Idyllic Spanish Village shaken by mystery stabbing

The unforgiving arch

Spanish Village. "Keith's blood was in the water. He looked up at me and said, ‘I can’t move my legs.’"
  • Spanish Village. "Keith's blood was in the water. He looked up at me and said, ‘I can’t move my legs.’"
  • Image by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.

The sign on the gate tells you all about it. Annual plot fees, $10. Six months’ water charge, $6 per plot. Safe chemicals to use: beer for snails, wood shavings, mint-water soap, garlic-onion soap for whitefly. Unsafe chemicals:

"They kept trying to make the curfew-breaking the issue."

"They kept trying to make the curfew-breaking the issue."

Roundup, Kleenup, herbicides, Malathion. This is the community on 40th Street. The one with the giant carrots and palms on the fence. The one that's only here until the I-15 freeway arrives, maybe later this year. This sunny Saturday morning, clumps of people bend over their plots, pulling weeds, planting seeds. Nearly all are Hmong hilltribe families who once planted these same ong choy, bok choy, Chinese spring onions, snow peas, garlic, giant stalks of sunflowers, and yellow mustard in their slash-and-burn forest plots of the Golden Triangle in northern Laos.

Keith Hill: “I’ve got nothing to say. I was stabbed seven times."

Keith Hill: “I’ve got nothing to say. I was stabbed seven times."

Here, instead of trees and mountains, they’re hemmed in by 125,000 cars a day whizzing past along 40th, the city’s busiest street, just yards away. Yet it’s amazing how peaceful and rural the feeling is inside this fence. There’s one Caucasian in the garden, working alone, bent over her carrots and kale and spinach. She’s taking leaves off the bottom of the spinach, as the Hmong do, leaving the plant to grow more leaves, so on other days it can keep feeding her.

Xian Yeagan: “Inge went for all the paranoia."

Xian Yeagan: “Inge went for all the paranoia."

“The Laotians are better gardeners than I am,” says Linda Kadubec. She’s a woman in her early 40s with straight blond hair who looks a lot like Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Look at their garlic. But I’m learning. It’s one of the little pleasures in life. I find it all very therapeutic. It has basically saved my sanity these past three years.”

Linda Kadubec: “I spent three months in bed."

Linda Kadubec: “I spent three months in bed."

She hesitates a moment. “I was involved in an incident three years ago, when I was a potter at Spanish Village in Balboa Park,” she says. “A man...he got stabbed.”

Watercolor critique, Spanish Village

Watercolor critique, Spanish Village

March 23, 1991. A dark night. Linda Kadubec is finishing up in the Potters’ Guild shop and work studio in Spanish Village, the artists’ village in Balboa Park. Fifty yards away in Studio 16, Xian (pronounced Christian) Yeagan, a gem engraver, a sculptor of crystal, a student of lapidary — and on the outgoing tide of a relationship with Kadubec at the time — is also cleaning up.

“It was about a quarter to nine,” says Linda. “I rang Xian to say I was finishing up, and let’s walk home, otherwise I’ll be here all night. I’m a workaholic, arid if I don’t stop myself I just keep going. He said, ‘Give me 10, 15 minutes.’ I’d washed the clay off my hands. I was sitting at the counter reading a pottery magazine.

“Then I heard male voices outside on the patio. I didn’t look up because I didn’t want to be noticed. The voices moved left to right. I never looked up. The sounds went back around the right side of the Potters’ Guild. A few minutes later I heard a fight starting up. So at that point I really became scared. I turned the lights out, ducked low under the counter, then crawled to the back door of the Potters’ Guild. I could hear the fighting going on. Someone was getting hit really loud. I decided not to open the [back] door. There was a telephone there; I dialed 911. I told them there was a fight going on. Then I called Xian. I probably asked him to help me, protect me. Then I called Jackie [the “Artist in Residence” in charge of the village]. I told her I had called the police. Then I crawled back towards the front. I stayed ducked down. I kept looking out the window. I never saw anyone leave. I could only see to the front left, not to the right or round the back. When the fighting stopped and it was quiet and I finally saw [another artist] Steve Dominguez walking calmly towards the scene, I felt safe enough to come up.

“When I came out, Steve and Elizabeth [another artist] and I converged and saw a man lying there, in a pool of blood. It was Keith [a resident living above Jackie’s studio]. Elizabeth asked me if I had something to keep him warm. I went back and got towels. I think he asked someone for a cigarette. The paramedics came up shortly after. He had been stabbed. Seven times. His spinal cord had been cut. He was paralyzed from the waist down.”

