Badge & Gun: March 2011

Team Effort Solves 1985 Case but

However on Sept. 7, the first Saturday after purchasing the books, Dan called me at home just as I finished reading the introduction of my first promotional book, In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. I had not even begun reading the first chapter.

 Dan had just finished talking on the phone to Thorne Dobbins, a local lawyer who had a 17-year-old client in his office. The client told Thorne about hanging around in Greenspoint Mall the past three weeks and getting involved with a professed "satanic cult" group of teenagers. 

 An Amazing Story

 This group had bragged to Thorne's client about luring one of their associates to a field where they beat, choked and stabbed him, just to watch him die. Thorne's client described how these five members of this "satanic cult" bragged about killing Dennis Keith Medler behind a cemetery at 13100 North Freeway. 

 Although we were unaware of Medler's murder, on Aug. 14, a land owner discovered an unidentified, badly decomposed body in the woods behind the Rest Haven Memorial Gardens cemetery and reported his discovery to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. 

 The lawyer said his client was at first skeptical about what the group was telling him until, around 1 a.m. Sept. 3, the youth witnessed one of the cult members slash Donald Dull's throat, push him out of his car and drive away, leaving the body in the road at 17000 Imperial Valley Drive.

 Although Thorne's client thought the victim was dead, Dull survived and was in the hospital with a police report being made of the incident. 

 The client told Thorne that after stealing Dull's car, two cult members took Thorne's client to an apartment on North Chase to show off some more of their recent handy work. 

 Inside this bloody apartment was the body of a stabbing victim, Ronald Monahan. After showing and admiring their work, they told Thorne's client it would be his turn to kill someone that night. Convinced this group enjoyed killing, the client was afraid if he refused to participate, he would likewise be killed, just like Medler was. 

 This teenaged client was now terrified and didn't know what to do. So he went to Thorne's office as soon as he could. After briefing his client about being a possible accomplice, Thorne contacted Don Stricklin of the Harris County District Attorney's Special Crimes Bureau. After listening to Thorne, Stricklin wanted Dan and I to go out to the lawyer's office and interview the client about the information being provided.

At Dan's request, I closed my book and met him downtown to drive to Thorne Dobbins' office to meet his client for the first time. After hearing about this "satanic cult" and all the alleged killings, I was extremely skeptical. However, my skepticism was short-lived when we went to the Homicide Division and saw all the police reports they pulled. 

 Earlier that Saturday morning, police had found Monahan's body in his apartment. Homicide had a robbery report where Dull's throat was slashed, just as the youth had described and the County found a badly decomposed body in the woods behind the Rest Haven Memorial Gardens cemetery. 

 It now appeared the information provided by Thorne's client was accurate and there was a lot of work that needed to be done. It looked like studying for promotion would have to wait. 

 There were several things I found troubling about the information we were receiving.

 First, the suspects were young kids who were involved in a "satanic cult" and they found it thrilling to kill other human beings. 

 Second, several members and associates of this cult went to Nimitz High School, which was the school my kids attended. Also, there were other members and associates who lived close to my neighborhood and my kids knew some of the kids hanging around with these cult members.

 Additionally, some of these kids even attended some of the local parties. Finally, the young girl involved in Medler's murder was only 16 years old, the very same age as my daughter.

Close to the Shop

 With our information being confirmed regarding at least two murders, Homicide Capt. Bobby Adams assigned Sgt. Carl S. Arrington to work with us on the investigation.  Since one murder occurred in the county, Sheriff's Detectives Max Cox and Mike Parinello were assigned the County investigation. 

 As the investigative team worked night and day, things started coming together fast and furious. We immediately began getting warrants and rounding up suspects. However, when some suspects learned of the investigation, they fled. While talking with Michael Gene Craven's mother, we learned he had fled to New Orleans and was staying with his aunt. 

 After learning this information, Steve arranged for Lt. Vince Lamia of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office to meet us at the New Orleans Airport. Vince assigned other Parish deputies to watch the aunt's house until we arrived and we could brief him on our case.

 With the assistance of several deputies from Jefferson Parish we arrested Craven on Tuesday around noon. While we were in Louisiana, Craven confessed to the murders of Keith Medler and Ronald Monahan.

 During Craven's confession he told about hiding the knife he used in Monahan's murder behind a strip center at 200 West Greens Road. I was very familiar with this strip center because it was the very location where my wife and I owned and operated a party supply store. 

