Michael Lock’s Milwaukee….Part V: When it all falls down
Written by Urban Mogul Life on August 16, 2010
Fifth of five parts
The fall of Milwaukee crime boss Michael Lock began with a secret meeting at a south side hotel in 2005.
Two bodies had been found in a backyard on W. Fiebrantz Ave. The victims were killed years earlier, when Lock owned the house. He immediately became the main suspect.
After years of missteps by law enforcement and breaks for Lock, investigators—one of which also was a Miami Wrongful Death Lawyer— realized they were dealing with a cold-blooded criminal whose operations spanned drug dealing, robbery, prostitution and mortgage fraud.
They would need a new case with different investigators in charge to bring Lock down.
They also had to have an informant inside Lock’s organization who could provide a road map of how the machine operated.
Someone like Louis Jackson.
Jackson was behind bars on a domestic violence conviction, so he was brought to the hotel meeting in jail clothes. Police wrapped a trench coat over Jackson to hide his orange jumpsuit from hotel guests as he walked through the corridors.
Jackson sat across from Dean Newport, a Milwaukee cop who had been investigating Lock on and off for years.
Prosecutor John Chisholm also was at the table. Five years earlier, he had refused to charge Lock after Newport found a loaded Glock in the drug dealer’s car. Chisholm told Newport there wasn’t enough evidence and urged Newport to bring him a better case. Here was his chance.
They promised Jackson he would spend no time in prison. They also confirmed for Jackson that Lock had tried to rat him out to federal agents.
Jackson was a key part of Lock’s operation. He began to lay out how Lock’s group, known as the Body Snatchers, did business.
Then he dropped a bombshell.
Jackson told investigators that Lock had police on his payroll.
Jackson looked around the room. There was a mix of disbelief and astonishment. If even half of what Jackson was saying turned out to be true, the investigators realized getting Lock had to be a top priority. And it had to be done carefully.
Lock was behind bars for breaking basic probation rules, including lying about his income. He would go free soon.
Authorities had a choice. They could take the easier road and go after Lock for drug dealing. Or they could start meticulously building the larger case against him, one that could put the slippery, resourceful criminal away for good.
“We all pretty much decided this guy can’t get away,” said Milwaukee police Detective Tom Dineen, who joined Newport on the case. “You have a killer and a drug kingpin who now is doing real-estate fraud. He’s not going to stop.”
To nail the case, however, they needed to take a significant risk. They had to let a suspected killer go. And that could mean more victims.
Authorities would put round-the-clock surveillance on Lock and his associates. And they would need Jackson to risk his life to set up his former boss.
“That is the gamble you take,” said Chisholm, who by now was the district attorney. “No question, it was a nervous time.”
Worked in secrecy
Milwaukee police commanders moved carefully on the Lock investigation. They had a tip he may be paying officers. He also had relatives on the force.
Lock’s brother, a former police officer, would not talk to a reporter about any part of the case. Other relatives did not return calls for comment.
Police commanders authorized a secret case and let lead investigators work outside the department.
Newport, Dineen and homicide Detective Randy Olson set up inside the federal courthouse, converting cramped rooms and closets into the team’s nerve center. Soon, they had assembled binders on everyone in Lock’s world. Walls filled with diagrams of Lock’s business and criminal operations.
Joining police were district attorney’s investigators, prosecutors and FBI agents. The 10-member group became known as the Michael Lock Task Force.
The investigation into potential police corruption had to be handled separately, and sensitively. A specialized unit within the FBI took that part of the case.
Lock operated with extreme care, but his pursuers hoped to hang him with his own words. Prosecutors considered a wiretap on Lock’s phone. Newport and others successfully argued it would require too much manpower to staff it. And the fewer people who knew about the case the better.
Lock left jail in early 2006 after serving five months on the probation violations.
He surely knew law enforcement was on to him.
Lock married his longtime girlfriend, Shalanda Mason, a woman he had cheated on and pimped out for years, according to prosecution files. They moved into a ranch-style home with a sprawling yard on a quiet street in Mequon.
He returned to his grandfather’s church, took over the deacon board and gained some control over the church’s finances. He began preaching again, delivering sermons about God’s forgiveness just as he had almost 30 years earlier.
