The bullet Kenny Cherry Jr. courted left the barrel years ago.
It arrived early Thursday morning on Las Vegas Boulevard and put the 27-year-old hustler with delusions of grandeur in the national spotlight for half a news cycle.
While police investigated leads and identified a suspect in the shooting, Cherry’s father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., held a news conference Saturday and defended his son, calling him a victim and a good kid who only played a tough guy in YouTube videos.
Cherry Jr. called himself “Kenny Clutch,” and published reports have referred to him as an “aspiring rapper” who delivered uninspiring ditties via YouTube that celebrated a thug life teeming with pimps, whores, drugs, guns and money.
He knew plenty about all of that. According to court documents, Cherry was a stone pimp who beat his women and spent the money they earned turning tricks in Strip casinos. He was fond of weed and narcotic cough syrup and his reflection in a nightclub mirror.
He died like a bad rap song, and good riddance. The real tragedy is that he took two innocent bystanders with him when his leased Maserati plowed into a Desert Cab on the Boulevard at Flamingo Road. Driver Michael Boldon, 62, and his passenger, Maple Valley, Wash., tourist Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, were engulfed in a ball of fire when the cab’s gas tank exploded.
I’m sure there’s a rap lyric in there somewhere. No one with a scintilla of conscience would try to find it.
Cherry had a few minor brushes with local law enforcement — speeding tickets in which he gave the officer a California driver’s license with an Oakland address — but his lack of convictions in Nevada don’t tell the story. Despite having no visible means of income, he drove a Maserati and stayed in a $2,900-a-month condominium at the Metropolis at 360 E. Desert Inn Road.
Maybe knowledge of his job slipped the mind of his attorney Vicki Greco when she told a reporter Cherry was no gang member and, “He was a loyal, dependable friend, and we at the law firm will miss him.”
Yeah, he was a real charmer. But I’m not sure whether the mother of one of his children would agree. Before she ran away, Mr. Dependable Friend pimped her out and beat her often.
She was born in 1986 into a home riddled with abuse and drugs. According to court documents, after her drug-addicted mother wound up in prison, at 2 the girl went to live with her grandparents, who devoted themselves to putting her on a positive path.
“I was fortunate to have my grandparents,” she would write years later. “I grew up in a beautiful small town and participated in gymnastics, band and all types of sports.”
In high school, she excelled in softball and was an A student. After graduating, she earned an associate’s degree at a nearby community college and took university classes, but in 2008 she met Cherry through a friend.
After encountering him again at a Strip nightclub, she struck up a relationship she didn’t imagine would lead to a life of prostitution in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s because the rapping Cherry seemed so generous, so loyal and dependable.
“He promised me the world and I believed every bit of it,” she recalled in 2012. “He invited me to move to Las Vegas and ‘check it out.’ I felt like I had nothing else solid going on and figured it might be fun to live someplace else. I was naive. I had faith and confidence in him and that he wanted a future with me. I did not know at the time that my future would consist of prostituting myself, getting beaten up by Ken on a regular basis, and being arrested and going to jail 27 times.
“… I don’t know how to explain how it happened in a way that would make sense to anyone. He said it was ‘no big deal’ and ‘easy money.’\u2009”
Before long, she was working six nights a week. Her evening quota was $1,500. Come home without it and face the consequences.
“Kenny took every penny I made,” she said.
By July 2010, she discovered she was pregnant. She imagined having a baby together might settle him down, but she was kidding herself. He only became more abusive, and kept other women — one of whom was also pregnant — in other Las Vegas apartments.
Their checkered history together includes her application for a restraining order following paternity and domestic violence claims she made in a California court. In a document filed Sept. 7, 2011, in Superior Court, she swore she suffered bruises, cuts and abrasions after being cuffed around repeatedly by Cherry. Photographs showed she was battered. Her Clark County arrest history, with charges reduced to trespassing and a court-ordered AIDS awareness course, begins in May 2009 and is riddled with the telltale signs of a working prostitute.
She wrote that Cherry, “physically assaulted me, pushing me into walls and hitting me. I packed up some belongings and drove back to my family ... Along with the physical abuse, he has consistently been verbally abusive during our relationship.”
It shouldn’t have been surprising. That’s what pimps do to their women. The former couple also sparred legally over custody and visitation issues involving their young daughter.
It’s likely Greco would know something about that. She not only represented Cherry, but according to court records she also was the woman’s criminal lawyer. Maybe it slipped the attorney’s mind while she was grieving over the loss of Mr. Dependable Friend.
Kenny Clutch caught his bullet Thursday morning on the Boulevard, but save your tears for cabdriver Boldon and passenger Sutton-Wasmund, whose devastated family members will deal with their loss the rest of their lives.
Then say a prayer for all the women of the night who, for reasons most of us can’t fully comprehend, find themselves under the pimp’s spell.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Smith.