Episode 33 – Rebel McMahon

Nearly 20 years ago, a young boy named Rebel McMahon was murdered by his mother in cold blood. Though this case is undoubtedly tragic, it seems to be resolved. The woman responsible for the killing was arrested and convicted of murder and is currently behind bars. However, when a reporter named Jay Arrington contacted me about this case, something bothered me about it.

Though I live not far from where this crime was committed, and I was only a teenager when the crime occurred and I have researched many strange true crime cases over the years, I had never heard about the murder of Rebel McMahon. This bothered me.

Why had I never heard about this case, especially considering how strange and bizarre it was? Why had this case not received widespread attention, even though it was so tragic?

Jay filled me in on his ideas about why Rebel McMahon’s case seemed to disappear from the media landscape. In his words, the case was lost in a flurry of coverage of other tragic cases that received national media attention. I agree with this theory and, after conducting some research, it seems to hold up.

Still, I was troubled. I know that I’m not making a podcast with national reach and I have no pretensions about being an investigative researcher attempting to solve cold cases and right past wrongs.

As I’ve said many times, I am just a storyteller.

However, I feel that Rebel’s story needs to be told. There is nothing that can be done to bring justice to that young boy but maybe hearing his story will help you and help myself to do something for justice in the future, when other vulnerable people need help.

Yes, this case is tragic and has creepy elements that are the hallmark of many stories I’ve covered here on the Dispatch. However, I’m not just trying to shock or spook anyone with this episode. I’m simply doing what I think needs to be done, and hopefully with a bit of grace and deference.

Listen in and learn about Rebel McMahon. He never got the chance at life that he deserved but he deserves to be remembered and to have his story told. As Jay himself said, it’s just hard to believe that such a crime could ever happen. But these things do happen and, when they do, it behooves us to pay attention, that we may do something about evil when and if we ever come across it.

Episode 32 – The Dalton Gang

CAUTION: This blog post will include graphic images of the slain Dalton brothers.

 

Just over 100 years ago, the United States was a very different country. Far from being the global superpower that it is today, much of the fledgling nation was still unsettled and vast streams of hopeful pilgrims migrated westward in search of verdant land and the promise of wealth. Many of these settlers staked their claims along their way across the frontier and set up small towns and mining encampments.

In order to keep these towns supplied, as well as to fuel further expansion, the United States government worked in tandem with titans of industry to construct the great American railroad system. These railroad trains transported huge amounts of people, provisions and gold back and forth across the frontier. Although this infrastructure was the living backbone of the American westward expansion, it also provided opportunities to an unsavory sort of frontier denizen: the robber gangs.

An image of the United States in 1884-1889, showing the still partially unsettled American West. At the time, many of the territories that would become states had only recently been organized and were still very much unsettled frontier territory.

In the 19th century, and into the beginning of the 20th century, these robber gangs roamed the plains and the prairies, carrying out stickup robberies of trains, banks and small towns across the great unsettled west.

This was a unique time in American history. The vast, unsettled frontier was a wild land where, in many cases, the presence of law enforcement was scarce, if it existed at all. At the same time, many of the settlers in the small mining towns and growing settlements were often in possession of large amounts of wealth, whether from trade or from digging up huge payloads of gold and silver ore.

Add in to this mixture the fact that the huge, unsettled landscapes provided plenty of room for criminals to hide out and escape, and you had a recipe for the birth of American legends.

Enter the Dalton Gang.

When the Dalton clan moved to Kansas in the late 19th century, some of the Dalton boys found work as U.S. lawmen on the frontier. Frank, Bob, Emmett and Grat Dalton worked as U.S. Deputy Marshals or ranch hands and earned quite a good reputation for themselves as efficient and effective lawmen who were capable of skilled gunplay and daring bravery.

However, this sterling reputation would not last very long.

The boys began to go bad. After committing small crimes and escaping to the California Gold Rush territory, the Dalton boys converted their brother Bill to a life of crime and began committing a series of train robberies.

Photo of Bill Dalton, member of the original Dalton Gang, the Wild Bunch and founder of the new Dalton Gang.

They eventually made their way back to the Oklahoma Indian Territory, where they continued their crime spree. They eventually fell victim to their own greed and nearly all of the gang were killed during a botched attempt of a double bank robbery in broad daylight in their former home town of Coffeyville, Kansas. Only Emmett Dalton survived this failed plan and he was sentenced to prison.

Booking photo of Emmett Dalton after he was arrested following the failed Coffeyville robbery in 1892.
Death Photo of the Dalton Gang after the failed Coffeyville double bank robbery in 1892. Pictured left to right are Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton and Dick Broadwell.

