Archive for April, 2010

My horoscope for the day…

April 28, 2010

4/28/10
My horoscope today said I would receive a secret message and that I should be careful who I shared it with.
Today I did receive a secret message…
Sorry.

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I have given Charley a deadline…

April 27, 2010

.

4/27/10

I have given Charley a deadline…

I have given Charley a deadline…
Much like those who are working with me to help solve the mystery of Charley’s death, I have given Charley some homework to do as well. So much information floods my notebooks when I meet with R that it becomes almost impossible to filter what is worth mining immediately and what may simply be peripheral information that will plug holes later. Yet, I continue to trust that if Charley is going through the trouble to get this information to me—whatever it is warrants my attention.  Lately though, deciphering the clues is somewhat  easier than assigning the common thread that will bind them all. But like a spoiled child I continue to task him for more clarification. Like a parent… he continues to teach and not enable, disregarding my plea. Thus we are at odds, with me banging my head against the screen of my computer and him, banging his head against the veil of eternity that separates us. Together we are becoming a perfect set of bookends for the purgatory shelf!

My most recent meeting with R  was a phenomenal experience and you cannot imagine the tremendous impact this kind of an experience can have on you. As for Charley, he continues to show me who he is through his answers and his omissions. It is like a maze. Some days I am a mouse; blindly following a piece of cheese which has been tied to his finger by a string. Each day he tugs in this direction or that, and I am off on another diatribe. Perhaps it is this that frustrates my advance. But this time patience has paid off. I have information. I now know who the man who works with the wrought iron is. I have a photo of the road- but this time it bears the mark of the exact location of the car. I have arrows that are pointing the way to persons of interest. Events that are narrowing the field of discovery.  I am researching a rape case reported near a lake that took place  in 1966 around the time of Charley’s death. I am searching for the name of a man in his 60’s who died from a heart attack in his bed a week after Charley passed. The possible identification of a general store that sold both meat and cheese– one that required a cheese slicer as described by Charley and used by G  to inflict lacerations on his skin.  And even more curious, the name of a man who called the house  the night Charley died who coincidentally shares the same last name as one of the witnesses.

The facts of this crime are as flawed as the people who have committed it and the players are many and conspiratorial. My question is… What the hell was so important, or valuable that a small group of people felt they had the right to manipulate a crime scene in order to hide it from the public eye? Many have speculated that Charley’s death was suicide. That he killed himself over his alleged mistress G. But it’s got to be bigger than that. If Ward Cleaver had cheated on June Cleaver back then, it would have been news… but mostly only to Wally and the Beaver. A local ATF sharing starry eyes and sugared coffee with another woman is scandalous–yes. But life threatening? No… it just doesn’t quite rise to the bar created by such a complicated cover-up. There has to be more to it.

A law enforcement friend of mine recently said a murder is always committed over one of three things:
A woman.
Money.
And … a woman.
Ok, so we have a woman- G. G was a ‘good girl, gone bad’ and she figures into this thing up to her eyeballs. Next is money. While that’s got to be part of the equation, it can’t be the sum of it all. What produced that kind of money back then? Bug tickets, moonshine, prostitution and drugs. Take your pick. Valdosta was a kaleidoscope of debauchery back then. So which one of these was connected to the woman? The money? The drugs? The porn or the numbers racket? Or… was it a combination of several of these things that helped the shooter fire the fatal shot into Charley’s head that night? What was so necessary to keep submerged, that that many people rushed the dyke to keep the water level from going low enough to expose it?
Our man with the crooked teeth called this a crime of passion and while I believe that was part of it… I believe information was and is still the real currency in this ordeal. Names, dates, dollars and deaths. You choose which one… each one will come with a price. Charley has already paid, but there’s somebody out there still alive who knows exactly what happened that night. For you I have a personal message:
You can run and you can hide… but Charley can walk through walls, I have a friend who can talk to the dead and now we both have a deadline!

