Sunday, 13 July 2014

Carlton Gary: The Ghost with a Name.

Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of rape and murder.

Carlton Gary 1970
April 14, 1970. Wellington Hotel. Albany. N.Y. It's late evening and Nellie Farmer, an 85-year-old retired school teacher, is preparing to go to bed. Nellie has spent most of her working life nurturing and instructing young students, a career that made her happy but far from wealthy. She lives alone in a small retirement hotel, content to see out her days in modest surroundings.

In the early hours of the morning, she is awakened from a deep sleep to be confronted with a nightmare scenario. Although it is too dark to see anything, Nellie senses the presence of an intruder. As her eyes get used to the darkness she becomes aware of a man standing by the side of her bed. She speaks calmly to him, reassuringly, telling him to take what he wants and leave. She even tells him where she keeps her meager savings.

The intruder does not reply. He clamps his hand over the frightened woman's mouth and drags her from the bed.

The next morning, Nellie Farmer's lifeless body is found lying face down on the bedroom floor. The 85-year-old woman has been brutally raped and then strangled with a scarf. Police investigators are appalled at the level of violence inflicted on a frail, elderly lady.

The next evening, another elderly woman is attacked in her home. Like Nellie Farmer, Josephine Deitz is preparing for bed when an intruder grabs her by the throat and slams her to the floor. But Josephine fights back and her surprised attacker, a young black male, realizing that the neighbors may have been alerted by the noise, grabs Josephine's purse and runs off before police arrive.

Albany NY.
Four days later a youth calling himself "Carl Michaels" (later identified as 17-year-old Carlton Gary) is arrested in Albany. Police match his fingerprints to those found in Nellie Farmer's room.

Unable to dispute the hard evidence, Carlton Gary admits to being in the room when the elderly woman is attacked, but claims it is an accomplice who rapes and murders her. Gary suggests the accomplice, named as John Lee Mitchell, left no fingerprint because he was wearing gloves.

Carlton Gary testifies against Mitchell, who is convicted of murder. Gary later retracts the story and Mitchell's conviction is overturned on appeal. A subsequent police investigation finds John Lee Mitchell played no part in the rape and murder of Nellie Farmer. Carlton Gary is convicted of burglary and sent to Onondaga Correctional Institute in Janesville, New York.

Nobody is ever convicted for the murder of Nellie Farmer.

Carlton Gary is released on parole in 1975 and goes to Syracuse, New York. On December 31, 1976, a man breaks into a 59-year-old woman's Syracuse apartment. The woman is brutally raped and then choked with a pillow case.

Despite her ordeal, the woman survives and gives police a detailed description of her attacker. Police investigators quickly realize that the woman has described a young, black male with an uncanny resemblance to Carlton Gary. An artist's impression of the assailant is released and the investigation continues.

Four days later on January 3, 1977, another Syracuse woman, 55-year-old, Jean Frost, is awakened from a deep sleep to find a man standing in the bedroom doorway. The man leaps across the room onto the bed, rips the terrified woman's nightgown off and shoves part of it into her mouth as a crude gag. He then punches her several times in the face before raping her and then strangling her with a scarf. Jean Frost blacks out but survives her ordeal.

When she recovers consciousness, she is aware of a burning pain in the lower part of her body and is horrified to discover that she is bleeding profusely from her genital area. Because of the substantial injuries suffered by Jean Frost, a police surgeon is unable to do the rape tests normally carried out to determine the presence of semen.

Carlton Gary
The next day, two men are arrested in a Syracuse bank attempting to exchange a bag of coins for cash. Police discover that the coins were stolen from a man living in the same building as Jean Frost. One of the men arrested is Carlton Gary, who also has in his possession Jean Frost's gold watch.

Gary admits to stealing the coins and to being in Jean Frost's apartment on the same night, but claims he was just acting as a lookout and played no part in the attack. He states that the man arrested with him at the bank is responsible for raping and beating the victim.

Unfortunately, Jean Frost, who is still suffering severe trauma to her genital area, fails to identify either of the men in custody as those who broke into her apartment and sexually assaulted her with such brutality. Due to the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim, the police doctor is unable to gather any forensic evidence and the charges of rape and attempted murder are dropped.

Nobody is ever charged with the sadistic attack on Jean Frost.

Carlton Gary, in possession of the stolen coins and gold watch, is sent back to prison for breaching his parole conditions. Less than one year later, on August 22, 1977, Gary escapes from Onondaga Prison and makes his way to Columbus, Georgia, his birthplace.

Mary Willis Jackson
On September 11, 1977, a 64-year-old Columbus woman, Gertrude Miller is raped by an intruder. Despite an attempt to strangle her with a scarf, Gertrude Miller survives her ordeal and identifies her assailant as a young, black male.

Four days later, on September 15, 1977, another Columbus woman, 60-year-old Mary Willis Jackson, is raped and then strangled with her own stockings. She becomes the first victim of the serial killer dubbed the "Columbus Stocking Strangler" by the local press.

The city of Columbus, with a population of less than 300,000, is shocked by the revelation that a serial killer is targeting elderly white women. The details of the beatings, rapes and strangulation terrorizes the whole community.

The next victim is Jean Dimenstein, 71, who before retiring owned and managed a department store. She is a friendly, outgoing woman who enjoys dining out with friends. Although aware of the serial killer stalking Columbus, she doesn't feel at risk in her apartment. She has added extra security with deadbolt locks on all the doors and windows.

Jean Dimenstein
On the night of September 24, 1977, the hinge pins on Jean Dimenstein's front door are removed. An intruder enters the house and beats, rapes and strangles the elderly woman he finds cowering in the darkness of her own bedroom. Jean Dimenstein becomes the second victim of the "Stocking Strangler".

The Columbus police department respond to the second murder with extra patrols in marked and unmarked cars. They stake out several apartments thought to be at risk and even place undercover officers in the homes of likely targets.

And then the police get a break. They arrest the serial killer - or so they think.

Jerome Livas is arrested on October 2, 1977, for raping and beating his girlfriend to death. The similarities between this murder and those carried out by the "Stocking Strangler" lead police to suspect that Jerome Livas may be the killer.

On October 14, 1977, Jerome Livas confesses to murdering Mary Willis Jackson and Jean Dimenstein. The elderly female residents of Columbus breathe a collective sigh of relief. All police activities relating to the murders are canceled; extra patrols curtailed, stakeouts ended, the city returns to normal.

But not for long.

