The search for ‘Lunch Meat.’

Posted: August 25, 2010 in The job

Even people who want to be found aren’t always easy to find.

When the cops made an arrest in a 15-year-old homicide on Monday, I didn’t have any luck finding someone from the dead guy’s family.

Dead guy’s nickname — right there on the original 1995 police report — was “Lunch Meat.” So as much as I wanted to get the story about the family’s reaction to an actual arrest in a case they thought was long-mothballed, I needed to know how anyone in their right mind goes through life with a nickname like Lunch Meat.

Part of me wished I was here in 1995 to have written a new lede on the homicide story: “You know what doesn’t go with Lunch Meat — hot lead.” But that could be because I read too much of the New York tabloids. Look at what I named this site, after all.

I started with the paper’s archives and found his obituary. Plenty of family names in there. But mostly common names, and no hometowns. And after 15 years, who knows where they are, whether they married or divorced, whether they’re living. Still, enough to get started.

Phone book — no help. Online phone books — no help. Voter registration — a little bit, but in the end not much.

Court records — now we’re getting somewhere.

There wasn’t much in criminal or domestic-relations records, but I found what appeared to be one sister’s married name and foreclosure proceedings against another elsewhere. Of course, the latter just meant the address I had probably wasn’t good anymore.

Then I stumbled across guardianship papers. Lunch Meat’s real name was Larry Robinson Jr. — meaning there was a Larry Robinson Sr. out there somewhere. The obit listed one name I found in the custody papers when her son — Larry Robinson — petitioned to be her guardian and listed his address. No phone number, though.

A bit of a long shot, not least because the records were a few years old. But it was in the same area where the sisters lived at one time or another and I figured it was worth a short drive to check it out.

I pulled up outside and parked. Knocked on the door.

“Yes?” a man answered.

“I’m looking for Larry Robinson Sr.,” I said. “I heard about the break in your son’s case and was hoping we could talk a little.”

“Oh yes,” he said. “I’d like that.”

I had found him.

He told me he had hoped to have an opportunity to talk with a reporter but didn’t know how to go about finding one. He planned to go to the bail hearing for the person the cops arrested, but didn’t. He said he was glad I came.

I learned quickly how much he hated his son’s nickname — though he couldn’t stop it from appearing on the funeral program.

No idea what it meant, though. Just knew his son’s friends bestowed it and his son embraced it.

It continues to be a mystery — to us both.

We talked for a while in the shade next to his house, then went over to the cemetery nearby where his son was buried and talked some more.

Driving back to work, I knew I had one of my favorite things: a front-page story made so only because of the effort I put into it. Just had to wait for the late budget meeting to confirm it.

That was a good day’s work.


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