Julie Rea

Julie's Website:
http://obviousanswers.presspublisher.org/

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JULIE REA CHRONOLOGY
Julie Rea


Compiled by Ayse Tuker


Copyright © 2006, Center on Wrongful Convictions
Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law

June 25, 1993 — Tommy Lynn Sells is sentenced to an indeterminate term of two to ten years in prison for a knife attack on a twenty-year-old woman in her home in Charleston, West Virginia.

September 3, 1994 — Julie Rea Kirkpatrick is divorced from her husband, Leonard Kirkpatrick.

March 7, 1996 — Leonard Kirkpatrick is awarded residential custody of their nine-year-old son, Joel Kirkpatrick.

May 1997 — Tommy Lynn Sells is released from prison in Moundsville, West Virginia.

October 13, 1997 — Ten-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick is stabbed to death in his mother’s home in Lawrenceville, Illinois.

December 31, 1999 — Thirteen-year-old Kaylene Harris is stabbed to death and a companion, eleven-year-old Krystal Surles, is wounded by a knife-wielding man in Del Rio, Texas.

January 2, 2000 — Sells makes a tape-recorded confession to the Del Rio crime and approximately fifty others, although not the Kirkpatrick crime, to a Val Verde County, Texas, Sheriff’s Lieutenant Larry Pope and Texas Ranger John Allen.

September 2000 — Sells is sentenced to death for the Del Rio crime.

October 12, 2000 — A Lawrence County grand jury indicts Julie Rea for her son’s murder and she is taken into custody in Monroe County, Indiana.

December 15, 2000 — Rea, an Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in psychology, waives extradition to Illinois in exchange for an agreement under which she is to be released on $500,000 bond.

September 12, 2001 — Rea wins a change of venue to Wayne County, Illinois. The state agrees to provide $2,500 to hire a defense investigator.

February 21, 2002 — The Rea trial opens in Wayne County before Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Robert M. Hopkins and a jury of six men and six women.

March 4, 2002 — Even though there is no direct evidence of Rea’s guilt, the jury finds her guilty. Her bond is revoked and she is taken into custody.

March 19, 2002 — Judge Hopkins sentences Rea to sixty-five years in prison.

June 22, 2002 — In a letter to Diane Fanning, a writer researching a true crime book, Sells writes that he committed the murder of Joel Kirkpatrick.

July 23, 2002 — Fanning visits Sells in jail in Texas where he was being held and he describes the Kirkpatrick murder in some detail.

February 28, 2003 — Allen Wolf and Robert Bunting, private attorneys from Michigan, file a direct appeal for Rea in the Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court.

Summer 2003 — The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project begins an investigation with the goal of filing a clemency petition for Rea and the Center on Wrongful Convictions agrees to represent Rea.

September 23, 2003 — Bill Clutter and Larry Golden, of the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, announce at a Springfield press conference that they have “compelling new evidence corroborating [Sell’s] confession.”

October 23, 2003 — Author Diane Fanning holds a Springfield press conference describing Sells’s confession to the Kirkpatrick crime.

November 6, 2003 — Sells confesses once more to the Kirkpatrick murder, this time to Illinois law enforcement officials.

June 24, 2004 — The Fifth District Appellate Court vacates Rea’s conviction and remands her case for a new trial based on procedural error.

Early July 2004 — Ronald S. Safer, a partner in the Chicago law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP, enters the case, partnering with the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

July 22, 2004 — Rea is released on $750,000 bond pending retrial.

September 9, 2005 — The Lawrence County Circuit Court agrees that Rea is entitled to a change of venue but does not name a location.

October 4, 2005 — Clinton County is selected as the venue for the new trial and Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Barry L. Vaughan is selected to preside.

March 10, 2005 — Over the objection of prosecutors, Judge Vaughan rules that Sells’s statements are admissible at the Rea retrial.

July 11, 2006 — Jury selection begins.

July 26, 2006 — The jury finds Julie Rea not guilty.

Who Killed Joel?

His mother is currently serving a 65-year sentence for his murder. Why, then, has a Texas serial killer confessed to the crime?



IL-Times JULY 24, 2003




BY
DUSTY RHODESJulie Rea has told this story hundreds of times. But no matter how many times she tells it, the story never makes sense.



She was asleep in her own bed when she heard a child scream. This child sounded more terrified than her son Joel ever did, no matter what kind of nightmare engulfed him.

She slipped out of bed and padded across the hall into the 10-year-old's room. The light from the hallway illuminated his bed enough that Julie could see it was empty. She called out his name.

"Joel? Joel?"

Suddenly someone bounded over the bed and brushed past Julie. Was it Joel? Wearing a mask? Why wouldn't he stop? He was desperate to get away from her, to escape. Julie chased him down the hall, past the living room, through the kitchen. He broke through a glass door leading into the garage. "You shouldn't do that, it's dangerous," Julie thought, as he crashed through a second glass door into the back yard.

He turned and started swatting Julie, trying to shoo her away. He was strong and wild-eyed. He definitely wasn't Joel.

They scuffled briefly--she remembers grabbing his legs, his arm around her neck, her face on the ground. She was surprised at how hard he was hitting her. Then he was off, walking toward the woods, pausing briefly to remove his mask. She caught a glimpse of his profile, then she ran the opposite way, toward the nearest neighbor with lights on. "Joel's gone! Joel's gone!" she yelled, pounding on the door. The neighbors called police and reported the kidnapping.

After what felt like forever, police and paramedics arrived. The police went to Julie's house while a paramedic bandaged her arm. Then an officer came and said someone else needed medical attention.

It was Joel. He had not been kidnapped; he had been killed. His body was found on the floor between his bed and the wall. Joel Kirkpatrick had been stabbed to death in his own room, his own bed, apparently with a steak knife from his own mother's kitchen.

In the days and weeks and months to come, investigators found no sign of forced entry into Julie's house, nothing stolen, no fingerprints, and no one with any motive to kill a 10-year-old boy who was by all accounts exceptionally sweet, considerate, and bright.

Julie tried to move on with her life. She left Lawrenceville, the little town where her son was murdered, and rented a duplex in nearby Bloomington, where she continued her studies toward a PhD in educational psychology. To deal with her constant overwhelming fear, she installed security lights outside the duplex, planted thorn bushes under every window, and bought a German shepherd named Nosyt, already trained as a personal protection dog. More than a year after Joel's murder, she went out on a blind date. She and Mark Harper fell in love and got married.

