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The Kansas Murders of Serial Killer Richard Grissom
By Dan Mitrione
Addicus Books, Inc.Copyright © 1995 Dan Mitrione
All rights reserved.
For most of the evening of June 6, 1989, Terri Maness, clipboard in hand, made her way door to door, canvassing the residents of her town house complex on East Lanston in Wichita, Kansas. The air was cool, a welcome reprieve from the scorching daytime temperatures already invading south-central Kansas two weeks before the beginning of summer. Terri wore a light, summer dress, a bright, flower print reflective of her warm, spirited character. An energetic young woman, in her mid-twenties, she stood around five-feet-five inches, and had thick, curly brown hair, wide, brown eyes and a well-proportioned figure.
Terri covered the complex systematically, as if on a mission. She had purchased her own town home in the complex just three months before and already had been appointed secretary of the town house association. The trash-collection rates had reached an unacceptable high, and Terri was circulating a petition to get them lowered.
Terri had little trouble collecting her fair share of signatures for the evening. She returned home to finish a few other association projects. It was after 10:30 P.M. when she finally put aside her paperwork and got ready for bed. Having slipped into a favorite nightshirt, Terri headed from her second-floor bedroom back down to the main floor to turn out the living room lights. When she heard a car door slamming, she moved the curtain back a few inches and caught sight of her next-door neighbor, Wichita Police Officer J. C. Stevenson, as he stepped out of his pickup truck. Terri had twice tried to reach J.C. at home much earlier that evening before ending her signature drive. Both attempts had failed to catch the hard-to-track police officer. Right then was as good a time as any to get his signature, she reasoned. Terri gathered up her clipboard full of signatures and ran out the front door before J.C. could get inside.
J.C. Stevenson, a twenty-year veteran of the Wichita Police Department, was a good, responsible cop who made time for other people when they needed him. He stood an inch shy of six feet and his 180-pound frame showed that he kept himself in pretty good shape. The veteran cop had not known Terri long, but in the few short months since her arrival at the complex, he'd enjoyed having her as a neighbor. And Terri, like others at the complex, certainly felt more secure having a police officer living close by.
It was just after 11:15 P.M. when Terri said good night to J.C. He had willingly signed her petition, watched as Terri returned safely to her home and closed her door. The officer would see Terri just one more time. The circumstances would be immeasurably different, and the encounter would significantly alter his life.
By 9:30 the next morning the law offices of former District Judge Paul Thomas in downtown Wichita were a buzz of routine activity. In addition to Paul Thomas, the office was staffed with two other attorneys and seven secretaries, including Terri Maness. Everyone in the law firm appreciated Terri's dependability, as well as her upbeat personality. Of the secretarial staff, Terri was the one who nicknamed her typewriter and computer and adorned them with happy-face stickers.
In spite of the hustle and rush of the day's early preparations, a couple of Terri's co-workers noticed she had not arrived for work. Terri was always one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. Her co-workers automatically assumed that she had called someone else in the office to explain her tardiness. It would have been inconceivable that Terri had not called. A doctor's appointment, car trouble, a personal errand that couldn't wait, Terri always called to let someone know.
Later that morning, another of the office secretaries, having finally asked her co-workers which one of them had heard from Terri, became alarmed to find no one had. The young woman immediately dialed Terri's home phone number. After several rings, no one answered and, to her surprise, Terri's answering machine did not intercept the call. She tried again but heard only the repetitious rings from the other end of the line. She next dialed Terri's parents, Bonnie and Gene Maness, who lived in Augusta, a small, Kansas community located about twenty minutes north of Wichita.
No, announced Bonnie Maness, they had not heard from Terri and thought it surprising that Terri had not gone to work or called someone there to explain why. Bonnie Maness knew that if her daughter was sick or something was wrong, she would call home to tell them. It was an agreement they had. Terri always called. Bonnie Maness was worried now. Still, she thanked Terri's friend for the call and asked that he please have Terri call home as soon as anyone heard from her.
Hanging up the phone, Bonnie Maness paced the floor, uncertain about what she should do next or how much time was considered a "reasonable" period to wait before taking steps to locate Terri. She and her husband both knew just how uncharacteristic it was for Terri not to show for work without calling someone. Their daughter had been steadily employed since moving out on her own several years before, and Terri had never failed to show for work. The Manesses were also realists. They knew the police and most other people would not consider a single morning long enough to declare someone missing or, for that matter, be concerned.
