Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paradise Lost............... Part 1

Just a few weeks past two years ago, a 56 year old woman was found murdered at the Paradise Motel. The only witness was her two year old grandchild who was unharmed, at least physically. Her name was Kusumben Patel , she was a family member of the family owned motel, a wife, mother, and grandmother. The Paradise is no longer in business, but it is still inhabited. The owners are long gone, either they fled for their lives, or left in a futile attempt to outrun the memory of what transpired. I just came back from the Paradise, and I'm trying to reconcile what I saw there with what took place back in 2007, and what remains of a family's hopes and dreams for a better life. So if this story sounds like I'm putting it together as I go, that's exactly what I'm doing.

The Paradise sits on a corner of 71 highway/ Prospect and 81st street. This eastern edge of the Marlboro neighborhood is a rundown shell of it's former self. Considering the former self was no great shakes to begin with, what's left wouldn't be missed if it all disappeared tomorrow. Just to the south of the Paradise is another motel, the 4 Acres, across the road are some auto repair places, a couple of bars long since closed, a McDonalds, and that's about it. There was a time, years ago, the 70's, early 80's, when those bars were local hangouts for the southside of Kansas City's white criminals, craps shooters, a few safe crackers, and assorted hustlers. I've mentioned the Three Moods lounge and Ronny's Rabbit Hutch, some of the guys I looked up to as a kid spent their time there. My uncle sat in on more than a few crap games there. It was a gritty, working class part of the city, with a seamy underbelly.

Time marches on, and by the mid 80's this little stretch of road wasn't immune to the change the years brought. Those bars closed, the 4 Acres went from being a no tell motel, a place where married men met their female counterparts for an afternooner, to a free market for crack cocaine and prostitution. At some point the Paradise was slapped up to pick up the overflow from the 4 Acres. Further to the south, the once infamous Owl Motel was torn down to make way for the Grandview triangle. The legitimate businesses fled the area, tired of being robbed by every smoker with a pistol and a Jones. Another bar, the Time Out Lounge became a good place to go if you were looking to get shot. Much like the White Flight of the 80's, the crime and blight spilled over the area like spilled oil spreads out on a driveway.
The Patels were the last in a line of proprietors who set up shop at the Paradise. KMBC ch. 9 quoted a business owner as saying that the Patels had a zero tolerance policy against drugs and prostitution, and maybe on the surface they did. But the truth is probably closer to a don't ask, don't tell policy, because the only people renting out rooms on this stretch of road are involved in drugs, prostuitution, or some other felonious trade. So the Patels may have tried to clean the place up, but they would have never rented a room if they weeded out the riff raff.

I'm not sure if they closed the place down right after the murder, the news stories I've found seem to imply as much, or they say that there was nobody staying there the following day. What I found today is that there are people still living there, or at least they have been in the very recent past. It's not the Patels, of that I'm certain. From the pictures I took, and the condition of the rooms, it looks like the very people who helped draw death to the Patels door continue to inhabit the place. Crack heads, transisents, squatters. I took a few shots, and I intend to go back tomorrow and take some more. when I walked up to the mirrored bank teller type window of the Lobby, in the lower corner of the window was a plastic Jack O lantern. No brighter than the glow of a cigarette was a small light bulb, illuminating the plastic pumpkin. I'm guessing here, but it seems like the pumpkin has been in that same window, with it's tiny bulb burning since the day of the homicide. Because of the mirrored glass, I couldn't really get it to show up on my camera, but I'm going to see if I can pick it up better after dark.

The majority of the window unit air conditioners have been pulled out of the walls, but surprisingly the rooms are intact, strewn with all manner of shit, everything from food containers to baby strollers. The televisions are still there, the doors standing open, a heart shaped jacuzzi in one of the rooms. Proof of life, evidence that people have been here very recently. It's a haunting, unsettling place. I don't spook easy, I'm fairly at ease just about anyplace in this city, the seedy side of life and I are not exactly strangers. But this rundown motel, the knowledge of what took place there, and the appearance that the owners just picked up and left, fled, all combine to make for a disturbing sight.