7 of spades…

April 25, 2010

4/24/10
The sun has returned to its place in the sky and my life as well. Yesterday I needed to step away from Charley- set some boundaries and got back to the chore of the living. Somewhat refreshed from my necessary, but brief sabbatical…I took to the file again last night and reread the Deputy Sheriff’s statements and those of the witnesses. I am still concerned that my man with the crooked teeth (who claims to have been first responder) does not figure into their equation. To make sure I am not cross-polinating information, I read the statement and then immediately after listen to the tape of our interview– they do not match. Though ironically parts of them explain flaws within the other. Such as our self proclaimed first responder says he covers the body with his raincoat and then something else when the rain begins in earnest. However, there is no mention of him being present in the process. Yet, the body and the blood pools are kept somehow from diluting further in the rain. He says he interviewed a farmer who was first on the scene. The farmer’s son is one of the two boys numbered 2nd and 3rd witnesses and yet… they (the son and his friend; witnesses 2&3) claim no one was there at the scene with them other than the father of the boy, W and the Deputy Sheriff. And that it was just those 3 until after the prison warden and prison dogs (with handlers) had showed up. How do you explain that?
I go through each photo; now looking with a fresh eye to the things pointed out to me by our second expert. One cuff open and rolled, the other appearing not to be. The placement and reasons for the hat, the flashlight- neither necessary for suicide. No evidence of a void pattern. Blood trails across the forehead that run in a different direction of other blood flow. Blood stains on the back of the head that travel independent of gravity flow… stains on the collar…on the shoe. Sand and grass clippings that clearly show he was on his back (face up)as the man with the crooked teeth swore he found him, verses the witnesses and the Deputy Sheriff who claims he was found face down- same as in the photos. Deputy Sheriff statements that they did not roll him onto his back until after photos were taken—yet clearly he had been on his back before the photos were taken! And what about the timeline of these photos? According to our whiteness’s, no photos were taken in their presence which was from 11: something until 2:30 in the morning. Which was during the roughest weather of the night- yet again, no mention of the body being covered to protect the scene. And this is only a small smattering of the inconsistencies that gnaw at my brain each time I review the evidence. Then you add the peripheral information that comes without a set of instructions and you really have a cocktail for insanity.
Things like this:
1545
The man who works with wrought iron in the shape of the letter “T”
Cheese… cheese cutter
7 of spades
Wooden fence with a carving
Red 1499
A man with brown hair and a brown mustache
Try working your way through a crime scene where everyone becomes a suspect, including the victim. Then add the abridged information above and you can see why I might find it less than encouraging on a daily basis to piece this thing together. Of course you know there is much more I could write… but will not. Cannot at this time quite frankly, but that will not stop me from continuing the chase. Each day, each hour Charley brings me something new. And like a yard dog with a fresh bone, I will strip it clean of every morsel of meaty information that exists and then bury it in some sacred, secret spot far from prying eyes. It will be mine alone to deconstruct for a good long while before I ever share it with another living soul.

Today it is you who must wait…

April 24, 2010

4/23/10
All this and weeks later I am still no closer at the end of my day to identifying the shooter with confidence. There are so many threads to follow in this that I have now woven a tapestry of doubt and deceit that could fill the panoramic view from my picture window. Some days it is a continual struggle not to surrender to the frustrations. I build case histories and bias’s and like castles in the sand they stand stately and righteous until another wave of information breaks the shore and I am left with partial walls that can no longer support such lofty turrets. And then of course there is the remainder of one’s life that bleeds in between the ups and downs of information, with ups and downs of its own and that keeps you tethered to things both kind and un… never setting you free for true discovery.
It is a sullen day and the sky is acting like an ill child; vomiting with alternating violence and then drooling with soured tongue into the long pauses in between. Odd as it may seem I am happy for the change of course, as I have grown weary of the sunshine. Somewhere in my travels this past month I have lost my smile and while I understand I must be about the business of finding it… I have need of cocooning and healing one more day. Retrogrades are hard for me and I find I am not as enthusiastic in my recuperation these days. I need to be still in both heart and mind and listen to the calm that surely must be just beyond this storm of chaos I now find my self in.
A poofy red dress.
A sunflower.
A white dog with playful paw.
A college application.
A child from the theatre. My Jessica- the little rabbit.
A heart…

Personal messages of constancy from Charley, embroidered with snippets of both current currency and great nostalgia from my mother and father. I am deeply moved and awed at the vastness of this intelligent universe and feel small and unprepared for what it is Charley asks of me. What if I fail? What if in my ignorance I cannot decipher the messages correctly? What if in my innocence of true evil, I do not perceive the dangers that could harm those about me? What if all I ever do is prolong the suffering of a child who never got to know her father? What if in my eagerness to finish the puzzle I have lost sight of the picture all the pieces were meant to recreate? I look at my own life and measure my ability against Julie’s need and sometimes cannot find the balance necssary to do justice to us both. Can I have been chosen so ill advised by her father, or is there more to me, than the me that has been shaken too hard by recent events?
Today in my joy at rediscovery of my parents, I also feel great pain at their loss. It is a wound that rips at the seams each time they tug at my heart with what purity I once contained in their eyes. I hold tight to the image of a small child auditioning in a cold basement for whatever task Walt Disney thought worthy the Sunday night before. I think about the sunflower and know that in its seeds it contains a personal message from “Under the Tuscan Sun”. A message meant to remind me that patience and due diligence to my craft and my life will bring full circle to my talent and my destination. “Lady bugs, Catherine… lots and lots of lady bugs!” I watch the paw of a white dog raise and lower in eager anticipation of a tennis ball and know that both people I cherish beyond life and one man who is counting on me- watch from a far and participate in my guidance. May they find their efforts from another space to believe in me, not be in vain.
Everyday for the past year I have sat at this desk and most of my energies have been for you Charley. But today… today, when the rain is all I can see both inside and out… today Charley they must be for me.
Yesterday we met with R and another expert to review crime scene photos and gather more information. The photos spoke to this other individual in a language foreign to me- the language of forensics. It is a cold and exacting language that does not allow the heart to enter. Today I have too much heart to bear the weight of so much objectivity and so my dear friend, Charley Covington…this time it is you who must wait patiently atop the front step of your proverbial home for me to find the pathway back.

