By Jean Duffey

The first couple of months I communicated with the FBI, I spent many hours on the phone with the agent filling her in on background information about Saline County. It was during this time I learned that Detective John Brown had been assigned to work the "train deaths" case shortly after he moved his family to Saline County and took a job with the sheriff's office. John had made many of the very same connections between public officials and drug trafficking that my task force had made. John also connected Kevin and Don's murders to airplane drug drops and linked the cover-up of their murders to public officials.

I met John in the spring of 1994, and we began to compare notes. It was startling how much of our information was identical even though it was developed independently of each other and three years apart. John had been working with an investigative reporter who put him in contact with a pilot who goes by the name of Joe, and who claims to have been a CIA operative. Joe told John that on several occasions he had flown the Saline County drop which was known as "A-12," and that he took orders from CIA operatives out of Mena. This is - the reason Saline County officials were getting federal protection - the reason Kevin and Don's murders could not be solved - the reason high ranking public officials turned their backs on me and my task force.

The claims Joe made about Mena/CIA drug drops in Saline County suddenly ended the years of bewilderment and confusion and made sense of everything. Without knowing anything at all about this Joe person, I had made a judgment about the credibility of his information based on the logic of his claims. The reporter who initially developed Joe as an informant had some doubts about his credibility, so I set out to make my own determination. I asked John what he knew.

John said Joe gave him an accurate description of the land marks approaching the tracks and described railroad light that hung horizontally over the tracks under which the train passed. John drove the area and walked the tracks. Joe's description fit everything except the lights. There were no such lights that hung over the tracks horizontally, so John filed Joe in his own drawer of interesting-but-not-good-information. It was some weeks later that John was visiting with Linda and Larry Ives and just happened to tell them about Joe. Larry had been an engineer on that very run for years and up until three weeks before Kevin and Don were murdered. It was, in fact, Larry's old crew that ran over the boys. When John told Linda and Larry about the lights, Larry told John that in 1987, the lights were exactly like Joe described them. John took Joe out of his bad-information file and began communicating with him.

Later, Joe and I developed a rapport, and he told me that "A-12" drop number 46 was a money drop that came up missing. He said the cops in charge of picking up the drop hid out for subsequent drops to see who might try to steal another drop. Joe said Kevin and Don were in the area of drop number 50 and were ambushed. They were beaten and killed and their bodies were placed on the tracks. I passed this story on to the FBI agent who was in the process of having polygraphs administered. A few weeks later, I was told by the agent that Joe's story had been verified through the polygraph tests. (The agent also told Linda Ives that the only people failing the polygraphs were cops.)

Joe is adamant that Seal was working with the CIA drug smuggling operations headquartered at Mena, and although Seal was assassinated a year before Kevin and Don were murdered, the drug drop they stumbled upon was originally part of Seal's operation.

I still don't know very much about Joe, but I do know that I have never caught him in a lie, and that goes a long way in my book when Linda and I are desperately seeking reliable information. Joe continues to supply information that always pans out eventually, and each time it does, his credibility becomes less questionable.

Now, let's compare the likes of Joe to the likes of Billy Bottoms