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A Perversion of JusticeA Southern Tragedy of Murder, Lies and Innocence Betrayed
By Medico, Kathryn
Avon BooksISBN: 0060549297
Brandon Beecher's training at the Santa Rosa Fire Academy had taught him that every house fire held potential victims, even if neighbors insisted that no one was home. For Beecher, the searching procedure never changed.
After all, neighbors had been wrong before. In a fire several years back, Beecher rescued a teenager in a "vacant" house. The runaway had found a safe place to hide, and in trying to keep warm, accidently set the house on fire and became trapped. Beecher found the frightened girl huddling in a corner, surrounded by flames, and he guided her outside to safety.
Now, in the early morning hours of November 26, 2001, Beecher entered Terry King's burning home and calmly began his routine search for victims. He was "patting" the sofa when his hand hit an object resting on the arm of the couch. Unable to see in the dark, smoky room, he gingerly groped what his hand had bumped, and an icy chill ran up his spine. He was grasping a human foot.
He jerked his hand away and then raised his heavy flashlight. Its beam fell on a gruesome sight. Terry King seemed relaxed, sitting in a chair with his hands folded across his stomach, a coffee cup next to his leg. Even the expression on the small man's face was serene and would have appeared normal except the right side of his forehead had a fist-sized hole in it. Blood had flowed down King's face, drying in streaks. The heavy smoke clung to his wounds and blackened the blood, warping the forty-year-old's features like some gruesome Halloween mask. Stifling an urge to scream, Beecher took a deep breath, pushed the button on his radio and shakily reported his finding.
It was obvious to Beecher that Terry King's injuries had nothing to do with the fire, and he had a very disturbing thought: If the dad was in this condition, what did the children look like?
Although the fire burned forty percent of the house, what remained still held clues as to what happened on that mysterious evening of November 25. After the last flames in the back bedrooms were doused, firefighters began venting the enormous accumulation of black smoke. As the cloud cleared they saw the signs of a house with children. Toys were left where small hands had dropped them, piles of kids' laundry were not yet put away. There were boxes of Christmas decorations lying open -- ornaments waiting for hooks, an angel ready to ascend to the top of a tree. Strings of lights were being untangled to hang outside the humble home, all in preparation for a Christmas celebration that would never come.
The firefighters found no sign of the young boys Ed Harris had reported were home that night. Relieved there were no more bodies, their spirits lifted a bit.
"Missing children sure beat dead ones," someone commented.
At first the firefighters thought Terry King had been shot in the head. Broken bone fragments framed the gaping hole, looking like the damage left behind in the wake of a bullet, but they could find no entry wound. Behind the chair where Terry sat was a floor lamp. Blood was splattered on the lampshade, the walls, and the ceiling.
In strange contrast to the violent head wound, Terry's last moments of life appeared to have been very peaceful. His hands were folded in his lap and a full cup of coffee rested between his leg and the chair. His moccasin-clad feet were propped up on the arm of his couch as though he had fallen asleep watching his favorite television show. But Terry King didn't own a television. He didn't want his boys exposed to too much violence.Continues...
Excerpted from A Perversion of Justice by Medico, Kathryn Excerpted by permission.
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