The following was written at age 19 as part of a Freeborn County Fair creative arts 4-H project.
When she woke up that morning, Jane didn’t know that it would be the last day of her life. She and her friend Shelly had planned for weeks to go on a camping trip that rainy, fall day. They had planned on being the only people sleeping under the giant trees that surrounded them that night. What they hadn’t planned on and didn’t know was that William T. Golden had just escaped from prison. In fact, since the escape had happened only an hour before, almost no one knew.
It was early evening now and the wind blew through the small camp that the girls had set up. The rain beat down heavily on the their tents and forced them to stay huddled in their two-person shelters. The tent sat next to the ashes of a fire that the rain had put out and at this particular moment Jane was reading by a flashlight. Because she was looking down at her book, she didn’t see the shadow of the man outside that her flashlight cast onto the side of the tent.
Shelly glanced up in time to see only the edge of the shadow as it passed just out of view. It gave her a chill that shot straight up her spine. She was about to scream. Then she remembered that she had told Rod, who sat next to her in Chemistry class, about the girls’ plans for the weekend.
“You’re not going to believe this Jane, but I think we have a visitor outside.” Shelly said suspiciously.
“What do you mean?” Jane asked nervously.
“That guy that I told you about from my chemistry class, Rod, must have told his friends that we were coming out here, because there is someone sneaking around outside.” Shelly answered.
“Well, if that’s the case,” Jane said mischievously. “Let’s try to turn the tables on them. Grab your coat, and we can hide in those bushes over by the car.”
Shelly and Jane grabbed their coats and slowly unzipped the door of their tent as to not make any noise. The intense pounding of the rain outside muffled any sounds that they made as they climbed out of the tent. Staying low, trying to hide behind the foliage in the woods, they made their way over to a large green bush by their car. From their hiding spot, they could see the figure of a man go into their tent. The outline of the tent strained and moved as the man shuffled around inside it.
“Can you believe that jerk?” Jane exclaimed. “He’s digging through our stuff!”
“That didn’t look like Rod,” Shelly responded with a sudden deep fear in her voice. “I think we had better get out of here.”
Both girls moved toward the car and Jane, who had the keys, opened the door. The dome light popped on instantly.
The man in the tent noticed it and hurriedly started to climb out. Jane stuck the key into the ignition and cranked on it. The motor refused to turn over.
“Hurry, he’s running this way!” Shelly screamed.
“I’m trying! It won’t start!” Jane shot back.
Both girls had already locked the doors by the time the man slowed from this run. He now assumed a confident walk as he approached the vehicle. He had on a baseball cap that cast a shadow over his face and in his left hand he had a small knife.
“He’s got your Dad’s fishing Knife!” Jane Screeched.
The man was soaked by the rain from head to toe. Through the drips of water on the windshield, the girls were blinded by a flashlight beam that the man began to shine into the car. Dripping from the rain, both girls could tell from the shaking of the man’s hand that he was laughing. The flashlight beam turned to the window on Jane’s side of the car.
Jane shrieked as the man walked closer. Finally as he stood directly in front of the window, he began to lift his leg. With a deep laugh he thrust his foot through the window, shattering it upon impact. The wind blew water into the car and onto the glass covered girls.
The man held the knife in front of the light and then used the same hand to unlock the car, practically touching the blade to Jane’s terrified face in the process. He calmly opened the door and climbed onto the seat while Jane frantically slid back, possessed by absolute terror. Shelly had reached around and was undoing the lock on her door.
The man saw her doing this and immediately leapt over Jane, grabbing Shelly by the arm and in the process inadvertently cutting Jane’s forearm deeply with the knife.
“If you try that again sweetie, you’re going to lose that arm.” The man barked as he squeezed Shelly’s arm.
The man then let go of the arm and pulled a roll of duct tape from his coat pocket. While still pinning down the bleeding Jane with his knee, the man started to wrap Shelly’s arms and legs together with the tape. He used an unusually large amount, as the tape didn’t stick very well with the rain continuing to blow in and drench the interior of the car and its occupants. Having liberally wrapped the tape around Shelly’s head and mouth, the man wrapped up Jane’s arms and legs in the same manner, paying no attention to the blood oozing down her arm.
Finally, the man lifted Jane up and threw her into the back seat. He then grabbed Shelly and let her simply her roll over the seat and onto the rear floor. With both girls sobbing heavily as he got out of the car. Lifting the hood, he replaced the sparkplug wires to their original spot. Getting into the car, he turned the key and the car immediately roared to life. As he pulled down the dirt path in the forest, a raging storm blew through the broken window. The rain mixed with Jane’s blood as it dripped onto the floor, onto Shelly’s beaten body.
Before we get started, I should probably introduce myself and get you caught up with some of the facts and people that you are about to meet. My name is Jack Williams and I am a reporter for the Portland Star up here in Oregon. My involvement with what you are about to read began when I was sent to interview William Golden, a small town police officer who was found to be a burglar and a murderer and who has thus far served ten years of his life sentence at Watertown prison. Originally, I planned to do the interview with Golden about life in prison, it just a simple follow-up.
That all changed only a few hours after I visited him. In a confused rush on a rainy evening, Golden escaped into the dense woods surrounding the prison. What you just read moments ago was a dramatization of what police believe happened shortly after his escape.
After his escape, my little story turned into something much bigger. Many of you reading this may already know the outcome, you followed the story in the papers and on the news throughout the Pacific Northwest. For those of you reading this story now, in this form, it may seem like a novel or just fiction. For that reason, in order to make you the reader view this story in the light of the reality that it is, I have chosen to present most of it in the form of personal interviews. I will let this story not be told by a reporter, but by those who lived it.
