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August 28, 2019 39 mins

In 2004, a new investigation into Janie's death is opened. Catherine reviews the investigation and tries to piece together the route from the cabin to the bank parking lot. She talks with the Ward's lawyer and with the special prosecutor on the new investigation. Catherine also gets a call from a woman named Sylvia, who says she witnessed Janie getting hit in the face. 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:08):
School of Humans. We're in Walmart stocking up on provisions
for our cabin when we get a call from a
woman named Sylvia. She says that she does not want
to be interviewed again because the last time she came forward,
her entire life was put under a microscope. It was

(00:29):
interesting both in that she pointed out a lot of
the discrepancies, but she was explaining those discrepancies and she
was insisting that she's right and that she did see
what she saw. And she's reluctant to talk. But I
was able to sort of talk to her for about
twenty minutes and explain to her who you were, what
we're doing, that we're legit, and I feel like if
we get some new information or we have something she

(00:50):
can collaborate with us on, I feel like she will talk.
Sylvia is heavily featured in ABC's forty minute episode of
their show called Primetime that was dedicated to Janie's case.
It aired in two thousand and nine. In the program,
Sylvia tells the producers that at the time of Janie's death,
she was a runner, someone who delivered drugs to parties,

(01:12):
and on September ninth, nineteen eighty nine. She said she
was asked to deliver drugs to a high school party
that was happening in a cabin on Zach Road in Marshall, Arkansas.
She said when she pulled up to the cabin, she
was looking straight at the porch and she witnessed the
girl hid another girl in the face. Sylvia said she

(01:33):
high tailed it out of there because she didn't want
any trouble. She had bags of pot in her car
and didn't want to risk arrest. Sylvia didn't come forward
until two thousand and seven, three years into a new
investigation into Janie Ward's death. She claimed she had been scared,
but now she said she had a kid herself, and

(01:53):
she felt for the Ward family and she wanted the
Wards to know once and for all what happened to
their daughter. I'm Catherine Townsend and this is Helen Gone.

(02:41):
I do love the names of some of these roads,
Like some of them make sense, like Nighthawk Road and
Cricket Lane, and then some of them are like high
Tech Road. It's gonna be almost like purposely ironic. Right now,
we are going to the cabin where the party happened
and where Jane fell. Whatever happened to Janey happened to

(03:05):
turn right onto Zach Road, and we'd managed to get
some directions from the Freedom Information Request and from I
compared that address with the name of the person who
bought the cabin afterwards, So we're gonna go out there
and look for it. The cabin on Zach Road has
been renovated in the thirty years since Janie's death. It's

(03:27):
been spruced up since that fateful night in nineteen eighty
nine when Jane's cousin Jay lived there alone. The house
had two bedrooms. One had a dirty mattress on the ground.
The other, where Jay slept, had a mattress with stained
sheets and three thin pillows on it. Three shirts hung
in the closet. Another room was converted into a makeshift

(03:48):
workspace and was filled with old food containers and another
folded up mattress and file cabinet that looked like someone
to toss into the room. The living room had a
matching set of faded floral furniture, and there was a
model of a boat on display. The cabin didn't have
electricity or running water, so the appliances in the kitchen
and bathroom were unusable. And the whole house was covered

(04:12):
in matted brown carpet. The walls were unfinished. The house
had two porches. The one facing the gravel road that
leads up to the cabin is where Janey supposedly fell
off the step, and that step was no more than
ten inches in height. In December of two thousand and four,
Special Prosecutor Tim Williamson was court appointed to Janey's case.

