Sunday, July 27, 2014

Last Ride of the “Traveling Rapist”

Serial Burglar Turns Killer
by Robert A. Waters

It was 1977.  President Jimmy Carter presided over a rising “misery index,” Star Wars blasted movie box office records to oblivion, and Elvis Presley died on his bathroom floor at Graceland.  In Texas, an unknown rapist prowled the dark streets of Amarillo.

Samuel Christopher Hawkins’ MO was simple.  Each night after work, he crept through middle-class neighborhoods, checking for unlocked doors.  On entering a home, he searched every room, hoping to find some unlucky woman alone.  By now, his excitement had reached a fever-pitch, and his urges were unstoppable.  In his confession, Hawkins stated that his own father had told him the best way to get back at society was to “attack white women.”  Hawkins subjected each victim to an established ritual, always placing a pillow case over her head so she couldn’t identify him.

For two years, he assaulted women, and not even the vaunted Texas Rangers could catch him.  Then Hawkins graduated to murder.  Not just any murder, but the slayings of a twelve-year-old girl and a 19-year-old pregnant woman.  Hate, fueled by surging sexual demons, prompted him to kill the innocent.

The first to die was Rhonda DeAnn Keys.  On February 2, 1976, Hawkins abducted the pre-teen from her school bus stop, and drove her to a secluded area.  An autopsy was inconclusive as to whether he sexually assaulted Rhonda, but it did show that he beat her to death, possibly with a steel pipe.  After killing her, Hawkins drove to a secluded bridge and dumped her body beneath it.  Seven days later, a farm-boy discovered her remains.  Rhonda’s hands were tied behind her back, and a bloody pillow-case covered her head.

Hawkins waited for more than a year before committing his second murder.  The victim was Abbe Rodgers Hamilton, a 19-year-old pregnant housewife.  The killer’s chilling confession to police was recorded: “My name is Samuel Christopher Hawkins ... A short while ago, I can't remember exactly when, I drove to Borger, Texas with a friend.... We went in my friend’s car. The man I was with met one of his old girl friends and stayed with her so I took his car. I started looking around Borger for somebody to rape. I drove to the south part of Borger. I started checking doors and came to a house that had one open. This house was facing west, and it had a drive way that went north and south. The house was a red color and they were building a room on the end of it. There was a red Monte Carlo, I think it was about a 1976 model, parked in the driveway. There was also another small car in the driveway and I think it was a Pinto or a Vega.

“I parked my car in the area of the driveway, right behind the Monte Carlo and Pinto. I checked the door and it was open. I walked straight into a bedroom that seems like it was kind of behind the kitchen and to the left. I had a hunting knife that I had bought at the T.G. & Y. store on 24th. and North Grand st. (sic) in my hand. I noticed a woman lying on a bed on her side. I put the knife to the woman’s throat and she jumped. When the woman jumped, the knife went into her neck. The woman got hysterical and reached up and felt the blood on her neck and started screaming ‘give me a towel, give me a towel.’ 

When the woman got hysterical, I did too. I started stabbing the woman in the neck but I don’t know how many times I stabbed her. When the woman became hysterical, she grabbed the telephone and was going to call on it. I guess this is when I cut her again. The woman was holding the phone, and I took the knife and cut the wire. I then went into the dining area and got some red and white napkins. The red and white design was in squares. I made an attempt to calm her down and tie her up. I had cut the napkins with the knife that I had and used these to tie her with. The woman wouldn’t give up so this is when I cut her again. I couldn’t tie the woman up as such so the knots stayed loose. I did not think that the woman was dead when I left but I didn’t know for sure. I did not rape this woman but I intended to when I went in the house. I got scared when I stabbed the woman and this is why I didn’t rape her and I ran out of the house....”

Police finally caught Hawkins after a young boy noticed him prowling an Amarillo neighborhood and wrote down his license number.  Investigators eventually linked him to 40 rapes in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida.  Because of this, investigators and the media began calling him “the traveling rapist.”

Convicted of killing Rhonda Keys and Abbe Hamilton, Hawkins earned two death sentences.  He died by lethal injection on February 21, 1995.

Although he enjoyed killing others, Hawkins changed his tune when it came time for his own death, claiming that Texas was wrong to execute him.  “I’m well-balanced, intelligent, dignified, reasonable,” he said. “The illusion is that you're dealing with some animal that can't be reformed.”

