The triumphant West Memphis Police Pistol
Team, West Memphis Evening Times, October 27, 1992.
the next few months, Dabbs, Sudbury and Miller would be questioned
confiscated weapons from drug raids.
West Memphis Confidential.
In early 1993, the West Memphis Police Department
was riding a wave of acclaim. Their crack pistol squad had won numerous
trophies in the state championships. The West Memphis-Crittenden County
Drug Task Force (CC-DTF) was cited as the top task force in Arkansas
one of the best in the nation. Their achievements included, "During
1992, the drug task force seized more than $1 million in cash, 74
vehicles, $4925 in property, $81,075 in stolen property and 37 guns."
[West Memphis Evening Times, February 10, 1993] By the late 90s this
number would be over two million per year. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette,
June 27, 1999] The money went into a fund to help pay the budget of the
West Memphis Police Department, the CC-DTF and the salary of the
the accolades, something was
very wrong. CC-DTF officer Clark White was found dead in
home on January 16. Two men, Mark Lewis and Albert Huggins were charged
with his death. They claimed White regularly used cocaine. When they
had come to collect White's automobile to cover money owed them, they
him a fatal dose of tranquilizer.
officer, Clark White.
Memphis Evening Times,
The seizures also carried with
them a tainted story. The CC-DTF could legally confiscate money
and property without even having to file charges against the
owner. The claimants were then required to show that the money was from
means to get it back. In November of 1992, Dan Peruchi, was returning
to Texas with a car he had bought at auction for cash. Just after
crossing into Arkansas, he was pulled over by a CC-DTF officer. The
officer came upon $18,890 he was carrying and said the money "looked
like it had marijuana residue on it." [Arkansas Democrat Gazette, June 27, 1999]
charges were filed, nevertheless Peruchi lost the money. In another of
many similar stories, in February 1993, Eliazar Cantu had $6,000 in
he intended to use to pay for horse breeding seized by the CC-DTF. The
officer claimed "he smelled like marijuana." [ibid] Neither got their
In early 1993, the DTF members came under
investigation by the Arkansas State Police.
the millions in dollars and goods seized, the amounts in question
seemed petty: two hundred dollars and a small amount of drugs were
missing; some firearms were claimed to have been kept for
Polygraph list for the drug task
force and two
secretaries (Donna Cane and Candice Owens).
All of the officers passed the polygraph including
the question regarding appropriating confiscated guns. When interviewed
turned on each other.
interviews finished in late April of 1993.
The next few weeks would be busy for the CC-DTF. On April 27, an
undercover operation resulted in 17 arrests [West Memphis Evening
Times, April 28, 1993]. Although 16 were charged with offenses that
could receive life sentences, all 17 were set free without having to
secure bail due to overcrowding in the jail. "We just summoned them and
told them to appear in court," Chief Deputy Bob Cooper said. "We didn't
have any room for them." [ibid, although 7 of the 17 eventually were
held in custody after an April 30 hearing]. On the day the
three victims were recovered, the CC-DTF netted $135,000 in cash and
property from a drug raid, in what was described as their most
successful sting operation to date. [West Memphis Evening Times, May
- James Wilson of the Marion
Police Department said he swapped a Glock for a cig and 150 dollars
with Tony Bradley. "I got a fucking from Tony Bradley. He gave me a gun
that I couldn't do anything with." He went on to say, "Charlie Dabb's
(sic) is capable of planting dope. Tony Miller is capable of skimming
- Ed Fitzpatrick admitted he
received an ice cooler, calculator and jumper cables from Sudbury and
knew these items were confiscated. He said Sudbury had told him of an
instance when he planted dope in order to confiscate the car.
- George Blair described trading
- Along with Blair, Shane
Griffin also suspected Dabbs of planting drugs on suspects.
- Mickey Thornton admitted he gave
a confiscated gun to his father. He added that numerous deputies have
guns that were supposed to be destroyed and promised to make a list.