(04:35):
At the time, he was a prosecutor based in Mina, Arkansas.
Governor Mike Huckabee sets aside ten thousand dollars for the
investigation so that Williamson can build a team of investigators
and a deputy prosecutor. The governor's spotlight on the case
gets readers hooked to Mike Masterson's column, and journalists from

(04:55):
around the state start covering the case again. One of
those journalists was Jason Peterson, and in his news report
that aired on KATV, he puts a cushion down where
Jennie falls and demonstrates the fall himself, tumbling backwards and
landing with a heavy smack under the cushion. When you
sort of demonstrated the fall off the porch, what was

(05:16):
your impression of the of the porch and how far
the fall was. Well, that's what I wanted to try
to convey to our viewers. You know, it's been widely
thought that she I mean, it's a fact she fell
off the porch. Three people witnessed her fall off the porch.
What's in dispute is whether that fall could kill someone.
A backward fall off the porch an fty plunges investigator

(05:37):
Beach years later would call it. And so I thought
the best way to try to show our viewers exactly
what the people at that party saw was to fall
off the porch myself. One of the reasons I wanted
to do it was because our top three ports showed
that her head had been snapped backwards. But a fall

(06:00):
like that does not propel your head backwards if anything
pushes it forwards when you hit the ground. And the
physical act of falling off the porch didn't match the
physical evidence of the head being snapped backwards, you know,
either struck in the face or somehow pushed backwards from
the face. And do you think that when you were

(06:20):
when you were you know, when you were falling off
the porch. It's widely been described as she fell ten inches,
but actually then others were saying, but it wasn't really
ten inches. If you count if you're going from the
top of her head, it's more than ten inches. Yeah,
it's much more. I mean, it's a much further fall
than ten inches the porch. While it's true as ten

(06:40):
inches high, you're falling from a height, and if you're
falling straight back, you know, that's probably maybe a six
or seven foot you know, acceleration before you hit. But
I think the prosecutor one time said he had seen
a case where a man in Hot Springs fell off
sent made a similar fall and he was now quadriplegic.
And I guess what you have to decide that the

(07:02):
viewer is, you know, is that enough to kill someone?
And ter freak accidents happened, but for the most part,
the human bodies designed to live. It's pretty difficult to
kill someone or you know, you can sustain a lot
of injuries and still live. And would that have been
enough to kill her or did something else happen either

(07:23):
before or after that fall that contributed to her death.
Peterson's report was in two thousand and five, a few
months into Tim Williamson's investigation, and In his report, he
brings up suspicions that he has about Jane's case. First,
the fact that ron Rose, Sherry, and Kim All said
they went straight to the bank parking lot, even though

(07:44):
dispatcher Harold Young said they went by the police station. First,
Peterson talked about the condition of Jannie's clothing, the fact
that her clothes were wet and sandy, even though the
cabin and the truck bed were reportedly dry and dusty.
He also mentioned the fact that those same clothes went missing,
and that the X rays the Wards supposedly saw in
nineteen eighty nine that showed a fracture were not the

(08:07):
same one sent to them from the crime lab, and
he pointed out the discrepancies in witness statements from Sarah
and some of her friends. He also said that the
ambulance run reports pertaining to Janie's death were stolen. In
the months after Jane died. The ambulance service had reported
that the building had been broken into, only one report

(08:28):
was stolen, Janey's. Peterson reached out to twenty six people
at the party. He was able to get a few
people to open up to him, but he got a
lot of doors slammed in his face, and a lot
of people hung up on him. Most people did not
want to revisit the night that Janie died. I think
we did a pretty good job. I did a pretty

(08:48):
good job contacting as many people at the party as
I could now as far as what their reactions were,
I thought maybe time would have loosened some lips, they'd
be less fearful to talk or to tell what they know.
It's suming there's something to know, But you know, a
lot of people as soon as identified who I was
and what I was calling about or what I was
visiting about, shutting down right away. Me know, it's just

(09:11):
a lot of over and over people not wanting to
talk about it at all, which kind of surprised me.
Though maybe they've just they're just tired of hearing about it,
are tired of talking about it, or tired of thinking
about it as soon as they do. When he tried
to call Gary Dn, Gary Don's girlfriend gave Peterson a
number for him to reach him on That number one

