From Murderers Among Us
By Stephen G. Michaud
and Hugh Aynesworth
©1991 by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth
Published by Signet Books
Used with permission
(This book was published in 1991 -- the case is still unsolved in 1999.)
Dallas County sheriff's detective Larry Forsyth remembers Wednesday, December 23, 1981, began ordinarily enough at the Seagoville substation in the extreme eastern end of the county. The north-central Texas winter sky was pale blue, the temperature mild, and a Christmas party was scheduled for that afternoon. Sgt. Forsyth had been appointed the substation's official turkey carver for the occasion. Looking forward to the big meal, Forsyth ate very little that morning.
Then the substation radio crackled with the ghastly news that a young mother and her child had just been found slain nearby. So much for the Christmas party -- and Christmas itself -- for Larry Forsyth.
Roxann Jo Jeeves with Kristopher.
"The first 72 hours after such a murder are so important," says the detective, now a lieutenant. "You don't get much sleep trying to get all the leads before they're cold. As a personal note, I also didn't get a chance to eat until ten o'clock that night. We were all awful hungry folks by then."
The bodies were discovered at about 11:45 that morning by Deputy Roy L. Baird. While on routine patrol in a semirural area of truck farms scattered among woodlots, creek beds, and the occasional small hill, Baird spotted an empty 1978 tan-and-blue Ford Thunderbird parked with its driver's side door open on Holloman Rd., a narrow dirt lane, three tenths of a mile east of the nearest paved arterial, Lawson Rd.
The car was registered to 30-year-old Roxann Jo Jeeves, an attractive divorcée who had moved to Texas from Oklahoma in April of the previous year. She lived with her son, Kristopher, in a second-story apartment, No. 234, at a complex called The Sussex Place on Larmanda St. in northeast Dallas.
Deputy Baird approached the Thunderbird and noted a woman's purse and gloves on the front seat. In the backseat he saw wrapped Christmas presents, some personal papers, and a blue canvas bag with white trim.
Sensing that something was very wrong, Baird began a general search of the vicinity. In a wooded area 137 feet directly north of Holloman Rd., he found 5-year-old Kristopher lying on his left side. The boy had been slain with a single .38 caliber bullet to his forehead. He was clad in blue pants and a blue coat. A yard or so away was his mother, shot once in the cheek and again in her temple.
Roy Baird discovered Roxann Jo Jeeves on her back, covered from her toes to her shoulders with a green blanket. From the general appearance of the crime scene, Detective Forsyth suspects Roxann Jeeves was forced to watch her son's execution before being murdered herself. At autopsy, Dallas County chief medical examiner Charles S. Petty would find bruises around her neck and stomach, and an inordinate quantity of blood, 100 cubic centimeters, pooled in her abdominal cavity. From this evidence, investigators would infer that her killer may have throttled Roxann Jeeves into submission, then pinned the woman to the ground with his knee as he shot her.
Ms. Jeeves, like her son, was fully clothed. The keys to the Thunderbird were found in one of her pockets. Neither victim had been sexually assaulted. Neither had been dead for more than an hour, nor had the car been parked on Holloman Rd. for more than 40 minutes; another deputy, J. L. Kilzer, reported that he drove by the scene in his cruiser at 11:07 that morning and had seen nothing.
Crime-scene processing began at 12:25 P.M. No murder weapon was found. Inside the Thunderbird, however, crime lab technicians found good latent fingerprints on the inside of the driver's window.
The blue canvas bag in the Thunderbird's backseat potentially was an even more valuable clue. It definitely did not belong to Roxann Jeeves, or to Kristopher, and almost as certainly it was left by their killer.
In it, investigators found some screwdrivers, duct tape, knives, and a small lemon extract bottle containing formaldehyde. Lt. Forsyth says that the most probable explanation for the formaldehyde was as a marinade for marijuana joints to produce what is sometimes known as Sherman Stick -- ultra-powerful dope that is also ultra-dangerous to your health. Explains the detective: "The majority of people I talked to who've tried it said they never wanted to do it again. People at our lab said that quite often it results in brain damage."