Florence Sheible
89-year-old Florence Scheible is a diehard baseball fan and the World Series is approaching. Although partially blind, she listens avidly to the radio and is familiar with all the players and their batting averages.

Frail and suffering increasingly annoying mobility problems, Florence, a feisty lady, somehow manages to move around her small apartment with the help of a walking frame. She values her independence.

In the early evening of October 21, 1977, an intruder forces his way into Florence's apartment. He drags the frail old lady into the bedroom, throws her onto the bed and punches her repeatedly in the face.

Later that same evening, Florence's son stops by to make sure everything is all right. He discovers his mother's battered body lying on the bedroom floor. Unbelievably, she has been brutally beaten, raped and then strangled with a nylon stocking. The level of violence directed at an elderly lady unable to defend herself shocks even the most hardened of police officers.

Florence Scheible dies just 10 days short of her 90th birthday.

Martha Thurmond
Four days later, on October 25, 1977, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond, a retired school teacher who lives alone, is beaten, raped and strangled in her apartment. Discovered by her young niece, who had called to check on her, Martha Thurmond becomes the fourth victim of a depraved serial killer.

The city of Columbus is in turmoil.

Meanwhile, it becomes patently clear that the main suspect, Jerome Livas, who has now confessed to murdering Presidents Kennedy and McKinley and several other famous victims, is not the "Columbus Stocking Strangler". A deranged attention seeker, he remains in custody and is later convicted of murdering his girlfriend.

Despite the efforts of the Columbus police department, the horrific killings continue. Before the year is out there is yet another victim. Socialite, Kathleen Woodruff, the 77-year-old widow of George Woodruff, a wealthy businessman, is discovered three days after Christmas. She has been beaten, raped and strangled with a nylon stocking.

With public outrage reaching fever pitch, and police seemingly unable to stop the so-called "Columbus Stocking Strangler" murdering elderly women, a task force, lead by Deputy Commander James B. Hicks and Director Ronald A. Jones, is setup to investigate the serial killings. A detective named Ronald Lynn joins the investigation. He wonders how long it will be before the killer strikes again.

He doesn't have to wait long for the answer.

Ruth Schwob
In the early hours of February 11, 1978, Ruth Schwob, a 77-year-old retired businesswoman, wakes up to find an intruder's hand around her throat, pinning her to the pillow. Although she puts up a valiant struggle, the young, black male, as he has done on several other occasions, wraps a nylon stocking around the elderly lady's neck and pulls it tight.

But this time it is different. What the intruder does not know, is that there is a panic button located on the side of the bed, and Ruth Schwob, despite being beaten and strangled, manages to reach down and press it.

The police arrive just three minutes later. As Detective Lynn approaches the house he hears the sound of somebody gasping and fighting for breath. The intruder is still in the bedroom, still tightening the nylon stocking around his victim's neck.

Although Detective Lynn arrives just in time to save Ruth Schwob's life, the intruder manages to evade capture. A neighbor sees a young black male vaulting over his garden fence and disappearing into the darkness. Paramedics arriving in an ambulance see a black male sprint across the road in front of them before vanishing from sight. Nobody, not even Ruth Schwob, who was face to face with the intruder, can give a positive identification. The elusive killer has managed to evade capture yet again, but this time he escapes by the finest of margins. Frustrated police officers coin a new name for him.

The Ghost.

Carlton Gary 1977
Unbelievably, just twenty-four hours later the killer, having previously evaded capture by seconds, strikes again. 78-year-old widow, Mildred Borom, is attacked in her bedroom. She is beaten, raped and strangled, but not with a nylon stocking. This time the killer uses the cord cut from a venetian blind, leading police to suspect that this might be a copycat murder.

It is also obvious to police investigators that a violent struggle has taken place. Chairs have been tipped over and a bedside lamp knocked to the floor and broken. One police officer viewing Mildred Borom's battered body breaks down in tears.

Two months pass and then on April 20, 1978, first grade teacher, Janet Cofer, 61, is found dead in her bed. She has been strangled with one of her own nylon stockings. She is the seventh victim of the "Columbus Stocking Strangler" and, as it turns out, the last.

The killer has murdered seven elderly woman in just six months, but another six years will pass before justice finally catches up with the Columbus serial killer.

Carlton Gary 1984
Despite the passing years, the case is never allowed to go cold and several different police departments remain in the hunt for a callous killer who beats, rapes and murders his victims by strangulation. Detectives from South Carolina and Phoenix police departments exchange fingerprint records with Columbus police investigators, and one name keeps appearing at the top of every list.

That name is Carlton Gary, a.k.a. Micheal David, a.k.a Carl Micheals. He is wanted by several police departments across the states for a prison escape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, drug dealing and murder.

Finally, police get the break they are looking for. Fingerprints of Carlton Gary, supplied to Columbus police by South Carolina, match the prints found in four of the Columbus victim's homes.

A swat team acting on a tip-off eventually arrest Carlton Gary at a Holiday Inn Hotel in Albany, Georgia. True to form, he admits being in the homes of the Columbus victims but denies murder or rape. "I did the burglaries," he tells investigators, "and my accomplice killed the old ladies."

Police locate the accomplice but he denies taking part in any of the Columbus murders and police can find no evidence to connect him to the crimes.

A detective involved in the arrest of Carlton Gary commented on the sense of unreality he felt when he confronted the vicious, serial rapist and murderer. "He had been a ghost, slipping in and out of people's lives, but he was a human being. I brushed against him to see if he was real. He was."

And the ghost now has a name.

33-year-old Carlton Gary goes on trial in 1986. He is charged with three of the Columbus murders, but prosecutors say they will connect him to at least seven others. The most emotional testimony is given by Jean Frost who explains how she survived a beating, a vicious rape that left her physically scarred and a brutal strangulation.    

Carlton Gary is convicted on nine counts of murder and sentenced to death. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, there have been several stays of execution and as of July, 2014, Carlton Gary remains on death row.

He has been awaiting execution for 28 years.

There have been several attempts to prove a miscarriage of justice. A British journalist, David Rose, believes Carlton Gary to be innocent of all charges and has written extensive articles about the case for the British press. In his book The Big Eddy Club, David Rose studiously ignores any evidence that does not fit his case and then brings his prejudices to bear to prove (in his own mind) that Carlton Gary is a victim of injustice.

Bruce L Jordan, in his book, Murder in the Peach State, writes, "The evidence against Carlton Gary was strong. To find him innocent, jurors would have to believe that police had been planting evidence against him since 1970. It would have involved a collaboration between police in Albany NY, Syracuse NY, Albany GA and Columbus GA. The strongest evidence against police corruption is that whenever Carlton Gary was confronted with the fact that his fingerprints were in the homes of strangled women, he never claimed they had been planted. He always acknowledged his presence and pointed the finger at other men."

