Phelps is the Harlan Coben of real-life thrillers. –Allison Brennan
"Phelps's writing reads like a mystery novel." --Suspense Magazine
The crime stunned quiet Mineral Wells, Texas: 49-year-old Bob Dow shot execution-style in his own bed, his invalid mother locked in the next room--and a cache of homemade porn starring the town's underage girls. The two accused killers--teen lovers Bobbi Jo Smith and Jennifer Jones--were on the run, intent on going out in a cross-country blaze of glory. M. William Phelps exposes a gripping tale of sexploitation, lust, and betrayal, while questioning the court's fateful verdict in a tantalizing forensic puzzle. Were both girls equally guilty of murder? Or was one merely a pawn in the other's dainty, blood-stained hands?
"One of America's finest true-crime writers." --Vincent Bugliosi
Includes 16 Pages Of Dramatic Photos
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By M. William Phelps
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 M. William Phelps
All rights reserved.
"SOMETHING BAD MAY have happened."
It was the only fact she was certain of. Beyond that, the woman thought the victim might be "a friend of her niece's." His name "might have been" Bob, but that was all she knew. She feared the worst, however: "Bob Something" was dead. She didn't know the exact address—where the police could find him—but she could explain to someone how to get there, and would escort cops to the house if they wanted to meet her somewhere in the neighborhood.
On a quiet evening, May 5, 2004, forty-eight-year-old Richard "Rick" Cruz called the Mineral Wells Police Department (MWPD) and explained what his wife, Kathy, had just told him. Both Kathy and Rick were in somewhat of a panicked state. Not freaked out. But their feelings were more of a puzzled, what's-going-on–type thing they didn't quite understand.
"Have you heard anything about someone being shot on Eighteenth Street?" Rick asked the 911 dispatcher.
Rick had the street wrong. It was actually Twentieth Street. Still, dispatch wasn't in the business of sharing information with worried callers phoning in to report gunshots fired at people.
"What other information do you have?" the 911 operator asked.
Rick explained the layout of the neighborhood best he could. He said he and Kathy weren't all that familiar with Mineral Wells and this particular neighborhood where Bob supposedly lived. They had only heard about it.
The operator said they'd send an officer out to Eighteenth Street to check things out.
Rick and Kathy Cruz lived in Graford, Texas, directly next door to Kathy's mother and father, Dorothy and Fred Smith. Graford is about fifteen miles from Mineral Wells, where the shooting was said to have occurred. Kathy and Rick had arrived home at about 4:30 P.M. Rick was driving. As they exited the vehicle after Rick parked, Kathy's mother, Dorothy, standing on her porch next door, waved them over.
"Come here," Dorothy shouted. She seemed frazzled and agitated, as if in a hurry to get them over there so she could speak her mind about something.
"What is it?" Kathy asked.
Dorothy was "very upset," Kathy later explained to police. Kathy and Rick noticed Dorothy was on the telephone. Apparently, after walking over and assessing the situation, Kathy found out that Dorothy was talking to her other daughter, Kathy's sister.
Something terrible was going on.
"What is it?" Rick and Kathy asked.
A pause. Then a bombshell: Somebody shot Bob.
Dorothy got off the phone and clarified what she knew. As the story went thus far, somehow, Dorothy explained, Kathy's niece (Dorothy's grandchild)—who had been living with Dorothy intermittently throughout the past year—might be involved in the shooting. Nobody really knew how or why, or any of the circumstances surrounding the story. Just that it was urgent someone get over there to this Bob Something's house immediately.
Rick walked into Dorothy's house. According to what he later told police, without explaining what he was doing, he headed into his niece's room to have a look around.
"You stay here," Rick told Kathy, who was becoming more upset by the moment. Kathy's niece had lived with the Cruzes for a while as well. Kathy had been close to her.
The idea Rick had in mind was to see if he could find something in the house that might clarify just what the hell was going on.
There was probably a simple answer. Usually, there was. People overreact. Perhaps Dorothy, in all of her excitement, had totally misinterpreted the situation and blew it out of proportion. Drama. Every family, in some form or fashion, had certain members that thrived on it.
Upon immediately entering the young girl's room, Rick found an empty gun holster. Exactly what he did not expect.
Where is the weapon?
Then he found an unloaded pistol in a second holster.