He told me about a lawyer, a connection, and a favorable outcome

April 23, 2010

4/23/10
Two weeks after the trip to Valdosta, a child of mine was admitted to an Atlanta hospital and kept in the CCU for five days. For five days I slept in chairs, ate cold food, drank bitter coffee and stared at machines that beeped and screamed incessantly throughout the night. Television was out of the question and so in an effort to keep my sanity I asked my husband to bring both of Weems books to me. I didn’t want my laptop there for fear it might be stolen in the segments where I was asked to leave the room. Truth was, I wasn’t certain I could have formed a cohesive thought in ink so instead of writing, I read… and read … and read in between seizures and sedations.
Apart from normalcy and regular routine, my mind was free to concentrate on reading. I devoured page after page, hoping that somewhere in all of the hours I was trying to fill I might stumble across something of value. Chapter after chapter was filled with exciting escapades of ATF agents raiding stills and running down moonshiners through cow pastures and piney woods under moonlight. Deprived of sleep for so many days your mind begins to wander. Random thoughts cascade and fill the crevices left in bewteen your eye lids were sleep once used to dwell. Charles Weems was a hell of a guy and after twenty or so chapters, I noticed that there were about a million guys named Charlie back then. Honestly- you couldn’t swing a dead cat around Georgia and not take out four or five of them at a time.Through it all I kept a keen eye towards other names and locations- hoping that something in this guy’s memoirs would send up a flare. And then there on page 172 it began. By the end of 173 I was convinced I had found the reason I was meant to meet this man. It was so subtle I almost missed it. Three days into my nightmare I found what Charley had wanted Weems to show me. It was so obvious, I read the pages over three times. I looked at the clock- it was an obscene hour, but none the less I made a phone call to share my joy. I could barely breathe…
During one of my conversations in Valdosta, a person of interest told me a story about being threatened by a local sheriff. I could go into further detail, but I won’t just yet for personal reasons. During this conversation he told me about a lawyer… a connection … and a favorable outcome. On the top of page 173 I found this lawyer’s name again, only this time it was associated with the other side of the law. I read a story about a lawyer… a connection and a favorable outcome. But this time for a criminal. My eyes were so tired I could scarcely keep them open, still I read aloud in hushed tones to tell my husband what I had found. I thought of R and what she had said about no one being placed in my path by chance that weekend…that I would have an ah-ha moment and that information would come to me as if it were being dropped into my lap and it had! I hugged my book- God bless Charley, I thought. I read through to the end of 175. God Bless R and God bless Charles Weems I whispered into the night.
At 4:00 am they came into the room to draw more blood from my child. I held on for 4 more chapters after that then crashed. At 6:43 she seized again… but this time I was ready!

