A Death in Texas by Dina Temple-Raston

A Death in Texas by Dina Temple-Raston

Author:Dina Temple-Raston
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: 2012-03-27T16:00:00+00:00

BILL KING WAS getting lonely. He missed Brewer. Since his arrest, King had not been allowed to communicate with his prison buddy, and that, freedom aside, was what King really wanted. He wanted to talk to his friend and see in his eyes the admiration that King didn’t get anywhere else. Brewer was the person to whom King was closest at that moment. That was part of the reason why King asked Spider, the trusty, to pass notes to Brewer.

“They are trying to say Bird [sic] was kidnapped in order to make it capital murder,” King wrote Brewer in Jasper County Jail. “But my lawyer said they have to prove that he was kiddnapped [sic] and unable to get away at any point in time. I do know that one pair of shoes they took were Shawn’s dress boots with blood on ‘em as well as his pants with blood on ’em. As far as the clothes I had on, I don’t think any blood was on my pants or sweatshirt, but I think my sandles [sic] may have had some dark brown substance on the bottom of ’em … if they don’t find us guilty of kidnapping but do find us guilty of murder, it will be a simple first-degree murder, bro. No death sentence!”

What King and Brewer could not have known was that their notes did not travel directly from one cell to another. They made a stop instead in Sheriff Billy Rowles’s office. Curtis Johnson, or Spider, didn’t feel right passing the jailhouse notes, or “kites.” He said later that what King and Brewer were accused of doing seemed beyond the pale. Johnson was a black man and saw something sinister and frightening in both King and Brewer. The accused men failed to see the irony in counting on a black man to help them pass notes to concoct a story that could help them wriggle out of a racially motivated murder. Spider took the first note to Mo Johnson, the jailer, and asked her what he should do. She asked him to meet her outside, where they could talk and not be overheard by other employees or trusties.

“Bill King and Russell Brewer were willing to use anyone if it was going to further their cause, and Spider was no different,” said the jailer. “Curtis is a good guy, really. He just got himself in some trouble and wound up at the jail. His conscience wouldn’t let him carry those notes, so he came to me.”

As long as Spider hadn’t been asked by any jail employee to bring the notes forward and had done it voluntarily, the kites could be used against King and Brewer in court. The problem was getting the notes open, peeling back the folds without tearing them, Xeroxing them, and then reassembling the folds so the pair inside would never suspect. “You have no idea how hard it was to get those notes refolded back together again,” Rowles said later. “We’d spend half an hour getting them refolded just right so they wouldn’t know they’d been intercepted.


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