Bill Dalton, in the meantime, had escaped justice from the gang’s early robberies and decided to form a gang of his own. He joined up with other outlaws and formed the Wild Bunch, one of the most infamous robber gangs to ever stalk the plains of the Wild West. Eventually, Bill split with this posse and recruited a few more outlaws to form the new Dalton Gang.

They planned a daring raid in 1894 on the First National Bank on Fredonia Street in Longview, Texas where I live. Though they struck quickly, they barely escaped with their lives. Eventually, all of the new Dalton Gang was tracked down and killed or imprisoned.

Death photo of Bill Doolin after he was killed by a shotgun blast by a U.S. Marshal in 1895.

This was not only the last ride of the Dalton Gang, it was one of the last rides of the outlaws of the Old West. The 19th century soon gave way to the 20th, and with the passage of time came further modernization and industrialization. Soon, the vast frontier was largely settled and the outlaw gangs of the Wild West mostly disappeared.

However, civilized society can’t keep an outlaw down for long. In some ways embodying the spirit of the Wild West bank robbers, new outlaws appeared in the early 20th century, eager to plunder the spoils of growing American towns and taking advantage of the black market created by the passage of Prohibition.

It seems that the days of the gunfighter and the bank robber on horseback were impossibly long ago but, in reality, it was just a short span of years ago when these legends were men in the flesh.

Tune in to this episode to learn how one of the last great robber gangs of the American frontier pulled of an ill-fated raid right here in the middle of nowhere in Longview.

Episode 31 – The Lufkin Angel of Death

“And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.”

– 2 Samuel 24:16

The Angel of Death is a figure of lore and legend, of myth and story, found in legends the world over. But there is another meaning for this term.

Some criminologists and crime writers have described “angels of death” as serial killers who work in a caretaking position, such as a doctor, nurse or healthcare worker, who prey on their patients. Their victims are particularly vulnerable because of their health conditions and these killers have an unusual amount of access to their victims, who depend on them for treatment and care. This may be the rarest type of serial killer and their very existence seems to stand out against our assumptions about typical serial killers.

First of all, many angels of death are female, unlike the vast majority of serial killers. Additionally, they often use hard-to-detect means to carry out their heinous acts, such as administering lethal overdoses of medications or withholding life-saving treatments. They may intentionally make their patients sick and then “save” them to appear heroic or they may disguise their murderous actions as the natural outcome of a patient’s health conditions.

One such killer came to the town of Lufkin, Texas, in 2008, and the town has never been the same.

Kimberly Saenz’s Angelina County Mugshot photo, courtesy of Angelina County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2008, Kimberly Saenz murdered as many as 5 patients by injecting them with bleach in the IV lines of their dialysis machines at the DaVita Lufkin Dialysis Center. Though she was eventually convicted of multiple counts of aggravated assault and one count of capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment, she may have killed many more patients. It is certainly likely that she injured many more patients than those for which she was charged and convicted.

Reportedly, Kimberly Saenz seemed to enjoy the attention she received during the four years between her arrest and her conviction following her trial. This detail and many more are found in the primary source I used to research this episode: the excellent book “Killer Nurse” by the talented writer John Foxjohn. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn even more details about this case, as I could only cover so much and you can find a copy of this great book here:

One of the most puzzling aspects of this case is Kimberly Saenz’s motive for committing multiple murders. She certainly had a troubled life and was reportedly addicted to narcotics and was arrested for committing domestic violence against her husband. However, it is not entirely clear why she progressed from being simply troubled to being a serial murderer of helpless dialysis patients.

District Attorney Clyde Herrington, who helped to prosecute Saenz, speculated that Saenz was a troubled woman who may simply have taken out her frustrations from her disrupted life onto her patients. Saenz did not offer a clear explanation for her actions and, until she does, we may never know why she did what she did. I didn’t address the topic of her motive in the podcast because I couldn’t find definitive answers on this topic. However, you can read some of DA Herrington’s comments and more about Saenz here on Murderpedia:

http://murderpedia.org/female.S/s/saenz-kimberly.htm

To learn more about the case of the Angel of Death of Lufkin, killer nurse Kimberly Saenz, listen to my episode for more details and information.

