By Jean Duffey
Linda and I met for the first time in the summer of 1994, a few months
after the FBI opened its own investigation of the "train deaths." By that
time, there had been a total of six shut-down investigations surrounding
the deaths of Kevin and Don. We were anxious to share our information with
each other, with the FBI, and with Saline County Detective John Brown.
Bill Clinton was President by this time, so there were numerous investigative reporters snooping around Arkansas who were sniffing out smelly affairs around the state - the "train deaths" case was certainly one of them. These reporters were generous with information they thought might be helpful to us, and it was the work product of a reporter that indirectly made the first link to Mena for me. The link was, however, based on information from an iffy source, and I ordinarily might have filed the information away in my interesting-but-not-reliable-or-relevant drawer. However, the minute I heard this particular piece of information, it connected other pieces I knew had a place in the big picture. Even though the reporter had questions about the credibility of his source, common sense and instinct distinguished his information as factual. It hit me like a ton of bricks - all of a sudden, everything made sense. From then on, Linda and I knew who and what we were dealing with, which defined our course of actions from that point. But, before I go further, I should lay out the facts we knew up to then.
Expatiated: When my drug task force became operational in mid-1990, Kevin and Don had been dead for two and a half years. Scott, one of my officers, requested to open our own investigation of the "train deaths," because he had developed information causing him to believe it was drug-related. This was no big revelation, since there were numerous reports in the state police file of witnesses and informants linking the murders to drugs. The reports, however, ranged from Kevin and Don being dope-dealers themselves, to the boys simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The information developed by Scott, pointed to the latter, and it later became apparent that there was a lot of deliberate disinformation being generated. One thing was very clear, however; where there was illegal drug activity in Saline County, there was public official involvement and protection, usually linking Dan Harmon.
Expatiated: Scott learned of the strange activity of low-flying airplanes over the tracks in the vicinity of where Kevin and Don's bodies were run over by the train. Scott obtained an aerial map and traced out the route of these planes as they flew in at near stall-speed from the west before revving back up and circling back to leave in the same direction from which they had flown in. The pattern was consistent and somewhat regular from what Scott could determine.
Scott developed a theory that drugs were being dropped from airplanes along the railroad tracks where Kevin and Don were run over by the train, and the boys were murdered because the saw the people who picked up the drop. Scott's theory conflicted with a long-purported rumor that drugs were being dropped off of trains coming up from Louisiana. Scott and I had no way of knowing it at the time, but I realized years later the train-drop scenario was perpetuated as disinformation to divert attention away from the plane drops of drugs and money from the Mena operation. At the time, though, it didn't seem important whether the drugs were being dropped from trains coming up from the south or being dropped from planes flying in from the west. The point we were trying to make at the time was Kevin and Don were murdered because they witnessed a drug drop that had links to public officials. Scott and I didn't think the source of the drugs altered the motive for murder, and we had no way of knowing the source of the drugs altered the course of every investigation into the murders of Kevin and Don.
Expatiated: Arkansas State Medical Examiner Fahmy Malak performed the first autopsies and ruled that Kevin and Don had fallen asleep on the tracks in a psychedelic stupor after smoking massive amounts of marijuana. Malak originally intended to rule the deaths a suicide, but Sheriff Steed warned against it, so without any supporting evidence, Malak generated the marijuana-stupor scenario. The parents demanded a second opinion and the bodies were exhumed. An out-of-state team of forensic investigators agreed that the signs of murder were clear, and the ruling was changed to homicide. Malak was exposed as an incompetent fool and in spite of a public outcry to have Malak removed from office, Governor Bill Clinton made excuses for him. It became apparent that Malak was trying to prevent the deaths from being investigated as murders, and although Malak became a political liability, Clinton supported him and recommended he be given a raise.
