Careless Whispers

( 14 )

Overview

When the bodies of three teenagers were found on the shores of Lake Waco, Texas in July, 1982, even seasoned lawmen were taken aback by the savage mutilation and degradation they had been subjected to. Yet only 52 days after the gruesome triple-murder was discovered, frustrated authorities suspended the case indefinitely.

Patrol Sergeant Truman Simons, who had been called to the scene that night, saw the carnage first-hand — and vowed to find the ferocious killer or killers. He ...

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Careless Whispers

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Overview

When the bodies of three teenagers were found on the shores of Lake Waco, Texas in July, 1982, even seasoned lawmen were taken aback by the savage mutilation and degradation they had been subjected to. Yet only 52 days after the gruesome triple-murder was discovered, frustrated authorities suspended the case indefinitely.

Patrol Sergeant Truman Simons, who had been called to the scene that night, saw the carnage first-hand — and vowed to find the ferocious killer or killers. He soon became a man with a mission, risking his career and his family's safety in search of evidence. Plunging himself into a netherworld of violence and evil, Simons finally got close enough to a murderous ringleader to hear his careless whispers—and ultimately, put him and his three accomplices behind bars for the brutal slayings.

Now, in his Edgar Award-winning account of the Lake Waco killings, acclaimed true crime writer Carlton Stowers lays bare the facts behind the tragic crimes, the twisted predators, and the heroic man who broke the investigation—with important updated information based on new developments in the case.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Carlton Stowers is brilliant."—Ann Rule

"A true story more frightening than anything Stephen King has penned...Fascinating."—The Houston Post

"Stowers skillfully disentangles numerous skeins of an intricate web of circumstances to resolve the bizarre crimes."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250010575
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2001
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 597,122
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlton Stowers is the author of more than two dozen works of nonfiction, including the Edgar Award-winning Careless Whispers, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Innocence Lost, and Open Secrets. He and his wife live in Cedar Hill, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

Careless Whispers

PART ONE

For several silent minutes the police officer had stood looking down at the body of the young girl. Like the blonde, she too had been a pretty girl, with long dark brown hair. A gold necklace with a heart-shaped medallion was still around her neck, the chain broken and partially embedded in one of her wounds. She still wore blue hoop earrings and there were rings on two of her fingers. It appeared she had been gagged with her own blouse and her hands tied behind her with what was probably a strip of cloth torn from a towel. Lividity had already begun and, after trying to bend one of her toes, the officer decided she had been dead for quite some time. Ants and pillbugs were crawling over her bloodstained torso and flies had already laid their eggs in her nasal cavities. Soon, he knew, maggots would be hatching.

Her eyes remained partially open, a milky gray glaze replacing their original color. The lifeless stare of a murder victim seemed always to draw the officer's attention. The eyes were like once-sparkling marbles deprived of light: dull, nonreactive, cold.

He shook his head slightly, images of her killer forming in his mind. "God, if only I could see through your eyes," he whispered.

Still, the officer's expression did not change in the slightest. Years of investigating homicides had taught him to mask any feelings he might have. To do the job he knew the situation demanded, he had to go about his duties with an attitude some might mistake for a total lack of emotion. Fellow officers, in fact, had often remarked that they'd never known anyone less bothered by the sight of a homicide victim. Jokingly they said that he would get right down there with them, touching them, looking right at them, like he was checking a dog for fleas. Nothing seemed to affect the guy. It was the only way the officer knew to properly conduct an investigation.

While he stood there looking down at the girl's body, hishands buried in the hip pockets of his trousers, the Captain walked up and placed a hand on his shoulder. Neither spoke for a moment, then the Captain shook his head. "I've seen some rough ones, but never anything like this," he said. "Nothing like what they did to these poor kids. Bastards didn't leave them a shred of dignity. Not a bit. I think that's what bothers me the most." There were tears in his eyes as he spoke.

"It bothers me, too, Captain," the officer said. He took a deep breath. "It bothers me a helluva lot."