It was to be an event that turned the idyllic artists’ village into a frightened — and bitterly divided — community and ended with the expulsion of Linda Kadubec and Xian Yeagan for what the City Parks and Recreation overseers called “conduct detrimental” to the village’s well-being. Accusations that the two had been involved in the stabbing, that they had been running a drug-drop scheme in the village and knew the three young men on bicycles ; who had beaten and stabbed Hill were never substantiated or even specified in the wording of the papers ordering them to leave. Both claim they were scapegoated and railroaded out as victims of the village’s “in group” led, they say, by resident artist Jackie San Pedro and the victim, Keith Hill.

“I spent three months in bed after that,” Kadubec says. “I was — am — very, very angry about what happened to me and the fact that I can do nothing about it. If I hadn’t had this gardening to absorb my anger and energies, I would have gone mad.”

Spanish Village has the atmosphere of an idealized Mexico, the self-conscious innocence of Disneyland, and maybe even the feeling that things look too good to be true. Like Seaport Village, virtually nobody actually lives here — not officially anyway. There’s no real, organic community.

Yet on the particular day I come to nose around. Earth Day ’94, it is filled with charm. The entrance is crowded with kids and clowns painting their faces and hundreds of booths selling everything from earth cookies to sewage awareness. A kid hauls on his wagon with his great, lazy basset hound getting a ride. Dappled sunlight filters through hundred-foot eucalyptus trees. Their resiny smell prevails, despite the foods being sold at ground level. A singer is belting out “America the Beautiful,” and families saunter round the fountain-centered Mexican plaza of the village, where you can watch artists create the art you can buy. Modest signs swing in the breeze: Southwest Artists’ Association. Spanish Village Silver and Lapidary. Sculptors’ Guild. Enamel Guild. Cobbles, warm adobe walls, rough round terra-cotta roof tiles, scarlet geraniums, blue half-doors, all make you long to live in this human-scale model village rather than the blah, auto-soiled condoland you come from.

But the wounds of that night are there, still. In a corner studio, drinking tea, sits the large figure of Keith Hill in a wheelchair. He is not happy to see a visitor come to rake up the past.

“I’ve got nothing to say. I was stabbed seven times. I lost far more than the use of my legs. And I am not going to say any more than that. Linda Kadubec? For her to say she was not involved... I saw what I saw. She got her nose into everybody’s business. As far as I’m concerned she’s a bitch.” He looks across at his partner. “Right?” His partner nods. “This is not over,” says Hill darkly. “But it will be resolved.”

“Violence — the last resort of the incompetent,” says a quote from Isaac Asimov, written large and freely on the inside wall of one of the nearby silverware studios. The beautiful voice of Tori Amos sings out; the choice of song is kind of eerie: “Silent All These Years.”

“Why are you trying to dredge all this up, three years after the event?” the guy who comes out says.

“Well,” I say, “because two people who lost their studios, who were ejected from here under the suspicion that they were a part of an attempted murder, feel they were done an injustice.” “Life is too short!” says the young artist. “We give too much control to you journalists. You just write the negative things. You should be programmed to the positive things. These bad things become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you write something bad about Spanish Village, maybe 5000 people will read your story, and they will tell their friends, and pretty soon you’ll have scared everybody off. Nobody will be coming here to see our work, all the sweat and love we have put into our art, because you want to rake up some old dirt to sell your newspaper. Two hundred people here depend on the good name of the village. I tell you, anything negative about the village is wasted energy. Life is too short!”

Maybe he’s got a point. Or, one side of me mutters, maybe he also wants to bury a moment when moral fortitude failed him and many others here, being over-ready to sacrifice two of their number for the sake of “peace” and their survival in the village. I wander to the alley beside the Potters’ Guild, to where the incident happened. Three years later, there’s no trace of the blood, the puddles, the fear and the suspicions that the stabbing created. So what really happened?

One man is crippled for life. That is certain. Two others have been affected, but nowhere near as permanently, physically anyway. Why not leave old wounds to heal themselves?

Xian Yeagan almost seems to agree. “I was getting out anyway. I didn’t want to be associated with a place with that aesthetic reputation,” he says. Yeagan sits in the double garage in North Park that is now his home and studio, crowded with antiques, carved heads from Bali, basins with lapidary equipment, hoses and optical attachments, even a lathe under an umbrella (“That’s to cut down pins to use as miniature drill bits for my interior sculpture”). Shelves are stacked with all sorts of transparent and colored stones, from carnelians to colorless topaz to tourmaline quartz to zircon diamonds to Balkan amber. “That’s three-million years old,” says Yeagan, looking at the amber. “So is the bug caught in it. Fellow who owns it wants me to carve a tall female figure inside. That’s my specialty.”

It’s only on looking closely that you realize he has actually carved miniature figures inside these transparent stones, with micro-sized dentist’s drills. Tiny human beings dancing in inner space. “I repair antiques too, to help pay the bills,” he says, fingering a wooden, four-horse carriage on the table. "And I etch family crests in glass. There are only three of us in the United States trained to do it. Of course, there are maybe a thousand in Hong Kong. I’ve been doing this 14 years.”