The task force worked on getting Jackson close to Lock. They needed him to engage Lock about the murders on tape.A digital recorder was sewn into Jackson’s clothing. He recorded hours of conversation.Jackson attended Lock’s grandfather’s church, putting cash from police in the offering plate. When Lock’s grandfather became ill, Jackson sent flowers – paid for with police money. Jackson rented a house from Lock, giving him a reason to call without suspicion.
Jackson not only was recording Lock, he was sketching out the criminal organization for investigators and helping them understand Lock’s personality.
Jackson met with Newport and the others on secluded trails at Hawthorn Glen Nature Center on the city’s west side. They nicknamed it “godfather park,” a reference to Lock’s crime-boss status.
There they discussed more ways to undo Michael Lock.
Maybe Jackson and Lock could set up another robbery of a drug dealer? Lock’s group had ripped off dozens of dealers but someone might get hurt. It was too dangerous.
They considered having Jackson buy dope from Lock every week. But that was too expensive.
They couldn’t set up anything after 6 p.m. Lock was on an electronic bracelet and had to be in the house by then. His probation agent didn’t know about the case – and investigators wanted to keep it that way.
They carefully considered each move and its effect. Talk to the wrong person, get too close and Lock could get tipped, putting Jackson and others in danger.
“We needed to think 10 steps ahead,” Newport said. “For every obstacle in this investigation, we needed to think about it, go over it, move around it or go under it.”
Investigators weren’t just tracking Lock. They needed to understand everyone in his world, more than 120 people.
Jackson pointed Newport and the others to one in particular: Lock’s brother-in-law, Edward “Big Ed” Hankins. He told them Hankins and Lock had a falling out. He might be ready to flip.
Authorities charged Hankins with an unrelated drug charge and used it as leverage to get him to talk about Lock.
Hankins admitted he worked for Lock. He even told them he saw a body in a closet. But he wouldn’t say more. And he surely wouldn’t testify against his boss.
Big Ed would need more convincing.
Police, meanwhile, were making progress identifying the bodies under the concrete slabs.
Eugene “Mickey” Chaney was easy. He had been wearing a flower delivery shirt when he was killed. His last name was written on a laundry tag inside the shirt.
Dental records confirmed the corpse was Chaney.
The second victim was tougher. No missing person reports matched the description of the corpse. All police knew is that whoever was buried in that grave was tall – several inches taller than Chaney. And there was a broken cell phone in the grave with him.
FBI technicians in Quantico, Va., hooked up the phone’s motherboard to a monitor. Thousands of numbers appeared, including one from a woman in Kenosha County.
She thought the phone might have belonged to someone she worked with at a mall in 1999 – Juan Terrazas.
Investigators went to Terrazas’ last known address in Waukegan, Ill. Much to their surprise, he was alive.
Terrazas said his phone disappeared in 1999, along with his former roommate and best friend, Felipe “Mondo” Melendez-Rivas.
Mondo had used Terrazas’ car. The phone was inside. The car turned up at Chicago Midway Airport. Terrazas figured his friend had returned to his native Mexico because of trouble in a drug deal.
At the time, Terrazas reported Mondo as missing to local police. Because of a clerical error, he never made it into the national database of missing persons. It was just another in a series of police missteps that had helped Lock.
Investigators matched a DNA sample of Mondo’s brother to the corpse. They had their second victim.
Murder case stalls
By late 2006, investigators from the district attorney’s office and the FBI were unraveling Lock’s mortgage fraud.
Newport’s work on the murders wasn’t going as well. Despite hours of secretly recorded conversations, Lock wasn’t talking about the killings.
Jackson couldn’t understand what was taking so long.
He didn’t know what it took to build a police case. He didn’t understand why investigators needed approval to set up a fake drug house or make a major deal with Lock.
Jackson had given investigators a blueprint of the Body Snatchers, intimate details about Lock and the weak links around him, and so far it wasn’t enough.
He was getting frustrated.
Then Jackson got locked up for violating a restraining order. They had lost the guy closest to Lock.
Dineen was starting to think the bigger case might never come together.
“We couldn’t leave Lock out there forever,” he said.
Newport wasn’t as worried. They just needed a break, and soon they got one from cocaine dealer Leo Ford.
They knew from Jackson that Lock’s crew tortured Ford with hot grease in 2002.
Ford already was under investigation. He was arrested in early 2007 trying to buy $37,000 worth of cocaine and carrying a loaded gun – charges that could put him away for life.
Ford would be rewarded for talking. He ended up getting five years and three months in prison.