You couldn’t trump a card like that…

April 22, 2010

4/22/10

As if Friday and Saturday’s deluge hadn’t been enough, Sunday proved latently to be just as productive. The morning broke with a mist that seems to cloud the skies as much as our brains. The weekend had proven to be everything I had hoped and more. With the photos burning a hole in my bag, we set out to get copies made. It is difficult to get such copied without the questioning eyes of those who must process them. We tried two places and finally found an Office Max who was willing and mindful of what we were trying to accomplish. Several sets of copies later, we met J and her son for breakfast- hugs and instructions dispersed- my husband and I hit the road for a few hours on the road and a final stop before we could head north from Atlanta.
Weeks earlier I had gotten information about a retired ATF agent who had written two books about his experiences. I ordered them and had hoped they might come in before my trip, but such is the wait for online publications. Contacts had been made before the trip- always the same. Did you know, or know of Charley? What had you heard? Who might still be alive to contact? My litany became a mantra and while this agent had spent the bulk of his time in North Georgia and the Atlanta area, I had hopes that he might have heard something about this case that would be new. He was gracious in his response. Yes he knew Charley. Yes he had worked with him a time or two. Yes he would talk to me, but no… he felt he had nothing more he could add to what I already knew. I took the shot just the same and asked if I could swing by on my way back from Valdosta.
The rain cooperated with moderation and made for more ambience than annoyance on the ride back up I75. Quiet and content at the driver’s seat, the constant drone of the windshield wipers provided white noise for thinking. While my husband napped, I ran over every piece of information I could mentally retrieve from the past three days of interviews. The man with the crooked teeth still perplexed me. The confidence he showed with answers that matched nothing else baited further, but I could not afford to get side-tracked by ego so I concentrated on what I could verify. Three and a half hours later, I placed a call and confirmed that my appointment was still viable. Three and a half hours after that, I was back on the road with two autographed books and a wish for success. Charles Weems was an interesting fellow and his wife M.L. a gracious host. I learned more that day about the kind of man it took to do what Charley did and in that regard I walked away rich with information, but no further ahead with clues.
On the last leg of the road trip I pondered what it really was I was supposed to have taken from that interview. The two books lay in the back of the car and I promised myself I would try to read more than I would write in the next few weeks to see if perhaps I had overlooked something in my notes. I couldn’t get my thoughts to tear away from the text about the grim reaper. No matter what other information came in about this individual, you couldn’t trump a card like that. The grim reaper meant death and R had presented that it was in direct correlation to Charley- even though she could not get ultimate confirmation from him that this person had been the shooter. The process of this blows my mind, but R says that sometimes they will not answer a question yes or no- there must be discovery and journey involved. I thought it boiled down to a matter of ethereal semantics and was losing my sense of humor fast.
The closer we got to home, the clearer the skies, but not my brain. It was almost too much to take in at one time. J called to let us know that she had taken the original photos to get better copies than the copy of copies we had been forced to manipulate. Fortunately for her, she had help from the local law pave the way so as not to violate anyone’s sensibilities when they saw the contents of the photos. I thought about the endless parade of phone calls, emails and letters I had sent to every state, and federal program I could think of to get information about this investigation and how they all had nothing they could share. Then with one phone call, we had scored the motherload. Either Charley had a hell of a sense of humor or he was pacing me. I thought about Mr. Weems again. Charley would not have placed him in my path unless he had information to divulge to me through him. I said a small prayer for patience. R Promised that two things; no-one I would meet that weekend would be by chance and information would be dropped into my lap. I bit my lip and tried to imagine what Charley had in mind. Though Mr. Weems had been a fascinating subject, I could not find the nugget of information I felt would catapult me onto a new path. I baited Charley and told him he was slacking…two weeks later, he proved me wrong!
Charles Weems had a great deal of information to share with me… he just didn’t know it at the time and neither did I!