But while Julie lived in fear that the killer would return for her, law enforcement officials in Lawrenceville zeroed in on Julie. On October 12, 2000--three years almost to the day after Joel died--a special grand jury indicted Julie for murder. After a two-week trial at which she was represented by an overworked public defender, Julie was found guilty and sentenced to 65 years in prison.

The prosecutor, Ed Parkinson, later told reporters that Julie was convicted by "her ridiculous story"--the one that never made any sense. In an interview broadcast on the TV show
20/20, Parkinson said, "To believe her, you would have to believe that this assailant came into her home in the middle of the night in dark clothes, hiding his identity by the use of a mask, for the sole purpose of killing a 10-year-old boy. And after he accomplished his result, he pulled off the mask to reveal his identity to her. Nonsense."

He dismissed the notion that someone else could have committed the crime: "No one in this world except Julie Rea fits the killer."



Watching that
20/20 episode, aired May 31, 2002, Diane Fanning reached a different conclusion. In a letter to a man who had become her pen pal, Fanning mentioned the TV segment about the imprisoned mom and opined that the woman might be innocent. "You listen to the law enforcement guys and the prosecuting attorney and they are so full of stupid opinions," Fanning wrote.

Her irreverent tone was meant to humor her pen pal, a serial killer named Tommy Lynn Sells, imprisoned on Texas' Death Row. Fanning, who lives in New Braunfels, Texas, was in the process of writing a book about Sells, and she needed to stay on good terms with her subject. "He'd get irritated if I didn't write back immediately," she says. "I'd write two [letters] for every three he wrote to me."

His last dispatch had been full of complaints about Texas Rangers (the law enforcement agency, not the baseball team). He didn't appreciate the way they were pressing him for details about a murder he had confessed to committing.

"I was writing to tell him to cut them a little slack, because they encounter other officers in law enforcement that they have to prove things to," Fanning says. "I told him that sometimes those other officers and DAs don't think clearly, and here is an example that I'd just seen on TV."

She went on to outline what she felt were faulty assumptions espoused by the prosecution: No strange fingerprints, no motive, yet such violence that the perpetrator must have had a close relationship to the child. And finally--in what Fanning called "my very favorite on the stupid scale"--the notion that no one intent on murder would enter a strange house and grab a knife from the kitchen.

"After hearing that garbage, I believe it is very possible that woman is telling the truth," Fanning wrote.

Sells, she knew, would agree with her opinion. Still, she was utterly unprepared for his response.



No one knows how many people Tommy Lynn Sells has killed. Sells himself isn't even sure. He has a documented history of mental illness, a penchant for cross-country travel facilitated by auto theft, and a tendency to associate with characters on the fringes of society. Since childhood, he has abused every substance available, from alcohol and inhalants to heroin and LSD. Combine that with his creativity in disposing of bodies and his fastidious flair for leaving crime scenes fingerprint-free, and you have the ingredients for a boundless blur of mayhem.

Sells claims to have committed approximately 50 murders. A handful of those confessions have been proven false. The majority of his avowed crimes may never be proved or disproved because the victims were prostitutes, junkies, or homeless--nameless, faceless people who disappeared without notice.

Johnny Allen, a Texas Ranger who has been investigating Sells since January 2000, says some agencies hear Sells is already on Death Row and see no need to bother tying him to a cold case. "Some of the agencies weren't interested," Allen says. "This has just been a nightmare."

But Allen has no doubt that Sells is a serial killer.

"There are 15 [murders] that I'm confident he's connected to, that we feel reasonably sure he's committed," Allen says. Sells has also been implicated in two attempted murders.

In six of these crimes, a knife was Sells' primary weapon. Five began just as Joel Kirkpatrick's murder did--with victims being stabbed while they slept. Sells was finally caught when one young victim survived by playing dead. He was convicted of killing her roommate.

The earliest murder Texas Rangers attribute to Sells dates back to July 26, 1985, shortly after he turned 21. He was working as a carney at the Taney County Fair in Springfield, Missouri, when he attracted the attention of Ena Cordt. A single mom who attended the fair with her four-year-old son, Willie, Cordt welcomed Sells into her home later that night.

According to the account in Fanning's book, their visit was pleasant until Sells caught Ena rifling through his backpack. Assuming she was trying to steal his stash of cocaine, Sells picked up Willie's baseball bat and began beating Ena, then picked up a kitchen knife and slit her throat. When Willie got out of bed to see what the commotion was, Sells beat the child to death with the bat. Then he wiped everything he had touched to eliminate fingerprints and left taking Willie's baseball bat with him.

In October 1987, Sells drifted through Nevada and worked briefly for a roofing company in the mining town of Winnemucca. There, he met college coed Stefanie Stroh, who was hitchhiking across the country. In his confession, Sells said he offered her a ride to Reno, but along the way they pulled off the road to drop acid together. Sells choked the 20-year-old girl to death. Then, noticing a washtub and a bag of cement mix in the bed of the stolen truck he was driving, he anchored the girl's feet in the tub, waited overnight for the concrete to harden, and dumped her body into a nearby hot spring the next morning.

A month later, he was across the country in the tiny town of Ina, near Rend Lake in southern Illinois. At the edge of town, he staked out a trailer, home to Keith and Eileen Dardeen and their young son Peter. The Dardeens had a "for sale" sign on the trailer; they were expecting a new baby and hoping to move to a bigger house. Using the sign as an excuse to strike up a conversation and a stolen gun to force his way inside, Sells bullied Keith Dardeen into providing duct tape so he could bind Eileen and Peter.

Sells forced Keith to drive him about a mile away, then shot and sexually mutilated the young father. Sells then drove Dardeen's car back to the mobile home, where he raped Eileen and attacked little Peter with the child's own baseball bat. When Eileen tried to protect her son, Sells attacked her with the bat. The trauma sent Eileen into labor. Sells waited until the premature baby emerged, beat it to death and then killed Eileen. He cleaned up after himself--removing the duct tape, wiping away any fingerprints, and leaving the family car parked near a police station.

Years later, when he confessed to the Texas Rangers, he remembered enough minute details to persuade skeptics of his guilt. One item that he recalled was a Toucan Sam hat hanging on a coat rack in the Dardeen home.

