S2 E15: The Murder of Tamara Greene
February 4, 2019
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With the mayor behind bars, a crusading lawyer takes up the case of slain exotic dancer Tamara Greene. Could Kwame Kilpatrick have ordered her murder — or is it all an urban legend?
WXYZ ANCHOR: ...round two of questioning. Take a look at some video. Kilpatrick was brought here from federal prison in an unmarked car with tinted windows. He’ll be deposed today...
ROB SZYPKO: It’s 2010. Kwame Kilpatrick has resigned as mayor...and he’s behind bars for lying on the stand about an affair. But now, he’s back in court.
NORMAN YATOOMA: That was surreal, the guy at this point is already in custody.
ROB: This is lawyer Norman Yatooma. He remembers seeing Kwame that day.
YATOOMA: He is ushered in in handcuffs. He looked like you've seen him on the news, with the exception of the wardrobe change. Rather than being in a three-piece Armani suit he was in a jumpsuit. He has fallen from quite a high mountain top. And yet he was the most arrogant, most brazen person I've ever had the privilege of deposing. He was making speeches as if he was still running for office, as if the news cameras were still on him.
ROB: So why is Kwame back in court?
ARCHIVAL: The family of the murdered stripper is suing Kwame Kilpatrick and the City of Detroit, alleging they obstructed the investigation into Greene’s 2003 shooting death…[DIP]
YATOOMA: What was alleged in the complaint was very simply that Tammy danced for Kwame Kilpatrick at a party and was ultimately killed to salvage the mayor's political career.
ROB: Today on the show… the murder of Tamara Greene...comes back to haunt Detroit’s disgraced ex-mayor.
ROB: I’m Rob Szypko. Welcome to Crimetown.
KEN HAMPTON: This lady, this girl is going somewhere, if she just stays on that straight and narrow course.
ROB: This is Pastor Ken Hampton. Before Tamara Greene was an exotic dancer known as Strawberry, he was her minister at Grace Bible Chapel.
HAMPTON: She came up in poverty. They were dirt poor I mean there were times when they didn't have food to eat. We had to bring them food. And the father was not there. And she swore that she would never, if she had an opportunity, live like she was raised. No one could have dreamed that things would have made the turns that they did.
ROB: How did you first meet Tamara?
TARIS JACKSON: I think there was like some type of Boyz II Men type of event somewhere.
ROB: This is Taris Jackson. He’d go on to become Tamara Greene’s boyfriend.
JACKSON: I think some guy was harassing her or something like that and I told him leave her alone. You know, she was obviously gorgeous. I think I invited her to something else and over a series of months we became involved. Yeah. At that time she just wanted to be a nurse. Going to school to get the prerequisites and for nursing and trying to work part-time in different places along that line to try to make a better life you know. But by that time she had become pregnant with our daughter.
ROB: Tamara and Taris had a baby girl. But they were already beginning to drift apart. They broke up, and Tamara got into a new line of work.
JACKSON: At some point she recognized that her assets you know visual visual assets could be a potential tool to help her out of circumstances and she had progressed into you know dancing and doing other things on that line, and started making a lot of money doing that. And she started having a taste for hanging with guys who were in the street element. She dated drug dealers. A lot of those guys, you know, pick her up from my place.
ROB: Tamara would visit Taris and their daughter. And after a while, he began noticing that the guys picking Tamara up had changed...
JACKSON: I remember it stopped being drug dealers, more towards officials or whatever like that because I could see through the tint of the car the guys had suits on. You know you start thinking about, who is this guy who was that guy?
ROB: So city officials.
ROB: Soon enough...Tamara started dancing at high-end private parties. And she became better known...as Strawberry.
MICHAEL KEARNS: The night in question. I was going to Medic 12, which was Jefferson Hart. I heard a call go off for Jefferson and Connor…
ROB: This is Michael Kearns, a retired EMS lieutenant in Detroit. He’s a little hard to understand because he had a stroke a few years ago.
DREW NELLES: So you arrive, there’s this woman standing at a payphone.