Places have memories too …

April 22, 2010

4/21/10
There was little time to rest on our laurels, as we had one more afternoon visitation to make with a long standing citizen who had great peripheral information. Dressed in dapper attire he answered the door and immediately told J how much she favored her mother. Touched by the sentiment, J gave him a hug. Gracious and giving we were invited into his home and he shared his afternoon and his memories with us. While he spoke, I made notes, answered questions and sent other names I had learned of over the weekend to R for further discovery. With each response, I cataloged the corresponding comment and redirected my line of questions to our host accordingly. His stories were amazing. So much history, both fair and foul stuffed within this town it’s a wonder the place hasn’t imploded before now. That being said, we retrieved what information we could about Charley and let the man have the remainder of his day to do other things. On the drive back, we went by way of the now infamous 4-way and moved into the evening emotionally spent with one great adventure still waiting.
As a writer I and artist, I am a visual creature and draw much from my surroundings. After my first session with R, it became important for me to not only hear and read about how Charley died, but to see what he saw in the moments before. See the headlight beams bounce off the rain slicked road- watch the bend in the tree tops under the pressure of the encroaching storm… even to walk the asphalt dip line at the edge of the road before it burst into the saw grass shoulders that bound it. It was important—all of it. Especially the bridge and the river, so I could confidently calculate the distances that separated Charley from the three witnesses and possibly even his slayer.
Places have memories too and they give them back to you if you listen long and hard enough. This was my job and the last adventure for the day was perhaps even more important than being where he had died- it was being where he had lived. While the others took in the landscape in one fashion, I took it in, in quite another. I needed to internalize it; to make it the screensaver in my head so I could re-enact the murder sequence with all the peripherals in tact for those who would come in the future to read about Charley and his last night on this earth.
We left the 4-way confident we had garnered as much information as possible for the day. Hours from breakfast we looked forward to dinner and down time. The meal was to be hosted again by J’s friend who had opened both home and hearth to us that weekend. Guilt and personal preference bid us stop at a grocery store on the way to gather additional accoutrements for the meal. Just before the turn into J’s old neighborhood- she instructed us about the 4 homes that her mother and father had built. Charley had been a contractor on the side and while the neighborhood he began was once considered country, the lane now boasted mature architecture and magnificent oaks with flowing manes of Spanish moss that welcomed us with a gentle wave. I had seen random photos early on, but they paled in comparison. A home is a living, breathing thing. And just like my 8 x10 companion, I could not hope to learn what it remembered beneath its rafters unless I could trace its silhouette against a skyline or see out from within its windowed perspective.
As we made the turn onto Lake Drive, the sun danced atop the tree line to a cricket orchestra before she slipped into her evening gown of indigo. Charmed by the view, J educated to which structures before us her father and mother had birthed. The four homes were all in a row, strung like stately pearls along a manicured curb. Their architecture nostalgic and comforting felt like a late night rerun of Leave It to Beaver. Seconds later we pulled into another friendly drive. Anxious to be about his world before I lost all daylight, I exited quickly from the car and skipped ahead. It was important to frame the moment in the context of what emotion I could coax from the house alone. The door, painted enamel black was classic and echoed by scrolls of wrought iron that ran like trellis across the face of the porch. The steps were wide and inviting, making  it easier to hear the whispers of phantom men waiting in hidden moonlight, quarelling as to who would tell Hazel the tragic news when she answered the door.
A bird flew overhead and my gaze moved vertically to the roofline. It was pleasing to the eye and sat low beneath a canopy of variegated greenery that hung heavy at the edge of the property. The house felt balanced between its length and height and hugged the sky with just the right measure of light and shadow in between. To the right a huge oak squatted amidst gnarled roots and bore the birthmark of childhood- a swing. To the left another massive oak and just beyond a carport hidden behind open brickwork that cast patterns of dappled sunlight across a concrete floor. I felt Charley there the most. Could smell the scent of masculine home ownership– car oil, mower clippings and sawdust, all tinged with sulphur,sweat and salt. He was there… watching and waiting for me to set things right. I closed my eyes and breathed him in, renewing my promise to J.

Six, five, four, three, two, one…

April 19, 2010

4/19/10
Six, five, four, three, two, one…

The stack of 6 photos lay in the center of the table, as our host began to verbally prepare us for what we were about to see. As his fingers touched the corner of the original print, I watched the smile fade from J’s face. On her say, our host flipped the first of six photos. The granular esthetics of the black and white print was the first thing that hit you — then suddenly your eye adjusted to the foreign medium and the content took central focus. J’s face remained blank for several seconds as she gently fingered the rib of the photograph. I asked if she was ok and she muttered something inaudible, so I waited in silent vigil for her consideration. When she finally lowered the paper, I offered condolences. We remained hushed as our host reached for another photo, but waited to flip it as she continued to ponder the one before her.

“That’s him… that’s my daddy” she whispered and pointed to the broken figure in the center of the film. Enough seen, she handed it across the table under the low hanging lamp. Just as the photo crossed directly under the exposed bulb, I caught a glimpse of Charley’s body and could not imagine what was going through her head. It felt so surreal to see the man with the moldy skin, looking like a cardboard cutout for L.A. Confidential.  But no more surreal than the image of my own father at 82, lying in state 10 months earlier. I spent several minutes studying the monochromatic image before showing my husband. It was hard to take in the enormity of the moment. The crumpled and bloodied soul in the photo no more resembled the compliant 8 x10 companion who sat atop my writing desk, than did the man with the swollen hand and reconfigured jaw line in the casket I had knelt at months earlier. Secretly I prayed that kind disparity would provide the anesthesia of disassociation necessary to save J from the crushing heartache I feared would settle in on her hours later. Our host had winced at sharing them with her but true to her mother’s genetics; J viewed each one that followed with grace and composure. Six, five, four, three, two, one… they passed from her hands to mine, to my husband’s and then lastly to C who held an expression equal to that of his mother’s throughout the viewing. While making additional copies our host continued to educate us as to his file’s origin and the assigned officer’s statements in regards to what we could verify before us in kodacrome. None of it made sense if you were prone to linear thinking. Yet nothing in this case had ever added up rationally and in the light of what we had learned the day before, its lack of linearity made perfect sense.

