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Double Murder at 1298 S. Parkway E.
Amos pulled in front of James’ house in his black Nissan Titan, two door, four seat truck listening to the song Up Down by T-Pain; when the song ended he turned his ignition off and blew the horn twice.
Amos felt a little fatigued because he had stayed up late at a party the previous night. The beat of the music gave him a second breath, but something about the mist in the air lacked normalcy. After taking a full look at the house, he noticed it was dark, and the garage door was open. The morning got eerier by the second.
By 5:00 a.m. James would typically be on the porch sitting in the chair, legs cocked, hands free, like he owned the space he occupied. But, today unlike any other, a 7-11 plastic cup was on the porch, the house was dark, and there was no sign of family about their Monday morning business – none. The white rim of the cup was facing the garage.
The presence of the cup was unusual to say the least because at the Johnson resident, Cassandra maintained a spotless house which she cleaned herself and demanded even the youngest child put trash in the garbage and complete her chores.
The thick fog paralyzed Amos’ view of the house temporarily, but he soon became aware there were no lights peering through the upstairs window of the sitting room in the corner, opposite the garage.
Minutes later, Amos became concerned he and James would be late for work unless he rushed James out of the house; so, Amos got out the truck, walked up to the old Victorian style house, and rang the doorbell. No one came to the door. Then, he turned around and went back to the truck to get his cellphone to call James.
Amos walked over to the garage and looked inside. Cassandra’s car was gone and the door to the house was open. He could see the green light from the ADT Security panel blinking. He stepped inside the dark garage and walked up to the door and yelled, “Hello,” but he got nothing back, not a sound. As he approached the kitchen, he heard several ice cubes fall in the tray in the freezer.
He walked back to the garage because his sense of fear kicked in and his heart beat accelerated. Wide awake, Amos slowly stepped inside the house, looked around the wall, hit the light switch in the kitchen, but the lights did not come on.
Suddenly, his heart thumped rapidly and he felt a little warmer than usual. He walked through the kitchen and bumped into the lamp sitting on the desk in the den. He could smell an odor as he stood at the bottom of the staircase; then, he became consumed with a sense of dread.
While he stood in the dark, unimaginable thoughts came to life inside his head. With the tip of his thumb, he turned on the lights, and a crime scene revealing the horrific sight of death came into full view. He stepped back, moving fast, panting. He ran back out of the house through the garage to the truck, yanked open the driver’s door, reached inside, grabbed his cellphone out of his green jacket pocket, and dialed 911.
“What’s your emergency?” a woman asked.
“He’s dead! My brother! His little girl! They dead!” he yelled as loud as he could into the cellphone gasping desperately for air.
“Please try to calm down sir. What is your location?” the operator asked as Amos yelled, “You hear me. They’re dead!”
“Sir, I need you to stay calm. I need your location,” the operator pleaded.
“My brother’s house!” he blurted out hysterically.
The operator asked, “What is your brother’s address? Is there an address on the front of the house?”
He responded, “Yeah! 1298 South Parkway East.”
“Are you in any danger sir,” the operator asked.
“No, I’m, I’m okay!” he responded. “Is your brother inside the house?”
Amos yelled “Yeah! They dead! I saw the bodies!’’
“Stay calm sir. Help is on the way,” she said in a consoling tone of voice.
“Are you inside or outside the house?” asked the operator.
He said, “I’m outside,” and the operator said, “Good. I need you to stay outside. Officers will be there soon.”
“What is your name?” the operator asked. “Am-Amos Johnson,” he said in between deep breaths pacing in front of the truck.”
“Amos, the officers will be there shortly,” she added.
The operator inquired, “Amos are you still with me?”
Amos felt a horrible sense of loss, dropped the cellphone in the street, and sat on the curb. Within minutes, he heard sirens as patrol cars drove up from all directions. The uniformed patrol officers went into the house with drawn guns and flashlights in their hands.
After evaluating the gruesome crime scene, the officers made sure the house was clear, came out, and called in the homicide unit. Amos was still sitting on the curb in shock, looking terrified and distraught. A short female officer with a pale face and blue eyes walked up to Amos.
“Is your name Amos Johnson?” she inquired. He nodded his head back and forward signaling, yes.
“Please come with me,” she gently told him.
He nodded his head indicating he agreed, and she escorted him over to one of the patrol cars and assisted him in the back seat. “Be patient, we will need to get some information from you,” she stated.
Are you okay?” she asked him softly, but Amos did not respond.
He sat there in a state of shock looking straight ahead. Minutes later, a female officer answered her cellphone and conversed in Spanish with someone on the other end. Then, she approached Amos. Moments later she tapped Amos on the shoulder and asked him if he needed any medical attention.
“No, I’m okay,” he said.
A male officer reached inside the patrol car and grabbed a brown notebook off the passenger seat to record his observations and to ask Amos some questions, but before the officer could conduct an inquiry, Amos wanted a question answered himself.
“Are they dead?” Amos asked in a low voice with a worried look on his face.
“I don’t know bro’, but everything will be okay. The detectives are on the way,” the officer said, then he asked, “What is your brother’s name?”