Sells crossed the country again and landed in Utah, where, a few months later, he claims to have killed a homeless woman and her son. Authorities have confirmed that in December 1988, in Tucson, he killed a homeless man by stabbing him to death in his sleep, revenge for the man's failure to pay for a bag of marijuana.

Several years and several unconfirmed killings later, Sells had a life-changing experience. Posing as a homeless person needing help for his family, he wormed his way into the West Virginia home of a 20-year-old good Samaritan named Fabienne Witherspoon. As she filled bags with food and clothes to send to his wife and kids, Sells chose a knife from her kitchen to impel her to submit to his sexual assault.

But Witherspoon found an opportunity to fight back. Bent over a bathroom fixture, she picked up a ceramic duck, bashed it into Sells' head, and gained control of the knife. She did enough damage that Sells spent a week in the hospital before a plea bargain sent him to prison for five years.

Both Fanning and Allen have spent the past few years debriefing Sells, and they both notice a change in his
modus operandi after this encounter.

"He had five years to think about the lesson to be learned," Fanning says. "After he got out, every victim was age 16 or under."

He was released in May 1997. Joel Kirkpatrick was killed five months later.



One of the few things Joel's friends and relatives agree on is the fact that he was an exceptional child.

Rick Mitchell, a former boyfriend who has remained friends with Julie, played computer games with Joel. "He had a way of relating to adults that was unusual for a child his age," Mitchell says.

Jane Rea, Julie's mom, remembers one of Joel's teachers saying she enjoyed having him in class because he "got" her jokes. Another teacher, Jane says, still keeps Joel's IQ test in a file, because it's so rare to have a student score higher than 150.

Jim Rea, Julie's father, describes Joel as "quiet, as kids go," but well-liked. "He was the kindest, lovingest, most brilliant little boy I think I have ever been around," Jim says. "He was always very solicitous toward everyone around him. He wanted everybody to be happy."

Len Kirkpatrick--Joel's father and Julie's first husband--says no one could ask for a better child. "Joel was special and dear beyond compare," Len says. "He was a kind soul--you wouldn't find a kinder one--and empathetic, diligent, smart, made straight As, uncomplaining about homework or any household chore he may have been asked to do. He was just the finest individual I've ever known, and I'm proud to have had the precious time I had with him."

Past that oasis of unanimity, though, is a vast desert of mutual resentment, suspicion, and hostility. The two sides talk about each other, but never to each other. For the past 10 years, Len and his parents have not spoken to Julie and her parents.

The feud between the former in-laws is made even more painful by the closeness they once shared. As Free Methodist missionaries to central Africa, they were working together when Len and Julie were born. The Reas returned to the U.S. when Julie was a toddler; the Kirkpatricks made a trip stateside every few years. During one of these visits, Len and Julie fell in love. They got married at the ages of 18 and 17, respectively. Joel was born 11 months later.

But the marriage eventually disintegrated, despite more than a year of counseling. When Joel was six, Julie took him and left. The divorce was finalized in September 1994. Len remarried the following May. His ability to offer a two-parent home may have been a deciding factor in the custody dispute. They shared joint custody, but just before school started in the fall of 1997 Len was given "residential custody," a decision Julie had unsuccessfully appealed.

The timing of Joel's death on the heels of such a fierce custody conflict commingled the emotions of the two events and cemented the hard feelings between Julie and Len and their extended families. Indeed, some say the conflict provided the motive for Julie to kill her son. Could she have decided--If I can't have Joel, Len can't have him either? Len and the prosecution team believe this scenario; Julie's parents and friends find it preposterous.

The logic of this theory is purely relative: There's no such thing as a rational reason to kill a slumbering child. If Illinois State Police investigators assigned to the case had discovered a more reasonable scenario, they surely would have explored it.

They did chase down several leads. In the weeks following the murder, a rumor circulated that one or more teenage boys left a nearby party and broke into Julie's house to steal her VCR. The boy or boys, high on methamphetamines, "freaked out" when Joel interrupted the burglary and stabbed him. According to some versions, they returned to the party wearing bloody clothes after burying the murder weapon under the floor of a shed. Investigators lost interest in this theory because the rumor had Joel being stabbed to death on the couch (instead of in his bed), and the specified shed had a gravel floor that appeared to have nothing buried beneath it.

The absence of other viable suspects soon focused the investigation on Julie.



Any experienced investigator will tell you the usual perpetrator of violence against a child is a parent. So it's not surprising that Joel's parents came under scrutiny.

Len Kirkpatrick, though, was quickly cleared. His wife said he was asleep in bed at the time of the murder, and an officer sent to his home in Charleston, near Mattoon, confirmed his car was sitting cold in the driveway. Besides, even Julie said the intruder she scuffled with was not Len.

But Julie had no alibi. All she had was her story--the one that made no sense.

Some evidence bolsters her account: Her nightshirt was not covered in Joel's blood, as it should have been if she had stabbed the child. At her trial, the prosecution's forensics expert testified that the only bit of Joel's blood on Julie's shirt was a "transfer" smear from brushing up against something, not a direct spatter. Other blood spots on her shirt turned out to be her own blood, which had oozed from an inch-deep cut on her arm that required five stitches to close (curiously, this wound was never photographed).

Julie also had a black eye, bruising on her shoulders, and superficial abrasions on her legs and the tops of her feet. Her shirt had grass stains on the back. And finally a bloody shoe print found on glass matched the footwear of no one at the crime scene.

Prosecutor Ed Parkinson, however, argued this scene was staged, and Len Kirkpatrick agrees. If Julie had actually struggled with an intruder, Len says, the house would have been in disarray. Framed prints would have been knocked ajar on the walls. Chairs would have been bumped, papers knocked askew. The house would have looked like a fight took place, he says.

Investigators conducted four interviews with Julie, and say her story changed, decreasing the amount of struggle in the house. However, Julie's friends and parents say her description never varied; she always described more of a chase than a struggle inside the house. Police recorded only one of their interviews--the third one, in which she describes a chase.

Len has his own theory. "I truthfully feel like she had an accomplice in the cleanup or cover-up," Len says, "and I believe that person to be her father or possibly her mother."

Jim and Jane Rea have heard Len's theory before and, not surprisingly, deny participating in any cover-up. Police examined the plumbing in Julie's house and found all the drains dry. They even dug up the septic tank and sifted through its contents and found no bloody residue.

