U.S. Copyright #1-4992347791
We all know at least one cop so I challenge you to try this little test. Ask your cop friend to tell you about his/her biggest case ever.
“Well, I was on duty one day and I got a call on my police radio.” Or, “I saw something going down and I responded, took action and caught this bad guy who had kidnapped a woman and stuffed her into his car trunk. As I approached his car, I could hear her screaming. He was arrested and I solved a bunch of cases”. Or it will be a big drug bust…or a Bank Robbery…or a shootout.
Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
Question: What is the worst thing any judicial system anywhere in the world can do to a person? Think before you read my answer below.
Now read my true story and see if you can answer the above question.
She was a pretty little thang. She had long, blonde hair and a petite little body. She dropped out of high school when she became pregnant by her older boyfriend, a professional over the road truck driver. When her second son was born, the boyfriend landed a new job driving produce from the Rio Grande Valley to New York. He said he would be back in four days. He was never seen or heard from again by his little girlfriend and their two baby boys named Darrel and Russell Crider.
Momma did the best she could. She paid the rent for the old house trailer where they lived behind the truck stop located on I-40 in the middle of Nowhereville, Oklahoma. She was barely making it by waiting tables in the truck stop 24-hour diner.
Darrel, the older, told me it may have started earlier in their childhood but he just wasn’t sure. So he started his life story, or where his life was changed forever, on a summer night in his trailer house bedroom. He recalled it was sometime in the middle of the night. He and Russell were in bed, each sleeping in a small single bed on opposite sides of the tiny trailer house bedroom they shared.
He had been sleeping soundly when he awoke to the sounds of his little brother crying. At first, he thought it was just another bad dream. But then his mind cleared. He rolled over on his side. As he focused his eyes and looked across the dark room, the only light was that of a half-moon shining through the dirty, homemade, sheer window curtains. He first saw movement on Russell’s bed. At the same moment, he heard the distinct squeaking of the old bed springs of Russell’s bed. Each night Russell would wake Darrel when he rolled over to re-position in his bed. The rusty springs sang out loudly and gave a clear indication of the slightest movement. Russell continued to cry out in somewhat of a rhythm that matched the movement and the singing bed springs. Then Darrel realized the horrible truth of these sounds and cries. The new boyfriend their Mom had allowed to move in a couple of weeks earlier was in bed with Russell and was raping Russell savagely. The pounding, crying and springs singing burned deep into Darrel’s memory that night. At age 10, Darrel was just too young and too small to fight this man off his little brother. It hurt Darrel deeply. All he could do was pray that one day when he was a man, he would make this man pay for the hurt he was causing these two innocent little boys.
The nightly rapes became routine. Each night as soon as Mom left for the truck stop dinner shift, Darrel and Russell were tortured by this sick bully in every way known to man.
After a year of this, Darrel and Russell discussed killing the boyfriend or running away from home. At ages 11 and 9, and without the size, strength and courage, they chose to run away from home rather than kill this animal.
Not surprising, they ran away from home by walking down the road to the truck stop. They planned to hitchhike across America and never be attacked by this cruel animal again. Sure, they would miss Mom. Once they found a place of their own, they would call her. They would let her know they were doing good and were safe and working.
It took a while as they went from big rig to big rig parked in the rear of the old truck stop before a door opened to their timid knocks. They were allowed to climb aboard and take a seat in the cab.
At first the driver was nice. Yes, he would be happy to give them a ride to Tulsa some 100 or so miles away. The excitement of sitting high in the big rig looking down on the world as they listened to the big diesel exhaust stacks rumble was quite soothing. Each mile of distance placed between them and the animal gave them more comfort.
They grinned at one another after the truck rambled through Tulsa, heading on to Oklahoma City. After a few hours, the excitement and adrenalin wore off. As their eyes grew heavy, their rescuer instructed them to crawl into the big sleeper king-size bed in the back of the truck cab for a nap. It seemed like days had gone by when Darrel awoke in the dark, strange bed of the truck. He soon felt the pain in his rear as the big burly driver pounded him from behind. Once again, he and Russell were being raped viciously by a mean truck driver. Now this truck driver was even worse. He threatened to kill the boys if they tried to escape. They became sex slaves to this truck driver who forever lived on the road, did not seem to have a friend or any family on earth. He soon pimped the brothers out to other perverted truck drivers. He used his C.B. Radio to speak a strange language that only the truckers seemed to understand. The truck would soon pull over to a new rest stop behind another big rig. The new truck driver would walk up and take Russell to his truck sleeper with him. An hour or so would go by before he reappeared. Always Russell had tears flowing down his cheeks as he was pulled forcibly back into the truck and it was then Darrel’s turn.