“James.” Amos replied after a very long pause. Then, the officer closed the door to the patrol car and walked off.
Amos sat in the patrol car and stared through the front glass window oblivious to the movement of people around him. Deep down inside, he knew things were not going to be okay.
He was the older of two brothers. Amos and James worked at Shelby County Penal Farm as correctional guards. His brother, James, had a truck of his own, but Amos, who lived five miles away always picked James up on Monday mornings. James’ truck was inside the garage. There was no sign of James’ wife Cassandra, and her BMW was not in the driveway.
By seven o’clock the sun was shining bright, and the commotion at the Johnson home drew the neighbors outside. The crime scene unit, emergency vehicles, more patrol cars, the captain of the homicide department, and television news trucks arrived on the scene. News reporters jumped out the trucks searching for answers to report the news to Memphians.
The officers blocked the street off to traffic at South Parkway and Elvis Presley Blvd. and at South Parkway and Wilson St. Spectators drove up and parked their cars next to the curb and observed the scene. People were taking pictures with their cellphones and conversing with one another.
This upscale neighborhood became crowded in a matter of seconds. All the neighbors knew each other; their children played together, attended the same private schools, churches, and shopped at the same retail malls. Now, death removed several Johnson family members from the earth leaving the community with a wide range of memories.
The chief medical examiner, Dr. Alice Avery, and the crime scene unit along with the rest of the team were going over the murder scene. The inside of the house looked like a blood bath. Spatters of blood was on the wall, in the hallway, and on the stairs. Bloody shoe prints were all over the house and the garage. From the horrid scene, it was obvious quite a fight took place before the adult victim was killed. First responders discovered two bodies at the top of the stairs in a puddle of blood. James, a black male, was lying on his back with an infant laying on his chest. She was covered up to her neck in blood; she was in apparent distress, but alive; she was immediately transported to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in midtown.
The body of a little black boy was lying in the first bedroom on the left side of the hall. Half of his head was blown off. Blood, flesh, and gray matter was scattered all over the bed, the wall, and the floor. The coroner estimated the victims had been dead for 11 hours. Most of the rooms in the house had been ransacked as if the murderers were looking for something.
Amos was transported to the Criminal Justice Center (C.J.C.) – police headquarters which is known for its famous address, 201 Poplar St. The detectives needed a statement from Amos as soon as they could. When the officers made it to 201 Poplar St. with Amos a mob of reporters and television news camera crews swarmed them. The officers tried to make their way down the walkway with Amos but they were overwhelmed by reporters.
“Is he the killer?” a short black female reporter asked as she quickly stuck the microphone in the officer’s face. Amos pulled his green shirt over his head. The lights and flashes distracted the officers as they pushed their way through the crowd. When they made it inside with Amos an armed officer escorted them to the elevator.
The Johnson Family Murder Investigation
Detective Jack Webster
I made it to the office at 7:40 a.m. on the morning of November 18, 2013. Ronald Stipanik, my new partner, who prefers being called Ron, walked in the door seconds behind me. He is in his late 20s, too young to be a detective, if you ask me. He made detective two weeks ago. We’ve been working together since then and he is already mimicking me. I don’t know if this is good or bad.
I have to give him credit; he has great potential. He wants to learn as much as he can, as fast as he can. I guess, I was like that too, when I first made detective. Man! That seems like forever, but it was only 15 years ago. I was sitting at my desk thumping through a pile of reports when the phones started ringing off the hooks which is normally a sign to a homicide detective a hectic day is in the making.
Right now, I’m not worried about the flood of case work coming in because I only have four days before my vacation starts. Two weeks of fun in the sun is almost knocking on my door. It is November in Memphis. The weather is strange this time of year. You never know what to expect these days. Ron walked over to the receptionist desk and answered the phone.
He turned to face me and said, “Jack it’s for you, sounds urgent!” I didn’t like the tone of his voice. I stood and limped over and grabbed the receiver from Ron. My limp is the result of an old football injury.
Captain Dunn was on the line, “Jack, we got two dead bodies and a missing wife who is possibly a suspect. I need you on this case!”
“I go on vacation in four days Captain, can’t you get Cruz and Jackson to take it?” Jack inquired.
Captain yelled and said, “It’s pretty bad Jack the son-of-a bitch killed a little boy!”
“But Captain! I got four days to go!” Jack said piteously.
“I need my best detective on this case Jack! I’ll find a way to make it up to you,” Dunn solemnly stated.
Jack rolled his eyes and said, Dammit Captain, what’s the address?”
The captain pleasantly said, “1298 South Parkway E.” Jack slammed the receiver down as if the captain would feel the lick, walked back over to his desk, and grabbed his car keys.
“Bad news?” Ron mockingly asked as he walked over to Jack’s desk sipping hot coffee from a brown paper cup.
“Two bodies and a missing wife. Captain wants us on the case,” Jack stated with a sense of defeat in his tone of voice.
“You don’t seem too thrilled about it,” Ron proposed.
“Nope’, I didn’t want another case this week,” Jack said to Ron as they walked out of the office.