Carlton Gary (December 15, 1952 - ?)

The Ghost with a Name.

Information and pictures courtesy of:

The U.S. Justice Department - Columbus GA

Murder in the Peach State
Bruce L. Jordon

The Crime Library


The Daily Mail (UK)


Saturday, 31 May 2014

Emmett Till: Murdered in Mississippi

Warning: This article contains graphic pictures and racial epithets.

Emmett Till 1954
August 24, 1955. Money, Mississippi. It's late afternoon when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago schoolboy, enters Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy. Emmett is visiting relatives in the area and is unaware of the racial tension in the southern states.

What happens next leads to torture, murder and an unparalleled scrutiny of racism across the Mississippi delta. The incident, in a small grocery store in a rural backwater, generates newspaper headlines across the country, galvanizes public opinion and ignites the fledgling civil rights movement.

And it begins with a young black boy who just wants to buy some gum.

Behind the counter in Bryant's Store on this particular day is Carolyn, 21, wife of store owner, Roy Bryant. Roy, away for a couple of days in Texas, often leaves his capable young wife to run the business. The drama begins, according to Carolyn, at around 4.00 pm, when Emmett Till enters the store but doesn't ask for anything, he just grabs her hand and says, "How about a date?"

The young woman, shocked by the approach, frees herself from the boy's grasp and walks away. Emmett follows her to the cash register and grabs her around the waist. The 14-year-old schoolboy then says, "What's the matter baby, can't you take it. You needn't be afraid of me. I've been with white women before."

Emmett Till's cousin, Simeon Wright, who enters the store less than a minute after Emmett, says: "There was no inappropriate behavior and no lecherous conversation. Emmett paid for his items and we left the store together."

Carolyn Bryant 1955
In 2006, the FBI, re-investigating the case, find evidence that another customer in the store at the time of the alleged confrontation, confirms Simeon Wright's version of events. Emmett Till simply enters the store, purchases an item and then leaves with his cousin.

However, whatever supposedly occurs inside the store now spills out on to the street when Carolyn runs outside to retrieve a pistol from her car. Why she needs a weapon to deal with a 14-year-old schoolboy is never explained.

She then alleges that Emmett Till wolf-whistles in her direction. It is, of course, quite possible that the schoolboy did whistle at her in a disrespectful manner. He was, apparently, a feisty young man, who did not lack confidence. However, according to the 2006 FBI investigation, it is more likely he was whistling towards a group of his friends playing on the opposite side of the road.

Whoever it was aimed at, that single whistle sets off a chain of events that defies belief.

Four days later, at 2:00 am on the morning of August 28, 1955, three men, two white, one black, arrive at Mose Wright's house, where Emmett Till is staying. Under cover of darkness, the schoolboy is taken away at gunpoint.

Mose Wright contacts the Leflore County Sheriff about Emmett's early morning abduction. That afternoon, both Roy Bryant and his half brother, John Milam, are arrested and jailed on charges of kidnapping.

On August 31, Emmett Till's bloated and battered body is recovered from the Tallahatchie River. His head is badly damaged, parts of it beaten to a bloody pulp. He has a gunshot wound above his right ear and his right eye has been gouged out.

His naked body shows evidence of a beating to the back and hips with a blunt instrument. A heavy fan blade, tied by barbed wire to his neck, has weighed the body down to keep it submerged. There is no doubt that Emmett Till has been tortured, pistol-whipped and then shot in the head.

He is only identified by the silver ring he is wearing. The Delta-Democrat Times, a local Mississippi newspaper, reports that the body may not be Till's and suggests that the boy may have been hidden by relatives or even returned to Chicago for his safety.

As the gravity of the crime slowly unfolds, the tone of the local newspapers begins to change from mitigation to condemnation. Several newspapers call for the authorities to conduct "a vigorous conviction."

The Vicksburg Evening Post prints several letters to the editor expressing shame at the people who have caused Till's death. One reads, "Now is the time for every citizen who loves the state of Mississippi to stand up and be counted before hoodlum white trash brings us to destruction."

Mamie Till Bradley addressing the media
Meanwhile, the authorities prepare Emmett Till's body for burial in Mississippi. But Mamie Till Bradley, Emmett's mother, is never going to agree to that. She halts the burial and calls several local and state authorities in Illinois and Mississippi to make sure her son is returned to Chicago.

She insists on an open casket funeral so the true extent of the horrifying crime can be seen by everybody.

Photographs of Emmett Till's mutilated body are printed in Chicago newspapers making international news and directing attention to the rights of black people in the southern states. Thousands of people line the Chicago street outside the mortuary to view Emmett's body and thousands more attend his funeral. He is buried on September 6, 1955, at Burr oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.

Roy Bryant (L) -  John Milam (R)
On September 7, 1955, Roy Bryant and John Milam, are indicted for the kidnap and murder of Emmett Till. A conviction on either charge could result in the death penalty for both men.

Prosecuting attorney, Hamilton Caldwell, is not confident of gaining a conviction, particularly as there will be an all white jury, who will be looking for any excuse to acquit the defendants.

Caldwell's view is underscored when Tallahatchie County Sheriff, Clarence Strider, who initially identified Emmett Till's body and stated that the case against Bryant and Milam was "pretty good", now announces his doubts that the body pulled from the river is even Till's. He now thinks Emmett Till is probably still alive, and that a stolen cadaver was planted in the river by black radicals.

The whitewash begins.

The Jury, Sumner court room, Sept. 1955
The trial opens on September 19, 1955. in the town of Sumner, Mississippi. More than seventy reporters and photographers crowd into the small court room. Mose Wright and Mamie Till Bradley both testify for the prosecution.

They are both convincing witnesses.

Several more witnesses testify to hearing whipping and hollering from inside a barn on the morning it is believed that Emmett Till was murdered.

The defense strategy is to question whether the body pulled from the river is even that of Emmett Till, who they suggest is probably still alive. Defense counsel admits that Bryant and Milam took Emmett from Mose Wright's house (they couldn't argue against that, given the strength of the evidence) but insist they released him unarmed.

Sheriff Strider 1955
Sheriff Clarence Strider testifies that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days", far too long for it to have been Emmett Till's body. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Bryant and Milam, it is this single sentence, as predicted by State Prosecutor, Hamilton Caldwell, that gives the jury the opportunity to acquit the two defendants.