(09:33):
eight hundred fuck you. One other thing we still don't
know the answer to is the route that the truck
took from the cabin to the town Square. There are
two ways to drive from the cabin on Zach Road
to marshall'stown Square. The most direct route is turning left
out of the driveway. You go a few miles on
rocky roads and then hit the pavement. On this route

(09:57):
you pass the Sheriff's offices, old location, several homes, and
the community center where on the night Jane died, there
was huge event going on, but the people in the
truck who carry Janey in the back say they didn't
stop or notice the community meeting. They say they never
stopped until they got to the town square, which they

(10:18):
went to because it was close to the only medical
facility in town, the ambulance service. It was also across
the street from the car wash. The alternate route, a
little longer and even rockier, is a right turn out
of the driveway. This route goes along the creek bed
and comes out at the same place on the pavement
as the first route. Five point one miles to the

(10:42):
main road and zero point eight miles only really like
point eight like around just under a mile to a
good paved road. Whichever route they chose, the drive from
the cabin on Zach Road to Marshall's town Square should
not take any more than twenty minutes. We'll be right back.

(11:05):
It's like so many other people who worked on Jamie's case.
The Wards found the special prosecutor Tim Williamson disappointing. How
did that affect you and Ron the whole Tim Williamson thing.
I know, he came and prayed with you, right, Oh yeah,
what a joke he was, and the governor gave him
ten thousand dollars to have to investigate. He did nothing

(11:29):
but covered that. I mean it was already covered at
and all he did was helped them. I mean all
he did was yeah, exactly, exactly, yeah. And he didn't
hear from him. Michael said, you didn't hear from him
after him? You never, I mean we might ask questions,
we never got anything. Nothing. Journalist Mike Masterson writes about

(11:52):
this in his column about how much faith the Words
put into Tim Williamson. They prayed together, but after this meeting,
Mike said, it became harder and harder to get in
touch with him. The Words contacted Tim Williamson right away,
and Williamson drove to Marshall and met at a church

(12:12):
with a family and prayed together or justice to emerge
in this case. He promised the family, I will find
out what happened to your daughter, you know, and if
it need be, there'll be accountability. He promised them that
in the church, well they believed. I wanted to believe him,
of course. I mean. Ron called me and said, well,
we have hope for the first time that something's going

(12:34):
to happen. He seems like a very sincere guy. He
will do the right thing. For the first week or two,
Tim Williamson called me, knowing I'd been involved in it
and writing about it, and he said, you know, I'm
going to rely on you, Mike, if you don't mind
this for information if I get stuck. And I said, sure,
I don't have anything to hide, and I'll be glad
to help because I'd like to see justice done too.

(12:56):
So he kind of had a rapport until about the
third week into it, when he called me and said
he was going to the crime lab to start really
digging deeper into this, all this and all the records
there at the crime lab and blah blah blah. He said,
I'll get back to you next week. I said, great.
So I waited a week past nothing two weeks nothing.

(13:17):
Finally about probably three weeks after, you know, I tried
to reach him and couldn't get through. You know, it's
like he's busy, he's tied up. Now. Who knows what
happened to the crime lab. I don't, but logically I
would say something happened to the crime lab, and he
was told something at the crime lab and during his
visit over in a little rock that maybe sort of

(13:39):
dampened his attitude. Put it that way, because after that
he would announce that he's dug into this. He's got
a staff helping him do it. He's doing interviews, going
to find out what happened. He spent four years total,
and he amassed lots of you know, paper, stacks of

(14:00):
paper with interviews and stuff. So when you looked at it,
you know, it looks like, boy, this guy's been really busy.
But when you broke it down, there wasn't anything of
substance that mattered. Tim Williamson's report makes up the bulk
of the police case file we got from the Arkansas
State Police. It's filled with transcriptions of interviews with witnesses

(14:20):
and a bunch of repeated material from the first investigations.
Case file. A lot of the accusations against Williamson center
on the fact that people didn't think he was working
hard enough. In the case file, there are dozens of
letters addressed to Williamson from people around Arkansas telling him
to get a move on. On page three, eight hundred
and sixty, I find a note from Williamson's deputy prosecutor.