1

For most of the day construction worker Sidney Smith and his brother-in-law Joseph Chambers had been fishing along the banks of Lake Waco with little success. Several times they had moved from one location to another, hoping to find that one special spot where either the crappie or bass might be biting. Finally, weary of the unyielding heat and disappointed with their luck, Chambers suggested they call it quits, stop somewhere for a couple of beers, then go on home. But Smith was starting a new job the next day and knew he wouldn't have the opportunity to do much fishing for some time to come. He argued that it wasn't even five o'clock yet—there were still several hours of daylight remaining—and there was one other place they might try before giving up.

Several weeks earlier he had caught some nice-sized crappie in shallow water at one of the far ends of Speegleville Park. He persuaded his brother-in-law to drive over there and try just a bit longer.

To get to the Speegleville side of the lake, Smith drove out Highway Six, over the twin bridges, then took an exit to the access road which led to the entrance of the large state-maintained park that was used mostly by fishermen and campers. After entering the park, he drove his pickup a couple of miles along the winding blacktop, then turned off onto a small dirt road that led into the thickly wooded area that bordered the lake's shoreline.

It was not a road in the truest sense, just a rutted path carved out by pickup-driving fishermen, campers who wanted to set up their tents in the more isolated areas of the park, and adventurous young lovers seeking privacy for other reasons. Even with the sun still high in a cloudless sky, the shelter of trees formed a leafy umbrella over the road and made the route they were taking so shadowed that it suddenly seemed near twilight.Chambers, who had never been in Speegleville Park before, mentioned that the place was "spooky as hell."

"A guy could get lost out here and nobody'd ever find him," he said.

Sidney Smith grinned. "We're almost there," he said. A few seconds later, the smile drained from his face.

"What the hell is that?"

He braked to a jerking stop. Less than twenty feet away, at an intersection with another makeshift road, was what appeared to be a body, its legs stretched out into one of the rutted tire paths.

For several minutes the two men sat in the cab of the pickup trying to decide whether they had happened onto someone's bad practical joke or something far more serious. It could be nothing more than a dummy, placed here to scare whoever might be passing by. If such was the case, the perpetrator had succeeded with flying colors.

"That's no dummy," Chambers finally said, breaking a silence neither realized had set in as they contemplated the situation. Smith said nothing but was mentally agreeing with his brother-in-law as he got out of the pickup and slowly walked in the direction of the outstretched body.

He didn't have to get much closer to satisfy himself that something bad had taken place. Lying beneath a small tree on the edge of the road was the motionless form of a young man. What Smith assumed to be blood was smeared across the front of the man's shirt. He also appeared to have some sort of gag tied around his mouth.

Sidney Smith had never seen a dead person before but he was certain the man was no longer alive. Still, he stared at the body for several seconds, not even blinking, trying to detect any movement. There was none.

Finally, as if awaking from a trance, he turned and ran back to the pickup. "We've got to tell somebody," he said with obvious fright in his voice. "That guy's dead."

He backed the pickup down the road until he could turn around, then headed back in the direction of the paved road. Smith knew that Gene Thorpe, a McLennan County Deputy Constable who also served as a night security guard at the park, lived in a house trailer near the marina, just a couple of miles away. He hoped Thorpe was at home.

Driving as fast as he could along the narrow park road, Smith said nothing at all until they had almost reached Thorpe's trailer. Pale and shaken, he didn't take his eyes off the road as he finally remarked on what he'd seen.

"Jesus, Joe, he was still wearing a pair of sunglasses. Laying there dead and still had sunglasses on. Damn."

Sidney Smith felt as if he was going to be sick. God, how he wished they'd quit fishing and gone home early.

 

Constable Thorpe, a husky, middle-aged man with an ever-present weary look, had just returned home from work and was ready to sit down and watch the evening news before having his dinner. Thus the situation presented him by the two shaken fishermen was more aggravating than alarming. Probably, he thought, some old fisherman who had gotten too much sun, had a stroke, and died. It had happened before in the brutal July heatwaves that annually visited central Texas. Thorpe had never understood why anyone would want to get out in such brain-baking heat unless it was absolutely necessary.