I already have a lot to deal with. The night before, my daughter called and told me another teenage girl walking home from her school was abducted and raped. There are five unsolved rapes of young black girls in the city. Nobody up high wants to make these rapes a priority, and that bothers me a lot.
Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have enough man power to solve all crimes, but I personally wished we did. Some of us put in overtime trying to solve cases.
I got on I-55 at Alabama St. and headed south to Parkway. Ron is very quiet because this is his first murder case. He looks a little nervous, like he is preoccupied with his own thoughts. I remember the very first case I had which was thrown at me like this one. I was nervous too.
Ron has only been a police officer for three years. He made detective pretty fast; it took me seven years to make detective. Ron is one of the best shooters on the force. He can hit a fly on an apple at 200 yards away. He is waiting for a call to go try out for SWAT any day now. When that call comes, he must be ready to go. I wish him nothing but the best. Our job is serving and protecting the citizens of this great southern city which we do with great honor.
Ron wears a different colored suit every day. Today he is sporting a brown Italian suit and a crème, silk shirt with no tie. I like his brown eel skinned shoes, but they don’t look like they are made for standing all day. I guess we all wore suits when we first made detective. The prestige of making detective gives men an elevated sense of pride. It sort of comes with the territory. My suit wearing days are over. I settled for blue jeans and plaid shirts after being a detective for two years. I’m more interested in simple things now like spending quality time with my only child, finding the perfect lady, solving crime, and being a civil person.
The Johnson murder scene was crowded with spectators when we drove up. Television news vehicles were parked in the vicinity; reporters were interviewing people – the whole nine yards. The size of the crowd had reached rock star status.
Ron took out his notebook and walked over to the uniformed officers standing in the front yard. I don’t really like looking at a murder case until everyone is gone, but in this case ‘I have to get in where I fit in.’
This murder case involved an innocent child. Personally, I despise thugs who commit crimes against children. We grabbed masks off the front porch, covered our noses, and went inside the house. There were several people working at the scene, the place was a mess. Ron and I were careful not to step on any bloody tracks which were everywhere. I walked up to the crime-scene unit officer who was on her knees and touched her shoulder.
Glenda Burton looked up, stood on her feet, and spoke. She had been collecting blood samples from around the house.
“If it isn’t Jack Webster himself,” she said with a big smile on her face.
“That would be me,” I said.
“Tall, light, and handsome as hell. Quite the lady’s man I hear.”
I managed to smile when she made that statement knowing we were from different planets. My most recent date was in a dream. Glenda’s body was covered from head to toe in a blue paper uniform. She is a very fine and attractive, a shorter version of Vanessa Williams. A state-of-the-art camera hung around her neck. She proceeded to tell us the long narrative about the bodies and the toddler who was taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
The baby had crawled on top of her father and went to sleep. She was too young to know he was dead. My eyes tightened when she told us the story. I never said a word while she gave us a tour of the crime scene. I just listened intently to every detail. Ron was standing next to me writing notes, looking carefully at each scenario.
I was so engrossed in the scene I forgot Ron was in the room at first. Ron jotted down as many notes as he could, but Glenda was talking faster than he could write. It’s hard for people accustomed to taking notes to switch to the use of recording devices or tablets. But, notes can be very important in any investigation.
Ron and I headed up the stairs when Glenda finished showing us the scene. A short time later, she completed her part of the investigation. A dead man was lying in the hall when we made it to the top of the stairs. I could hear people talking in one bedroom up the hall. I peeked in the room and saw the Chief, Captain Dunn, and two men in black suits engaged in a conversation. If I didn’t know any better, I suspect the men in black are FBI agents.
We came to the bedroom where the little boy was killed and stood in the doorway. Dr. Alice was examining the child’s body. I noticed the door in the room had been kicked in. I tapped on the door to get her attention. She turned and waved us in. I introduced Ron to Dr. Alice when we stepped inside. She greeted us. Dr. Alice was tall, blonde, had a nice body with a real nice ass, and beautiful deep, blue eyes. She is my kind of woman – classy, sexy, dutiful, smart…
She was wearing hospital scrubs. Her nose and mouth were covered with a thick mask. She sounded funny when she spoke, but we understood her perfectly. Suddenly, Ron started holding his stomach with a strange look on his face like he was about to be sick. He walked out the room in a hurry. The sight of seeing the boy’s brains all over the bed got to him. I guess I should have prepared him because detectives engage in horrid, dirty, nasty work and see disturbing things. He will learn to stomach routine events but gruesome scenes can haunt you and enter your dreams at night.
“Is he okay?” Dr. Alice asked, then added, “You may need to check on him.”
“He’ll be okay, but I will!” I assured her. Then I asked, “What do you have for me Dr. Alice?”
She responded “Well, the little boy was shot in the top of the head at point blank range. He died instantly. The body of an adult male at the top of the stairs was shot in the back and once in the back of the head.”
I thanked Dr. Alice and walked out the room. Someone really did a number on the house. I looked inside the bathroom. There was water in the tub. There was a lot of expensive things in the house, but none of it seemed to be touched. I grabbed one of the family portraits off the wall to have a recent picture of Cassandra Johnson. She was very attractive. I wondered if she could have done this as I stared at her big brown eyes.
