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***