The Manhattan execution of notorious cocaine kingpin Alpo Martinez brought a long-sought peace to a woman whose fiancé was gunned down on his orders 32 years ago.
"Karma has everyone's address," said Michelle Taliaferro, now 56. "And the way you operate in life, eventually you're going to have to face your demons. Karma will find you out on these streets … I'm feeling a little more comfortable with myself."
Matthew Blake was just 24 and the father of an infant daughter when a bloodthirsty teen gunman known as "Lil Pop" gunned him down in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, 1989. Martinez, a Harlem drug dealer who relocated his trade to the nation's capital, was later recorded recounting his role in the 1989 killing.
"I was there," recalled Martinez. "We had a murder. I went to pick up some drugs in New York, and when I came back I met up with Pop. And he told me that he had just killed Blake."
Schadenfreude abounded after the death of Martinez, with relatives of another murder victim drinking champagne on the streets of Harlem after he was gunned down nearby on Oct. 31.
The one-time neighborhood resident was already living on borrowed time after confessing to 14 murders and turning government witness against his partners in a lucrative drug operation that court papers alleged brought 1,200 pounds of cocaine into D.C.
Martinez, 55, was released into witness protection six years ago with a new identity and a new home in Lewiston, Maine. But he was never far from the thoughts of Taliaferro as she raised her daughter without a father.
"It just shook my whole world," she recalled. "I called Martinez a monster. Blake was just one of those people murdered where he had something to do with it. For me, it's closure."
Things were different when Taliaferro first met Blake in 1986, unaware of his involvement in the drug world. He approached her on the street, asking for a phone number after they chatted.
"He had absolutely no pen or pencil," she recalled. "So he took out a Biggie Smalls cassette tape, took his fingernail and engraved my number into the plastic."
Taliaferro soon discovered Blake's other life, but recalled how his plans changed after the birth of their daughter in July 1989. He opened up a suburban clothing store in Maryland, stocked with high-end items from Gucci and Prada. In November, she recalled, Blake bought Taliaferro an engagement ring and committed to leaving his life of crime.
"He was looking forward to this baby and seeing her grow up," she explained.
The new mom and her infant daughter were living in suburban Greenbelt, Md., when Blake called on Dec. 6, 1989, with an invite to his mother's house and a promise of some money for Taliaferro's Christmas shopping.
A short time later, her pager started going off. And the phone started ringing. Her sister answered one of the calls, hung up and said they needed to go see Blake's ailing mother in Washington.
Taliaferro recalled her sibling chain-smoking as they made the trip in silence, and remembered all the cars parked outside once they arrived at the house.
"I open the door and go in the house, and all I could hear was his mom at the top of the steps: "Michelle, they killed my son! They killed my baby!" she remembered.
By month's end, a tip led D.C. cops and the FBI to 17-year-old Shelton "Lil Pop" Watkins as he drove in a car through Maryland. In addition to the killing of Blake, he was wanted for the 1987 murder of a 29-year-old man — and already faced another 1988 murder charge.
The new mom was devastated and left to deal with her emotions for decades to come.
"I'm going to tell you, I never felt that dark in my life," recalled Taliaferro. "The death of Matthew, it shook my life until today. My daughter grew up without a dad. His family was devastated. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him."
It wasn't until this past June that she finally summoned the strength to visit Blake's gave in Landover, Md. Taliaferro was now a grandmother of two, a girl named Mielle and a boy named Blake for his lost grandfather.
Five months later, Martinez was shot seven times and killed as he drove down Frederick Douglass Blvd. in the early morning hours of Halloween. Taliaferro took notice of the details: Gunned down inside his car, his body slumped over the wheel.
"It's just ironic, exactly the way Blake was found," said Talliaferro. "This is my closure. After 32 years, the book is closed. My spirits, and Blake's spirits, can now rest in peace. A heaviness is lifted off my back.
"I can breathe now."
[via New York Daily News]