There was no urgency in his movements as he pulled on the cowboy boots he had just minutes earlier removed. Whatever the case, he knew he would be tied up with the matter for quite some time. Before leaving the trailer, he placed a call to the sheriff's department. "Looks like we've got some kind of questionable death out here at Speegleville," he told the dispatcher. "Better get some people out here soon as you can. I'll have somebody waiting near the entrance of the park to direct you to the site where the body was found." He hung up, frowned, and headed toward his car. Smith and Chambers climbed back into the pickup and led him to where they had made their gruesome discovery.

Thorpe's attitude changed dramatically once he arrived at the wooded area where the body lay. Clearly this was no heat stroke victim. The body was that of a teenage boy. Stab wounds were evident in the chest and there was a gag tied over the mouth. By the way the arms were stretched behind the back, Thorpe immediately assumed that the hands had been bound as well. He instructed Smith and Chambers to drive back toward the entrance to the park and lead the investigators to the scene as soon as they arrived.

As he stared down on the dead youngster, all thoughts of hislate dinner and missing the six o'clock news disappeared. Somewhere, he thought to himself, there's a real crazy running loose. And despite the intense heat which made even taking a deep breath a chore, a sudden shiver ran through his body.

 

Patrol Sergeant Truman Simons, a seventeen-year veteran in the Waco Police Department, was a man of average build, trim, and well shy of six feet, but something about the way he carried himself gave one the impression of a much larger man. A rural heritage was still very much evident in his rough-hewn good looks, his easy laughter, and his gentle manner. His brown eyes, which matched the color of his hair and his neatly trimmed mustache, always focused squarely on whomever he was talking with, signaling a quiet self-confidence. His dress, when not in uniform, was usually jeans, boots, and a western shirt.

Simons had been working the relief shift—3:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M.—for several weeks and had seen very little of his wife in recent days. He would still be sleeping when she left for work at the Engineering Technological Institute, and she would already be asleep when he arrived home in the early morning hours. Both would be glad when he returned to a normal schedule.

One of the things he had missed most was attending her softball games. Judy Simons was pretty and feminine—she had played the lead in several musical comedies in college—but she also had a tomboyish manner which was one of the first things that had attracted her husband. She always looked forward to the women's softball league schedule and in summers past Truman had coached her team. Eager to hear details of the previous evening's game, he drove to her office to have coffee with her after handing out beat assignments and completing his paperwork.

For Simons, patrol was, at best, boring. On occasion he enjoyed returning to it, however, just to let the cobwebs clear away after lengthy stretches in vice and intelligence or with the tactical squad. Working patrol was his pressure valve, a way to step away from the demands of intense investigations for a time. But always he would tire of the duty quickly, and he had gained a reputation for spending unauthorized time looking into cases that didn't fall within his job description.

In the minds of many in the department, including some ofhis superiors, Truman Simons was something of a renegade. He had a remarkable record for solving cases, many of them turned over to him by fellow investigators weary of running into blind alleys. But there were whispered suggestions that perhaps he didn't always make his cases by the book. "I don't know how he does it," Bob Fortune, a detective with the Waco Police, once told a fellow investigator after Simons had solved a particularly complex series of rapes, "and I don't want to know." His innuendo was clear.

When Simons worked vice, a record number of arrests and convictions were tallied. And if he found that a fellow officer was involved in some manner of illegal activity, he wasn't the least bit hesitant to call it to a commander's attention. Once he arrested a fellow officer he caught drilling a safe, and he noticed afterward that several on the force were suddenly far less friendly than before. Another time when he was working on a heroin investigation, several prostitutes told him of repeated instances where a particular officer had forced them to provide him drugs and have sex with him or be arrested. After gathering enough information to satisfy himself that the accusations were valid, that the officer was in fact using dope on duty and getting what in police parlance is referred to as "badge pussy," Simons reported his findings to the officer's superior. Several days later the accused officer confronted him and insisted he had gotten some bad information. Simons showed him the notes he had taken during interviews with the prostitutes.