KEARNS: Yeah. I said, I’m Mike with Detroit EMS, are you the person who was assaulted? She said yeah.
ROB: Kearns says he responded to a call from a gas station. A woman had been assaulted.
KEARNS: Above her eye was swollen. She had been crying. She was physically upset.
DREW: And did she tell you her name?
KEARNS: Tammy Greene. And she told us she was dancing at a party at the Manoogian. And uh...she got hit.
ROB: Kearns is saying... “She told us she was dancing at a party at the Manoogian. And she got hit.”
KEARNS: Said Kwame and his cronies were there.
ROB: “Said Kwame and his cronies were there.”
DREW: Did she mention the mayor’s wife?
DREW: What did she say?
KEARNS: She said Carlita hit her.
ROB: Kearns says he waited there...until two plainclothes officers arrived with an ambulance.
DREW: Do you remember the last thing she said to you?
KEARNS: She said just thank you. I said happy to help. And she got in the ambulance.
DREW: Did you tell anybody at that time what had happened?
KEARNS: Told my partners.
DREW: Your partners? Why didn't you tell more people?
KEARNS: I was afraid.
DREW: Afraid of what?
KEARNS: Getting hit, getting knocked off. You never know what could happen.
HAMPTON: Tammy would call me on occasion if she had an issue with various men and I would speak to her as a father would speak to his daughter regarding how to handle them...
ROB: Again, Pastor Ken Hampton.
HAMPTON: ...the last couple of weeks of her life. The final call. She called me and said we need to talk.I could tell that there was trauma, there was trauma there and, and that this needed to be a face to face meeting. If it's, if it’s that serious we need to meet at a neutral place just in case she was followed. A safe place. And so we met at a Bible bookstore. Grand River and Greenfield. And there we, we talked and I could look in her eyes and I could discern that she was afraid. She didn't really let me know other than to say that she felt that her life was in danger. “I’m afraid, I’m afraid.”Then I stopped it right there. I said, Well your mother is out of state. You need to go right away. Even then I didn't know how grave the situation was.
ROB: One night, a few weeks later, Tamara’s ex-boyfriend Taris was with their daughter, Ashly.
JACKSON: Ashly and I stopped at Nu Waves fish place to pick up some fried shrimp or whatever the meal was, probably about 10:00 at night that day. She's sleeping in my bed. Turned on the news.
ARCHIVAL: Tamara Greene finished her shift at All Star’s topless club and hooked up with her boyfriend. Greene was driving, she pulled up here, right across the street from the rental property...
JACKSON: And uh...I don’t know if it was pictures of the crime scene with the car, or the name, but I knew it was her. I didn't know what to say or do. You know you don’t want to believe, and then...a lot of pain.
ARCHIVAL: As Greene was hit, the car, still in drive, rolled across outer drive and came to rest in the middle of the next block. Tamara Greene died at the scene.
JACKSON: I waited three days to tell our daughter what had happened. Because one, I wanted to, without question, make sure that there was no confusion about who it was. And then two, how do you tell it to -- I don't know what to say. Uh...you can see the life come out of a kid when you say something like that. Sorry. And uh, you can see their life force just come out of them, you know? Uh. She was just crushed. You know, Santa Claus died. You know, someone who gave you butterfly kisses all the time. You know.
HAMPTON: This place was full and there were a lot of these girls of her peers who were were present.
ROB: Tamara Greene’s funeral was held at Grace Bible Chapel. Pastor Ken Hampton led the service.
DREW: Do you remember what verses you quoted from?
HAMPTON: So many verses. Mark 8:36 what shall it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul? So what if you gain the whole world? Even if you did, the Lord said, What difference does that make when you die?
ROB: After the service, Pastor Hampton stood by as the guests paid their respects.