It’s almost hard to get on to The Subject. “You want to know what happened? Linda and I were going to go someplace that night. We were breaking up at the time, but we were on good terms. She was working late. She often did. She was a workaholic. She was a good potter, a very good potter. She probably produced more and sold more pottery than anyone in the village. But even then I was thinking it was time for her to leave there. She was getting carpal tunnel syndrome from throwing so many pots on the wheel, and besides, ceramics were boring her. Her adventure in ceramics was over, but she couldn’t see it. Spanish Village does that to you. It freezes you in place. She had the illusion that this was a family—her family. She had had a fairly loveless childhood, so this was important to her. And that held her in place. Work and the village ‘family’ and success replaced her need for a social life. But of course the ‘family’ thing was all just her illusion, as this event showed, and brutally.”

He rolls a cigarette from a tin of tobacco, hunches forward to light it. “So that night — like others — she needed my encouragement to stop and take a break. Well, maybe five, ten minutes after her first phone call, she rang across to my studio again. 'I'm afraid. Would you come over here?’ I looked for my walking stick — I sometimes have trouble with balance — but I couldn’t find it. I found a crowbar...or a cane, was it?

So I went out with that. I walked down to the Potters’ Guild and there he was, in the alley leading round behind the guild: Keith, in a puddle of water. His blood was in the water. He looked up at me and said, ‘I can’t move my legs.’ It flashed in me that if someone has hurt their spine, don’t move them. Some moments later he said, ‘Get Skip’ — his partner — I ran up the stairs to Skip and said, ‘Keith’s hurt Come downstairs.’ Then I ran to my studio, found my stick, and went running off to see if I could spot the perpetrators — I have this hero complex, I guess. In the zoo parking lot someone said they had seen three guys racing out on bicycles. On the way out I saw Jackie San Pedro coming out of her studio. I said, ‘Keith’s hurt.’ I saw someone in a phone booth phoning 911. I didn’t find any of the guys who’d done it. I went back to the scene.

“Of course, the truth is that Keith and I never got along at all. Actually we loathed each other. Even seeing him lying there in the water, in a puddle of blood, he didn’t cease to fill me with revulsion. There was a group of people around him. They didn’t need me, so I went back to my studio to wait till the cops came.

At that point both Linda and I saw ourselves as witnesses. Nothing more. But somehow I soon started getting intimations. Something inside told me: They’re going to implicate us in the fucking thing.”

  • City of San Diego MEMORANDUM
  • Date: March 28, 1991
  • To: All Spanish Village Tenants
  • From: Balboa Park Management
  • Subject: Spanish Village Studio Curfew
  • The tragic events of last Saturday evening have left us all saddened and angry. The San Diego Police Department and Park Management are committed to doing whatever is necessary to eliminate this element that is threatening the village.
  • To that end, the following will go into effect as of April 1, 1991, and will remain in effect as long as deemed necessary.
  • All studios must close at 6:00 p.m. Tenants are not to remain in studios after their closure.
  • All scheduled group evening meetings must receive written permission from Park Management.
  • Keys to all studios must be available in Studio 18.
  • We regret the need for these steps to be taken but we anticipate the village’s complete cooperation in all these matters. Failure to comply may result in immediate termination of Studio lease.
  • Again, thank you in advance for your cooperation.
  • Inge Dickens
  • Cultural Arts Manager

April 1, 1991 Spanish Village Association Committee Board of Directors Meeting (First names only, unless for ID purposes. Speakers are all Spanish Village artists unless otherwise stated.)

KENT: Does that mean the entire village, the patio and everything is going to be closed and vacated at 6:00 p.m. and no one allowed...isn’t this a little like overkill?

INGE DICKENS: Well, the police department doesn’t feel that that’s overkill at all, and I have a feeling it’s going to be very temporary.

XIAN: As far as I can tell, this applies only to artist studio I holders. It doesn’t apply to the public.

INGE: The public will be able to walk through.

XIAN: They're not forbidden from doing so?

INGE: Uh, they won’t be arrested if they’re in the village, no.

XIAN: But we will have trouble with the police if we are here? For the security of the other people, you get the artists out of there?

INGE: I would advise compliance. If the village chooses not to comply with this, if they feel it’s too oppressive, (the authorities] would gladly accept your 30 days’ notice.