I went back to the room where the little boy’s body was, stood in the doorway, and wondered why the little boy was killed. Dr. Alice walked up to me and asked, “Are you okay?” My eyes slowly shifted from the corpse to Dr. Alice. I was lost for words but I managed to tell her, “Yes, I’m okay.”
“I just don’t see how… I hope you catch whoever did this!” Dr. Alice said. I nodded at her as she walked off.
The sight of the boy’s brain and body matter was horrible. The scene lingered in my mind as I walked into the garage to have a look around. I noticed there were several cartons of Newport cigarettes and rolling tobacco sitting on a black work table. I followed bloody shoe tracks to a black Yukon, reached into my pants pocket, took out a handkerchief, and opened the door. I didn’t touch anything with my bear finger prints in case the crime-scene unit had not dusted the truck for prints.
The registration of the car and various items were scattered on the floorboard and on the seats of the car. A gold-plated Berretta 9mm handgun was lying between the front seats; what a beauty. I laid the gun on the driver seat and saw several one hundred dollar bills rolled up in a rubber band in the middle console. That was strange. Why not take the money or the gun? I wondered what type of work the Johnsons did on the side as I stepped out of the garage and stood outside.
The uniformed patrol officers did a good job of keeping the noisy crowd assembled across the street under control. I walked around to the back of the house and surveyed the scene while Ron was next door talking to one of the neighbors.
A news reporter walked up to Ron and asked, “Are you a detective?”
Ron replied, “Yes.”
The reporter said, “Can you give me a statement about this murder investigation?”
Ron stopped briefly and said, “I don’t have any comments at this time.” My man! Ron is catching on fast.
The crime-scene unit would be at the house at least another day or so. I plan to come back when the house is empty so I can get a good look inside. I need to find out what happened in the house last night before the murders occurred. Dr. Alice came out of the house and told the medics to get the bodies and prepare them to be transported to the morgue. A short male reporter with straight, black hair hanging down his neck tried to force his way across the yellow police tape to get a statement from Dr. Alice. A uniformed patrol officer grabbed him by the shirt and led him back across the tape.
I walked over and asked Dr. Alice “How long have they been dead,” as she got into her car.
“About 12 hours, give or take,” she said before driving off.
Ron walked up to me and we headed to my black Dodge Charger. He told me a neighbor said James worked at the Penal Farm as a correctional guard and Cassandra was a bank teller. Their house and lifestyle didn’t exactly fit their professions. We headed back downtown to 201 Poplar to talk to Amos. As we drove up in front of C.J.C., there was a mob of reporters camped outside the front entrance.
I decided to drive around to enter the building through the garage on Poplar Ave. to avoid the media. Reporters and television news channel crews practically lived outside C.J.C. looking for the opportunity to solicit statements and comments about crimes from detectives. The news traveled fast about the murders because James Johnson worked at the Penal Farm.
I never give a statement to the media unless I am absolutely sure about things. I don’t have anything to go on in reference to the Johnson murders. I hope Amos Johnson can give me a lead. Amos was waiting in one of the interview rooms when Ron and I made it to the office. Ron sat in the surveillance room to observe the Amos inquiry.
I grabbed a bottled water out of the fridge, and headed down the hall to the interview room with my tape recorder and a notebook. Amos was resting his head on top of the brown, oak table when I walked into the room. Once he raised his head, I introduced myself, and sat down directly in front of him. He looked tired, and his eyes were blood shot red.
He was wearing a green uniform, black boots, and had a worried look on his face. All the correctional officers at the Penal Farm wore those uniforms. I offered him a bottled water, but he turned it down. The small interview room included a table with four black chairs; the walls were solid white. The clock hanging on the wall over the door had a hidden camera inside.
The interview lasted almost two hours. Then, I told Amos he was free to go. We stood at the same time and I escorted him to the door. A seductive black woman wearing a lot of jewelry, and a dark brown silk coat, in 4-inch heels was waiting for him in the office.
“Are you okay baby,” she asked as she hopped out of the chair, walked to him, and gave him a hug.
“This is a nightmare,” he told her in a light tone of voice. Then, he swung his hand to hers, they held hands, and left.
Amos’s truck along with his brother’s truck was towed to the crime-scene unit garage. They had to be processed for evidence. I walked over to my desk and sat down; it had been a long day. I was kind of tired. I hadn’t been able to sleep much thinking about the rapist on the loose. Now, a double murder which included a child occupied the back of my mind. The office was quiet and most of the detectives had left for the evening. Ron came out the room and asked what I thought about the interview.
I looked at Ron and said, “I think he knows a lot more than he said, but he’s not the killer.”
“I think he did it,” Ron said as he walked over to the desk and sat down.
“I’m telling you Jack, he’s our guy. I think he was having an affair with his brother’s wife. His brother comes home, catches them in the act. They get into a fight, and he kills him.”
“Get out of here!” I said to Ron with a smile on my face.
“If he killed his brother, why kill the boy? Where is Cassandra?” I asked. Ron continued pecking away on the keyboard.
He replied, “I know you don’t believe it, but did you see how his expression changed when you mentioned Cassandra’s name? I bet you $50 she’s waiting for him at a hotel somewhere. They’re going to run off together.”
