Victim Swears She
Lied to Convict Her Cousin, Jay Van Story
By Scott Nowell
magazine, Issue 27, Winter 2005, pages 8-9
2000, 37-year-old Jay Van Story received a startling letter from his
20-year-old cousin, Angie. There had been no contact between them in
more than a decade, but Angie had recently married and become a
Christian. Now she was suddenly asking Van Story for forgiveness.
“I hope that you understand and know that I was only a
kid,” Angie wrote. “I know I cannot make up for the
time you have lost of your life, but I can try to make it up by getting
Van Story has spent the last 15 years serving a life sentence for the
aggravated sexual harassment of Angie. That 1989 Lubbock conviction was
based primarily on her testimony that he had lain naked on top of her
two years earlier, when she was seven years old.
Her later confession did not stop with a personal letter to the inmate.
In 2000, University of Houston law professor David Dow began the Texas
Innocence Network for students to delve into cases where defendants
may have been wrongfully convicted. Not long after that, Angie
contacted the group, seeking help in exonerating Van Story.
In late 2001, one of Dow’s students took the 200-mile trip to
Angie’s home in East Texas, where she made a sworn affidavit.
[The affidavit is at the end of this article.] Angie swore that her
real abuser, a brother, initially had forced her to tell her mother
that Van Story had molested her.
As the lie spun out of control, investigators with Children’s
Protective Services in Lubbock did not believe her when she told them
who really had molested her, she said. Angie had been moved into a
foster home, and was threatened by authorities with never living with
her mother again if she did not cooperate in the prosecution of Van
Story, her affidavit says.
After his conviction, Van Story, described as a model inmate, says he
was repeatedly assaulted by inmates. Texas motorists have never heard
of him, but they know his work as a prison graphics worker -- he
designed the state license plates festooned with the yucca, mounted
cowboy, space shuttle and other emblems of the Lone Star State.
As for Angie, she eventually was returned to her home, where her real
abuser continued his assaults on her, her affidavit states,
“I am coming forward with the truth at this time,”
Angie concluded in her affidavit, “because my heart has been
burdened by the fact that an innocent man is imprisoned because of my
false testimony.” [See note at end of article.]
Known as an especially bright kid in Lubbock, Van Story quickly moved
beyond the standard youthful stints of sacking groceries and busing
restaurant tables. By age 16, he was a studio camera operator for
newscasts at KLBK-TV in Lubbock. He was a cabbie for a year and then
was a news photographer for another station there.
While still a teen, he moved to Austin where he worked behind the wheel
of a UT shuttle bus and was a circulation sales manager for the Austin
His legal troubles also began at a young age in 1985, while he was
working at a school for emotionally challenged children. A
nine-year-old boy under his care told school officials that Van Story
had videotaped him taking a bath during a weekend visit at his home.
Van Story admits to that but says there was nothing sexual involved,
that it was just a foolish stunt he did at an immature age.
Still, he was hit with a charge of sexual performance by a child,
convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. Investigators noted
that he’d previously been employed at the Lubbock State
School, although interviews with every child under his care turned up
no claims of inappropriate behavior.
Lubbock authorities did file two charges of indecency after finding a
videotape in his family’s home. It contained images of a
mentally challenged boy walking around naked, and another boy mooning
the camera. But relatives explained that it was a harmless family video
of his two cousins, filmed with several amused adults present.
Van Story claims that CPS investigator Roger Bowers was angered when
those two charges were dismissed in 1985, becoming convinced that Van
Story posed a threat to children. Van Story maintains that the
dismissals provided the motive for investigators and the
D.A.’s office to build the later case against him.
Angie’s affidavit says she was molested by her brother.
Afraid of him, she told her mother it was Van Story, and the mother
relayed that to CPS. Bowers and another investigator refused to listen
to her real account of abuse by her brother -- or her words that Van
Story was innocent, her affidavit states. Angie says she continued to
lie during the trial because “Mr. Bowers told me it was the
only way to get back with my Mom.”
According to family members, Angie’s mother confessed to her
daughter on her deathbed three years ago that she too had lied --
saying Angie had told her about being molested by Van Story -- because
she feared losing her children.
Bowers refused requests for an interview, and none of the agencies
involved with this story will comment on Angie’s affidavit.
However, the earlier charges and conviction against Van Story appear to
be one of their prime arguments against her now. As prosecutor Rebecca
Atchley asked, “You do know about this guy’s past,
Van Story was first convicted in Angie’s case in 1988. That
verdict was overturned because the judge refused Van Story’s
request to represent himself. His court-appointed attorney had admitted
to the court that he was unprepared for trial, and proved it during
testimony by not following up on numerous inconsistencies in the
prosecution’s version of events.
