Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Let It Go (Part II)

I was a little bit flippant in my last blog because it concerned a kind of obsession that I don't understand. Tonight's obsession is one I can understand all too well. I think anyone who has had a friend or family member who died under suspicious circumstances would understand. This is harder to write about than I thought, but, I'll just soldier on, and see if anything coherent comes of it.

Eighteen years ago, September 9, 1989 to be exact, in Marshall, Arkansas, a 15-year-old girl named Olivia Jane Ward died while attending a party. The official story was that she "fell" off of a porch that was about 9" off the ground. It was deemed an accident by the Sheriff's office, and the case was closed.

Thus began Ron and Mona Ward's excruciating oddyssey, to obtain justice for what they were certain was their daughter's murder. Over the past 18 years, the Wards have become impoverished through their determination to find out who killed Janie. They have come up against one blank wall after another. And, still, they persevere.

Mike Masterson, an op-ed writer with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette took up their cause several years ago, and has been trying to unravel the story and find the truth. Not a month goes by that he doesn't write at least one story about the Wards, trying to keep the story alive, and put pressure on those involved in the investigation.

The thing is, the stumbling blocks are almost insurmountable. The people involved are all prominent families in their community. The girl suspected of killing Janie, accidentally or otherwise, is the daughter of the then Municipal Judge. Two of the people who were thought to have information, and be willing to tell their stories, have been killed. Official files have disappeared, witnesses have taken the Fifth, and the official autopsy was done by an incompetent State Medican Examiner, who, after seeing all the bruises and mud on Janie's body, and examining her broken neck, and hearing information that Janie wasn't even wearing the same t-shirt she arrived in, still pronounced the death an accident.

Since then, Janie's body has been exhumed twice more, and two more autopsies have been performed. There is a world of difference between what the most recent two autopsies showed and what the first one showed, and yet, no one has been able to crack the case.

This story is like some those southern horror movies and old westerns where entire towns band together to protect their prominent members. The difference is, in the end, someone always uncovers the truth. After 18 years, it is doubtful that this case will be solved, unless someone finally comes forward and tells all.


At times, over the years, after reading yet another story by Mike Masterson, I have asked, 'Why don't the Wards just let go? They are never going to get the answers they seek." Of course, it's just my frustration talking. I know why they don't let go. I know I couldn't let go, either.


But, the Wards have paid a terrible price for their tenacity. Eighteen years, long years, when they should have been able to grieve and then move on and make some kind of life without their daughter. Eighteen years, when not a day goes by that they don't think of her and rail at the system that keeps them from the answers. Eighteen years, when everyone else in their community has been able to put the travesty behind them, and the ones responsible are now in their 30s and living their lives and keeping their secrets with a lot of assistance from others in the town.


So, I can't say to the Wards, "Give up and move on" as I could to the Mountain Meadows descendants. I just hope that one day the truth will be discovered. Maybe it was murder, maybe just a tragic accident. The Wards would accept proof of either one, I'm sure.



After eighteen years, they just need to know what really happened.

15 comments:

her indoors said...

this is just so terrible Betty, of course if it was me i would never give up until justice is done, the pain they must be going through. I hate how the system fails people all because of nebulisum it is so wrong.
i truly hope that one day the truth will come out.

Nancy said...

Hello Betty,

About twenty years ago my neighbor's son who was 17 at the time went to another boy's home to do schoolwork. He was to be home at 10 P.M. When he hadn't returned by 10:30 his parents became worried and went out on foot looking for him. The other boy's home was only one block away and when they got there the boy told them that their son had done his homework there and had left for home at 9:45P.M.
The boy did not come home all night and the police searched the field that the boy had to cross to get to his friend's house and found nothing.
At Sunup the mother went out again and she found her boy dead of a shotgun wound. He was in the same field the police had searched.
The Police had a suspect but could not make an arrest because of a lack of evidence.
For all these years now, the parents have had a sign on their lawn asking' WHO KILLED BOBBY WHITMAN?" (Not his real name)
They are so frustrated because all evidence points to one boy and they can't prove it,but they keep pressure on the police with their sign, but still nothing happens to solve the case.
I know how the people in Arkansas feel about their little girl. They just want to know what happened to her and say "I love you and goodbye". Maybe then they can rest
a little.

Kell said...

I wish it could be like "Cold Case" and find the truth about that night. How awful to live with that for so long. Thanks for sharing the story, it's really interesting.

Dogwalkmusings said...

You sound like you live in Idaho.

Sister--Three said...

I have read about this in the little rock paper...I have never been able to put the pieces together...but I caught on fast to falling off a 9 inch porch and being hauled up town in the back of a pick up...

Surely, one day, the truth will come...but maybe not. As in MT. Meadows folks today don't know who killed the Fancher train folks. It is maybe this and maybe that. We still mourn those who were murdered and robbed even of their clothing. young girls had to go to homes and see the mother of the house wearing her mothers dresses and just 'bare up' because is she said a word...all the children would be dead.

I for one will never forget. Yes, folks may be sick of hearing of it...but I shall not forget it.

patsy said...

some things are so sad and nothing can be done it seems.

Melissa said...

I can't imagine how terribly frustrating this must have been for the Wards. And still is.

squire said...

Having followed this case for years, I wish the truth would come out but it is doubtful. Nothing criminal might have happened but it sure seems otherwise.

Tink said...

There's a HUGE difference in the two examples. For one, the first case with the killings by the Mormons didn't happen to any of the people who are demanding an apology PERSONALLY. That's like someone asking for an apology for something my Great Grandfather did to their Great Grandfather. In which case my only reply would be, "Tough shit."

Tink said...

Oh yeah...

For two, the second case deals with something that happened to two parents PERSONALLY. Anyone who doesn't understand their grief and anger has either A. Never loved someone or B. Isn't really thinking in the parent's shoes. It's easy to say "get over it" if you don't ever have to think of it happening to you.

CarmenSinCity said...

Damn - that's really sad. I hope they get the justice they deserve. What a terrible way to live - not knowing.

Lena said...

What a frustratingly long passage of time for parents who so deservedly need some sort of closure.

Cazzie!!! said...

Yep, I agree with you 100% Betty

her indoors said...

hi Betty, just checking if you are ok?

Betty said...

Thanks for all the comments. I've been lax about replying - sorry. I've been trying to figure out what to say in the next blog.