HAMPTON: I was standing comforting at the front of the casket with her mother being in a wheelchair, Brenda. And Brenda, She said, Pastor Hampton, Pastor Hampton. That's one of the guys that just beat Tammy up. I said shhh, quiet, I have two cameras running. We're taping everything. But she could hardly sit still. And then I looked at him and I looked at the gentleman with him, it was obviously a bodyguard. I thought to myself, now who comes to a funeral with a bodyguard except someone that has something knows something or been involved in something with this matter? So I said just be quiet we're running tapes and we'll turn those tapes in to the proper sources. And I did. To homicide and to the assistant chief of police. Because I just assumed that the police would do their job.
DREW: And did anything come of that?
HAMPTON: [laughs] Not that I know of.
ROB: Tamara Greene was the 113th person murdered in Detroit in 2003. At first, Detroit police had assumed that Tamara was the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting. Her boyfriend at the time was a known drug dealer. He was in the passenger seat that night, but he survived.
ALVIN BOWMAN: There was a female, shot, killed, riddled with bullets. Her body in a car. That’s the substance of it. In a nutshell.
ROB: Eventually, Tamara Greene’s case came across the desk of a homicide lieutenant named Alvin Bowman.
BOWMAN: One of the sergeants came to me and informed me verbally that this person may have had some ties at a party that involved the mayor. And I asked her to bring me the file and I'll go over it. And that’s what I did. When the sergeant brought me the case file, evidence was missing. Reports was missing and they were all stored in a general area where it was accessible to anybody that worked there.
DREW: And so what did that tell you?
BOWMAN: They were missing! I couldn’t point to who did it because of the accessibility.
ROB: There was another thing that piqued Lieutenant Bowman's interest: Tamara was killed by a 40 caliber bullet. The same caliber used in the Glock pistols issued to Detroit police officers.
BOWMAN: Glocks were not popular during that time. Most people in Detroit used like a Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter, a Colt 9 millimeter, a Ruger, something like that. The majority of Glocks in this town were issued by the police department.
ROB: Lieutenant Bowman also believed there were inconsistencies in the number of shell casings recovered at the scene.
BOWMAN: 12 were recovered. Officers were saying that there were more than 12. Shell casings can fly almost anywhere. We would not have known if every single one of the shell casings were recovered.
ROB: Lieutenant Bowman concluded that the number of shell casings at the scene was closer to 18.
BOWMAN: A Glock can hold, yeah, 14 rounds in a clip and one in the chamber. So you've got 15. So some people are saying well with the number of shell casings they had to have discharged everything and then reload it.
ROB: This led Lieutenant Bowman to believe that the killers were targeting Tamara Greene, and that they had fired so many times to make sure they finished the job. And he suspected that the killers...may have been cops.
BOWMAN: Cops are a tight group to break. They are hard to really drive or push to get information out of if if you're not part of the team. So I felt that the interest was not in solving the case.
ROB: Lieutenant Bowman started telling his colleagues about his suspicions... and then this happened:
BOWMAN: One of the sergeants called me out in the hall. Sir, you've been transferred. I said, what? [laughs] I don't know what happened. You know the executive deputy chief called and said you were transferred. You know it was about that case, I said, Yeah yeah. And I had to pack up everything, clean my desk out.
ARCHIVAL: Lieutenant Al Bowman, a 31 year veteran, was pulled out of homicide, and put on a midnight shift in the 2nd precinct.
ARCHIVAL BOWMAN: I was informed the very first day that apparently I had been asking too many questions about the Strawberry case.
ARCHIVAL DEVIN SCILLIAN: Norman Yatooma’s our guest this morning on flashpoint. Thanks very much for coming.
ARCHIVAL YATOOMA: Thanks for having me, Devin…[DIP]
ROB: A few years later, attorney Norman Yatooma, who you heard at the top of the show, began representing Tamara Greene’s family.
YATOOMA: … we’re interested in getting answers. Answers that the mayor has seen to the family of Tamara Greene being denied. Our quest, to find out who killed Tammy Greene, and more importantly, why the mayor obstructed …. It seemed incredible, to be sure, but there were all too many coincidences for this not to be nefarious.
YATOOMA: It's easy to suggest that this is all urban legend, as it's been called. But there's a lot of things you can't run away from.