It had been ten years since Golden’s murders took place in Sleepy Valley, Oregon.. The town lived up to its name to the letter. It was located in a deep valley in eastern Oregon and with a population of eight thousand, it was always quiet. Before those murders, it had been an eternity since this small town had seen any measurable crime, let alone anything near as violent. People in Sleepy Valley still don’t like to talk about what had happened there ten years before. The only mention of that period of time comes in the form of gossip about the fall from grace of the town sheriff shortly after those events. John Eastman had been first elected as sheriff when he was thirty, six years before the murders.
The townspeople were pleased with the way that he ran the department of only nine officers. People even approved when he married one of his own staff, Tina Reily. Tina was a couple of years younger than John and relatively new to the department staff.
That fall day when the bodies of an older couple turned up at their cabin in the woods, a cloud of panic fell over the town. By the time the murdered was finally apprehended, it was such a shock to the locals that they wanted answers from Eastman. How could he let such problems occur in their little town? When Eastman came up for re-election in the fall, the people voted him out of office, replacing him with one of the other local officers named Ned Abbott. Back being a deputy, Eastman was treated like an outcast by the townspeople. He resented being a deputy again and his dark mood strained his relationship with his wife. He turned to the bottle for comfort. In many ways he turned into the town drunk. Tina left him when she realized that her attempts to get him to find help were being ignored and that he loved the bottle more that her.
On the morning that I conducted my first interview with him, it looked like John Eastman was planning on getting drunk. He sat in Milt’s Tavern and stared at the label of his bottle. “Sleepy Valley Brand” it proclaimed. It had been bottled in the town and was, of course, a favorite among locals
Today was a Saturday and it was raining outside as usual. Eastman told me to meet him at Milt’s because he enjoy the day their with the other officers that occasionally stopped in. But from what I had learned by talking to the other officers earlier in the week, I knew that Eastman was of course lying to me and maybe even to himself. John always spent his Saturdays at the bar and even if other officers came there, none of them would want to talk to the outcast.
Anyway, Eastman wouldn’t talk to them because when it came down to it, he preferred to drink alone.
I have arranged my interviews with those involved into a form that allows the events to unfold naturally. In some cases, the comments in the interviews even overlapped, giving me a chance to allow the quotes to reflect on each other. I started out by asking Eastman questions about what had happened only weeks before, the events after William Golden’s escape, part of which was earlier dramatized to you.
“It was almost noon when Tina walked in Milt’s. She had her uniform on with a wet poncho covering it and the first thing she did was give the bottle that I was holding a long look.: ‘Hard at work I see.’ were the first sarcastic words that she said to me. She said that Ned had sent her down to tell me about a body that had just been found. I was so surprised by that that I nearly dropped my bottle. Apparently a couple was up at their cabin hiking that morning and had come across the body. It had scared the old lady half to death. I asked her if there were any leads yet, but she said ‘Not yet.’ They wanted me to come up and take a look at things, but it was my day off. I told Tina that, but she said that Ned needed me up there now.”
“When John gave me his line about it being his day off,. I told him that he was in charge the last time this kind of thing happened and that Ned thought maybe he could lend a hand. Then I added that I thought it was time he took a day off from Milt’s. ‘A little cooperation with the other officers might get your mind off of that bottle.’ was all I had to say.
His response was to yell back to me ‘I’m not a drunk Tina!’ and ‘If you need my help, you can ask for it without bringing your little opinions into it. When we divorced, what I did with my spare time became none of your concern.’ After a second of silence, I looked right into his eyes and said ‘Ned wants you too look it over. Grab your coat and lets go, I’ve got the car out front.'”
“The blood was everywhere. When we pulled up on the dirt road, I could see the small group of local officers and a couple of men in appeared to be suits. Even with the heavy rain, there were small puddles of blood still visible on the ground and the clothing of the girl was badly stained. I walked up to Ned, and we stood under his umbrella near the body. I asked him what the story was behind the mess.”
“I told John that her name was Jane Anderson and she was out camping last night with her friend from up at the university, Shelly Johnson. We got a call from her parents that morning saying that the girls were supposed to be back early and were several hours overdue. I guess they had a cell phone in the car to call for trouble and when they didn’t… Anyway, an hour later we get this call from some hikers who had come across a body. When we arrived, one look at the body told us that we knew what had happened to one of the girls. John asked me if we knew anything yet about the other, and I told him that we were pretty sure that she was still with him. He looked up at me really puzzled and said ‘She’s with who?’ I stared over at him, not understanding why he was asking a question that he should already know the answer to and answered ‘William Golden of course.'”
“When he said Bill’s name, I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. Bill was supposed to be up at Watertown. The man knew that a dangerous convict had escaped and hadn’t even bothered to tell me. I looked back at him and screamed ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier.'”
“I asked John, ‘Tina didn’t tell you when she picked you up?’ ‘He escaped last night.’ I continued. ‘Stabbed two guards on the way out. Tina was over to Watertown working her overtime when it happened. I can’t believe she didn’t tell you.’
We don’t know for sure if it was Bill with the girls, but its was our best guess considering the time frame of the events. Watertown prison is only ten miles straight across the woods from where the girls were camping and Bill would have wanted to make a quick getaway. To be honest, I was still surprised that he didn’t kill both of the girls.”
“When I asked Ned how the girl had died, he said that ‘It wasn’t pretty.’ There was a small but very deep cut on her forearm. She had probably bled to death…very slowly. Ned then pointed to the men in the trousers who were at the time talking to Tina. ‘Those guys are from the FBI up in Beaverton. They’ve been poking around, setting up plans for a manhunt.’ From the looks of things, they hadn’t been trying too hard. When I told that to Ned, he said back to me ‘Well, Bill wasn’t exactly Charles Manson.’