This alarmed Rick. The report of a shooting. A gun missing from a holster. Another weapon on the bed in a holster. Rick wasn't Magnum, P.I., but then again, he didn't need to be a private investigator to figure out that something was up. And it didn't look good.
Rick ran out of the room, then out of the house. While outside in the front yard, Rick called the MWPD back on his cell phone.
"Have you found anything?" Rick asked the operator. He sounded more serious.
"No. The officers out at Eighteenth Street haven't located anything suspicious." The dispatcher wondered what was going on. Was this guy—Rick—playing games with the MWPD?
Rick hung up. Then grabbed Kathy's attention. "Listen, we have to head out to Mineral Wells ourselves and find out what's going on."
Kathy thought about it.
They took off.
On the way to Mineral Wells—having no clue, really, where in that town they were headed—Rick phoned Kathy's sister, her niece's mother, Tamey Hurley. She asked for directions to a house in Mineral Wells where Kathy's niece had been hanging out at, and living in, lately. There was even some indication that the niece was working with the guy who lived there. Bob Something.
Tamey had been to the house.
After getting more detailed directions, Rick decided that he'd better stop first at the MWPD and relay what he had uncovered.
"I have the gun," Rick explained, referring to the pistol he had taken out of the room in Dorothy's house. "Do you want it?"
The cop was a bit taken aback. "We need to find that house first, Mr. Cruz. And we need to see if anything happened—then we can take it from there."
Kathy's niece was young, just nineteen. According to Kathy and Rick, she liked to "get on drugs and exaggerate things." She came across as a tough, gangsta-type chick, but friends who intimately knew her said she was terribly misunderstood, and that she was kindhearted and always erred on the side of her humility. But the bug of drug addiction had bitten her hard. Drugs had become her life. And although she had been in a relationship with a man, engaged to be married, and had had a baby, she was an open and admitted lesbian. She had been struggling to come out and live that lifestyle, carefree, suffering from the ill effects of suppressing who she was.
They left together, the cop following Rick and Kathy.
Rick pulled onto Eighteenth Street first and didn't seem to know where he was going. He was driving slowly past each house, checking to see if he recognized any of them. In back of him, the cop became impatient as each block passed. The officer threw up his hands, beckoning Rick to tell him what in the hell was going on here. Was this some sort of a joke?
After some time of Rick's stop-and-go game, the cop got on the telephone with Kathy's sister and she talked him directly over to Twentieth Street.
Finally they arrived at the right house.
Patrol Corporal Randy Hunter then got out of his cruiser and told Rick, "You stay here by your truck and wait." Hunter said he needed to approach the door by himself.
Hunter knocked on the front door as Rick and Kathy looked on.
"I'm going around back," Hunter said. "Stay where you are." He held up his hand as to indicate stop. The plan was, Hunter later said, "to check and see if anybody may have been in the backyard, look around...." He wanted to see what he could find out.
Nobody seemed to be home, but Officer Hunter noticed something peculiar as he focused on the back door of the home.
One of the windowpanes had been smashed.
"Something may have happened inside," Hunter recalled later, speaking about that moment he spied the broken back window, "that we needed to investigate a little further [and] check the welfare of the people inside."
Several additional officers arrived. Hunter approached the house slowly, his weapon drawn, reached for the knob and opened the door.
"Mineral Wells Police Department!" the veteran cop yelled as he slowly walked in. "We're here with Richard and Kathy Cruz. We're coming in."
Not a peep.
Hunter announced himself "four or five times" before heading into the kitchen.
As he made his way through that area of the house stealthily, as if expecting to be ambushed at any moment, Hunter heard music. A radio or television was on.
Coming out of the hallway from the kitchen, Hunter spied a "subject," as he described the person, "somebody lying on [a] bed...."
He pointed his weapon toward the subject and shouted: "Mineral Wells Police Department!"
"The size of the body ... it appeared to be a male," Hunter recalled.
But Randy Hunter couldn't be 100 percent certain, because the bottom half of the subject was covered with a blanket. And from his neck up, the subject's face was covered with a pillow or bag of some sort.
Hunter carefully approached the subject, bent down, and placed two fingers on the man's carotid artery to check for a pulse.
No sign of life.
As Hunter grabbed his radio to call in additional backup, he saw blood.
