“But not the best wife, did you hear that one?” says Domenica, who’s 54. They’ve been married 36 years. She motions with her hand like a roller coaster. “We love each other, but the kids come first,” she says. Lillo first of all. “I think he got more out of me, all of us,” she says. “Because he had more needs. He was first love, true love. He is in my blood.”
Vinny too is devoted to Lillo. Like his brother, Vinny had watched a career happen to him. At a photo shoot with Lillo, photographer Bruce Weber fell for Vinny’s look and set him up with Click, the modeling agency. Vinny, though, quickly tired of that world. “I wasn’t so about myself like those people are,” he says. “I never felt comfortable being there.” He’s a Yonkers civil servant now and lives at home.
“My brother’s always there for me, always,” says Lillo. In recent years, though, Vinny’s pulled back. He stopped going out with Lillo at night. “I just couldn’t deal with always having problems with people,” he says, referring to the guys who picked fights because Lillo is a celebrity. Vinny tried to get Lillo to work with him and their dad when Vinny was trying to shore up the construction business. Lillo, though, couldn’t wake up on time. “I gave up after a while,” Vinny says.
Maybe Domenica senses a tone. Does Vinny’s weariness seem like blame? For her, there’s one cause of Lillo’s problems, and it’s beyond Lillo’s control. Two weeks after she learned she was pregnant with Vinny, the adoption agency called. Lillo arrived from an orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia, at 4 months old. For Domenica, adoption is the hole into which everything falls. “Abandonment’s abandonment, I don’t care what anybody says,” she says. “He was left, so at times I’m sure he questions. Why I wasn’t good enough to be with my mother and father?” Domenica is sure adoption is why Lillo did drugs.
Vinny knows that Lillo often thought about adoption. He’d get depressed, wondering if he belonged. That he and his brother were so different rattled him.
But to Vinny, adoption seems another dead end, Lillo liking his trouble too much. “Listen, if that’s a problem for you, let’s go to Colombia, let’s find your parents,” Vinny told Lillo. “We’ll do what we have to do.”
“No, you’re my family,” Lillo said. He couldn’t have created a better family. With Lillo, it was always the same. There was nothing to do.
Domenica’s eyebrows are narrow, orange-colored. Suddenly, they arch. It doesn’t matter what others say, how fed up they are. Domenica won’t budge. “I cannot hate Lillo, you understand what I’m saying?” She pauses, touches the medal around her neck. “If somebody does something to you, you can’t forgive them,” she says. “I do. I forgive him.”
On Saturday, December 10, the day of the killing,Lillo was taken by ambulance to Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. He’d been shot three times. Lillo’s mother and father tried to see him, but for four days, police turned away everyone, including a lawyer. (His parents only saw Lillo after Sachs intervened.) In the interim, Lillo confided in the police. He told a detective that he’d climbed through Kenny’s broken window. The place was empty. It was a junkie’s caper. Kenny had died in July.
As Lillo and Steve Armento walked away, New York City police officer Daniel Enchautegui, dressed in civilian clothes, came around the adjacent house, where he lived. Enchautegui, 28, had been a cop for three years, patrolling the Bronx, where he grew up. To his partner, he seemed a teddy bear with a shaved head, heavyset and easygoing. He’d never fired his weapon at anyone. Enchautegui’s shift had finished by midnight though it usually took a few hours of TV or Vice City to unwind. When Enchautegui heard a noise next door, he called 911. He put a badge around his neck, grabbed a gray jacket and his off-duty gun, the one cops have to buy themselves. He headed to meet the squad cars. He didn’t wear a bulletproof vest. Cops aren’t supposed to take them home.
Lillo told a detective that Enchautegui “asked who we were.” Steve told a detective that Enchautegui said, “Don’t move.” Lillo says that his back was toward Enchautegui. He turned quickly toward him, not knowing he was a cop. In the initial police report, he identified Enchautegui as “the bald guy.”
Steve reacted differently. Steve told a detective, “I took out my gun when I saw him.” Then, adjusting his statement, he said, “I saw his gun so I pulled out my gun.” Lillo wasn’t a gun guy. In his half-dozen minor offenses, he hadn’t had a weapon. Lillo says he didn’t know Steve had a gun.