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ate last year, in this environment - - the now-familiar terrain of wolf packs and wilding, of River’s Edge and Lord of the Flies - - a crime occurred that seems as shocking as it was inevitable. There was one group of 13 marginalized street youths, mostly runaways ages 16 to 24, living in the Montrose. According to court papers and press accounts, between Dec. 18, 1994, and Dec. 21, 1994, they twice kidnapped Meinecke, a fellow runaway from a nearby suburb who had been living in the area off and on for less than a year. They kept him locked in a closet of an apartment over the course of three days, stripped naked, and periodically took him out to administer beatings. They sodomized him with a hot curling iron, struck him repeatedly in the head with a metal exercise bar, bit off most of his nose and doused his body with lighter fluid and nail-polish remover before setting him on fire.

According to a defendant, Darrold Alexander, who has been identified as the leader of the group and at whose apartment the beatings took place, the group used a can of hair spray and a lighter as a flamethrower to burn him, beat his feet with a wooden pole so that every time he took a step he’d remember, tied him to a weight bench with an electrical extension cord and covered his hair with Nair. They tried to cut out his tongue, and two people had sex in a bed covered with his blood, licking it from each other’s fingers.

In the early hours of Dec. 21, part of the group took Meinecke out of the apartment. At that point they were indecisive. The ostensible plan was to kill him - either by cutting his Achilles’ tendon (which they believed would kill him) or injecting him with a syringe full of lighter fluid — and then throw his body into an aqueduct. While they were deciding, they were discovered by a deputy constable. Two or three days later some of the people involved told staff members at HIPY what had happened, and the arrests began. All 13 are now in jail facing five to 99 years on 21 counts of aggravated kidnapping; four of them also face charges of aggravated sexual assault. Rudy Meinecke spent about a month in the hospital in critical condition. Not long after he was released, he ran away again - back to Montrose. The staff of HIPY kept him until his family came to take him home, where he is now, his father declining invitations from Geraldo.

The very same week that Rudy Meinecke was kidnapped and tortured, another homeless runaway and HIPY client was shot and killed, another client was shot in the leg, and a third client had his skull shattered by a chain and padlock.

The leader of the group in whose apartment the beating took place, Darrold “Alex” Alexander, or “Lestat,” a self-described “psychic vampire,” bisexual “dick dancer,” nude model, hustler and pimp, offers his opinion of why it happened: “I think they were thinking along the lines of, ‘Who the fuck is gonna miss a homeless kid?’”

 

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ERE ARE THE STATISTICS ON YOUNG HOMELESS people in Montrose: About 81.5 percent use drugs; 73 percent have engaged in “survival sex”; and at HIPY, 25 percent of the clients are HIV positive. Joseph Kotarba, a University of Houston sociology professor who has done research on Montrose street culture, offers a working model of three possible outcomes for homeless youth: Some go on to become homeless adults; others get caught up in the criminal justice system; and still others either outgrow the life or die on the streets. They get caught up in drug use, the drug trade, the sex industry and the criminal culture, and caught up in an overwhelmed, panicked criminal-justice and social-service system that is desperate to label them quickly and decisively as deviant and no longer has the resources or the patience to separate the weekend stoners from the psychotic.

Montrose street youth also resist simple black-and-white characterization: They’re neither the innocent preyed-upon children in the human-interest piece nor the young sociopaths and sensualists of the NC-17 movie and the occasional academic paper: "[Adolescent IV drug users] who often appear incoherent and cognitively and perceptually dulled by their heavy use of drugs suddenly appear quite competent to interact at the mention of rock & roll music," reads a selection from "Rock Music As a Medium for AIDS Intervention," published in AIDS Education and Prevention.

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