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April’s Story

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Chapter 1 April St. John, the manager of the Chamber of Commerce in the small tourist town of Hamlet, in Combe County, Arkansas, which sits at an elevation of nine hundred one hundred feet, located in the Ouachita Mountains.

April is 30-years-old, single, a college graduate, naturalist, full of life, five foot eight, great figure and darned pretty; loves to hike and is interested in everyone she meets, a real people person. She truly loves her job and to top it off, she even has two eligible suitors that are very much interested, in-tow. Her best friend is Jan-Eliot Stone, they share many interests, and Jan is married to Leroy ’Lee’ Stone, the town Chief of police. In April’s view she rents a perfect 1950’s five-hundred fifty square foot warm and cozy log cabin with wood floors, area rugs, an open sided covered front porch facing the lake, with of course, a two-person swing hanging from the rafters in front of the window, a unique wood stove inside for added winter heating.

Her cabin is located in the woods about one mile from town. It is eighty feet from the twenty-five-hundred-acre Bounty Lake; she loves the surrounding pine and oak trees, especially. They are beautiful and colorful, providing serenity, shade and are beautiful in the spring and summer and very colorful in the fall. Although she could do without the sap and debris that falls on her Mini-Cooper, of which she affectionately refers to as “Bug”, and yes, no carport; so, when the winds from the southwest blows or the season changes, she experiences all of the above. She loves her discoveries and ventures trekking along the shoreline as often as time permits, some of it with undesirable obstacles affecting her walks. But, then again, some have unique shapes to them. Her cabin is located about eight feet above the lake shoreline. Just about everyone in town knows of her; understandably of course, her name being in the paper almost weekly, touting for all, the draw of Hamlet and Lake Bounty. According to the last census, there are six thousand four hundred full time residents and many are week-enders; although, the campgrounds and rentals do swell by another fifteen hundred plus on holidays. An only child, April was born in Nova Scotia; her father was from England and her mother born in Scotland. They met at Mount Saint Vincent University in their third year, and three years later, they welcomed their daughter. Her father passed away when April was thirteen after a battle with stomach cancer, and her mother had a heart attack when April was nineteen. April met Jan Eliot in their first year at college and they became fast friends. Three years later, Jan met her future husband Leroy Stone, on a blind date, they married one year later. April, of course, was the maid of honor.

Lee majored in police science at the university and was offered a job at the Hamlet Sheriff’s office via a classmate when he graduated. His friend who was raised in Hamlet felt Lee was the perfect candidate and two years later he became chief of police at the young age of 35. Of course, Jan did her best to get April to move to the town when the Chamber job was advertised. She pulled every string possible to get April the position as the head of the Chamber of Commerce and she succeeded. Chapter 2 On Monday morning, April did not show up for work, Alarmed, her co-workers checked her home; nobody was there, a few lights were on, soft music playing on her radio, and it appeared that nothing appeared disturbed initially. Jan, who had been notified, immediately called Lee; she was beside herself emotionally. Lee immediately put out an alert concerning the disappearance, but then again, the thought was perhaps ‘she just went somewhere with someone’, which would have been very unusual as April lives a very structured life. If she had gone somewhere, she would have taken her purse and she would have let Jan know about it. The panic set in and word quickly spread that April St. John had disappeared. Lee established a command post by her cabin and the search began in earnest. Sadly, Monday evening about 7:00 p.m., the alarm was sounded. April’s body was found floating face down in the lake by two brothers who were local fishermen out in their skiff, about 300 feet off shore and about a half mile downwind from her cabin. The fisherman brothers Carl and Ube Nysether, immediately pulled her on board and headed for shore knowing that law enforcement was at the cabin. Upon closer examination, but not a thorough autopsy, it was obvious that she had many abrasions and cuts, along with a large hematoma down her side and gash on the back of her head. Her right forearm was broken, and her blouse was partially torn open, her nose was broken, she had no shoes on and her feet were bruised as though she had been walking on rocks. Chief Lee Stone was already trying to figure out the exact location where she was murdered. There was no evidence of a struggle at the cabin, although, when Jan entered, she immediately noted April’s purse on the kitchen table, of which was partially open, her wallet open and there was no money in it; also, no credit cards either. She always had a hundred dollars or so in it, especially on a weekend.