“If you want to give your money away. I’ll take it. You got a bet!” I added extending my hand so we could ‘seal the deal’ with a hand shake.
I turned around in my seat and studied the Johnson case files which the receptionist left on my desk. The name and ages of the family was on the first page. Asa Johnson, 10 months old; Marcello Johnson, five years old, he was killed on his birthday. Cassandra Johnson, 27 years old; and James Johnson, 39 years old. The couple had been married for six years. Cassandra was missing. There was a state wide all-points bulletin out on her BMW.
I sat at my desk and stared at the family picture. Images of the little boy’s body in the bed kept crossing my mind. I had a tough time dealing with the thoughts. Ron had finished his report and was long gone. It was 9 p.m. when I looked at the time on the computer screen. Everyone left the office, except John. He was sitting at his desk talking on the phone. I decided I was going up to the hospital, first thing in the morning to see Asa Johnson. Then, I turned my computer off and walked out the office and headed home.
Day 2 of the Johnson Investigation Tue. Nov. 19. 2013
I woke up the next morning at 9:00 which was later than normal. The sunlight beamed through the bedroom window directly into my face. I had a long day ahead. Ron called last night and told me he had been taken off the case. The Church of God in Christ Convention started today, and his name was selected for security detail.
The convention is held in Memphis every year in the month of November. It is one of the largest church conventions in the United States and people come from all over the world to attend. The event generates a lot of money for Memphis. Therefore, the city provided security to ensure the safety of visitors and attendants.
I worked better alone when it comes to paper work, but I like having Ron as my new partner. He reminds me of a younger version of the actor Mel Gibson. Ron’s hair is longer and he wears a ponytail. Ron is almost as tall as me; he’s 6’1. I have a feeling Ron is going to be a good detective and a good partner. In some ways, he reminds me of my last partner, who was killed in the line of duty two years ago. I had a hard time dealing with his death when it first happened, but I got through it with a lot of help from friends and coworkers. I have gotten to the point now where I don’t really talk about it anymore, but I will never forget it.
By 10:00 am it was 52˚. I skipped breakfast and walked out the door ready to start my day. Not too long afterward, I was standing at the nurse’s station at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. An elderly female nurse who kinda’ resembled Betty White walked up to me and asked me politely, “Can I help you with something?”
I told her I was a homicide detective and showed her my badge. “I need to see Asa Johnson,” I noted.
The nurse told me to wait and walked down the hall. As I walked I heard several children crying. The waiting area was full of parents and family members who had worried looks on their faces. I really hated hospitals, especially hospitals for children. Finally, the nurse returned and told me Asa had just fallen asleep.
“She has been crying a lot since they brought her in yesterday. Would you like to come back later on?” she asked with a sincere expression on her face.
I reached into my back pants pocket and pulled out a little brown teddy bear I had brought from the gift shop for her.
“Will you give this to her when she wakes up?” I asked the nurse.
“I sure will,” she said with a smile.
I turned to walk away and the nurse said, “Wait!” she opened a drawer and handed me a green pocket size notebook. “I almost forgot. One of the nurses found it in the pouch of her dress when they brought her in.”
I thanked the nurse, walked away, and flipped through the blood stain pages on my way to the car. I wondered why the notebook was placed on Asa. Maybe the notebook had something to do with the murders. When I walked in C.J.C., it was crowded and noisy; there was a sticky note on my desk which said the chief wanted to see me ASAP. I wondered what he could have wanted, as I sat down and looked in the notebook again.
There were hundreds of 14 digit numbers written on the front and back of every page. I thought the numbers represented bank account or credit card accounts. I stood and walked over to the new secretary. It was only her second day at work. I asked her if she could find out what Cassandra’s last job was before she worked at the bank. I didn’t want her to feel pressured, but urgency comes with the territory.
The secretary told me, “Cassandra used to work here at C.J.C. as a deputy jailer. She worked all over the jail. It’s been all over the morning news. She worked in the property room for a while; then, she transferred and became a court clerk. She was accused of fixing cases in the computer for inmates and accepting bribes. She quit and got a job as a bank teller at NBC Bank downtown.”
“I remember her now. What ever happened to the case?” I asked.
“It was dropped” she responded, “They never could prove anything and they never caught her in the act.”
“Thanks a bunch,” I said and walked out of the office, and headed to the Chief’s office.
I stepped off the elevator and walked into the empty waiting area. My shoes sunk into the thick brown carpet as I walked in his office. The receptionist was glued to the phone and typing away on the keyboard of a Dell desktop. She looked up and told me the chief was expecting me in the same breath. She didn’t miss a beat. I was impressed she was such a skilled typist; she was petite, very attractive, and youthful looking. The chief sure did know how to pick a beauty. She was revealing a lot of skin and to think all this time I thought we had a dress code.
As I opened the door and stepped inside the office, I wondered what the chief’s wife thought about his secretary. She was hotter than July. He was sitting at his huge mahogany desk watching the 12 o’clock news on a large Sony flat screen television hanging from the wall. We exchanged brief pleasantries; then, the chief offered me a seat in the chair in front of his desk. He reminds me of the actor James Earl Jones, not due to any sharp resemblance but because the chief has this air of authority about himself. He even rolls his bulging eyes around as it they are a part of his conversation.