  • April 22, 1991
  • City of San Diego
  • Dear Ms. Kadubec:
  • This letter is to inform you that your lease Agreement for Studio 2 is being terminated by the City of San Diego.
  • Park Management’s decision was based on conduct detrimental to Spanish Village. Additionally the curfew currently in effect has been violated almost nightly. The lease will terminate 30 days from the date on this letter.
  • Dear Mr. Yeagan:
  • This letter is to inform you that your Lease Agreement for Studio 16B is being terminated by the City of San Diego. Park Management's decision was based on conduct detrimental...
  • April 27, 1991
  • From: Xian: Curving, Design I
  • To: Whom It May Concern
  • The accompanying letter (of termination] was delivered to me by Inge Dickens, Cultural/Recreational Services, under the protection of Officer Tiplitsky, Police Community Relations Officer. Inge would not explain any part of the letter and, in fact, drew away from me as if in fear. Officer Tiplitsky explained his presence as a bar to any retaliation or violence on my part.
  • I would note that at no time in my relations with Ms. Dickens or anyone in Spanish Village have I used violence or intimidation of any kind. I have not been convicted of anything, nor even accused of anything. I have not been told why I am being treated in this demeaning way.
  • I have received no warnings. The Park and Recreation Department has given me the most serious penalty it can without explaining or warning and with conditions that make it as punishing as it can be made. And this though I have not raised my hand against any, have not stolen, nor have I engaged in the trade in stolen or illegal things. I have worked diligently for the good of the village and the arts in San Diego. Those who know my work in the village will not need to be told the cause of this attack against me.
  • Take care, my fellow citizens, lest you too be shown the limits of your human rights as we have been shown the short shrift given mine.
  • Sincerely,
  • Xian Yeagan
  • Member, Spanish Village Arts Center Board of Directors
  • Spanish Village Arts Center Historian

“What was behind this?” says Yeagan, three years later. “People who didn’t like us showing them up. People who knew which side their bread was buttered on. Jackie San Pedro held people’s future in her hands. She was in charge. She played the power game real well. She didn’t like Linda and me looking over the finances. She thought Linda wanted her Job. Linda was so incredibly efficient it scared people. Under Jackie, the atmosphere became paranoid. Plus, there was the drug thing because I was the only open and honest person about who said, ‘Yes, I smoke pot occasionally.’ Plenty of others just kept quiet about it — but I never bought from dealers or flaunted it in the village. But from that, in the poisoned atmosphere you got stories of me masterminding a drug ring. Things like, ‘Well, Xian wasn’t around when Keith got knifed, but his boys did it.’ None of it true. It was partly why I wanted to leave anyway. Not like this, but just to be able to concentrate on my work and less on backbiting. You could see people torturing the truth at the meetings we had after we got our expulsion letters.

They kept trying to make the curfew-breaking the issue. The real issue was: Were Linda and I the evil pair behind Keith’s stabbing?”

May 1991 Meeting of the Spanish Village Association Committee, tape-recorded by Bill Pitzer, transcribed by Linda Kadubec Subject: curfew expulsions

MARLA (an artist at the village): I have a question. Steve (last name withheld ] also violated that curfew every single day. He lives in his studio. He is not being evicted.

PENNY SCOTT (district manager, Parks and Recreation, Inge Dickens’s boss): I’m sure there are other people violating the curfew, and if they’re caught, they’re going to be dealt with.

MARLA: But you don’t see him. He hides in his studio!

PENNY: Well, I have not personally seen him living in his studio, but that is an issue that should be taken up, and that is something Inge and I can deal with and in fact is something that is being brought to our attention, and we can deal with that.

KENT: When I have left my studio at five-thirty, quarter to six [since the curfew]. I’ve walked by Linda’s studio and it was closed. I don’t know why these people [Linda and Xian] have been singled out and it really bothers me and I wonder, when did the City of San Diego [start figuring it was okay to bypass] the Constitution of the United States, this thing called due process?

PENNY: I don’t think anyone was singled out. The information I’ve got is they’d been observed on several occasions, when people would come into the village or drive by and see them either.

KENT: Well, I’m saying that by five-thirty they have been consistently closed. So it’s my word against somebody else’s.

VICKI (Leon, artist): I feel like certain things I expect and that I think are fair, I think, aren’t being done, and I have questions.

INGE: There are too many issues that we cannot answer at the moment. Until the police investigation is over with and the case is resolved one way or another, there are things we simply cannot discuss. There are questions that we can’t answer.

VICKI: Well, then how can you go ahead and start kicking people out when things are not concluded?

MADELEINE: I have a question. It seems to me that the letter [of expulsion] read that the curfew was a secondary thing. The conduct is first, and I talked to Linda and no one seems to know what this conduct was. I really think we should know about this. Something indicates that this seems to be the most important issue even though you’re not discussing it, because there are a lot of people that have been in their studios later [than the curfew]. It wasn’t just Linda or Xian. The curfew is really to me a kind of a...it’s being pushed as the front issue, but it’s not. And that’s my question.

PENNY: I’m not going to sit here in this room and talk about things that I consider private between Linda and Xian and Park Management — private things, things we need to talk [about] with them privately. And maybe in the discussion, a lot of this will be resolved. But I am angry. There’s a dark side of the village that is starting to come up to the surface that really makes me nervous. We have had people say that they have been given death threats and that they’re afraid of being in the village and they are thinking about leaving because they’re not comfortable anymore..I think that’s terrible.