ROB: From the time he took on the Tamara Greene case, attorney Norman Yatooma had his doubts about the official narrative of her murder.
YATOOMA: Tammy was killed. There's no arguing that. She was shot repeatedly by a 40 caliber weapon. There's no getting around the fact this happened. So all that remains now is who?
ROB: So Yatooma started digging for evidence.
ARCHIVAL: Attorney Norm Yatooma is looking for some smoking guns in the form of the emails from one Kwame Kilpatrick. He hopes it can shed some light on the way the city handled that murder investigation back in 2003.
YATOOMA: The first thing we did of course was compile our discovery. We made document requests for all of the information that we subsequently found out was destroyed or missing without explanation.
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: Yatooma suspects the computer and the records were destroyed deliberately. He wants the judge to order sanctions against the city of Detroit. Fasten your seatbelts.
YATOOMA: Everything is inexplicably gone, including even the computers themselves have been thrown away, e-mails had been deleted.
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: Kwame Kilpatrick’s deleted emails were routinely purged from the city of Detroit’s computer server after 7 days. They’re gone forever.
YATOOMA: They were all missing, they were deleted out of the inbox, and then deleted out of the deleted folder. So with significant intent, everyone tried to remove any trace of any communication or file related to Tammy Green's assault or her murder.
YATOOMA: When it became clear to us we couldn't get any documents all we had left were witnesses. Sworn testimony.
ROB: Yatooma began to collect sworn statements. He interviewed people like Lieutenant Al Bowman and EMS supervisor Michael Kearns. And although there was no record of anyone named Tamara Greene being admitted to the hospital in the fall of 2002, around the time of the rumored Manoogian Mansion party, Yatooma found a few witnesses who thought they knew why.
YATOOMA: Tammy ultimately ended up being admitted to the hospital under the alias of a Detroit police officer who also had a job as a dancer. And together with the testimony of nine different folks on the city of Detroit's payroll, it became clear to us that she was taken to the hospital, admitted under a false name, everybody was cleared out, the hospital records were destroyed.
ROB: In 2010, Yatooma began to subpoena city hall insiders. That's when he deposed Kwame Kilpatrick, who arrived at the courthouse from prison. He also subpoenaed Kwame’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick.
ARCHIVAL BERNARD KILPATRICK: There’s no reason for me to be here.
ARCHIVAL REPORTER: And what would you say to the people of Detroit about any kind of party or the murder - you don’t know anything about that?
ARCHIVAL BERNARD: There’s no. There was no party. Absolutely was no party. My son’s in jail for absolutely — I can’t say the words on TV, for having some sex. That’s what he’s in jail for. There’s a lot of hate out here.
ARCHIVAL ANCHOR: At the end of the day, after hearing from all the lawyers, the judge said there’s some tough legal issues here, he’s got a lot to think about, and it’s going to be some time, maybe days, weeks, or even months, before a decision comes down on whether this will go to trial. back to you guys…
YATOOMA: So after discovery, after depositions, after all these affidavits, after all this sworn testimony, the magistrate, Judge Whalan, issues a scathing opinion, destroying the city of Detroit and their lawyers for their clear and obvious destruction of evidence. Sanctions them for something approaching two hundred thousand dollars. Before the ink is dry on Magistrate Whalen's order sanctioning the city for destroying evidence...Judge Rosen then dismisses the case for lack of evidence. Incredible.
ARCHIVAL: 102 pages handed down late this afternoon, telling the children of dancer Tamara Greene that there will be no trial....
YATOOMA: The very same court speaking through two different mouthpieces. One of them sanctioned the city for willfully destroying evidence. The other mouthpiece dismisses our case for lack of evidence, lack of evidence that his magistrate just sanctioned them for destroying. It was the final nail in the coffin on this investigation.
YATOOMA: Why, if this is just a random drug shooting? Why is the mayor so engaged in covering this up? Why is there such such a vested interest. Why is Kwame Kilpatrick working so hard to keep us or anybody else from finding out who killed Tammy Greene? Well I mean only because they've got something to hide. We were just getting too close.
