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.

Wesley's version: New Jack City, an arty action flick starring Wesley Snipes, is playing on the VCR at Kenny Schendel's house. Ten a.m. on October 13, 1997. Wesley's smoking half a joint, and Schendel is cranked up, talking about the Check Cashers store. It has to go down today, Schendel insists. No more waiting. As one character's throat gets slashed, Schendel stops the tape, hits rewind, and plays the scene again. "See," he instructs, "that's how you do it."

At 3 o'clock, Wesley gets into his Geo Prizm, Schendel into his Ford pickup, and they drive toward Brooklyn Park. Wesley thinks about taking a U-turn, and doesn't. A few blocks from their destination, they pull into a parking lot, and Schendel climbs into Wesley's car. Minutes later, they're outside the store, sizing it up.

"I didn't even know Kenny had brought a knife," Wesley insists. I never really thought it was going to happen. To some degree, I guess I was humoring him. But again, I just wasn't thinking. The marijuana didn't allow me to give any real rational thought to what I was doing. He reached into the pocket of his plaid hunter's vest and gave me a knife. Then I had this feeling of toil. It took Kenny a good 10 minutes to convince me to get out of the car."

When Wesley and Schendel enter the store, Gallup is napping. He gets up and comes to the service window, then invites the two men into the back room. (Police reports filed after the crime confirm that there was no forced entry.) For 20 minutes, the three exchange small talk, mostly about a stack of CDs sitting nearby. Wesley is agitated. The threshold is crossed.

"Gregg got up to get a CD. I'm behind him, to his right. Whenever Kenny and I made contact, he's communicating with his eyes: 'Do it. What are you waiting on?' I pulled the switchblade out of my pocket. Once the knife was in my right hand and open, there was an urgency to try and get this thing over with.

"I didn't get into position to do the old Wesley Snipes move. I was probably 3 or 4 feet away as Gregg was leaning over to put the CD in the stereo. At that point, the movie only came into play as far as the neck seemed to be my target. I made my first lunge and struck him in the neck. Gregg let out a yell and moved to the back door. The first thing he said was, 'I'll split it with you.'

"From that point, he went on to repeatedly beg me not to do it. 'No, Carl. No.' He's moving to the back door. I'm in pursuit. Now I'm trying to silence him. I'm sure I could've stopped after 20 blows. But he was still vocal, which was a clear indication that he wasn't done with. Gregg was in his socks, and he slipped on his own blood. He was lying on his back, still begging."

To finish the killing, Wesley administers two wounds--one, according to the coroner's report, in the lower right side of Gallup's back. The knife grazes Gallup's liver, then punctures his stomach. And the second to his face: "I wanted him to stop pleading to me. It was hard enough. His pleading made it more difficult. I just wanted him to stop talking."

Wesley, who smoked two packs a day, stands up, wheezing. He has cotton mouth. He's dizzy, disoriented. Schendel is at the back door with the money. The whole scene slows down and turns surreal.

At his sentencing on August 27, as he faced Gregg Gallup's family for the first time, Wesley described in detail what happened next. Since then, whenever he revisits the crime scene in his imagination, he makes sure to re-create it--as if the scene were a collage of his own making, with dead quiet at its heart. Telling it, Wesley says, helps him sleep at night.

"As I was about to leave through the back door, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a spiritual presence, telling me to turn around and look at what I did. Gregg was still breathing. It was wet breathing. At that point, I heard his final exhale. It seemed to be amplified. And then, when he was silent, there was this peace, like a blanket in the room. I was winded, but I recognized the peace: There seemed to be a completeness for him."

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