Also in the blue bag were a black-knit toboggan cap and a small notebook. There was a gold-colored pin attached to the cap. It read: Super Shit. The name E. Oden was inscribed on the notebook. In time, E. Oden turned out to be Eugene Oden, a local IBM employee who remembered leaving the notebook in his old desk when IBM moved its offices a few miles west from a building in the city of Dallas to the sprawling commercial and residential real estate development known as Los Colinas.
Finding Eugene Oden required an enormous effort. All that it has accomplished to date, however, has been to eliminate Eugene Oden as a suspect in the case.
Finally, the blue bag was found to contain several aged (possibly pre-World War II) brass .38 caliber Remington bullets, and a brown leather holster manufactured by Brauer Brothers of St. Louis, Missouri. It, too, was a comparative antique. A stamped impression on the holster's restraining strap read C 0 N S T, or perhaps C 0 3 1 S T. The impression is very faint.
According to a Brauer Brothers employee contacted by the Dallas County investigators, the company once supplied that type of holster to the military by the thousands, but discontinued the model in 1952.
It seems very likely that the bullets and the holster were stolen, along with the missing murder weapon, undoubtedly a pistol. Larry Forsyth believes that to find their owner -- and also to solve the mystery of Eugene Oden's notebook -- probably would bring him much closer to identifying the killer.
"I've always felt that the holster and pistol had been passed down from somebody's grandfather," he says. "And I think they came out of a burglary. I always hope that somebody will call and say, 'That's my holster!' Then I could go back and start working on that. That holster haunts me -- that and the notebook. How the hell did that notebook get from that office building to where that mama and baby were killed, and in that bag?"
Neither sex nor robbery seemed to be motives in the case, and nothing that the sheriff's office learned in the crucial early hours of its investigation brought detectives any closer to understanding why someone would want to murder Roxann Jo Jeeves and little Kristopher.
They discovered that she was a native of Jamestown, New York, in the far western portion of the state, not far from the Pennsylvania border. Roxann Jo Jeeves had married (retaining her maiden name) and moved to Oklahoma City, where she worked for an insurance cornpany for a couple of years. Her ex-husband, Kristopher's father, still resided there. He was not a suspect.
In Dallas, the detectives learned, Roxann led a moderately active social life. She played on a woman's baseball team in the summer, and enjoyed dancing in country-and-western joints with names like "No Whar But Texas" and "The Cockeyed Cowboy."
Her boyfriend of the past 12 months, Jimmy Hoskins, told police he had last spoken to her, by telephone, at about 10:00 on the night before her murder. Jimmy Hoskins was at work the next morning when Roxann and Kristopher were killed. His mother, 53-year-old Louise Hoskins, told investigators that she spoke with Roxann Jeeves, also by telephone, at 10:00 AM. On the twenty-third, less than two hours before mother and son were found dead. According to her, Roxann and Kristopher were due at Mrs. Hoskins's workplace, Kraft Foods in nearby suburban Garland, Texas, at 11:00. The twenty-third was Kristopher's birthday. As a special treat for him, Mrs. Hoskins was going to take the boy on a tour of the plant.
Still another acquaintance, 37-year-old Danny Binion, recounted to Forsyth that he had visited the Jeeves apartment on the night of the twenty-second. Before leaving at about 10, said Binion, he noticed that Roxann had placed a red box full of car tools near her front door. When Binion asked about the toolbox, she explained that she intended to put it in her Thunderbird's trunk the next morning, "in case I have car trouble."
Danny Binion confirmed Louise Hoskins's account. He recalled Roxann telling him that she and Kristopher planned to meet Mrs. Hoskins at Kraft Foods around 11:00 A.M. the next day. Then, according to Binion, Roxann was going to bring Kristopher to lunch at Binion's club, the King's X, before taking the boy for the last of his birthday treats, a matinee movie.
One of the first witnesses to provide Detective Forsyth with something substantive was 19-year-old Patricia McAvey, Roxann Jeeves's neighbor at The Sussex Place. At about 10:30 on the morning of the twenty-third, Ms. MeAvey told Forsyth, she walked out of her apartment to see little Kristopher struggling down the stairs toward his mother's car with a big red toolbox. Patricia McAvey, who was on her way to a doctor's appointment with her own infant son, asked Kristopher if he needed any help. The boy declined, explaining that he thought he was big enough to wrestle the cumbersome toolbox downstairs all by himse .