All this effort to find evidence of Julie's guilt stands in contrast, Julie's friends say, to the lack of effort to find evidence that could exonerate her.

"There's no evidence of an intruder because they never looked for one," says Rick Mitchell, a friend of the family who once was Julie's boyfriend.

A month after the murder, state police had what they admit was a "confrontational" interview with Julie Rea, grilling her about inconsistencies in her story and telling her they had evidence of her hair in Joel's wounds and satellite photos that proved no struggle took place in her backyard. They later said these "white lies" were tossed out just to "see how she would react." She hired a lawyer and quit cooperating with their investigation.

Both Len and Julie took two polygraph exams. Len passed the crucial question--"Did you kill Joel?"--on the second test. But the examiner described Len's answers to other questions--"Did you plan or arrange with anyone to kill Joel?" and "Did you plan or arrange with anyone to break into Julie's house last October?"--as "erratic and inconsistent" enough that the test was inconclusive.

Julie passed two polygraphs given by two different examiners, but Len points out they weren't administered by Illinois State Police, as his were.

Julie's family has accumulated a long list of inconsistencies they believe suggests Joel was killed by someone related to Len. But the animosity between the two families is so explosive, the Reas are reluctant to talk openly for the record.

The catalog of claims and accusations collected by each side of Joel's family against the other is endlessly and tragically exhaustive. Perhaps such a reaction is inevitable--a desperate attempt to make sense of a truly senseless crime.



The letter Diane Fanning wrote to Tommy Lynn Sells about the
20/20 segment on Joel's murder did not mention any name, date, or location, just a vague description:

"The other night, I was watching a story on TV about a woman who was in jail for killing her son. She claims someone broke into her house and killed him. You could say, 'Yeah right, lady. We've heard that story before.' But then you listen to the law enforcement guys and the prosecuting attorney and they are so full of stupid opinions. . . . "

Fanning, who had spent enough time with Sells and the Texas Rangers to believe serial killers aren't just characters in horror films, was inclined to believe Julie's story. "When I saw the show on
20/20, my thought was that it's an intruder crime," she says. "My thought was that someone like Tommy Lynn Sells did it. I wasn't thinking it could be him. I was extremely shocked when he responded to me the way he did."

He answered her letter with a couple of questions: "About that woman claims someone broke into her house? Was that like maybe two days before my Springfield, MO murder? Maybe on the 13th?"

Authorities have confirmed that on October 15, 1997, Sells abducted 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney from her bed without waking two other children sleeping in the apartment. According to Fanning's book, he took the girl into the countryside, injected her with a large dose of cocaine, raped and strangled her, then dumped her corpse into a nearby pond.

Back up two days before that, to October 13, 1997, and yes, Joel Kirkpatrick was murdered in the early hours of that morning. Sells says he wore not a mask, as Julie described, but a sweatshirt with the drawstring of the hood pulled tightly around his face. As for a motive, he offers little other than an encounter with Julie in a convenience store where, he said, she was rude to him.

"A murder don't always have to do with sex or any of the norms y'all may want to label me with," he wrote in a subsequent letter to Fanning. "Maybe, someone just pissed me off and I did not want their child to be like them. That's cold, I understand. Maybe more than just one person is in jail for the same thing."

No one knows what to make of this confession. Fanning says Sells had no access to a television, no way to hear anything about the
20/20 segment, and no reason to confess. "Somebody said that this confession was just trying to buy time for himself on Death Row. But he confessed this to me more than a year ago. I have not made a big deal about it," Fanning says. "I did not have enough information to make any difference. It was just another story to me." Her book, Through the Window, was published in April by St. Martin's Press.

Julie's husband, Mark Harper, is afraid to get his hopes up, but he says the idea of her being rude to a stranger at a convenience store "really clicked."

"If Julie knows you, she's the kindest, warmest person," he says. "If she doesn't, she keeps you at a distance, particularly if he saw her with Joel and he tried to flirt with her, she would've been rather tart with him."

Yet he has asked Julie whether she recalls such an encounter, and, he says, she could not think of one.

Len Kirkpatrick, who hasn't read Fanning's book, does not believe it. He says her position as executive director of a Texas fund-raiser for nonprofits proves she is biased because the group's 44 members include the ACLU and gun-safety and anti-death-penalty advocates. "Her agenda is definitely slanted," he says. "To me, it's the only son I will ever have and she's cheapening his memory."

Parkinson likewise hasn't read
Through the Window--"I usually don't read bad fiction," he quips--but says he will. Meanwhile, he remains "very convinced" that Julie Rea killed her son. "The jury didn't take very long to find her guilty," he says.

Texas Ranger Johnny Allen says he doesn't have enough information to speculate on whether Sells' confession is valid. Sells, who has stopped cooperating with the Rangers, never discussed this crime, and Allen thinks he knows why. "Toward the end, there was a pattern developing in which he attacked younger children, in the 10 to13 year old range, and that seemed to bother him more than discussing murder of an adult," he says.

But he hopes authorities in Illinois will give it serious consideration. "I find it a little alarming simply because we can put him within an hour and a half drive of that murder in that particular time frame," Allen says. "Knowing what he's capable of doing, it just, I hope it's something they would be able to pursue on that end."

Sells' confession and Julie's story do not match perfectly. Sells told Fanning he gained access to Julie's home by breaking a window, but Julie said windows were broken as she chased the intruder out of the house. She believed the intruder was 14 to 17 years old, and Sells would have been 33 at the time.

She also described the intruder as having a shoulder height that "wasn't very much higher or shorter than mine." A check of Texas and Illinois prisoner data sheets shows that both Julie Rea and Tommy Lynn Sells are 5'9".





The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, based at University of Illinois Springfield, has recently taken on Julie Rea's case. Alva Busch, the former Illinois State Police crime scene investigator who now works for the Innocence Project, says he has not had time to look at the voluminous files in Julie's case, but that he will likely know something as soon as he does.

"I don't like wasting my time," he says.

At a hearing scheduled for late August, Julie's attorneys plan to seek DNA testing of a strand of hair that was found in Joel Kirkpatrick's hand.