At the risk of overreacting, Bonnie Maness called the Wichita Police Department. She was not calling to file a missing persons complaint, but to talk to her daughter's neighbor, Officer J.C. Stevenson. Learning that Stevenson had taken the day off, she dialed his home and was grateful for the sound of his voice when he answered. Bonnie knew he could help. Trying to remain as calm as possible, she expressed her concerns to J.C. and asked if he would go next door to see if Terri was home and if so, if she was OK. J.C. agreed and promised he'd call back as soon as he'd checked.
Fifteen minutes passed before Bonnie Maness picked up the phone and once again heard J.C. Stevenson's voice. No, he told Terri's mom, Terri was not at home. No one had answered her door and, more important, her car was not parked in its usual spot in front of her unit. He told Bonnie that he left a note on Terri's front door, asking that she call her parents as soon as she arrived home.
J.C. had seen this situation before, played out between a host of parents and their suddenly unpredictable children. But he also knew Terri, and he could sense the anxiety in her mother's voice. J.C. made a concerted effort to reassure Bonnie that everything would be OK. He told her about having seen Terri late the night before when she came after him for his signature. He tried to assure her that Terri was probably out taking care of an errand or an appointment. "After all," J.C. said, "her car is not out front. She must have driven it somewhere this morning."
"I'm sure you're right," Bonnie replied. "It's probably nothing more than a miscommunication. We'll just sit and wait for her to call us." She thanked the officer for his help but could not shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Terri's parents knew their daughter like no one else. They doubted she had gone off to some mysterious appointment. If Terri had to be someplace besides work, she would have made certain someone knew where she was. Bonnie and Gene struggled to believe that everything was all right, but parental intuition was getting the best of them. They sat together by the phone with foreboding anticipation.
By 2:00 that afternoon, Bonnie Maness could not wait a moment longer. Hours had passed with no word from Terri. She again called J.C. Stevenson at home. Far too concerned to be apologetic, Bonnie asked J.C. to once again check Terri's town house for any sign of her return. The officer told Bonnie that he would take another look next door, but added that Terri's car was still not in the parking lot. Still, J.C. asked Bonnie to wait on the line while he ran to see if the note he had left was still on the door. It was, and within minutes he returned to tell Bonnie that nothing had changed.
"J. C., this is Terri's father and we really need you to help us out here," said Gene Maness breaking into the conversation from an extension phone. "We want you to go into Terri's house and have a look around. You have our permission to go in, whatever it takes, and see if she's there. Something is wrong, J.C.," continued Gene Maness, his voice cracking in distress. "We just know it. This is not like Terri, and I think you know that. Please do this for us," Gene Maness asked.
J.C. told the Manesses he would help; if they authorized his entry, he would be willing to go inside and have a look around. He could feel their anxiety building by the minute, and he knew he had to help them. Before hanging up he agreed to call them as soon as he had finished. That call would be delayed. Nothing in his training, nothing in his twenty years of police experience would prepare him for what he would confront inside the town house next door.
Approaching the front of Terri's house, J.C. glanced once again at the note taped to the front door. Instinctively, he tried the lock a third time. He rang the doorbell repeatedly before going around to the rear of the unit. He approached the sliding glass door that separated Terri's kitchen from her concrete patio. It too was locked, but J.C. knew how to maneuver the door off its track. Sliding it back just far enough to gain entry, he slipped inside the kitchen and began calling out Terri's name even though he was convinced she was not at home. He continued calling her name as he walked through the dining room and into the living room at the front of the house.
J.C. had been inside Terri's house a few times before and from what he recalled of the living area, nothing seemed out of place. He worked his way upstairs to the bedrooms where he was careful to check inside closets and under beds. He felt a bit uneasy about looking in every nook and cranny of his neighbor's house but reasoned that he needed to tell Terri's parents that he checked everywhere.
Returning to the main floor, J.C. nearly left without checking the downstairs laundry and recreation rooms. He was already uncomfortable and felt certain that Terri would come home while he was looking around. Again, he remembered the promise of a complete search made to Terri's parents and proceeded to the lower level.
Stepping from the stairs into the recreation room, the veteran officer was shocked to an abrupt halt. His eyes widened, his breathing stopped. He remained motionless, frozen by what he saw. When he moved, it was backward, falling against the landing. As he hit his head, he gasped for breath and locked his palms against the wall to keep from falling. NO, NO, NOT THIS! his mind screamed. He closed his eyes, trying to convince himself that the scene before him was not real. Terri had been brutally murdered.