The twelve good men and true are out for just 67 minutes; unsurprisingly, they return a verdict of "Not Guilty." On November 9, 1955, a Leflore grand jury refuses to indict Bryant and Milam on kidnapping charges, and the two men are released from custody.

And then the smear campaign starts. The Jackson Daily News reports facts about Emmett Till's father that has been suppressed by the U.S. Military. While serving in Italy, Louis Till raped two women and killed a third. He was court-martialed and hanged near Pisa in July 1945. Mamie Till and the family know nothing about this, having been told by the army that Louis had been killed for "wilful misconduct."

The story remains on the Mississippi newspapers front pages for several weeks. It is a blatant attempt to blacken Emmett Till's character by suggesting he was prone to a genetic instinct to violence. It does not change the fact that a young boy was brutally murdered and justice was not done.

In later interviews, jurors acknowledge that they knew Bryant and Milam were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but did not believe that life imprisonment or the death penalty a fit punishment for whites who killed a black man.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly in northern cities, attend rallies protesting the verdict. Southern newspapers, particularly those in Mississippi, state that the court system has done its job. The difference of opinion between the northern and southern states is palpable.

If you have never heard Emmett Till's story before reading this article, what do you think happened to Roy Bryant and John Milam? Did they confirm the court's verdict by continuing to protest their innocence? Did they perhaps offer a shred of sympathy to the bereaved mother of Emmett Till, who had lost her son in such a traumatic fashion?

No, they didn't.

John W. Millam 1955
Just three months after being acquitted of kidnapping and brutally murdering a 14-year-old schoolboy, they gave an interview to Look Magazine and were paid the princely sum of $4000 each.

Protected by the rules of "Double Jeopardy" (they cannot be tried twice for the same crime) the two men admit to killing Emmett Till and then go on to describe exactly how they did it, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the courts had not done their job.

Ex-soldier, John Milam, states that his intention is to "...just whip him, and scare some sense into him." And Big John Milam knows exactly where to take the boy.

Over at Rosedale, the Big River bends around under a bluff. The idea was to "...stand him up their on the bluff, whip him with the colt .45, shine a light on him and make him think we were going to push him in the river. Because that's what happens to smart niggers. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights."

But the Chicago schoolboy stood up to them. He didn't think they had the guts to kill him. And the two men didn't like that. Milam says, "We were never able to scare him." So they pistol-whipped him with their .45's instead, both men taking it turn to smash the guns across the boy's head. Pistol-whipping prisoners is a court martial offense in the army, but that didn't seem to bother these two upstanding southern gentlemen.

Roy Bryant 1955
And still Emmett didn't cry out. According to Milam and Bryant, all the boy said was, "You bastards. I'm not afraid of you."

Roy Bryant continues the story: "Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I'm no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers - in their place - I know how to work 'em. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are going to stay in their place. And then I just made up my mind. Chicago boy, I said, I'm going to make an example of you."

And they surely did that. First, they make him carry a 74 pound ginning fan; he staggers under the weight of it. Then they order him to strip naked before attaching the fan to his neck with a piece of barbed wire.

Having concluded their brutal assault, they shoot Till above his right ear and roll him into twenty feet of water. Seventy-two hours later and eight miles down river, a group of boys out fishing see two bloated feet sticking up out of the water. Sheriff Clarence Strider identifies the body as Emmett Till. Realizing the implications, he tries to get the body buried that same day, ordering Till's Mississippi relatives to "...get the body into the ground by nightfall."

Emmett Till's mother, Mamie, makes sure that does not happen.  

In 1957, an unsuccessful attempt is made to assassinate Sheriff Strider, whose perjured testimony and overt racist behavior helps pervert the course of justice. He later tries to justify his actions, "The last thing I wanted to do was defend those peckerwoods. But I just had no choice about it."

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, 42-year-old Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger. She is quoted as saying, "I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn't go back."

John William Milam dies of cancer in 1980, at the age of 61. His passing goes unnoticed.

Roy Bryant's Store 1955
In 1992, Roy Bryant is interviewed about his involvement in the murder. Unaware that Emmett's mother, Mamie, is listening in another room he blithely states that Emmett Till ruined his life. He expresses no remorse and then says, "Emmett Till is dead. I don't know why he can't just stay dead."

In 1994, at the age of 63, Roy Bryant dies of cancer. Nobody mourns his passing.

In 2006, the FBI reopens the case. They exhume Emmett Till's remains and confirm his identity beyond any doubt. Agents also believe that a third person may have been involved in the murder of the Chicago schoolboy. The investigation is ongoing.

In 2007, Tallahatchie County issue a formal apology to Emmett Till's family. It reads: "We the citizens of Tallahatchie County recognize that the Emmett Till case was a terrible miscarriage of justice. We state candidly and with deep regret the failure to pursue justice. We wish to say to the family of Emmett Till that we are profoundly sorry for what was done in this community to your loved one."

Mamie remarries and lives happily with Gene Mobley until his death in 1999. 
She dies of heart failure, aged 81, in 2003.

She does not live long enough to hear the apology.

Emmett Till (1941-1955)

Murdered in Mississippi.


Pictures and information courtesy of: (American Experience)

The Emmett Till Murder Trial: A Chronology.
Douglas O. Linder

Life Magazine

Look Magazine (1955 ed.)

BBC News

Tallahatchie County Archives

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bonnie Parker: "The Trail's End."

May 23, 1934. 9:15 am. Bienville Parish. Louisiana. The tan Ford V-8 sedan, traveling at high speed along deserted highway 154, is eight miles south of Gibsland when the driver spots what he thinks is a broken down truck parked by the side of the road. It is jacked up and one of the wheels has been removed.

He recognizes the truck as belonging to his friend, Henry Methvin. They separated four days earlier whilst traveling to visit family. Braking hard, the driver pulls over to offer whatever assistance he can.

Before the car even stops, the rural calm is shattered by a burst of gunfire from behind the trees opposite the broken down truck.

The first bullet hits the driver of the Ford in the head, taking away the front part of his skull. The female passenger's scream is cut short as she too is hit in the head with the second shot. Blood splatters across the windshield as both driver and passenger are killed instantly; the car is still moving forward under its own momentum.

Another 128 rounds follow, peppering the driver's side of the car. Smoke pours from the interior, seeping out through the bullet holes in the door and from under the hood.

The offside tires, front and back, explode under the gunfire. The attack is relentless. Pistol fire, automatic rifles and shotguns continue to blast away until the assailants' ammunition runs out.