This went on for years. Sex slaves. Sold from trucker to trucker.
Finally, at around 14 years of age, Darrel and Russell were big boys. They had seen it all. They were numb and feared nothing. They hated gay truck drivers and went to sleep each night praying for the day when they were big and strong enough to pay them all back.
The day came when Darrel decided to slit the throat of their captor. The driver was asleep in bed with both boys. The knife he kept in his boot was slipped out by Darrel without alarm. Darrel held the knife in his right hand as he eased up on top of the driver and straddled his chest. The razor edge was sternly pressing against the driver’s throat. Darrel spoke the driver’s name awaking him from his peaceful slumber. Darrel wanted this animal to know he was dying at Darrel’s hand. The last thing on earth the driver felt was the severe pain as his neck was being sliced open and his blood was streaming out his life. Darrel wanted the man to know full well who was killing him.
It was so easy. It was so fast. It did not last long enough for Darrel. He made up his mind next time the killing would take much longer.
The good news was that both boys had been forced to learn to drive the big rigs. At first it was like a rolling horror show. Darrel or Russell would be getting raped in the sleeper while the other brother drove in order to keep the truck delivery on schedule.
With the ability to drive, use the company credit card to fill the big fuel tanks and go where ever they wanted, they drove for a couple days with the body in the sleeper. Soon the body began to smell. They buried him in the sandy desert of Arizona where they would never find him again, even if they wanted.
They knew it was only a matter of time before they would be caught using the victim’s credit cards for food and other expenses. They dumped all of their evidence and abandoned the truck in the back row of the next truck stop.
Soon after they were once again in the cab of another gay trucker, in a different truck, heading in a new direction.
Now they were street smart. They were both big and strong boys by their appearance. Under the surface of these two pimple, baby faced boys were the hearts of hardened men. Inside they were grown men. Men with powerful desires to kill and rob every gay man they would meet. They learned the secret language that only gay people recognize in crowded public spaces and on the airways of the citizen band radios. They began their mission in life. They needed food, clothing, shelter and transportation. More than these, they needed to inflect pain and suffering onto as many gay men as possible. They robbed every gay man they encountered. They did not always hurt or kill them. They blackmailed many. Often they would tell the man if he called the cops, they would give statements that he picked them up and raped them. They threatened to call the drivers’ homes or company headquarters and tell them of the drivers’ gay exploits.
Years and many miles later, Darrel and Russell arrive in Shreveport, Louisiana. Their gay world knowledge had grown to a master’s degree level. They learned that many rough and tumble biker dudes who rode big nasty Harleys were in fact, gay guys. Most had become gay or bisexual during the years they spent in jail or prison. They inked up with crude jailhouse tattoos. They pumped lots of iron and became muscle bound monsters. They loved women but due to the many years of male on male jailhouse sex, they often slipped into bed with men. Sure, in the bars they would act big and bad. But due to the years of being gay in jail they also learned the gay language. In a crowded bar filled with bad ass biker gangs, there was always a gay guy or Bi-dude to play with. So, Darrel and Russell expanded their life’s mission of pay back to include big, bad, gay biker dudes. After asking around town where the badest biker bar in Shreveport was located, they walked into the place near the river front. An old steamboat hardware store back in the 1800’s was now a two-story, bad ass biker bar. Downstairs were parked the typical Harleys. Inside were the biker gang members and wannabes hanging around the smoke filled downstairs bar. Wife beater black tee shirts, jail ink, guns and knives in boots and back pocket, skanky meth head biker bitch whores and several big badass bi-dudes filled the place.
It did not take the Crider brothers long to pick out a couple of the gay dudes by the way eye contact was made. The words, no matter how seemingly mean or tough, were giving off the secret gay language. The big man behind the bar who appeared to either own or run the bar was clearly bisexual. He spoke the language and sent enough subtle signals to the Criders that he wanted to play with them this night. The afternoon turned into night and after hours of knocking down free drinks from the in-gay-heat bartender, the doors were finally locked. Darrel and Russell were asked not to leave and just chill with their new friend a while longer after everyone else had gone.
