Wednesday, January 31, 1996
THE BENTON COURIER,
FBI hasn't ruled out train deaths probeBy JERRY BREEDEN Courier Staff Writer
An FBI investigation into the deaths nine years ago of two Saline County teen-age boys hasn't been officially ruled out, according to the state's leading FBI agent.
I.C. Smith told The Benton Courier on Tuesday he takes exception with certain statements made recently about the FBI's involvement by Jean Duffey, a former 7th Judicial District assistant prosecutor and one-time administrator of the district's now-disbanded drug task force.
Smith is chief of all FBI agents in Arkansas.
He said he believes Duffey was mistaken when she said in a recent Little Rock radio station interview that the Bureau participated in a cover-up of the Aug. 23, 1987, deaths of Kevin Ives, then 17, and Don Henry, then 16.
Their bodies were found on the railroad tracks near the Shobe Road Crossing, where the youths allegedly had been run over by a Union Pacific train.
During the interview, Duffey -speaking by phone from the Houston, Texas, area - also said that Special Agent Bill Temple last Nov. 29 told Ives' mother, Linda Ives of Benton, that:
"In light of the fact that there is no evidence of anything, it is time you consider the fact that a crime was never committed"
Smith said Temple is "a caring individual" who "has been very concerned, because he has been so badly misquoted."
Smith said the meeting between Temple and Linda Ives took place in Smith's office. Smith said he was not there at the time, but that he is convinced Temple said nothing to Ives in such a "cold-hearted" manner.
Circumstances surrounding the deaths were examined during a public prosecutor's hearing and a grand jury probe that lasted eight months.
Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon, as special deputy prosecutor at the time, spearheaded those inquiries.
The grand jury rejected a ruling by then-state medical examiner Dr. Fahmy Malak, who said the deaths were accidental.
Jurors based their findings on second autopsies performed by a Georgia forensic pathologist. His findings were that Henry had suffered a stab wound in the back, and that Ives had been subjected to a facial beating before they were struck by the train.
Smith said there still remains "some doubt as to the causes of death" and that both he and Temple "have great empathy for the families" of the two boys.
He also said cases such as the Ives-Henry deaths are an investigator's nightmare. "They are terribly frustrating," Smith said, "because we can't put an end to them."
Smith noted that the FBI's main obstacle is "the very real problem of determining whether federal jurisdiction would apply."
That question, he said, would have to be decided by U.S. Attorney Paula Casey's office.
While she said she "can't comment on any particular case," Casey told The Benton Courier that her office "always works very closely with the FBI."
Any decision would likely be the outcome of a joint investigation by both the FBI and U. S. Attorney's office.
Rumors were rampant al one time of the deaths. One was that the boys were killed because they stumbled upon "some drug runners" in action, Smith said.
He also said that the drug-runners scenario was widely talked about by one lawman in particular. He, according to Smith, only perpetuated the rumor and did nothing official at get at the truth.
"If any lawman has knowledge of a crime, especially one as serious as murder, he is being negligent of his duties not to pursue it in an official, professional manner," Smith said.
While speculation about the boys' deaths has been rampant, the investigation appears to be stuck on high-center.
Or is it?
"I will say this," Smith noted. "There may be some foul play involved in the deaths of those boys, and I would be willing to meet personally with Mrs. Ives and discuss the case."
In the meantime, Smith said, the FBI's forensic laboratory in Washington, D.C., still has in its possession certain evidence connected with the case.
It will be kept there in storage until a legal decision is reached on how the matter is to be pursued.
Smith was adamant about not wanting to give the families of the youths cause for building on false hopes.
Unless and until an official declaration of the causes of death can be made, the matter will continue to be subject to conjecture.
Even if the deaths are shown to be homicides, he said, that-in and of itself-would not mean that federal intervention is warranted.