I don't know if anyone was ever charged, given the nature of the business, the area it was in, I don't know where the police would even start. There was a long line of bad actors coming in contact with the proprietors of the Motel, it could have been any one of them, or someone just passing by who took an opportunity. The Patels , I assume came here from India, or Pakistan, some other world, looking for a better life, a chance to get a slice of the American Pie. I imagine they thought they had found paradise, then they figured out paradise has a few snakes running around loose. They put up bars, got a tellers window with bullet proof, mirrored glass, to keep the vermin out. But the place was just so thick with crack heads and bad guys, it was only a matter of time, something bad was bound to happen. Paradise was found, then lost. The Patels in the end found out that Paradise didn't really exist, at least not on that stretch of road.
*** This post is the first of three parts. I'm going to the site of another murder scene tomorrow. The second location couldn't be more different than this one. But there are some striking similarities, and promises of Paradise play a big part. I will also be going back to get some better shots of the Paradise Motel rooms. I have a feeling there is no shortage of stories just strewn about the rooms. So look for part two later tomorrow or Friday, and then I'll wrap it all up on monday***


  1. Thanks Midtown!
    Used to drive by there everyday in the early 90's. Look forward to more.

  2. Great read Mid. I look forward to the rest of the story.

  3. Stop by the sports complex two longtime traditions have been murdered there.

  4. Back in the late '90s, I paid for a hotel room at the 4 Acres for someone I was trying to help out. She wasn't too happy I was handing the money right to the owners. So you got the clientele just right. Unfortunately, she didn't want to help herself, and I let her go back to her ways. Last I saw her, she was into reselling vicodin after going to ERs with fake injuries.

    I look forward to your next post. I am surprised the place isn't more torn up. I second Leigh Ann's be careful, too.

  5. pretty cool.I thought Patel is a giant family which own a huge chunk of hotel industry in this country

  6. MV
    Found this explanation for the Patels in the hotel biz.
    Family names aren't a huge deal for a lot of Indians.

    For lack of a better surname, some choose the caste to which they belong.

    People of the same caste often inter-marry.

    Voila - in the heavily populated Gujarat State in India, where Patel is a big caste, there are about 40 million Patels.

    Immigration reforms in the United States brought a lot of Patels here in the '60s (there are about 2 million today).

    To adjust to a strange new land, they sought work where their families could stay together in one place.

    Older Americans at the time who ran independent motels were looking to retire and get out of the business.

    Many Patels were keen businesspeople.

    Boom - they took over these operations and kept costs low by hiring other Patels, whom they then helped to open their own franchises, leading to many flourishing Patel-owned motels.

    Bam - as recently at the 1980s, law enforcement officials embarked on a fruitless probe to find a "Patel crime family" modeled on the Italian mafia.

    Over the years, second- and third-generation Patels have diversified into many other fields.

    Many are now teachers, engineers, electronics workers or health care employees.

    Bam again - the Patel-owned motel phenomenon has probably peaked

    1. The motel story is more involved than that, even, when it comes to Indians owning and running motels in the US. The gas shock of 1973-74 played hell with the highway lodging industry and many older motel owners indeed decided to get out rather than ride that dying horse into Dead Man's Gulch. So thousands upon thousands of motel owners simply handed the keys to the bank/insurance company/finance chain and said, "Sayonara, b!tches, we're out of here. Enjoy your crappy life that running a mom-and-pop motel makes for all involved!"

      But bankers don't like running motels... cuts into their golf game, you know. So they cast about for a solution, meaning for somebody stupid or desperate enough to try running a worn out dung heap motel that tended to barely break even in the best of times, and was a money pit losing proposition in bad times, such as the Nixon-Ford era.