"That's fine," Len Kirkpatrick says. "It probably will indeed much to their chagrin come back to be Julie's hair. I certainly don't think it will be Tommy Lynn Sells' hair, because I don't think he was ever in that house."

~~~~~~~~





Thursday, October 7,2004

Prosecution proceeds

By Dusty Rhodes



Now it's official: Despite the confession of a serial killer, and despite an appellate court's decision to overturn her conviction, Julie Rea-Harper will stand trial a second time for the brutal murder of her young son.



In October 1997, 10-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick was stabbed to death as he slept in his mother's Lawrenceville home. Three years later, Rea-Harper was charged and convicted of first-degree murder.



But from the beginning, Rea-Harper claimed that a mysterious masked intruder killed her son. And indeed, not long after she began serving her 65-year prison sentence, Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer on Texas' death row, voluntarily confessed to killing the boy.



Last summer, Rea-Harper was released from prison after an appellate court overturned her conviction. She was instantly re-arrested by Lawrence County authorities, but later freed after posting bond.



Judge Barry Vaughan last week ruled that prosecutors presented enough circumstantial evidence possibly connecting Rea-Harper to the crime to surmount the low threshold of probable cause.
Vaughan refused to allow defense attorneys to present testimony about Sells' confession.



Rea-Harper, 35, entered a plea of not guilty.



The case will be prosecuted by a team of attorneys led by Ed Parkinson, the special prosecutor who handled Rea-Harper's first murder trial. It was the original improper appointment of Parkinson that provided the basis for the appellate court's reversal of Rea-Harper's conviction.



At the first trial, Rea-Harper's defense was entrusted to a public defender. This time, she is represented by a team of attorneys from Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, which accepts only clients who appear to have credible claims of actual innocence. Rea-Harper's case was also investigated by the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, based at University of Illinois at Springfield.



A new trial date has not been set. Vaughan scheduled a status conference for Jan. 12.



Meanwhile, Rea-Harper has been given permission to travel out of state. Over the objection of prosecutors, Vaughan granted her request to travel to University of Indiana at Bloomington, to continue course work toward her Ph.D. in educational psychology, and to Kentucky, to visit her parents. Rea-Harper signed a waiver of extradition, and recently spent a weekend at her parents' home.



She has also enrolled in classes at Northern Illinois University, where her husband, Mark Harper, is a third-year law student.



Her mother, Jane Rea, said she is thrilled that bond conditions have been relaxed.



"We are delighted that Julie is able to continue with her education," Rea said. "And we know she is innocent." She declined further comment.



Other stories about the Julie Rea-Harper case can be found at www.illinoistimes.com.

THE END

Thursday, August 10, 2006


For nine long years, Julie Rea Harper insisted someone else murdered her son. Last month, she got 12 jurors to believe her.

BY DUSTY RHODES



8683



When the judge read the verdict, Julie Rea Harper let out a gut-wrenching cry and collapsed. Her attorney made a futile attempt to catch her, and for a moment she sprawled on the floor. Mark Harper scrambled over the courtroom railing to reach his wife. Holding her face in his hands, he told her, “Julie, it’s over. It’s over.”

It was a dramatic ending to a tragic saga that began in the predawn hours of Oct. 13, 1997, when Julie’s 10-year-old son, Joel Kirkpatrick, was stabbed to death as he slept in their Lawrenceville home. All along, Julie insisted that she had been jolted awake by an unearthly scream, rushed to Joel’s room, and struggled with a masked intruder. But with no sign of forced entry, authorities discounted her tale and instead focused on her as the primary suspect.

Over the years, her case gained national attention as she was tried, convicted, sentenced to 65 years in prison, then set free when her conviction was overturned, only to be charged again. The spectators assembled at her second trial included not just the usual complement of family and friends but also earnest law students, college professors, activists, reporters, two network television producers, and eight sheriff’s deputies ready to quell any unseemly reaction to the verdict.

The crime demanded retribution. Joel was by all accounts an exceptional child — brilliant but sweet, both gifted and giving. The photos of his fragile corpse, gashed through the chest, transfixed jurors, causing some of them to weep. If such a depraved act had been committed by his own mother, it surely represented the most grotesque brand of evil.

But what if she was purely innocent? What if there really was a masked intruder? Wouldn’t the persecution of a loving, grief-stricken parent only compound an already heinous crime?

Ed Parkinson pursued Julie Rea Harper for more than six years. A lawyer from the Office of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Parkinson had secured the original indictment in 2000 by presenting the case to a grand jury. In 2004, the Fifth District appeals court ruled that he had usurped his authority and dismissed Harper’s indictment and conviction — but by then the statute outlining SAAP powers had been expanded to allow Parkinson to prosecute the case again. Harper was released from prison only to be met at the gate by the Lawrence County sheriff, who rearrested her and took her straight to jail. This second trial, held in Clinton County last month, signaled the culmination of Parkinson’s crusade.

When word came that a verdict was imminent, Harper’s supporters had to be summoned from a nearby chapel, where they had been praying and singing hymns. Her attorneys had to drive over from their motel, where they had waited out jury deliberations by playing charades and word games. But Parkinson, who had spent the entire day waiting in the courtroom, carried some boxes out to a state police officer’s car and drove away. By the time the judge announced that the jury had found Julie Rea Harper not guilty, Parkinson had disappeared.

The second trial differed from the first in several significant ways, the most quantifiable of which was the brain power arrayed around the defense table. At this trial, instead of relying on one small-town public defender, Harper had more than a half-dozen lawyers — a veritable legal dream team.

The pack included two assistant professors from Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions: Karen Daniel, a Harvard Law School grad who helped overturn the conviction of Randy Steidl; and Jeffrey Urdangen, who spent 23 years in private practice-criminal defense.

Harper’s lead attorney was Ron Safer, managing partner with the silk-stocking Chicago firm of Schiff Hardin and now one of the lawyers hired to handle subpoenas served to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In the late 1990s, he was chief federal prosecutor in the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s Chicago office, where he was known for masterminding the investigation and successful prosecutions of scores of upper-echelon Gangster Disciples drug lords.

