12 - یکی از ما

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12 - یکی از ما

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Chapter 12

One of Our Own

Judson Ray is one of the living legends at Quantico. He very nearly wasn’t. In February of 1982, while he was working ATKID as a special agent in the Atlanta Field Office, his wife tried to have him killed.

We first became aware of each other, though we didn’t meet, during the “Forces of Evil” case in early 1978. A serial killer dubbed the “Stocking Strangler” had assaulted six elderly women in Columbus, Georgia, after breaking into their homes, strangling each of them with their own nylon stockings. All of the victims were white, and forensic evidence the medical examiner found on some of the bodies suggested the strangler was black.

Then the chief of police received an alarming letter, written on U.S. Army stationery, claiming to be from a group of seven people calling itself the Forces of Evil. The letter made mention of the belief that the Stocking Strangler was black and threatened to kill a black woman in retaliation if he was not caught by June 1, or “1 June,” as the writer or writers stated it. They claimed already to have abducted a woman named Gail Jackson. If the “S-Strangler” was not caught by “1 Sept,” “the victims will double.” The letter suggested that the military stationery had been stolen and that the group originated in Chicago.

This development represented everyone’s worst nightmare. A brutal killer stalking Columbus was horrible enough. An organized and murderous vigilante reaction to it could tear the community apart.

Other letters followed, upping the ante with a further demand for a $10,000 ransom, as the police searched frantically but without success for any of these seven white men. Gail Jackson was a prostitute, well known around the bars that serviced Fort Benning. And she was indeed missing.

Jud Ray was a shift commander in the Columbus Police Department. As an Army Vietnam veteran and a black police officer who had worked his way up through the ranks, he was acutely aware that the community would not heal until these twin threats of the Stocking Strangler and the Forces of Evil organization were neutralized. With no progress in the investigation despite all the time and effort that had gone into it, his cop instincts told him they had to be looking for the wrong people in the wrong way. He tried to keep up on law enforcement developments around the country and had heard about the profiling program in Quantico. He suggested that the department contact the Behavioral Science Unit and see what we made of the case.

On March 31, we were asked through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to analyze the case. Despite what the original letter had stated, we were all pretty sure the connection to the Army and Fort Benning was not a casual one. Bob Ressler, who had been a military policeman before he joined the Bureau, took the lead.

Within three days we had returned our report. We felt there was no evidence this self-styled Forces of Evil was composed of seven white men. In fact, we didn’t believe it was composed of any white men. It would be a lone black male, trying to divert attention away from himself and the fact that he had already murdered Gail Jackson. From his military usage of dates (e.g., “1 June”) and his reference to meters rather than feet or yards, it was clear he was in the military. The letters were almost illiterate, ruling out an officer, who would have had a better education. From his own experience, Bob felt he would likely be either an artilleryman or a military policeman, twenty-five to thirty years of age. He would already have killed two other women, probably also prostitutes—that’s what his reference to “the victims will double” was all about—and we thought there was some chance he might be the Stocking Strangler as well.

When our profile was circulated around Fort Benning and the bars and nightclubs the victim was known to frequent, the Army and Columbus police quickly came up with the name of William H. Hance, a black, twenty-six-year-old specialist four assigned to an artillery unit at the fort. He confessed to the murders of Gail Jackson, Irene Thirkield, and another woman, an Army private named Karen Hickman, at Fort Benning the previous fall. He admitted that he had made up the Forces of Evil to throw police off his track.

The actual Stocking Strangler was identified from a photograph by a witness at one of the scenes as Carlton Gary, a twenty-seven-year-old black man who was born and raised in Columbus. He was captured after a series of restaurant holdups, but escaped, and was not recaptured until May 1984. Both Hance and Gary were convicted and sentenced to die for their crimes.

After the community settled back to normal, Jud Ray took a leave of absence to run a program at the University of Georgia that recruited minorities and women into law enforcement careers. Once this project was over, he planned to go back to police work. But with his military and investigative background, not to mention the fact that he was black and at this time the Bureau desperately needed to establish itself as an equal-opportunity employer, he accepted an offer from the FBI. I first met him casually when he was at Quantico for new-agent training. He was then assigned to the Atlanta Field Office, where his experience and knowledge of the local area and people was considered a tremendous asset.

We next met late in 1981 when I was down in Atlanta for ATKID. Like everyone else in the field office, Jud was deeply involved in the investigation. Each agent was part of a team working five ATKID cases, and Jud was working an intense schedule.

