As I noted last Thursday, I have been productive (although I know not why) pushing this story onward. I stalled everyone over the weekend with chapter 2 of The Book of Seasons, which I don’t think I will ever be finishing (although I should not speak—or write—too soon). For the few of you interested in this still untitled horror story, here is a considerable chunk pushing us ahead, with more (and more excitement) ahead.
Having completed their May 8 session, Dr. Symonds takes some time to record his impressions and update himself (and us) on some particulars of the murder which sent James Arkham to prison—well psychiatric containment.
What do you know—some information at last…
Comments, Joshua Symonds, MD, following May 8 session
Is he still stalling? Is any of this relevant? After all this silence, nine years, he can’t just be playing games. Can he?
Should I have let him go on like that? My plan was to let him ramble and I would listen (and record). Was that more rambling than I wanted? Or was it important? Is he playing with me?
I need to study the trial transcript and all supporting documents more closely. Are these teenagers important? The way he talked today, apparently so.
I must investigate to see if they entered into the arrest or trial evidence. And soon. Perhaps I had overlooked them or their testimony in the huge file of material that attached with his medical/psychiatric record.
Other issues. Can he really remember all this in such detail? Is he inventing, fantasizing? Howie Phillips only came up briefly. Is he trying to avoid that subject — his crime?
Neither of the new students testified at the trial. No students were called. Principal Davis did appear, for the prosecution, early in the proceedings. His testimony seemed to be mostly procedural, laying a foundation about Arkham’s employment in teaching. One or two questions touched on the defendant’s relationships with students — variable — and a few others on Arkham and Phillips — friendly. Davis didn’t mention these two new kids, either.
Was all this information today a dodge then? Or was there a significance that did not come out at trial?
My predecessors, his formerly assigned as psychological personnel, with whom he had avoided interaction almost completely, only listed him as withdrawn, resistant and uncooperative. In his first years in the system, he had spoken to no one, had no visitors and refused to speak at sessions. More recently, he had engaged in social activities with other patients and of course had actually spoken in therapy sessions — just never about Quetzal County, the school or the murder. He had still never had a visitor, although he wrote letters — receiving none — to a Gloria Walker in Ohio, a sister — his only sibling — the records indicated. He had once received a Christmas card, four years ago, signed Ligeia about whom we had no information whatsoever; no return address, the postmark was Germany, United States military.
He had been tested by both defense and prosecution psychiatrists for the trial; his court-appointed defense attorney used a “reason of insanity” defense. Predictably, the defense doctors found in his uncommunicative behavior all the necessary signs of such insanity while the prosecution specialists discovered pretense, evasion and dissimulation. The jury of course had found him guilty but insane. He had not testified in his own defense, and a judge’s note on the trial indicated he showed little interest in or attention to the proceedings. He sat “like a statue”And stared at the emblem on the judge’s podium, evidently almost catatonic. On two separate occasions later on he had to be “awakened” from his trance by the bailiffs to be removed when the proceedings ended on those days. He remained incarcerated throughout, once the police had moved to arrest him about a week after the murder. The trial had taken eight days, and started six months after the crime. The jury had deliberated for just less than four hours, delivering their verdict the same day that closing arguments and judge’s instructions field the morning session.
The jury had heard from the DCI, presenting a considerable quantity of evidence from the scene, the school and from Arkham’s house. They had tried to interrogate hitting him, as he never asked for a lawyer, but he simply did not speak. At all. He never even made requests.
His attorney had somehow gotten in to the defense presentation the two remarks he had made during trial preparation: “They did it, of course” and “But they will make sure I’m convicted.” The lawyer had gotten a change of venue to nearby Jones County on the basis of just that paranoia (evidently) in his client. That and considerable pretrial publicity throughout eastern Iowa (in fact, across the state: I vaguely remember hearing about the murder while a student at ISU). Local papers had run the entire issues on the crime and the investigation. Camera crews and reporters camped outside the courtroom during the trial — reporting every night on the days activities.
Evidence included the murder weapon, a large knife, of which there was documentation of purchase of at least a very similar item by the defendant, and on which forensics experts found only Arkham’s fingerprints, and no others. The defendant had left a glove near the scene — he must have dropped it from a pocket or his hand — on which tests confirmed a noticeable stain of the victim’s blood. Footprints consistent with the defendant’s shoes — which were introduced themselves — were found by the body. The shoes revealed bloodstains on the side of one’s soul — probably consistent with Phillips’s blood type.
Phillips had been killed in a wooded area bordering on Mantorville city limits — technically the property of a local church — stabbed repeatedly and left to die. The victim had crawled about twenty yards from the original attack site. Evidence from the scene locating Arkham’s presence was limited to the site of the body — the actual murder spot being quite disturbed, possibly the result of a struggle, although one cop did state on cross-examination that it looked like a number of people could have been there. No one — not even Phillips’s wife — knew why the superintendent might have gone to the woods that evening.She was at church, it being a Wednesday, church night for young people and several adult study groups. She assisted with one membership-preparation group of kids and then participated in a Faith Study that began after the youth session ended. She had returned to their house, across the intersection from the school, about 10:30 and been surprised that Howie wasn’t home. When he hadn’t returned by midnight, she called the sheriff’s office. Deputies located the body about noon the next day, and the investigation led to Arkham by the weekend. He was detained for questioning on the following Monday afternoon.
He was released on Tuesday morning, pending further investigation, but then actually arrested on Wednesday, a week after the crime when he went to Sonia Phillips’s house after school to shout abuse at her. Davis had called the sheriff from that day — observing the activity from his office in the school. Mrs. Phillips had locked the front door and hidden in the cellar. Arkham had kept shouting until the deputies arrived (although no one reported what he was yelling), at which time he meekly accepted or arrest and began the long silence that endured throughout and after his trial, conviction and sentencing.
Two witnesses reported seeing a car that could have been Arkham’s departing Mantorville and turning toward Bear River Falls about 10 PM. Neighbors, including Emma Court from across the street, reported Arkham’s house was dark with no car in the driveway during the fateful evening. Court said she heard (but did not look to verify) a car pull in about 10:30 — some time before the local news ended.
Bleached bloodstains were identified on a shirt and slacks Arkham had laundered over the weekend. He had purchased bleach at Wal-Mart that same Saturday, and one witness from the laundromat reported noticing the man sending one small batch of flows through the washer twice.
Circumstantial evidence put him on the scene and in Mantorville at the right time, and evidence of trying to hide his guilt showed a full sense of right and wrong. Even so, his behavior at trial left the jury uncomfortable and willing to include insanity in their verdict.
Right now I wish they’d just followed the prosecution and the whole way and send him to prison for life. Then he wouldn’t be my problem.
Oh, but he is your problem, Dr. Symonds. Much more of a problem than you may yet realize.
I already have more to come… sometime. First, I have a lunch with my lovely spouse and a half-day of substitute teaching ahead of me, so we will see what else I can get done today and parts of tomorrow.