After a few more drinks and a little smoke, the bartender became horny. He invited the boys upstairs to his apartment for a little more fun.
They agreed and once upstairs wasted no time in killing the guy, taking all the cash and jewelry they could find and left the scene.
Unfortunately, the little car their Aunt from Missouri loaned them weeks earlier for a trip to the grocery store was no longer parked in the private parking lot next door. They soon learned since they had spent most of the day in the bar next door and did not pay to park, their car had been towed.
It took them one more day of staying in Shreveport, worried sick as they waited for the wrecker company holding their car to open up and allow them to pay the fee to get back on the road again.
When the owner of the bar learned the next night that the bartender had not opened his bar on time, he went there to see what was wrong. The murder was discovered and the Shreveport Police responded. Homicide detective Gary Alderman was in his eighth year as a detective. He was a Vietnam vet and a seasoned murder investigator. It took him a couple days working alone as he so often did to find the lead of the Crider car that had been towed about the time of the murder.
Gary learned that the aunt still did not have her car back from her sister’s boys, Darrel and Russell Crider. She was now ready to file a report of it being stolen. Gary learned their DOB’s and they were now ages 19 and 17. In Louisiana, both were legally considered adults. Gary dug deeper and learned when they were 16 and 15, still juveniles, they had been arrested for fighting. They had been finger printed and released back to their Aunt pending court. They fled the state for several years and never faced the court.
Alderman quickly obtained copies of their arrest finger print cards and had the crime scene techs compare them to those suspected as being the murderers’ prints. A match to Russell was made and Alderman obtained murder arrest warrants for the two boys. Soon a nationwide broadcast was made. Within a week the boys were sitting in the Shreveport Police Jailhouse.
I worked homicide investigations on night shift when this case was being investigated by Gary. One evening as I reported to work, I was greeted by Alderman and asked to join him in interviewing these two boys he had in jail on murder charges. Gary and I had hired onto the department at the same time. We went to the academy in the same class. When we hit the streets as uniform cops we rode the same ghetto beat. We worked well together as street cops and we continued to team up whenever possible as detectives.
Most of the men in homicide investigations during this time were very good at what they did. Many high-profile murder cases had been solved by S.P.D. detectives. S.P.D. was known throughout the U.S. as being a highly professional department. One of the main reasons for our respected ranking was due to Captains Hood and Taylor. These two great men worked hand in hand with homicide detectives as crime scene technicians. Somehow, they discovered a perfect method of categorizing and using palm prints. Before this discovery, all law enforcement agencies only used finger prints. Soon the Hood and Taylor palm printing and classifying techniques swept across the U.S., F.B.I., Europe including Scotland Yard and the rest of the world law enforcement agencies. Experts traveled from all over the world to Shreveport to meet Hood and Taylor and study their inventions.
Part of the reason Alderman wanted me to team with him was due to our history. Another reason I was asked to assist him in his case was because of my reputation as being an outstanding interrogator. My track record of gaining detailed confessions was well known within the rank and file of our department and most area cop shops. Gary, like most investigators, wanted to hand the D.A.’s office an airtight case, one with recorded and transcribed confessions as often as possible. Though Gary’s case without the confessions was very strong, it was still lacking this vital component.
I was raised in a dysfunctional childhood of foster homes and I too had an older brother by 18 months. We joined the Marines together in 1969 and to this day are called Irish twins. We love one another dearly and will do anything for the other. I took this knowledge into the room with me when we selected to talk with Darrel first, as the older and protective big brother. Regardless of education and limited verbal communication skills of suspects, I always approach them with the utmost respect. Simple to say it this way. These men may not be educated but never confuse a lack of education with a lack of intelligence. As a matter of fact, Darrel and Russell were smarter and more intelligent than most street cops and detectives on our department then and now.
It took a full day of talking to Darrel before I gained his trust and respect to learn the complete truth. The only times he ever lied was when he was forced to do so in order to take the blame for crimes and things his younger brother did. We danced so to speak for several days in the interrogation rooms of the city jail in Shreveport.
In the end Darrel and Russell confessed on a recorder of 17 unsolved murders across the U.S.A. One case was about a trucker in Arizona. A gay trucker picked them up on the highway. They killed him and dumped his body beneath a bridge at the top of the slope out of sight. The body was wrapped tightly in a blue truck tarp and stuffed tightly into the wedge of the hill and bridge so wildlife could not damage the body. We called the police agency somewhere near Scottsdale and told them to look on highway 40 a certain distance from Scottsdale. In a couple of days we were called back and told they found the body.