MADELEINE: Are there any facts? Are there any facts?

PENNY: In the first case, let me say that I’m talking about the dark side of the village and what’s going on here with an attack on Keith Hill. I’m not pointing my finger at anyone. I don’t know who did that. I have no information on that. I have a police department doing an investigation. No one has ever accused these people (Kadubec and Yeagan] of being involved in that. No one is accusing anyone of being involved in it or being party to it.

XIAN: That implication is left to stand. Even with your statement, that implication is left to stand.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: I see that Penny has mentioned five times that |she’s] willing to have a meeting with Linda and Linda’s witness and Xian, and [she’s] obviously wanting their statement [regarding the alleged “conduct detrimental”] to be in private, and after that time Linda can report back, and she can tell us what the conclusion of the meeting was.

VICKI: This protection, like not wanting to say anything publicly to protect Linda and Xian: I haven’t heard them say, “Oh, don’t mention that because I want to be protected.”

XIAN: On the contrary. I want everything out in the open.

VICKI: You know, it really sounds to me like a kind of railroad situation.

MADELEINE: Do you have facts?

INGE: There are facts.

MADELEINE: Okay, now that they’re no longer private, if you can accept that, I think you can tell what those facts are.

INGE: You have our card and phone number. Make an appointment.

VICKI: Who’s really being protected?

Spanish Village Arts Center Meeting, around May 30, 1991

XIAN: I’d like to make a report on the meeting we had [with the city] because the last time we had a board meeting, it was left hanging in the air. It was that we were going to go to the city offices and at that point they were going to tell us what the real underlying causes [the “conduct detrimental”] for the termination of our lease was, and at that point we would be able to come back and tell you because we had all asked that the real underlying causes be made public, and they said they wouldn’t make it public for the sake of Linda and me. Does this ring a bell? So we went and had the meeting, and the first thing we were told by the city attorney was that they were not going to discuss anything except the fact that the city has the right to terminate the lease...and the question of facts, the questions about allegations, none of that was going to be discussed.

Today, three years later, Linda still believes the curfew was a cover. “At the same time as the curfew and the 'conduct detrimental’ issue was being argued into the ground,” she says, “really the issue was Keith and his accusations — that I was there at the stabbing and that Xian stood watching him bleed for half an hour without getting help. You had to either believe him or us.”

Tape-recorded report from stabbing victim Keith Hill to membership of the Spanish Village Association at the May 30, 1991, meeting

This is Keith and I say hello to the board and members of the village who are there. I want to get some things off my mind and let the village know about the occurrences that happened on the night of the 23rd of March, when I got stabbed.

Watching over the courtyard as I do almost every night, there were three people on bicycles come in from the front of the studio [riding] in by the Potters’ Guild by the side door up by Studio 33, swing back around and go behind the Potters’ Guild. After waiting several minutes, probably three to five minutes, I went downstairs to see what was going on. Approximately that night it was 20 minutes after 8:00, because I had just taken off my watch. When I went downstairs, I walked to the middle of the courtyard, down to approximately the dance floor, and there was still a light on in the Potters’ Guild, and I proceeded to go into the small courtyard. I reached there and there was one guy standing by the kiln over the wall. At the same time, I noticed the door between the kiln area, the Potters’ Guild, was open. At that time I also noticed another figure standing in the doorway, which I recognized as Linda Kadubec and I made the remark, “Are you guys having fun back here?" Somebody answered me and says, “No, but would you like to have some?” At that time, somebody approached me from the area of Marla’s studio. I backed up to block myself with one of their bicycles, which was leaning against the round table, and turned my back. At the time I noticed the door to the Potters’ Guild had either been shut or the light had been turned off. That is the approximate time that I got stabbed. That took no more than five minutes from the time I left upstairs.

I don’t know how long I was unconscious or how long I lay there, but I know I did come through. I did not move. There was blood all around me. I called and called for help. Nobody came, but I did manage to roll over and see Xian standing six feet away from me just watching me. I asked him to please get me some help, to go get Skip or get Jackie. He casually turned around and walked away. He went back to his studio, and he did not try to get me help. And this is the occurrences as far as I can remember of that night.

There followed a crucial meeting, on June 18, at which the Spanish Village Arts Center Board had to decide — absent any specific allegations from the city against Linda and Xian, apart from staying beyond curfew in their studios — whether there was enough evidence of wrongdoing to expel Linda Kadubec and Xian Yeagan from their positions as members of the center’s board of directors. Again, it came down to credibility; theirs or Keith Hill’s.

Scenes from a trial: June 18, 1991 Spanish Village Art Center Board of Directors Meeting

ROBERTA BAILEY (Spanish Village Art Center Board president): If there are no more corrections or additions to the minutes, the minutes stand approved as corrected.

JACKIE SAN PEDRO: Red Cross dinner — 1803 dinners served, 103 tables set up. Good sales reported by studios.

