Okay, and here we are. The facts:
- The book I’ve been reading is called The Devil You Know: the crime they said “could not happen here”
- It’s about the murder of Brad Maddux, a boy who was born the same year as I was, and who lived near my Hoosier relatives in Indiana, the state to my north (I live in Louisville, KY, which lies across from Indiana, separated by the Ohio River)
- Brad was twelve (as was I) when he died on March 10, 1990
- The convicted killer’s name is Doug Sims, and he was 28 years old at the time
- The man I met from the post office, who I’m going to call “Chopper Dave” (not his real name) claims that he was Doug Sims’ best friend and ardent defender when Doug was falsely accused of murder and set away for it for 29 years, until last autumn, when he was released.
Due to Chopper Dave’s interest in the case and close proximity to it (he sent me photos of where his grandparents lived in relation to the crime scene), I decided to read the book. I made this decision out of curiosity and my desire to show Chopper Dave that I cared about what he cared about. You know, solidarity against the wrongly accused, what we’ve been through in life, etc.
This is what Chopper Dave told me:
I got in too deep defending Doug after a horrible book was written about the crime he was accused of. Doug was setup and threatened with death penalty if he didn’t confess to something he didn’t do. Mom went to school with the officer who set him up. Yes, the small town has many sordid secrets.
I sorta trolled the author who wrote about it. And I trolled some of the people involved. Yeah, I went too far. I’m okay now. I like to be social at work and simple at home. If I had not been stopped by another good friend, I probably would have pushed money at Doug to get him settled. His mother is probably sitting on a healthy savings. I forced myself to keep my distance.
Please read [the non-fiction book] with an open mind. Doug has clarified many details for me. Most of the events described did not happen. The people supplying statements are covering their own tracks. The one officer involved had a long history of coerced confessions. At first I thought the song “Hazard” by Richard Marx roughly described the situation. After Doug told me his story I learned the better song/video is by Ray Stevens about a squirrel in a Mississippi church. If Doug started naming names, he would embarrass a whole bunch of people. I will find an aerial view to show my Grandparent’s proximity.
Doug was born in 1961. His family moved to Sardinia in 1966. My Grandparents moved there in 1968, I believe. My Grandparents knew everyone in the county. Doug’s Mother was a Maddux. His first cousin is Atlanta Braves pitcher, Greg Maddux.
So, Chopper Dave, the guy I knew, clearly believes in Doug’s innocence. I stayed up late last night reading the book. I’m on chapter 6, page 82. The book has gotten some poor reviews due to formatting issues. (The paragraphs aren’t even tabbed over, for one thing, nor are they separated by an extra space instead.) But the content is quite thorough and compelling.
Allow me to quote an excerpt from the book. This is (c) the author, Judith A. Yates. To set the scene, there are three boys at Doug’s trailer home late at night: Brad, Junior, and Rob. Doug, the adult, is called “Mushroom” or “Mush” as his nicknames.
Rob got up and leaned to look down the hallway. The house only had one bedroom, the last room off of the hall. Rob saw Brad handcuffed to a leg of the bed. This is when “fight, flight, or freeze” really kicked in and punched Rob in the stomach. He sat down and looked at his friend. “He’s handcuffed to the bed,” he whispered to Junior.
Junior became so nervous he had to go to the bathroom. He wandered down the hallway, closed the door behind him, and as he stood there relieving himself, his mind raced and he ran his tongue over his teeth. “What,” he asked himself, “are we gonna do?” He watched the bathroom door nervously. “What if Mush breaks in here?” He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He saw a kid, a little boy, who had no other place to go. Junior stood barely over 5’3″ and did not weigh near eighty pounds. Mush was a giant compared to his stature. A grown man controlled them all, and the morning seemed far away. His very best friend, more like a brother than anything else, sat handcuffed to a heavy piece of furniture. When he exited the small bathroom, he glanced into the bedroom, where Brad was still handcuffed. Brad sat leaning back against the wall with a huge grin on his face, and Brad waved to him. Junior, feeling numb, slid back into his seat in the living room and took a long drink of his beer. He looked at Rob. “He’s handcuffed to the bed!” he whispered unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, Mush kept taking alcohol to Brad.
Rob’s face was pasty, and he looked suddenly very small. “Shhhiit,” he whispered.
I don’t think I need to read anymore to know that Doud Sims is guilty. But anyway, after that, Rob and Junior successfully conspired to break out with Brad in tow. Later that night, Brad wanted to go back and hang out with Mush some more, for the sake of coolness, and Rob and Junior begged him not to. “He’s a pedophile! Stay away from him.”
“He is not! He’s my cousin. He’s not like that.” (These aren’t word-for-word quotes.)
They finally convinced Brad not to go, but Brad insisted on walking over to Doug’s truck to explain to him why he’d be staying with his friends. Meanwhile, drunk as all get-out, Rob and Junior fell sound asleep in the tent they were camping out in. Brad never return from the truck.
God bless Rob and Junior. I can’t imagine. It’s unthinkable.
So, I find this very strange. I believed Chopper Dave when he told me his best friend was innocent. He made it sound like this: “Doug and I grew up together. He had nothing to do with Brad’s death. Small-town secrets have falsely conspired to make him look good for it.”
And I sensed, even though I ignored it (because who listens to their intuition, am I right?) that Chopper Dave had a mini-freakout when I told him I was going to read the book. Now, in retrospect, that makes sense. Freaky, scary sense. He knew I’d draw the only viable conclusion. Any relationship I could have with Chopper Dave was doomed from the start. The man must be deluded times a million. That… or he enjoys playing the victim while hoping no one will look too close at the details of his victimhood. Hard to know. But I would just say that if you want to be a victim because your best friend got convicted of a horrible crime, maybe keep the actual victims at the forefront of your mind. Bradley Maddux was a good boy. He refused to accept that his cousin was dark-hearted. It’s tragic and heartbreaking.
I haven’t even gotten to the chapters about how Doug sexually tortures Brad for hours before nearly decapitating him. I suspect I’ll be peeved that he’s out of prison now once I read that far. [Shakes head and rolls eyes.] He did his time, I guess, but still… Geez. This is so senseless. What would Chopper Dave have me believe, that those preteens made all that stuff up? Uh-huh.
Can anyone say I dodged a bullet with Chopper Dave? I’m sort of… appalled and confused by my inability to be a better judge of character than I was. This book has been eye-opening.