      By sheer coincidence, Idi Amin, the cannibal dictator of Uganda, had just decided to issue an invitation to that country's entrepreneurial Indian Sub-continent originating citizens: "Get out or stay for the barbeque: and you're the main dish if you stay." They left, being recruited heavily to come to dead-end towns all over the US to run hot sheet motels if they'd just keep up the payments.

      For everybody who gripes about how wretched, run-down, worn-out, stinky, and just flat out NASTY Patel motels tend to be, feel free to take one of them on and turn it into the paradise you'd like it to be. You'll find it's the perfect way to turn a large fortune into no fortune at all. The only way these disgusting dumps stay in business is by spending NO money on maintenance and upkeep and hoping that enough druggies and hookers show up to keep them going another month.

  7. back in 1990 my dad and L remodeled every room at the 4 acre. all this while they were still open for buisness..For a 20year old it was an experience.Unfortunatly by that time I was no angel myself,so the things I saw and experienced there did not shock me..I even visited that place and others like it for a period of years I have two kids and have changed for the better for the most part..but ..M, Iknow you can understand this..sometimes I feel like goin back to those days but Idont ,for the most part..It just leaves me feeling hollow and guilty..Plus im lucky to be alive today..Good stuff ,MM

  8. Great read! Looking forward to tomorrows blog! Patels are everywhere.. common name. Wonder if theres any hint of hope for this family?

  9. Earning your "best blogger" title over again every day!

  10. A spooky story just in time for Halloween. Damn, my favorite bloggers are really hitting them out of the park lately.

    Be careful.

  11. Please pardon the naivete but can you just wander around on the property? I guess I would assume it would be fenced off or boarded up. Are those pictures from inside the rooms or through windows? Great piece though - looking forward to the rest (especially since I would never have the guts to trespass in an abandoned motel!)

  12. Alonzo Washington is a geri curled, punk assed thunder stealing, "look at me" media hog who cannot hold a job.
    Yeah, I put it out there!

  13. anony
    The rooms are standing wide open as is the entire motel lot, no fence, no trespassing signs that I saw. It sits maybe 12 feet off the road. Much as I enjoy entertaining you people, I'm not ging to risk jail to do it.

  14. I used to work in that area in the early '80's and even though it wasn't much then, it's really hit bottom now. The hot sheet motels, the adult book stores, the MickeyD's are gone. The Smokestack BBQ was popular, until they sickened a bunch of folks with salmonella and went out of business.

    I don't think the Paradise has been out of business for too long, Google street and MS Virtual Earth both show what looks like a going concern, probably within the last year or two. Any longer the plumbing and wiring would be in the scrap yard along with the air conditioners.

    We've got a trio of fine establishments in our hood for your travelers rest - the Royal Inn, the Admiral and the Capri Motels @ Paseo and the Avenue. Wouldn't miss any of them if they burned down. The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, an osteopathic med school, has done a fine job of buying up blighted property and turning them into something useful and presentable. I hope they tackle the Royal Inn and the 7-11 next.

  15. extremus
    The plumbing and the wiring may in fact be gone. The electricity is on in the office/living area , and it's barred up like fort knox which may explain why it hasnt been pillaged. From everything I've been able to find out, it's been closed since right after the murder. Wasn't it the Capri where the guy smelled something funny in his room and it turned out to be a body under the bed?

  16. Loving Daughter

    I am the daughter of the deceased...and after the incident, the motel was sold to an out-of-towner....what he did there only he knows.

    The security bars and bullet-proof window were present from the day the motel was built....THEY WERE NOT ADDED AS AN AFTER THOUGHT.

    I live everyday in hopes of getting closure for my mother's soul, but not sure if the case will ever get solved. A lot is due to the COLOR OF OUR SKIN...and because of being MINORITY NOT MUCH HOPE FROM THE POLCE TO DO ANYTHING.

    By now, I feel they have already closed the file on tht case and have titled it UNSOLVED MURDER.

    Thanks to the well wishers, very much appreciated.