The medical examiner stated that the time of death was late Sunday afternoon. By Tuesday, the town was abuzz when it was reported that two local 17–18-year-old male teenagers had threatened her in front of others when she would not let them use their skateboards

in the Chamber of Commerce parking lot. They both had harassed her and threatened her, mocking her whenever the opportunity arose. ‘You’ll pay for not letting us skate and we're coming for you!’ one of the boys stated. On Tuesday morning, it was reported that April had been raped and beaten, thus now, the finger pointing at the two boys. The boys, Thomas “TD” Daniels and Richard Howard Jr., had no alibi as they had gone camping on Saturday night by themselves. When they were confronted by the Chief, both boys refused to answer the Police Chief’s questions; largely, because one of the boy’s father was a well-known high powered defense attorney by the name of Richard Howard Sr. who told the chief to back off when he came to question his son and told the chief if he knew what was good for his job. Mr. Howard. was known for intimidating those he questioned on the stand, and getting them to say just what he wanted the jury to hear, and no more. Now among other things, the local weekly Hamlet Voice newspaper editor, Graham Taylor, published a false headline, that stated that a drifter was the prime suspect and now was nowhere to be found. This caused more panic in town; further, it was reported that the drifter was a homeless person who had approached April when he was denied the use of the community public bathroom at the chamber facility and was, in fact, staying at a campsite less than a quarter of a mile away from her cabin. To top it off, he was seen in the cabin vicinity early that Sunday morning by a passerby. Chapter 3 Even in this early stage of the investigation, the county prosecutor told the chief that he already had a prime suspect in mind, but would not share who it was. For the present, the chief had other things on his mind and was trying to figure out the exact location where she was murdered. He headed over to check her cabin for latent prints. As it turned out by 7:00 p.m. Tuesday evening,the prints taken from April’s cabin provided five different sets of finger and hand prints, plus April’s. The FBI’s incredible database matching prints did not take long to provide the prints to one of April’s suitors named Douglas Howell. Records showed that he had been arrested for aggravated assault three years earlier on an ex-girlfriend in Candler a few towns away. To further muddy the water, one set of the prints matched the other suitor by the name of Troy Meadows as as well as those of one of the teenage boys by the name of Thomas “TD” Daniels. The other teenager’s prints were not on any records. Also, there were the prints of Jan-Eliot Stone and one of April’s co-workers named Stephany Allen. Her prints were also found at the cabin, although she had never been there before; it was quickly determined that she left them when they were looking for April. As to Troy’s prints, he had been in the military service for three years; thus, his prints were catalogued. One of the teenage boys did, in fact, go into her home, most likely that specific Sunday, according to the local newspaper. Early Wednesday afternoon, one of the TV networks showed up with one of their key reporters as well as the remote broadcasting truck for going live and began interviewing everyone they could stop, asking them questions and feeding the frenzy of fear with the town’s people. Of course, by now, it was reported that this appeared to be the work of a serial rapist. Now the vigilante talk started which was just what the Chief did not need now. The state police showed up mid-afternoon Wednesday and announced that they were taking the lead in the case; this certainly did not go over well with Chief Stone, but then again, he realized he needed all the help he could gather. The State police told him that they reasoned the attempted rape in next town over called Silver, was a signal that perhaps this was going to get really bad, and fast. The final blow that brought them in, was that the word was, a local teenage girl has disappeared after attending a party on Saturday night and is acquainted with one of the teenage boy’s named Thomas “TD” Daniels from Hamlet; she still had not shown up at home. Late Wednesday, the State police requested the search and rescue dive team to thoroughly search the lake. In the words of the local paper, they reported that it appears the lake could be a dumping ground for the bodies of those attacked by the serial rapist. Chapter 4 Two months earlier, an 18-year-old was physically assaulted in a neighboring town, but she was unable to identify the assailant, as he grabbed her from behind and placed a hood over her head, cupping her mouth with his hand, warning her he would kill her if she resisted. Fortunately, he had failed to penetrate her, as she fought him off. Finally, he pulled off her hood and took off running. Interestingly, although she gave a vague description, Chief Stone thought it resembles one of April's suitors? One month earlier, about 25 miles away in Centerville, an assault and rape of a twenty-one-year-old dental assistant had occurred. Opening a thorough investigation, prints on the back door knob of the cabin, later matched those of one Charles Turlock, released from prison three year earlier, after spending seven years in prison for statutory rape of a minor and another charge for assault and battery. His present location is unknown. Currently there was an out-standing arrest warrant for him for violating his parole, due to him never signing up and simply disappearing. The FBI supplied an older picture of the suspect, no one recognized him, nor had any idea who he was. His prints were also found on April’s car door handle. The teenagers’ names were Thomas Daniels, who went by “TD” and Richard