greene’s slaying.
“That wasn’t what we were supposed to do,” said Cox. “I would love to see the murder of Tamara Greene solved and someone brought to justice.”
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Norman Yatooma on behalf of Greene’s son; her two daughters were added later. It names Kilpatrick, former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, retired Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, several other police officials and the city as defendants.
“It just shows you can’t really trust many people,” Greene’s 16-year-old son, Jonathan Bond, said of a possible cover-up. Bond now lives outside Detroit and attends a suburban high school. “It shows you can do wrong things as a leader.”
Word of the rumored party began to surface in early 2003 when then-Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown claimed he was fired for investigating it and questionable behavior by members of Kilpatrick’s Executive Protection Unit.
The party allegedly took place sometime in 2002. Only Kilpatrick, strippers and his bodyguards are said to have been present. No details — other than the alleged assault — have come out about what reportedly happened there.
Greene’s name was linked after her death to the party reports as rumors of her dancing there began to surface.
In an affidavit, a former Detroit police records clerk said she saw a report involving Greene. The report read Greene was dancing at the party when Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita, returned home unexpectedly and in a rage beat her with a wooden object.
Discreetly, the story goes, Greene was taken to a hospital.
But investigators have been unable to find the report. Similar searches for medical records to prove someone had been assaulted at the Manoogian Mansion also proved fruitless.
A retired homicide investigator, who looked into Greene’s death before being transferred out of his unit, has said he believes she may have been shot by an officer.
What is missing, Cox says, is proof that a party took place, that Greene was there and that she was assaulted by the mayor’s wife. He also denies recent claims by a state police investigator that the attorney general’s office pressured state police to end their probe.
Cox said he only looked into the party after federal and county authorities balked. He issued 90 subpoenas, questioned nearly 120 witnesses and pored over 10,000 pages of documents; his investigation ended after five weeks. At the time, Cox said his office only was looking into the alleged party and whether Kilpatrick’s police bodyguards had crashed city vehicles while driving drunk and received overtime for hours not worked.
“We couldn’t find a victim to establish that there was a crime,” he said.
The county prosecutor still is investigating Greene’s death, and Detroit police recently reopened the case. Yatooma wants Cox to tell what he does know — under oath.
In a 2003 meeting with Cox, Kilpatrick denied the party happened. Yatooma wants to know why Cox didn’t question the Kilpatricks under oath.
“The state police troopers were not permitted to be there. The meeting was not recorded,” Yatooma said. “We simply have to take Mike Cox’s word” for what was said.
Depositions are expected over the next several weeks from the Kilpatricks, Beatty and Bully-Cummings, who retired in 2008.
“We have made no suggestion that we know who killed Tammy Greene,” Yatooma said. “Is there a reason that her murder investigation has been covered up? We don’t have to prove why. We just have to prove that it was.”
Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice in March 2008 after their sexually explicit text messages contradicted testimony in a 2007 whistle-blowers’ trial. Both had denied a romantic relationship and their roles in Brown’s firing.
Kilpatrick later entered pleas in two criminal cases, resigned as mayor and spent 99 days in jail. He now works as a salesman in Texas.