After the initial shock, it was difficult for me to continue to review them without objectively assessing them in terms of evidence. I understood it was important for J and C to be able to process them emotionally, but for me — I needed to disengage emotionally and look with an eye towards what I knew and what Charley had told me through R in the first session. The man in those pictures was Charley, but he was so much more than Charley. He was my roadmap to MOT- the moment of truth and I knew deep down he would forgive me the breech of mourning etiquette. Extricated from the collective experience, I was able to acknowledge the location of the car and its placement in the road. It didn’t match our first responders drawing or his verbal description of the crime scene. Nor did it jive with certain aspects of R’s interpretation. Next, I charted the location of the flashlight and his fedora in the road. Two items ironically not mentioned, nor drawn by either our first responder, nor by R in the first session. I made mental notes of the placement and direction of the body. Of Charley’s feet and how the tips of the shoes caught at the edge of the asphalt — his soles angled at odds for someone unless they had been dragged into that position. Scuff and scrape marks on the outside of the heel backs in a vertical direction, alluding to being dragged backwards from one point over rough terrain and/or asphalt to another. His arms were equally peculiar in their assignment in respect to the hidden gun beneath his belly. Everything in the photographs spoke volumes about the absurdity of assumption, including the peripheral images which bled through the edges of the margin with equal importance. Take the car for instance; how it sidled up to the center line, not to the shoulder of the road as described by our interviewee. And the shoulder itself. Its lack of raking pitch, lack of muddy border and its proximity to the car and yet to nothing else—including the second smaller bridge.

And then there were the wounds…

One could not see the wound under the chin, as his arrangement precluded its discovery even though several photos tried to address this from different angles. While four obsessed about the body, only one captured the graphic display of the near exit wound on the upper left of his skull. Another chronicled the entry wound appearing at the bottom right of the skull, just below the right ear. Finally, empirical evidence that would clear up the GBI report which had mentioned only the area of bullet retrieval for the supposed first and then supposed “second and fatal” shot.

Even as a lay individual spending only a couple of minutes reviewing, it became clear that the crime scene had been vastly manipulated in haste and desperation. It was too obvious- too clumsy to be premeditated. This had in deed been a crime of passion… but who’s? Perhaps this was why our first responder’s description did not match that of a single detail before us. Either he was bold enough to be telling us the truth or naïve enough to think we would write it off to bravado. This was about ego- his and mine and there was so much in the photos for me to process and digest, that I became damn near cataleptic in my examination. It was clear now that I had misunderstood the claim by R in the first session. The tremendous energy R spoke of was not the entry point of the bullet, but the near exit of the bullet as it blasted its way into the skull bone and left it protruding just under the skin, but not breaking through it. Further, the entry wound on the right now confirmed correlation to the blood stains in the wallet. The blood flow could only have been direct with the body in an upright position, which was now confirmed by the grains of sand and grass clippings shown along the entire backside of the victim’s pants. This was quantifiable proof that at some point he was propped upright and stationed on his bottom as well.

There were many other signs of contradiction between photos and testimonies given too. His belt boasted an empty holster and yet his wife said he left without a gun. Photos surrendered two major sites of pooled blood on the asphalt as appeared clearly in four of the six photos. Both blood pools were 7-10 inches apart, not only from one another- but apart and 6-18 inches above and separated from Charley’s head. How was this possible? And even more improbable, how did this possibility linger through several post hours of rain?

My head wanted to explode. The blood was not even connected to the victim and yet local law, ATF, FBI and GBI– all 4 law agencies signed off on suicide and wanted us to believe it plausible! I kept quiet in the presence of our host but wanted to scream from the mountain tops… “How could anyone have looked at these photos and not see the inconsistencies that have plagued this investigation from its inception?”

I’ll tell you how. There was ignorance and there was self preservation! I tried not to get on my high horse about the lack of integrity in this investigation, swallowed hard and moved onto the last photo. Our self proclaimed first responder had sworn a blue streak the day before that a particular law officer had not been on scene that night. Yet a fourth photo showed clearly a young Trooper standing at the front window of Charley’s government car. A Trooper that neither resembled the man with the crooked teeth who claimed he was first responder, nor any other officer identifiable to us thus far. At this point, I could ingest no more. I wanted to know who the mystery Trooper in the photograph was. Could he be identified and was he still alive to interview? I put the photos down and an hour later we left. I with a splitting headache and J with copies of everything our host had promised and along with them, a million more questions about that night.