(14:45):
He says they should hold off on conducting interviews until
after the Wards have concluded their civil suit. That's the
one where they're petitioning to change Janey's death certificate from
undetermined to homicide, and he says that they might as
well hold off because the ward's lawyer is already deposing witnesses,
meaning court ordered subpoenas to get the to interview. That way,

(15:08):
they wouldn't have to double up on the work. The
depositions were done by the ward's lawyer, Jerry Sallings. Saling's
law firm started working for the Wards when the family
needed to get Janie's body exhumed before the second autopsy.
What we're hoping to get from these depositions is the
answer to some key questions, including how much time elapsed

(15:30):
from the time Jannie fell to the ground to the
time that she got to the bank parking lot, and
did the truck make any other stops en route. I'm
also interested in the depositions from Ron Rose and Kim
because they were the ones in the truck. I'm also
interested in Gary Donn's deposition because Richard Walter from the
Vidock Society said Gary Donn told him a completely different

(15:52):
story than the one that was in his statement. In
Kim's deposition, she's cooperative, but she gives yes and no
answers and doesn't elaborate. But what she says in her
interview mostly matches her original statements, which were taken in
the months after the incident. Do you you you said
that you and Janie were good friends, who were friends? Okay?

(16:15):
Do you know if she was having any problems with
anybody at school? No? I don't don't know. No, you're
not saying she wasn't. You just don't know where it
was that. Had you heard any rumors about her having
any problems at school with anybody? No? After Janie got
in the vehicle with you, did you go straight to
the party. Yes. Here Saling is asking about how they

(16:39):
got there in case they had passed the river or
the creek before going to the party. Didn't go by
the river? No, didn't stop to buy anything, No, didn't
go drink somewhere else or anything at all. Did you
pick up anybody else on the way to the party? No? Okay,
So how help me out? How long does it take

(16:59):
to get from the square out to where the party was?
I mean minutes, maybe thirty. That's just a gives Ron
Rose is more descriptive in his answers. Do you remember
what she was wearing then? Like a blue jeans and
a black shirt? And I don't know. I pause it.
That's wet. He said. He felt like it was his

(17:20):
duty to get help for Janey. Might I say, no, won,
there's a good good as friends. We was being kid
and everything, and I feel like there's my responsibility to
get her out of there, you know. So we try
to get her in front of my truck, try to
load her up. And how did you try to do that?
Just about three or four, I think it's four of
us there, four or five of us picked her up
and tried to handle as best we kids, and tried
the slider up in front of my truck in the cab,

(17:42):
in my truck and we couldn't get her in there.
She's too big and she was limp, you know, she
just it was hard. We couldn't get her in there. Right,
you know the back of your truck? Was it wet
or dry? Pretty sure it was dry. Here Ron gives
more details about the car wreck. This is the one
that we talked about in the last episode. The vehicle

(18:03):
was Ryan's. He became his hysterical after Janneye was pronounced
dead in the parking lot as you were leaving. Do
you remember Brian getting his truck stuck? Yes, he wrecked
atop of the hill up there, had a wrecked up there.
Who's in the truck with him? He was in a car.
I don't know who was with him for sure, but
he was in a car, a car, Yeah, all right?