"We're going to need an ambulance over here ...," Hunter said into his handheld. "Send Captain [Mike] McAllester and Sergeant [Brian] Boetz, too."
They were homicide investigators.
Hunter worked his way around the corner from that small bedroom and located in the back of the house a second bedroom, which he also approached with caution.
The door was slightly ajar. Hunter pried it open gently and saw a "hospital-type bed ... with all kinds of stuff piled on it." As he walked toward the bed to check the other side, "an arm fell out from underneath a blanket...."
Oh, boy ...
SHE BELIEVED IT TO BE some sort of celestial "sign." Those incredibly vivid dreams invading her sleep were coming "for a reason." They were fuzzy images, certainly, filled with metaphors of "which path to take," she later explained. In one, Jennifer "Jen" Jones believed she was setting herself up for failure simply because she had been born (as they might say in Texas) "kin" to Clyde Barrow, half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde murderous duo. Indeed, according to Jen's grandmother, who was said to have made a shrine in her house dedicated to the old murderer and bank robber, Jen had that bad blood of the Barrows coursing through her veins. As such, there was nothing she could do about it. Jen's mother before her, Kathy Jones, had set herself on that same path. Kathy was tough as rawhide, a bar bruiser and career criminal, in and out of jail. Kathy had even come close to death a number of times, stabbed and beaten. Jen never saw herself in that same manner. However, coming from that sort of pedigree, she developed a thick exterior and a disastrously unhealthy inner dialogue. She began to convince herself that she could do anything. And all of those dreams she was having lately—those demons speaking to her at night—they fit right into the madness that had become her life. In other words, she felt doomed.
To fail, that is.
"I found a list once," one of Jen's sisters explained to me. "Jennifer was, like, just about fourteen. It was a list of all the guys she had slept with. She stopped at one hundred. I asked why [the list abruptly ended]. She said she lost count. The list started with names. As it continued, she dropped the names. I asked why. She said she didn't even know some of the names of the guys she'd had sex with."
One hundred was likely an exaggeration, but the sister's point was clearly made.
Because of the Clyde Barrow connection and a mother she viewed as destructive, unavailable, and quite caught up in a world of drugs and crimes to support bad habits, Jennifer Jones obsessed over the self-prophesized fact in her head that her life had been paved by a road already chosen for her. No matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried, Jen believed nothing could get in the way of this tragic evolution that was her fate.
So why fight it? Jen decided. Why not embrace its ambiguity and dark side? Years ago, Jen wrote about her chosen future in a journal, which had become her best friend at the time. On December 28, 2000, just five days after her fifteenth birthday, Jen sat down and confirmed the inevitable: These dreams are coming to me for a reason....
The fifteen-year-old Jennifer Jones had no idea how visionary—call it wishful thinking, a self-fulfilling prophesy, creating her own reality, whatever—those dreams of her future were to become. The baby-faced, clear-skinned, attractive Texas teen, with long brown hair and a Colgate smile, had set herself on a dangerous and deadly course, indeed. She didn't know it, but in front of Jen was a carefully chosen path, which her mother, likewise, had tried to manage before her. It was one that Jen had predicted for herself years before. It occurred in tandem with a new "love" of her life—a deceivingly pretty, petite unnatural blonde blinded by the power and curse of addiction—which would end up becoming Jen's proverbial scapegoat.
IT WAS 7:30 P.M. ON MAY 5, 2004. By most accounts, it had been a quite night in Mineral Wells, Texas. Mineral Wells is a mostly white, bedroom community of about sixteen thousand, located in the northern central portion of the state pushing up toward the Oklahoma border. Fort Worth is the closest major city; Dallas and Irving are not too far east from there.
Before Rick and Kathy Cruz had telephoned the MWPD and reported what appeared to be a murder, the town had enjoyed a near-nonexistent homicide rate: Between 1999 and 2004, for example, there had been three murders. So residents killing one another was not what Mineral Wells worried all that much about. If you asked the locals, the major problems in Mineral Wells dated back to 1973, when the military installation known as Fort Wolters transferred its last remaining helicopters out of the popular base. This action began the economically devastating process of closing. At one time, Fort Wolters kept Mineral Wells bustling with plenty of military money floating around in bars and petrol stations and every other type of financial mainstay holding up a small community.