The following morning…

April 18, 2010

4/17/10
The following morning…

Nothing could have prepared us for what was about to happen next. In the 12 months prior I had done everything I could think of to tract down documents about that night or the ensuing investigation — but had garnered little beyond the GBI report and what I already had in Hazel’s files. What was about to take place was nothing shy of a miracle as far as I was concerned and I could scarcely contain myself. J had made contact with an old family friend as way of distraction and the evening had been spent out with intermittent review of the day’s events and information. Two glasses of wine later, the tension in my shoulder eased but not for long. I had saved the texts from R on my phone to record the following morning, but could not leave them alone. I held my phone below the tablecloth and shifted from sent to received at least five times during the course of dinner- checking, rechecking what had been shared and revealed. I watched J’s son. He had been freaked out by the grim reaper statement earlier that afternoon and it still showed in his face. Hell, I had been freaked out and to this hour I still have the text on my phone- which I might add, came through at exactly 3:33 in the afternoon. Gotta love the numerology in this thing! Dinner finished we called it a day and headed back to the hotel.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I got up early to check email, write and sort out my thoughts. My appointment was initially made for just after 9:00. The clock read 7:45 and in the hopes of securing some sanity in a cup before the appointed hour, I woke my husband then knocked on the wall that separated our hotel rooms. J answered with a knock. I banged back and two minutes later she was at the door in her night shirt wanting to know the game plan. I expressed my immediate need for a shower and coffee and so agreed to meet within the half hour. While putting my laptop away, my husband suggested I thank the men of the day before. But before I could reach for my phone, it rang. It was the man with the booming voice who had a question and a concern. We talked for a few moments about where we were headed and I promised to call later in the day with an update. Once showered, I made a call of gratitude to two other men, including the man with the crooked teeth. His return question seemed odd. He asked if they had ever matched the bullets to the gun- ballistics. I told him I was surprised he of all people would not have known that answer. I could confirm only what the reports on file had stated– positive ID.

I was confused. Why would someone who claimed to be so intimate with the crime and its history not know that? Even the paper clippings 44 years ago had suggested such. I chocked it up to his age and tucked that ironic bit of information in my pocket. J appeared at the door, ready to go. I told her I would meet her in the parking lot below. Just as I reached the car, my phone went off again. My contact with the file suggested we take our time and grab breakfast. He had an hour’s worth of copies left to make and was thinking of stepping out to grab a bite of something himself. Not wanting to offend and in dire need of caffeine, we scheduled to meet him at his business office for sometime after 11:00 and found a restaurant close the address he’d given.

The fevered pitch from the day before had left us all pretty wired for sound and I thought that maybe a good hot breakfast was just the thing to bring us back down from the rafters, so I agreed to take our time. Throughout the meal I continued to eye J, occasionally asking her of she was alright. It was one thing to know academically what had happened to her father- but this guy said he had photos…graphic photos and that is quite another thing to consider. Concerned about her son too, I bothered him only once as to his comfort level with what we had learned thus far. He commented it was pretty out there- but that he was there for the long haul and that I shouldn’t worry about him. I did and asked about him seeing the photos. Even my contact had worried it might be more for J to see than she needed, but I assured him- that could not be prevented. J said she would look first and then make a decision as to whether she thought C should be allowed to preview. It was a prudent decision. I looked at my husband- we all felt the same, but I knew there were answers in those photos we would never find any other way and C had just as much right to know as the rest of us. Charley would have been his grandfather.

Breakfast completed, we drove the few blocks with keen enthusiasm for what was about to take place. I felt odd about the meeting. The three conversations I’d had with this man already told me a great deal about him. He was a family man, devoted to his wife and his kids and the memory of his parents. I didn’t want to like this man. He was tied by blood to somebody else in this mess that I had had misgivings about from early on. But there he was, smiling and congenial waiting at the door to let us in. His compassion for J humbled me. Here, after suffering a family tragedy the day before- taking time to copy and explain every piece of information that his file held. You could not help but feel sympathy and gratitude for his generosity of spirit and genuine concern. Even his dog made me feel guilty for being suspicious of another agenda. I didn’t want to like him or his dog- didn’t want any kind of feelings to interfere with my objectivity, so I tried to remain distant and even in my dealings but it was damn near impossible.

He placed the file in front of her and then asked again if she was ok with what he was about to share with her. She acknowledged and the deluge began. Paper after paper laid out before us in the form of news clippings and peripheral information. First we got background information, then statements, then depositions. The last sheets in the file remained upside down until we had all composed ourselves. He asked her again if she was ok and with her sigh of acknowledgement he flipped over the remaining stack of papers to reveal 6 photos.