ROB: The thing is...there’s someone else who’s also spent a lot of time investigating this case...who doesn’t quite see things the way Norman Yatooma does.
MIKE CARLISLE: It's just a lot of bullshit. This is Detroit. This is not Hollywood.
ROB: This is retired Detroit police detective Mike Carlisle. You met him briefly in a previous episode.
CARLISLE: The Detroit Police Department homicide section decided to form a cold case squad and I became a member.
ROB: In 2008, Detective Carlisle and the cold case squad … began investigating the Tamara Greene murder.
CARLISLE: So the first thing I did, I took the entire file all the information in all those files, started going through each folder. What was relevant. What was useful and what was not useful anymore. This is a rumor. This is a rumor. This isn't true. This part is true. This isn't true.
ROB: Detective Carlisle interviewed people like Michael Kearns, the EMS supervisor, and decided their testimony wasn’t credible.
CARLISLE: His was one of the ones that were not useful. He describes a completely different woman than Tamara Green. You try to interview people on a case that's 15 years old, that's been... so many theories put in the newspaper, on TV -- people are going to be so mixed up about what the actual facts are.
ROB: And Detective Carlisle also developed doubts about the original investigators.
CARLISLE: I don't understand their reasonings but for whatever reason, they snowballed on the investigation, they slowed it to a crawl and really didn't do anything on this investigation.
ROB: What did you make of those claims of missing evidence?
CARLISLE: They were completely false, completely false. If you're assigned to a squad you have access to every homicide file that dates back to days during Prohibition. They're still on file. OK. All right.
ROB: One key piece of evidence in the file was the ballistics report. Remember, Tamara’s killer had used a 40-caliber weapon. Because Detroit police used 40-caliber Glocks, Lieutenant Bowman suspected the killer may have been a cop.
BOWMAN: Well because, if you look at the shell casing on the back they'll have their signature on it, and it'll say 40, it'll say 40 caliber, and Glock would have like like a G and that's for Glock. Smith and Wesson, you look at the bottom of the shell casing, it will say S and W.
DREW: So these shell casings had the G for Glock?
BOWMAN: Yeah, they would have had to, yeah.
ROB: And he also said that the casings had the Glock imprint on them?
CARLISLE: OK there is a lab report. Obviously Bowman didn't read it. They were able to determine on the casing by the firing pin imprint that it was not fired from a Glock. The lab report states that this, the 40 caliber casings are not from a Glock, it’s from another manufacturer, and that's that's the only information I'll release on that. They were 40 caliber. Yes, that’s correct. But they were not from a Glock-manufactured handgun.
ROB: And where did Lieutenant Bowman get the idea that more than 12 bullets had been fired?
BOWMAN: So, I don't remember exactly. Um..
DREW: Well, I read that you, you had said --
BOWMAN: I made a statement about 16, 18 shell casings or something.
DREW: So you're saying some of your officers were saying they found -- when they went to the scene initially they saw something like 18 shell casings. But then by the time they were bagged and tagged there was only 12?
BOWMAN: No, nobody is really doing a real count.
CARLISLE: 12 casings were collected. This didn't occur in a house or on the grass in the lawn or in a wooded area. This occurred on a paved street. Casings were collected. Casings were there on the street. There were 12. If he can prove there was 18, I'd like to shake his hand. But he's not going to because he doesn't have the proof.
BOWMAN: I mean, you could be watching a football game, sitting right next to each other. You're going to see one thing from your perspective and you're going to see something else from your perspective. You know, if -- sometimes people can see the same thing but in different ways.
ROB: Detective Carlisle is convinced that Tamara Greene’s murder had nothing to do with Kwame Kilpatrick or a party at the mayor’s mansion. Instead, he believes the intended target was her boyfriend, a drug dealer who was in the car with her at the time.
CARLISLE: Tamara Greene, the bottom line, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's all this comes down to. If the mayor was involved, I'd gladly have put a pair of handcuffs on that man for what he did to the city of Detroit. But he wasn't.