(18:25):
Did he block the He had roadblock he'd come out
this big steep hill. When he come out on top,
he'd lost it and nosed off in the bank and
the back end was sticking all the way off the road.
So how did y'all get around him? I had a
friend Jimmy, come up there and yanked him back to
the truck bank, yanked his car out of the way
to where I could drive up on the bank and
get by, and then after you got on the past him,

(18:46):
you've got a gravel road for a while or ways here,
And did y'all ever stop and never stopped? Neither Ron
nor Kim said they stopped by the police station, and
they both said they took a left out of the driveway,
the more direct route that does not pass by the creek.
Gary Donn's deposition openly hostile at the beginning, especially because

(19:08):
during the depositions Ron and Moana Ward are in the
room and you can feel the tension. You're here under
the court order. Subpoena is a court order from the judge,
and I get to ask you questions and it's my
right and as I answer them, if I don't want to,
well that's why I'm I'm about care to not go

(19:29):
further than this right out here, right now, I understand.
Let me just tell you the way this works in
a deposition. If you refuse to answer the question, you
can walk out of here today and I can go
to the judge and I can say he refused to
answer these questions, and he can force you to come
back here and answer them, and then you pay for
the deposition. Go for that right now, I'm paying for it.

(19:51):
Go for it. Okay. Well, I don't want to get
into confident. I don't want to fool with this. I'm
this man right here. I don't care that he'd be
in the same room with him, because the crap he's
put me through, and I do not like to even
be in the same block with the man you're pointing to,
Ron Ron Ward right there. All right, well, I can

(20:12):
tell that your your feelings are a little very very
Sellings asked him to review his statement, and garyd On
says he didn't say most of the stuff that was
in it. To him, it looked like someone made up
his answers say this in some parts, it's it's it's
like it's backwards. I mean, like, I don't really explain

(20:36):
it to you. It just it's just like I told
you had like it had a mace or Somethingody created
theirself how they wanted it to be. That's what I'm saying.
So it's not the truth of what you said. No
not no, okay, uh now it's two pages. Did you
read all of it? I've read enough. That's fine. So
I read enough. Somebody made that up. Okay, tell me

(20:58):
what part of it is not true. I've never seen
her filling no cut from okay, Okay, I've never seen
her drinking. Let's take it one one statement at times
so I can keep up with this. Okay, let's see,
says I got to the party around six, Ron, Kim
and Jane came in together. Is that is that what

(21:21):
you said or not? That's about the one thing I've
seen there in the first sentences that was correct. Okay,
that can recall. Well, let me tell you this. This
is a statement that we got from the police department,
and this is supposed This is a copy of an
interview that supposedly Bill Beach of the State Police took

(21:41):
and this is his statement. This is anything I came
up with. They changed there, They changed much stuff over
the years in the department down there at that time.
I'm not disputing it. I'm asking questions. I'm interested in
what you're telling me. I understand, Okay, So I want
to know what in here is not your statement. Sellings

(22:05):
goes line by line and Gary don lists out what
he doesn't agree with from his original state says, I
went over to her and it was like the breath
was knocked out of her. You're shaking your head. No, sorry,
it's all right. And her shirt had come up when
she fell, and I looked at her stomach and I
couldn't tell that she was breathing. No, me, and somebody

(22:28):
picked her up and put her on the porch. No,
her eyes were open about halfway and rolled back, and
she was not blinking. No. I believe she had messed
in her pants too. No, I couldn't get anybody to
help me. The urinating part is the only part that

(22:48):
I remember it looked like to me. In this deposition,
gary Don doesn't mention anything about the creek bad and
the drowning theory that we had heard from Richard Walter
of the Vedok Society. These answers are notably different from
gary Don's original statement in nineteen eighty nine and his
link the interview with Bill Beach in the months after
Jane's death. In this deposition, he says he did not

(23:12):
move Janeye onto the porch, and he also says she
could have been lying on the ground for up to
twenty minutes before he had said he had immediately gone
over to her after she had fallen and moved her
up onto the porch. He also doesn't remember his interview
with Bill Beach and says he had to do a
polygraph test basically a light detector test at the Cercy

(23:33):
County Jail, but there is no mention of a polygraph
test anywhere in the case file. In fact, Bill Beach
later specifically said that he hadn't administered any polygraph tests
during his investigation. On the night Janie died, ron Ward
saw his daughter in the morgue at the Kaufman Funeral
Home around midnight. He was there with the coroner of

(23:56):
Sirsey County, Thomas Martin, and Ron said he had to
insist on an autopsy. Sallings deposed Tom to ask him
about his impressions of that night. Tell us your name,
pleads Thomas W. Martin Jr. And mister Martin, I understand
that you have some difficulty hearing at times. I do
all right, and you know we're here today for a deposition.