She hurried off across the parking lot toward her car. Partway there, Patricia McAvey turned around to see something she found disquieting, a black male accompanied by a dark-complected, possibly Native-American, female, who seemed to be approaching Kristopher Jeeves in a furtive manner. "They were looking around to see if anyone was watching," Detective Forsyth remembers hearing from Ms. McAvey.
The unwholesome-looking duo unnerved Patricia McAvey. "She didn't feel like these people belonged in her apartment complex," says the detective, even though Ms. McAvey also reported that Kristopher seemed to recognize the man. "When she got to her car she looked back one more time and this time she saw the black male carrying the toolbox in one hand and holding Kristopher's hand with the other. All three of them -- the Indian woman, too -- were headed in the opposite direction around the building to the parking lot. That's the last she saw of them."
Patricia McAvey sat down with a police artist to produce a sketch of the suspect male. Over the coming days it would be widely reproduced in the Dallas-area news media. According to her, the man appeared to be about five feet nine inches tall, and weighed 180 pounds, possibly more. He looked to be in his early-to-mid thirties. His black hair was cut short. She remembered him wearing sunglasses, a dirty white T-shirt under a blue jogging top, and light brown pants covered with greasy smears.
The suspect's companion presented an equally derelict aspect. She, said McAvey, was a squat five feet five inches tall, and about 25 years old. The woman's hair was short and brown and frizzy. She wore ill-fitting tan slacks. It appeared that someone recently had smacked her around, giving the woman a black eye.
The next significant witness was Don Crawford, who worked in a gas station near The Sussex Place complex, at the intersection of Abrams Rd. and Interstate 635, the LBJ Freeway, which forms a partial loop around the north, east, and southern sectors of the city of Dallas. Within hours of the murder, Crawford notified the sheriff's investigators that he had pumped gas that morning for Roxann Jeeves; according to her credit card receipt, $31.00 worth.
Crawford remembered that Ms. Jeeves was at the steering wheel of the Thunderbird, and that she said nothing but "Fill it up," at the station. Sitting quietly next to her in the front passenger seat was a black male who looked to be somewhere between 30 and 35 years of age.
The Jeeves suspects as Patricia McAvey described them.
The attendant went on to explain to deputy W. L. Mayes that he saw a little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old, standing up in the backseat. He was wearing a blue coat and blue pants. No one else was in the vehicle. Assuming the black male Don Crawford saw in Roxann Jeeves's Thunderbird is the same individual Patricia McAvey saw with Kristopher that morning, his female companion, whoever she was, seems to have vanished.
Although no one as yet has come forward with evidence of Roxann and Kristopher Jeeves's whereabouts from the time they left the gas station with their passenger until they were found, dead, perhaps less than one hour later, time constraints make it plausible that Ms. Jeeves drove southeast from the station on I-635 past the suburbs of Garland, Mesquite, and Balch Springs, possibly as far as State Route 175, on which she might have continued in a southeasterly direction toward Seagoville. State Route 175 is the major route out into the easterly stretches of Dallas County where mother and son were murdered.
A principal investigator at the scene was deputy R. W. Veatch, and he turned up any number of witnesses. One, 20-year-old Tamera Burton, reported that she was driving by just as Deputy Baird came upon the Jeeves Thunderbird on Holloman Rd. At that moment, according to Burton, a man she could only describe as "dark" sprinted out of the brush and across a plowed field toward Cartwright St. Tamera Burton was at least 200 yards away when she spotted the fleeing figure. She was unable to describe him, or even to tell his race. But, "He was running as fast as he could," she said in her statement to Veatch, and the subject wore "dark clothing with a greenish look to it."
Another of Veatch's witnesses, 34-year-old Michael Dean Daniel, was an employee at a water treatment plant at the intersection of Cartwright and Lawson, about one-half mile from the murder scene off Holloman Rd. Daniel told Veatch that he left work at noon on the twenty-third, and that his route carried him past Holloman on Cartwright. Just as he approached Holloman, said Daniel (who is white), he saw a black man run out from behind a vacant house and try to wave him down, as if for a ride.