It was the best defense money couldn’t possibly buy. Nine years of this legal battle had depleted her family’s resources. Harper’s parents, Jim and Jane Rea (a minister and a schoolteacher, respectively) had sold their property and borrowed money; her husband, a former engineer, had declared bankruptcy (and completed law school). The high-powered crew of Safer, Daniel, Urdangen, and the rest represented Harper for free.

But the most obvious difference between the first trial and the second was the fact that someone else had voluntarily confessed to the crime. Tommy Lynn Sells, a convicted killer, is housed on Texas’ death row as the result of a somewhat similar crime — sneaking into a residence in the wee hours and stabbing a young child to death. Sells claims to have murdered as many as 50 people across the country. Though a handful of his confessions have been proven false, law-enforcement officials in Texas confirmed his guilt in 15 killings and two attempted murders before Sells stopped cooperating with their investigation. Five of those crimes involved victims he stabbed as they slept.

In Joel’s case, Sells’ recall wasn’t perfect; as with other statements he had given, Sells muffed details when he began talking about the crime, some five years after it occurred.

Parkinson consistently refers to all Sells’ statements as either “garbage” or “that Tommy Lynn Sells crap.”

In fact, about the only thing that didn’t change between the two trials was Parkinson’s perspective on the case. The soundbite he delivered after Harper’s 2002 conviction and the comment he offered two weeks ago after her acquittal were almost exactly the same:

“To believe her, a person came into the house in the middle of the night with no forced entry . . . took a steak knife in a darkened kitchen, went down the hallway, turned left, stabbed this little boy to death for absolutely no reason, then struggled with her, didn’t kill her, and left — actually walked away from her in her back yard, pulling off his mask. . . . That’s enough for me,” Parkinson says. “Her story didn’t make sense.”

There’s a certain irony to the fact that Parkinson’s original version of that quote, broadcast May 31, 2002, on the ABC news magazine
20/20, prompted Sells’ confession. Diane Fanning, a true-crime author who was then putting the finishing touches on a book about Sells, happened to be watching that night [see Dusty Rhodes, “Who killed Joel?” July 24, 2003].

Though she thought she had completed her research, Fanning kept up her correspondence with Sells. When she saw Parkinson on TV, she knew that Sells, who had no access to TV, would get a chuckle out of the prosecutor’s blustery quote. So in her next letter Fanning wrote:

The other night, I was watching a story on TV about a woman who was in jail for killing her son. She claims someone broke into her house and killed him. You could say, “Yeah right, lady. We’ve heard that story before.” But then you listen to the law enforcement guys and the prosecuting attorney and they are so full of stupid opinions. When they were asked why they only pursued her in this case, they said: 1) There were no strange fingerprints in the house; 2) No stranger would just come into her house and kill her child; 3) It was so violent, it had to be someone with a very close relationship to the child; (And here’s my very favorite on the stupid scale) 4) A person does not come in to someone’s else [house] without a weapon and then pull a knife out of the kitchen drawer in the house and use it.

She supplied no other details, so she was stunned by Sells’ response: “About that woman claims someone broke into her house,” he wrote, “was that like maybe two days before my Springfield, MO murder? Maybe on the 13th?”

Fanning didn’t remember the date flashed on TV, so she contacted
20/20 and learned that yes, Joel Kirkpatrick had been killed on Oct. 13, 1997. Sells had already been indicted for the Oct. 15 abduction, rape, and murder of 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in Springfield, Mo.

This discovery, Fanning says, created a quandary. Her deadline was approaching, and she had no time to substantiate Sells’ claim to this killing. Besides, she had already heard the official legal view by way of Parkinson’s appearance on TV.

“I couldn’t decide whether to put it in my book or not,” she says. “I thought: If I put it in my book and it’s not true, it could damage my credibility — but if it is true, there will be people out there who will read this and know enough to do something about it.”

Fanning’s book,
Through the Window, was published in May 2003. A few months later, Springfield private investigator Bill Clutter heard that the book contained a confession that could solve an Illinois murder. He was working with Larry Golden, a professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield, to establish the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project and contacted Harper’s family seeking permission for DIIP students to investigate her case.

Jim and Jane Rea handed Clutter the single three-ring binder that contained all the reports prosecutors had given them before their daughter’s first trial. As Clutter read the documents, he paused on a report from a Greyhound ticket agent at a bus depot in Princeton, Ind., 40 miles southeast of Lawrenceville. This agent, Sandra Wirth, had called police 48 hours after Joel’s murder to report that a “creepy” stranger who looked like the composite sketch she had seen on the news had just been in her bus station. He was nervous and disheveled, Wirth said, and said he wanted to go visit his ailing mother. He requested a ticket to a town Wirth had never heard of — Winnemucca, Nev.



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That name — Winnemucca — rang a bell. Clutter leafed through Fanning’s book, and, sure enough, Sells had twice lived in Winnemucca. In fact, he claimed to have committed one of his most colorful crimes there — the murder of a pretty hitchhiker who turned out to be Stefanie Stroh, heir to the Stroh beer fortune.



When Clutter interviewed the Greyhound agent, he discovered that the ticket sold to the “creepy” man would have been good for a whole year and would have allowed a traveler to take one leg of the journey at a time. The first stop would have been at about 4:30 p.m. in St. Louis, where passengers had to disembark for at least 30 minutes to change buses. Sells’ mother lived in St. Louis. And authorities confirm that, three months later, Sells showed up in Winnemucca.



What are the odds that some other “creepy” man who just happened to look like the intruder Harper described bought a bus ticket to a tiny town in Nevada that Sells visited multiple times? To Ed Parkinson, the odds aren’t great, but they’re good enough.



“The person who bought the ticket was 17 to 18 years old,” he snorts, quoting the statement Wirth gave police. (Harper described the intruder as 14 to 17; Sells was then 33.) “By the way,” Parkinson adds, “that night, Tommy Lynn Sells is charged with killing a young girl in Springfield, Mo., which also isn’t one of the [bus] stops.”

The prosecutor finds the idea that Sells could have gotten off the bus, visited his sick mother in St. Louis and driven some 200 miles west to Stephanie Mahaney’s hometown laughable.



“It’s like that movie
Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” he says. “I thought John Candy would be popping up pretty soon.”



His contempt for the Sells scenario shows in his response to the memo Harper’s lawyers filed asking the judge to admit Sells’ confession into evidence. The defense pleading was 25 pages thick, augmented with two binders of supporting documents; Parkinson’s answer was a derisive fax that — double-spaced — was barely three pages long. Harper’s team was shocked by the weak response.