 Craven said the knife would be in the weeds beside a telephone pole behind some stores.  I knew exactly what he was describing and called Dan back in Houston. I instructed Dan to go to the Party Stop on West Greens Road and Vivian, my wife, would take him through our store to the back where he could find the murder weapon. Dan went to the location Craven had described and recovered the knife. 

 Before Steve and I left for New Orleans we had already rounded up Harold Glen "Jack" Smith and John-Michael Alexander Trimmer. We turned these suspects over to the Sheriff's Department to be interrogated regarding Medler's murder. While we were on our way to New Orleans, Smith and Trimmer confessed to Harris County detectives about the murder and other assaults.

 Another juvenile involved in the brutal murder of Keith Medler was 16-year-old Martin Wayne Tosh. Tosh was Shannon's boyfriend and was living in an apartment with this group of teenagers. Tosh gave a confession regarding his part in this brutal murder and provided a lot of information to investigators regarding the other members of this cult. 

 He also agreed to testify against the co-defendants. 

  The investigative team had worked around the clock for five days and on Wednesday Sept. 11, 1985, Steve and I were on our way back to Houston with Cravey. Before leaving New Orleans, we learned the sheriff's detectives had arrested Shannon, the last of the five involved members, at her parent's home. 

 What about the Exam?

 At the time of her arrest, she was represented by attorney Jack Zimmerman and was not allowed to talk with investigators about the investigation. Not being able to talk with her about the case meant she would be prosecuted without a confession. Since she would not talk with us, we had to work extra hard gathering the necessary evidence to prosecute her for her involvement in the murder of Keith Medler. 

 So for the next several weeks we continued to work long hours putting our cases together for the district attorney's office. Harris County Assistant District Attorney John Petruzzi was in charge of the prosecution and he worked with us during our investigation. 

 However, by the time the cases were ready for trial, ADA Jim Peacock was now working with us on the prosecution of the suspects.  Peacock did an outstanding job of presenting all the evidence we gathered to the jury and all the suspects were eventually convicted.

 Also through our initial hard work Petruzzi was able to get the grand jury to certify both juveniles as adults. The certification meant the two juveniles would be prosecuted in the 185th District Court as adults along with the other three defendants. Now all five participants of Medler's murder would be held accountable for their brutal acts. 

 Anyone who has ever worked a murder investigation can attest to the long hours required to bring a case like this to a close. Even after charges are filed and the suspects are in custody, the investigators' work continues. 

 During this particular investigation there was no time for me to even pick up a promotional book. Because of my lack of commitment to studying, my friends felt I should not even bother to take the test. They constantly reminded me how other candidates had been hitting the books hard.

 I knew I should be studying but I was obsessed with bringing this investigation to a close and the investigation dominated my every thought.

 I was very fortunate to have a partner like Dan and the other investigators from the County and Jefferson Parish who worked with me. Our success was truly a team effort. 

 Even after all the defendants were arrested and charged, we worked together on all the cases. Our work brought on continuous developments daily and I still found it impossible to study for the test.   

 Now, with the promotional exam only weeks away, I finally made up my mind to study since I had spent the money for the books. Finally on Oct. 12, 1985, I put down the investigative files and picked up my books for the first time since receiving the call from Dan asking me to go with him to Thorne's office.

 Once I started, I studied almost around the clock until the day of the test. In order to do this, I took a three-week vacation. Like many other males who studied for the promotion exam, I grew a mustache while on my vacation so I could blend in with the other test takers. 

 Luckily, God smiled on me during the exam and I placed high enough to be promoted to lieutenant on Jan. 23, 1986. On this date my partners Dan McNulty and Sam Nuchia were both on hand to have their pictures taken with me at my promotion. I guess they could not believe I was actually being promoted. But it was true.

 After taking the test I returned to work and wanted a briefing on the defendants waiting for trial. It would be May 1987, before Shannon, the last defendant, was convicted.  Because of Shannon's young age and probably because of the plea agreement given to Tosh, the jury only gave her 15 years in the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC).  The jury knew Tosh had made a plea bargain agreement for 20 years in exchange for his testimony. Juries were not so kind to Smith and Craven. Both defendants received life sentences for participation in Medler's murder. Trimmer pled guilty and received a sentence of sixty years in TDC.

 Shannon and Tosh have both been released from prison. Since Tosh's release, he has had two arrests with convictions for criminal acts. It appears that Shannon may have learned from her experience since I can find no record of her arrests since her release.