(24:17):
At the time of Jane's death, Tom had been a
coroner for about twenty five years, and his role was
mainly to declare someone dead and also determine a cause
of death if he couldn't determine anything. He would send
the body to the medical examiner in Little Rock. Sellings
asked him a question about his corner report. Next to
a lot of the questions on the forum, Tom left

(24:39):
it blank or wrote a question mark. He could not
tell if there were abrasions on Jane's body, He could
not tell what injury there was, or if any foul
play occurred. He had ruled out fairly obvious causes of
death like gunshot wounds, and said he didn't see anything
obviously wrong with Janey. Basically, he said he had no

(24:59):
idea what happened to Janey. And he said he also
didn't finish filling out the form because he was already
intending to have the body taken to Little Rock. In fact,
like I I couldn't exactly remember, he said he figured that
he would have already called the medical Examiner's office by
the time he met Ron at the funeral home. Did
you see mister Ward that night, Ron Ward, Yes, he

(25:20):
came to the funeral And would that have been before
or after the court the medical examiner was called? Probably
after he was called. No, I don't really remember the
time frame that he came in of the funeral. Do
you have any memory of him insisting that an autopsv done.

(25:42):
Uh No, don't have anything. He didn't have to insist
on him because he was already on the way. The
investigators working on the case did conduct and record interviews
from two thousand and seven to two thousand and eight.
Sarah is a glaring omission from these interviews. They interviewed

(26:02):
JD and Kathy, the ambulance service attendants who checked Jane
in the bank parking lot. They're the ones who also
said they saw debris on Janie and that her clothes
were wet. They also saw swelling in her neck. And
they're the ones who filled out the ambulance run reports,
the ones that had supposedly been stolen in the months
after Janie's death. Here's Kathy's interview with investigators. I after

(26:26):
broken into then they thought, well, JD, who was my husband's,
thought that the run sheet had gotten stolen. I found
that I had put it in a different place. But
Kathy clarifies the run report was just misplaced, and this
has been a Misunderstandably was and it was. I found

(26:46):
it later on. I had put it under some new
run sheet and I didn't realize that I had done that.
Kathy again describes what she saw in the bank parking
lot and what condition Janie's body was in clothes was
a damp here you're stamp and what was that inmisphere
conditions at this time? It was it was dry that

(27:07):
she was damp. Her clothes were damp, her hair was damp.
The only place that there was in the dampness was
between the raps. And I said, I smelled no urine
or no bed. I just had a it's just a
soft perfuse smell. That was all I smelled. There was

(27:30):
leaves and twigs and sand in her hair, and you know,
that was all I looked at at that time. And
I did a cervical check, but I I didn't feel
the spine. It it felt like it was in plite.
And they said the flight the spine in her neck,

(27:51):
the free had a whole leaf spine. I was checking
the sea spine and I felt like I felt everything.
But you know, I still kept tractioning on the neck.
I that we'd keep tractioning when we'd moving. Mkay, let
me back you up to what you said the while.
Was it real? Kathy said she didn't notice an obvious
neck injury when she examined Janie, nor did she see

(28:12):
any trauma to the face. Hearing these accounts from the
coroner and Kathy, neither of them could see anything obviously
wrong with Jane. So if there were no obvious injuries
to her face, was it possible that she was hitting
the face at all. We'll be right back. We're driving