DOTTIE T.: So far, we have raised $6100 for the Keith Hill Eund and the show is now closed. (Inge Dickens arrives.)

ROBERTA: I’m going to make a short statement before we go on to the next business. The statement is about the division we’re in right now. This is not a secret to anybody. Sculptors’ Guild, have you signed in? As we all know, we’re a deeply divided group right now and we’re in great turmoil and we may be in as much turmoil and difficulty as we’ve been in 20 years or more. Our purpose is to be artists and craftsmen. And I see us getting more and more away from that and being more political animals. I think there are three priorities. Our first is Keith’s injury. His attack and injury. Keith’s safety and well-being here. He’s a valued member and because of the brutal attack we owe him. It’s our job to help him as much as we can. My second priority is to make peace, to reduce the animosity, reduce the hate that tears us apart and hurts every one of us. I’m calling on you to do it, to see what you can do to reduce anger, to do something nice for someone. The third priority is that justice be done. We are not police officers, we are an art organization. How justice is done is, number one, (up) to the police. Uh, should we ask Keith if he would like to speak?

KEITH: I have no reason to lie or make anything up. You either believe me or you don’t. That’s totally your choice. I’m not putting anyone in this room to blame for my stabbing, because I couldn’t even recognize the guy who stabbed me. All I can say is this is the way things were to me, and there was somebody from this village — that was Linda — who was back in the kiln area that night when these people were there.

VICKI: Are you accusing anyone of anything?

KEITH: I am accusing Linda of being part of the people who stabbed me. She was there in the kiln area with the blond-headed person [one of the attackers).

VICKI: So you are accusing Linda of being there at the scene of the crime?

KEITH: Yes.

KENT: I would strongly suggest that we terminate this particular part of the meeting. A serious accusation has been made that may have to be proven in a court of law. Right now nobody is duly sworn. Nobody is under oath. I really think this show-and-tell should be terminated right now.

JACKIE: The City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department chose to terminate [Linda and Xian’s] leases on curfew violation. This is actually what we’re dealing with here. Behavior inimical to the corporation — anyone who doesn’t know the word inimical, it’s defined as ‘harmful’ by the dictionary. We’re here to act on the action of the Parks and Rec. department, which involves the conduct of some of our members, period.

XIAN: Alleged conduct, I would hasten to add.

DON KNAPP: We’re on a fact-finding mission to find out how good we think, how good a person Linda is for this village, actually. Is she good for the village, because she’s done a hell of a lot of things for the village, but there is another side to Linda, and I think a lot of people are hiding it.

M. (name withheld): Well, if we want to clear up the rumors, immediately after this (event), the rumors went rampant about the kiln being used as a drug drop.

ROBERTA: We don’t...I don’t want to hear any...

M: I want to bring it up. I’m going to give you the facts. I called the police department. I worked with the police department for years on drug busts, and I called and I said to my friend, “Can you tell me what’s going on in Spanish Village?” So, he called and said the only thing that is being investigated is some vandals stabbing a security person. Then he had the narcotics division over in this area call me, and the man told me that the only thing he had heard about any drugs at all was from me! Now, this is what you guys made up. This is what was running rampant in the village, that the kiln was being used as a drug drop, for Linda and Xian and [another artist], if you want exact names. So that settles that issue. The police department says absolutely, positively, not.

Next comes the issue of whether Xian ignored Keith’s wounds for 37 minutes:

JENNIE: One of the questions that I’m going to address is that according to Linda, she calls Xian at 8:45, she calls Jackie at 8:48, she calls Xian again at 8:49.

XIAN: That’s not my time line. Two minutes of nine o’clock. Two minutes of nine o’clock was the time she called me.

JENNIE: I’m very, very confused how Linda says that first she called the police, then she called Xian, and then she called Jackie. Linda called the police at 8:57. The next phone call was to you?

XIAN: Two minutes to nine. That would be 8:58.

JENNIE: But there’s a big difference of the time that Keith came downstairs at 8:20 that is documented.

XIAN: He also said that he didn’t have his wristwatch on.

JENNIE: But the time is documented.

KEITH: I’d just taken my watch off. I’d taken it off and laid it down. I also looked at my watch when I saw these kids pull in and I waited and looked at my watch and it was just a little under five minutes. So I took off my watch, put on my slippers, and went down.

XIAN: So you insist on this time (8:20 p.m.)?

KEITH: Yes.

JENNIE: So there’s a 37-minute difference from the time he (says he) went downstairs until the time the police were called.. My question is, did you only go down to the patio once?

XIAN: I went back and forth a number of times. I was actually worried about Keith because I had been told in grade school that you’re not supposed to disturb someone who can’t move their legs, and I saw all these people standing over him trying to give him first aid, and it seemed to me a big mistake. However, everybody was so excited and so upset that they really felt that they needed to do something, and it was affection they were showing, and I felt no affection for him, but I did think that he was probably being misused so I just left, because I knew that if I went there and said what I felt like saying, which is, 'You ought to just leave him alone until help gets here,’ then I would be misinterpreted.