During what are often called the financial heydays of World War II, some say nearly 250,000 soldiers filed their way through the Fort Wolters Base, with another forty thousand during the Vietnam War. After that last copter and soldier left, however, Mineral Wells felt the hit immediately. All of that military money vanished seemingly overnight. Add to that the collapse of the cottage industry of the Baker Hotel, an icon in Mineral Wells since the 1940s and 1950s.
The Baker Hotel was a resort, a bona fide destination for many tourists and Hollywood celebrities and curiosity seekers from all over the world. The likes of Marilyn Monroe to FDR made visits there. Everyone came in search of some of that old "crazy water" said be tapped in Mineral Wells springs. The town had been founded on a certain type of mineral water that had sprung up and was thought to have some sort of a therapeutic value. It was said to be the cure for everything from arthritis to insanity, hence the "crazy water" name. As a result, the town became somewhat of a miracle cure destination. Everybody wanted what was in that water. The Baker Hotel, a rather huge landmark in town—now run-down and about to fall in on its own building blocks—became the go-to hot spot. There in the center of town stood a high-rise establishment with mineral baths on the top floor.
"People came from all over to soak in the baths and then profess it was a cure for anything they had," said one local. "So, back in the fifties and early sixties, this was a booming town."
Throughout that time, the economy was great; the military was rocking and rolling. The Baker Hotel became similar to a little Las Vegas, and all was copacetic in town. But then the military base closed and the bottom fell out. No sooner had that happened than the Baker Hotel imploded as well.
Excerpted from Bad Girls by M. William Phelps. Copyright © 2013 M. William Phelps. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another great true crime book by the author. Mr. Phelps has the uncanny ability to take you directly to the crime scene as if you were there. He also takes you back in time to see what makes these criminal tick and why they turned out the way they did. Sixteen pages of photos help you to learn the details of the investigation. This book my not be for everyone because of the subject matter but I highly recommend this latest offering from the best true crime author around.
Mr. Phelps is very good at what he does. I love reading his books. He gets into the lives of the persons involved and you get to know them intimately. I love that!
Though it was long an drawn out, I didnt want to put it down. I am disappointed it didnt have the pictures.
Reviewed by Denise Stern for Readers' Favorite M. William Phelps has created a true crime read with Bad Girls. This is the true story of Bobbi Jo Smith and her lover, Jennifer Jones. The two women were accused and convicted of the murder of a man in Texas. His bed-ridden mother was locked in her room during the murder. The story develops with detailed and well researched descriptions of both girls involved in the crime, as well as what may have propelled them to commit their violent act. The story involves tales of drugs, love, and twisted emotions that unfortunately resulted in a violent and gruesome death. The narrative is filled with quotes from all participants, and are included ad infinitum. Bad Girls is an interesting book, but is somewhat different than the author's previous works of true fiction. In this book, he seems to have taken the side of one of the women accused of the murder - Bobby Jo Smith. While the book leads the reader along a "she said/she said" history, it may ultimately be impossible for the reader to decide exactly which one of the girls pulled the trigger. Phelps takes quite a bit of time explaining Bobby Jo's unfortunate childhood, and was repetitive in places. However, if one can get past the relationship that was forged between the author and Bobby Jo Smith, the book certainly provides a bird's-eye view of one of the most atrocious crimes in recent Texas from the perspective of one of the accused. However, readers may have trouble sympathizing with either of the girls or their lifestyle.
As a big fan of Phelps I found this book disappointing. I have read most of his books & was enthralled but "Bad Girls" was slow & & didn't hold my interest. This does not change my fan status.
This is my 15th book ive read by Phelps, another well written book. I think there is more truth to be told, what Bobbie Jo got was more than deserved ( my opinion ) !
I wrap my arms around your waist and rest my head on your chest
WOW! i LIVED ONLY 3 HOUSES DOWN FROM WHERE ALL OF THIS HAPPENED AND WAS ACTUALLY AT HOME WHEN A KNOCK ON MY DOOR IN THE EARLY HOURS OF THE MORNING ON MY DOOR OF A FRANTIC 14 YR OLD GIRL THAT WAS ACTUALLY THERE...THE HOUSE HAS SINCE BEEN TORN DOWN AND IM STILL HERE