Six lawmen emerge from the trees and walk warily towards the bullet ridden Ford sedan. In the trunk, they find automatic rifles, sawn-off shotguns, semi-automatic shotguns, a variety of handguns and several thousand rounds of ammunition. There is also a collection of license plates from various states. One of the men pulls the car's front door open. The driver, now slumped lifelessly across the steering wheel, has sustained 17 separate gunshot wounds. The female passenger, lying sideways against the nearside door, has been hit 26 times.

Clyde Barrow, 25, and Bonnie Parker, 23, two of America's public enemies, lie dead in the smoking remains of the Ford V-8.

But how did it come to this?

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in Rowena, Texas, October 1, 1910, the second of three children. A bright girl, she does well at school, excelling in English language and English Literature. Her father's untimely death in 1915 leaves her without a male influence in her life, and in her second year of high school she gets involved with Roy Thornton, a man who is destined for a life of crime.

They are married on September 25, 1926; Bonnie is 15-years-old. The marriage does not work out as Thornton is away for weeks at a time engaged in various criminal activities. After less than eighteen months together, with their relationship strained beyond breaking point, Thornton leaves. Bonnie will see him just one more time. They never divorce because she thinks it unfair to divorce him while he's in prison.

Bonnie writes in her diary January 1928: "We are separated for the third and last time. I love him very much and miss him terribly. But I intend doing my duty. I am not going to take him back. Let all men go to hell!"

Bonnie continues to wear her wedding ring. She is wearing it the day she is ambushed in Bienville Parish. Thornton is in prison when he learns of Bonnie's death. He makes just one comment: "I'm glad they went out as they did. It's much better than being caught."

Roy Thornton is killed in 1937 during a prison break.

In 1929, with her failed marriage behind her, Bonnie takes a job as a waitress in a Dallas restaurant. She feels depressed and angry. She writes in her diary: "Am very blue. I must confess I got drunk, trying to forget. Drowning my sorrows in bottled hell."

In a coincidence that defies all reason, one of her best customers at the restaurant is a man named Ted Hinton, a postal worker. He later joins the Dallas Sheriff's Department and is a member of the posse that participates in the deadly ambush just five years later.

With the Great Depression deepening across the southern states, Bonnie loses her job when the restaurant closes down. It is a turning point in her young life. On January 5, 1930, in a twist of fate that resounds across the decades, Bonnie Parker is at a friend's house when she is introduced to a man who will lead her to a violent death on a lonely Louisiana highway.

Had she not been at that house on that particular day, how might her life have turned out?

Clyde Barrow 1930
Unfortunately, she is there and Clyde Barrow is smitten by the intelligent, articulate young woman from the same rural Texas background as himself.  The attraction between the couple is immediate. At that point, the romance would have blossomed had it not been cut short by circumstances.

Soon after their meeting, Barrow is arrested and imprisoned for robbing a grocery store in Waco. Bonnie writes letters to him and visits as often as she can. She finds herself being drawn into a world she does not understand and even participates in a foolhardy escape plan when she smuggles a gun into the prison.

Barrow and a cell mate escape, but both are quickly captured and sentenced to a further two years. Barrow is eventually released on parole in February 1932 and returns to the Dallas area to resume his friendship with Bonnie Parker and embark on a crime spree that will see the murders of at least eleven people.

But, as with most things in life, it all starts in a small way. The couple, accompanied by Ralph Fults, begin robbing small general stores and gas stations. On April 19, 1932, in Kaufman, Texas, Bonnie Parker is captured while holding up a hardware store.

This setback does not deter Clyde Barrow. A couple of weeks later, he is involved in a robbery in Hillsboro, Texas, where the store owner, J.N. Bucher, is shot and killed. This is the first murder attributed to Barrow, although he later claims he was sitting in the getaway car when Mr Bucher is murdered.

Meanwhile, a grand jury fails to indict Bonnie Parker and she is released. She returns to Dallas to visit her ailing mother. On August 5, 1932, Clyde Barrow, accompanied by Raymond Hamilton and Ross Dyer, are in Stringtown, Oklahoma when Sheriff C. G. Maxwell and Deputy Eugene Moore approach the three men in a car park. Without any warning, Barrow and Hamilton open fire, instantly killing the deputy and gravely wounding the Sheriff. The Sheriff's deputy, Eugene Moore, is the first of nine police officers that will die at the hands of the Barrow gang.

It was at this point that Bonnie, knowing how ruthless Clyde Barrow was, could have walked away from a man who had no compunction about killing anybody who stood in his way. But she didn't walk away. And the killings continued.

W. D. Jones 1933
On Christmas eve, 1932, Parker and Barrow are joined by 16-year-old W. D. Jones, a childhood friend of the Barrow family. The next day Jones kills a young family man, Doyle Johnson, while attempting to steal his car in Temple, Texas.

Less than two weeks later, on January 6, 1933, Barrow kills Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis in a shoot-out with Tarrant County police officers. The total murders committed by the Barrow gang since April, 1932, now stands at five.

If Bonnie Parker has any regrets about the course her life has taken, she doesn't show it.  Holed up at Oakridge Drive, Joplin, Missouri, Parker, Jones and Barrow are joined by Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche.

A month after arriving at the house the Barrow gang attract the attention of their neighbors. Already suspicious of the rowdy behavior going on at all times of the day and night, one neighbor reports to police that a gun has been fired at the house. Police, believing they are dealing with bootleggers, move in. On April 13, 1933, five police officers in two cars confront the occupants of the apartment.

In a frenzied shoot-out, two police officers, a Detective McGinnis and a Constable Harryman are fatally wounded. It has been suggested that Bonnie Parker never shot anybody or even fired a gun. A Joplin Police report of this incident records that, "...Parker laid down covering fire with a Browning automatic rifle."

Bonnie Parker, April, 1933
Up to this point, although known to law enforcement officers across Texas, the Barrow gang had hardly registered with the general public. That was all about to change. Among other items found by police at the hideout was a handwritten poem by Bonnie and several rolls of undeveloped film.

The Joplin Globe published several of the photos, including one of Parker with a cigar clamped in her mouth and a pistol in her hand. She later told a hostage that "'s bunk about me smoking cigars."

It may have been bunk, but the pictures went across America and the Barrow gang became front-page news. The pictures and stories entertained an American public suffering from a deep depression. News stories about soup kitchens, lines of unemployed men and bank foreclosures were replaced by the headline exploits of a gangster and his cigar chomping moll.