All I could answer was ‘That’s your opinion.'”
Before we go any further, it might serve to look back at what exactly happened in Sleepy Valley ten years before on another rainy fall weekend. To see exactly what changed a town and the lives of many in it, especially those in its law enforcement department.
“‘What’s your opinion, Bill,’ that’s what I said to one of my officers. Both Officer William Golden and I were staring at the bodies of an older couple. ‘Looks like we’ve got a bit of a problem on our hands.’ was his answer.
We had just arrived and were collecting information about the murders. The couple had been packed and ready to go on a vacation to the Bahamas. They had called the department on Monday to report that they would be gone for a couple of weeks. It was a common practice in town to call in before going on vacation. With all of the vacationing campers in the area, the likelihood of crooks being in the mix was very expected and consequently, the threat of burglary was very real. For the most part thought, burglaries had been rare in Sleepy Valley, at least until recently when several had occurred in a short amount of time. But they then stopped as suddenly as they had started and hadn’t happened again, until we found the two bodies.
The crime scene had all the signs of a burglary, broken window, opened drawers and cabinets. But things suddenly changed when you entered the hallway into the bedroom where Bill and I were standing at the time. It looked like the old man had heard a noise and come out into the hall to see what it was. He had been strangled by bundled up telephone wire. His wife must have heard the struggle and was about to enter the hall when she received a blow to the head. Her face was badly bruised and she had the same marks on her neck as her husband. The telephone wire that was also used on her was in a pile next to her lifeless body with a bowling trophy lying just above it.
We suspected that the perpetrator didn’t know that the couple had canceled their vacation plans only a short time earlier that evening. Their son had called and informed them of a car accident that his wife had just been in and that she had been rushed to the hospital. Down at the department, we knew that the sudden burglaries of late had one thing in common: they had all happened to people that were on vacation and had informed the police. The only difference this time was that the owners were home at the time of the break-in.
I told Bill that ‘Whoever broke in here found a surprise waiting for them.’ He figured that the burglar must have been caught off guard and decided not to leave any witnesses. He even added ‘How much do you want to bet that there won’t be any finger prints like last time.’ I had to admit, whoever this guy was, he was good.
Considering the circumstances, the next day started as off as good as it could have. We still had no idea who the murder was, but at the same time I was convinced that it was someone working at the department. The only people who had the access to the knowledge of when the locals would be on vacation were those in my own department. While there was the chance that the actual criminal could have been an outsider, it was unlikely that someone at the department wasn’t involved. At any rate, there was a leak of information, intentional or otherwise.
Shortly after coming into the office, I received a call from one of the secretaries informing me that Bill hadn’t reported to work yet. This was odd, Bill had never missed a day of work in his three years with the department. Adding to the strangeness was the importance of the day that we had ahead of us. Bill knew that it was going to be a big day collecting evidence and looking for more clues about the murders. Under similar circumstances, I would have expected Bill to even come in a little early. I asked the secretary if she had tried to call up to his cabin, but she told me that no one had answered.
With the realization that one of my officers could be involved, I had been watching all of my officers closer during the last few weeks after the burglaries and especially in the last few hours after the murders. Bill had been no exception. With that in mind, I wondered what was going on. I began asking myself if it was Bill that had been involved with the murder. But to be honest, at the time I didn’t really want to think about the answers to that question. Deep down I knew that Bill was one of the most likely on the staff. It hadn’t escaped my attention when Bill began to dress a little better than usual. However, he hadn’t acted much differently, he never shied away from being involved with the burglary investigations. But with this strange behavior, I couldn’t help but wonder if the answers to my questions weren’t going to end up being bad.”
“I wanted to go with John up to Bill’s cabin. But he insisted on going alone. ‘Its probably no big deal.’ He had said.”
“I told Tina that it was no big deal, but of course I was thinking that it could be a big deal and in my mind it was better to have my wife stay back. I had only been married to Tina for five months and there no reason to put her in harm’s way if it could be avoided.
It took me awhile to get out to Bill’s cabin. For the most part, he was a quiet guy and he enjoyed the relative solitude that his remote cabin allowed. I even had to use the department’s Broncos instead of a standard police car to negotiate the deeply grooved earth that was supposed to be a path up to the cabin. As I rounded a bend in the road, Bill’s car could be seen visibly parked out front.
When I got out of the Bronco, I stayed standing next to it, holding the door open while yelling out “Bill!” Suddenly a shot rang out from the house and the window of the Bronco shattered. I felt a quick sting of pain in my shoulder and knew instantly that the bullet had gone through it. I quickly crouched down behind the front tire of the Bronco and with my back leaning against the side of the truck, reached up to unzip my coat.
As I pulled the coat open, I could see that a small stain of blood had begun to form. I knew when I groaned in pain trying to move it, that the arm that had been shot wouldn’t be of much use to me. With my good arm, I grabbed the gun under my coat out of its holster.
Another shot then zinged over my head. I began to wonder if it could really be Bill in there firing at me or could it be someone else? Bill’s yard consisted of no lawn, instead it was surrounded by trees and foliage. I saw that there were several patches of bushes surrounding the immediate area. While still in a crouched position, I moved as quickly as I could from behind the Bronco to a position behind thick bushes near the bumper.
There I was, in the bushes and someone was still firing at me from the cabin. At the time I started to think of whoever was in the cabin as kind of an animal trapped up in its cave. From their point of view I had just pulled in and interrupted what might have been an escape. What else could he do but try to eliminate the only roadblock in their escape.
