Vigils held at Capitol, courthouse 25 years after Ives, Henry deaths
"He was standing next to his car in the commuter parking lot in Bryant. He had put the T-tops on his car. It's where he was supposed to meet Don. I remember seeing him brushing his hair as I drove past the parking lot."
This was the last time Linda Ives saw her son, Kevin, alive. Don Henry, 16, the son of Curtis Henry, and Kevin, 17, had made plans to spend the night doing some rabbit hunting in the woods of Alexander.
This scene was 25 years ago on Aug. 22, 1987. In the overnight hours, at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 23, Kevin Ives and Don Henry were struck by a Union Pacific train as they lay side by side in positions described as "tin soldiers." Witnesses told investigators that the pair did not move as the train approached. The mystery of their deaths continues across a quarter of a century.
Initially, the deaths were ruled as accidental by Fahmy Malak, the state medical examiner at the time. The families of Ives and Henry fought the ruling and, following a determination by a grand jury in Saline County in 1988, the deaths were ruled as homicides.
Leading the grand jury investigation were Dan Harmon, who had been appointed to serve as a special prosecutor, and Richard Garrett, a deputy prosecutor for Saline County.
According to current Saline County sheriff, Bruce Pennington, the case remains open and investigation into the deaths is continuing. Lt. Michael Frost is supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Division of the sheriff's office and is the only investigator assigned to the case. To this date, no charges have been filed related to the deaths.
In an interview with The Saline Courier, Linda Ives described her son as a "water bug who loved to ski. His first time was at 3 years of age. We tied two small skis together and pulled him behind the boat in one of the coves at the lake. The water was smooth and perfect for learning."
Ives said her son was a natural at the sport and before long had progressed to slalom. She also said, "Kevin was not perfect. He was a normal teenage boy. He didn't deserve to die so young."
Curtis Henry, father of Don, described his son as his "hunting buddy." In an interview earlier in 2012, he described his son as someone who loved being outdoors and had been on trips to deer camp with him.
"Every time I go hunting now, I think of Don. Being in the woods doing the thing we loved to do together brings me close to him," he said. "There isn't a day that goes by when he isn't on my mind. I think about what it would have felt like to be a grandfather. I think about what kind of person Don would have grown up to be. I know he would have been a good man."
Two separate events held Thursday had been organized to serve as remembrances of the two men and also as a means to bring the deaths that impacted Saline County in 1987 to the forefront of the public.
A rally scheduled Thursday at 10 a.m., titled "Justice Derailed 2013," was organized and led by Melonie Cannada, a Texas resident who is a friend of Linda Ives. Cannada opened the rally by thanking the crowd of approximately 40 people for coming to the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol to show support for Linda Ives and the effort to bring those responsible for the deaths of the two men to justice.
"By the end of 2013," said Cannada, "we will be standing on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., because this case is so well known, it can't be ignored."
Cannada pointed to the recent developments involving the release of the "West Memphis 3" and the Tryavon Martin case in Florida as evidence that change can be expected if attention is given to what has become known as "The Boys on the Tracks" case.
A candlelight vigil was held Thursday night at the gazebo on the Saline County Courthouse lawn. At both venues, speakers recounted memories of the two young men as well as those who spoke of allegations that the deaths were covered up by what they described as "the good ol' boy system" in Saline County.
Terry Lucie identified himself as a friend of Ives and told the crowd that his memory of the deaths is one which he will never forget. He referenced 1987 by saying "In the absence of war and danger, we never expected to be burying our friends. Kevin knew how to live his own life and lived it without regret. He squeezed more life out of 17 years than anyone I know."
Linda Ives spoke at both events and urged a stronger focus on the case to bring the case to closure and those responsible for the deaths to be held accountable. Ives also noted the developments in 2011 regarding the release of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin, otherwise known as the West Memphis Three, who had been convicted of the murders of three young boys in 1993.
"If they can take one man off death row (Echols) and pull two other men from prison (Misskelley Jr. and Baldwin), then they can surely put people into prison," she said.
Others spoke at both rallies and described both Ives and Henry as young men who were full of life as they were set to begin their senior year at Bryant High School.
The events also included speakers who were calling for justice and were critical of the investigation of the deaths and the coverage it received from the media.
The investigation of the deaths has been the subject of television interviews, documentaries and a book by Mara Leaveritt, titled "The Boys on the Track."
The family of Don Henry were unable to attend the events, reportedly because of a family emergency.
****Printed earlier today in The Saline Courier. A selection of our stories is available online, but for complete news coverage, subscribe to our print edition.