He was also under tremendous pressure from another source. His marriage, shaky for some time, was breaking up. His wife had been drinking heavily, verbally abusing him, acting erratically. “I didn’t even know this woman anymore,” he said. Finally, one Sunday evening, he’d given her an ultimatum: either she had to change her ways and get help or he was going to take their two daughters—ages eighteen months and eight years—and leave.

Much to his surprise, Jud did begin seeing positive signs. She became more attentive to him and the girls. “I saw an abrupt change in her personality. She quit boozing,” he recalled. “She started doting over me. For the first time in thirteen years of marriage, she got up in the morning to make me breakfast. Suddenly, she’d become all the things I wanted her to be.” But then he added, “I should have known this was too good to be true. And that’s something I would lecture to police afterward. If your spouse suddenly shows you a radical change of behavior—negatively or positively—you ought to be suspicious right away.”

What was happening was that Jud’s wife had already decided to have him killed and was buying time until she could make the arrangements. If she pulled it off successfully, she would be able to avoid the trauma and humiliation of an ugly divorce, keep the two kids herself, and collect on a quarter-million-dollar life insurance policy. Far better to be the grieving and well-off widow of a murdered law officer than a divorced woman alone in the world.

Unbeknownst to Jud, two men had been watching his moves and habits for several days. They waited outside his apartment building in the morning and followed him on I-20 into Atlanta every day. They were looking for the opportunity to get him defenseless, so the hit could be accomplished efficiently and a getaway made without witnesses.

But they quickly realized they had a problem. Jud had been a law officer long enough that the first rule a cop learns was instinctive to him: keep your gun hand free. No matter where the two would-be shooters tracked him, he always seemed to have his right hand ready to go for his gun.

They went back to Mrs. Ray and told her the problem. They wanted to take him out in the parking lot outside the apartment, but Jud would be able to get to at least one of them before they could finish him off. She had to do something about that free right hand.

Not letting a detail like this stand in her way, she got a travel coffee cup and suggested Jud take it to work with him every morning. “For thirteen years, she never made me or the girls breakfast, and now she was trying to get me to take that damn coffee cup with me.” But he resisted. After all these years, he just couldn’t get used to the idea of driving with his left hand on the wheel and his right hand occupied with a coffee cup. This was in the days before cup holders were commonplace in cars. Had they been, this story might have had a completely different outcome.

The gunmen came back to Mrs. Ray. “We can’t take him in the parking lot,” one of them reported. “We’ve got to take him inside.”

So the hit was scheduled for early February. Mrs. Ray had taken the two girls out for the evening and Jud was home alone. The shooters come to the building, down the hall, and up to the apartment door, where they ring the bell. The only problem is, they have the wrong apartment number. When a white man comes to the door, the two guys ask where the black man is who lives there. Innocently, he tells them they have the wrong apartment. Mr. Ray lives over there.

But now the shooters have been seen by this neighbor. If there’s a hit tonight, there’s no way he’s not going to remember two black men asking where Jud Ray lives when the police question him. So they leave.

Later, Mrs. Ray comes back home assuming the job’s been done. Hesitantly, she looks around, then crawls into the bedroom, mentally preparing for the 911 call she’s going to make, saying something terrible has happened to her husband.

She gets to the bedroom and sees Jud lying there on the bed. She’s still creeping around. He turns over and says, “What the hell are you doing?” whereupon she freaks out and runs to the bathroom.

But in the following days her good behavior continues and Jud thinks she’s really turned around. As naive as he thinks this was in retrospect, after many rocky years in a relationship, there is such an overwhelming desire to believe things truly have gotten better.

It’s two weeks later—February 21, 1981. Jud is now working the murder of Patrick Baltazar. It’s potentially a big break in the ATKID investigation because hair and fiber found on the twelve-year-old’s body appear to match specimens found on previous victims of the child killer.

That night, Jud’s wife makes him an Italian dinner. What he doesn’t know is that she’s heavily laced the spaghetti sauce with phenobarbital. As planned, she takes the two girls with her and goes to visit her aunt.

Later on, Jud’s home alone in the bedroom. He thinks he hears something coming from the front of the apartment. The light in the hallway changes, goes dim. Someone’s unscrewed the lightbulb in his older daughter’s bedroom. Then he hears muffled voices down the hall. What’s happened is that the first shooter’s lost his nerve. The two of them are discussing what to do now. He doesn’t know how they’ve gotten in, but it doesn’t matter at the moment. They’re here.