When I was in the bushes, they couldn’t see where I was at and were firing blindly into the foliage. The gun they had was definitely not police issue, I could hear that it was a lot bigger, just by judging from the way each shot just boomed. I wanted to yell something out, to find out if it was Bill and maybe talk him down, but that would have given away my position.
Instead, I continued crawling along the line of bushes in front of the house. I could tell that they didn’t know where I was at because they kept firing well behind me. My arm was really starting to hurt now. I was losing feeling in it as it started to numb up. And while there wasn’t a lot of blood loss, I knew that I had to get it taken care of as soon as possible.
The line of bushes that I was behind ran up to the back of the house. There wasn’t a back door, but there was a good size window. It must have been the stress of the situation or something, but whoever was shooting at me never bothered to lock the window. As I slid the window up, I could hear the shots still being fired out front. My clothes were completely socked from the rain that had been pouring all day. That made climbing through the open window difficult to say the least, but I somehow made it through the small opening.
The window that I had crawled though turned lead straight into the bathroom. I stayed hunched over as much as possible as I went from the bathroom into a small hallway that seemed to join the house together. At the end of the hall it looked like there was large, main room. I guessed from the sound of the gunshots that the shooter was in that room. The fact that they were still shooting shot up big red flags in my head. To me, this meant that whoever was firing must have snapped or something to continue firing into the wilderness at a target they couldn’t even see. They had either gone crazy or were very afraid of me finding out their identity.
It was this later possibility that confirmed my earlier suspicions when I walked down to the end of the hall. As I inched down to the end of the hall, I could see a silhouette against the wall. It looked a little familiar. As I peered an eye around the corner, the earlier clues and assumptions all became a reality as I saw Bill standing there with a gun, shooting out the window. To be honest, never in my worst nightmares did I want it to be like this. Over the time that I had been checking up on each of my officers, I had begun too accept the fact that one of my men had probably turned criminal, but now, to look and see him standing there trying to kill me, it drove into me the difficulty of what I had to do next.
Bill was being violent. I knew that he was too scared to be talked out of the situation. From my spot behind the hallway wall, he could have picked me off at near point-blank range if I so much as breathed too hard. He probably doesn’t believe that I didn’t want to use force, but in that situation, force was necessary and what I did was appropriate.”
“So then, he thinks he’s so big, he thinks he’s some hero, he shot me in the back. Some hero. Have you ever heard of something so heroic as shooting someone in the back? I suppose he told you that he was scared and that I was ‘psychotic’ of some other lie. He probably told his story about me shooting like some mad man into the woods. That just isn’t true. I admit that I fired a couple of shots at him. I admitted that much at my trial and that’s one of the reasons why I’m in here for the rest of my life.
I’m not going to lie to you. You already know that I was the one that was responsible for the robberies around town. But do you know why I did it? No? I won’t make any excuses, ten years in this place has washed away all of those. The reason that I was breaking in to those people’s houses was two fold. The first was the biggest: greed. Do you know how much I was making those first few years as a cop up here in sleepy valley? Twenty four thousand dollars. It was a small department and they figured that its officers wouldn’t need much to live on up in the wilderness anyway. For the most part they were right, but eventually the second reason started to push the first reason further into my head. I got greedy simply because I knew I could. People would call into the department and I might answer that phone to hear them tell my that they wouldn’t be coming home for a couple of weeks. After the first few call I didn’t think anything of it. Then, it started to eat away at me. It was like seeing candy sitting right in front of you and begging to be taken. But in this case, it wasn’t candy. No, it was better, it was money.
It started like things always start. If you look at records on the early burglaries, you’ll see that there wasn’t much taken. I didn’t want to lift too many eyebrows. I was so good that some of the early ones never even reported anything. I just took a necklace or two and maybe some cash. Those people probably thought that they had just lost the stuff or something. Even when I did get greedier, it was months between jobs. That way, people would have already forgotten about the previous one when a new incident happened. Anyway, I never took enough stuff to push people into a panic, just enough to make it worth my while. The only snag in all my plans came the night that I broke into the place of that couple that was heading off to the Bahamas. By the time I hit them, things had started to seem almost routine. I wasn’t all that experienced, but everything had gone so easy up until then I hadn’t even bothered to disguise myself. I thought that it might look more convincing and natural to anyone who might have saw me out front of the house if I came in my uniform. They would see me up by the house with the uniform on and just assume that I was there to check on the place. I mean, who would suspect that a police officer would try to rip the place off?
After I had been in the place for awhile, I heard a noise by the bedroom. I wasn’t exactly being real quiet, who was going to hear me, right, the owners were in the Bahamas. So when I hear someone get out of the bed, I knew that I was in serious trouble. Here I was, in my police uniform, having broken into a house. What was I going to do? If the guy saw who I was, my career would have been over. When that happened, I might have well have kissed my life goodbye.
So I though I could at least salvage a bad situation.
To be honest, I regret what I did more that anything in the world. It seemed to make sense until I was actually doing it, then it hit me how hard it actually was. Can you imaging being strangled to death? That telephone wire made it even worse, he died slow. When I heard his wife coming out, I knew that I had to kill her quicker. So I grabbed some big trophy off of a stand and hit her with it. She went down, she was old and I think the blow might have killed her right away. To be sure though, I wrapped the wire around her anyway and left them both lying there.
I’ve got to tell you that in the ten years that I have been it this prison, you wouldn’t believe how much it can change you. I can sit here and tell you how I killed two people and I might regret it, but it doesn’t even phase me anymore. If you had asked me to do the same things back when I first came in here, I don’t think that I could have answered. I was just too guilty about it, too weak. The other guys in here, they sure liked it when a cop was put in with them. I don’t think I got any sleep that first month that I was in here, I just remember hoping that the beatings would stop. I wanted them to just leave me alone, but they wouldn’t.