At the 1989 retrial, Van Story represented himself. “I had
completely lost faith in the court-appointed system,” he
says. “But I knew exactly what the truth was and I felt it
would be more difficult for any of the state witnesses to try and get
any lies past me.”
“Actually, he did a pretty good job,” says Jared
Tyler, a staff attorney for the Texas Innocence Network.
At the retrial, Van Story was able to get Angie to recant virtually
every detail of her testimony from the first trial. She told jurors
that her brother was the molester and that Bowers had threatened to
remove the child from her mother unless she implicated Van Story.
Lubbock attorney Rod Hobson recalls watching part of that trial. He
says talk around the courthouse then was that the D.A.’s
office was “going to shit-can the case.”
But the next day, prosecutor Atchley put Angie back on the stand. The
nine-year-old seemed confused and unsure of what to say, but she went
back to identifying Van Story as her molester. The prosecution also
sought to undermine Angie’s earlier words by having two
therapists testify. Though neither had been present during
Angie’s testimony, both said that she was likely traumatized
from questioning by her alleged abuser.
“They presented this sort of Stockholm syndrome
defense,” says Hobson, referring to situations where
hostages sometimes empathize with their captors.
“What I saw was this child being intimidated,” says
prosecutor Atchley. “We put the testimony on, and the jury
made the call.”
Angie wound up spending the next several years in foster homes, and
says in her affidavit that the real abuser continued to molest her
when she returned home at age 14.
Van Story’s defenders contend that Angie’s
confusion and changing versions of events indicate that the
girl’s story was coached. In arguing that pressure was
applied to the girl, they point to larger questions of ethical lapses
by the prosecution during the tenure of Travis Ware as Lubbock D.A.
from 1987 to 1994. Former Lubbock police sergeant Bill Hubbard
detailed many allegations of prosecution corruption in his book
Substantial Evidence: A Whistleblower’s True Tale of
Corruption, Death and Justice. Ware and Atchley have been admonished
by appellate courts for presenting false testimony. Both were ordered
to pay Hubbard and another officer $300,000 for maliciously prosecuting
them after the officers went public with their allegations regarding
the D.A.’s office.
The Texas Innocence Network at the University of Houston has the goals
of exonerating the wrongfully convicted and training law students in
evaluating and investigating claims of innocence. The 20 or so
students taking Dow’s “Innocence
Investigations” class each semester read through hundreds of
inmate letters to determine which cases are worthy of investigation.
They’ve had some successes. A student team investigated the
case of James Byrd, who was convicted of a robbery he insisted he did
not commit. Students got a videotaped confession from the actual
robber, helping in Byrd’s release from prison in 2002. The
network also represented Josiah Sutton in his attempts to gain a pardon
after he had been wrongly convicted of rape based on faulty DNA
However, Van Story’s case poses a particularly difficult
challenge. Last year, the network filed a petition for a pardon based
on actual innocence. But the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
requires that before the board can vote on such a petition, it must be
agreed to by the trial judge, the prosecutor and the investigating law
Neither the judge, the Lubbock County D.A.’s office or the
Lubbock Police Department ever responded to that petition. Officials
from the court and the police department did not respond to calls from
the Press. Marilyn Lutter, spokeswoman for the Lubbock D.A., says the
office doesn’t investigate pardons and that
they’ve “never approved one.”
The Texas Innocence Network could ask for a new trial based on
Angie’s affidavit, but the group doesn’t have the
resources to represent people in court. Tyler says that the network
hopes to find an attorney in Lubbock willing to take on Van
Story’s appeal. He says the D.A.’s office
won’t even return his calls in response to Van
Story’s petition for a pardon.
Van Story says conditions for him have improved somewhat since the
beatings and assaults that first awaited him at the Beto prison unit as
a child molester. “I was a young, nonviolent, easygoing man,
thrown into a den of street toughs, prison-hardened gangs and
thugs,” he says. “I didn’t have a chance.
It was an extended horror show.”
He filed repeated grievances and finally gained a transfer to the safer
Wynne Unit. For the past 11 years, Van Story has worked as a graphic
designer at a prison license-plate factory. He’s regularly
written op-ed articles advocating penal and justice-system reforms.
In 2002, he worked for the new Texas Prison Museum, designing a series
of panels depicting the history of the prison system. A museum official
who worked closely with him then remembers Van Story as “very
intellectual, very intelligent…a model inmate.”
His looks, his articulate manner and his situation have led some fellow
inmates to nickname him Shawshank, in reference to Tim
Robbins’s character in the prison film The Shawshank
In the meantime, he is trying to amass support in his effort for
freedom, saying those who prosecuted him relied on intimidation and
fabricated testimony. “They abused their power, they abused
the public’s trust,” Van Story says, “and
they abused a little girl who just wanted to tell the truth.”
