After Mellie’s death, one anonymous posting on a blog claimed that “me and Mellie on a number of occasions, in various locations, indulged on numerous ‘vices.’ ” Her sister never noticed anything. But Celeste does remember Mellie saying she had gotten involved with Trash’s well-known impresario, D.J. Jess.
“No one actually knows this, but Mellie and I were romantically together,” says Jess, a twentysomething club kid who, like Sting or Seal, goes by just one name. When they first slept together, Mellie gave Jess the impression it was her second time, but she wasn’t above bragging that the first was a “person of note” whose name he won’t divulge. He loved right away how self-assured Mellie was, how she liked to tease him. Jess makes a big show of being coy about his own age, but he didn’t find out that Mellie was 18 until after she died. “She wasn’t this drug fiend going to the clubs, looking for the drugs, going after her next fix,” he says. “Obviously, I was intimate with her, and it wasn’t part of our relationship.
“Mellie’s fearless,” he says, slipping into present tense. “She’s reserved, but not shy. And she’s not careless. She doesn’t waste her time, and you’re certainly not going to manipulate her.”
A pause. “Well, in retrospect . . . she wasn’t someone you could easily take advantage of.”
Jess was working several nights a week, leaving Mellie on her own for much of the summer. Mellie met Roberto Martinez in July at the Dark Room, a rock-and-roll bar on Ludlow Street that has held after-parties for Bowery Ballroom headliners like the Libertines and the Killers. Mellie may never have known this, but in 1998, Martinez was indicted as part of the Cut Throat Crew, an alleged heroin-dealing gang that relied on teenage couriers. She also probably hadn’t heard that Martinez had served six years for dealing and that a few years ago the crew was implicated in the murder of 18-year-old Evalene Santana, who was thrown off a rooftop on Avenue D, supposedly after she didn’t pay her drug tab.
Mellie told a friend that Martinez was a nice guy who wanted to be her boyfriend. She said it in such a way that it was clear he didn’t have a chance. But another friend of Mellie’s believes that Mellie got in over her head with Martinez—and adds that Mellie told her he was giving her coke on a regular basis. And it’s verified by many that on August 11, the Thursday night before Mellie died, Mellie was out on the town all night, not with Jess but with Roberto Martinez.
At the end of that evening, at about 5 A.M., Jess remembers Mellie visiting him at a club after he’d finished his show. They cuddled for a while—“It just feels so good being with you,” he remembers saying—and then he put her in a cab heading uptown.
Mellie went home and called Maria, had breakfast with her mom, packed her suitcase, and went back downtown, where Martinez later told police she reconnected with him after 10 A.M. The two of them met up with Maria soon after.
No one heard from any of them until about noon, when Maria’s cousin Diane spoke with Maria on her cell. They’d been talking about the Warped Tour earlier in the week. “I’m trying to get to New Jersey,” Maria told her.
At 12:30 P.M., Maria called Nick, too, only to cut off the conversation because, she said, she was going into an elevator. “I’ll call you right back,” she told him.
At 3 P.M., Marcia tried her daughter several times—the usual worrywart calls—and finally Maria picked up.
“Mami,” Maria said, “I didn’t hear it the first time. And when I picked up the second, you hung up too quickly.”
“How’s it going?” Marcia said. She heard loud music in the background.
“Everything’s fine,” her daughter said.
“When are you coming home?”
“Not too late, Mami. I’ll call you as soon as I’m getting on the train.” After that call, there was silence.
The police interrogated Martinez and Morales for several hours after the girls’ death, then released them. The two men admitted to taking drugs with the girls, investigators say, but insisted that they thought they were doing just cocaine, and that the girls participated consensually. Once out of police custody, however, Martinez and Morales changed their story and told reporters that they never took any drugs at all. Martinez claimed that they played Uno; Maria drank malt liquor with Morales while Mellie drank juice. When the girls got sleepy, Martinez said, the two men left the room—Morales says he went to get his car—and when they returned, Maria was turning purple. They tried to revive her in the bathtub, he said, but it was too late. Martinez later changed his story again, telling another reporter he wasn’t even there when the girls OD’d—that Morales had called him in a panic. Four days later, Martinez was sent to Rikers Island for violating his parole, and a day after that, police arrested Morales for drug dealing.