Suzy Shelton, c. 1992

I think this Kodak moment (courtesy of HS Infrared) was from 1992. I’m not quite sure what show it was. I think it might have been the Zeros at Mannequins. Suzy snuck up behind me while I was photographing in the pit and pulled this stunt. She wasn’t as wasted as she looks; she was just screwing around, trying to disrupt my concentration.

I hadn’t thought about Suzy in a long time; when I knew her she was Todd Thompson’s girlfriend. My most vivid memory of both of them was when they strolled into Cheney’s bar around midnight singing a neverending song—seriously neverending, because they wrote a ton of new verses every time I heard it—called “Kill George Bush” (senior, not G.W.). The whole crowd sang along with gusto, on the chorus at least. Anyone could get that.

I don’t get what happened. I was looking at a post about Slim on Bakotopia and saw her name. I had to pay for the back story on the Bakersfield Californian web site:

Tehachapi woman’s slaying in 2003 remains mystery

CHRISTINA VANCE, Californian staff writer, April 12, 2004

Bags of methamphetamine and marijuana joints lay in one room of the Tehachapi home. In the other, Suzanne Shelton’s body lay near a blood-splattered pool table.

The unsolved killing and the drugs are related, Kern County sheriff’s detectives say. They just don’t know how.

More than a year after the Feb. 19, 2003, homicide, Shelton’s family members question who stole the free-spirited 40-year-old’s life.

“Somebody went there to do this. It isn’t that they came to the door and she made them angry,” said Shelton’s mother, Barbara Brown.

The first picture I remember taking of Suzy was soon after I tried using infrared flash in 1991. I couldn’t find that one—it was a picture of Suzie in a big Mexican serape with a “deer in the headlights” look. I told her I could take her picture in the dark; her look of incredulity was something else. The only other picture I could locate was her stringing a banjo in the back of a club (John Bryan’s I think). She wasn’t playing there; I suspect she was just hanging out in the parking lot playing it.

Suzy Shelton, c. 1992

. . .

Tehachapi sheriff’s substation Sgt. Joe Giuffre said that the mountain community, like everywhere else, has a drug problem.

“If you look at the people in jail, most of the stuff is drug-related,” he said. “It’s an evil cycle. It makes them do crazy things.”

As the investigation continues, Shelton Sutherland said she’s more focused on mourning her mother.

“When I think about the loss, I’m not thinking about any kind of revenge or justice,” she said.

Sutherland described her mother as an artist and healer who loved to sing and make others laugh.

“She was always up for an adventure. She was very straightforward and an instant judge of character,” Sutherland said. . . .

Growing up, Shelton was “a pain in the butt,” Brown said with a smile.
As a child, Shelton used to go outside to play after ordering her younger sister to stay inside with their mother. She was afraid her mother would get lonely, Brown said.

Graphic artist, bartender, television camera technician, census worker and high-rise window washer were all Shelton’s jobs at different times. The window-washing gig didn’t last long, Brown said.

“She would be outside making faces at people. She got in a lot of trouble,” Brown said.

Shortly before her death, Shelton moved to Tehachapi because one her sons has asthma, Brown said.

“She wanted them to live up there because she thought it would be quiet and clean and nothing would happen,” she said.

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