“Who is it?” Jud calls out.

Suddenly, a shot rips out, but it misses him. Jud dives for the floor, but a second bullet hits him in the left arm. It’s still dark. He’s trying to hide behind the king-size bed.

“Who is this?” he calls out. “What do you want?”

A third shot hits the bed, close to him. In his mind, he’s going through this intuitive survival drill, trying to figure out what kind of gun it is. If it’s a Smith & Wesson, they’ve got three shots left. If it’s a Colt, they’ve only got two.

“Hey, man!” he yells. “What’s wrong? Why’re you trying to kill me? Take what you want and get out. I haven’t seen you. Just don’t kill me.”

There’s no reply. But now Jud can see him, silhouetted against the moonlight.

You’re going to die tonight, Jud acknowledges to himself. No way you’re going to get out of this. But you know what it’s like. You don’t want detectives walking in here tomorrow and saying, “This poor bastard, never put up a fight. He just let them come in and execute him.” Jud resolves that when the detectives see the scene, they’re going to know he fucking fought this guy.

The first thing he’s got to do is get to his gun, which is on the floor on the other side of the bed. But a king-size bed represents a lot of real estate to cover when there’s someone trying to kill you.

Then he hears, “Don’t move, you motherfucker!”

In the darkness, he climbs back up and begins inching toward the edge of the bed and his gun.

He gets closer, agonizingly slowly, but he needs more leverage to make the final move effectively.

When he’s got all four fingers gripping the edge, he whirls off onto the floor, but lands with his right hand under his chest. And since he’s been shot in his left arm, he doesn’t have enough power in his left hand to reach for the gun.

Just then, the shooter jumps on the bed. He shoots Jud at point-blank range.

He feels as if he’s just been kicked by a mule. Something inside him seems to collapse on itself. He doesn’t know the technical details at the time, but the bullet has gone through his back, knocked out his right lung, penetrated the third intercostal space between his ribs, and ripped out the front of his chest into his right hand, which he’s still lying on.

The shooter jumps down off the bed, stands over him, feels his pulse. “There, you motherfucker!” he declares, and walks out.

Jud’s in shock. He’s lying on the floor hyperventilating. He doesn’t know where he is or what’s happening to him.

Then he realizes, he must be back in combat in Vietnam. He can smell the smoke, see the muzzle blasts. But he can’t breathe. He thinks, “Maybe I’m not really in Nam. Maybe I’m just dreaming I am. But if I’m dreaming, why is it so hard to breathe?”

He struggles to get up. He staggers over to the television and turns it on. Maybe that’ll tell him if he’s dreaming. Johnny Carson and the Tonight show come on. He reaches out and touches the screen, trying to tell if it’s real, leaving a streak of wet blood across the glass.

He needs to get some water. He makes his way to the bathroom, turns on the tap, and tries to cup the water in his hand. That’s when he sees the bullet embedded in his right hand and the blood streaming from his chest. Now he knows what’s happened to him. He goes back out into the bedroom, lies down at the foot of the bed, and waits to die.

But he’s been a cop too long. He can’t let himself go this quietly. When the detectives come the next day, they’ve got to see that he struggled. He gets up again, makes his way to the phone, and dials O. When the operator comes on, he gasps for air, tells her that he’s an FBI agent and that he’s been shot. Immediately, she puts him through to the DeKalb County Police Department.

A young female officer comes on the line. Jud tells her that he’s FBI and he’s been shot. But he can barely get the words out. He’s been drugged, he’s lost a lot of blood, his speech is slurred.

“What do you mean, you’re FBI?” she challenges. Jud hears her yell to her sergeant that there’s some drunk on the line claiming he’s with the FBI. What does the sergeant want her to do? The sergeant tells her she can hang up.

Then the operator breaks in, telling them he’s for real and that they’ve got to send emergency help immediately. She won’t let them off until they agree.

“That operator saved my life,” Jud told me later.

He passed out when she broke in and didn’t regain consciousness until the emergency medical team was putting the oxygen mask over his face. “Don’t prepare him for shock,” he hears the team leader say. “He’s not going to make it.”

But they take him to DeKalb General Hospital, where there’s a thoracic surgeon on duty. And as he’s lying there on the gurney in the emergency room, as the doctors frantically try to save his life, he knows.