"Look," the officer said to Simons, "I'll promise you it won't ever happen again. What do you say we forget it this time? You know I'm a good cop." Simons told him he had serious doubts about that.

Eventually the matter was dropped. The officer was allowed to remain on the force and he wasted little time spreading the word through the department that Simons had given him a bad rap and was not a man to be trusted. A year later that same officer was indicted on twenty-one counts of burglary.

Truman Simons eventually came to the decision that he really didn't like cops. Too many were there simply for the misguided feeling of authority the job afforded them. He developed a growing dislike for the department's tangled bureaucracy. When he had strong suspicions that a fellow policeman had killed a prisoner in the city jail, he began looking into the matter but wassoon told to forget about it or find another job. The brotherhood that he felt was supposed to exist among officers was nothing more than a television-inspired myth. The truth was, he seemed to get along better with the whores and pimps and drug pushers, people who were supposed to be his adversaries, than he did with most of his colleagues.

Sometimes, he felt, his attitude toward the police worked to his advantage. In a way it actually helped him when he was dealing with criminals who also felt that most cops were assholes, not to be trusted. Recently, though, he had been giving considerable thought to the direction his own career was heading.

An academic rebel, Truman Simons had joined the Air Force at a time when his peers were finishing their junior year of high school. There he had earned his graduate equivalency diploma, but once his four-year hitch was up he entertained no desire to attend college. Instead, he worked briefly for his father as a mechanic, then served as shop foreman at the Ford Tractor plant before hearing on the radio one day that the Waco Police Department was looking for recruits. With no serious interest in or understanding of law enforcement, he decided to look into it.

From a group of one hundred taking the Civil Service exam, Simons was one of eight applicants called in for interviews. Later, he was one of two hired.

Despite the fact that at age twenty-five he had been the youngest member of the department ever to make sergeant, he still held that rank at forty. Those moving up to lieutenant were the ones who had college diplomas framed and hanging behind their desks and were continually enrolling in law enforcement courses across town at Baylor University. To Simons this was a waste of time and money. He had seen more than one good police officer ruined by too much education. Crimes, he strongly felt, were solved by hard work and long hours out on the street, not by reading textbooks.

Besides, he had no ambition to advance to the rank of lieutenant. It was a desk job, and he could not imagine himself off the streets, not mingling with the people.

 

Simons had just pulled out of the parking lot following the brief visit with his wife when the dispatcher put out the call. It was just minutes after 6:00 P.M. Beat officer Brian Reynolds, specialinvestigator Jimmy Wilcox, and Sergeant Simons were asked to respond. The dispatcher's request for three officers was an immediate indication that something out of the ordinary had occurred. When a special investigator—the officer who carries the equipment necessary for crime scene photography, measurement, and fingerprinting—is summoned, it is a good bet that violence has taken place.

Even before the dispatcher informed him that they were to meet members of the sheriff's department at Speegleville Park and investigate a questionable death, Simons had a good idea what kind of case they would be working. He immediately began figuring out the shortest route to the lakeside park.

He had driven only a few blocks when a call from Brian Reynolds came over his radio, asking his location. Reynolds said he wanted to meet briefly with Simons before proceeding to the park.

Minutes later, Simons turned into a 7-Eleven store parking lot at the intersection of Highway Six and Bosque Avenue. Reynolds was already there, waiting in his car. Pulling up beside him, Simons rolled down the window to talk.

"Sarge," Reynolds said, "what do you think we've got out there?" He appeared nervous.

Simons was amused. It was common knowledge that Reynolds had an almost fearful dislike for any kind of investigative work that involved dead bodies. "Brian, it's pretty hard to tell until we get out there," he said. "It could be a suicide or maybe some old fisherman who fell out with a heart attack. I just don't know."

