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Kiss of the Scorpion Woman

Art Therapy: A painting-by-numbers Eddie signed for Synthia  

Synthia says she started to dress in “drags” on the sly and spent her time at Escuelita, a Manhattan gay club she’d discovered. Then, in August 1993, she says someone from the gang paged her and told her to report immediately: “I had to take off my makeup, pick up my van, and go clean up an apartment in the Bronx.” In her haste, she left her skirt on.

“When I got there, there was blood all over the floor. I don’t know if I was just stupid or I’d seen a lot of The A-Team, but I just started cutting off the bloody carpet and put it in plastic bags. The body was already in a box,” Synthia says. She claims that she and a few other jittery gang members then dropped the box off in a Bronx underpass and later set it on fire. The victim turned out to be a 13-year-old runaway named Ebony Nicole Williams.

Synthia says she slipped away to the trannie-friendly Skyway Motel in Jersey City for about five days. “I was hiding out in drags in a diner, like in the movies,” she remembers. “Lionel Richie’s ‘Stuck on You’ was on the jukebox. I would listen, and it would just erase everything from my mind.” But when her mother heard that the police were looking for her, she persuaded Synthia to turn herself in.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Synthia and Carlos Franco, another Latin King member, committed the murder. They also claimed that Synthia had raped the girl, until one person let it slip that she had been wearing a skirt that night. “They had to switch their story in the trial because how do you tell the jury that he had on a dress and then he was raping a girl?” Synthia says. “I’ve never had sex with a female in my life.”

On October 16, 1996, 22-year-old Luis Morales—Synthia—was convicted of murder and manslaughter. She was sentenced to 25 years to life. The Daily News reported she was wearing the signature yellow-and-black Latin King beads around her neck.

Although it’s virtually impossible to verify, Synthia claims that by the time she’d arrived back at Riker’s, the Latin Kings had ordered a “TOS” on her for not quietly taking the rap. That’s gang-speak for “terminate on sight.”

Eddie eventually saw the rougher side of his wife. “She has the type of character where she always wants to fight other people’s battles. She was doing tough gangster shit,” Eddie says. He explains that after Synthia was transferred into 24 Company, she was frequently up at the “gate,” or the bars that make up the front of her cell, getting into everyone else’s business. “When other people would argue, she would say, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ That could get her transferred to a different company. That got me stressed out.” Eddie thinks of himself as more of a peace-loving kind of guy. So, last October, he sent Synthia a kite saying he wanted to break up. “I said, ‘Why do you act like this if you want to be with me? Don’t jeopardize this situation. I’m taking care of you.’ ”

Synthia felt betrayed. “I’m always hollering,” she admits. “The only way you can violate another individual is to tell him to go ‘eat this’ or ‘suck that’ . . . But regardless of how I’m expressing myself, Eddie should not question me. He should support me 100 percent.”

The design for one of Synthia's tattoos, which entwines her birth sign, Virgo, with Eddie's, Leo.  

“At first, she was distraught,” says Eddie. Distraught and isolated are words he uses a lot. “She took all the pictures of me and cut off the things I had written to her around the edges. She was on a rampage, tearing everything up like she was on a wild mission.”

The next day, Eddie apologized. “We got back together, but it just wasn’t the same. I treated her like a queen. I even gave her a chain with a cross with a little rose on it for her birthday. But I could never figure out what was bothering her.” At the end of December, Synthia sent him a kite saying it was over.

Eddie cried. “Those first weeks, I would stay up all night thinking about her—'What did I do?’ I couldn’t eat, and I didn’t read the Bible for two weeks. I was distraught.”

Meanwhile, a rumor flew through the company at the end of December that Synthia was involved with a new inmate. Prisoners aren’t allowed to talk about other prisoners to the press without permission, so I’ll call him Ricky. “He is totally mangina-whipped,” says Michael Alig. “He has to ask Synthia’s permission to even go out in the yard every day, and she’ll say yes or no depending on her mood.”

Even though Synthia insists that she and Ricky are old friends from the neighborhood and have never had sex, Eddie was crazed with jealousy. One day, he noticed that Ricky had signed up to go out to the yard, so he did, too. That’s when Eddie says he “confronted” him, but he doesn’t offer many details except to say that nobody was hurt. Synthia explains, “Eddie did some old Jet Li move. He wanted to be Chinese for a minute there. I was like, ‘Yo, what’s going on?’ It was extremely funny . . . I just enjoyed the whole thing. You’re in jail, you got a lot of time, and a guy is fighting over you. I thought it was cute.”

Eddie says only, “If we had been out on the streets, I probably would have killed them both.”

Michael Alig, who was transferred from Attica to Elmira prison upstate last month, says he tries to avoid relationships now—partially because he suffers increasing numbness in his penis from a spinal-column condition that he claims went undiagnosed for three years. And also, he says, because the other prisoners are quick to sabotage. “When you’re in a relationship, everyone is always trying to break you up. It’s just a game, entertainment. There’s a saying, ‘Don’t let them put a battery in your back.’ That’s when they try to stir you up, saying things like, ‘I saw your husband in the shower with So-and-so.’ These people have really sensitive egos. If someone says something, they don’t think, they just go ballistic. That’s why it’s a battery in your back, because they just go crazy.”

In early March, Synthia secretly took Eddie back, and they are now trying to mend their relationship. Synthia admits that Eddie still gives her the creeps now and then. “He’ll come to my cell and look at me like a cannibal or something. I say, ‘Yo, what are you looking at?’ ” But these days, Synthia says she faithfully cooks for him again, and Eddie hurries through his work to spend time with her: “He tells me every day he loves me and ‘have a good night.’ I say, ‘I love you, too.’ ” I sympathize with their desire to create a romance out of hopeless circumstances, but I have to remind myself of the violent crimes that led them here in the first place.

On our last day in the visiting room, Synthia proudly displays her new tattoo of a woman with enormous breasts and flowing hair, the same image she wants to have one day. She says Eddie helped pick it out. While she waits for her lawsuit to progress, Synthia adds, she’s helping him with his: “I’m not only his wife but Eddie’s private Legal Aid. I’m trying to get him the trailer visits with his mom.” In order for Eddie to be able to get those overnight visits, he has to complete an anti-violence program. The problem is, Attica doesn’t offer educational programs to its protective-custody prisoners, so to access them he’d have to be switched to Clinton Correctional Facility, in Dannemora.

Even if one of them is moved to a different facility, Synthia says, their relationship will endure. “As long as Eddie’s in the Department of Corrections, I will always find a way to write to him and he will find a way to write to me,” she says, almost defiantly. “I could break up with him a million times, but I’m never going to leave him.”