With the clarity that comes from a close encounter with death, he’s saying to himself, “This isn’t a reprisal. I’ve put a lot of people in jail, but they couldn’t get that close. The only person who could get that close to me is someone that I trusted implicitly.” When he comes out of surgery and is taken to the intensive care unit, the Atlanta SAC, John Glover, is there. Glover has been bearing the weight of ATKID for months, and now this. Like the dead children and like Jud, Glover is also black, one of the highest-ranking blacks in the Bureau. He feels enormously for Jud.

“Find my wife,” Jud whispers to him. “Make her tell you what happened.”

Glover thinks Jud’s still delirious, but the doctor says no—he’s conscious and alert.

Jud spends twenty-one days in the hospital, his hospital room under armed guard since no one knows who these shooters are or whether they’re coming back to finish him off. Meanwhile, his case is going nowhere. His wife expresses shock and dismay over what happened and thanks God he wasn’t killed. If only she’d been there that night.

In the office, a team of agents are tracking down leads. Jud’s been a cop for a long time. He could have a lot of enemies. Once it’s clear he’s going to recover, the question is phrased in a lighter vein, in terms of the popular TV series Dallas: “Who shot J.R.?” It’s a couple of months before he can get his routine back to normal. He finally tackles the stack of bills that have been piling up since the attack. He moans as he faces a Southern Bell telephone bill for more than $300. But as he starts going through it, he begins putting the case together in his mind.

The next day, he comes into the office and says he thinks this phone bill is the key. As the victim, he’s not supposed to be working his own case, but his colleagues listen.

Listed on the bill are a bunch of calls back to Columbus. From the phone company, they get the name and address that go with the number. Jud doesn’t even know this guy. So he and several other agents get in the car and drive the hundred miles down to Columbus. Their destination is the home of a preacher, who, Jud decides, is actually more of a snake oil salesman.

The FBI agents lean on him, but he denies having anything to do with the attempted murder. The agents aren’t going to let him off easily. This is one of our own, they tell him, and we’re going to get the person or persons who did this.

Then the story begins to emerge. This preacher is known around Columbus as a man who can “get things done.” Mrs. Ray had approached him to do the job back in October, but he says he told her he wouldn’t do it.

She answers that she’ll find someone who will and asks to use the phone, saying she’ll pay him back for the long-distance calls. The preacher tells the agents she called back to an old neighbor in Atlanta who’d been in the Army in Vietnam the same time as Jud and knew his way around a gun. She tells him, “We’ve got to get this thing done!” And to top it all off, the preacher claims, “Mrs. Ray stiffed me for the phone calls.”

The agents get in the car and drive back to Atlanta, where they confront the former neighbor. Under grilling, he admits Mrs. Ray asked him about a contract killing, but he swears he had no idea it was Jud she was trying to get.

Anyway, he says he told her he didn’t know anybody who did that sort of thing and put her in touch with his brother-in-law, who might. The brother-in-law, in turn, introduces her to another guy, who agrees to take on the job and hires two other men to be the shooters.

Mrs. Ray, the former neighbor’s brother-in-law, the man who took the contract, and the two shooters are all indicted. The former neighbor is named an unindicted coconspirator. The five charged are found guilty of attempted murder, conspiracy, and burglary. They each get a ten-year sentence, the most the judge can give them.

I would see Jud from time to time in relation to ATKID. Before long, he began seeking me out. Since I wasn’t one of his colleagues in the office but knew what the stress of the job was all about and could understand what he’d been through and continued to go through, I guess he felt he could talk to me. In addition to all the other feelings that go with such a thing, he told me he found the public airing of his domestic situation very painful and embarrassing.

With all Jud suffered, the Bureau wanted to do whatever was best for him and thought that transferring him to another field office far from Atlanta would help him recover. But after talking with Jud and sharing his feelings, I didn’t think so. I thought he should stay where he was for a while.

I went in and spoke to John Glover, the SAC in Atlanta. I said, “If you transfer him, you’re eliminating the support system he has right here in this office. He needs to stay here. Let him spend a year getting his children settled again and close to the aunt who helped raise him.” I suggested that if he was going to go anywhere, it should be to the Columbus Resident Agency, since he’d been a cop there and still knew most of the force.

