The Fall of the House of Tucker

After his son committed murder, a retired St. Paul cop had to choose between blood and justice

 

THE FIRST CALL to Brooklyn Park police came in at 2:44 a.m. A homeowner reported hearing a loud popping sound, followed by a woman's scream, the squeal of tires, and a short blast from a car horn.

Within minutes, two officers arrived at the 2100 block of 73rd Avenue, where they found a white Acura Legend parked askew, the driver's door ajar, a bullet hole in the windshield. A woman, slumped behind the wheel, was alive but unresponsive. She'd been shot under the right breast.

"I noticed her stomach was enlarged and did not know if she was pregnant or if the blood had run into her stomach and bloated her up," one officer wrote in his report.

At North Memorial Hospital, doctors determined that the woman, identified as Angelina Garley of Brooklyn Park, was not pregnant. As they frantically tried to locate the slug from the .45 that had lodged in her spine, she continued to bleed heavily. At 3:34 a.m., she was pronounced dead.

Because Angelina had previously called the police on CJ, investigators quickly focused on him as a suspect. By early morning, Brooklyn Park cops contacted Clem Sr. looking for his son.

At 9:04 a.m., Clem Sr. called his son and urged him to surrender. An hour and a half later, with his father and fiancée standing by, CJ walked out of his St. Louis Park apartment and dropped to his knees. Less than a month later, he was formally charged with Angelina Garley's killing.

On February 21, while he was awaiting trial in the Hennepin County Jail, CJ and his longtime fiancée , Darla Hagen, got married. They had much reason to celebrate—CJ was a father again, another baby boy. "The judge was nice enough to let me touch my son," CJ says.

Two months later, CJ appeared in Hennepin County District Court, where he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

 

THESE DAYS, CJ doesn't much resemble the lithe middleweight from the family photo collections. He weighs 230 pounds, a far cry from his prime fighting weight of 154. He bulked up in the Marines, he says, settling uneasily into a seat in the cavernous interview room of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater.

"The days of a guy coming into a maximum prison in Minnesota and getting huge are over," he says. "They don't have free weights here. Took 'em out a long time before I arrived."

Now in the second year of a 19-year prison sentence, he can qualify for release in 2018. Until then, he says, he just wants to keep his nose clean. He works in the prison wood shop, where he's honing his carpentry skills.

Since his arrest, CJ has made no public statements about the killing of Angelina Garley. "When you take a plea, you never get a chance to say what happened," he says.

He disputes the official version of events, which suggests that he shot Angelina in a jealous rage after scrolling through her cell phone. While he acknowledges that the two had traded phones, he says he doesn't recall making any calls on her cell.

But he concedes that his night with Garley got off to a rocky start. When she first arrived at Johnny A's, he says, he made an ill-considered crack about her mussed hair. She became angry. He apologized.

Before they got into their respective vehicles, Garley asked to borrow his cell phone, Tucker says. "I let her have it, thinking I'd blocked all the numbers so she couldn't see them anyway."

CJ followed Angelina as she turned off I-94 an exit early. When he pulled up beside her to ask what was wrong, she cursed him, CJ says. At that point, he says, he was mainly worried what she might do to his cell phone, which he needed for business. "Understand, at this time I didn't have a driver's license, so I didn't want to have to chase her all around the city."

When he stepped out of his truck, Angelina accelerated, CJ claims. She was going to run him over. "I just reacted, drew my weapon and fired," he says. "I think it was a direct response to the training I had in the military. We do quick draw tactics and things like that."

CJ says he didn't realize he had hit Angelina. "I'm thinking she's going to say I fired a weapon and I'm going to jail," Tucker says. "I would have never left her if I knew she was shot."

Brooklyn Park Police Department Detective Chuck Ryan, the lead investigator on the case, is not impressed by CJ's claim of self-defense. He argues that CJ's smeared handprint on the hood of the Acura suggests Angelina was backing up—not speeding forward—when the shot was fired.

But Ryan considered more than just the physical evidence. Over the course of his investigation, he retrieved nearly 3,000 text messages from CJ's cell phone provider. After contacting many women from that database, Ryan emerged with an unflattering view of his lead suspect.

"I learned that Clem Jr. seemed to be a nice and easy-going person when things were going his way. If they weren't, he could turn on a dime," Ryan says. "He was a player and he was very possessive. It seems like it was okay if he played around, but it wasn't okay if anyone else did."

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