Since it was late in the afternoon when I left Amarillo, I only made it as far as a truck stop outside of town before dark. I spent the night at the truck stop and spent my time trying to get a ride east with one of the truckers. Luck wasn't with me.
At dawn on Friday, August 17, I was walking down the entrance ramp to I-40 East, a truck pulled over and a man named Willard gave me a ride. Willard said he was going to Arkansas and he would give me a ride that far. That day we traveled to Paragould, Arkansas, arriving after dark. Willard suggested that we go have a few drinks and he said I could spend that night in his truck and he would take me to Highway 55 the following morning.
Willard and I stopped at Dan's Duck Inn where we were refused service by Dan Langston, the owner. He told us to go to another bar that would be more apt to serve us. We went to the other bar and drank alcohol and purchased some beer to go. Willard then drove us to an area where we could camp out that night.
After we had been drinking for a while I noticed Willard had begun to masturbate. He then tried to approach me in a sexual manner. I refused his offer and pushed him into the bed of the truck. Angry at being pushed, Willard grabbed a tire iron and took a swing at me with it. I blocked the blow with my arm and defended myself by striking Willard. I hit him with my fist and hands and when he started to fall he grabbed at my legs and I kicked out at him.
Willard appeared to be unconscious and he had a bloody nose, but I could tell that he was breathing. Being drunk, I made a foolish and impulsive mistake and jumped into his truck and left. I drove to West Frankfort, Illinois, arriving there in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 18, 1990.
I stopped at my cousin's house and told him what had happened and he helped me hide the truck. After we hid the truck, I went to my father's house where my brother's birthday party was being held. Throughout the day and into that night, I was seen by family, friends and neighbors at my father's house.
About a week later, the police found the truck and I learned that Willard was in a coma. Now, I was scared! I chose not to come forward and tell the police what had happened. I thought Willard's coma was a result of our conflict and I felt bad about leaving him there alone, but I was sure I had just knocked him out. What I did not know was that 15-year old James Edward Rogers (a 23-year Paragould Police Department veteran's son) had come across Willard the next morning (Saturday, August 18, 1990). Rogers had attacked, severely beat and robbed Willard. He left Willard close to where I had fought with him in a coma and near death. I also didn't know the Paragould Police Department had an eyewitness to Roger's vicious assault and robbery of Willard.
At about 9:00 p.m. on the day after I left Willard, two local Paragould teenagers, one 13-years old and one 15-years old, went to the police with a bizarre story. They said that at about sunset they had seen a biker dragging a dead woman's body across some train tracks near North Sixth Street. The police, although highly suspicious of the boys' bizarre story went to the area near North Sixth Street but found no evidence of a biker, or a dead woman. The next morning a dog was brought into the area and they discovered not a dead woman nor a biker, but a severely beaten and unconscious elderly man lying amid the tall weeds.
The man was so severely beaten that he went into convulsions when he was moved. He had no identification on him and his pants were unzipped. In a coma, the man was listed as “John Doe” and sent to St. Bernard's Regional Medical Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Lt. John Addison of the Paragould Police Department decided that the two boys' story of the alleged biker and dead woman was in the exact area where “John Doe” was found. He found the story so bizarre that the boys needed further questioning. As he noted in his reports, “Their story appeared so preposterous, that I felt they needed to be interviewed more extensively.”
On Monday, the day after “John Doe” was found, Lt. Addison and Investigator Charles Beall of the Arkansas State Police, with the boys' parents' permission, re-interviewed the boys. They first interviewed 13-year old, Delmer Lee Ward. Ward started out by sticking to the tale of the biker with the dead body. “However,” Addison wrote in his notes, “he subsequently said that this was not the case, that there never was a body being dragged across the trestles...” Ward said that he and 15-year old James Edward Rogers were walking along the train trestle and that Rogers had gone down below the trestle to use the bathroom. Ward claimed that Rogers was confronted by a man who, as he put it, wanted Rogers to “suck his dick.”
Ward said he saw Rogers hit the elderly man at least twice, but later on in his statement, he said he saw Rogers beat the heck out of the old man. Ward said that he and Rogers had made up the earlier story about the biker and the dead body to cover up their involvement in what really happened. Additionally, Ward said that he had seen Rogers stand on top of the old man with a rock in his hands,
Lt. Addison and Beall then interviewed Rogers and, as Addison wrote, “However, he more or less spontaneously made the remark, after having started to cry, that 'I didn't mean to hurt him. I only hit him twice with a rock...'” In Rogers' statement he said he had gone to the bottom of the trestle to urinate when an old man came walking up to him with his fly unzipped and, to quote his official confession, “had his pecker in his hands and wanted him to suck his dick.” He said the old man had tried to chase him and that, using a rock, he had hit the old man several times in the head.
Although the police had a confession and an eyewitness to the assault, neither boy was arrested at that time. Several days later, the elderly man labeled “John Doe,” died from traumatic internal head injuries. Both boys were then given an official police polygraph to ensure that their allegations regarding the circumstances of their encounter with the elderly man were truthful. Both boys passed with flying colors. This meant their confessions were true!
Fifteen-year old James Edward Rogers was then charged with capital murder for his role in the death of the elderly man who was still labeled “John Doe.” Rogers' father, Jack Rogers, who had retired from the local police after 23-years of loyal service, was then allowed to bond the younger Rogers out of jail on a signature bond (requiring no money). This was not only highly unusual, but is