They did keep him in the Atlanta-Columbus area, where he began to get his life back in order. Then he moved to the New York Field Office, where his main job was foreign counterintelligence. He also became one of the office’s profile coordinators—the liaison between the local police and my unit at Quantico.

When slots became available in the unit, we brought Jud on, along with Roseanne Russo, also from New York, and Jim Wright, from the Washington Field Office, who had spent more than a year working the John Hinckley case and trial. Roseanne eventually left the unit for the Washington Field Office and foreign counterintelligence. Jud and Jim both became distinguished and internationally known members of the team and close friends of mine. When I became unit chief, Jim Wright took over from me as manager of the profiling program.

Jud claimed to have been shocked that we picked him. But he’d been an outstanding coordinator in New York, and because of his strong law enforcement background, he worked out right from the beginning. He was a quick learner and extremely analytical. As a police officer, he’d seen these cases from the “trenches” and brought that perspective to them.

When it would come up in a teaching situation, Jud wouldn’t be afraid to mention the attempt on his life and its repercussions. He even had a tape recording of his emergency telephone call, which he would sometimes play for a class. But he couldn’t stand to be in the room. He would step outside until it was over.

I told him, “Jud, this is a tremendous thing.” I explained that so many of the elements at the scene—the footprints, the blood on the television—would have been misleading or nonsensical. Now we were beginning to understand how seemingly irrational elements can have a rational explanation. “If you work this case up,” I told him, “it could be an extremely valuable teaching tool.” He did that, and it became one of the most interesting and informative cases we taught. And it became a catharsis for him: “I found it quite a personal revelation. In the process of preparing to teach, I’d go down an alleyway I’d never ventured into before. Every time you talk about it to people you can trust, you explore another alley. Contract spouse killings and attempts happen more frequently in this country than we’d like to believe. And the family is often so embarrassed that no one will talk about it.” Watching Jud teach this case has been among my most moving experiences as an Academy instructor. And I know I’m not alone. Eventually, he got to the point where he would stay and listen when the emergency tape was played.

By the time Jud became part of my unit, I had already done a fair amount of research on postoffense behavior. It had become clear to me that no matter how hard he tries, much of what the offender does after the crime is beyond his conscious control. As a result of his own case, Jud became very interested in the issue of preoffense behavior. For a while, we had understood the importance of precipitating stressors as distinct events leading to the commission of a crime. But Jud expanded the unit’s horizons considerably and demonstrated how important it is to focus on the behavior and interpersonal actions before a crime takes place. A radical or even subtle but significant change in a partner’s behavior can mean that he or she has already begun to plan for a change in the status quo. If the husband or wife becomes unexpectedly calm or much more friendly and accepting than before, it can mean he or she has already come to regard that change as inevitable or imminent.

Contract spouse killings are difficult to investigate. The survivor has laid the emotional groundwork well. The only way to crack these cases is to get someone to talk, and you have to understand the dynamics of the situation and what really happened to be authoritative in this. As much as the rearrangement of a crime scene can lead the police in the wrong direction, a spouse’s preoffense behavior is a form of staging.

More than anything else, Jud’s case is an object lesson for us on how you can misinterpret behavior at a crime scene. If Jud had died, we would have come to some wrong conclusions.

One of the first things a rookie cop is taught is not to contaminate a crime scene. But by his own barely conscious actions, veteran cop and special agent that he was, Jud inadvertently contaminated his own crime scene. We would have interpreted all of the footprints and evidence of his movement to have been a burglary that went bad—that the intruders had walked him around the room, forcing him to tell them where particular items were hidden. The blood on the TV screen would have suggested that Jud had been lying in bed watching television when he’d been surprised and immediately shot.

The most important consideration, as Jud told me, was that “if I had died, I’m absolutely convinced she would have gotten away with it. It was well planned and her actions had prepped everyone in the neighborhood. She would have been completely believable as the grieving spouse.” As I said, Jud and I became close friends; he’s probably the closest thing to a brother I have ever had. I used to joke that he would make sure to play the tape for me right around performance-rating time, to assure the full measure of my sympathy. Fortunately, though, that was never necessary. Jud Ray’s record speaks for itself. He is now chief of the International Training Unit, where his skill and experience will benefit a new generation of agents and policemen and policewomen. But wherever he goes, he will always be one of our own and one of the best—one of the few law officers around to survive an attempt on his life through character and sheer force of will, and then to bring the culprits to justice himself.

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