Parker's poem "The Story of Suicide Sal" was printed and re-printed in newspapers and magazines across America. It was simply the story of her life so far, but it struck a chord with the public. The young waitress from Rowena, Texas, who just wanted to find a good man, raise a family and write her poems, had come a long way, but it had not turned out the way she thought it would. By this time, April, 1933, she must have guessed where it was leading. The final verse of "Suicide Sal", which can be read in full here reads:

  It related the colorful story
Of a "Jilted gangster gal".
Two days later, a "sub-gun" ended
The story of "Suicide Sal".

As with most romanticized stories, the reality of Bonnie and Clyde was not as portrayed by the media. The gang lived out of the cars they stole. There were many bungled robberies and they never managed to accumulate much money. In one robbery, they got away with less than $80. Although they boasted that, "...we rob banks," their targets were mostly small Ma and Pa grocery stores and rural gas stations.

Following the shoot-out in Joplin, the Barrow gang ranged far and wide across the southern states. In another remarkable turn of fate, they kidnapped Dillard Darby and Sophia Stone while stealing the couple's car in Ruston, Louisiana. After driving around for several hours, Darby and Stone were released unharmed. During the drive, when Darby mentioned that he was an undertaker, Bonnie Parker remarked, "Well, maybe you'll work on me someday." 

A year later, Darby did just that. He was one of the undertakers who worked on Parker's body after the ambush.

With Blanche Barrow and W. D. Jones in police custody and Buck Barrow dead after another confrontation with police, the tide of public opinion was beginning to turn. The endless shoot-outs, the robberies and the cold-blooded killings soured the perception of the Barrow gang as lovable criminals on the run from authority. 

When Barrow and Henry Methvin shot and killed two highway patrol officers, E.B. Wheeler and H.D. Murphy in Grapevine, Texas, the public outcry finally galvanized the authorities into action.

Although never confirmed, eye-witnesses claimed that Bonnie Parker shot one of the officers. The negative publicity and hostile newspaper headlines across America now meant that if Bonnie Parker was captured, she would almost certainly face the death penalty. And then Texas Highway Patrol boss, L. G. Phares, offered a $1000 reward for "the dead bodies of the Grapevine slayers" with Texas Governor, Ma Ferguson, also chipping in with a $1000 reward.

The hunt was on.

Captain Frank Hamer
But the killing continued. Public hostility to the Barrow gang reached fever pitch when Barrow shot and killed 60-year-old Constable William Campbell in Oklahoma. 

What the gang didn't know was that a six-man posse, led by Captain Frank Hamer, a retired Texas Ranger, had been tracking them since February 12, 1934.

Hamer studied the gang's movements and found that they were exploiting the "state line" rule that prevented officers from one jurisdiction from pursuing a fugitive into another. But Hamer was one-step ahead, and he predicted that the gang would head towards Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

The posse set up an ambush on State Highway 154, just outside Sailes. Hamer arranged for Henry Methvin's truck to be used as bait and the men took up position on the evening of May 22. They settled down for the night behind the tree line opposite the supposedly broken down truck. At approximately 9:15 am the next morning, they heard Barrow's stolen Ford V-8 approaching at high speed. 

A statement made by members of the posse read: "We opened fire with automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns. There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards down the road. It was almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it had stopped. We weren't taking any chances."

The final verse of "The Trail's End" by Bonnie Parker reads:

Some day they'll go down together
they'll bury them side by side.
To few it'll be grief,
to the law a relief
but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

(Read the full poem here)

VICTIMS of the Barrow Gang.
John N.BucherHillsboro, Texas: Died April 30, 1932

Deputy Eugene MooreAtoka, Oklahoma: Died August 5, 1932

Doyle Johnson - Temple, Texas: Died December 26, 1932

Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis - Dallas, Texas: Died January 6, 1933

Detective Harry McGinnis - Joplin, Missouri: Died April 13, 1933

Constable Wes Harryman - Joplin, Missouri: Died April 13, 1933

Marshal Henry D. Humphrey - Alma, Arkansas: Died June 26, 1933

Major Joe Crowson - Huntsville, Texas: Died January 16, 1934

Patrolman E.B. Wheeler - Grapevine, Texas: Died April 1, 1934

Patrolman H.D. Murphy - Grapevine, Texas: Died April 1, 1934

Constable William Campbell - Commerce, Oklahoma: Died April 6, 1934


Pictures and information courtesy of:

The F.B.I - Famous cases & Criminals

Louisiana State Records Office

State library of Ohio

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Krishna Maharaj and The Cocaine Cowboys*

Dupont Plaza Hotel, Miami 19  
October 16, 1986. 12:25 pm. Emergency services respond to a 911 call and arrive at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami.

Hotel security staff inform police officers that during a routine sweep of the hotel, they found two bloodied bodies in a room on the top floor. Officers race up to the twelfth floor and enter room 1215 to find a horrific murder scene.

Father and son Derrick and Duane Moo Young appear to be the victims of an execution. Derrick has been shot in the head and body several times and Duane, 23, has been shot once in the head and has a single gunshot wounds to his left leg, indicating that he may also have been tortured. Miami Police describe the father and son as 'impoverished businessmen'.

Derrick and Duane Moo Young

The Case for the Prosecution

Within hours of the murders, a man named Neville Butler leads police to British national Krishna Maharaj, a millionaire fruit importer who regularly travels from Britain to spend winters in Miami.

Maharaj is arrested and taken into custody. He states that he knows nothing about the murders and claims to have been thirty miles away in Fort Lauderdale.

However, in the weeks that follow, a detailed police investigation reveals that not only does Krishna Maharaj know the two businessmen, he also has a business arrangement with them. Police are told that Derrick Moo Young has embezzled more than $160,000 from Maharaj.

Police find Krishna Maharaj's left hand fingerprints in room 1215 (indicating that the perpetrator was wearing a single glove on his right hand) and then Neville Butler tells police he was actually in the room when the murders happened and states that the British businessman pulled the trigger. Butler believes he was lucky to get away with his own life and tells police that Maharaj is the only person he knows who has a motive to kill Derrick and Duane Moo Young.

Neville Butler's statement is damning. Unfortunately, the police do not recover the murder weapon.

Krishna Maharaj 1987
But they do have a motive, fingerprints in the hotel room and an eyewitness; with the weight of evidence in their possession, police investigators believe they have an open and shut case and charge Krishna Maharaj with two counts of first degree murder.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Maharaj still maintains his innocence. He produces six witnesses who claim he was thirty miles away when the murders occurred. One of the witnesses insists she has evidence to prove Krishna Maharaj was with her and several other people at the exact time of the murders. Police are unimpressed with this attempt at an alibi and now disbelieve everything Maharaj says. They do not interview any of the defence witnesses who have come forward.