Daniel drove on, but later was able to describe the male he saw as about five feet eleven inches, medium build, and somewhere in his twenties. He told Deputy Veatch the man had facial hair and, despite his frantic attempts to gain Daniel's attention, he kept his left hand hidden inside the pocket of his olive-green military jacket.
Daniel's descriptions were consistent with those of Jim and Marcella Hicks, Seagoville residents who reported to Veatch that they were driving down Cartwright Rd. at about noon, or a little later, the day of the killings. Jack Hicks said he noticed a black man walking and trying to hitch a ride on Cartwright. He remembered the individual as about five feet ten inches, tall, of medium build, and somewhere in his twenties. Hicks said the man was wearing dark clothes and a growth of beard , "mostly stubble."
Marcella Hicks concurred in her recollections, adding that the hitcher's hair was cut in a short Afro and that he wore a "drab green" military-style jacket. Both Hickses and their passenger that day, Marsha Youker, said they noticed the man kept his left hand in his jacket pocket. All three believed they'd recognize the man if they saw him again.
As Detective Forsyth and Deputy Veatch and the rest of the Dallas County sheriff's investigators worked around the clock through the 1981 Christmas weekend, their flow of substantive leads inexorably began to slow, even though the local press continued to show the police composite sketch of the suspect and Schepp's, a local dairy, offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the Jeeves' killer.
One of the last of the useful early witnesses was 35-year-old Katie M. Christian, who contacted the sheriff on Monday, December 28, five days after the murders. Ms. Christian, like Don Crawford, was a gas station attendant. She worked at a Mobil station at the intersection of 1-635 (the LBJ Freeway) and Bruton Rd. in Mesquite, about six miles due west of the crime scene.
According to her, at about noon on the twenty-third a black man approximately five feet eight inches tall, medium build, wearing a green army jacket and green cap, walked into the station and asked to use their inside telephone. Ms. Christian refused, directing the man's attention to an outside pay phone. After he placed a call from it, she explained to detectives, the subject loitered around the station for an hour or so, coming inside at one point for a drink of water. The last Ms. Christian saw of the individual he was heading north, on foot, on I-635.
All sensational crimes provoke deluges of anonymous tips to the authorities, and the Jeeves' murders were no different. Although the preponderance of such calls come from pranksters, cranks, and the like, there often are substantive leads to be followed, or information to be gleaned that casts the crime in a certain light. In the Jeeves case, many of the callers suggested that if the detectives dug hard enough they'd find a drug connection in the killings. The discovery of formaldehyde in the killer's blue canvas bag also pointed toward some sort of drug connection, as did the highly suggestive testimony of another of Roxarm Jeeves's neighbors at The Sussex Place, Kevin Long.
Several weeks after the murders, Long was involved in a fracas at the apartment complex. It was a matter of routine for the sheriff's investigators to ask him if he knew anything about the Jeeves' slayings. "I wish I could help you guys," Long replied, "but I can't."
The detective started leaning on him. After three days of their intense attention, Long finally exclaimed, "Look! I'm in a real jam here. But if you give me your word you won't cause me any problems, I'll tell you what I know."
Kevin Long, it turned out, was a parolee. If used against him, what he had to report could have put him back in jail.
According to Detective Forsyth, Long remembered seeing in the complex a black man answering the description of the suspect. In fact, the man had come to Long's door, about three or four days before the murder, asking to borrow a set of battery jumper cables for his car. Kevin Long owned no such device, but as they spoke in his doorway the stranger caught the unmistakable aroma of pot being smoked within the Long apartment.
"Hey man, who's got the reefer?" the visitor asked. Long replied that he did and that some of it might be for sale. As they spoke, the man at the door introduced himself as "G-Man." He said he might be in the market. When Kevin Long shook his hand, he noticed G-Man was wearing a horseshoe-shaped ring, and that there was a long pink scar on his right hand.
The rest of what Kevin Long had to say was even more provocative. He told Forsyth that the selfsame G-Man returned to his door the morning of the murders and purchased a baggie of marijuana from him. Finally, says Forsyth, "Long told us something about the clothing we've never made public. Something that other witnesses noted. Something unusual."