ELIZABETH: I was just going to add that I called when I heard all the noise, I heard all the crashing, and I thought it was broken bottles, and I thought people were fighting. I was very concerned that they were breaking into a studio somewhere, and I could tel) it was coming from across the patio.

LINDA: I would like to ask Elizabeth if she can clarify the time sequence, if this was happening around 8:20, 8:25? Was it that long before nine?

ELIZABETH: No, no. It was ten to nine. It was approximately between a quarter to and ten to nine that the noise started to really alarm me.

XIAN: The testimony of all witnesses, including outside witnesses, is that the whole process took something like five minutes...that it was very, very fast. I know that Linda was totally “casual” with me at quarter of [when we first spoke on the phone]. There was nothing going on except she didn’t really want to quit work that much, but she knew it would be best if she didn’t stay up all night working, and I felt the same way, and so we decided to leave at nine o’clock. So when nine o’clock came around, it was two minutes of nine, and the phone rang. It was what I expected, except that it wasn’t what I expected. And that is really the time line. I’m afraid Keith has it wrong. I’m afraid that Keith’s subjective experience is bound to be untrustworthy under this circumstance, and I don’t think that you should impugn the honesty of six or eight people based on his subjective experience of time at that time.

JENNIE: Well, I’m asking the questions here.

XIAN: Uh-huh, yes, I know, but we all know what direction those questions go, and we all know [what] the implications of rumor and character assassinations have been.

ROBERTA: Okay, okay, I understand the emotion.

JACKIE: When I came out, say, at the very latest five minutes to nine, there was a lot of blood. It was blood seeping, but all. ..it was already coagulated in some areas. Now, I am no physician, but it does take quite a while before that amount of blood could have been spread. The time, to me, would bear out Keith’s statement [that he had been there half an hour] because of the amount of blood that had already been spread and had stopped.

KEITH: You don’t bother me, Linda, you can stare.

LINDA: I’m not staring at you. I’m looking at everybody.

DOMINICK: I think this is supposed to be an art group, not a detective agency. I mean, everybody has already chosen sides, is what I’m trying to say, without even knowing the facts. There’s two sides, and I’m trying to mind my own business in the meantime, and all I know is from the day this happened, every morning at eight o’clock, I get confronted with this thing, and I can’t paint that way. Regardless of whether I’m a good painter or not, I come over here to try to do my thing, okay? And I don’t want to hear this crap no more. If you want them thrown out of the club, say you want them thrown out of the club. Have a reason to throw them out of the club. You got no proof? Let’s forget about it. I’ve been wanting to get in here for nine years, but I’ve got news for you: I’m ready to leave, and that’s all I’ve got to say.

The Decision

JACKIE: Are you ready to entertain a motion?

ROBERTA: Uh, I think it’s getting to be time...

LINDA: There was something I did forget to emphasize — that I did not go out in that kiln yard [where Keith said he saw me]. I went to the back door; I thought about walking out there to see if I could see through the cracks of the gate, but I never went out there. I never, never went outside.

JACKIE: I move that Linda and Xian be notified of termination of their membership, effective two weeks from this time for the following reasons. According to Article II, Section 4 of the Spanish Village Art Center bylaws, the city is our landlord and was very explicit regarding curfew imposed on March 28 and distributed to all lessees. Any violation deemed sufficient to the city is reason enough for the Spanish Village Arts Center to terminate such membership.

JENNIE: I want to ask that we do this by written ballot.

JULIE: Is the Spanish Village board absolutely, absolutely sure without a doubt that Linda and Xian are the only two Spanish Village members who ever violated this curfew?

VICKI: What I see is that we spent hours here discussing whether or not Linda was present at a crime, and now out of the blue we’re bringing up whether she should lose her membership based on a curfew violation which hasn’t been discussed.

IRENE: I’m still having a problem with a wording. What was this “terrible conduct” which the board has never had any information about? I get a scary feeling that maybe somebody acted a little hastily, and now it’s too late.

ROBERTA: “Yes” means termination, “No” means no termination [mumbling] The vote is nine “Yes” to terminate membership and eight “No” to termination.

The Fallout

Three years later, it’s hard to imagine the drama, looking at the village. Nearby, on this Earth Day, children are emerging cheering from a Peter Pan performance. The ruddy face of Balboa Park’s street-corner singer, Stan the Man Pyhala, is croaking out a Marty Robbins-type song from under his white cowboy hat, a song that, when you think about it, could fit Keith Hill. It could fit Linda Kadubec, or Xian. It could maybe fit the search for truth in this story.