This man had been listed only as a missing person. His abandoned truck was found at a truck stop but no sign of foul play.
During this time, Alderman and I were writing news release statements for our Chief of police and Chief of investigations daily. It seemed each day we learned of a new unsolved or unreported Crider brothers’ murder somewhere in the country. Our District Attorney wanted us to transport the Criders to the State Court house for formal charging. We did and quickly returned them back to our city jail to continue solving multiple murders.
Gary and I were not ass kissers within our division. More often we were shorted because we did not kiss butt and had to fight for overtime pay or at least comp time for overtime we worked.
But during the weeks we solved serial murder cases across the U.S., we were treated with respect and admiration by our supervisors and most of our equals in rank. This lasted until the news cycles were exhausted.
By the time Darrel and Russell had confessed to 17 unsolved murders in America, my head was spinning. It was all running together in my mind. I had days of reports to type, days of transcribed statements to review and sign off. We were in demand on the phone. Days went by when we felt as though we had not accomplished anything. News media hounded us at work for statements, even followed us home a time or two. Gary and I became frazzled, exhausted and we had many miles ahead of us to travel in these cases. The D.A. wanted the entire media spot light yanked away from our front office to his. Daily there were childish spats between our department and the D.A.’s office.
Gary and I tried to finish these cases and go home as we were burning out!
Late one afternoon, Gary and I called a department in Cartersville, Florida to tell them of a murder Darrel and Russell had confessed to in their city.
I was sitting back in my chair across the desk from Gary as he dialed the number to their homicide division. Gary placed his phone on speaker so I could listen and speak as well.
I will never forget the guy named Lt. Crow. He took the call and listened to Gary give details of the bar located near the beach, a gay biker bar, with an upstairs apartment where the bartender lived and had been murdered.
Crow listened to Gary describe the murders Darrel and Russell were confessing to across the country. Gary and I were born and raised in Shreveport and have the distinct Southern accent. When Gary finished talking, Crow responded in a mocking southern accented explanation. It was clear to me that Crow was raised somewhere in the New England area or was at least first generation Yankee to live in Cartersville, Florida.
I was caught off guard and so was Gary when we listened to Crow say, “We done solved all our murders down here in Floooorrr rid—-daaaaaa. Seems to me those boys is blowing smoke up your asses, cause we ain’t got no murders down here like that.” Crow really poured on the slow, weed sucking, redneck southern accent as best he could. This direct insult carried many levels as Gary and I felt we had been slapped across the face by a rude Yankee. Gary quickly ended the call after telling Crow we would go question the Criders about the Florida murder once again to be sure. Crow stated, “Yeah, yawl be sure to do that. I’m sure you’ll get it all straightened out there in Louise…..eeeeee….ann..nah!” Gary hung up and slammed the phone down so hard the entire office shook.
Though it was late in the day for us and we were both dragging, the call to Crow and his rude insults fired us up and energized us to the max. We took our recorder, previous notes on this murder and headed back to the city jail to question both boys again.
The two detailed statements were identical. Gary and I were completely convinced of the murder in Cartersville regardless of what Crow was saying.
A smile suddenly came across Gary’s face as he opened his phone book and scrolled. He said, “Time to take a different approach with Crow.”
Gary had called a well-known Shreveport Times newspaper police reporter. He asked if the Gannett News Agency also owned the paper in Cartersville, Florida. I watched Gary write the name and number of a reporter in Cartersville. Soon Gary was on the phone with him laying out the details of the confession of murder by Darrel and Russell. He told the reporter Crow announced his department did not have any unsolved murders on the books.
A couple of days went by before Gary heard from the reporter in Florida. Gary flipped the call to speaker so I could hear. “Yes”, said the reporter, “There was a bar murder like the one you are talking about. Yes, bartender murdered in his upstairs bedroom about a year ago. The cops here arrested a guy and charged him with murder. This case is pending in state court. Looks like the guy is going down hard and will face the electric chair if convicted.”
Gary asked the reporter for the name of the guy arrested and if any of their reports listed a lawyer for him. The call was ended and Gary quickly dialed the lawyer in Florida.
Again, the call was on speaker. Gary told the attorney I was present and that he was on the speaker. Gary told him about Darrel and Russell confessing to murders all over the country. He told him about the one they confessed to in Cartersville. The lawyer could not hold back his excitement when Gary started providing details about the murder. The lawyer kept saying, “That is our case here! I knew they arrested the wrong guy.”