Of course, reformation isn’t the point.  Execution is designed to make people pay for despicable, inhumane acts.  It’s for providing some means of emotional restoration to families of victims.  And it’s to stop people like Hawkins from killing other innocent women.

In this case, that was done.

Since his execution, Hawkins has never murdered anyone else.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dee Scofield as she might appear today
The Kidnapping of Dee Scofield
by Robert A. Waters

[This was the first story I published when I began writing my blog six years ago.  In the heat of a summer afternoon, twelve-year-old Dee Scofield disappeared from a crowded parking lot in my hometown of Ocala, Florida.  Locally, the case generated some publicity, but there was little, if any, national coverage.  What happened to the “All-American Girl,” as she was called?  Thirty-eight years later, will anyone come forward?]
It was one o’clock on Thursday, July 22, 1976.

Highway 40 cut across the center of Florida and through the heart of a town that was quickly becoming a city. Ocala. Locally, the highway was called Silver Springs Boulevard. The Florida Highway Patrol station sat near the eastern edge of town, on the Boulevard. You couldn’t miss it—-an ugly red and white metal tower stood behind it, rising maybe two hundred feet into the sky.

Lena Scofield and her twelve-year-old daughter, Dorothy, nicknamed “Dee,” arrived a few minutes after noon. Lena needed to get her driver’s license renewed, and Dee had accompanied her mother. At four-feet-ten, and weighing nearly one hundred pounds, Dee was beginning to develop a figure. She wore blue jeans, a red blouse, and brown tennis shoes. She had brown braided hair and wore glasses with teardrop-shaped gold frames.

While in line, Dee asked to walk over to the J. M. Fields department store. She’d recently bought a pair of sandals there and wanted to exchange them. The store was about a football field’s-length from the Highway Patrol station.

According to an article in the Ocala Star-Banner, “Mrs. Schofield (sic) first indicated displeasure with the idea, but then relented, telling her daughter if she got through first, she was to return to the FHP station. In turn, Mrs. Schofield (sic) said if she got through with the test first, she would go to the shopping center and meet her daughter.”

As the sun scorched the parking lot between the FHP station and J. M. Fields, Dee walked away, swinging her bag with the sandals.

By one o’clock, Lena was done. She drove over to Fields and began looking for her daughter. She spoke to several clerks who’d seen Dee in the store. At least one employee had noticed the girl leave through the double-doors at the store’s entrance.

Thinking that they’d missed each other, Lena drove back to the FHP station. When she couldn’t find her daughter, she reported Dee missing to the officer in charge.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers interviewed Lena. They learned that Dee was an honor student at Marion Middle School. During the summer, she’d been working at her parent’s barbecue restaurant. According to police, she was “obedient...from a close-knit family.”

An All-American girl, police didn’t believe she would have run away. Using the FHP station as a base, Joe and Lena Scofield waited for information. All Lena could do was cry and second-guess herself. How could someone just vanish from a crowded parking lot?

Joe was in shock. Marion County, he thought, is larger than some states. Much of it is rural. “You could go three or four miles from here,” Joe said, “and find thousands of places to hide somebody.”

The Ocala Police Department had jurisdiction, but troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol and deputies from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department helped in the search for Dee. A sales receipt confirmed that she’d been in the department store and had exchanged her sandals. A clerk remembered the girl browsing at the jewelry counter. Investigators and employees searched every inch of the store. Then they moved next door to a bowling alley that was under construction. They worked their way across the Boulevard to the Sears Town Plaza. Throughout the afternoon, police and volunteers combed the area.

There were few leads. In fact, investigators initially labeled the disappearance as a “missing persons case” because there was no solid evidence to show that Dee had been abducted.

Then they got the only clue they would ever get.

Nuby Shealey’s store is a landmark in Marion County. It sits at the intersection of Highway 40 and State Road Highway 314, less than a mile from the Ocala National Forest. It is a combination gas station and restaurant and bait shop. Locally, it has always been known as “Nuby’s.”

When the good old boys show up, one of the major topics is whether there’s a world record bass in one of the thousands of lakes and ponds that dot the Forest. They still laugh about the former chef who drove in from Mississippi and “guaranteed” that he would catch the record bass. He claimed to have a secret bait. Turns out he used wild eels, something unheard of among the locals. After a year of frustration, he gave up and went back to cooking.

The day after Dee vanished, detectives interviewed a clerk at Nuby’s. According to an article in the Star-Banner, “A woman employe (sic) at the store positively identified a young girl who had been in the store as the missing Schofield (sic) girl.” Sergeant Gordon Welch of the Ocala Police Department said the clerk “described the girl and clothing she was wearing before police presented her with a description.” The clerk said that the girl entered the store with two men--she was shaking and crying and looked uncomfortable.