"The dispatcher said the sheriff's unit was already on the way there," Reynolds replied. "Think maybe we ought to let them work it?" Reynolds was obviously anxious to find a way to avoid the trip to Speegleville.

Simons smiled. "Look, Brian, I think the best thing for us to do is just run on out there and see what we've got. If it's something I think we ought to let the sheriff's people work, we'll let 'em have it. But if it falls within our jurisdiction, we're going to have to work it." He rolled up his window, ending the conversation, and pulled back onto the highway with Reynolds following him.

As they neared the Twin Bridges which led to the exit to the park, Jimmy Wilcox and Detective Ramon Salinas pulled inbehind them. Minutes later the waiting pickup led all four cars to the edge of the wooded area where the body had been found.

 

Even as he stepped out of his patrol car Simons could see that the investigation was going to be a problem. Several television reporters who must have been monitoring the police radio were already milling around, along with three or four sheriff's deputies, several constables, and some of the park's employees. Simons noticed that one had brought his young son with him, a boy no older than nine or ten. He shook his head in disbelief. The whole scene already had a carnival atmosphere about it. Standing in the road, Simons could see that the body was that of a boy, probably in his late teens, wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a bloodstained orange shirt. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled under the low-hanging branches to get a closer look at the victim. He quickly determined that multiple stab wounds had been inflicted to the chest area. As he stared at the lifeless form, he tried to imagine the horror the youngster had experienced before dying.

He looked up to see Ramon Salinas holding out a Polaroid photograph. "Take a look at this," Salinas said. Still crouched beneath the tree, Simons looked first at the picture, then back at the youngster. In the photo, the boy was wearing the same clothes, same orange Izod shirt, jeans, same sunglasses, that he had on now. It was almost as though the picture had been taken just before the boy was killed.

Simons handed the picture back to Salinas. "It's the same kid," he said.

"We've had a missing persons report on him since early this morning," Salinas said. "He was supposed to be with a couple of young girls from Waxahachie. Nobody's seen or heard from them since last night."

Simons crawled from beneath the tree and instructed the deputies and constables standing nearby to begin searching the area for any other bodies. Since no one else seemed eager to take charge of the investigation, he would.

He was still looking at the body of the young man, feeling the arms in an attempt to determine how long he'd been dead, when he heard a shout. Approximately twenty-five yards away, in the underbrush on the other side of the fishing trail, lay the nude body of a young girl. Simons hurried over and found ascene even more disturbing than the one he had just left. The girl, a pretty blonde, had a piece of red and white cloth tied around her mouth and a bra tied to her right ankle. She too had been stabbed repeatedly. And somewhere close, Simons knew, there was one more.

Looking around, he saw the knee of the other girl, just visible above the weeds. Hurrying to her side, he found that she too was nude, bound and gagged. There was a great deal more blood on her body and evidence of more stab wounds than had been visible on the other bodies. Her throat had also been cut.

The missing teenagers—Kenneth Franks, Raylene Rice, and Jill Montgomery—had been found.

 

The discovery of the bodies had stirred a beehive of activity among the officers and onlookers. Suddenly, Simons realized, people were milling around all over the area, attempting to get a look at the bodies. Already enraged by the violent deaths that had occurred, he yelled at Brian Reynolds: "Get everybody the hell out of here. I don't want anyone around the bodies until we've had a chance to check everything out."

A television cameraman standing near where Kenneth Franks' body had been found began to argue that he had a job to do. Simons glared first at him, then at Reynolds. "If the sonuvabitch won't leave, arrest him," he snapped. "I want everybody back away from here. Now!" The cameraman grumbled, then retreated with the others.

As Simons turned his attention back to the bodies, a myriad of questions raced through his mind. There was no indication in the areas where the bodies were found that a struggle had taken place. No leaves were disturbed, no limbs broken. Only near where Jill Montgomery's body lay was there even the slightest evidence anyone had been there. The top stalk of a dead sunflower had been snapped off and on it there appeared to be bloodstains. In all likelihood, the victims had been killed elsewhere, then their bodies dumped where they had been discovered. In carrying Jill's body to where it was found, the killer could have brushed against the sunflower. But why would a killer—or, more probably, killers—not simply dump all the bodies in the same place, be done with it, and get the hell away from there?