Instead of just rolling over dead, I became stronger from their beatings. They would kick me until I bled, and then kick me some more. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. So day after day, I just took it. I got stronger and stronger each time they beat me. I learned not to feel the pain. When that happened I could take their beatings and after months, they began to get bored with their torture, I wasn’t cooperating like I used to, I didn’t scream like before. Sure, they though that they could punish me further, beat me harder to make me cry out. But they could only push me so far and by then, I had learned to take it.
After ten years, I still haven’t forgiven John for that shot in the back. I probably never will…”
“I really don’t care what Bill says about me and what I did in that situation was justified. When he says the town thought of me as a hero, he couldn’t be more wrong. It wasn’t long after that incident that my life began to plunge into a bottomless pit. When the town found out that Bill was the crook, everyone seemed to turn on me. People didn’t trust me anymore, they began to lose respect for the other officers and the department itself. You can be sure that no one called in to say that they were going on vacation anymore. Bill’s actions devastated the solemn trust of these people in their law enforcement. Heck, I bet there were even people that thought there could be another killer or two left on the force.
For me, the worst of this town’s wrath came when it was time to re-elect their sheriff. Do you think that they were going to re-elect the man that had presided over a department of killers? I knew that I didn’t even have a chance. Ned got the job and I was put at the bottom of the totem pole. The new guy that had taken Bill’s place commanded more respect then I did. You sit there and tell me that he couldn’t believe what happened to him, how about me? What do you think it does to person when they used to be giving the orders and are suddenly taking them from some kid fresh out of the academy.
I won’t deny that I started to drink after that. I had hit my low point and needed an escape. I’ll even admit that I may have drank too much back then. But whatever Tina has told you, I want to state that I don’t have a problem now. I still like to go down to the tavern, hang out with the guys, you know. Its not like I still go overboard like before…”
“He came home so drunk every night I don’t know when he slept. All he did was throw up all night long. People in town didn’t even have to wonder why I left him. They didn’t even have to gossip. They knew that he had become a failure and the town drunk. Can you imagine having one of your co-workers give you a DWI? Ask John about that one sometime. I want you to know that I loved him then and I still love him now, but you have to understand what kind of person he has become. John isn’t the same man that I met twelve years ago. He is a bitter person now, an angry shell of himself. Sometimes you can see flashes of the old John, but those moments have become rarer and rarer over the years.
Our divorce went through pretty quick. There was no problem with children since John and I hadn’t had any. And there wasn’t exactly a lot of money to split between us. By that time I didn’t want anything to do with him anyway. It had gotten to the point where I could care less if he drank all of his money away anyway.”
“Like I said, it came as a shock that one of my own officers could have been a crook. From time to time, we hear things from the guards up there at the prison. I guess that Bill has gone through quite a bit during his time up there. They say that he has gotten meaner. When he worked for the department, he was a quiet and gentle guy. The man we thought we knew would never have been capable of doing what he did. All I could think was that maybe the circumstances of the event, how quick it all happened did something to him. He killed two people before even realizing what he had done and maybe the ease of it all caused something in him to snap.
After all of that, the town lost respect for me and Tina lost respect for me too. It was the drinking that did it, but in a lot of ways I can’t help but wonder if she didn’t start seeing me the same way as the others, as a failure.”
“All I could ask myself was ‘Why didn’t Tina tell me about Bill escaping?’ She knew he was dangerous and news like that was of such concern to the department that I couldn’t accept her answer of ‘Oh, I forgot.’ Can you believe that one? She could see that I was furious, but didn’t even seem to care.”
“We stuck around the body of the girl for quite a while, collecting fingerprints and looking for other clues like hair. I just got the results from the fingerprints back an hour later and Bill’s prints were all over her.
We also had the problem of another agency looking over our shoulder the whole time. The FBI had sent over two agents and they seemed to be going over the same stuff as us. They wouldn’t even have been out here if the girl hadn’t been the state attorney general’s daughter. How about that for luck? Most of the time I would have welcomed their help, but this time they only got in the way. There seemed to be no trust for us, almost like catching this guy’s killer was too important for some dumb police department from the back hills to be able to handle.
After we had been collecting evidence for probably three hours, John and I left the scene and headed for the prison. We hadn’t really heard yet what had happened with the whole breakout yet since it had only happened the night before, we were interested in what exactly had happened. When we pulled into the prison lot, we parked next to another FBI car.”
“It was like a circus up at the prison. We had the FBI, local cops, and even some prison guards all in same section of the prison. And on top of it all, we had this mob of reporters standing outside, waiting to be let in. We talked to the warden, a guy named Robert Evens.”
“It seemed like Ned and John were about the one thousandth group of guys that I had talked to that day. By the time I told them the story, I just gave the details to them straight and cut out any of the bull that I might have thrown in earlier in the day.
Here’s what happened: Around seven the night before, I got a call at home from the lead night man. He told me that Golden had somehow gotten out and that he already had men out searching for him. I told him that I would get hold of the local cops, but he had already done that. In all the years that I’ve ran this prison, I’ve seen a lot of weird things that those prisoners have done. When this guy broke out of here, he actually bit one of the guards. Can you believe one? We still don’t know how he got out of his cuffs. He was being moved down to the visitation area when the guard said that all of a sudden his hands were free and the shock of all it took him a second to realize what was happening. Before he could react, Golden bit the guy on the back of the neck! It was like he thought he was a vampire or something! He took one heck of a chunk out of the guy, but I guess they got stitches in him tonight.