  • Oh Lord I’ve been in a prison
  • For something I’ve never done
  • It’s been one hill after another
  • I’ve climbed them one by one
  • But this time, Lord, you gave me a mountain
  • A mountain that I may never climb
  • It isn’t a hill any longer
  • You gave me a mountain this time.

He serenades the families wandering out from the village. The boy with the basset hound has found his dad. Now the dog’s walking and dad’s pulling the kid. Someone drops a coin in Stan the Man’s hat. He adds a couple of bars to say, “Thanks. God bless,” then takes up the song again. “She took my reason for livin’/ I’m tired of the grief and strife.”

Inge Dickens, who still manages Spanish Village for Parks and Recreation, says she still feels her judgment to get rid of Yeagan and Kadubec was correct. “They flaunted their curfew violations. It was a very emotionally charged time. Linda and Xian were both very, very talented artists. Xian borders on the amazing. He’s a very interesting artist. But they had trouble with the rules.”

But the “conduct detrimental” in the termination letters was the prime reason for their eviction?

Her voice stiffens. “I have no reason to tell you.”

Xian Yeagan has had time to think. “Inge went for all the paranoia. She believed it. That was the problem. The irony was that at the time I was a trusted, active, hard-working guy. I was the Spanish Village historian. I’d just finished curating a retrospective exhibition of Spanish Village art, from 1937 to 1990. I think I’m a good artist. But if they want Keith, who sews windsocks, instead of me...well, that’s Spanish Village. I wanted out, but the manner in which it happened — the smear on my character, the fact that people were actually won over to the idea that Linda and I were somehow involved in that stabbing. The long-term effect has been, well, stultifying. I think because of the scandal certain square people find me inherently threatening. It has affected my self-image. Just to think that people I know could come to believe that about me — and these are supposed to be perceptive, inner-way artists. That’s what gets me...still.”

Up in the 40th Street garden, Linda Kadubec smiles at a Hmong couple bringing grass cuttings to lay over seedlings. She and the couple are strangely united here in this garden; both are here as some sort of balm after a traumatic cutoff from their previous lives. Yet language keeps them from sharing their experience intimately.

About her trauma, Linda is philosophical. “It was an incredibly humiliating year. Keith was stabbed March 23. The city terminated my lease on my studio April 27. I was kicked off the Spanish Village board in June. I was expelled from membership of Spanish Village Art Center itself. Each time was like a re-trial. Only the Potters’ Guild fought back and threatened to walk out en masse if they tried to have me expelled from that too. I mean, what did I do? I feel sorry for Keith, but somehow I am being made to suffer for his suffering, and there is no connection.

“I still have never heard from the city as to what the ‘conduct detrimental’ was. I have not had due process. And after three years I’m still trying to get over this. I have glued myself to talk shows trying to see if other people have been wrongly accused like me. From Sally Jessy Raphael I discovered that one-third of all people involved in traumas misidentify their attackers. I’m sure that Keith believes he saw me. I understand his anger. I even went to his studio recently to pick up mail. He said, ‘What are you doing back? Why were you taking drugs with those guys? Why did you and Xian take so long to get help?’ It’s no use telling him, ‘I was not there that night. I was cowering in the Potters’ Guild.’ "

She bends over to pick some bunching onions that have spontaneously hopped from the nearby Hmong beds. Like everything else, Kadubec has gone into this gardening intensely. Her plots are bursting with carrots, radishes, squash, giant sunflowers, Shasta daisies, six-foot corn (“I’m trying seven different types”), black mustard, cucumber, climber beans, potatoes (“They’re spontaneous, from kitchen scraps”), butter lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, snap peas, two different red peppers, strawberries, chard, calendulas.

“With every seed I plant, I’m trying to ‘start again.’ But the best thing that has happened since my pottery career ended is the therapy I went to for my addiction. I’ve faced the fact that I am addicted to something: work. I’m a workaholic. I guess as some go to drink and some go to drugs, I became addicted to work to cover up my low self-esteem — probably from my father; he was a very demeaning man. After I’d spent about three months crying over Spanish Village, I decided I had to do something. I telephoned Grossmont Hospital at ten o’clock one night. They told me about a 12-step Workaholics Anonymous program. I jumped into it. I have never had so many close friends. It is making me a better person."

Her arms are full of the vegetables she’s grown. “But now, mostly, I want other people who may be in my position to know that this kind of injustice does happen, all the time. I never used to believe people before when they stood up and complained that they had been wrongly accused of something. Now I see it in a whole new light. You have to fight, if it happens to you. Maybe harder than I did. Because if you can’t clear your name, believe me, the feeling you have to live with forever is awful.”

According to Inge Dickens, the 6:00 p.m. curfew on Spanish Village artists is still in effect. No one else has been evicted for breaking it.

According to San Diego Police Department detective Steve Scherer, the file on the 1991 Spanish Village stabbing of Keith Hill is “inactive.”

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