By placing Kenneth Franks in a position where he could beeasily found, then leaving the girls in separate, more isolated spots, was someone playing some kind of demented game with them?

Nothing made sense. How could the boy have managed to keep his sunglasses on after what he'd obviously been through? A package of cigarettes was still in place, tucked under the left sleeve of his shirt. His faded red and white bandanna headband was neatly in place, as if it, like the sunglasses, had been placed there after his death. What kind of animal did these kids run into? Simons wondered. What the hell's going on here?

He considered the possibility that the murders were the work of a psychopathic killer, someone who had ended the lives of three young kids just for kicks. Probably not. Despite the violent nature of the crimes, experience had taught him that if a psychopath had been involved in what amounted to nothing more than a thrill killing, at least one of the bodies would likely have been more mutilated. The others would have been killed simply to eliminate witnesses.

Even the possibility that it was just a sex crime didn't seem likely. If someone had been looking for a rape victim, he wouldn't have sought out two girls who were obviously in the company of a boy. The parks around Lake Waco, unfortunately, offered too many opportunities to abduct a single girl, or even two girls without a male companion.

Was it, as some of the investigators were already suggesting, the result of some kind of drug deal gone sour? No, he thought, it seemed more than that.

As Simons considered such questions, all the while searching the area for any evidence that might have been left behind, he turned in the direction of where Raylene Rice's body lay and saw a park ranger placing a blanket over the girl's body. He'd already covered the boy. Once again Simons was shouting:

"Get that damn blanket away from her."

The ranger looked up, startled, then angry. "Look, man, there's a lot of people wandering around out here and these girls don't have any clothes on. Seems to me the least we could do is cover them. Besides, you're not on city property out here, and I'm not all that sure you got a right to be in charge."

"Until somebody tells me different," Simons said, "I am in charge and I don't want those bodies covered with anything until we've done what we have to do. If they don't want to look atthem, they can get the hell out of here. You take your damn blankets and put them back in your pickup and just stay out of the way. Just get your ass out of here and let us do our job."

Simons' anger was directed not so much at the ranger as it was at the very real possibility that he had already compounded the problems the investigators were likely to have with evidence in the case. In a murder investigation, one of the things lab technicians are asked to do is to determine whether there are any foreign hair samples or fibers on the body. By placing the blankets over Kenneth and Raylene, the park ranger had almost assured the technicians of finding hair and fibers that had nothing to do with the case.

The whole thing, Simons thought, was turning into a goddamn three-ring circus. Texas Rangers had arrived, as had other sheriff's deputies and police officers, more reporters and park employees. At one point there were almost forty people wandering through the area where the bodies had been found. The situation was becoming impossible.

Simons, then, was relieved when Lieutenant Marvin Horton arrived and took charge of the investigation. No longer concerning himself with a futile attempt to keep the area clear, he concentrated his full attention on the bodies.

 

Though he rarely discusses it with other law enforcement officers, Simons insists he's always been able to feel a certain violence in the air at the scene of a crime. It lingers, he says, like a choking residue, a grim, almost tangible reminder that on a particular spot some unspeakable evil has taken place. On several occasions, in fact, he has returned to the scene of a crime he had investigated years before, only to find the atmosphere of violence still present, as real as it had been at the time of the initial investigation.

In the darkening woods of Speegleville Park, there were no such feelings. The only thing about the case he was absolutely certain of was that the three youngsters had not been killed where their bodies were found. They had died somewhere else and were then moved. He was sure of that.

As he repeatedly went from one body to the other, vainly attempting to make sense from something as nonsensical as the murder of three young kids, he found himself drawn back to the dark-haired girl. For some reason, Jill Montgomery seemed todemand his attention more than either Raylene Rice or Kenneth Franks.

