Legacy of Love and Pain

April 9 began on the humid side, but there was enough of a breeze to make the 70-degree temperature feel like the air-conditioning unit just kicked on. At Clayton Homes, a public housing project near downtown, Hudson awakened her five children. By 7:20, she'd sent the middle three off to Anson Jones Elementary, about two blocks away.

Just after 8, Angel, the oldest, caught the school bus, which was running late. As it pulled away, the 14-year-old saw her father, who didn't live with the family, walking briskly toward the apartment, and he was carrying a navy blue duffle bag.

Something was wrong. She felt it.

At the apartment, Hudson telephoned her sister Monica Lynn Tate to tell her about an argument she'd had with her estranged husband at the apartment the night before, but her sister didn't answer. Hudson didn't leave a message.

She was expecting him that morning. He wanted a paternity test on her youngest child, and he'd called to say he was going to borrow his mother's car so they could have the test done.

When he showed up at her back door, Hudson didn't see the car. Something told her not to let him in, but she did.

He was quiet. His face was swollen and bandaged from a scuffle with the neighbors the night before.

"Hey," he said.

He set the duffle bag on the kitchen table and sat down across from her. The infant girl lay awake in a carrier on the sofa in the living room.

Hudson's heart was beating rapidly.

The phone rang. It was her mother. He told her not to answer it. Hudson didn't.

He opened the duffle bag, took out a knife and laid it on the table. A half-full plastic jug sat in the bag.

"What's wrong?" she asked.


The phone rang again. This time it was her sister, who had seen Hudson's number on her Caller ID.

He pulled out clothesline.

"I want you to put your feet and hands together," he said.

She leaped from the table, and he jumped up. Hudson ran for the front door, hollering for help. She fumbled to unlock the deadbolt and ran about 3 feet, but he tripped her with his arm. She screamed as he grabbed her left leg and dragged her back inside. Outside, six or seven people watched.

He made her sit at the kitchen table. He picked up the knife and threatened to stab her if she didn't let him tie her up. He bound her wrists and then her ankles with clothesline wire.

Hudson pleaded. She asked him why was he doing this.

He reached for the plastic jug and threw gasoline, hitting her in the chest.

He lit a match and tossed it at her.

She was ablaze.

Hudson jumped up and frantically hopped to the front door, but it was locked. Instinct took her toward the stairs. She made it up four steps, setting the curtains on fire, and back down. From about 3 feet away, her attacker again splashed her with gasoline, soaking her head.

Another match fed the inferno.

She hobbled to the kitchen, toward the back door. As fire seared her skin, she heard voices. She collapsed in a sitting position, still in flames.

Before her stood her attacker, staring blankly at what he had done, not whispering a word.

Outside, David King was on his way to get a cassette tape from his car when he heard the unforgettable screams.

The 24-year-old knocked at the front door. A man came to the window and cursed him. King saw flames through a window and thought the kitchen was on fire. He began kicking at the door.

Arturo Chapa, a Southwestern Bell technician, was working near the back door. He, too, heard the screams. The door opened, and a man said in a low, gruff voice, "It's none of your business" and shut the door.

On King's seventh kick, the front door broke open. He ran to the kitchen and was stunned by what he saw: Hudson on fire, with flames shooting 2 feet in the air. "The man was standing over her with a knife, watching her die," King recalls.

The assailant pushed King aside and ran out of the apartment.

Chapa rushed in through the back door, meeting King in the kitchen. They tried to extinguish the fire by covering Hudson with clothes from a laundry basket. They tried cupping water from the kitchen faucet with their hands, but it evaporated as soon as it hit the flames. The fire raged on.

Chapa noticed a half-gallon saucepan filled with dishwater in the sink. He doused Hudson's head. Then her back. Her chest. Both arms. And her waist.

It was finally over.

At 8:40 a.m., police and firefighters arrived at the grisly scene. Hudson asked her horrified neighbors: "How's my baby?"

Smoke puffed from her mouth.