Episode 30 – East Texas Cannibals

Cannibalism is one of mankind’s oldest taboos. For a variety of reasons, the mere thought of consuming human flesh fills most of us with revulsion and dread. Even if we found ourselves in a life-and-death situation, faced with death by starvation, I imagine that many of us would not be able to bring ourselves to eat our fellow companions. In the infamous incident involving the Donner Party, some of the ill-fated group were forced to consume the flesh of their fallen travelers in order to fend off starvation. This story has become part of the popular lexicon, perhaps because we find the thought of such a situation utterly horrifying.

But cannibalism isn’t just something that happens far away and long ago. It has happened right here, in East Texas, in the middle of nowhere. And it has happened not so long ago, at all.

It has happened here for many reasons and for many, many years.

Stories about cannibalism in East Texas were recorded in the early 18th century, when a French explorer named Jean Baptiste Le Moyne sent three of his companions to explore the Gulf Coast near Galveston Bay. Allegedly, a tribe of native inhabitants captured the three men and ate one of them.

An illustration of an Atakapa native.

Members of the Atakapa and Akokisa nations of East Texas were rumored to consume human flesh. However, it is most likely that these reports were exaggerated and this cannibalism only occurred rarely, for ritualistic purposes.

However, others in East Texas attempted cannibalism for darker purposes.

Spree stabber Dylan Quick committed a violent knife rampage, reportedly seeking to eat his victims.

In 2013, 28-year-old Dylan Quick stormed onto his college campus and launched a knife attack, wounding many students. After the attack, Quick stated that he had fantasies of consuming human flesh.

But where this lone attacker failed in his plot to commit cannibalism, another East Texan succeeded.

Christopher Lee McCuin was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and was arrested in the process of cooking her flesh.

In 2008, 25-year-old Christopher Lee McCuin of Tyler, Texas called 911. He told the dispatcher that he had killed his girlfriend and was in the process of cooking and eating her. The police arrived to find his girlfriend’s ear boiling on the stove and a hunk of her flesh on a plate, a fork sticking out of it.

After his arrest, McCuin stated that God had told him to do it.

What could drive someone to consume human flesh? Perhaps that is why we find this taboo so terrifying, that we can’t imagine engaging in it but there are some out there, wandering through nowhere, who feel compelled to feast on their fellow man.

Tune into this episode for more information about East Texas cannibals.

Episode 29 – Stories for the Thinning of the Veil

Hi, listeners.

If you’d like to check out the books where we found the stories for this episode, here’s some links to those books on Amazon:

Best Tales of Texas Ghosts – https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Texas-Ghosts-Schultz-Williams/dp/1556225695

Haunted Texas Highways – https://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Texas-Highways-Joy-Nord/dp/193317739X

And here’s a link to the original creepypasta that inspired the one I read on the episode – http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Kosciusko,_Texas

Enjoy the stories, nowhere wanderers.

Episode 28 – Shadows in Athens

Some towns aren’t quite like the others. Some towns have secrets.

One of those is close to me, right here in the middle of nowhere.

Medford Fuller’s grave, surrounded by virgin stone and iron chains.

There is a town called Athens. For many years, locals and those abroad have been talking about this town. Some claim that there are tunnels beneath the streets or devil worshippers in the forest.

The virgin stone pillar, drenched in a liquid red substance.

Others claim that the town was built by dark magicians, intent on any means to secure their prosperity.

Some say the tunnels beneath the city exist to this day.

The gazebos in the woods at Fuller Park, possibly the site of the monkey cages.

Still others say that the secrets are no secrets at all and that the strange happenings in town are no mystery. What is the truth? Listen in as I explain the shadows in Athens and make up your own mind about what is happening out here among the pines.

Episode 27 – Ken’s Apparitions

There is something to be said for the power of personal experience. Of course, memory is not always a faithful narrator and our own beliefs may color the memories that we make. Yet, in the face of our own doubt, we simply cannot slip free of the power of a mesmerizing event.

Paranormal encounters are routinely dismissed as nonsense, made-up events that are the result of fear, anxiety or simply wishful thinking. But just try telling that to someone who was encountered the paranormal firsthand. It’s not so easy to discount these stories when the person telling them recalls them with clarity and conviction.

In this episode, I sat down with my friend Ken to listen to him relate some paranormal encounters in his past. I could see in his face, and you can likely hear in his voice, that his stories were not some attempt to scare or startle anyone. They were a faithful retelling of events as he remembered them, and there were no attempts on his part at embellishment or exaggeration.

His stories are as fascinating as they are chilling. They left an impression on me and I imagine that they will do the same to you, dear listener. Whether you are a believer or if you hold on to doubt, there is no denying the power and impact of a ghostly tale. Listen in and decide for yourself the truth of paranormal events out here in the Piney Woods.