Expatiated: Against established police procedure and in spite of statements from the train crew that should have aroused suspicion of foul play, the sheriff's department worked the death scene as an accident, and the evidence was not preserved properly. The back of the train was used as a reference point for diagrams (useless when the train pulled away), and the existence of a tarp that partially covered the boys when they were hit was explained away by the sheriff as an optical illusion. This was in spite of a member of the train crew pointing it out to investigators. It is impossible to believe that such bungling was anything but deliberate.
Dan Harmon was appointed to head the county grand jury investigation of the "train deaths." As the investigation proceeded, witnesses began turning up dead, and Linda later realized that Harmon had orchestrated a cover-up. Linda learned later that eye witnesses placed him on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered.
The state police investigation was clearly a sham from the beginning. Investigators ignored information in the second interview conducted, which spelled out what fairly clearly why the boys were murdered. Instead of following up on that information, investigators went in bizarre directions, and generated a nearly three-foot- high file that is mostly a pile of disinformation.
Expatiated: The very public officials my drug task force had linked to drug trafficking had launched a smear campaign against me and my task force. Even though their allegations against us were unfounded, the news media brutalized us by reporting lies. We were shut down before we were able to complete our investigations, but we took all the files we had developed against public officials with us when we left. Illegal felony warrants were issued for my arrest in an attempt to obtain the files, but I refused to turn them over and was portrayed as a felony fugitive by the media. The public officials we investigated received support and protection from powerful government officials, and no one in authority would take a stand for me or my officers.
Expatiated: Scott and I gathered up the information he had developed, including the aerial map with the planes' flight pattern mapped out, and went to the U.S. Attorney's office. We expected to visited with Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Govar, like we had done more than a dozen times before, but this time we were ushered to the office of U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks. Banks appeared to listen with great interest as we spelled out Scott's theory, and he promised us he would get federal authorities to pick up where we left off. Banks promised, "if the train deaths case can be solved, I will see to it that it is." He then promised to get Scott and me before the grand jury with the information that we had just given him, as well as with the information we had developed against public officials. Neither ever happened.
Expatiated: By June of 1991, six investigations involving Saline County and the "train deaths" had been thwarted. Linda and I knew there was a mountain of evidence against several public officials involved in illegal drug activity and connected to an orchestrated cover-up of the Kevin and Don's murders. It was obvious these public officials were being protected from the federal level, but that made no sense at all. These public officials were all democrats. Why would Chuck Banks, a republican-appointed U.S. Attorney, shut down a federal investigation and send grand jurors home without allowing them to indict several Saline County democrats, which they were unanimously ready to do?
Four months before Banks held his press conference in June of 1991, clearing all Saline County public officials of any wrong-doing, I was warned that he was going to do so. Chris Day, a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette, told me Banks was going to shut down the federal investigation in exchange for a federal judgeship nomination. Chris wouldn't tell me his source, but the story was just too ridiculous to believe anyway. Why would President George Bush insert himself in a local Arkansas investigation and reward Chuck Banks with a judgeship nomination for protecting a bunch of Saline County democrat officials?
Even though the signs of a shut-down became clear shortly after Chris's warning, I couldn't believe it was really going to happen. When it did, I was stunned. Then, the following year, when Banks was nominated to replace a federal judge from Little Rock, I was stunned, confused, and frustrated - mainly confused because there was no rhyme nor reason to Chris Day's prediction which came true. (Banks was not confirmed before the 1992 elections, and his nomination was withdrawn.) Nothing over the next three years made any sense of it; I just knew something was very wrong with Chuck Banks.
It was not until a few months before I started working with the FBI in March of 1994, that I put enough of the pieces together to realize Banks ousted Bob Govar and took over the federal grand jury investigation, so he could contrive a shut-down. I was, in fact, persuaded to work with the FBI when an agent told me the Little Rock FBI recommended Banks be charged with obstruction of justice for shutting down the 1990 grand jury. However, I did not know why Banks had apparently been rewarded for protecting Saline County officials, until the spring of 1994.
Continue to "After the Mena Connection was Made."