The knife cuts on her right hand indicated she had put up more of a struggle than the others. And in addition to the fatal stab wounds on her body, there were a number of more superficial cuts—torture marks—on her neck and chest. Her death had not come easily or quickly.

For reasons he could not explain, Truman Simons felt it was very likely that she had been the primary target of those who had carried out the murders. While other investigators busied themselves with such matters as collecting several Budweiser cans found on the side of the road near the bodies and searching through the high grass and scrub brush in hopes of finding a weapon, he stood for a long time looking down at her body, studying her face. Finally, making sure no one was watching, he knelt beside her and began to speak:

"I don't even know who you are," he whispered, "and I don't know how or why this happened to you. But I promise you that whoever did this is going to pay for it. This won't be just another murder in Waco, Texas. I give you my word on that. You're not going to be some little girl who was just left lying out here like this. It's not right, and I won't let it happen."

Before the emergency van from the funeral home arrived, Simons had made his way to the sides of Raylene Rice and Kenneth Franks and had made each of them the same promise. Already, he knew, he was more personally involved in the case than he should be.

Simons helped the attendants from the Connally Compton Funeral Home place the bodies into heavy black plastic bags, then assisted in carrying them to the van. The vulturous television cameras, still hovering over the scene, recorded the grim death parade for the benefit of ten o'clock newswatchers.

Over three hours had passed since he had first arrived at Speegleville and, for the first time, he was aware of the oppressive heat as they brought the bodies from the wooded area out into the more open section of the park. The slight breeze that greeted him as he stepped from the tree line felt almost cold as it hit his sweat-soaked uniform.

As the ambulance drove away, its red taillights growing smaller in the distance, Simons lifted his head toward the starlit sky, closed his eyes, and welcomed the cool breeze on his face.But not for long. He wanted to get as far away from Speegleville Park as he could. Maybe some distance would dim the pictures of those dead kids which were still so vivid in his mind's eye.

He helped Reynolds and Wilcox load the photography equipment into the car, then told them to meet him at the police station and make their reports. As he walked toward his car, Simons looked over at Reynolds, who was clearly shaken, his face ashen.

"Brian," he said.

"Yeah, Sarge."

"I don't blame you a damn bit for not liking this kind of work."

Brian Reynolds nodded gratefully. "Thanks," he said.

 

Truman Simons left the station shortly after midnight, ending his shift a bit earlier than usual. Tired, dirty, and covered with chigger bites, he wanted to get home. Stepping into the parking lot, he saw the Connally Compton van pass, followed by Sergeant Fortune and Detective Salinas. The bodies were on their way to the Dallas Institute of Forensic Science where autopsies would be performed.

The knowledge of what some pathologist would have to do to the bodies of the three dead youngsters caused him further distress. Medical examiners had a job to perform, but the detached, dispassionate manner in which they dissected a human body had always bothered him. More than once during his career, he had bought time—just a couple more hours—from a pathologist to try to learn the identity of a Jane or John Doe before the autopsy was begun. Bodies of unidentified victims were routinely cut up more than those with names and histories available to the medical examiners.

At least the pathologist would know who these victims were. Still, after what they had already been through, he thought, they deserved something better than a cold stainless steel table with a drain at one end.

Usually, Simons enjoyed driving the streets of Waco in the early morning hours. He liked the peaceful quiet that settled over the city once most people were home and in bed. On this particular night, however, the silence was literally ringing in his ears. Though he fought to free his mind from thoughts of what had just transpired at the park, it was to little avail. What kindof monster could do that to someone? How were the victims' families taking the news which had no doubt by now reached them? Why do things like this have to happen? God, why?