ROB: It turns out, though, that Detective Carlisle does believe there’s some truth to the rumor about a party at the Manoogian Mansion in the fall of 2002.
CARLISLE: I was in what they call SAS squad: Special Assignment Squad. We were the top homicide squad for the city of Detroit. I had left work one night, round 7 in the evening. I got a call from my sergeant, my squad leader, Special Assignment Squad, and said “Hey listen, we gotta run to the mayor’s mansion, we got an officer injured.” I think it was just a gathering of just a few friends and some things got out of control. Whatever. I don’t know what the circumstances are until I get to the scene. Well, halfway to the mayor’s mansion on the riverfront, by the Detroit River, I got a call from my sergeant again. He goes, “We’ve been canceled,” he says, “You can turn around.” I said, “What was it about?” He goes, “Don’t worry about it.” He says, “Nothing.” He says, “Just go back home, I’ll see you tomorrow at work.” I thought I’d finally get a chance to go home and have dinner with my family. So I didn’t think a thing about it.
ROB: Years later, Detective Carlisle began investigating Tamara Greene’s murder. And he came to suspect that there was an exotic dancer who performed at the Manoogian Mansion and got injured. But it wasn’t Tamara Greene.
CARLISLE: I put two and two together, was able to find out that the officer that was injured at the Manoogian that night, prior to being a Detroit police officer, was a female stripper. A female police officer got knocked in the head. The actual female, who did a lap dance and was injured, was hit in the head, was conveyed by the inner security detail of Kwame Kilpatrick, conveyed to the hospital, which wasn't far away. And the rumor spread from there, the media exploited that and it just, it just went out of control. And that's all it was.
ROB: No one has ever been prosecuted for the killing of Tamara Greene. Detective Carlisle has a suspect, but not enough evidence for an indictment. The rumors surrounding Tamara’s murder persist to this day.
ROB: Any promising leads?
YATOOMA: No. I mean none that I would say are promising...
ROB: Norman Yatooma is still pursuing the case on behalf of Tamara Greene’s family. Just a few months ago, an anonymous donor offered a $100,000 reward for any information.
YATOOMA: ...we’re looking very specifically for information that leads to an arrest of the killer. That's it. We're not trying to prove a civil case anymore. We're trying to get the guy cuffed that had Tammy killed.
ROB: Kwame Kilpatrick had avoided a murder case. So what was next?
ARCHIVAL: Just after six o’clock this morning, Detroit’s former mayor walked out of prison. After bear hugs with his brother in law, Kwame Kilpatrick made his way to a waiting Cadillac Escalade, once his stylish vehicle of choice when he ran the city…
ROB: That’s next time on Crimetown.
ROB: Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify.
This episode was produced by John White, Samantha Lee, Soraya Shockley, and me, Rob Szypko.
The senior producer is Drew Nelles.
Editing by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling.
Fact-checking by Jennifer Blackman.
This episode was mixed, sound-designed, and scored by Kenny Kusiak.
Original music this season composed by Homer Steinweiss.
We recorded some original music at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit in partnership with Detroit Sound Conservancy. Special thanks to Carleton Gholz and Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd.
Additional music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, and Jon Ivans. Additional mixing by Bobby Lord.
Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death.
Our credit music this week is “Nasty Ain’t It” by Phat Kat.
Archival research by Brennan Rees.
Archival material courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University and WXYZ.
Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven.
We made a Spotify playlist featuring music from the show and songs that have inspired us this season. Check it out at crimetownmusic.com.
Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Jim Schaefer, Mary Schroeder, Melanie Maxwell, Mary Wallace, Elizabeth Clemens, Max White, Randy Lundquist, Erick Hetherington at D&D Video, Charlie LeDuff, Devin Scillian, Melissa Samson, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Detroit Historical Society, Brendan Roney, Shawn Gargalino, Carol Teegardin, Mike Martin, Christine Constantino, Zak Rosen, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit’s an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.
Alex Blumberg is the podfather. We played this episode for him, and he told us, It's just a lot of bullshit. This is Detroit. This isn’t Hollywood.
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