Portrait of the Artist as a Killer

The Art of Murder or How to Take a Friend's Life Without Really Trying. Acclaimed artist Carl Wesley, a.k.a. Inmate 198369, wrote the book.

Over the next few months, Quinn introduced Wesley to several acquaintances who patronized or worked in the business (Quinn employed Gregg Gallup for a time, before he closed up shop and moved back to Brooklyn). The circle of friends was fluid, mostly working-class guys who liked to see live music, watch football, and drink beer. Some were wanna-be musicians or artists. A few were both. They all swapped CDs, smoked dope, and--when they could afford it--snorted a little coke. Quinn's house served as a sort of clubhouse, where the guys could get high, bet on sports, and trade their hard-luck stories. Barbara Wesley, who Carl started dating about the same time he met Quinn, called it "slacker central."

As Wesley puts it, "These weren't criminal types. They were working people who loved to go to the Cabooze and watch shows. Part of the reason why I had no problem hanging out with them had to do with my background. I was always uncomfortable with my so-called status. I didn't feel comfortable leaving a certain class of people behind."

Schendel started hanging around the group in 1992. He was more partial to country-western than to the circle's sound, '70s R&B. While the rest of the guys hit bars downtown, he might take off for a weekend of hunting or fishing. He hung out on the sidelines, dropping by Quinn's on occasion to hook up with the regulars. Still, he and Wesley started spending time together one on one, playing pool or watching movies and getting high at Schendel's place.

As for his home life, in 1992 Carl and Barbara picked out a house in South Minneapolis. She took out the mortgage and signed the closing papers in her own name. Carl hadn't reported his income in New York and was trying to work out a payment plan with the IRS. "The house was kind of the beginning of building this dream of mine of having a family," Wesley says. "And I tried to do all the IRS asked me to do. But when it came to paying money, I couldn't just turn things over to them. I wanted a chance to live my life properly, and they didn't seem to care."

The couple married when Hector was on the way in 1995. In short order, according to Wesley, the walls started to close in, junkie style. Besides a $21,000 debt to the IRS and a career in tailspin, Carl had to worry about a newborn. Suffering from what he believes was depression (although it was not diagnosed) that led to bouts of creative paralysis, the struggling artist started spending more time away from home. "What I was going through, my friends were going through," he says. "Tension with partners, crying children, arguments with the wife. There was a camaraderie."

Wesley's double life became tougher to juggle. His drug use was not, as he puts it, "at New York levels," but it was steady--a habit. When Wesley's friends got together, they got together to get high. His infidelities became legend around the circle. He still calls his fooling around "the same kind of stupidity that led me to stab someone--because some other idiot decided it was to happen. I mean, what are you going to do? This woman calls me at home, says, 'Come over here and fuck my brains out.' There were nights I really didn't want to leave, but I'd get in the car and go--like a zombie."

Since his arrest, Wesley's buddies from the clubhouse are not only reluctant to talk on the record, they don't even want to be identified. They're shocked by his brutality, disgusted with Schendel's foolishness, and believe both men should have received stiffer sentences. However, one former friend feels it's a duty to set the record straight on "Wesley the Victim": "I never saw Carl utter a single respectful word about any female the entire time I knew him--including his wife. And money? As far as that goes, Carl wasn't working, and his wife makes good money. All he had to do was stay home and watch his kid, and there's six or eight hundred bucks a month saved on child care. But he was too busy getting stoned and fucking bums."

The Wesley family accountant, who has been working on Carl's finances since he came to Minneapolis, also wonders why his client became so desperate, why he didn't take the steps necessary to get out of the red. "I never thought the IRS was killing these guys and taking food out of their mouths," says the accountant (who prefers to remain anonymous). "From my perspective, we were in the process of putting his tax liabilities to sleep. Barb is making around $50,000 a year. For a family of four, that money won't get you rich, but it's not poverty level either. He was in here about two weeks before the crime, and he was despondent about income, sure. But he always was. I said, 'Carl, why don't you just get out there and get a job? If you made $15,000 a year, it would be a windfall to your household.' But he never really seemed to be able to get things going."

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