Episode 26 – Kristiana Coignard

On January 22, 2015, my town of Longview changed forever. At the time, there was an ongoing national debate about police-involved shootings and, in one brief event, we became a part of that dialogue in a very immediate way.

On that day in January, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard entered the lobby of the Longview Police Department building on Cotton Street near downtown Longview. Less than 20 minutes later, she was dead.

17-year-old Kristiana Coignard.

What happened that night has been the subject of in-depth investigation and serious debate. It has been established that Kristiana had been dealing with mental health issues for years but exactly what role those issues played in her death is not certain.

The police claimed that Kristiana wrote “I have a gun” on her palm, which she displayed to a police officer who responded to her request for help. The police also claimed that she struggled with officers and, at one point, displayed a butcher knife in a threatening manner. She was also found to be in possession of a suicide note on the night of her death and scars were found on her wrists, as well as elsewhere on her body. It appeared, to some, that Kristiana had been in a state of suicidal ideation and was attempting to end her life when she entered the police station that night.

These allegations were questioned after a surveillance video from the lobby that night was released to the public on YouTube. That video is still available though I caution you that, if you decide to watch it in its entirety, it is very graphic and disturbing.

The Longview PD building where Kristiana was shot to death by officers.

In this episode, I provide a breakdown of this video for those who don’t wish to watch and, for those of you who do watch, you may compare your own opinions with my descriptions of the images contained in the video.

I am not, at all, trying to insert my own opinions about this case into this episode. However, it appears to me, as it has to many others, that the conclusions portrayed by police reports of the incident are, at least, somewhat in conflict with the images that can be seen in the video. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Despite what we may think about this case, the public’s reaction was undeniable. Public protests occurred in Longview and the hacktivist group Anonymous attacked the infrastructure of the city of Longview’s website.

The only sure conclusion that can be reached about this case, in my estimation, is that Kristiana was in definite need of mental healthcare and, for many reasons, she did not receive that care. This is an issue about which I care deeply and one that I think we should all take very seriously.

Tune into this episode to learn more about one of the most shocking and heartbreaking events to occur here in the middle of Nowhere in many years.

I am including a link to a YouTube video which contains footage of the protests in Longview after Kristiana’s death. CAUTION: This video contains footage from surveillance cameras inside the Longview PD building on the night of Kristiana’s death, including the moment when she was shot by officers. It is graphic and disturbing. Please watch with consideration and discretion:

 

 

Episodes 24 & 25 – The Texas Killing Fields

Part 1 – The Victims

For over 40 years, young girls have been disappearing and then occasionally being found murdered at the far edge of East Texas. This area, the Calder Oil Field, earned the name of the Texas Killing Fields as the years passed and more slain girls were found. Many of these girls were found close to each other and many were abducted, raped, tortured and murdered in a similar fashion. Due to a lack of police and media communication and coordination, many of these cases were not linked even though it was very likely that that at least some of them may have been perpetrated by the same person. As years turned into decades, some people finally began to put the pieces together.

A map of Southeastern Texas showing locations where young girls went missing.

 

Krystal Jean Baker

Disappeared from League City, Texas on March 5, 1996. Her body was recovered later that day in a neighboring county. Her murder was eventually solved.

 

Krystal Jean Baker, who was abducted and murdered in 1996.

 

Some of these cases would eventually be resolved while the vast majority of them remain cold to this day.

Colette Wilson

Disappeared from Alvin, TX in June 1971. Her body was discovered near the Addicks Reservoir in November 1971. Her murder remains unsolved though a confession was made.

Collette Wilson, who was abducted from a bus stop in Alvin, TX in 1971.

Sharon Shaw and Rhonda Johnson

Sharon Shaw and Rhonda Johnson disappeared while visiting Galveston beach together in August 1971. Their remains were discovered starting in January 1972 when two boys fishing in a bayou near Webster, TX found a human skull in the water. Over the next several weeks, a intensive search found the rest of their remains. A person was arrested for their murders was convicted but later determined to likely be innocent of these crimes. Another person has been pinpointed as a person of interest in their murders.

 

Sharon Shaw and Rhonda Johnson, who disappeared in Galveston in 1971. Their bodies were recovered in 1972.

All told, over 30 young girls and women have gone missing or whose bodies have been recovered in and around the Calder Oil Field since 1971. Most of these crimes have never been resolved but evidence recovered as recently as a few years ago has tied several suspects to some of these crimes, suggesting that there may have been multiple serial killers operating in this area at the same time.

