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Monday, February 04, 2008

A Phenomenal Woman

I can clearly see that Ms. Kumari Fulbright is a striking creature, a 5’ 4” tall, 110 pound Midwest born, Texas trained beauty queen with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan; currently in her second year at the University of Arizona Law School, and serving on the editorial board of the school’s Journal of International and Comparative Law. She was in training for a clerkship with a Federal Judge, and she also looks pretty good in a bikini. As the poem put it; “I walk into a room, just as cool as you please. And to a man the fellows stand or fall down on their knees. They swarm around me, a hive of honey bees. It’s the flash in my eyes and the flash of my teeth, the swing of my waist and the joy in my feet. I’m a woman. Phenomenally, Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” But poised on the brink of a life of ambition and success, seemingly overnight, Kumari has become media pulp and pabulum. The former beauty queen has been charged with the kidnapping and torture of her ex-boyfriend. The headline appeals to the gawker in all of us, the Paul Harvey devotee who derives comfort from life with a parable attached. Except that parables are always an invention. And in this case perhaps the most favorable invention was offered up by Kumari’s lawyer (who you would hope would proffer such a thing) when he suggested that, “If anything, she's guilty of making poor choices in men." And yes, that is usually a crime, and rightly so. Allow me to explain why.
Kumari is Hindustani for “virgin”, and in 2000, when she graduated from The Colony High School, north of Dallas, Texas, she was a varsity cheerleader, a member of the student government, on the honor roll; and Kumari may have still been a virgin but once you are out of high school that doesn’t seem quite so important anymore. While attending Michigan, Kumari entered the Miss Michigan pageant and did rather well, although she didn’t win. But it was also in Ann Arbor that Kumari met Robert Ergonis. They began dating. And shortly after she graduated in December of 2004, she moved in with him in suburban Detroit. Her mother, Valarie, confessed to being worried because Robert was 19 years older than Kumari, and had been married once before, but says she consoled herself that he was a good man – proving once again that what your don’t know can hurt you.
In fact the forty-something Robert already had an extensive if not always successful criminal career when they met, with convictions for marijuana trafficking, breaking into vending machines and carrying a concealed weapon and indictments in several states for theft, fraud, drug paraphernalia, and possession, as well as a long series of arrest warrants for “failure to appear”. At one point Kumari had even been threatened with a gun by Robert’s ex-wife. And it was with Robert that in mid-2005 Kumari moved to Tucson, Arizona, and into an apartment in the 1200 block of East Knox Drive. Why Tucson? Well, if I were suspicious I might point out that it is a college town, and that Robert had met Kumari while she was in college, and that college towns are prime territory for drug dealers, filled as they are with naive young recreational drug users – and Robert already had some “ties’ with the town. But that would just be suppositious of me.
Besides, this is Kumari’s story, and shortly after arriving in Tucson Kumari began to enter beauty contests, being named in short order Miss Hawaiian Tropic, Miss Pima County in 2005 and Miss Desert Sun in 2006. Such beauty contests often include scholarships in their prize packages for competitors. For her talent Kumari recited Maya Angeleou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman”; “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a model’s fashion size. But when I start to tell them, they think I’m telling lies. I say it’s the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the curl of my lips. I’m a woman. Phenomenally, phenomenal woman; that’s me.” And she posed or a "Guns and Girls" calander.
In the fall of 2006 Kumari enrolled in the University of Arizona Law School, and like many other scholarship students worked at the UA bookstore to make ends meet. She also helped with the Task Force for Campus Child Care. This girl was on an ambitious track, and she began to realize that Robert had different ambitions than hers. They broke up and he moved out in the spring of 2007. But by the summer she had a new boyfriend, named Conway. He was closer to her age of 25, but like Robert, he also had a history of drug use and violence. Attracting boys never seems to have been a problem for Kumari. But this creep was defiantly a step down.
Kumari noticed that some of her jewelry was missing and although she did not report this to the police, she did break up with the creep. And she mentioned the offense to her old boyfriend, Robert. Perhaps they made a plan together, and perhaps he decided to act on his own. But whoever planned whatever, on December 8th, 2007, Kumari invited the creep over for a talk. Then she announced she had to take a shower. And as soon as Kumari had gone into the bathroom two men burst into the apartment. One of them was Robert Ergonis. They roughed up the creep. They took away his gun. They accused him of stealing Kumari’s jewelry – which he had, and which he admitted he had pawned. And then they dragged the creep out to an SUV, and drove him to the home of 40 year old Larry Hammond. There the creep was threatened, robbed of his wallet, about $600, a briefcase and his cell phone. Then he was driven back to Kumari’s apartment. There Kumari held a gun on him while he was duct taped to a chair. After Robert and his co-conspirator left, the creep broke free from his bonds and began to struggle with Kumari over the gun. She bit and scratched him. The gun went off. And eventually he managed to escape. The neighbors deluged 911 with calls.
When the cops arrived Kumari wouldn’t answer her front door. But she appeared at a rear window, shouting that the creep had robbed her and had shot at her. The cops eventually had to drag her out the window of her apartment. She was charged with assault and kidnapping. The cops quickly also arrested Larry Hammond, but Robert Ergonis was nowhere to be found. The police suspect he has returned to his native Columbia. And Kumari has been left holding the bag as the "ring leader". Although a small amount of marijuana was found in her apartment, she tested negative for any drugs or alcohol. And that is the most disturbing thing about the entire case; she got involved in all of this odd behavior without the excuse of any intoxicating drugs. Instead he lawyer has fallen on that other excuse; “If anything she’s guilty of making poor choices in men.”
And for that offence the lovely Kumari Fulbright will likely spend no small amount of time in jail. “Men themselves have wondered what they see in me. They try so much but they can’t touch my inner mystery. When I try to show them they say they still can’t see. I saw it’s the arch of my back, the sun of my smile, the ride of my breasts, the grace of my style. I’m a woman. Phenomenally, phenomenal woman, that’s me.”

- 30 -


  1. I find your retelling of this story quite amusing. I came across it by Googling people I grew up with and I can tell you that the Ergonis brothers are from Dearborn, Michigan, not Columbia. Their father was a local hood who ended up in jail himself - always out runnin' & gunnin' with three little kids.

    I guess the only surprise was that they were not already dead or permanently in prison.

  2. 13 yrs old when I met rob, yeah dad was a bar owner believe it or not he is and not aviolent man I probably could say not many really had a clue, what happened w kumari was astupid girl that saved her own ass as one could check into being a t dancer in mi I know her personally her stories were those of a insecure kid tryng to keep a major long term relatsionship from any type of communication


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