The information that has been shared publicly about 'Emil' has largely portrayed the man as a socially maladroit misfit, a loner, an angry young man with no social presence who turned to guns and violence as an escape from his problems. Whilst these descriptions of Emil may be correct to a certain small degree they for sure do not tell the whole story of how this man came to lose his life on a side street in North Hollywood.
Decebal Stefan Emilian Matasareanu was the only child of Valeria (Valerie) Nicolescu and Viorel Dominic Matasareanu, born in Timisoara, western Romania on Tuesday 19th July 1966.
Valarie, a member of the State Opera (unproven) decided that life under Nicolae Ceaușescu's totalitarian regime was no place to raise her family and so a plan was born. In In 1974 whilst on a tour of Italy with the opera company she defected (most likely with the aid of the International Red Cross whose influence in these matters, especially in Italy, stretches back to the 1940's). Emil and his father remained in Romania. Two years later Viorel and the now 10 year old Emil joined her in the USA.
Viorel, went to work for a local Pasadena company, Gilbert Engineering. From July 1980 Valerie would work as a real estate salesperson. Emil headed to Pasadena High School.
There has long been a commonly held belief that Emil endured bullying whilst at school, this was even reported to the media by his mother in 1997, this alleged bullying is what is supposed to have turned this young man into a social recluse, a man who turned to computers and firearms as a means of escape from his torment.Whilst it is all but impossible to disprove the bullying, we have found nobody that can remember it occurring, even amongst his small but well bonded group of friends.
In 1982, Valerie applied for a State Care licence, her plan was to care for developmentally disabled adults. It was a lucrative business with each client bringing between $1000 and $4000 into the home each month. With some help from her contacts in the real estate business the family soon moved to a new location. N. Sinaloa Avenue, Altadena and soon began to take care of six male clients that were placed in her care. They would name the business 'Valerie's Villa'.
Emil would help out with the clients, who were described as 'high functioning disabled adults', he was also apparently extremely happy that the house had a pool in the back yard.
As the next three years passed life at the Sinaloa address became difficult. Tensions between Viorel and Valerie were surfacing. Emil had a best friend, 'Dave' (we hesitate to use the term 'best friend', but it does appear that this pair were very close). Emil and 'Dave' whilst in high school had found another hobby, motorcycles. Emil's choice of steed was to be a Kawasaki GPz550 which he then took to a local mechanic. who fitted a Bassani exhaust and a carburettor jet kit. Emil would befriend Kenny, for a while at least, and would ride with him and his friends on occasion.
In an informal Q&A that we conducted with Kenny back in 2009 he had the following to say about Emil.
'He wanted a real fast bike, but his skills were not there so he would always be left in the dust when we went into the canyons. He was the type of guy who did not want to wait for his skills to improve, he just wanted to be fast and to have the best bike'.
After leaving high school Emil would enrol in DeVry University in Pomona, to take a three year electronics engineering degree.
1988 saw four particularly noteworthy events.
First: Emil graduated DeVry. His father was encouraging not to settle for the level of education he had but to push for a Masters, Emil was reluctant. Tensions, which has been ever present in the household for the last five years, increased yet further.
Legend has it that Valerie threw Emil a graduation party at the Sinaloa home, to which nobody but an elderly neighbour Walter Kennedy attended. If this was the case then where were Emil's friends? It is know he had several close friends and many casual acquaintances at the time, why would they not attend if this event happened?
Kennedy would later describe Emil as a 'misfit', as ''somebody who try as he might just could not blend into Californian culture'.
Second: Emil became a naturalised American citizen.
Third: Emil, now twenty two, has another hobby, firearms. Walter Kennedy remembered seeing Emil on several occasions sitting outside the front door of the Sinaloa house cleaning his weapons. Valerie would later back up this claim saying 'My son loved arms, they were his hobby'. Yet in 1988 Valerie's Villa received the first, but by no means the last, citation. It was for firearms left in an unguarded state. Valerie's reaction was one of pure paranoia. She felt like the state was out to ruin her business and her name.
Fourth: Emil, seeking his fortune in the world, opened his own business. Retailing computer parts, offering pc servicing, and writing small accounting software packages which he attempted to sell to local businesses. The business struggled to get off the ground, southern California was after all the playground for computer sciences with Silicon Valley being only three hundred miles to the north in San Francisco. To attract any custom whatsoever Emil was allegedly reduced to having to offer his services at rock bottom prices.
1989 was a pivotal year in world history, the Communist house of cards that was Eastern Europe began to wobble, eventually to fall in a domino effect whose most remembered images are probably those of East German citizens dancing on top of the Berlin wall as it was torn down.
Romania was the last regime to collapse, its political power being transferred in a violent coup d'état that took the lives of between 93 (Marc Daou) or 1104 (French media sources) citizens and injured over three thousand.
Despite the loss of life the mood remained jubilant, for the people felt they had finally put an end to twenty four years of political and economic oppression imposed by the Ceaușescu regime.
Coincidentally, the Romanian revolution that was to be seen by the rest of the world to start in the Matasareanu's home town of Timisoara, but that was not the whole truth.
The rumblings in Romania had started some two years earlier in Brasov, a protest march in the middle of an achingly cold winter was staged by workers of Steagul Roşu (The Red Flag truck factory).
Angry and despondent at the dwindling food rations, disappearing salary payments, and inhumane working conditions workers from The Red Flag and their sister factory, the Brasov Tractor Plant joined forces and marched through the streets of Brasov toward the City Hall. Their numbers were counted at approximately 5000 by the time they converged on City hall, singing songs banned under the communist regime.
Ceaușescu's response was swift and brutal, the whole city would pay the price for the actions of a few. Food rations, which were as low as 300 grams of bread per person per day at that point, were cut even further. The ringleaders of the protest were rounded up and jailed.
That was the start, the blue touch paper had been lit.
Two years later, after Poland had started the ball rolling with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany following suit Romanian citizens decided that the time had come for direct confrontation with the establishment.
What originally started as a mass protest against a Hungarian priest's, Laszlo Tokes, arrest for negative comments about the Romanian political regime soon flared into open hostility against their dictatorial leader when he appeared on the balcony of his Communist Party Headquarters in Bucharest.
Timisoara reacted, it's residents sensing the power balance was available for change. It was the 17th of December 1989.
Before it was over security forces and the army would engage the protesters, and then each other as the military finally sided with the public revolt. The revolution was to end nine days later, on Christmas Day, after the Ceaușescu's arrest and subsequent short lived trial in a school room and the summary execution minutes later by a four man military firing squad.
The media broadcasts, seen around the world are sure to have been a focal point of interest in the Matasareanu home on N. Sinaloa Avenue in Altadena, for they still had family in Romania. And that would be the next piece of the puzzle.
1989 would also see the first time Matasareanu's and Phillips names were linked. Records from Gold's Gym at Rose Street in Venice, California would show that both men held memberships there during this year. Was this the place that they met? The mythology behind this case would have us believe so, but we believe that they had actually met some time previous to this maybe by as much as twelve months.