I could see my reflection on his shiny desk when I bent over to sit down. There was nothing out of place in his nice, cozy office. His pictures with politicians, local celebrities, and awards were precisely aligned on the wall in full view of incoming visitors.
The chief opened the cigar box, took out a Cuban cigar, bit the tip of the off; then, he lit it. Cigar smoke is annoying. Maybe the chief sensed my discomfort because he laid the cigar in the ashtray rather than take more drags off it.
“This case is receiving a lot of media attention. I know you’ll do what you can to solve this case Jack,” he said giving me intense eye contact.
“Do you think the woman is responsible for the murders?” he asked in a really deep voice.
“I don’t know yet sir, but I’m going to get to the bottom of it. You can count on it!” I’m going to solve this case if it kills me.
“Do what you got to do, but keep me informed,” he added with a serious look on his face. I had never seen him this interested in a case.
I brought up the five black girls who had been raped. I asked the chief if I could check things out in the area where the rapes occurred. He gave me the okay. I stood and nodded at the chief.
“You catch this bastard Jack,” he said with cigar smoke coming out of his mouth. I walked out of the office and closed the door behind me.
The chief never called a detective up to the office unless it was serious. I took the notebook out of my pants, took a quick peak inside, and walked to the car. I thought about the two FBI agents I saw at the house. I wondered why the FBI were involved. I got on the highway at Alabama St. and took I-55 to I-240 and headed east toward Nashville and got off at the Summer Ave. exit heading to the Penal Farm in search of some clues.
I wanted my first destination at the Penal Farm to be at the captain’s office on the first floor, but I had to settle for Timothy Woods, who according to sources was James Johnson’s supervisor, and his childhood friend. Of all the people who worked at the Penal Farm, I thought Timothy would know what was going on. About 15 minutes later, Timothy walked through the door. I stood and shook his hand and we greeted each other.
He was short and muscular with a low haircut. He looked like he was in his late 20s. He was wearing a green uniform with three yellow stripes on the sleeves. I sat down and Timothy pulled the chair from underneath the desk and sat it in front of me.
He looked at me and said, “How can I help you today Detective Webster?”
“I hear you and James were very close.” I said.
Timothy said “He was my best friend. We grew up together.”
“Did he have any problems with anyone? Any enemies, inmates, coworkers anything at all?” I asked.
He answered, “Not that I know of, I mean we get threats from inmates all the time. It’s mostly just talk. Nothing ever happens. James was a good man. I don’t know who or why anyone would kill him.” He paused to cough, then he continued.
“He did have a big argument out in the parking lot Saturday which was before the party Sunday night.”
“Who was he arguing with?” I asked. Timothy began to look very emotional, as if he was about to cry. His eyes looked shiny and glossy like new marbles.
He looked at me and said, “Amos… He was arguing with his brother.” I was surprised at his answer. Amos didn’t mention anything about an argument between him and his brother when I interviewed him yesterday.
“Do you know what they were arguing about?” I asked. I noticed a tear roll down his face. His voice was a little choky, and he held back his tears during the interview.
“I’m not sure, but I think Cassandra was having an affair with an inmate. She may have been pregnant by him,” Timothy said as he wiped his face with his hand. Then, the thought of an affair as the motive crossed my mind.
“Did anybody else know about this?” I asked.
He responded, “Check with Anton Norwood. He and James worked together out on patrol. Maybe he can tell you more about it. He didn’t come to work today.”
“Were James and Cassandra at this party?” I asked.
He said “Yes, but they seemed distant from one another, and they came in separate cars. James didn’t stay long. He left early.”
“Where did y’all have the party?” I inquired.
“The B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale St.” I stood and thanked Timothy Woods for his time, and he escorted me out of the office.
The sun was shining like it was July and the sky was beautiful. I thought about the argument Amos had with James, as I drove down Summer Ave. on my way to the bank where Cassandra worked. Maybe somebody at the bank could give me some leads. I needed a tip to go on, and I needed it fast. Facts are fresh in people’s memories during the first 48 hours of a murder investigation. I wanted to find out what the numbers in the little notebook mean.
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Meredith Coleman McGee, Speaker
Historic Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church, Bogalusa, Louisiana
Monday, January 16, 2017
There is nothing nowhere on earth like Southern hospitality. Thank you for your hospitality. Bogalusa, Louisiana.
It’s an honor to be here today. I understand this church was used for large gathering during the Civil Right Movement.
The stories of old are lessons for today.
MLK Day is a national holiday because Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader. He was bold. Bogalusa was bold.
Martin Luther King was born 88 years ago on January 15, 1929.
Be a part of the solution. Cecily Tyson said, “Take your place.” Thank you for holding down the fort!
Rev. Dr. Louis Blake Hathorn’s book Social Justice and Christianity described Martin Luther King as the most powerful Black leader that ever walked the earth in North America.
Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, known by the acronym SCLC, in 1957. Sixty years later it is still producing drum majors for justice.