Because of this tip, the search shifted to the Ocala National Forest. The Forest is huge. It consists of more than six hundred square miles of scrubland and swamp. Wild critters such as bears, alligators, coyotes, and bobcats roam the Forest. It’s a hunter’s delight, and every year hundreds of deer are bagged. Dozens of ten-pound bass are taken from Forest waters annually. Unfortunately, it’s also a good place to hide a body.

Police and volunteers fanned out, trudging through the rattlesnake-infested hills and slogging through cotton-mouth swamps. Hunting cabins were checked. A helicopter flew over the area for days, looking for any sign of the missing girl. The desperation of the searchers was evident when the cops turned to self-professed psychics for help. As usual, they offered only vague leads that came to nothing.

The Scofields offered a $1,000 reward, all they could afford. They moved into a trailer near the Forest. Dozens of family members from all over the country converged on the trailer. Lena and the women cooked all day and manned the phones while the men searched.

Day after day, the searchers went out fresh and hopeful, only to return filthy and exhausted and discouraged.

In the end, it was all in vain. The searchers went home, the cops gave up, and the case went cold.

It’s been 38 years now since Dorothy “Dee” Scofield disappeared. Unless her abductor is still alive, no one knows what happened to her. During those early days of the search, Lena vocalized her frustration. “I just can’t imagine why they took her,” she said. “No, I can imagine a lot of reasons, but I don’t want to admit it to myself. [This] person has got to be sick.”

[Today, J. M. Fields no longer exists in Ocala.  The building is now the Marion County Public Library.  But occasionally, as I search for some new book, I want to ask employees if they have ever encountered the ghost of a twelve-year-old girl.  If so, it would be Dee Scofield, a little girl lost and never found.]


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Justice for a Carjacker

Shooting Victim Claudiare Motley
“Go get the cannon…”
by Robert A. Waters

In June, 2014, Claudiare Motley returned to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend his high school reunion.  He had good reason to reflect on his life.  Married to a former beauty queen who is now an attorney, and with three children, Motley himself was nearing graduation from the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina.

An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes what happened on the night of June 21: “[Motley] left the Milwaukee Tech High School Class of ‘89 ‘Meet-and-Greet’ Saturday around 1 a.m.  He was driving a 2014 Range Rover—the rental car he’d chosen for his vacation with his three children.

“After dropping off a friend at the corner of N. 63rd St. and W. Capitol Drive, Motley peered out the window to make sure the friend made it safely through the door.  Then he took out his cellphone to check his email.  He almost didn’t notice the black car slowly rolling past him on the left.

“Moments later, Motley said, a second car parked behind him. He saw three passengers through the rear view mirror—a woman and two men—and they were looking at him strangely, he said. Suddenly, one of the men jumped out of the car, approached his window and pointed a gun at him. When Motley floored the accelerator, the man fired a shot through the window.

“‘I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ Motley, 43, a Milwaukee native who now lives in North Carolina, said Monday.  Miraculously, he was able to maneuver the vehicle away from his attackers and drive two miles to St. Joseph’s Hospital, holding the steering wheel with one hand and clutching his jaw with the other in an attempt to stop the blood. When he made it to the floor of the emergency room, he collapsed.”

Motley was lucky to survive.  Doctors repaired his shattered jaw, but additional surgeries await him.

Meanwhile, police searched in vain for the shooter.

For several months, Milwaukee had been plagued by a series of violent carjackings.  Witnesses said that some of the robbers appeared to be in their early teens and that they were known to shoot first and ask questions later.

The day after Claudiare Motley nearly died, Victoria Davison, a nurse, sat parked outside her home.  Suddenly, she was approached by two teens.  “We want the keys, the car, everything,” one told her.  Then he yelled to the other robber: “Go get the cannon.”

Davison assumed the robber’s intent was to get a large-caliber gun and shoot her.  What the carjackers didn’t know was that their victim had a concealed carry license, and a handgun in her gym bag.  Davison quickly grabbed the weapon and opened fire.  She later told reporters: “I shot the one that was in front of me.  The one in the back of me, he said a curse word, and then he looked at his friend, and then he ran off while his friend was on the ground.”

Police quickly realized that the wounded robber was the suspect in Claudiare Motley’s shooting.