He pounded his palm on the steering wheel as he began to cry. The emotion so carefully kept in check while performing his duty now exploded to the surface, and his shoulders heaved as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Though he embraces few of the formalities of organized religion and finds fault with much of today's ultra-conservative preachings, and while his conversation is sprinkled with street-talk profanities, Truman Simons is a man of deep, abiding Christian faith. His mother is a Bible scholar and has passed much of her knowledge and religious philosophy on to him. It is God, he says, who has enabled him to solve so many of the cases he's been involved in. He regularly calls on a verse from the Book of Matthew: "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God." For Truman, being a police officer has always been something more than a way to earn a paycheck.

As he drove, he began to pray aloud:

"I don't know anything about those kids we found out there tonight, Lord. Maybe they were good kids; maybe they had problems. But they didn't deserve what happened to them. I hope You have welcomed them into your Kingdom and have given them peace. But, Lord, it wasn't right for them to have been left out there like that, dead and exposed. I pray that You'll help us find the people who did this ..."

With that he pushed his boot hard to the accelerator. He wanted to get home. To see his wife and his own child.

Copyright © 1986 by Carlton Stowers.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2007

    A must read for true crime fans!

    This book was riveting, from start to finish I could not put it down. I read it in one day, it was that good. Carlton Stowers writing style keeps you spell bound to the very last page, truely a master piece that all true crimes readers will enjoy. This was my first time to read Carlton Stowers work, I have always been, and still am, an Ann Rule fan so when she said he was brillant in her review I had to read it. Wow, was Ann ever right, this is fantastic.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2001

    Breathtaking

    I read this book in only a couple of days. I could not put it down. This book is written in a way that made me see clearly everything that was happening as if I was there. It left me with chill bumps and sorrow for the families involved. As soon as I finished, I walked across the street to give the book to my mother to read. Never have I read something that would effect me like this. I have already ordered more title by Carlton Stowers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2011

    good but sad

    Its a good book but it is really hard to read if the people who were murdered were your parents best friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2005

    WOW!!!!!!!!

    This is the best book I've read in a very long time. So well written. I could not put it down. I didn't want it to end. FANTASTIC!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2004

    The Best Book I have ever read!!!!!

    This was the most well written book I have ever read. The author has such a great way of making you want to keep reading. The story is mind blowing, I couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2001

    Like a moth to a flame--I was drawn to the end of this book and went up in flames!!

    This story had a personal meaning for me that I was completely unaware of until I read the end of the book! I won't ruin the surprise for you. Suffice to say I was outraged that for several years I had moarned the loss of this murdering scumbag!! All because I trusted the Dateline crew to report honestly and fairly. Mr. Stowers rivals my all-time favorite authors: Ann Rule and Jack Olsen for attention to detail and sensitivity to the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2001

    Not a reader of many books, but this one was Excellent!

    I am not much of a reader of books. However, when I looked at the title and read the back of the book, I figured I'd give reading another try. After reading the first few pages of this book (which has usually caused me to put other books down) I was hooked. Due to my work schedule, I was unable to read it straight through, but many nights the wife went to bed without me because she knew my attention was focused on the story. While I read each page, I couldn't help but to wonder what was going to happen next, as the author brilliantly kept my attention and suspense by changing subjects during each new chapter, and sometimes each page. Whether the accuseds were guilty or not, it was a riveting tale of murder, suspense, and surprise. As I said, I am not fond of many books, as I do not read much, other than the newspaper, but this book has renewed my interest in reading, especially non-fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    Yes, a sad story but an very good written book. A must read if y

    Yes, a sad story but an very good written book. A must read if you like True Life Crime books. As with any crime there is aways
    questions that are never answered, but a very fact based book.

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  • Posted October 23, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    Such a tragic story! The murderers may have never been caught & brought to justice had it not been for the dogged determination of Truman Simons.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2012

    A

    Well written, i was drawn n couldnt put book down....Bn

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2002

    Many questions yet to be answered

    Waiting to hear the real story that is yet to come out. Dateline did touch on it. This book does bring up some of the important questions in the case, but does not have the answers. An interesting story, but more complicated in real life. Sad to think about the families that mourn the killed and executed. I'm glad the author was willing to at least ask some of the unanswered questions.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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