 

 

 

Part 2 – Perpetrators and Suspects

At least a few of the twisted individuals responsible for the rapes and murders in the Texas Killing Fields have been apprehended and brought to justice. Hopefully, tips and clues will continue to be recovered as investigative techniques improve and more confessions occur. Many of these suspects were apprehended as a result of improved evidence analysis techniques and confessions given years after the crimes were committed.

Michael Lloyd Self

Michael Lloyd was convicted of two Texas Killing Fields murders in 1974, but he was almost certainly wrongfully convicted.

Convicted of the murders of Sharon Shaw and Rhonda Johnson in 1971, Michael Lloyd Self was sent to prison in 1974. However, the investigation into Michael Lloyd Self was riddled with errors and forced confessions. Despite this, Self’s appeals were denied and he died in prison in 2000, though he was almost certainly innocent. Several other men came forward in later years to confess to these murders and at least one of them may have actually been guilty.

Edward Howard Bell

 

A convicted murder who confessed in prison to eleven murders in the Killing Fields.

Edward Howard Bell murdered a man in 1978 who tried to stop him from sexually harassing a group of young girls. Bell then went on the run for years before finally being recaptured. While in prison for yet another murder, this lifelong criminal, rapist and murderer confessed to murdering “the 11 who went to heaven”, 11 girls who were found dead in the Texas Killing Fields. He specifically confessed to the murders of Colette Wilson, Rhonda Johnson and Sharon Shaw. However, he has not been convicted of any of these crimes due to a lack of evidence. Due to the passage of time, such evidence may never be recovered. Also, due to his advanced age, Bell will possibly die before these cases are resolved.

Kevin Edison Smith

 

Kevin Edison Smith, convicted of the murder of Krystal Jean Baker.

In 2010, Kevin Edison Smith was arrested for a drug charge in Louisiana. Around this time, a detective back in Texas was re-examining Krystal Jean Baker’s case and decided to re-submit the dress she was wearing when she was recovered from the Trinity River. A semen stain was found on the dress and DNA was analyzed. When Kevin Smith’s DNA was taken for his drug arrest in Louisiana, it was possible to show that he was a partial match to the DNA found on Krystal’s dress. After further analysis and a trial, Kevin Edison Smith was found guilty of Krystal’s murder and he was sentenced to prison in 2012. This is perhaps the most hopeful of the resolved Killing Fields cases, as new technology was able to bring about a definitive conclusion.

 

Tune in to Part 2 of the Texas Killing Fields to find out more details about these chilling cases and their resolutions.

 

 

 

Episode 23 – The Backwoods Illuminati

Strange clouds in the sky.

Shadowy organizations infiltrating the government.

Worldwide conspiracies hatching sinister plots.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories? I may not be a believer, personally, but I’m certainly fascinated. I’ve always been interested in plumbing the depths of conspiracy theories watching conspiracy documentaries on YouTube and discussing these bizarre theories with my friends.

I was surprised to learn that East Texas has played a role in several major conspiracy theories in recent years.

In fact, the Masonic Order, long believed to be a front for the Illuminati, a secretive group that aims to control the world, played a hand in the founding of Texas. One of the first Western explorers of Texas was a Mason and a large portion of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence were Masonic members. Are they simply a club for prominent, wealthy men or is there something else at work?

Holland Lodge, the oldest Masonic Lodge in Texas, located in Houston.

 

In 2015, the United States government launched a military training exercise in the Southern and Southwestern United states. Ostensibly, this operation was intended to allow US military units to gain realistic training experience in terrain similar to combat areas in the Middle East. However, conspiracy theorists argue that this is actually a front for the military to prepare to launch martial law on unsuspecting citizens. I myself saw trucks and trains full of military equipment moving around at this time. A training exercise or preparation for a nationwide takeover?

 

 

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was regarded as a natural event by most, he was advanced in age and had health problems, after all. But some conspiracy theorists argued that he had been murdered by government agents in order to change the balance of power on the Supreme Court. They point to the fact that strange, seemingly occult items were found in the building where he died and the building also contained texts on global domination and power. It’s alleged that this is a precursor to an overthrow of our democratic way of life. Here’s a link to an InfoWars (yeah, I know, not super reliable but they’re the conspiracy clearing  house) article about this strange incident:

Scalia’s Death Linked to Bohemian Grove, Illuminati

What do you think, Nowhere wanderer? Are conspiracy theorists simply finding patterns where there are none or are they piercing the veil of secrecy that surrounds our society? You make the call after you listen in.