(28:36):
to Little Rock to meet with a family's lawyer, Jerry Sallings.
He conducted all the depositions and represented the Ward family
for the duration of Tim Williamson's investigation, but he was
also an outsider to Marshall. I don't care if we
wanted his perspective on the case. What I believe is,

(29:00):
at the beginning of this case, a very small town,
so you don't have resources, you don't have highly developed,
intelligent police force, and you've got someone's family there who
is prestigious in the community, the district judge, I think

(29:24):
at the time, and all of those factors, But the
biggest factor that I perceived as I was proceeding through
the depositions is I don't think they really did a
good job of investigating or trying, and I think they
assumed that because this was a small town, and mister

(29:45):
Ward and his family were not sophisticated that they wouldn't
have to worry about it. I think that's what happened.
And then they found out differently when mister Ward said
had all these questions and they couldn't answer them because
they didn't do a good job in the first place.
They did a really bad job. Honestly, does not share

(30:06):
the dislike that the family had towards Tim Williamson. He
said they'd worked together in the court proceedings and they
had a mutual respect for each other. We'd heard from
some people that they thought Ron was uncooperative, but Selling
said Ron always shared all of the information he collected
independently with the police and with investigators. I don't think

(30:27):
anybody anything I had or that Ron had was kept secret.
What we tried to get were specific answers, and Tim
had a notebook, and I don't think I had that
notebook anymore. But it was just topic by topic with
you know, whatever the inconsistency was the or the question

(30:49):
that he had that wasn't answered, and I felt like
it was my job to try to answer it if
I could. And the way you try to answer it
is to go get the facts or the information through
depositions or whatever. And at the end of the day,
there were some questions that we couldn't answer and still can't.

(31:12):
As an investigator, this is a feeling that I can
relate to. And while you always want to give people answers,
and you always want to think that there's another step
that you can take or something that can be done,
the reality is, once mistakes are made at the initial
crime scene, it's very difficult to go back and rectify them.
Can you just in general, maybe not even about this case,
but just talking about the difficulty of if the original

(31:35):
crime scene is messed up, how difficult it is to
go back and if something's not done right. I mean,
is there something that the police could have done early
on like that would have mitigated that? I mean, just
from my experience with pure crime, I was looking through
the witness statements and they're very short. They're basically a
paragraph a long each and they're just there's no detail.

(31:56):
There's not much detail in any of them things like that.
I mean, is there anything that could have done to
I mean the reason that you have CSI all these
police shows is because every every fact is important, and
you can't say, oh, that's not important because you don't
know what was there. So photographs, statements from everybody, and

(32:20):
following up on every lead, and I don't that wasn't
done here for sure. The assumption was is that she
fell off, fell off and died, and so when you
work from that assumption, you're not really looking for anything else.
Was there anything else? I don't know. I could not

(32:41):
get that answer to the point that I could say
that was anything specifically. I mean, there were a lot
of irregularities in this and that's why Ron had questions,
and that's why it was pursued. But unfortunately it wasn't
pursued early enough. And that's not his fault because he
tried diligently to do it. But I think they assumed

(33:05):
that he was just a uh, someone who didn't know
what he was doing. I asked if Salings thought there
would have been any answer that would have satisfied Ron Ward.
I don't know Ron was. He was he was convinced
it was more than natural causes or falling off the
porch or any of a number of things. So I

(33:26):
don't know if he would have been or not. Maybe
if maybe Fuld. Maybe you felt they'd been treated with
more respect, and it was an answer that at least
made sense. Maybe, but maybe he was he was a stubborn,
determined man. Remember that after doctor Burnell's autopsy, there are

(33:54):
a lot of people looking into Janie's death. There's Tim
Williamson in his investigation. There's the family's lawyer, Jerry Sallings
doing depositions, and there's Mike Masterson's column it's now published
multiple times a week looking into Jannie's case. And there's
a film crew from ABC. The ABC producer contacts Sylvia,

