Excerpt from While the City Slept by Eli Sanders, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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While the City Slept

A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness

by Eli Sanders

While the City Slept by Eli Sanders X
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick
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Excerpt
While the City Slept

Up the block, where South Rose Street intersects with Eighth Avenue South, Israel Rodriguez was watching his eighteenth birthday party wind down. His actual birthday had come three days earlier, but the celebration was postponed in order to take advantage of a fast-arriving Saturday night. Now it was 3:00 a.m. on the Sunday after that Saturday night. Israel stood on the sidewalk outside his family's home, lit a cigarette, and smoked it near the spot where roots of a large maple tree had cracked and raised the concrete on a scale not normally seen in a city accustomed to sidewalks rearranged by tree roots. Here, the whorled roots had created a small mountain of vaulting cement whose peak passersby were forced to ascend and then descend. As Israel pulled on the cigarette, he, too, heard glass breaking. The sound seemed to come from the direction of the dead end on South Rose Street, and his mind identified it as a window being smashed. Israel found this odd for the neighborhood. He decided to head over to see what was happening.

About halfway down the block, he spotted a woman in the middle of the street. "She was white and wasn't wearing nothing," Israel would later tell a courtroom. The woman was screaming for help. Israel ran back to his house. In the basement, Sara Miranda-Nino, his twenty-one-year-old cousin, was on her cell phone arguing with an ex-boyfriend. Israel told her to call 911, and then he and Sara ran down South Rose Street together.

Israel's eleven-year-old sister, Mariah, followed. So did a young neighborhood friend named Diana Ramirez, whose father was once Israel's boxing coach. Diana was fourteen and lived on South Rose Street just across from the red house.

Jennifer Dawson-Lutz, watching out her front window, saw them all run past. She told her husband, "Go outside, go outside, help." Then she heard one of the kids saying, "Get back, somebody's been stabbed." "And that's when I told my husband, 'Stay inside.'"

By this time, Israel and his cousin Sara could see there were two women in the street. One screaming for help. The other on the pavement. This woman, too, was without clothes, and Israel could see wounds on her.

He told Mariah and Diana to get out of there. Diana didn't listen. She knew the women who lived in the red house. Didn't know their names, but knew them by sight. They would wave to her as they were going about their days or as they were heading to and from work at their downtown jobs, and Diana would smile and wave back, say hi. Now one of the women was running in and out of the cone of streetlamp light, pounding on a neighbor's door to no avail, coming right up to Diana, looking at her, saying, "Help me." She was holding her neck. It was bleeding.

"I took off my sweatshirt," Diana would later testify. "I wrapped it around her neck to stop the bleeding. Then I ran inside my house to get towels and paper towels."

Sara recognized the women, too. "I seen them," she said on the witness stand, "but never conversated with them. They were just two women that always got involved with the community. I remember seeing them around when South Park had its festivals."

Now Sara was with the woman who was lying in the street. Her name was Teresa Butz, and the red house belonged to her. The woman calling for help, Diana's sweatshirt to her neck, was Teresa's fiancée, Jennifer Hopper.

Sara knelt. She held Teresa's head in her lap. She spoke to a 911 operator through tears, terrified, and she spoke to Teresa, too, telling her, "Please wake up, ma'am. Ma'am, wake up! Please wake up, ma'am!"

She took off her shirt and tried to wipe the blood away. She wanted to see where Teresa's major wounds were, apply pressure. It was difficult. "The bleeding wouldn't stop," she said.

There were no police officers in South Park when the calls began coming in from South Rose Street, but the neighborhood did have a fire station. It had been there for more than a hundred years and after a few relocations was now situated near the red house. "Listen to me," a 911 operator told Sara, trying to calm her. "There's a fire station less than two blocks away from you. They're going to come and help her right away. They're like two blocks away, okay?"

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Excerpted from While the City Slept by Eli Sanders. Copyright © 2016 by Eli Sanders. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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