Kevin Long's information, consistent with a drug-related theory of the murders, still shed no light on another nagging point. Neighbor Patricia McAvey felt that little Kristopher Jeeves recognized the suspect that morning. If she was right, then what, or who, could have been the connection?
One distinct possibility was Roxann Jeeves's brother Kurt, who had come to Dallas from Jamestown the previous summer and lived with Roxann and Kristopher for a few weeks. Some of the telephone tipsters mentioned Kurt by name. Others went so far as to say he had two distinguishing habits: one was to smoke dope regularly, and the other was to associate with blacks routinely. For some reason, whites were nearly excluded from Kurt Jeeves's social circle.
On January 21, 1982, 29 days after the murders, Detective Forsyth traveled about 125 miles southwest of Dallas to the U.S. Army base in Fort Hood, Texas. There he interviewed PFC Kurt Jeeves.
According to Forsyth, he asked Jeeves about suspicious black males at The Sussex Place. Roxann's brother answered that in the summer of 1981 a black male neighbor named Brantley Wood, whose apartment was quite close to Roxann's, had begun dealing drugs. Soon, said Kurt, Brantley Wood had "fronted" him four bags of marijuana to sell. When he didn't move the merchandise quickly enough, Kurt continued, Wood came to the Jeeves apartment and angrily demanded the dope's return.
Another time, he told Detective Forsyth, Wood answered his apartment door with a knife in his hand. Brantley Wood's explanation for the weapon was that someone had just burgled his place and made off with some of his stash.
Kurt Jeeves would not concede that his lifestyle and such business associates as Mr. Wood might have had something to do with his sister's and nephew's murders. "He readily admitted to associating with nearly all blacks," says Forsyth. "But I got a strange reaction. In the middle of the interview, when I asked him if any of his black friends had anything to do with this, he jumped up and said, "You're not gonna put a guilt trip on me! I didn't have anything to do with my sister's murder, and I'm through talking to you!"
As it turned out, that conversation less than a month after Roxann's and Kristopher's murders was as close as Larry Forsyth would come to unraveling Kurt Jeeves's role in the killings, if any. By the time he got back to Dallas, a call from Jamestown awaited Detective Forsyth. It was from Kurt Jeeves's father, who wanted the Dallas County Sheriff's Office to leave his son alone.
Kurt Jeeves subsequently was shipped by the Army to Germany, where he was found guilty of a drug offense. The Army returned Jeeves to the United States in 1984. He served time in the Louisville, Kentucky, stockade before being dishonorably discharged. "He was kicked out of the Army and.given his back pay," says Forsyth. "Almost immediately he went into a black part of Louisville to score some marijuana and was killed because he flashed a big roll of bills. A group of blacks was arrested and convicted, but we could.find no connection whatsoever to our case.
Since then, the only significant development in the case came in 1988 with a Crimestoppers television broadcast about the case. After the program, a man called in to say that on December 23, at the corner of I-635 and Bruton Rd. where Katie M. Christian worked at the Mobil station, he saw a black man stop his car to pick up another black -- perhaps, but not for sure, the suspect described by Ms. Christian.
So why were the Jeeveses killed? One possibility is that Kevin Long's Mr. G-Man bought his dope, soaked it in formaldehyde, smoked the Sherman Stick, and went off on a psychotic tear. It would be a much closer fetch to imagine the man had a serious beef with Kurt Jeeves and killed Kurt's sister and family as a payback of some sort.
Yet the killer could not have fully considered his crime. It was rash to be seen with his victims in the daytime, and then to murder them with no previously planned means of escape. Sudden anger may have played some part in the crime. Also, why was he hiding his left hand as reported by Mike Daniel, the Hickses, and Ms. Youker? Did Roxann Jeeves bite him or otherwise injure his hand just before he killed her?
None of these questions ever are likely to be answered unless Larry Forsyth someday gets his man. Says the disappointed but determined detective, "Nine and a half years later this case feels like unfinished business to me. It was assigned to me and it was my responsibility to find the person who did this awful deed. I haven't yet and I've gotta solve this before I leave here."
Lt. Forsyth retires in eight years.