Howard Jr. Daniels had a half dozen run-ins with the law beginning when he was thirteen, escalating to armed robbery when he was 15. He got off by the cunning lawyer Richard Howard, Sr. TD had been arrested for grand theft, shoplifting, auto theft, residential burglary, assault and in the end, he got 4 yrs. probation which would end when he turned nineteen. Presently he was eighteen and five months. When the trial ended, the prosecuting attorney Dale Marvin let it be known that ‘This one is a really bad apple, and likely more to come from his future actions’. Chapter 5 On Tuesday, by chance, a local shared that he was walking the lakeshore trail and up came the wind from the southwest so strong a tree branch broke off and he was almost knocked to the ground very close to the dangerous outcropping, Lee initially ignored the story, but kept it in mind for he was looking for a murderer and not that of a little windstorm. On Wednesday, Lee gathered volunteers to begin a search of the hiking trail around the lake. April usually walked about two miles roundtrip. They had no luck the first day, but the second they were also looking for damaged branches, or signs of a struggle, etc. In the late afternoon on the second day, one of the searchers thought that maybe they were looking in the wrong place. Perhaps she did her walk and went somewhere else; Lee said it was a possibility, but her purse, car and keys were at the cabin. When the Chief called for volunteers, an old-timer named Skeeter, in his mid-eighties and was a local legend who shared many a story. His given name was Stephen Albright. How he became Skeeter was a mystery in itself. He told an old story about a wind storm that blew some tourists into the rocks. A member of the group of volunteers by the name of Chet O’Brian asked if he could check out the area. The chief obliged and off went Chet immediately on the hunt in the area. Sure enough, after about a half-hour, he discovered a single women's white sandal wedged in the rocks a few feet from shore in the outcropping; continuing on further, he scoured the area thoroughly and after going back and forth on the rock outcropping before and after on both sides of the hiking trail he came across a cell phone in a pool of water in the rocks. Nobody had thought of pinging April’s phone as they already had the body. The phone was damaged and not working, considering the water thoroughly soaked it. Upon further looking, he saw the glint of a metal reflection in the rocks, it was a gold necklace. Had the sun not been in the present position, it is likely that the jewelry would not have been found. Although, at this point, he had no idea that any of this was April’s. He reported his findings to the Chief and the search became very detailed. Lee called Jan to bring her up to date, and as soon as Jan heard of the gold necklace, she knew it was April’s, as she had gifted it to April. About a quarter of a mile further down the trail Chet was looking out over a rock outcropping into the lake when he lost his balance; as he looked up, he noticed that a large limb about 5 inches in diameter and about six feet long had broken off and was floating just beyond the rocks. It would have totally floated away or sank had it not been snagged in the rocks. He started to continue his search, doubling back and he noticed something about 50 feet away. It was an orange and yellow scarf caught on a nearby floating branch caught in the rocks; the scarf had traces of possible blood on it. The alert to Lee was immediate and the chief quickly met up with Chet. It was then that Lee realized that perhaps April had lost balance when walking the trail and the wind had likely come up swiftly and she fell backwards onto the rock outcroppings. Sure enough, upon further analysis, the limb did in fact have traces of blood, the lab results showed that this was her bloodtype which was AB. Chapter 6 By Saturday, the coroner’s official autopsy was completed and the results showed that April had most likely been slammed by the falling broken six-foot tree limb; in all likelihood she fell backward and her head hit the rocks, also breaking her arm and receiving a terrible gash on the top and back of her head. The massive hematoma on her torso was the clencher due to its location, obviously from the limb strike and in combination with the outcropping of jagged rocks. Any further injuries such as the broken nose, abrasions and scraped feet were the result of floating and bumping into lake debris. There was no evidence whatsoever that she was raped nor was she physically assaulted. As to the teenagers, one of them, after intense questioning, realized that they might go after him for some other crimes committed by TD. Richard Howard Jr. finally confessed that they had entered her cabin and stolen money and a credit card, but nothing else. He did share that they threw away the credit card in a bush and did follow April for a short distance on the trail and then decided that if she saw them, she would know that they were the ones who had entered her home and stolen items from her purse. An hour later the prosecuting attorney called the chief and asked to listen in on some more questioning; this time inviting Richard Howard Sr. to sit in. The father said no, and then immediately relented, as he himself felt that there was more going on than a simple break-in and threats to April. Richard Jr. was brought into the room and the prosecutor began asking questions. After about ten minutes and no callout from his father, Howard Jr. was questioned about the two assault cases in nearby towns. Howard Jr. immediately stiffened and looked at his father for direction, there was none. The prosecutor then zeroed in about the rape of the dental assistant in nearby Centerville, before a few seconds passed he blurted out that he had nothing to do with it and that it was “TD’s game”. Upon more specific questioning he told the prosecutor that TD like to see the girls fight and squirm when he raped them; further he said that TD even wrote notes about the different girls he had raped or assaulted. While this interrogation was going on, Howard Sr. said nothing and was visibly disgusted with his son and TD. Later that evening and after obtaining a search warrant of TD’s parents’ home, they found a ski mask which later matched the DNA of Tia Van Camp in Centerville. Also, in a drawer were over a dozen notes he had written about the women he had raped and how he enjoyed their inability to fight back and he enjoyed seeing the weakness in his victims. Later that afternoon, TD was brought in for more questioning about April and her disappearance. He told them that ‘so what, we checked out the commerce lady’s cabin, so what?’ The prosecutor then asked him how often he visited the nearby towns and then flatly pointed his finger at him and accused him of the rape of the dental assistant. He, of course, immediately denied it, saying, ‘I have not been in Centerville for over a year’. At this point he stopped talking and informed all that he wanted a lawyer, now! The prosecutor then smiled and suggested he provide a DNA sample; of course, he told them that he did not have to. Unbeknownst to TD, his was already in- hand and his mouth dropped when he was informed that when he was incarcerated, they collected a sample, as they do for all prisoners. He was then told his matched the collected evidence from the hospital when they performed the rape examination in Centerville. ‘For what it’s worth’, the prosecutor told him, ‘You were over eighteen when you raped this lady, you will be found guilty of first-degree aggravated assault and rape, and you will spend the next twenty- five years behind bars’ and then he turned and walked out. An FYI, Dale Marvin, the prosecutor, had earlier requested evidence confirmation of something he was sure of; he was certain TD was the person that raped Tia Van Camp months earlier. Chapter 7 Thomas Daniels was bound over for trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape of Tia Van Camp. Prosecutor Dale Marvin filed every possible charge he could against TD regarding April St. John was certain that Daniels would be in prison for many years to come. He also was planning on contacting those victims’ whose names were found at Daniels home, seeking additional charges against Thomas Daniels in the Superior Court of the various affected jurisdictions. As to Richard Howard Jr., he was charged as a juvenile with regard to the burglary of April St. John’s cabin. As he had provided the vital information with regard to the lawlessness of ThomasDaniels, the juvenile court sentenced Richard Howard three years’ probation, he heartfully told the court of his appreciation in the verdict. Now he had to deal with the wrath of his father. On Saturday, Charles Turlock was found hiding in a cabin, a neighboring cabin owner had noticed activity in the early evening. He saw a long-haired bearded man and knew the owners were not in town. He called 911 and the chief immediately drove to the cabin and arrested him. The charges were breaking and entering, as he had forced in the back door. Small wonder no one recognized the FBI picture, as he now sported a full bushy beard and very long unkempt hair and filthy clothing. Charles Turlock the homeless man had been in April’s cabin as she did not usually lock the back door that led to the laundry and into the kitchen unless on a trip. His prints were lifted off of the back door knob and the refrigerator. He told the chief that he knew that April, the owner, had gone out for her walk a half hour earlier; he then saw the two teenagers going in and coming out of her cabin and down the trail she had taken at about 1:30 early Sunday afternoon. The homeless Charles Turlock had her stolen credit card, it was found in his possession when he was arrested, he stated that he found it when the teenagers threw it in the bushes when they came out of April's cabin. Upon reviewing Turlock’s arrest records, it stated that ‘he also had a psychotic fear of incarceration’. He was held over for trial on burglary and trespass charges of April’s cabin. The next afternoon a US Marshal officer arrived with the necessary transfer of custody paperwork and took Charles Turlock into custody the next morning. He would be returning to the Hamlet Superior Court for trial when he finished his prior sentence and that as of now the time added for violation of parole. The girl, Gloria Sanders, that disappeared after attending the Saturday night party a few towns away had a fight with her parents and was a run-away. She came back home on Tuesday after she heard the police were looking for her. She had stayed at a friend’s parents weekend retreat with her new boyfriend just a few miles away.

As to the suitor, Douglas Howell, he left town a few weeks later; his destination unknown. In all fairness, April was aware of his run-in with the law regarding the alleged assault on his ex-girlfriend, which she shared with Jan earlier. He explained to April that the assault was mutually caused by both parties, she was angry that he wanted to break up, he was angry that she did not understand; unfortunately, at the time both of them had a few too many drinks, which led to the physical assault between both participants. Troy Meadows remained in town, continuing as the co-owner and broker at Bounty Lake Insurance Services, as he really liked the town's atmosphere. He had moved to Hamlet eight years ago. His reputation is that of an honest and forthright person. He is profoundly saddened at the loss of April, as she had gleefully accepted his proposal of marriage two days earlier. They had planned to go ring shopping and celebrate the next weekend in Little Rock. April excitedly shared the good news last Saturday with Jan.

Case closed.

Video By : Video by Taryn Elliott:

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