‘Drag Queen’ gets life for murder of girlfriend

Crime Behind the Pine Curtain
Crime Behind the Pine Curtain
‘Drag Queen’ gets life for murder of girlfriend

By Valerie Reddell

Dramatization written by Tim Martin

The year was late 1984 or early 1985. It was evening and Brandi West, a well know female impersonator was performing at one of the many night clubs in the Montrose area of Houston that catered to the gay community.  That same night, 19-year-old Patrice Leblanc, was partying in the same club.

At left, Brandi West, the persona created by Cliff Youens,
shown at right with Patrice LeBlanc circa 1985.

    Patrice, like Brandi, had a magnetic personality. We’ve all met someone like her. The type of person you want to be around. And that night, she caught the eye of Brandi West. A friendship soon formed.

   Brandi West, legally known as Cliff Youens, was bisexual and as he spent more time with Patrice, he became enamored with her. Soon after meeting, the two were roommates, and beginning a relationship. Friendship quickly turned to intimacy.

   Cliff Youens, at that time, was the premier female impersonator in Houston. In Drag, he was larger than life. At his shows, he was smothered with attention and in the Gay scene of Houston, Texas, Cliff was a real star. Cliff, as Brandi West, was crossing into the mainstream. He had even opened for the world famous Waylond Flowerer and Madame, in Hollywood. Brandi West was a star. Cliff Youens was an ordinary man. Living with one man, who was really two different people soon became a problem for Patrice and the relationship began to sour.

    Patrice had no problem with Brandi West performing. After all, Brandi West existed when she met Cliff Youens. Patrice however, wanted a separation, from Brandi, when the show was over. It soon became a conflict between the couple. Patrice asking Cliff to take off the costumes, and makeup when he wasn’t performing. Cliff, holding onto his alter ego as many hours of the day as he could. After all, when he was Brandi, he commanded all the attention. And he craved attention. So much so, that he began to dress as Brandi West when he went out to straight bars. He reveled in the attention he got from the straight men, who at first glance, in the dark nightclubs of Houston, believed him to be a beautiful woman. And even though, he always got found out, he continued this habit. For Brandi West, attention was attention. The uproar he caused, when the men discovered they had been dancing with another man, excited him even more. The control it gave him over their emotions was a high for Brandi West and there could never be enough.

    This behavior caused many problems for the couple and when Patrice discovered she was pregnant, things worsened. Cliff Youens tried to convince Brandi he was ready to settle down and be a good partner. He told her he wanted the baby and to build a family together. Patrice couldn’t believe him though. She wanted to terminate the pregnancy and told Cliff she was doing it because she didn’t believe he could be a partner, husband, and Father. Cliff later told a reporter that he agreed to let her do it, though he didn’t really want her too.

     Cliff was losing control. As a star, this was too much to bear. Things worsened. Brandi, only twenty years old, had relied on Cliff Yuens to be the primary financial support in their household to this point. That ended shortly she terminated the pregnancy.

     Patrice found a job, near their home and prepared to embark on an independence she had never known. Cliff was angry. He argued and fought with her. “That man isn’t paying you that much money because of your skills,” he told her. “You can’t type. That means he wants something else.” Cliff accused Patrice of an affair with her new employer. The argument escalated to the point of the two slapping each other, and Brandi running to her room to pack. She had enough. She was leaving.

     It would be two weeks before the body of Patrice was found. The news story went like this.

         Lake Livingston was used as a disposal site in March 1986 when the body of a young woman clad in a nightshirt and wrapped in a quilt was found floating near the marina in Cape Royale. According to former San Jacinto County Sheriff  Robert “Bob” Brumley, the wrapped body was sewn into a comforter, a pillowcase placed over one end and tied completely around with pantyhose material and one piece of flowered, multicolored cloth. The body was then placed in a blue nylon drawstring bag and attached to two concrete cinder blocks by a decorative chain and a blue-gray work shirt. In early April, the victim was identified as Patrice LeBlanc, 20, of Lafayette, Louisiana, based on dental records. She had been slash cut 31 times and stabbed eight times.

     Court records showed the examining pathologist considered three of the stab wounds to be the fatal wounds, estimating the wounds had been inflicted with a sharp, thin-blade knifeor knife-like instrument. He estimated that LeBlanc had been dead a minimum of 14 days, putting the time of death at March 10, 1986 or earlier. Decomposition had rendered blood typing of the deceased no longer possible. LeBlanc was the longtime girlfriend of Cliff Youens, 32, a popular femaleimpersonator who performed under the name Brandi West.

The comforter and wrapping materials came from the apartment Youens and LeBlanc shared.

     Youens was interviewed April 2 by Jack Cantwell, deputy field commander with Harris County’s Organized Crime Control Unit. He was supposed to meet with investigators again on April 3, but authorities were unable to find him. The intrigue grew when Youens didn’t show up forregular weekly appearances at the Copa in Houston on April 6 and 13, and he didnot call to cancel.

     Youens’ parents owned a lakefront home on Lake Livingston, and he supposedly called them to let them know he was all right. On April 10, he told a friend in Dallas that he was in hiding until he could find a good attorney. That’s the same day that LeBlanc’s gray1985 Mazda was found at Hobby Airport.

    District Attorney Joe Price told reporters that LeBlanc was “attacked out of rage.”

Tipsters reported Youens could be found at the Houston Music Hall on May 15, and that his hair was now bleached white. Houston Post Reporter William Packsaid another tip sent officers to a LaQuinta Motor Inn in West Houston. Houston Chronicle reporter Cathy Gorden said similar fruitless searches had been performed in New York, Nevada, California and various cities. Youens was finally arrested shortly after midnight June16, 1986, at his parents’ Houston home. He returned a short time earlier after hiding out with friends in New York City and Provincetown.

Houston officials were notified about Youens’ hiding place during a phone call his mother made to a friend in Maryland. By chance, a Maryland State Police captain was at the home when she called.

LeBlanc’s former roommate testified that the comforter belonged to LeBlanc. The quilt, drawstring bag and pantyhose all belonged to Youens. LeBlanc’s friend also toldjurors that the flowered material was Youen’s bathrobe.

A neighbor testified that several cinder blocks, painted an unusual yellow color, had been near the garbage dumpsters in the apartment complex. They were no longer there in early April. Youens’ parents owned a lake house in the Cape Royale subdivision and kept a boat at the marina there.Investigators recovered a piece of decorative gold- colored chain from the garage wall of the lake house that had similar color and design to the chain used to attach the body to one of the cinder blocks.

When they examined the boat, they found a large number of concrete fragments and yellow paint chips that matched the yellow cinder blocks retrieved with the body.

In a search of the Houston apartment that LeBlanc and Yoens had shared since the fall of 1985, investigators seized and analyzed one ofYouens’ boots that had a bloodstain, later determined to be type A human blood; a wood scraping from the bedroom closet door stained with blood of an undetermined type; and a piece of flooring under the carpet of the extra room, that contained a blood staincovered with blue paint. Court records show that Youens had Type B blood.

Youens began serving a life sentence in May 1986 after being convicted of murder with a deadly weapon. The murder was featured on Investigation Discovery’s Facing Evil.

TDCJ denied Youens parole on July 14, 2016, due to the brutal violence of the crime of which he is convicted, and that he poses a continuing threat to public safety, and excessive substance abuse was involved in the incident.

The next parole review is set for July 2021.