“There was not a single citation to authority. It was — you know, there are no words for what it was,” Urdangen sputters.



Parkinson says he and SAAP prosecutor David Rands treated the defense motion with proper respect. “We didn’t think it required 40 pages of legalese,” he says. “Our [pleadings] were sparse — ‘This is the law, Judge. This is all you need.’ We thought that’s all it deserved.”

But as pretrial maneuvering proceeded, the defense lawyers saw such responses as a pattern. Just raising an objection was often enough to persuade the prosecutors to cave in.



“They didn’t file any responsive pleadings any self-respecting law student would ever have considered preparing,” Urdangen says. “That [Sells response] was just one example. Every other thing they filed was the same. That’s why we won all the pretrial motions — mostly because the law was on our side but also because they put up no fight at all.”



Parkinson bristles, but only slightly.

“I think what they’re really getting at is they’re smart and we’re not. They had that air about them, in their filings and their attitude,” he says.



The “Sells crap” wasn’t the only hurdle Parkinson would face in the courtroom. Just as in the first trial, he didn’t have the best facts in his quiver.



No physical evidence linked Julie Rea Harper to the crime; indeed, where anyone would expect the killer to be covered with the victim’s blood, Harper had only a small “transfer” stain of the sort one could get by brushing against someone else who was spattered with blood. Investigators had dug up the septic tank and sprayed Luminol around her house, but these tests yielded no evidence of a cleanup.



Harper’s own assortment of minor injuries — a black eye, two scraped knees, puncture wounds on the tops of her feet, and a nasty cut on her arm that required four stitches — matched her story about struggling with an intruder better than it did the prosecution’s suggestion that they were all self-inflicted.



Nor could Parkinson point to a motive, especially at this second trial, where Harper’s attorneys had won motions to exclude prejudicial testimony that had been previously allowed. Harper’s bitter 1994 divorce from Joel’s father, Len Kirkpatrick, and their subsequent wrangling over custody provided the only hint of impetus. They shared custody, but Kirkpatrick, who had remarried, had residential custody of Joel. Harper had lost an appeal of that ruling about two months before Joel’s murder.



Even Parkinson admits that it wasn’t much for the jury to gnaw on. “You don’t have to prove a motive,” he says, citing the legal standard versus human nature, “but you have to prove a motive.”



Another problem that ballooned in the second trial was the ISP investigation, so flawed that it makes for some near-comic testimony. For example, when Master Sgt. Jerry Pea — one of the two main investigators assigned to Joel’s murder — took the stand to narrate a video he shot of Harper’s house and the crime scene, the picture was dark and muddy. It became clearer as he retraced his steps through the house after someone reminded him to turn the lights on. “It was brighter to me in the viewfinder,” he testified.



Similarly, the pictures the ISP guys took of their fellow investigators holding Joel’s bed linens vertically — photos meant to show knife slits in the covers — were at this trial derided by defense experts who pointed out that what the photos really depicted was hair, fiber, and other potential trace evidence being lost forever.



The crime-scene investigators’ decision not to dust for fingerprints played better at the first trial, when Harper’s story about an intruder sounded more like a bad fairy tale.



Other prosecution witnesses had lost face during the years that elapsed between the two trials. The medical examiner who performed Joel’s autopsy willfully evaded deposition, as did the Lawrence County deputy who discovered Joel’s still-warm corpse. He and another deputy had since left the sheriff’s department under questionable circumstances. When defense attorneys asked about their disciplinary files, the new sheriff testified that the documents had recently been stolen from a locked file cabinet by someone who had the keypad combination to his office.



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That left Parkinson with a witness list heavy on Harper’s curiously hostile former neighbors, including one woman who, under cross-examination, refused to admit she had testified before the grand jury or even to look at the transcript of her testimony. “If you say that I said that,” she told Urdangen, “then I believe that you say that I said that.”



The final blow to Parkinson’s strategy came when the defense successfully objected to the performance planned by Rodney Englert, a “crime-scene reconstructionist” and blood-pattern analyst from Portland, Ore., hired by prosecutors to deliver his expert opinion about the physical evidence.



Vaughn ruled that Englert could display a poster showing various types of blood spatter (hair swipe, fabric impression, low velocity, castoff) but that he could not stage a demonstration using fake blood inside the courtroom.



Julie Rea Harper’s attorneys didn’t bet the bank on Tommy Lynn Sells. From the first day on, they reminded jurors, Harper, not Sells, was on trial.



“Our defense is that she is innocent,” Urdangen told the jury during opening arguments.



Safer says Sells not only created reasonable doubt but also provided proof that there really are monsters. “It’s hard to even imagine that somebody as dark as that exists,” Safer says. “Whether or not the jury believed that he did this, he provided a vivid example of a psychopath. Just knowing there are people like that out there helped.”



(That said, could Safer — the former chief federal prosecutor — make a case that Sells truly did kill Joel Kirkpatrick? “In a heartbeat. And convict him. Without breaking a sweat,” Safer says.)



At trial, they measured Sells out one dose at a time. The first day of the defense case, they played a cassette tape of his interview with ISP agents; the next day, they had an attorney and a paralegal read a transcript of Sells’ answering a 20/20 producer’s questions. The following day, they played a videotape of a similar unedited interview with a producer from
The Montel Williams Show.



In the three interviews, Sells — who has a documented history of mental illness and substance abuse — offered contradictory statements on how he traveled, when and where; on the details of crime scenes; and on his motive for killing. However, he never wavered in his claim that he killed someone on Oct. 13, 1997.



“Do I think I’m the one that killed this kid? Yes. Yes,” Sells told ISP investigators. “Now . . . I don’t give a shit about this [Harper] woman. If I did, I would not have went after her in the first place. I’m callous to that. If it wasn’t this kid I killed, then there’s a murder out there that we still ain’t undug yet.”



The catch, Sells tells the Montel producer, is that his peculiar situation has turned the system upside down

“Problem is, I have to prove my guilt, and that’s not the way the justice system is supposed to work,” he says. “How can somebody prove something that happened half-a-decade ago?”



During the two-week trial, spectators sorted themselves by sentiment — those certain of Harper’s innocence tended to sit on the right side of the aisle, those convinced she’s a killer on the left (her former husband, Len Kirkpatrick — now an ISP trooper — spent every moment of the trial in the front row, on the left). The courtroom was usually full but never crowded until the seventh day — the day Harper was scheduled to testify.



