She has essentially been part of my life for two decades, but only the past 15 years have I known her beautiful, little face. She smiles at me from my bulletin board at any time I am in my office. Her smile imprinted in my mind, my heart aches at the thought of her. Those cute barrettes of many colors decorate her hair. So vibrant. So full of life, that little gal with the straight smile. Only the corners of her mouth upturned. Angel, yes. That name suits you, little one. My child I never knew.
I have often wondered what she was like. Four and a half years young, I bet she was a handful! Little Angelique James. So few know your name and none have publicly declared how precious and loved you were. Those barrettes? Doesn’t that show someone cared for her? She had siblings. I imagine someone misses her. Or, at least, I hope there is someone that still dreams of that adorable grin. There must be someone. Her mother? An aunt? A grandmother to snuggle and cuddle that dear baby? Or maybe the only one missing her is me? Gosh. I pray it not be so. I need to believe that someone other than me misses her.
According to a Los Angeles County Sheriff, her mother was charged with murdering her in 1998 but, since authorities never found a body, Shirley Ann James was convicted only on child endangerment. I believe Shirley took a plea. Shame on that defense attorney. More likely than not, a body was never found because authorities never looked too far. I mean, c’mon. Mom was already involved with child services of Los Angeles County CA. She must be guilty, right? They’re poor. They’re black. Why put too much into an actual investigation?
Across the country years later, much the same lackadaisical attitude. Investigators in Kentucky find remains of at least a couple children at a rural farm after a young witness leads them to the burial spot. That case went nowhere fast. In fact, according to KSP (Kentucky State Police), their Custodian of Records, and the Attorney General there was never such an investigation. They claim not even a scrap of paper exists with a note about any of the two years of contacts of detectives reportedly “trying to put names to faces.”
Well, quite likely, just the same as the case with Los Angeles County California Sheriffs, if they would have searched beyond “the tri-county area” they would have had at least one name for one of those faces. Angelique James.
When Witnesses Tell
So, what happens when the primary witnesses to children allegedly murdered in Kentucky are ordered by their home state of Michigan into the custody of their father and step-mother—two of the main suspects on whom these children just told? The Kentucky police buried the case. They abandoned their witnesses. Yes, despite the evidence that for two years they said they had.
This is a rather long story, but first I want to state that I do not believe any of the police connected to this story were involved in any conspiracy with the criminal suspects alleged of murder. Our police forces are truly stretched beyond their means. It’s like Lt. Merriman told me on the phone in early 2003,
“You don’t realize the manpower and all it would take to connect a child missing from California to my murdered child here in Kentucky.”
Although most of what transpired with this case enrages me, I mean absolutely no disrespect to any law enforcement officer or agency. At the same time, more often than we’d like to believe the truth isn’t so honorable. Obviously, folks, you may draw your own conclusions. All I intend to do here is simply tell it like it happened. And that is long over due.
I suppose the best place to start is where it pretty much started for me. In early 2002 I had accompanied a child witness to Kentucky to meet with detectives, at their request. The witness had told authorities and his counselor for years about incidents he endured and was witness to in KY five years prior (1997). Among those incidents included the ritual murders of at least two other children.
To put this in perspective:
January 2002, Lt. Greg Baird had multiple contacts with me regarding the witness’ statements. He asked me to “ask them about a structure in the woods” on the farm where the incidents occurred. The lieutenant instructed to write everything down that the witnesses tell me and he would call back in a day or two.
I did as instructed and when Lt. Baird called again, he was expressly impressed with the memories of these witnesses. So much so that he asked me to arrange to bring them to Kentucky to speak with detectives. We arranged for the last week of March to meet with one witness.
On March 27th, 2002, this witness, I will call him Jack (not his real name), and I arrived at the Danville station of the Garrard County Sheriff Department. Two Kentucky State Police detectives met us there and took Jack and I into a side room. The room quickly became packed with sheriff deputies and others, held in a hush and staring at the the young boy. One detective turned on a tape recorder and asked Jack to tell him all about it. Not much was said and it doesn’t take an expert to figure out why. It was then suggested that we drive out to the farm.
Now, these detectives explained to me that they could not locate the actual address, stating that there were two Fall Lick roads and “addresses have changed since.” So we drove down one and Jack did not seem to recognize anything. But as we started down the other Fall Lick Rd, coming down a short hill he suddenly sat up and became quite chatty. He recalled out loud, “I spit over that bridge!” A little further and Jack exclaimed, “And Sissy pushed me out of that tree!” Then snorted his childish chuckle. About a mile more around a couple curves on the old country road, he bounced in his seat, yelling, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s the farm.” I was concerned he would jump through the window with his excitement, but suddenly he became sullen.
The detectives were in their car ahead of us, so I honked to get their attention. They backed a little and drove up the long, gravel driveway, stopping just short of the barn. The two went to the house, opposite the barn, and knocked on the door. When the door opened I could see them talking with the inhabitant but could not hear them clearly. The detectives motioned for us to get out of my car.
Just as the detectives began walking around, listening intently to Jack, the inhabitant from the house came close. He attempted to initiate small talk with me, telling me he was there to “take care of his friend’s horses”, which could be seen in a pen to one side of the barn. He mentioned his friend is a horse trainer that lives in Florida. This strange man seemed to follow Jack and the detectives. I tried to contain myself, wait for the detectives to say something to him. Finally, after about 15 minutes, I could not. I told the detectives that I was not comfortable with this man listening to the boy’s accounts of what he witnessed and experienced at this farm. They looked at me puzzled. Then one of them said, “That is a good point.” He told the man to leave. The man returned to the house.
Almost an hour we walked around the back of the house, the yard and driveway between the house and barn, while Jack described in deep detail what and who he remembered at each step.
Then Jack reluctantly pointed through the barn and said, “Then there’s back there.”
Seeing his discomfort, one of the detectives went ahead of Jack and the other followed behind. As we walked I could hear the boy tell them about how his older sister was beaten and forced to sleep in this barn a couple nights.
As we exited the barn on the other side, Jack just stared at the ground. I got closer to ask if he needed a break. I stayed back for most of this because I wanted him to feel in control of the situation, but close enough to be there if he needed. He nodded his head, still staring at the ground and walking slowly side to side, just outside the barn’s back door.
Then he looked up and said to the detective, “Right here. Paul and I buried the parts right here.” My heart sank.
Imagine. So young. A scary, strange man forces you to “help bury parts of the kids” (direct quote from Jack to detectives) the day after you witness their brutal, gory murders.
It became difficult to focus on the present while the boy’s words weighted my mind. Just imagine.
The detectives noticed Jack seemed tired and told him how impressed they were, “…but that is enough for today. Don’t you think so?” Jack nodded. They asked him to wait and took me aside. They told me they were going to mark this spot with something that won’t be obvious to the boy and asked if we could return the next day. The detectives stated he seems credible, but they wanted to see if he is consistent in his statements. I agreed, and they told me to return to the station so arrangements for a hotel and dinner could be made for us.
The rest of this evening Jack seemed unusually at peace. As if he was relieved of so heavy a burden that none could imagine. That night in that Danville motel was the first good night’s sleep he had in a long, long time. Tomorrow, we’ll be up early and ready for round two.
…to be continued. [Part Two]