The guard was so distracted by the bit that he didn’t even notice the keys being stolen off of his belt. Golden grabbed the keys and was running out of the place so fast that no one was even realizing what was going on. The staff was kind of low since people were out for the weekend and when someone finally responded to that guard’s screams, they didn’t figure out right away what was trying to tell them. By the time that he told them that Golden had escaped, Golden was running out the front door. He hit the front guard over the head with the injured guard’s club when the message about Golden was being called out to him. After that he ran into the woods and that was the last that we have seen of him. It happened so quick that we didn’t know what to do at first. This hadn’t happen to us before. We’ve had people out searching all night and still don’t know where he is.”
“It sure struck me as more than a bit weird how Bill had gotten out. How did he get out of the cuffs? Pick the lock? Could you imagine that one. Like it was some movie or something, where anybody with half a brain can just pick the lock with a little piece of wire while their walking down the hall. Even if the guard didn’t notice, where do you get a nice little piece of wire? A piece of wire just the right size for the cuffs and small enough not to be noticed. When you’re in prison, you don’t exactly have the tools to fashion a small wire into just the right size and thickness. Where do you get wire in the first place, chew some off of the mattress of your bed? After we talked to the warden, I knew that something strange was going on with this whole case. Exactly what, I didn’t know, but it seemed like their must have been someone on the inside helping Bill.”
“After we talked to the warden, John wanted to head up to Bill’s old cabin. You see, the cops in town always used to talk about little things that Bill would say about stashing away money. Even though he never admitted it, in fact no one ever asked directly, everybody always thought that Bill had a little stash hidden up around his place. Not really that much, maybe a thousand or so. Every once in a while, Bill would talk about how his Grandpa always kept a stash out of the banks after the depression. Everybody figured that his family must have really pounded into Bill’s head this idea of keeping a chunk of money around in case something bad happened with the banks again. We knew he couldn’t be hiding away a whole lot, heck he wasn’t making that much in the first place. And we knew that he wasn’t paranoid enough by his family to not use banks at all. So based on little things that he would say, we thought that he must have just enough to be worried about having it just lying around the house, so instead he probably hit the little stash somewhere. Nobody had the slightest idea where he would hide it, so no one bothered to really look for it when they were going over his house for clues.
John thought that if the stash was for real, Bill might need quick cash and would come back for it. I would have been kind of crazy to come back into the fire like that, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt to check it out, so we headed over to Bill’s cabin. It was getting to be early evening when we pulled onto Bill’s road. It was still sufficiently light out to see through the persistent rain that had come up when we left the prison. As we rounded the bend to his house, there in the distant was the dilapidated cabin. You could see that no one had bothered to do anything to the yard since Bill had gone to prison. We had to park the squad car quite a ways back on the road because of the way that the grass had grown up in front of the house. A small dirt walkway to the front door was no longer visible and in order to get up to it, we had to wade through the waist high grass.”
“From what I could tell, the place had really been let go. When Bill went to jail, no one wanted to step up and take care of the house, much less buy it. No one in town wanted to be associated with a killer. Anyway, the yard might have been unbelievably bad, with the bushes that I had hid behind ten years earlier looking like some sort of thick, massive wall now, but nothing compared to the cabom. It literally stunk in the place. I wasn’t trying to make some crude joke when I said to Ned that it smelt like ‘something had died in here.’ The cabin was pretty much bare inside. The police had cleaned the place out pretty well during the investigation and most of the food had been thrown away. They must have missed some, because when we went into the kitchen I saw the biggest rat that I have ever seen in my life. This thing must have been living off of some big crumbs for a long time.
Bill didn’t have much furniture in the first place, so when everything had been cleaned up, it just made things look even more bare. We walked through the rooms, but it was pretty obvious that no one had been there in a long time. John seemed kind of upset when he was walking around in there, kind of like something wasn’t adding up in his mind. When I asked him what was wrong, he said it was nothing. We finished walking and headed back to the car. John took a quick look around at the grass to see if any of it was disturbed over near the bushes and then he got into the car and we pulled out.
Things were quiet for the rest of the weekend. By the time Monday rolled around, there still wasn’t anything new on the case. We couldn’t figure out where Bill had gone, it was like he had flat out disappeared. We had cops everywhere, searching the woods and the Oregon Highway patrol, along with all the neighboring states were keeping an eye out for him. Even the FBI guys were stepping things up. Then on Tuesday, all of a sudden everything broke lose.”
“I was the one that got the mail that day. One of the pieces of mail was a small envelope addressed to the Department and with no return address on it. The postal stamp on the envelop showed that it had been mailed from town. I was curious what was in it and rushed back to the station. Ned opened it up right away and inside he found only a piece of lined notebook paper that had a handwritten letter on it. You could see the shock on Ned’s face when he read the letter. He looked up at me and shouted ‘Its from him!'”
“The letter was a ransom note of some kind. I guess Bill had found out that the girl he had kidnapped was the daughter of the Oregon attorney general and now he wanted to cash in on her. And he wanted to cash in on her in a big way, three million dollars or else they would never see her again.
Things seemed to get ugly the day that letter came. No one knew quite what to do. Everybody wanted to do something different. The attorney general wanted to pay the money as soon as possible. The FBI wanted to rig a trap with the money, even if it risked the girl’s life. And the police, we just wanted to wait a few days to see if the manhunt turned up anything. After all, the letter had been mailed in the area and the handwriting and fingerprints were all over it.
In the letter Bill had stated that he would wait no longer than three days for the money to be placed in an account in Switzerland. It was almost like he had been watching too many movies.”