- Tony Miller said he gave a gun
to his cousin but did not remember at the time it had been confiscated.
- Charlie Dabbs blamed Clark White
for the missing drugs. He went on to say, "If you work with Fitzpatrick
you either do it all or nothing. He uses people, he does not have any
- James Sudbury. Admitted giving
three guns to his secretary. He said he kept a confiscated refrigerator
at his residence along with a semiautomatic.
- Sudbury's ex-wife suggested the
thieving went much further. Sudbury gave their son a fishing reel
($300) and an answering machine she believed to be confiscated. She
said in spite of an $800 paycheck every two weeks, he was paying
$750/month on his new home, had new furniture and had just taken a
Caribbean cruise. She said he had a lot of guns. [summaries and quotes in this list
taken from officers' interviews, DTF investigation, February and April
- Among those receiving guns in
question was Judge David Burnett. [West Memphis Evening Times, November
The CC-DTF and the Child Murders
the West Memphis Police Department is fairly large (82 officers in
1999), the crime scene behind the Blue Beacon looked like a meeting of
the Drug Task Force. After accounting for the officers that first
responded to the
call and recovered the victims, the other officers at the crime scene
Blair* Glen Masengale
*Members of the DTF. #Future members.
Although not at the crime scene, DTF member James
would go on to play a key role in the investigation into the murders.
investigation itself was run out of the Drug Task Force headquarters at
Dover, West Memphis.
Task Force Headquarters and
neighbors, Dover Rd., 1993 City Directory.
In July of
1992, Mark Byers, stepfather of victim Chris Byers, was arrested in
Memphis for cocaine and weapon charges but did not serve time. He
became an informant. In his
police interview, he expressed concerned that the murders may have been
related to his drug informant activities. Sudbury and Ridge
Well, I helped 'em on a meth lab out in Marion, but I never got
directly involved in...
Sudbury: Is there anyone from
Memphis that, perhaps you talked to OCU about?
Mark: Yes, there sure is. But, I think
he's in jail right now. His name..do you want his name?
Sudbury: Doesn't matter.
Mark: Yeah, his name was Scotty Reddin.
Mark: I worked with...
Sudbury: Scotty's from West Memphis,
is he not?
Mark: I think so, and his girlfriend
or something, lives down there off McCauley, I think. Or no, his wife's
sister lives on McCauley. Drives a little maroon Chevrolet pick-up
truck. And they were just bound and determined, Scotty's sister,
Scotty's sister-in-law, let me get it right. Every time she'd see me or
Melissa, she'd flip us off, cuss us - you son of a bitches, we're going
to get you. We know you busted Scotty. [Mark Byers police interview,
May 19, 1993]
The OCU referenced above is the Organized Crime Unit
of the Memphis police indicating Byers was also an informant for them.
There is no evidence that the West Memphis Police
took seriously Byers role as an informant as a possible motive for
the crime. No interviews were performed with Scotty Reddin or a Lee
Griffin whom he also cited as possibly considering revenge.
Note with the files of David Wren.
Nineteen year old David Shane Wren and his twin
brother Michael were
precocious criminals. By age 17 David had racked up three burglary and
theft charges, an arson arrest and, with his twin brother Michael, jail
Along with their half brothers, Frankie Knight and James Thornton, they
lived in the Mayfair Apartments, a large complex that ran from East
Barton to the bayou.
Nicholas Smith, aged 16, placed Frankie Knight at
the north end of McAuley (near the pipe) the evening of the fifth,
along with several others he could not identify. He said they were
acting suspiciously, as if it were a drug sale. According to Smith,
they were centered around an orange Bronco. Little Al Thomas, an
associate of the Wrens, had an orange pick up, but said he hadn't used
it recently. He denied being in the area.
Kacie Crawford stated she overheard Frankie Knight
say that his brother killed the children. "[Crawford] had overheard a
conversation in which Frankie Knight stated that his brother is the
person who killed the boys." Her statement was emphatically dismissed,
the word "Unfounded" written in felt at the bottom.