The 48-year-old businessman goes on trial on October 5, 1987. The jury is told about scientific evidence regarding fingerprints, ballistics, business records and statements the defendant made to police. Then the prosecution lawyer makes his point; "All the evidence points to the defendant and nobody else as the killer of Derrick Moo Young and Duane Moo Young. These two men were executed by the defendant who was a business partner in KDM, a corporation that dealt with import and export."

Having been described as "impoverished businessmen" by Miami police, the Moo Young's business accounts are revealed to the jury. The accounts show total earnings of less than $25,000 per year.

Despite his claims of innocence, Krishna Maharaj faces a mountain of damning evidence. Witness after witness testifies against him, including several Miami police officers. He is even starting to sound paranoid when he tells his defence lawyer that he thinks the judge is deliberately confusing the evidence to sway the jury. His protestations are waved away.

And then a very strange thing happens. On October 8, 1987, three days into the trial, 48-year-old presiding Judge Howard Gross is arrested at his home. He is charged with taking a $20,000 bribe from undercover officers investigating the Medellin drugs cartel.

With Judge Gross under arrest, it is not clear why Krishna Maharaj's defence counsel does not request a re-trial.

Something is beginning to smell and it is an odour that will eventually turn into an overwhelming stench. Few people in the courtroom realise the implications at the time and a new judge is quickly appointed. The trial continues.

And then another strange thing happens. Without examining any of the prosecution witnesses, or putting Krishna Maharaj on the stand, defence counsel, Eric Hendon, shocks the court by resting his case. It is an odd, almost unprecedented, decision.

And nobody asks why the defence has chosen this course of action.

October 19, 1987. With no evidence to counter the prosecution case, the jury is out for just three hours. They return a guilty on all counts verdict and vote 7 to 5 for the death penalty. Krishna Maharaj is sentenced to death. As the sentence is read out Maharaj faints. On November 20, 1987, he enters death row at the State Prison in Starke, Florida, where he will stay for the next ten years.

After several unsuccessful appeals, Krishna Maharaj's death sentence is overturned in September 1997, when it is confirmed that the replacement trial judge had asked the prosecution to prepare an order sentencing Maharaj to death before the sentencing hearing had even begun. 57-year-old Maharaj is returned to the general prison population to serve a full life sentence. After exhausting the appeals procedures that should have been the end of it.

But it wasn't. Because some things just refuse to go away.

Maharaj with his wife Marita 2012
In 2014, new evidence comes to light. 75-year-old Krishna Maharaj, now confined to a wheelchair and suffering from diabetes and a heart problem, has served 26 years of his sentence, and he still maintains his innocence.

With justification, as it now turns out.

The Case for the Defence

Krishna Maharaj's fingerprints found in room 1215 was damning evidence, but it now appears that parts of Maharaj's statement were held back from the jury.

The prosecutor advised the jury at the original trial that "the defendant told police that he had never been inside the Dupont Plaza Hotel on October 16, and what's more, he had never been on the twelfth floor. Nobody said that he had ever been on the twelfth floor."

The jury understood the implications of that final sentence straight away. How did he know there'd been a murder on the twelfth floor if he hadn't been there? And how had his fingerprints appeared in the room? Maharaj says, "I told police from the beginning that I had been in the room earlier that day for a meeting arranged by Neville Butler."

The prosecution's claim that Maharaj said he had never been to the Dupont Plaza is shown to be false when Officer Romero of the Miami police later states that, "he (Maharaj) said he had been there prior to the homicides, that's correct."

The jury are also told that Maharaj denied knowing the Moo Youngs' and had never had a business relationship with them. This is a prosecution ploy to portray Krishna Maharaj as a devious liar. In fact, a portion of a statement taken by Detective Buhrmaster is never revealed to the jury. It clearly shows that Maharaj not only admitted knowing the father and son, but also detailed his business involvement with both men.

The prosecution also fail to mention to the jury that both Butler and Maharaj have taken polygraph (lie detector) tests. This information is withheld for obvious reasons. Krishna Maharaj passed the test and Neville Butler failed.

Neville Butler, 1987
Krishna Maharaj says that Neville Butler set up a morning meeting between himself (Maharaj) and a man called Eddie Dames, in whose name the hotel room was booked. Several years later, Dames confirmed this statement was true.

Maharaj wanted to discuss with Dames, a Bahamas air traffic controller, a business proposition regarding the distribution of a newspaper in the Caribbean.

After arriving at 8:00 am and waiting more than an hour and a half for Dames to turn up, Maharaj becomes impatient and leaves around 9:35 am. He drives to Fort Lauderdale, some thirty miles away from the murder scene where several witnesses report seeing him at 10:25 am - two hours before the Moo Youngs' are murdered in the Dupont Plaza. Maharaj is also seen, by several witnesses, dining at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant at 12:05 pm. This is five minutes after the murder took place.

So, according to the evidence that has since emerged, there was no meeting arranged with the Moo Youngs' and Maharaj had not arrived in the hotel room to collect $160,000 that was allegedly embezzled from him. In fact, Derrick Moo Young did owe money to Maharaj, but the amount owed was actually $443,000, which bank records show he paid to Krishna Maharaj in two cheques, one for £200,000 and one for $243,000. These cheques were banked by Maharaj some time before the murders occurred.

A police file contains copies of the Moo Youngs' passports. In the nine months leading up to their murders they had taken at least thirteen international flights, staying in expensive hotels wherever they went. Further documents show that the Moo Youngs' were negotiating, on behalf of a third party, to buy a bank in Panama for $600 million.

Why was all this information held back from the jury?

Because it didn't fit the prosecution case and effectively destroyed Maharaj's motive for murder.

With the fingerprints and the motive not quite as damning as would first appear, what about the murder weapon? A ballistics expert reveals that a 9 mm pistol is used to murder the two men in room 1215. Although he can't determine the make of gun (it could be any one of half a dozen different 9 mm pistols) the expert believes it to be a Smith and Wesson.

Which is convenient for the prosecution, as they can prove that Krishna Maharaj once owned a Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol. Unfortunately, they don't have the gun and are therefore unable to match the bullets that killed the Moo Youngs' with any gun that may have been owned by Maharaj. It is inconclusive and uninstantiated evidence, but it plants yet another seed in the minds of the jury.