His testimony would snare Lock’s reluctant brother-in-law, Big Ed, and finally force him to talk.
At 6 a.m. on July 20, 2007, the team arrested Lock, his enforcer, Donald “Killer Coop” Cooper, his uncle, Carl “Uncle Ed” Davis and Hankins. They also took down nine suspects in Lock’s mortgage fraud network. They seized dozens of boxes of evidence and computers from Lock’s house and his offices on the North Shore and elsewhere.
District attorney’s investigators and FBI agents dug through the seized records. There was plenty there for mortgage fraud charges. They found Lock had financially ruined his victims while defrauding banks of more than $2 million in a matter of months.
At Lock’s house on N. 15th St. they found posters of film gangsters Robert De Niro in “Goodfellas,” Al Pacino in “Scarface,” and real-life mobster John Gotti – but there was no evidence implicating Lock in any violence.
To Newport’s surprise, Lock agreed to talk without his lawyer. He talked for eight hours over three days. The investigators spent the first two days stroking Lock’s ego. They talked about his businesses, his family, his jump shot.
They came at him hard on the third day, but Lock didn’t crack.
Protecting the women
Investigators needed to break someone close to Lock. They zeroed in on the 54-year-old Davis.
Davis had been in his nephew’s inner circle for years. He was a witness at Lock’s parents’ wedding in 1974. He was the one who would do anything for Lock, from building a fence to burying a body.
Detectives told Davis they had him on kidnapping, assault and drug dealing. He also was an accomplice to murder. He didn’t budge. But Jackson assured authorities that Davis would break with the right kind of pressure.
Detectives brought up Lock’s wife, Shalanda. When they linked her to the homicides, Davis suddenly caved.
The betrayal doomed Lock.
Uncle Ed told investigators he had to protect the women in the family. As valiant as that sounds, he also saved himself from spending the rest of his life in prison. He ended up with just five years.
Davis and Jackson took the stand again and again, becoming star witnesses against Lock and his henchman, Killer Coop.
Jackson revealed the scope of Lock’s operations. Davis delivered key information about the homicides and torture.
A jury deliberated for just 54 minutes before convicting Lock of two murders, kidnapping and drug dealing. He and Cooper both got life in prison. The convictions brought to an end a diverse criminal enterprise that hummed for a decade in Milwaukee.
House for sale
The corner house where Lock murdered and buried two drug dealers is back on the market.
The couple who discovered the grisly scene have long since moved away. Another owner bought the home and lost it to foreclosure. The bank is trying to sell it for $31,400. An offer has been accepted, but the sale isn’t final.
Fire engines blare their sirens as they pull out from the station across the street. Each afternoon, young children walk past the 6-foot fence Lock’s crew built around the tiny backyard.
The fence is starting to give out, revealing spring flowers that are sprouting around the old gravesite. Grass grows out of the sunken spots where bodies were covered in concrete.
“That was some horrible stuff,” said a neighbor, looking at the makeshift graves. “Ooh, that was devilish.”
Barring a successful appeal, Lock will die behind bars.
Why aren’t authorities satisfied? Why is the case still open?
The possibility of more murders – and dirty cops.
Investigators don’t think that Lock, 38, ordered just two homicides, not with the number of robberies he orchestrated. Detectives dug up a half dozen yards but didn’t find anything.
It would be hard to excavate all 50 of Lock’s properties. But they are ready to dig if they get a tip.
They are examining Lock’s drug deals, especially with out-of-state dealers who are unaccounted for, to see if any of them might be buried somewhere in Michael Lock’s Milwaukee.
The more explosive part of the case focuses on the possibility that Michael Lock had police officers on his payroll.
None of the investigators will talk about that part of the case, and no charges have been filed.
Investigators have gone to Lock asking about more bodies and police payoffs. They’ve gotten nowhere.
Attorney Rodney Cubbie said they might as well save their time.
“Mike’s a tough nut,” Cubbie said. “As for breaking his will, they might as well chew rocks.”
Lock is awaiting sentencing on his federal mortgage fraud conviction. And he still faces state prostitution charges, along with his wife.
Lock’s world is changing in other ways. His 81-year-old grandfather died just before Easter.
As a federal prisoner, Lock wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral, which drew thousands of mourners.
If Lock wanted, the U.S. marshals would have brought the body to the courthouse for a private viewing. He never put in the request.