My 95-year-old grandmother Beulah Sealey was a voter educator for SCLC. She taught people how to fill out voter registration forms. She led the first lunch counter sit-in in Gadsden, Alabama in 1965. She and a dozen teenage girls were jailed for 11 days. Martin Luther King and Andrew Young visited them in jail.
Remember the adage: the pen is mightier than the sword. It is! Yes sir. Yes ma’am.
Martin Luther King’s speeches were written and recorded. His thoughts were penned in books. Powerful stories inspire new generations to fight battles.
Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy launched an attack on evil forces during the middle of the 20th century. *Evil forces remain among us.
*Dylann Roof is an evil force. I am sure you’ve heard about him. He massacred 9 church goers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was recently sentenced to death. He publicly admitted he has no regrets. He said, “I had to do it.”
Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and others planned every march, every campaign, and every attack against evil. They listened to the voices of the community. Alabama citizens from other parts of the state drove to Montgomery and attended SCLC’s meetings. My grandmother and others from North Alabama were sitting at the table.
Back then, people were working together for a common cause – justice, equality, dignity.
Freedom is life. Bondage is death.
On November 6, 1956 Martin Luther King wrote:
But if physical death is the price some must pay, then nothing could be more Christian
Martin Luther King knew the risk involved in being a drum major for justice.
Martin Luther King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s words, speeches, and thoughts were written. The pen in mightier than the sword.
You see, one day in another land (India) far away from America, Gandhi was leading a non-violent revolution. He told his countrymen:
Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. Martin Luther King turned 19 that year. Gandhi’s story was written. The written word is powerful. Martin Luther King read about this great Indian freedom fighter.
The biblical story of Moses inspired Nat Turner. The Birth of a Nation was a hard movie to view, but it revealed a lot about of our ugly history.
Like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and many others paid the ultimate price – death– for their race.
We must remember A.Z. Young, Robert Hicks, Gaye Jenkins, and many others.
Our grandparent’s stories are very important.
My great grandmother Francis was born in 1865. Her daddy – JAP Campbell – had owned her mother during slavery. He educated Grandma Francis. She brought literacy to our family. My great grandfather Ned Meredith signed an X on his marriage licenses. He and his first wife and first set of boys were illiterate. Grandma Francis was Grandpa Ned’s 2nd wife.
Mothers are usually a child’s first teacher. The alphabets, basic math, and a child’s first words should be taught at home beginning at age 3.
Every child must go to school prepared to meet the challenge. Today, anyone can buy books at dollar tree or take their children to library.
I saw a news story this morning on channel 9 about a 4 year old girl who has read over 1,000 books. She has a large vocabulary. Reading comprehension goes a long way.
Don’t let anybody fool you, it’s cool to be smart. Smart people get the good jobs. High paying jobs. Most highly successful people read for pleasure.
Learn your family history too. Ask your grandparents about their childhood, their parents, and other experiences. Upload your family video to your YouTube page. Now, that is important to preserve.
During the middle of the 20th century, Black men in Bogalusa stood up and told their White employer at the paper mill, “unfair hiring and promotion practices” must change.
When the employers of the paper mill resisted, they were met with resistance.
These are old stories, but local history is very important to understand.
We must understand were we have been. Certainly, a politician should understand the history of laws.
People around here remember when Robert Hicks threw his shotgun over his shoulder to protect himself and his property.
Citizens remember other members of the DEACONS FOR DEFENSE AND JUSTICE.
The DEACONS FOR DEFENSE protected Civil Rights workers.
They protected my uncle James Meredith as he finished the last leg of the Meredith March Against Fear June 26, 1966 with Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, James Farmer, and others.
James Farmer can here, back in the day, to help you. I came here from Jackson, Mississippi to speak to you. We are in this together. This is serious business!
Justice and the progress of our people!
The Meredith March Against Fear was the last massage march during the Civil Rights era.
The youngest nationally known leader’s rallying cry of “Black Power” in Greenwood that Summer gave birth to a new era.
Stokely Carmichael recalled that Martin Luther King *never talked against other leaders. Carmichael said backbiting was not good for the struggle. He said he learned not to talk against leaders of organizations because organization is permanent.
SCLC is still here. The NAACP is still here. The Bogalusa Voters League is still here.
James Meredith was shot on the second day of his Walk Against Fear in Hernando, Mississippi by a white unemployed man from Memphis. He was the first white man to be sentenced to serve time in Parchman Prison for committing a violent act against a Black man in our state. I believe he served 18 months. Today, James Meredith is 83 years old.
Fifty years ago, our skin color branded us a group, and united us by a common bond of brotherhood.
Today, drugs, gangs, and sometimes greed has divided us.
Chicago is full of division. Chaos is everywhere.
I read that some guards at Angola were recently busted for selling contraband to prisoners. They were fattening their pockets. The payphone companies are fattening their pocket. Angola Prison was once the Angola Plantation. Our state penitentiary Parchman Prison was once the Parchman Planation. *Hard labor, harsh realities, inhuman conditions.
Imprisonment is a form of slavery.