This lawyer had been appointed by the court to defend the only person arrested in the case. The lawyer said he claimed his innocence like everyone he had represented in court but this guy seemed truly convincing. However the evidence Crow and his partner had against the accused was insurmountable.
The longer we talked to the lawyer in Florida, the more we realized that Darrel and Russell had murdered the guy. Lt. Crow and partner had apparently arrested the wrong guy. We learned that the case had been turned over to the local State Attorney for prosecution. The case had been presented before a Grand Jury and a true bill had been returned. The accused had in fact been indicted. Several preliminary motions had been presented in court and the case was proceeding right along. It was soon scheduled to be called to court for a jury trial. The charge of first degree murder with a death sentence option was just around the corner for the man currently in jail, thanks to Crow and his partner.
The lawyer advised a retired homicide detective was working for him as a private investigator. He would fly the former cop to Shreveport to interview Darrel and Russell if Gary and I would allow it. We did not hesitate to agree to allowing the private detective to come to our jail to interview our two suspects.
The next morning, we picked up the private investigator at the airport and drove him to headquarters. Soon he was in the interview room taking a detailed recorded statement from Darrel and a second statement from Russell about the murder they committed in Cartersville.
By the time both confessions had been recorded, it was noon and time for lunch. We loaded up in our unmarked unit and went to a great place that served Southern style home cooking.
Over lunch we learned the statements obtained by the private investigator would clear the innocent man. His release would happen within hours once the detective returned to Florida.
The next day we were called by the lawyer representing the innocent man. He and his detective called for an emergency hearing in the state court. They played the two confessions of Darrel and Russell. When the judge reviewed the facts and considered the new evidence, he ordered an injunction on the case. The innocent man was released from jail then and there. Gary and I knew it would not be long before Crow called.
Within an hour after the major news announcement on the steps of the Florida state courthouse by the lawyer, Crow called and asked for me.
I concealed the smirk I had on my face as he stammered and stumbled in his speech. He announced he and his partner, who I will refer to as a dick head, would be in Shreveport the next morning on the first flight. I offered to pick them up. Crow declined. I offered to leave a detective unit at the airport with the keys at the security office for their use. Crow declined saying they would rent a car.
I asked if they needed a hotel room. He said they were going to land at 8:00 a.m. and depart at 4:00 p.m. They would not be staying overnight.
I hung up with a big grin on my face and gave Gary a big high five. I told him what Crow said. We had a good laugh as we locked up our office for the day and headed home with a great sense of accomplishment.
At 8:30 the next morning, Crow and Dick head strolled into our homicide division office. Gary and I were in the lobby area waiting for them. Crow walked with his head held high. Actually too high in my opinion based on the facts as I knew them. He was cocky and still arrogant when I offered him my hand to shake. Gary stepped forward. I soon realized these two men both stood around 6’3” and were on the verge of a fistfight. I quickly placed my 180 and 5’8” body between them and shoved them apart. We moved into our conference room to have our first face to face conversation. Just as I was about to pull out a chair to sit, Crow asked if we could introduce him and dick head to our Chief of Police.
We were caught off guard but did as requested. I knocked on the Chief’s office door and asked if he could spare a minute to meet the detectives from Florida. Since the Chief had been getting national press daily thanks to Gary and me, he said sure.
We all started to take seats in the nice big office. Crow asked the chief to meet privately with him and dick head.
The chief looked at Gary and me with a puzzled expression but agreed.
Moments later the door to his office opened and the Chief invited Gary and me back into his office.
The Chief’s face was slightly red. Knowing him quite well, I realized he was now angry.
He said, “Seems you two have just had a formal complaint filed against you by the Chief of Police with the city of Cartersville, Florida for interfering in a murder investigation on a pending court case. Since it is formal, I have no choice but to launch an internal affairs investigation on you two.”
We marched out of that office with the same confidence we had before, knowing Darrel and Russell were the real murderers. But for Crow, Dick Head and their Chief to file an official complaint against us for doing our job? For trying to help these arrogant assess?
Now I’m mad! Gary is ready to kick some major ass!
We went to our offices and checked in our hand guns. We escorted these two pricks into our jail and allowed them to first interview Darrel.
As we were leaving, I noticed neither Crow nor Dick Head had a recorder in hand.