Throughout the trial, she seemed determined to melt into the woodwork. Almost every day she wore some shade of light brown or pale green, something that blended with the paneling, the linoleum, and the fluorescent lighting. If you watched carefully, you would occasionally notice her taking slow, deep breaths, swallowing hard, or reaching for a tissue. When certain witnesses talked about Joel’s wounds, she convulsed with sobs. But she maintained a careful silence until she took the stand.



In her first trial, Harper did not testify. In the intervening years, she’s spoken publicly about the crime just once, in a prison interview broadcast in 2002 on
20/20. But her time on the witness stand was almost anticlimactic. She simply repeated the same story she told investigators in 1997 all over again.



Safer took her through a chronology — growing up in Indiana, marrying young, having Joel at age 18, separation, divorce. On Oct. 11, Joel arrived for his regular weekend visit. They went to nearby Vincennes, had a picnic in a park with a playground. On Sunday, they slept in, had lunch with Joel’s grandparents, went to Wal-Mart, ate at McDonald’s, attended church with some friends.



Those friends later joined them at home in Lawrenceville — two moms working on scrapbooks, kids watching a Disney video. Joel was in bed by 10:30 p.m.

When her friends left, around midnight, Harper locked the front door, the back door, and, presumably, the door from the kitchen to the garage. She checked on Joel, then went to bed and slept until being awakened by that scream.



At this point in the story, Harper’s voice was still calm but constricted, as though her words were squeezing out past a lump in her throat.



“I have images that are very clear, and then I have some that are fuzzy, and then I have blank spots in between,” she said.



Unable to tell whether the cry that awakened her came from inside or outside her house, she ran to Joel’s room and found his bed empty. She called his name, and from the opposite side of the bed someone jumped at her, knocked her down, and ran from the house. She caught the intruder at the garage door, which he opened by breaking glass with his elbow. They tussled briefly in the backyard until he smashed her head on the ground. “This person went from just wanting to get away to being mad,” she said.



A wave of small hiccuping sobs overtook Harper as she recalled letting the man walk away. As she composed herself, the judge sent the jury out. When they returned, Harper described going to the neighbors’ house and having them call 911 to report a kidnapping. She didn’t know that her son was lying on the floor, bleeding to death.



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Parkinson began his cross-examination by attacking her estimate of the intruder’s age — 14 to 17 (Sells was 33 at the time). “I gave them my impressions at the time,” Harper answered.

Parkinson moved on to whether or not she had locked the back door. Harper wouldn’t give a yes or no answer. “That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times,” she said.

Why did she let the intruder walk away? “I was looking for help for Joel. That man did not have Joel,” she said.

When Parkinson pressed her to explain how a smudge of Joel’s blood ended up on her nightshirt, she couldn’t.

“I can tell you how it didn’t get there,” she finally said. “It wasn’t because I got to see my son. His blood would’ve been all over my T-shirt.”

The final witness called by the defense was ISP officer Brad Phegley, the “case agent in charge” on Joel’s murder investigation. Holding a transcript of Phegley’s testimony given months earlier at Harper’s probable-cause hearing, Safer pounded him with questions that had only two possible answers — “Yes” and “That’s correct.”

The case against Harper is purely circumstantial, correct? There is no physical evidence linking her to the crime, right? There is no motive? No evidence that she ever raised her hand to Joel, no evidence that she ever raised her voice to Joel?

Phegley affirmed every one of those statements.

Safer picked up another document — a six-page memo from ISP Maj. Edie Casella to Col. Charles Brueggemann, analyzing holes in the Harper case. A list of recommendations for further investigation made up the bulk of the memo, and Safer ticked off several items, asking whether Casella’s suggestions had been followed. Each time, Phegley answered no.

A juror contacted after the trial, speaking on the condition that his name not be used, said that the state police “failed miserably.”

The problem could be traced back to the broken glass that lay sparkling on the concrete outside Harper’s back door the night Joel was killed. Anybody could see that the door had to have been wide open when the shards fell. What kind of “intruder” breaks a door that’s already open?

Ken Moses, a retired San Francisco cop who spent 28 years as a crime-scene investigator and has worked 17,000 crime scenes, was hired by the defense to tell the jury how that happened. “It’s a common occurrence in home-invasion crimes where intruder is discovered and makes a hasty exit,” he said. “Once the door violently opens and stops at the apex . . . the glass falls out.”

But the officers who reported to Harper’s Lawrenceville home just saw glass broken out where, they assumed, it should be broken in.

“[The first deputy] saw the glass broken out on the floor in the garage and outside the second door and thought, ‘This is phony,’” Urdangen says, “and that just informed all of their thinking. That’s why their work was so flawed.”

Parkinson disagrees, even though his explanation confirms Urdangen’s theory.

“I don’t think the police did an inadequate job,” the prosecutor says. “I think they went to the crime scene and saw that this didn’t look like an intruder had been in like Julie said and thereafter they tried to get her to explain it.”

The juror, though, said he never heard Parkinson offer any story to counter Harper’s. “I’m open-minded to the end,” the juror says. “To the closing statement, I was waiting for [Parkinson] to say how these events all took place.”

Defense attorney Daniel says she knows why Parkinson offered no story.

“There was no account that they could put together of how Julie could have killed her son, because any account that you could come up with was contradicted by some piece of physical evidence,” Daniel says. “Maybe that’s a good place to stop and reexamine.”

For two years, Julie Rea Harper’s attorneys say, they sent letters asking Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office to exercise its right to intervene and stop the prosecution of Harper. They were granted a two-hour meeting with Madigan’s three top aides less than a week before jury selection. The official decision let the trial proceed.

“The process was under way, [Harper] had the opportunity for new trial, and her team was in place,” says spokeswoman Cara Smith. “Based on what was presented to us, there was no reason to preempt that process.”



The day after Harper’s trial, Lawrence County State’s Attorney Patrick Hahn made it clear that the jury’s decision meant nothing to him. In a press release, he praised Parkinson as “a man of the highest integrity” and blamed the acquittal on TV shows that have “enhanced” jurors’ expectations.

“There are no plans to charge any other person,” Hahn wrote.

Parkinson, of course, will never consider Harper anything but an evil child-killer.

“You’re going to print ‘Parkinson can never admit he’s wrong,’ ” he says. “Well, I don’t think I’m wrong.”

Contact Dusty Rhodes at
drhodes@illinoistimes.com.