(34:18):
the runner, who said she witnessed Jane getting hit in
the face with a baseball bat. Sylvia's information could be
crucial because it appears to match doctor Burnell's conclusion that
Jane could have been hit with a bluntfuls object. But
some people were critical of Sylvia. They point out that
she'd already given a statement in nineteen eighty nine, it's

(34:38):
included in the case file, and in this statement she
told a completely different story. When Sylvia was interviewed by
Tim Williamson in two thousand and six, he asked her
about inconsistencies in her story. He asked Sylvia about a
previous interview that she did in nineteen eighty nine with
an investigator named Robert Hicks at her home. In that interview,

(35:00):
Sylvia claimed she'd heard the story secondhand from three guys
who told her as story about two girls who were
mad at Janie because she was dating one of their boyfriends.
Sylvia said that the injury to Janie's neck came when
somebody hit her with a full beer bottle, and after that,
she said, some guy in a pickup truck took her
to the house to clean her up. In two thousand

(35:23):
and six, Sylvia denied to Tim Williamson that she ever
made that statement, but it's a part of the police
case file. Some people also criticized the fact that Sylvia
came forward with this new version of events after the
information about doctor Bannell's autopsy conclusions became public. Ron told
Bill Beach that he spoke to Sylvia and that Sylvia

(35:45):
told him a story about three girls and an older
guy jumping on Janne and beating her up by the river.
But when ABC interviewed Sylvia, she said that she witnessed
Sarah on the porch hitting Jane in the neck with
a baseball bat in the eyes of investigators, Sylvia lost
any credibility she had as a witness. Because of all

(36:06):
these inconsistencies. We were able to reach Tim Williamson. He's
no longer practicing law, but Janey's case remains vivid in
his mind. Well, thank you for talking to us, Kim,
I really appreciate it. So you ended up with this case, now,
had you heard about it before you took it on?
I had recalled the headlines of the case from eighty nine,

(36:31):
and then I think I probably recalled some of the
discussions around the case that made to the made it
into the newsprint. Tim started investigating, but he couldn't reach
any new conclusions from the investigative evidence or from looking
back at the previous autopsies, and he especially couldn't see

(36:54):
any evidence of a homicide. As we got favored into it,
we were not developing additional information that was helping me
to decide, well, if this is a homicide, than who
did it. It got down to the point eventually, where
as I had some you know, we were looking at
the Thenell's findings and then going back and comparing those

(37:16):
with the photograss and the information collected the time doctor
Fane Malik for the crime that I did the original autopsy,
and it became apparent to me and to my investigators
that we had to get to the bottom of the
forensics on this because we truly felt because we had

(37:39):
too somewhat competing autosic reports, we had to get a
definitive position as to what the medical evidence and the
forensic evidence is, because inherently, you do not want to
attempt to prosecute a case or you have information that
is not corroborative of itself when it's in the forensic role.

(38:01):
So we're relying on science. The science has to agree.
So our only option was to do something that is
extremely rare, and we did not want to do it,
but we were left without choice. Much like the ward's
lawyer Jerry Sallings, Tim thought that there was no way
to solve the case through the investigative evidence, so he

(38:23):
decided there was one last thing he could do exhume
Janey's body again and perform another autopsy. I'm Katherine Townsend
and this is Helen Gone. Helen Gone is a joint
production between School of Humans and iHeartRadio. It is written

(38:47):
and recorded by me Katherine Townsend, Taylor Church, and Gabby
Watts are our producers and story editors. Executive producers are
Brandon Barr, Brian Lavin, and Els Crowley for School of
Humans and Conell Byrne and Chuck Bryant for iHeart Our
Field producer is Miranda Hawk. Theme and original score are

(39:07):
by Ben Sale, available wherever you get your music. Please
visit us at helengon podcast dot com or follow us
on social media. School of Humans

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Catherine Townsend

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