GOLD COAST — Prosecutors describe Brianna Gardner an “itinerant prostitute who traveled from city to city in the Midwest and operated out of hotel rooms.”
But to friends and family the 22-year-old Dallas woman was more than just a prostitute.
“She didn’t deserve this,” said Tabitha Tarham, a friend. “We do our thing. Everybody has to make money.”
More than a month after her death, Lamarcus Washington, 28, was charged with killing Gardner inside the tony Whitehall Hotel in the Gold Coast. Not only did the parolee leave DNA at the scene, he also left his cell phone behind, prosecutors said.
Hours after a hotel guest heard a large bang, Gardner was found by a hotel housekeeper bent over the bed with a single shot in the side of the head, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini told Judge Israel Desierto. Inside her ransacked room, police found used condoms. They also found Garden’s cell phone and, what was later determined to be Washington’s cell phone, Santini said.
Authorities called a number on Washington’s cell phone and reached someone who claimed to be dating him. The woman told authorities she had driven Washington to the 100 block of East Delaware Street, near where the hotel is located, about 3 a.m. on Aug. 13, parked the car and waited for him, Santini said. When Washington returned, the witness told authorities, they drove back to Washington’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, Santini said.
Washington, who was on parole for a 2007 drug conviction, also called his parole agent before 4 a.m. that morning and told him he had lost his cell phone.
Washington’s attorney, Leah Federman, told the judge that her client is a cook and a lifelong resident of the city. The judge set bail at $1.5 million.
Tarham said she’s shocked her friend allegedly took Washington up to the room. She’s not sure if her friend, who went by the name “Bambii,” knew Washington.
“I know Bambii,” Tarham, 24, of Dallas, said. “She wouldn’t date black guys.”
But Tarham said she knows one thing for sure about Washington, “He was a real dummy for leaving his cell phone in that room.”
Tarham said Gardner had also been working as a stripper in Chicago, though she didn’t know at what club.
According to an online memorial, Gardner had six siblings. She had birth parents and a legal guardian. Prosecutors said they spoke with a legal guardian about her life.
Gardner loved her family and shopping, Tarham said.
“She was a happy chick,” she said, adding that Gardner graduated from high school in Dallas. She could also “put on” her Southern Bell accent, Tarham said.
For her birthday in November, Gardner was hoping to get a car and breast implants, Tarham said.
In an online memorial, friends and family share their grief over the loss of Gardener.
Someone who identifies herself as Gardner’s birth mother writes, “To my daughter, you left me to[sic.] early. … I was so proud when I found out I had a daughter and that I could dress up. I know you are in a better place and that GOD and your other family is around you and protecting you.” She signs it “Love always, her momma.”
And a friend shares that Gardner could always be counted on to call or text her friends to make them happy.
Friends ask Gardner, who had been cited with prostitution in Chicago just days before she was killed, to watch over them.
“The game is vicious and we dont [sic.] have anyone but each other,” writes someone who signed the post Taylor Sweets.
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