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Published:April 17th, 2014 11:50 EST
The Lake Waco Murders: An Email Interview with 'Texas Monthly' Writer, Michael Hall

The Lake Waco Murders: An Email Interview with 'Texas Monthly' Writer, Michael Hall

By John G. Kays

The Lake Waco Murders (July 13, 1982) exist in two dimensions: one, is how the story projects itself forth, promulgated by the news, witnesses, the WPD, attorneys, the DA, and then ultimately, by a very gifted writer (Carlton Stowers` Careless Whispers), through the changes of 32 twisting, turning, undulating years (MH uses the word serpentine)

The other dimension, which is much more important since it represents the truth, is what really happened, whether we`re referring to how the Waco Police detectives originally investigated the case, or if we`re referring to the supposed criminals who (we are told) killed the three teenagers (Jill Montgomery. Raylene Rice, and Kenneth Franks). An intersection or overlap between these two dimensions is exceedingly elusive!

In fact, it may not exist at all! Nonetheless, Texas Monthly Senior Editor and long time writer, Michael Hall, tried to tackle The Lake Waco Murders (and it`s infinite tributaries) once again, spending a full year knockin` on doors, asking hard questions, talking to whomever was willing to talk (many witnesses or suspects now are deceased), or reading over archived newspaper articles or trial transcripts. *(a full disclosure of his sources is still pending).

In this brief email interview I conducted with Michael Hall, I just asked him 6 multi-part questions, but actually I was thinking up 20 or more challenging questions. This would essentially be enough content to fill up the pages of a lengthy new book, so we didn`t want to go that far with it. 

But race yourself rapidly over to your closest Whole Foods (or any newsstand where Texas Monthly is sold), and pick up the April issue, before they`re all snatched up; The title of Mike`s story is: The Long, Dark Shadow Of The Lake Waco Murders. The veil of the first dimension has been lifted by Mr. Hall, but the second one projects forth, (cosmically and ethereally) in misty mutating silhouette! Who was David Spence (CHILI)?

(John Kays) 1. Did you ever take a look at Muneer Deeb`s `Accident Insurance Policy` on Gayle Kelley? Is it credible that Muneeb believed this was close to (resembled) a standard U.S. Workman`s Compensation policy? After all, he was a new immigrant from the Middle East?

(Michael Hall) Yes I had a copy of it--it was clearly an Accident Insurance Policy. Both the salesman and Deeb and (I`m pretty sure) Kelley all said the discussion in advance of selling it was that it was for accidents, in lieu of workman`s comp. I think Deeb`s partner acknowledged that too. It was not an accidental death policy though it did pay if the person died.

(JK) 2. It now seems clear as day, Benny Carroll murdered Juanita White, David Spence`s mother. Do you believe someone hired Benny to do it? You allude to Juanita White (shortly before she too was murdered) calling Russ Hunt, believing she had new evidence that would exonerate her son; is it possible she was killed in order to suppress this new evidence? Also, do you think the same killer returned to her house (the burglary), after her murder investigation had already begun, to try and find evidence in David`s old room?

(MH) Actually, I think I only found one person who thought Carroll had anything to do with White`s murder. Various people have tried to connect Carroll with Simons--as one of his snitches--but I don`t think anyone ever did. Even those people who believe Simons set up the defendants in both murders don`t believe he had something to do with White`s actual murder. 

However, most investigators did believe there was something suspicious about the breakin 8 hours later--that that was somehow connected to the Lake Waco murders. Several people think the person who broke in was looking for the recantation letter from Robert Snelson. But no one remembers if the actual letter was ever found in White`s belongings.

(JK) 3. Did you get to see the bite mark evidence, that got David Spence a death sentence? What`s an argument against the bite mark evidence? Can you really see the bite marks on the autopsy photos?

(MH) I didn`t actually see them. I looked at the photos and didn`t see any bite marks. Apparently when a person bites another person the marks made can be just bruises or cuts--not perfect half-moon shaped marks. Several experts in the odontology study done by the appellate attorneys did see what they thought could be bite marks, they just didn`t think you could identify anyone from them.

(JK) 4. Do you know the name of the witnesses who saw Tab Harper at Koehne Park that night (July 13, 1982)? Why didn`t the original WPD detectives take a more serious look at Tab Harper? Do you know of any reason why he was eliminated as a potential suspect very early on? 

(MH) One of the witnesses was Deanna Storts, the teenaged girl who wrote to Jan Thompson--she`s dead now. Another is a woman who wouldn`t talk to me and whose name I don`t know. Harper was actually taken in for questioning on the case, and the detectives didn`t feel he was the kind of guy who would do this kind of violence. He was a violent guy but not, they felt, the kind of psychopath who would cut up some teenagers like this. 

He`s in Stowers book but under a different name--Stowers changed the names of a lot of the people who were still living, but the changed names have the same initials as the real person (I don`t remember the name Stowers gave him and don`t have the book handy. The book is mostly taken from Simons` memories.)

(JK) 5. Do you believe the murders occurred at Speegleville Park? Or do you think they were likely done at Koehne Park? I mean, wouldn`t someone have heard it, if it was done at Koehne Park? What about Jill Montgomery`s gold necklace; do you think Truman Simon was the one who planted it at Koehne Park?

(MH) One of the things that strikes you about Koehne is how small it is--maybe the side of a football field, without a lot of vegetation. You`d think that three horrific killings like this would have caused a lot of noise and turmoil. There was never any blood or anything else found there (except for the bracelet, which of course was pretty problematic--I tend to think Jan Thompson is correct about where it came from)--but very little found at Speegleville either.

JK comment *(Or perhaps, they were`nt done in either park - perhaps in, say, a van?)

(JK) 6. Is Fredric Dannen ever going to publish his book on The Lake Waco Murders?

(MH) I have no idea. He has the info, that`s for sure, and he`s a great writer who knows how to report and put together a narrative. But I have no idea. I sure hope so--because he has a lot more info than I got.