The call came in on January 13, 1983, and dispatch put the call out over the radio within minutes. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Just another report of a purse snatching on the mean streets of Memphis, Tennessee. Every officer goes on calls like this numerous times. Just another minor crime to investigate. Make the scene, take a report, and turn it over to the detectives to investigate and then on to the next call. Maybe the detectives would actually solve this crime, but neither officer really believed that was going to happen. Like all big cities in America, crime was running way ahead of the ability of the police department to stop it. There are some many much more violent crimes to solve, murders, rapes, assaults, robberies, etc. A simple purse snatching fell way low on the list of priorities for the detective division.
Earlier that day, a woman had been the victim of a random crime of opportunity all too common in Memphis. The incident occurred in a local grocery store, part of a large national chain of stores. Quitting time was approaching for a woman who worked at the store. While she was preparing to leave, she set her purse down and turned away. Something she had done hundreds of times in the past. However, this time, there was someone was watching. With her attention diverted, someone simply grabbed her purse and walked away. When she went to leave, she was shocked to discover that her purse was gone. Some unknown, phantom person would play a pivotal role as the events of this day unfolded. He (or she) would never be identified or taken into custody. The tragedy that was set in motion with the simple theft of a purse would set the city of Memphis reeling. Whoever took this purse was probably looking to get a few extra bucks that day. Maybe they needed the money for drugs of liquor. Junkies were a pretty common sight around that area. Little did this person realize that the act of stealing a purse would lead to the deaths of eight people. I doubt he is even aware of it today, some decades after the fact.