“That Tuesday morning when the letter came, I was just as surprised as anyone The thing that struck me as odd was the amount of money that he was demanding. Three Million dollars. Good grief. I couldn’t figure out why he thought he could get that much money for the daughter of a state attorney general. I don’t mean to disrespect the position or put a value on a person’s life, but it wasn’t like she was the daughter of the president. After spending all morning working on the manhunt, I figured that I had been thinking the situation over long enough and went into Ned’s office.”
“John came into my office around three o’clock that day and said that he wanted to talk about the letter and Bill’s demands. He told me that he thought that the note might be a cover for something else. After thinking about it, he thought that Bill was using this as a cover to keep the police and FBI distracted while they argued about whether or not to give in. He just plain refused to let go this idea that he had in his head that Bill had some money hidden over at his house.
He was believing in what was probably just a little rumor or story that got told between the guys enough times that it seemed real. He wanted to send a couple of officers up to Golden’s cabin to stake the place out. He was sure that Bill would be coming for the money, but I asked him why he would waste his time going after the money when it was peanuts compared to what he would be getting from he ransom note.”
“Ned couldn’t see what Bill was up to. The amount of the ransom was too high to be legitimate. Maybe if it was some stupid low life that kidnapped the girl and wanted the money, I could have believed that someone would be dumb enough to ask for such a large amount. Bill was smarter than that, everyone was forgetting that he was really a cop, he knew how far you could push the police in a kidnapping. He knew that the amount he was asking for would only cause problems between the cops, not get him the money.
It was those problems that I figured he wanted. If he got the local police and the FBI in a battle with each other for a few days, the manhunt would start to fall apart. By keeping the higher-ups in each department arguing with each other about money and strategy, there would be window of a couple of days where no one would be pushing forward the strategy on the manhunt. The traps wouldn’t be replanned and two days would be plenty of time for Bill, with his stash of money, to inch his way out of the state and then probably out of the country. All I wanted to do was set some men in the area around Bill’s cabin to keep an eye on things, but Ned didn’t want to lose the men patrolling out on the roads. I seemed to m that he was being a fool just sitting back.”
“I could hear John in Ned’s office, the two of them were yelling about something. I went in to make sure that a fight didn’t break out. When I came in, John looked at me and asked ‘Don’t you think it would be a good idea to send some officers up to the Bill’s cabin in case he came back for his money?’ I looked at him and said flat out ‘No.’ When I said that, Ned continued to talk about how it was a waste and that they had already checked things out. I had to agree with Ned, we didn’t have many officers out looking for Golden anyway and we didn’t need to lose some by chasing after a rumor. Sure, everybody at the station knew that Golden was weird about money, but we had no idea if it could be for real.
I asked John why he would think that Golden would risk going back into the fire for small change when he could get three million by just waiting. John said that Golden wasn’t stupid enough to think that we would really pay that much money. He even offered to go up to Golden’s himself to check things out. It was getting to be the end of the day, and the shift was almost over, so Ned told John that it would just waste the department’s time if he went up there.
To try to calm the situation down, I offered a compromise. It was a little out of the way, but my house was in the general area of Golden’s cabin. I told Ned that I could leave early today and swing in Golden’s to see if anything had been bothered. John seemed to be satisfied with this, but walked out still looking annoyed.”
“I figured that that Tina had no intention of stopping whatsoever. I didn’t get done with work until six o’clock that night and decided that the only way to do something right was to do it yourself. So instead of heading across town for home, I went in the opposite direction out of town. It had started to pour sheets of rain as I followed the winding road into the woods toward Bill’s cabin.
I didn’t want to just barge into the yard, so I parked my car alongside the blacktop road and hiked up the dirt road that lead to the cabin. The rain had caused the potholes to fill with water and flood over the entire road. My shoes were caked with mud as I made the almost mile walk to the house. I kept my gun cradled under my coat the entire time.
From behind the wall of bushes in the yard, I could see that there were no lights on in the cabin. Just as I was about to turn around and head back to the car, I saw what I had come looking for: the small beam of a flashlight shot across the living room wall. A moment later, a small lamp could be seen dimly lighting up the middle of the room. Against the wall, I could see the shadow of someone moving around inside.
Still crouched behind the bushes, I made my along the bushes like I had ten years before. The leaves were dense on the ground and I couldn’t help but step on small sticks along the way. Whoever was in the cabin didn’t seem to notice any of the noise that I was making. When I got up to the cabin, I don’t go directly toward the bathroom window like before. Instead I stayed crouched down next to the outside of the cabin with my back to it, inched around the side that I was on and moved to the front. I made sure to stay low enough to not be seen, but at the same time, I was only just out of sight so I could here the sounds of voices inside the cabin.
I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but it was definitely Bill’s voice doing the talking. I couldn’t risk looking peaking up into the window that I was under, so I had no idea who Bill was talking to. He seemed to be talking really fast, so it sounded like he was really nervous. After listening to Bill move around inside, continuing to talk and move things around for five minutes I decided that I needed to do something.
I was now completely drenched, the time spent in the rain that it took to move from the car up to the cabin and then to sit under the window, had taken their toll. As I sat there with water dripping off of me, I remember mumbling to myself ‘Who says history doesn’t repeat itself.’ I crawled back around the front of the cabin to the line of bushes. From there, I waited a few minutes to make sure that Bill was still in the main living room. After I saw his shadow on the wall, I moved up to the same Bathroom window as before. I wasn’t all that surprised to find that it had still been left unlocked. I was the last person to have closed it.
