I’M NOT A RELIGIOUS PERSON. It’s not that I’m an atheist or even agnostic, I’m just anti-organized religion. So I didn’t want to prejudice the reader by placing this sub-section of Hjalmar’s interview—what I’ve dubbed, a Barbwire Back-Story—within the Cash Logistics synopsis. For me, it’s not a true crime story with a religious underlining. But I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.
During the writing of Cash Logistics several things happened. Once, Hjalmar told me he was participating in the writing of his story in the hope it would “serve God in some way,” which seemed like a strange thing for an armed robber to say. Hjalmar also asked me to try not to sensationalize the story. “I don’t want anyone thinkin’ what I did was cool. My best friend was murdered. It ain’t cool.”
“The story, in and of itself is sensational,” I replied. “I can’t fix that, but you got over twenty years and someone died. No one’s gonna think that’s cool. No one worth anything.”
In Hjalmar’s mind, God had tried to nudge him in the right direction. The ghetto sexy black chick, telling him, “I know what you plannin’.” The Jehovah’s Witness who told him, “Whatever you’re planning, don’t do it.” At one point while picking up his daughter from church, his daughter’s daycare teacher—a woman that Hjalmar had known for years—said to him, “You have a black cloud over you. You need to change your life.”
At the time, he didn’t think much of it, but now, Hjalmar sees them as missed warnings.
AS THE SYNOPSIS PROGRESSED, it became painfully obvious Hjalmar only knew a fraction of the story. Bits and pieces. Rumors. Supposition. Despite being the inside man, when it came to his co-defendants, Hjalmar was an outsider. However, Kelby Parson—the member of Duey’s crew who was shot, point blank, in the face during the second robbery at the Garda Transfer Station—was incarcerated at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex and somehow ended up in my housing unit. Second-cube, top-bunk. Parson’s baby’s mom was Duey’s wife’s sister, and he knew the other half of the story.
We spoke on and off about the events that led up to the Garda Cash Logistics Depot score—Duey and his family of robbers. How he screwed Hjalmar out of his cut. Mike and the aftermath. Our conversations helped to connect the dots.
Parson’s voice was raspy, damaged from the gunshot. At times he seemed in pain, although, he was always willing to talk. I think Parson found my interest in his life entertaining. As armed robbers go, Parson seemed like a nice guy. He was friendly and polite. However, after listening to his stories I got the impression he’s also the kind of guy that would go into a bank with a fully-automatic assault rifle, zip-tie the customers and staff, and leave with the contents of the vault. Then pick up his kids from daycare on his way home from the bank. And if you pointed out the inconsistency, he wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
At one point, in the middle of telling Parson about the night Hjalmar sat within feet of the man who may have killed his best friend, Parson said, “That wasn’t the guy that did [Mike] Sheffield; Melvin did Sheffield for Duey.”
Keep in mind, I’d been acting under the assumption that no one but Duey knew the identity of Mike’s murderer. He admitted to hiring someone to kill Sheffield to multiple people, but he never gave up the shooter’s name. I flipped through my notes and found Duey’s family tree; his wife, Shauntee Hollis’ brother was Willie Melvin Hollis.
“Why couldn’t it have been Melvin in the strip club?”
Parson shrugged. “‘Cause he’d already been arrested for a’ kidnappin’. Melvin was in jail by then.” I asked Parson if this was just some rumor or was it more—I have no doubt that he never thought his admission would make it into print. Parson gave me a sideways grinned and replied, “It was Melvin.” But that was all he would say.
I immediately made several Freedom of Information Act requests on Melvin and waited. It turned out that Parson was wrong. According to everything I received, Willie Melvin Hollis was not in prison at the time of Mike’s murder or during Hjalmar’s strip club sighting of Mike’s killer. In addition, based on his numerous arrests and propensity for violence Melvin certainly seems capable of murder. Regardless of the evidence I showed Parson, he never would tell me who told him Melvin was Mike’s killer.
I went over the admission with Hjalmar. He was shocked Parson had given me Melvin’s name. He’d never heard it before, but then again, Hjalmar’s an outsider among Duey’s crew. Parson and Duey, however, were members of Duey’s incestuous family tree and therefore trusted confidants. All Hjalmar wants is the truth. He’s not interested in revenge. “I’d just like to be able to tell Mike’s parents who killed their son,” he told me. “I’d just like to give ’em some peace.”