The sun began to set…

April 16, 2010

4/15/10
The sun began to set…
On the drive over, my ally (retired ATF agent) had filled the minutes with personal remembrances of Charley, some local moonshine history involving the immediate area and what he had been able to glean from others about that night. As we neared the hallowed ground, J instinctively slowed the car to 35 mph while we each began our personal descent into October, 1966. And I feared it wouldn’t be too difficult to do. Although the better part of the ride had shown rural aspects of Valdosta as more progressive, we were now in an area that seemed stilted by time. As the sun moved lower in the sky, the Georgia pines rose higher to meet it sending their shadows to stretch long and exhausted in the road ahead of us. Emotionally, we too felt stretched and exhausted, but the day wasn’t over yet. I thought about what R had sent in the last text message. The grim reaper meant only one thing — death. As J slowed to a crawl, I sent another message to R and asked if the image was in direct correlation to Charley? The answer came back swift enough – “yes”. Try as I might to remain in the moment; I could not seem to let go of the fear that in my eagerness to pursue this thing I might have just placed us all in greater danger for the name I had sent was of a man still living. I did my best to keep an even demeanor. R had written earlier that afternoon to trust my gut and I was trying… it was just that my gut was so tied up in knots by the time we maneuvered into the bend, I was having a hard time deciphering what it really meant to say!
When in doubt… always remain calm I say, so I focused on what was just outside my window and concentrated on letting go of what was inside my head. Spring had just begun to tip-toe across the southern portion of the state and while the afternoon had been hot- there was a coolness beginning to settle into the air and that suited me just fine. My mind had been filled with so much information in the last several hours that I was beginning to feel claustrophobic inside my own body. Outside my window, the sun continued its dive into the tree tops as we rounded a long curve, broken up by several small bridges in succession. As J searched for a place to light, I tried to imagine what the landscape might have looked like, before suburbia’s crush. There wasn’t much traffic, but there wasn’t much room to pull over either. Just past the last small bridge before the river we drove onto a roughly poured asphalt pad some 20 feet beyond the curb. We got out one by one in silence. While my husband and C took off towards the river to pace off the distance between the bridge and where reports had claimed the body to be, our chaperone educated that the path beyond the rope in front of us was most likely the same one that led into the woods where a clubhouse for the local law enforcement once existed. This was the clubhouse in question referred to in our earlier meeting of the day. J took photos of the area while I tried to take it all in from another angle — Charley’s!
With the recent drawing from my notebook, I began to search the terrain for where Charley’s car might have been located. If you followed common thought, the car would have to had been in the right (westbound) lane and not ½ on the shoulder or even completely off the road as suggested by the man with the crooked teeth- as there was no shoulder wide enough to house such a vehicle back then. I looked at the drawing again. There was no way he could have been correct. Too many pertinent elements had been omitted, yet it had certain fundamentals that mirrored R’s drawing from the first session. I knew then that whatever I would see in the report and crime photos the next morning would either confirm or deny what I was physically able to produce this afternoon. In order to afford enough clearance for a 1966 Ford sedan, I had to keep moving further eastward back to the second small bridge. Even then, it would have been damn near impossible to pull off. The boys continued to count footage and ultimately ended up closer to the same small second bridge that had caught my attention. As they counted the last few steps, I recalled something else R had said in that session. Charley had told her after the impact at the front right tire and the deadly blow to his skull- he presented as being moved 4-5 feet and propped up on something of another texture. Stone- concrete… I looked at the lip of the second small bridge where the embankment peeled away from the shoulder. The bridge had concrete parapets that supported the guardrails that followed. Could this have been what Charley had been propped up against while the blood from his fatal head wound flowed down his back into the right back pocket of his pants where his wallet laid? Remember; the interior of the wallet had blood in between the photo shields. You cannot get blood to settle into that location, if the body was not upright for an extended amount of time. So at some point, he had to have been upright which means the fatal blow was not committed in the same place the body ultimately was staged. As the light began to shrink away from us, we each spent a private moment in commemoration and reverie. I could not imagine what J might have been feeling at this point. To know that the road beneath her feet and the pines just beyond her reach held a memory of her father she would never be privy to was almost unbearable for me to suffer.
I tried to think of this scene in chaotic darkness, with the sounds of the night broken by the syncopation of rain, the rancorous screeching of Charley’s mistress and the abusive assaults as the shooter attacked and threatened to maliciously bring Charley to heel. Deeply moved, I climbed back into the car and kept silent vigil while the remainder of the trip was filled with further background information and a trip to the infamous 4-way stop where Charley often met those with information and where BM’s nightclub once ruled the night.
So far my trip had garnered more information in 7 hours, than I had been able to unearth in the previous 6 months. R was right. No one I would meet that weekend would be by chance…and everything I would see was for a reason!


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