He clutched his stomach, knowing he was very close to becoming sick. He thought about leaving, about going back outside, if only long enough to catch his breath and regain his senses. He wondered for a moment whether he could muster the courage to come back if he left. He fought the urge and remained in the room making every effort to control his breathing and remain calm.
J.C. took several deep breaths and stood as erect as his legs would permit. He began talking to himself, convincing himself that right then, more than ever, he needed to be a cop, a good, strong, thinking cop. J.C. wanted nothing to do with the horrific crime scene before him, but knew that its preservation depended on his professional, common-sense approach.
Bracing himself, and with slow, rigid steps, he made his way to the center of the room. He stopped when he found himself standing directly over the lifeless body of young Terri Maness. He could feel his heart try to beat its way out of his chest as he searched for a "clean" area within which he could squat close to the body.
Terri's body was colorless. It was apparent she had been dead for several hours, but J.C. nevertheless felt for a pulse. Part of him remained unable to accept the finality of the horrid scene. Squatting next to the body, J.C. turned his focus to a note, a piece of paper with several lines of scribbled writing apparently left behind by Terri's killer. The note rested on top of her nude, bloodstained body. He noticed that the first few lines of the note were a rash of obscenities. He suddenly stopped reading. For the moment he could not read on. The officer remained totally overwhelmed by the complexity of the picture in front of him. Multiple stab wounds covered Terri's body, and her blood, which just hours before coursed through her body, now saturated the carpet in a dark red pool beneath her.
J.C. stood to allow the circulation to return to his legs. He tried hard to make sense of it all as he stared blankly into the contrasting whiteness of a far wall. Something very abstract and vague was now calling for his mind to focus, to make the leap, to adjust to what was really in that room. The veteran cop had felt for years there was little on the streets that could shock him. His lengthy career had taught him that anything was possible. But not this, he thought to himself. Not Terri! He again tried to focus. Why this? Why Terri?
J.C. backed away from Terri's lifeless body and looked around the room. He could sense the anger and the hatred that had invaded this young woman's life just hours before. Somehow those emotions still saturated the room like a sickening odor. Whoever did this, he thought, was an angry, hateful person. Why? Why Terri? How could so much anger be suddenly thrust upon this happy, young woman? Terri simply could not have had this kind of enemy in her life.
The police officer gathered himself. He understood that the job of finding out what happened was just beginning. He needed to get out of the room and make the necessary calls. Thinking ahead about the crime scene, which potentially included the entire town house, J.C. returned to his own house to make his calls.
First, he called 911, identified himself and reported the crime for an immediate response by an on-duty police unit. Next, he contacted his superiors. J.C. knew his department would be pulling out the big guns for this murder. In less than ten minutes, a battery of cops and crime scene experts, including the county medical examiner, would begin invading the house next door. They would pick it apart methodically from top to bottom. The house where Terri had lived, the rooms that once held her warmth, and the walls that reflected her spirited, peaceful presence soon would be wiped clean of her distinct personality.
His calls made, J.C. prepared himself to return next door and wait. Just then, he remembered Bonnie and Gene Maness. My God, he thought. Terri's parents are waiting for my call. They begged me to see if everything was OK. Jesus! J.C. thought, things are as far as they can get from OK. The officer searched his mind for a way around the inevitable, what he knew was his responsibility. He toyed with the idea of waiting until the crime scene was secure and getting someone else to officially notify the Manesses. He knew deep inside, however, that he couldn't do that. They had been waiting for him, counting on him. He had to make the call himself. J.C. knew the Manesses lived twenty miles away. It would take them awhile to get here. It would be ample time for the police to secure the area and control the crime scene. He did not want Terri's parents to see their daughter the way he found her. He would not have them forced into remembering that horrid scene for the rest of their lives. They would have their share of demons to confront without seeing Terri's body.
When Gene Maness answered the phone, J.C. could not bring himself to reveal the true details about what he found. He would not tell them over the phone what happened. It would be better if they were around other people when they found out, he reasoned. He simply asked Gene if he and Bonnie could meet him at Terri's house as soon as possible. Silence followed. Gene asked no questions. J.C. knew it had been well over forty minutes since they had asked him to check Terri's house. It was time enough for the Manesses to conclude that something was terribly wrong. J.C., fighting back tears, said good-bye to Gene and returned next door to wait.
Excerpted from Suddenly Gone by Dan Mitrione. Copyright © 1995 Dan Mitrione. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
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