I asked if they had one or if they wanted me to loan them one. Crow smiled and seemed happy now that he had filed the formal complaint against us. He said, “No I have a recorder but I don’t need it right now.”
I could tell by the body language and facial expressions that he and Dick Head still believed they had arrested the real murderer back in Florida. The interview with Darrel and his brother was only going to take a few minutes to confirm this to them.
As Crow and his partner were escorted into the small interview room with the large picture window, Gary smiled at me knowing they were about to be seriously disappointed. Gary and I took a seat on the bar stools behind the booking desk. I sipped a cup of coffee and we waited for the show to begin. I must confess…we were loving this!
We sat 15 feet from the interview room so had great spots to observe. Darrel was brought in wearing his oversized bright orange overalls and met Crow and Dick Head.
After many years of reading the rights to arrestees and knowing the routine, we were able to watch the body language. We were unable to hear the conversations but knew exactly what was being said.
Crow was to our left and we could see his profile. Darrel sat directly facing the window and us. Dick head sat to the right facing Crow.
Crow was definitely in charge. He continued to hold his head high, nose in the air as he looked down at Darrel Crider.
“I’m Crow and this is Dick Head. We are from Cartersville. We are homicide detectives. We hear you and your brother say you killed a man at a bar in our city. Is that right?”
Crow cocked his head back and folded his big arms across his chest. He looked down on Darrel waiting for him to start squirming out his fabricated story.
Darrel must have said, “Yes sir. We did kill the guy in the bar and we want to confess.”
Crow faked a serious expression on his face. He said, “Well just tell me all about it. Tell me all the details that only you and your brother would know as the real killers.”
Still cocky, Crow leaned back in his seat and waited for Darrel to fall flat on his face.
Gary and I knew without hearing a single word being said between Crow and Darrel.
Darrel said, “Well sir, there is a bar in Cartersville called the Oasis. It is about half a block from the beach. It’s a nice biker bar. Painted stucco in a lime green color. There are two very large palm trees near the front door and they have blue Christmas lights on them I think year-round. It’s a two story and the bar itself is shaped like a horseshoe. The bartender we killed that night had a fake British accent, a big hoop gold ear ring in his left ear. He had blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail that hung down to the lower back. It was braided with leather strings. He had a big skull and cross bones tattoo on his right inside forearm and a jumping dolphin on his left.We spent the afternoon talking and drinking with him. We knew he was bi and wanted to have sex with me and my brother. He asked us to wait till he closed at 11:00 that night and we could go up to his apartment and spend the night with him.”
My eyes shifted back to Crow. I noticed him slide a couple inches lower in his chair to what one would call a slump. His head was no longer held high. His chin was not sticking out as it had so profoundly moments before. Dick head had a sick looking expression on his face as Darrel continued to provide details to them that only the real murderer could know.
Darrel said, “Yes, we locked the bar downstairs and went upstairs with the bartender. He had a big round bed in the center of his loft apartment. It had leopard print sheets on it and two large pink flamingo bird lamps on either side of the bed on end tables. On the table to his left was a nice nickel plated 38 cal. Derringer pistol and his billfold. We had removed his pants and shirt and were lying in bed. He was ready to have sex with us. I quickly reached over and grabbed the pistol and shot him just above his left ear. I put the pistol back down on the table and opened the wallet. It had about $700 in cash and I took it all. We jumped out of the upstairs window and hit the alley to get away.”
Crow now looked as sick as Dick Head. His head was down, resting in his hands, supported on his elbows on the table. Dick Head looked down at the floor and closed his eyes as if he were about to vomit.
Again, Gary and I smiled at one another.
Suddenly Crow stood and held up his hand to Darrel like a traffic cop signaling a motorist to stop. He left the interview room and walked to me at the counter. He planted a fake smile on his face. Instead of calling me detective, he called me Pat.
“Hey Pat, look sorry about the misunderstanding. I was wrong. Look here’s what we’re gonna do. We are going to run back to our car and get our recorders and come right back here and take a couple quick statements, ok?”
I said, “No sir, not ok.” I turned to Mr. Bozeman our chief jailer and spoke to him.
“Mr. Bozeman”, I pointed to Crow and Dick Head as I spoke. “These two detectives are from out of state and are here as our guests. Please escort them from your jail and do not allow them back in here unless they are accompanied by me or Gary.”
