By Linda Ives
FBI INVESTIGATION OF THE "TRAIN DEATHS"
DECEMBER, 1993: I was contacted by a witness who claimed to have
been present at the tracks the night Kevin and Don were murdered. Although
it had long been rumored that our local prosecutor Dan Harmon was involved,
I was stunned when the witness placed Harmon on the tracks with the boys
the night they were murdered. The eyewitness (hereafter referred to as
EW for eyewitness) was extremely reluctant to trust any law enforcement
officer of any kind, but I convinced EW to meet with Saline County Detective
John Brown who had been working the case for about a year. Brown took EW
to the Little Rock FBI office where EW was interrogated and immediately
placed into protective custody. Surprised by the FBI's drastic action based
on one interview, Brown was told by FBI officials that EW's testimony confirmed
information that they already had. Several days later EW passed an FBI
FEBRUARY, 1994: The Little Rock FBI officially "took control"
of the case. When John Brown informed me that the FBI had instructed him
to turn over all evidence in the case, I was immediately outraged, and
after having witnessed the 1990 federal investigation manipulated and shut
down by Chuck Banks, I was suspicious of their motive.
FEBRUARY 28, 1994: I called the ranking FBI official Brown had
been dealing with -- Administrative Special Agent Al Finch. When I voiced
my suspicions and objections to the FBI's sudden interest in the case,
my fear was heightened by Finch's untruthful response. He stated that the
FBI was only an assisting agency and their role was very minor. According
to Finch, the FBI was simply conducting some forensic tests for Saline
County Sheriff's Office. I called his hand and told him I knew they had
ordered Brown to turn over all evidence in the case. Finch then told me
that if I would "sit back and let the FBI do their job, the case will
be solved by the end of the year". My detailed notes made of that
conversation state: "this was not a pleasant conversation".
MARCH 1, 1994: Al Finch called me back and told me he thought
I had misunderstood what he had told me the day before. I told him that
I hadn't misunderstood anything and that I hoped he had not misunderstood
me. I might have to sit back and watch another investigation of my son's
murder be shut down, but I would not sit quietly this time. He again told
me that the case would be solved by the end of the year. My notes of this
conversation state: "Finch's call was as close as you could get to
an apology without being one."
EARLY MARCH, 1994: My husband, Larry, and I began communicating
with Phyllis Cournan, the FBI agent assigned to the case, and were told
that the Little Rock FBI had recommended to the Justice Department in Washington
that Chuck Banks be charged with obstruction of justice for shutting down
the 1990 federal investigation. Also in early March, Phyllis called Jean
Duffey's brother, David Keesee, asking for Jean's assistance. When Jean
had not returned her call in a couple of weeks, Phyllis called David back
and asked him to "at least tell Jean that the Little Rock FBI office
has recommended that Chuck Banks be charged with obstruction of justice."
This information pursuaded Jean to get involved in the case again.
MARCH 18, 1994: Jean made contact with Phyllis. They spent many,
many hours talking on the phone over the next several months. Although
Jean and I had not yet met, we were both exchanging information with Phyllis.
At one point, Phyllis told me that "no one was failing polygraphs
SUMMER, 1994: By this time, Jean and I both had developed a great
deal of confidence and respect for Phyllis. Jean had come to Arkansas during
the summer, and we exchanged files, interviews, documents, and names of
informants. Jean had also met with John Brown, and when all the information
was put together, it became clear that Kevin and Don were murdered over
a drug drop connected to the Mena drug smuggling operation. It wasn't until
then we understood why federal and state officials participated in the
coverup of Kevin and Don's murder. Jean had been discredited, her task
force dismantled, and the 1990 federal grand jury investigation shut down,
all to prevent exposure of the Mena drug smuggling operation. To prevent
the same thing from happening to Phyllis's investigation, Jean urged her
to keep the scope of her investigation local which was very frustrating,
but it also seemed to be working. We were assured by Phyliis repeatedly,
and it was obviouos from the information we were receiving from her, that
the case was progressing very well.
1995: Despite Al Finch's promise that the case would be solved
by the end of the year, 1994 came and went with no arrests in the case,
and by mid 1995, the familiar signs of another shut down were developing.
One clue was when FBI agent and Harmon buddy, Floyd Hayes, (who Jean and
other investigators familiar with the case and the Mena investigation,
had reason not to trust) was assigned an "offshoot" case to look
into public corruption in Saline County. Sick at heart, we asked Phyllis
if Hayes would have access to the files on Kevin and Don. He would. Jean
told Phyllis, "this is the beginning of the end." Phyllis was
also very concerned about this, but assured us that steps had been taken
that would make shutting the case down impossible. She was wrong.
NOVEMBER, 1995: After Phyllis failed to return several phone
calls, I called FBI headquarters and requested a meeting with Al Finch.
I was told that Finch was out of the country and they didn't know when
he would return. I was also told that the number two man in the Arkansas
FBI, Bill Temple, was who I needed to see. A meeting with Temple was scheduled.
NOVEMBER 29, 1995: Larry and I met with Temple and Phyllis. Temple
stated he thought he knew why we were there, but why didn't we start by
telling him. I began by reading him my notes of my two conversations with
Al Finch in 1994 and asked for an explanation as to why the case was dragging
on. We were suddenly joined by John Kelly, an attorney for the FBI. I continued
and asked Temple about the three eyewitnesses I knew of who placed Dan
Harmon on the tracks the night of the murders. He claimed they had no credibility.
I asked him about certain physical evidence that I knew about -- he dismissed
them as unimportant. I asked him about DNA results from blood and semen
found on the boys clothing -- he claimed they were unable to extract DNA
for testing. Temple then told us that the "FBI has no evidence of
anything, including evidence that a crime had been committed" and
that "it is time for you to consider the fact that a crime has not
been committed." Stunned and devastated, I walked out of the meeting
ABOUT ONE WEEK LATER: Jean and I then began making good on my
promise to Finch in 1994 that while I might have to watch another federal
investigation be shut down, I would not do it quietly this time. That old
hammer they had always used - "DON'T DO ANYTHING TO JEOPARDIZE THE
CASE" - didn't work anymore. Jean and I started talking to anyone
and everyone who would listen - no holds barred.
DECEMBER 10, 1995: The Pitsburgh Tribune-Review
printed an article about the shut down of the case in which I quoted Temple's
statement that a crime had not been committed. A few days later, Jean taped
a telephone conversation with Phyllis. Phyllis stated she was disappointed
that the meeting had been reported to the media. Jean asked if there was
anything in the article that was inaccurate and Phyllis said there wasn't.
In fact, referring to my quote in The Tribune explaining Temple's
statement that a crime had not been committed, Phyllis verified that's
what Temple said. Phyllis stated that I had "quoted the ASAC (assistant
special agent in charge) verbatim."
1995 ended on the lowest note ever for me.
JANUARY 20, 1996: I got back on track and fired off an angry
letter to Bill Temple.
JANUARY 25, 1996: Jean was a guest on The Pat Lynch Radio
Show on KARN in Little Rock. Lynch, who has the largest radio audience
in Arkansas, has been a champion of this story in spite of his political
views and support of the Clinton's against suggestions they are involved
in any kind of conspiracy, like the Mena coverup. Jean read portions of
my letter repeating Temple's asinine quote. Publicly exposing what went
on in that November 29th meeting set off a controversy which was the beginning
of the next phase of my dealings with the FBI.
I.C. SMITH'S INTERVIEW -- A BUNGLED DEFENSE
LINDA IVES' TIME-LINE CONTINUES