What really happened at the lake that night?
March 19, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

The Murders at The Lake. "In the summer of 1982 the city of Waco was confronted with the most vicious crime it had ever seen: three teenagers were savagely stabbed to death, for no apparent reason, at a park by a lake on the edge of town. Justice was eventually served when four men were found guilty of the crime, and two were sent to death row. In 1991, though, when one of the convicts got a new trial and was then found not guilty, some people wondered, Were these four actually the killers? Several years after that, one of the men was put to death, and the stakes were raised: Had Texas executed an innocent man?"

This is a five part investigative report from the Texas Monthly, which examines the case from five different perspectives: "a patrol sergeant who investigated the crime; a police detective who became skeptical of the investigation; an appellate lawyer who tried to stop the execution; a journalist whose reporting has raised new doubts about the case; and a convict who pleaded guilty but now vehemently proclaims his innocence." The link above is Part One, which was released today. The other four parts will be published online over the next two weeks.

* Lake Waco Murders has trial documents and other resources
* Carlton Stowers book about the murders, Careless Whispers, is available from Amazon.
* National Registry of Exonerations
* Wikipedia
posted by zarq (18 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Bob Herbert's columns The Wrong Man and The Impossible Crime pretty concisely sum up huge problems with these cases.
posted by crayz at 2:11 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Texas has executed a shitload of innocent men, I have no doubt.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:30 PM on March 19, 2014 [16 favorites]

The Texas Monthly publishes excellent things.
posted by rtha at 2:44 PM on March 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

So what does Carlton Stowers have to say about this? Or any other decent true-crime writers who've written about crimes that were later resolved?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:00 PM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I find it interesting the parallels to the West Memphis case.

West Memphis Murders: May 5, 1993 (about two and a half weeks after the Waco siege)
Waco: July 14, 1982.

Both cases: three victims, missing before discovery.
Both cases: tied up with shoelaces.
Both cases: bloody wounds but virtually no blood found in the area.
Both cases: found in the woods.
Both cases: victims found nude. (2 of 3 in the Waco case, 3 of 3 in the West Memphis case).
Both cases: satanic cult involvement alleged. (I'll have to see how it plays out in the follow-up stories in the Waco case).
Both cases: Rape alleged, but no semen.
Both cases: Bite marks alleged well after the autopsy.
Both cases: Recanted confessions.
Both cases: Multiple people convicted for the crime.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:51 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

i had to laugh when the detective suddenly had "a strong feeling", rooted around in the leaves with a stick and unearthed a gold bracelet 25 yards from where the bodies were found. either he psychically dowsed that bracelet, or there's...some other explanation.

i've never been in a texas courtroom, but i have a lot of experience in california courtrooms, where a DA passing a note to the defendant during jury selection "you are drowning and your lifeguards can't swim" would be regarded as extremely inappropriate and unprofessional.
posted by bruce at 7:16 PM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fascinating. I look forward to the remaining installments.
posted by samthemander at 9:11 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seriously, I swear I just read an old Ruth Rendell book that is just like that. Well, the details of the crime are completely different, but the detective (not Wexford, Burden) gets completely obsessed with the idea that one guy has done it and won't believe anything else. Keeps distorting facts to fit his pet theory even though it's obviously not true. Life, even stranger than fiction. I'm intrigued to see where this will go.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:27 PM on March 19, 2014

Wait, didn't we just a few days ago have the story that tied a bad DA in with a bad ME who used discredited bite-mark analysis ?
posted by k5.user at 7:29 AM on March 20, 2014

Having just binge-watched both seasons of Twin Peaks, this is very weird.
posted by Grandysaur at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seriously, I swear I just read an old Ruth Rendell book that is just like that.

The Monster in the Box, I think.
posted by BibiRose at 6:27 AM on March 21, 2014

The link in the post now includes part 2 of the story, giving "The Detective's" perspective. You can scroll down on that page, or it starts halfway down page 7 here.

Part 3 will be released on Monday.
posted by zarq at 6:43 AM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is excellent, thanks zarq. I *love* Texas Monthly.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:38 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

BibiRose, it was actually Mike Burden in The Veiled One, though you're right, Wexford does it in The Monster in the Box. The difference, of course, is that Wexford's suspicions seem much more accurate than Burden's. That's why he's the boss.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:07 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just read this, very fascinating and frustrating. I'm really perplexed by the journalist who's been writing the book for 15 years. Could it be that he's stumbled onto some information that exonerates the Menendezes but implicates Spence, and that's why he's stalling? Publishing 10 years ago would have generated interest, he could have continued to research the case and publish a follow-up. It doesn't smell right.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:10 PM on March 29, 2014

k5.user, I'm not sure about a recent post here, but bite mark forensics always reminds me of these guys.
posted by goshling at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2014

This was haunting. I just wanted to loop back and thank you again for sharing this content.
posted by samthemander at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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