They also realized that he’ll never commit another robbery, at least not one where he has to walk.  The fifteen-year-old, who can’t be named publicly because of his age, now lies paralyzed in a hospital bed.

Davison, on learning that prosecutors plan to charge the robber as a juvenile, told reporters that he should be charged as an adult.  “I mean he’s 15, but he’s making adult decisions.  One robbery? Maybe he should be charged as a juvenile because he needs to learn a lesson, but several?” she said. “Even after he shot somebody in the face.  Then you are still committing robberies, and that was when he tried to rob me.”

Motley’s wife, Kimberley, had the last word: “It’s unfortunate that this 15-year-old is now a victim,” she said.  “But he made my husband a victim with his bad decision.  That’s sort of the price you pay when you shoot a man in the face, and try to victimize a woman who has a concealed carry permit.”

Because of Davison’s heroic action, police say they’re close to rounding up the ring of carjackers.  If so, they’ll no doubt save many additional victims.

Yet another win for concealed carry laws.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 10 Best Hillbilly Songs of All Time

The Carter Family
The 10 Best Hillbilly Songs of All Time
by Robert A. Waters

Rolling Stone magazine recently released its list of top 100 country songs of all time.  Their selections were predictable: songs by Brad Paisley; the Dixie Chicks; Taylor Swift; Carrie Underwood; etc.  Then there is Eric Church’s great country anthem, “Springsteen.”  WHAT!?!  (While the magazine did actually list some old tunes, the modern stuff spoiled it for me.)

I can’t list a hundred songs—not enough time—but here are the ten best hillbilly songs of all time.
Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams
The Nashville establishment hated Hank because he was “too country.”  By his own reckoning, he’d walked barefoot in chicken manure, had been hungry, had been saved by Jesus, and had been broken-hearted.  He drank and drugged and sinned himself to death—and told about it all in his music.  “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” reputed to be about his wife Audrey’s promiscuous ways, lives on in CDs, DVDs, front porch picking sessions, and even television commercials.  It may be the quintessential country song of all time.
Hobo Bill’s Last RideJimmie “The Blue Yodeler” Rodgers
Images of the Great Depression seethe in the lyrics of this song.  When I was almost too young to remember, my grandfather would rock me on his knee and sing about Hobo Bill.  For me, this song came to be a metaphor for all the homeless, unemployed souls who perished during that terrible time.  Even those who survived, like my grandparents, were scarred for life.  I still picture this old railroad bum lying dead in a boxcar, alone with rain pouring in on him, and yet with a gruesome smile across his face.  If you want real country music, “Hobo Bill’s Last Ride” is a good place to start.
No Depression in Heaven – The Carter Family
For the intelligentsia who like to make fun of religious fundamentalism, listen to this song.  It provides a rationale for wanting something better than what we have in this world.  The Carter Family left a legacy of great songs, and this one, to me, is their best.  A. P. and Sara Carter, who recorded in the 1920s and 1930s—before Nashville’s ascendance as the country music capital of the world—were too “hillbilly” for the big city.  God doesn’t fit much into country music anymore, but in Depression-era Appalachia, people longed for the misery to end and sang of God and Heaven:
“In that bright land there'll be no hunger,
No orphan children crying for bread,
No weeping widows’ toil or struggle,
No shrouds, no coffins, and no dead.”
Chain Gang Blues – Riley Puckett
This 1920s tune has a hundred clones: “Cocaine Blues,” “Cocaine Habit Blues,” “Little Sadie,” “Take a Whiff on Me,” etc.  I like the Riley Puckett version best.  A native Georgian, Puckett was blinded when still an infant.  He recorded many of his songs with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers.  “Chain Gang Blues” tells the story of a cocaine addict who murders his gal-pal, then makes a run for it.  He’s caught, convicted and sentenced to 99 years.  In the final verse, the sentencing judge tells the prisoner: “I don’t believe you’ll ever kill a woman again.”
Lost Highway – Hank Williams
“Just a rolling stone all alone and lost,
For a life of sin I have paid the cost.
When I pass by, all the people say,
‘Just another guy on the Lost Highway.’”
Sin no longer exists, at least not among Nashville’s yuppie crooners.  But this song is all about addiction, betrayal, and consequences.
“Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
And a woman’s lies make a life like mine.
Oh the day we met, I went astray,
 Started rolling down that Lost Highway.”
Wild Side of Life – Hank Thompson and It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels – Kitty Wells
Cheatin’, drinkin’, and honky-tonkin’ were past-times of many country boys (and girls) in the South.  “Wild Side of Life” tells that story from a man’s perspective.  The song contains a line that resonated among hillbilly fans: “I didn’t know God made honky-tonk angels.”  The tune became Thompson’s biggest hit, and the subject of an “answer” song by Kitty Wells.  Her response became an even bigger hit than Thompson’s:
“It wasn’t God who made honky-tonk angels
As you wrote in the words of your song.
Too many times married men think they’re still single.
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong.”
Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
This is one of the most well-known songs ever written.  And rightfully so.  With  Luther Perkins picking his Fender Esquire, Marshall Grant plunking a stand-up bass, and W. S. Holland on snare drums, Cash hammers this song home in 1950s rockabilly style.  The prisoner, who “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” longs for the freedom represented by a train that rumbles past Folsom Prison every day.  
Mama Tried – Merle Haggard
Haggard knew about prisons.  He served seven years.  After getting out, he turned his life around and became one of the most beloved country musicians ever.  Best-known for his anti-hippie anthem, “Okie from Muscogee,” his prison songs form a significant part of hillbilly music.  While listening to “Mama Tried,” many country people identify with the headstrong “rebel child” who refuses to follow the rules.  Haggard laments: “I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole/No one could steer me right but Mama tried…”  The simplicity of this song masks a profound poignancy.
Cold, Hard Facts of Life – Porter Wagoner
Revenge songs have long been a staple of country music.  Why?  Because country people don’t take kindly to their wives or husbands cheating.  The husband in this song returns home from a business trip earlier than expected and finds his wife partying.  What happens next is predictable, but true in so many real-life cases.  After killing his wife and her lover, the husband sings: “I guess I’ll go to Hell or rot here in this cell, but who taught who the cold, hard facts of life?”  Many of Wagoner’s early songs told tragic stories common to country life.
Ragged Old Truck – Billy Joe Shaver
Shaver is as country as you get these days.  A gun-totin’ Texan who doesn’t mind using his .38 when he needs to, he’s also a honky-tonkin’ poet with a sadistic streak in his songs.  You won’t find no New York City in Shaver.  “Ragged Old Truck” is true redneck rock, not the watered-down doggerel you hear on today’s country radio.  Like many of the other singers on this list, Shaver has lived on the fringes of polite society and found it wanting.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reflections on Independence Day, 2014

