Update: Tuesday, April 17, 1998

When Good Guys go Bad

John Brown: With Friends Like Him, Who Needs Enemies

By Jean Duffey

When I sat down to write this update, the line "then along came Mary" from an oldies hit kept running through my head.

The first person on the case was Saline County Sheriff James Steed who was joined by State Medical Examiner Fahmy Malak. Together they contrived the ridiculous scenario that Kevin Ives and Don Henry smoked so much marijuana they fell asleep in front of a train.

Then along came Dan Harmon who Linda believed for years was her knight in shining armor. His 1988 grand jury investigation resulted in the deaths of several witnesses, and by late 1990, Linda realized Harmon had controlled the investigation to cover up his own involvement in the murders.

Then along came State Police Investigator Barney Phillips, who complained from the onset that he "did not want to have anything to do with the case because I don't want to step on toes of people I with." He, in fact, not only did nothing to advance the investigation, Linda and I found reports he fabricated.

Then along came State Police Detective Don Birdsong. No bells went off at the time, but Linda later reflected that his entire effort was at the direction of Harmon. When Birdsong withdrew from the case, he was appointed the prestigious position of state police liaison to Governor's office.

Then along came Phyllis Cournan, the zealous FBI agent who put her heart and soul into the investigation for 18 months. But when the inevitable connection to Mena was made, Cournan sided with her superiors' decision to shut the investigation down, because, they told Linda and Larry, "there is no evidence a crime was committed."

Linda has been dealt one blow after another from the beginning of what we so impersonally call the "train deaths" case. To Linda, it all began with the worst news a mother can hear: her child is dead. And as the numbness of grief wore off, she found herself battling a cover-up that began on the tracks that night.

It has been hard, but Linda always manages to pick herself up and forge ahead. After the FBI delivered its own brand of indignities, she drew strength from knowing she had a cop on her side who professed undying devotion. John Brown was a new deputy in Saline County in 1992 and was assigned to work the case. He won Linda's confidence, and even when red flags went up about some of Brown's investigative techniques, she always defended him saying: "I know his heart's in the right place."

With Brown at her side, she decided to push forward the production of "Obstruction of Justice," our video telling about the seven investigations that have been thwarted. Linda wanted John to be part of the video, and he happily agreed. I also agreed but only if Linda and I were given editorial control over our own stories. Pat Matrisciana, the videos producer, complied and gave John the same consideration.

Sometime during the editing phase, John Brown told Pat's editor that two cops named Jay Campbell and Kirk Lane killed the boys. This was written into the narrator's script and sent to Linda and me. Our first inclination was not to name names, but after stewing over it a few days, we decided to reword the statement to "Witnesses have implicated . . . Jay Campbell, Kirk Lane . . . ." This we knew we could prove.

A year after the video was released, Campbell and Lane filed a law suit. Linda was thrilled; not that Pat had been sued, but that she could obtain information during discovery that would never otherwise be made available to her. Pat said on a radio interview; "When notice of the suit was served, you'd have thought Jean and Linda were opening Christmas presents."

The case got under way last month with their attorney taking Pat's deposition, during which Pat explained how the names came to be in the video. Pat's attorney thought his deposition went well and prepared for Linda's deposition April 3, which also went well. Pat's attorney scheduled me for a deposition, but they declined the offer to set John's. We didn't know why until we talked to Pat that evening.

John had already met Campbell and his attorney behind Pat's back. Pat said he admonished John for meeting with them without his attorney being present, but John claimed he knew how to handle himself. Linda was skeptical but did not want to think the worst. Unfortunately, neither of us could have anticipated just how bad the worst could be.

During my deposition of April 8, a reference to an affidavit was made. Our attorney asked for a copy which was handed to him on the way out. Linda and I were unable to move when the elevator door opened.

John Brown had turned. The sworn affidavit he signed made that abundantly clear. (affidavit transcription)

We are all reeling from the shock and scrambling to combat the damage. We have no explanation, but I'll be writing updates as information develops. For now, all that comes to mind is, "then along came John Brown." As for Linda; I asked her yesterday how she felt. She closed her eyes, shook her head, and said; "I've come to expect it." We both fought back tears.

You may contact Jean Duffey at: jean@idfiles.com

Linda Ives: linda@idfiles.com