Murder on the Mountain — a tale of justice

(This was originally done as a speech for the Highland Lakes Toastmasters, and is based on an actual case. The essential facts are true, with minimal poetic license taken.)

I am here to tell you a tale of Murder on the Mountain.  A true tale, and you know it is for I would not tell you that were it not so.  It’s a tale of evil.  But evil is often juxtaposed with good, and sometimes they meet head to head.  And we hope that good wins over evil.

First let me share a tale of two people sharing a seemingly good life, indeed an idyllic one.  The couple met when she was only 16 and while he was a good bit older, there was an immediate attraction and on the very day they met, on a sunny afternoon beside the river, they made love on the cool grass of the river bank.  Over many years there were children, and they traveled back and forth between Texas and Colorado in their RV, enjoying life.  Somewhere in the 20 years another woman came to live with them and the three commenced enjoying what some would call an “unconventional” relationship.

In spite of their seemingly idyllic life there had been evil even before they met.  There had been a murder on a mountain.  On a cold, high mountain top in Colorado.  How do we know?  Because there was a photo of the victim.  Gruesome, as such photos tend to be.  And the man talked to the woman about it.  How he had to kill the fellow and how later the body was tossed down a mine shaft on that cold, high mountaintop in Colorado.

Why would the man tell the woman these horrible things, you ask yourself?

You see, the “love” on the banks of the river was not love, but rape.
And the man was older because, he was the girl’s father … having left her mother even before the birth.  They had been reunited that day, that special day on her 16th birthday.  And after the rape, he kidnapped her and kept her captive for those 20 years, dodging discovery by flipping between Texas and Colorado, not in an RV but in a junky trailer, living in out of the way places.

Fear kept the woman under control.  That photo was enlarged.  It portrayed a man, obviously dead, hanging upside down in a tree — spread-eagle and naked; and the enlarged photo hung over their bed, always, with the threat that if she ran he would find her and she would endure a similar fate.

The other woman was not simply a new friend but a stranger who had become lost and sought directions at the wrong place, and was snared in the man’s trap.  There were indeed many children, but few were born for most of the many pregnancies ended in abortions.

Yes, good and evil can meet face to face, and good usually wins.  It did here, for he was caught and tried. The daughter and other woman testified, bravely.  I say bravely because this man was pure evil in flesh form.  There have been only two defendants into whose eyes I could not look.  He as the first, and the one and only time I looked him in the eye it sent such chills down my spine that I vowed to never again do that. Instead, I would look down at his chest when I had to address him.

The women testified, bravely as I said.  They looked him right in the eye and told the story of those many years of rape and incest.  And they looked the jurors in the eyes and their clear facts resulted in a conviction.  I did once again look into the defendant’s eyes – on the day that I rendered the jury’s multiple sentences and stacked them so that he could  never again see the light of day.

Good triumphed over evil that week in a country courtroom in Burnet County. Justice prevailed over the man, and both women were freed, not only physically, but now psychologically and emotionally in spite of horrors that most of us can barely imagine.

Now then you know the real story.   It’s not so much about the juxtaposition of good and evil in this world, or the fact that pure evil does exist, but it’s more about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of evil.

There is an epilogue to these tales.  The man who came to be called “defendant” and now is “convict” wanted to spend his time in a Colorado prison instead of Texas.  He bartered a deal with Colorado that he could do that if he could lead them to the remains of the man in the tree and clear up the Murder on the Mountain.  A Texas Ranger took him to Colorado and with the Colorado state police and the convict they combed the cold, high mountaintop where the convict thought that mine shaft to be located, but it was never found.

He remains in the Texas prison system.  As far as I know, the women lived happily ever after.

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And if you’d like to hear it …