Grave of the first American casualty in the Sicily Invasion
by Robert A. Waters

While looking through an archive of old newspapers from 1944, I came across many that published stories of local servicemen killed during World War II.

For instance, the El Paso (TX) Herald Post published a list of former Austin High School students who had been killed in action.  There were 31 in all: Harold Mosley died during the Battle of Midway; Elliott Holman perished in a “Jap prison camp”; and there was Frank Bomar, “lost in the search for another lost soldier” from his battalion.  On and on it went.

The Muscatine (IA) Journal and News Tribune published tributes to 15 local boys who died in action.  There was Private Carl Chester Woodworth, who fell in Germany; Private Clarence A. Plank, killed in Holland; and Arthur A. “Bud” Berch, Seaman First Class, who died in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  And on and on it went.

In towns and cities across the United States, young men who only a few months earlier had been attending school or college, were arriving home in coffins.  The slaughter seemed endless, as entire communities lost a high percentage of their youth.

Each corpse left a story behind.  Here’s just one example.  On July 5, the Greenville (MS) Delta Democrat Times reported on the death of a local man:

“Capt. William I. Hunt, medical corps officer whose home was 501 Main Street, Greenville, Miss., was killed in action on Bougainville while trying to save a doughboy, the War Department disclosed today.

“Known as ‘Doc’ to his battalion, Capt. Hunt was killed while on a patrol during the first week in June, said an army account from the American Infantry Division on Bougainville.

“He honestly liked to go ‘patrolling,’ as he called it,” the report said.  “He carried a heavier pack than any of the rest, merely because he liked to eat—so he took along enough to be able to indulge in a hearty meal.”

In telling of how Capt. Hunt was killed, the War Department document read: “Before that last patrol he remarked, ‘It will do me good.  I'm getting out of condition.’”

“The patrol had been ambushed by the enemy and Doc was trying to crawl to the aid of an enlisted man who had been badly wounded.  To his mind it was a simple matter—a man was hurt and needed his professional attention immediately.  He died trying to save the doughboy.”

The Greatest Generation, it was called.  And maybe it was, even if half of them died.