The love of money is the root of all evil. Last year, a Tennessee prisoner penned the evils of contraband smuggling in his novel Death by Association Vol 1 Retaliation Vol 2 Deception. In his story, Green Dots are used like Swiss Accounts.
Green Dots have done a lot of good for participants on the Steve Harvey show. The evil use of Green Dots is another story.
The Voters League is still here getting out the vote, and being a voice for citizens.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Mahalia Jackson encouraged him to share his dream with the world that Summer day, August 28, 1963.
Rev. King dreamed that White America would respect our kind, give us the right to vote, give us a fair wage, treat us with dignity, and allow us the opportunity to live the ‘American Dream.’
Yesterday matters–The future must be planned
You see, 50 years ago, a hung jury could have spared Dylann Roof.
You see, we still have work to do. The American Judicial System is flawed.
Money can pay for good lawyers. Good lawyers can work miracles.
Public Defenders often tell the innocent to plead guilty.
Guilty pleas can strip voting rights and can make one unemployable.
The future must be planned
Every child in this city should know what happened in Bogalusa in the 20th century.
The knowledge of self is the greatest knowledge for any people.
Our history in North America didn’t begin with slave ships which were blessed by Popes.
African heads are not carved in stone in Mexico for nothing.
African sailors navigated to North America long before Columbus.
We don’t need a national holiday to learn. All we got to do is open a book and read it.
Extra! Extra! read all about it. Study to show thyself approval!
Our history begins with the beginning of man. Not with Ham.
We were not cursed. No curse changed our skin black.
The oldest human remains were unearthed in Africa.
Egypt is not from Ethiopia.
Yesterday was Sunday, January 15, 2017. The birthday of MLK.
The future could be Friday when Pres. Barack Obama leaves office and stands to witness the transfer of power to Pres. Elect Donald Trump.
John Lewis is speaking his mind.
Maxine Waters’ CSPAN comments were blocked out. America is divided.
Fifty years ago, one of our top priorities was the right to vote.
Today, our college age youth are not going to the polls.
The Bogalusa Voters League must continue its voter registration efforts.
The building burned to the ground. But, the organization is the officers and the bylaws. The work will continue.
They might need some help. What about you?
What is your five-year plan?
Write it down. Step-by-step.
Let me tell you! One of my nieces had a plan.
Yes, she did. She planned to become a prenatal NURSE.
You know what happened. Let me tell you.
She waited until she got in the 12th grade to take the ACT.
She made a 19. But the school her great uncle James Meredith risk his to integrate in 1960 changed its policies while she was in high school. She needed a 21 on the ACT to get in NURSING School. Some medical fields in our state require students make a 24.
Policies change. Elected officials make policies. The vote is powerful. The laws and public policies effect every aspect of our lives from the condition of our local library to the availability of books for children enrolled in public schools.
One lady in my hometown told me her daughter and two other girls were sharing the same science textbook and all of them were flunking.
Didn’t we march about that in the 20th century?
Malcolm X said, the vote is more powerful than the dollar bill.
Is it fair to say the struggle continues?
“Hands Up Don’t Shoot” was the rallying cry after Mike Brown was shot to death in the streets of Ferguson.
When Attorney General Eric Holden went to Ferguson and denounced the city’s Debtor’s Prison, municipalities across the country had to shut down their Debtor’s Prison.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned Debtor’s Prisons in 1974.
Are you serious. Municipalities were breaking federal laws.
My hometown was sued last year. Now if a citizen can’t pay a traffic fine they get to make a payment arrangement rather than go to jail and work off the fine doing community service.
The Affordable Care Act and shutting down debtor’s prison are two significant achievements of the Obama administration.
Even through over 20 million additional Americans have health insurance today the U.S. Senate took the first step to repeal the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare Thursday.
The struggle continues. We need drum majors for JUSTICE.
We must stop the school-to-prison pipe-line.
How? School preparation, give book gifts instead of toys.
How? Give our children chores. Teach them the value of hard work.
How! My uncle proposes we teach every Black male the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule by age five (5).
The Golden Rule (Do until others as you would have them do until you).
The Golden Rule teaches us to have agape love for one another.
Agape love dictates a nurse feed a bedridden patience HOT food.
No, No, Luke warm won’t do. Walk that tray to the microwave.
Agape love dictates children respect their parents, their elders, and authority.
Practice, sacrifice, dedication.
The King of Pop – Michael Jackson – understood that “practice makes perfect”
He used to practice his dance moves until his legs hurt.
His Thriller album has sold over a Billion copies.
The Bogalusa Voters League must continue its voter registration efforts.
I want to thank Emma Dixon for putting my name in the speaker’s hat.
We are both members of a national multicultural organization called Rural Leadership Development Network which co-sponsored this event.
I want to thank the Bogalusa Voters League for allowing me to speak.
Thank you for coming. I am honored to be standing in this historic church.
I was honored to walk on the ground where our elders stood tall and proud during the 20th century asking for better wages, better schools, and a diverse police department.
I encourage you to support your local leadership.
Finally, my friend. I leave you with two of my favorite quotes of my uncle James Meredith.
You should let no excuse stand in your way.
Life is like a game of chess. You must plan every move.
Yesterday matters–The future must be planned.