Crow faked a what did I do to deserve this look on his big mug as we walked to the elevator on our way back to the offices.
“Pat, Pat, what’s this all about? It was a simple misunderstanding. Why are you acting this way?”
I did not respond nor did Gary. Once on the ground floor Crow started in the direction of our offices.
I spoke up to him. “This way Crow! Follow us.” He was smart enough not to speak as we all headed down the hallway back to the Chief’s office.
I knocked on his door again. He cupped his hand over the receiver of his phone with a slight frown on his face. “Yes?”
“Chief, we need to see you for one minute and I promise you want to hear what we have to say.”
The four of us sat and I pointed to Crow. “Chief, Lt. Crow has an update for you on our murder case.”
Crow stammered a while as he looked at the floor while addressing our chief.
“Chief, look we misunderstood before. We just spoke to your suspects in your jail and we realize now that we’ve made a mistake. Please allow us to take statements from them and head back home.”
I interrupted. “Chief, Crow wants to call his chief and retract the formal complaint against Gary and me, right Crow?” ” Uh yeah.”
After Crow and his chief retracted the complaint against us, we took him and Dick Head back to the jail and allowed them to record Darrel and Russell’s confessions.
Here is what happened that caused Crow and Dick Head to originally arrest the innocent man.
On the night of the murder, the bar had been packed with big gay and straight bikers. Over in the corner booth, one career criminal sat alone drinking himself to complete intoxication. As the night went on, he eased over in the booth and took what he intended to be a short nap.
Hours later after the club was empty and the lights were out, he slept in the darkness alone.
Darrel shot the bartender in the head, took the cash, left the billfold and pistol on the night stand. He and his brother jumped out of the second story window into a mound of sand to get away. The drunk who was passed out downstairs woke to the gun shot.
Dazed, drunk and confused he saw that the bar was dark. The only light came from the stairway leading upstairs to the bartender’s crib, the direction the loud sound had just come.
He went upstairs to see what had happened. As he entered the big open style apartment he sees the bartender dead in his bed. The drunk biker is not thinking clearly as he reaches down and picks up the shiny pistol and billfold. He stumbles over to the fire escape and is halfway down when the cops roll up, surround the building as they respond to gun shots fired in the bar by a reporting passerby.
Murder weapon in one hand and victim’s billfold in the other, the cops caught the murderer red-handed.
Or so it seemed until we presented the confessions of Darrel and Russell.
As I reflect to the year this went down, I still conclude that if Crow had not let his prejudice of southern men blind his brain, he would have listened to Gary during that initial phone call and this misunderstanding could have been prevented.
Still haunting me to this day are the thoughts…What if we had never arrested Darrel and Russell? What if we had not treated them in a manner that built trust and respect… One that caused them to be honest with us and to tell the entire ugly truth of their lives?
We came too close for me to have the blind faith that our judicial system is almost perfect. Sure, it’s perhaps the best in the world but it is flawed.
So, the answer to my original question about the worst thing that a judicial system could do to someone. It would be to arrest, indict in a Grand Jury, win multiple motions before trial, go to a jury trial and convict an innocent man and put him to death. This is the ultimate miscarriage of justice.
I say this in closing. With great pride, Gary and I will tell you our biggest case ever was not the guy we arrested but in fact the innocent man we got out of jail and prevented him from being put to death in the name of justice.
A new thought comes to mind now when I see the statue of our blindfolded Lady Justice.
This story happened. We solved 17 serial murders which spanned years and were committed in many states. I hold no hard feelings against Darrel or Russell. As a matter of fact, I understand and feel I can relate. What if I had been raised that way? Would I have done the same things they did? My honest answer is possibly. I am glad I will never know for sure. I am thankful I was not abused as they were.
Gary and I received departmental awards for the murders Darrel and Russell cleared. We also received letters from the State Attorney who dropped charges against the innocent man. But we place more value on the single letter we received from the court appointed lawyer who helped us along with his private investigator. To this day, Gary still has our original reports, recorded confessions and transcripts. I still have my awards but most importantly the letter from the lawyer. I cannot think of this case without seeing our blindfolded lady justice.
Note: Regarding Cartersville, Florida…I changed the name of the city where the Florida murder happened to not discredit the police department and the former detectives who mistakenly arrested the wrong suspect. To my knowledge, there is no such city in Florida named Cartersville. If so, there is no connection to this story as Cartersville is fiction and so are the names of the two mentioned detectives.