JD note: Reprinted with permission of Scott Nowell and the Houston
Press. “Angie” is not the real name of Van
Story’s accuser. This article was published in the December
2, 2004 issue of the Houston Press, which has a policy of not
publishing the name of an alleged sex crime victim.
“Angie” swears in her affidavit that she was
serially molested by her brother - not her cousin Jay Van Story.
You can write Jay Van Story at:
Jay Van Story 477049
Wynne Unit 3 Dorm 42
Huntsville, TX 77349
Jay Van Story is accepting letters to submit in support of his
application for a pardon from Texas Governor Rick Perry. A letter in
support should be addressed to:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757
However, do not mail the letter to the TBPP. It should be mailed to
outside legal contact for submittal as part of Jay’s pardon
package. Please mail to:
Jared Taylor, Deputy Director
Texas Innocence Network
Univ. Of Houston Law Center
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060
Or, email a letter of support to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A lawyer is preparing a habeas petition for Jay Van Story that will
include the following affidavit by his accuser. However the affidavit
is not yet a matter of public record. So the names of Van
Story’s family members referred to in the affidavit are
identified by the first letter and asterisks for the remaining letters.
AFFIDAVIT OF A**** C**** A****
THE STATE OF TEXAS
COUNTY OF NAVARRO
BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, personally appeared A**** C****
A****, who was sworn and says under oath:
My name is A**** C**** A****, I live presently at *** ******* **
P*****, Texas, *****, and I say the following to be true and under oath:
1. I have personal knowledge of the facts stated in this affidavit.
2. I provided testimony at the time that Jay Van Story was prosecuted
for molesting me and I make this affidavit in the interest of justice.
3. When I was seven years old, my brother, R***** B****, molested me by
touching my chest and vagina.
4. R***** B**** told me to tell my mother that it was Jay Van Story who
molested me. R***** B**** had previously threatened to get Mr. Van
Story in trouble.
5. I was scared of R***** B**** so I told my mother that Mr. Van Story
6. Mr. Van Story, on one occasion, was my babysitter, but he never
inappropriately touched me.
7. My mother reported my false allegations to Child Protective Services
(CPS). Roger Bowers and Connie Christian, investigators with CPS, came
to my school, Stewart Elementary, in Lubbock, Texas. They removed me
from class and locked me in a room. The principal left me alone in the
room with Mr. Bowers and Ms. Christian. Mr. Bowers told me about the
report and I told him immediately that my brother, Robert Bates, had
molested me, and that Jay Van Story had never molested me. Mr. Bowers
did not believe me and said that it was Jay Van Story who had molested
8. Mr. Bowers and Ms. Christian took me to the CPS office from school
where my mother and R***** B**** were present. I again tried to tell
Mr. Bowers that Jay Van Story did not abuse me, but because of my
brother's presence, I was pressured into falsely accusing Jay Van
Story. I was removed from my mother’s custody and lived in
various foster homes for approximately the next seven years.
9. After being removed from my home, I continued to falsely accuse Mr.
Van Story during his trial because Mr. Bowers told me that it was the
only way to get back with my Mom. In addition, Mr. Bowers and Ms.
Christian coached me to falsely accused Mr. Van Story of molesting me.
I also feared my brother, R***** B****.
10. My mother’s attorney, Johnny O’Shea, told my
mother that she would never get me back if she did not cooperate with
the CPS authorities and the prosecutors in convicting Mr. Van Story by
corroborating the evidence against him. I know this to be true because
my mother told me this before she died.
11. When I was about fourteen, I was allowed to return home to the
custody of my mother. At that time, R***** B**** continued to sexually
abuse me on several occasions by variously touching my breasts,
watching me in the shower, and in other ways. D****** E******, my
niece, has told me that R***** B**** abused her also. My husband, K****
A*****, has seen R***** B**** in inappropriate situations with D******
E******. This occurred as recently as about 1997 or 1998, after which
two of my nieces and a nephew were removed from the custody of her
grandmother, D****** L** C**** (my mother).
12. I am coming forward with the truth at this time because my heart
has been burdened by the fact that an innocent man is imprisoned
because of my false testimony.
I verify that the statements made in this affidavit are true and
correct, and that I sign this affidavit freely and voluntarily.
A**** C**** A****
SWORN TO, SUBSCRIBED, AND ACKNOWLEDGED before me, the undersigned
Notary Public, this 9th day of November, 2001.
Notary Public for the State of Texas
My commission expires June 20, 2005