A question that must have bothered the jury was why hotel staff heard no gunshots. Neville Butler testified that Maharaj shot the gun through a pillow to deaden the noise. This might work in crime movies, it doesn't in real life. A pillow would not muffle the sound of a 9 mm pistol being fired at least eight times. No pillows with gunshot marks were found at the murder scene.

The jury never heard the name Adam Hosein. Police records reveal that this man left a message for room 1215 on the day of the murders. Miami police never questioned him. Fifteen years later, an associate of this man, one George Abchal, told investigators that Hosein kept a gun and a silencer in the drawer of his desk. He said, "On the day of the murders Hosein took the gun, a 9 mm Smith and Wesson with silencer, and went out to the Du Pont Plaza hotel. When he returned he told me not to mention to anyone that he had gone out or where he had been."

George Abchal didn't have to worry. Nobody asked. The day after the murders, Adam Hosein returned to Trinidad.

And what about the victims? According to Miami police, Derrick and Duane Moo Young had barely a cent to rub together. However, the picture painted of the father and son at Krishna Maharaj's trial was not quite accurate.

Pablo Escobar
Documented evidence examined by Ernst & Young accountants has now emerged which proves that the Moo Youngs' company, Cargil International SA (Bahamas), was used to launder money for the Columbian drug cartels. In September 1986, the company owned by the "impoverished businessmen" conducts transactions in the United States, Barbados, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, and Paraguay.

Approximately $100 million dollars is involved in buying gemstones, bearer bonds and foreign currency. And then two letters of credit appear in the Moo Youngs' bank account, both issued by "International Bank of the South Pacific" and both are for $100 million. In one, the original recipients name is crudely blanked out and filled in with the name Cargill International SA. The letters are dated September 17, 1986, one month before the murders, and both bear the identifying code (ODA-170986-SL5-10). In fact, they are the same document and they are being used to instigate an unsophisticated forgery by Derrick and Duane Moo Young. This attempt to rip off the Medellin drug cartel is the first fateful step in a lengthy chain of events that will lead to their deaths.

It is also around this time that the Moo Youngs' take out personal life insurance policies amounting to more than $1.5 million.

Back at the Dupont Plaza hotel, police find blood on the floor outside the door leading into room 1214, the room opposite the murder scene. On the day of the murder a man who has occupied room 1214 checks out of the hotel after a stay of three months. Police barely speak to him. They ask him his name - Jaime Vallejos Mejias - determine some personal facts and then let him go.

Drug cartel busted
What police fail to establish is that Jaime Vallejos Mejias, a Columbian national, is under investigation by drug enforcement officers for carrying $40 million to Switzerland . He is, in fact, a money man for the Medellin drug cartel and an enforcer.

Police also discover that somebody has made an effort to ensure that only two rooms on the twelfth floor, 1215 and 1214, are occupied on the day of the murders.

Why would anybody do that? Didn't it strike the Miami police as odd that somebody should go to so much trouble?


  • If Krishna Maharaj had no qualms about murdering Derrick and Duane Moo Young, why did he not kill Neville Butler at the same time? Why leave an eye-witness to testify against you?

  • If Neville Butler was in the room when the murders occurred, why was he not charged with being an accessory before and after the fact? In Florida this charge carries a life sentence. The prosecution denied offering him a deal, but failed to explain why he didn't face any charges.

  • Tino Gedes, a Jamaican national, originally agreed to testify for the defence. On the eve of the trial he
    Tino Gedes
    switched sides and testified against Krishna Maharaj. At that time, Gedes was facing gun-running charges in Jamaica which could have resulted in a lengthy jail sentence. He was eventually fined just $1000 after Florida prosecutors flew to Jamaica to support him. After he died in 2011, it was discovered that he had been involved with the Medellin drug cartel for more than forty years.

  • Why did Maharaj's counsel, Eric Hendon, rest the defence case without making an effort to question the prosecution's evidence. Had he been threatened by the cartels, or was he just incompetent?

  • The trial judge, Howard Gross, arrested by undercover drug agents and then charged with taking a bribe from the Medellin cartel should have raised some concerns. It didn't.


In 2014, a member of the Medellin Cartel admitted that the cartel had murdered Derrick and Duane Moo Young. Can that statement be believed? I think so. It's easy to see why that might have happened. There is documented evidence to show that a $100 million letter of credit had been doctored by Derrick Moo Young. If you are going to rip off a drug cartel, do it in a big way.

The Moo Youngs' were involved in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the cartel. If they'd been discovered doing it once, how many other times and how many millions of dollars had they already taken?

So why didn't the Medellin Cartel murder the Moo Youngs' then quietly dispose of the bodies? The usual reason. They wanted to send a message to all the money men. Cross the Columbians' and you are dead.

Problem was that after years of police corruption in Miami, with the "Cocaine Cowboys" flooding Florida with a mountain of drugs, law enforcement agencies were now beginning to fight back. In 1987, the last thing the cartels needed was to be implicated in a high profile murder, especially when the money trail left by the Moo Youngs' led directly back to Columbia.

Claire Phillips painting of Krishna Maharaj 2009
They needed a fall guy. Krishna Maharaj fitted the bill perfectly. A multi-millionaire British national with a taste for the high life. He travelled the world, dipping into several diverse business deals.

How might they have pulled it off? Jaime Vallejos Mejias in room 1214 was the organiser, bringing all the elements together over a period of three months. Eddie Dames was used as bait, Tito Gedes coordinated everything concerning Krishna Maharaj, Adam Hosein pulled the trigger and Eddie Butler provided the eye-witness account that changed at least six times during his time on the witness stand.

Even if you don't buy into this sequence of events, does it raise a reasonable doubt about Krishna Maharaj's conviction for murder? At the age of 75 and after 26 years of imprisonment, he still maintains his innocence. How much longer does he have to live? 5 years? Wouldn't it be easier for him to say, look I haven't got much longer to live, I did it.

But he still refuses to say that. What he actually says is:
 "I want to be vindicated now. I don't want to be vindicated after I'm dead."
Are they the words of a guilty man?

Krishna Maharaj

Victim of the Cocaine Cowboys

Pictures and information courtesy of:

Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America


Clive Stafford Smith


The Sun Sentinel, Miami

Miami Dade Police

U.S. Justice Department - Miami FL.

*Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben. The film explores the rise of cocaine and resulting crime epidemic that swept the American city of Miami, Florida, in the 1980s. The producers of Cocaine Cowboys use interviews with law enforcement, journalists, lawyers, former drug smugglers and gang members to provide a first-hand perspective of the Miami drug war.