The weight of the water on my coat made it difficult to climb through the window. I was able to throw one leg over the sill and then positioned on the back of the toilet. When I pulled the other leg through, the toilet back creaked and stood froze for what had to have been an eternity. After none of the noise being made in the house came any closer, I slowly moved off of the toilet and onto the linoleum of the bathroom floor.
I then stepped out of the bathroom and into the hallway, keeping my back to it to stayed in the darkness while I tried to make out what Bill was saying. He was talking to someone about having to get the money in a hurry and get out of the state that night. From where I was standing, I could see the girl, Shelly, tied up on the ground. She had tape wrapped all around her head. At the time, I figured that Bill must have been going crazy. If he was talking to the girl on the floor, she probably wasn’t saying much in return. If there was someone else in the room with Bill, I hadn’t seen them yet and they weren’t making any noise in return loud enough for me to hear.
Suddenly, I heard Bill start to stand up from the chair that he was in and move to around in the room. I figured that he might be moving toward the hallway that I was standing in, so I bolted across the hall through an open door. I turned out to be the kitchen. There was nowhere to hide, so I figured the best thing to do was to crouch down in the furthest corner of the room. That way, if he did walk down the hallway, a casual glance into the kitchen would only reveal darkness.
As I stayed in the crouched position in the kitchen, I could hear Bill’s movements grow more hectic. Things were crashing around, I knew that he was pushing things around, clearing out space to get his money out of whatever hiding place he had made in the living room. After several minutes, the sound abruptly stopped. He then started to talk again. I heard him say ‘Kitchen’. The floor started to creak as walked across the living room. I knew that I was caught, I just hoped that I could catch him by surprise.
I stared at his big shadow as he walked neared the doorway. He stood for a moment, blocking out whatever light there was in the background and then reached over and clicked on the light. He saw me immediately, staring him back in the eyes. His eyes then moved downward toward the gun cradled in my lap. I could see the fear shoot through those eyes and he turned around so fast that he almost fell on his face.
Before I could move the gun up to fire it, he had already rounded the corner and was moving thought the living room. He was yelling something about cops being in the cabin and finally tripped on the couch as he was looking back at me in the kitchen. I was already on my feet when he tripped and I made my way into the hallway. I yelled to him that ‘his game was over’ as I moved into the living room. Once he got back on his feet, he started running for the cabin’s front door. I stopped for a moment and fired the gun at his left leg just as he got the door opened. It was a hurried shot and I thought that I had missed him altogether. But I realized that he was lightly wounded when he began to limp as he stepped off of the cabin porch and into thick mud.
It was dark in the woods, but the rain had calmed enough that the snap of twigs could heard in the distance. He may have been wounded, but he was still moving fast through woods. I could hear in the distance as he moved down the small slope in front of the cabin toward the wall of bushes. I ran after him down along the bushes and rounding the corner of the massive wall, I pulled out my flashlight. Before I had a chance to turn it on, the ‘snapping’ noises stopped and there was a loud smack. I didn’t have to turn on the long beam of the flashlight to know that Bill had fallen in one of the Potholes.
As he started to get up, I shined the light on him. The rain started to pound again and it made it hard to seen Bill in the light as he began to turn and run again. I shouted ‘I won’t miss my shot this time Bill’. He froze. We both stood in the in the rain, the beam shining on him, revealing the brown color of his mud covered clothes as the water washed away on them. I began to tell him that his escape was over, that his bluff over the ransom money hadn’t worked. And then as I pulled out the handcuffs, it couldn’t believe what happened.
Off to my right a lone shot rang out. Suddenly Bill collapsed to the ground. I quickly moved the flashlight down onto his still body. In small beam, blood from Bill’s head could be seen dripping into the puddle of water that it was laying in. Before I could even move, a figure began to move forward through the bushes. It was Tina.
She looked at me in a way that I had never seen from her before. She spoke first ‘He was going to kill you, I stopped him before could do anything.’ Her voice was so cold. I looked at her in amazement and said ‘Tina, his hands were in the air. I don’t even think he had a gun.’ All she said in response was ‘Oh, he had a gun.’ As we stood looking at the body, things finally fell into place in my head. I pointed the gun at Tina. ‘What are you doing John?’ She asked, ‘Are you crazy or something?’ But I knew that I wasn’t crazy. ‘Throw down that gun of yours’ I said. She complied and began to move backwards.
With the gun still pointed at her, I began to speak. I told her that everything about Bill’s escape was full of problems and those problems were all solved by her. She had been up at the prison the night of his escape. She had been the one that had found the ransom letter. For all anyone knew, the reason that he police hadn’t found Bill in their manhunt was because he had been staying at her place the entire time, right under their noses. When she asked why she would possibly help a killer, I already knew the answer. ‘You never believe he killed those people, even during his trial you were on his side.’ I asked her if she really thought that I was dumb enough to forget that she and Bill had gone to the police academy together, that they had dated. Right after our divorce, I noticed right away when she took her side job up at Watertown. She said it was to make some extra money, but I knew that it was a scam to see Bill.
As I confronted her with all of the facts, I knew that she was starting to get edgy. I couldn’t tell if it was rain or tears rolling off of her cheeks. She finally began to say ‘You think your so smart don’t you.’ She continued to move backwards, I told her to stop. Her words continued to cut into me. ‘All you will ever be is a drunk John. First you had to ruin Bill’s life and then mine.’ As she continued to step back, her foot fell into the same hole as Bill’s had fallen into earlier. She fell into the mud. And as she laid silently there in it, I could see her face in the beam from the flashlight as it twinkled off of the sheets of rain. She stared, not at me, but at the lifeless face of William Golden as blood continued to wash away from it in the rain.”