Frankie Knight was brought in for questioning. He
knew two of the victims through his half brother, James, a friend of
Ryan Clark. He took a polygraph passing the questions as to whether he
was involved in the crimes. He flunked the question of whether he knew
who did it. In his police interview, when asked if he knew who killed
the children, he mentioned as possibilities a black male who lived in
Apartments, a white male in his twenties with a long beard who rode a
bike, possibly someone from the 76 truck stop, and Damien Echols. He
also said he didn't know who the police should look for.
Charge # Chrg Descrip
5-39-201 res burg ---120m prob
5-36-103 prop theft --120m
5-38-301 arson--120m susp
5-36-103 prop theft-- 120m
5-54-111 2nd deg escp-72m sent
5-38-203 crm mschf* -120m susp
Record of David
Wren before 1993.
Although David Wren had already been sentenced to a
total of 56 years for various charges, he was free on probation at the
time of the killings. This may have been due to his status as an
informant. Brought in for questioning, he accounted for his whereabouts
for the day, saying he had stayed with Beverly Houston and her family
on Johnson Ave. Ridge confirmed this with Houston. The Wrens had a
history with the Houstons. When the Wren brothers escaped from prison,
they went to her house.
The Outcome of the CC-DTF Investigation.
In spite of
admitting that they had kept guns and other items, in spite of the
officers pointing fingers at each other for planting drugs, the 1993
investigation resulted in a wash. "No
disciplinary action will be taken against the
Crittenden County deputy sheriff nor the Marion police officer assigned
to the West Memphis-Crittenden County Drug Task Force named in the
Arkansas State Police fund." [West Memphis Evening Times, November 15,
1993] The Police Commission came under fire for their decision. "People come up here
with tears in their eyes. They have nobody to go to (with complaints
about the drug unit.)." [Justice
L.D. Callan quoted in West
Memphis Evening Times, the parentheses appear the original, November
Like the confiscated weapons, the drug
task force was scrapped,
melted down and reconstituted. Photo,
Memphis Evening Times, February 17, 1994.
commission voted to
reorganize the CC-DTF. The
West Memphis Police unit would separate from the Crittenden County
unit. New scandals and charges of criminal activities would result in
In May 2009,
West Memphis Chief of Police Robert Paudert announced that they would
be reforming the Drug Intervention Task Force. "Chief Paudert says, "We
are going to seize drugs and money and look forward to it. I'm gonna
take personal attention in this unit I'm gonna hand pick the officers
going in it were going to ensure no money is ever taken off the
interstate that's not turned in like it was before.""
[Myfoxmemphis.com, May 26, 2009]
- In 1995, Sudbury would be
suspended from his position of second in command of the task force.
Another state investigation would take place regarding missing
marijuana. The West Memphis police working the independent task force
would be reassigned to patrol positions.
- Bradley was charged with
confiscating $77,000 for his personal use from a 1995 car stop. He pled
guilty to lesser charges.
- Sudbury, Bradley and Griffin
were referenced in a 1996 audit showing $5267 were missing from the
- Davis, Applegate and Pirani
would be tried for charges surrounding the skimming of hundreds of
thousands of dollars of confiscated money. Each would be convicted of
- As a result of these charges in
2001 the city once again disbanded the drug task force.
- In August 2003 Sudbury would
face an inquiry into his actions as head of the drug task force,
including the destruction of evidence that would implicate his son in
the drug trade. He was discharged from the West Memphis Police.
- Billy Sanders would
become head of the Special
Operations Division, the unit that took on the duties of the task
force. Sanders would resign his job
after being charged with sexual
indecency and terroristic threatening of a minor.
- James Wilson would resign from
his position as captain in the Marion Police Department after being
charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from the Little League
- Blair continues to work with the
West Memphis Police Department.