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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Devon Epps: Scene of the Crime?

This lonely place is so close to the interstate, it's not even an afterthought of a county planner's pen. It's like that space in your yard you forgot to landscape, shaded and covered in leaves, grassless, and out of the way of your attention. No one ever looks at it and no one would go looking for it. It's a place where nothing would ever happen, and if it did, it would be something bad.

The place where Amanda Smith says she was jumped by a maniacal knife-wielding murderer is an illustration of nowhere. If you're there, it's only because you're lost or going somewhere else. Seconds off Interstate 85, to get there takes a turn at the Whitehorse Road McDonalds and rounding a curve on the unimaginatively named Frontage Road. The intersection with Jacobs Road gives a driver two choices. If you turn left, it looks like it might take you somewhere worth going. If you turn right, it's pretty obvious you're going nowhere. It's a dead end and even the most respectful minds can't help but consider the bad pun.

I decided to go and I'm still not sure why. Going there is not on the way to anywhere for me. Going there serves no purpose. In the past, it would've been my job. Now, I figure most people would label it as sick curiosity. I know that it's neither of the two, but I'm still not sure what it is. A local writer with whom I'm friends e-mailed me while I was out of town and said he, too, felt some sort of compulsion to write about the ongoing case of Devon Epps' death. For me, since I can't get the case out of my head, writing about it is somewhat cathartic. Writing is what I can do when I can't make sense of things. I'd hoped that the two posts I'd written up to this point would do something, anything to make me feel better about this. I've covered and studied some of the most heinous crimes, but for the first time since Tiffany Souers was strangled in her Central, SC apartment, I find myself caring an inordinate amount about a crime in my adopted hometown.

I don't know why I went, but I did.

When I rounded the corner on Frontage Road, my first instinct was to slam on my brakes. A marked Greenville County Sheriff's cruiser sat in the middle of the road about 150 yards from the intersection with Jacobs Road. My wife was riding with me and quietly said, "Mmmm hmmm." I looked to the side at the uniformed deputy as I drove by. He didn't look at me.

Because I had no reason to be there, I almost felt guilty when I pulled up to the intersection. My instinct was to turn left, but when my wife spotted Epps' memorial on the right, I swerved and made the turn. Again, it was something that looked more than a little suspicious. Again, the deputy did nothing.

And, so there we sat, in front of the little memorial. A framed tribute sat among balloons, boxed toys, flowers, and burned candles. It all sat at the dusty roadside on the edge of what could barely be called a grove of trees. Up a worn out path about twenty feet stood a giant tree wrapped in a red ribbon. Tacked to both of them were the composite sketch put together by deputies based on Amanda Epps' reported recollection of the man she says killed her seven-year-old son.

Again, I don't know what I was looking for. This is a place that has been picked over by deputies, mourned over by family and friends, and visited by amateur sleuths from all over the area. It is a nothing place and the saddest of places to find the memorial to a child. Less than 300 yards down the road--a distance that could be run by even a heavy person in less than two minutes--is civilization. A few trees may block the actual building, but at night the Waffle House sign would almost be impossible to miss. The place Amanda Smith says her son died is a shadow. Shadows, I've found, are rarely home to happy times.

There was no reason to stay more than a couple of minutes. I turned around in the parking lot of what looked like a trucking company and headed back out the way I came. As I drove by again, the deputy was on his cell phone and didn't seem to pay me much mind. I didn't bother to wave. His presence there was not surveillance in the traditional sense. If the cops were really staking out the scene, it seems pretty obvious they wouldn't be sitting in plain view in a marked car. The deputy spending his time there is more than likely a signal to the community that the Sheriff's Office is still diligently working on the crime (a fact in which I still have the utmost faith) and a signal to anyone who might wander by the scene that they are being watched. As I was not driving a white town car, small civic, or look like the man Smith says killed her son, I was mercifully ignored. I'm not sure exactly what I would've said if the deputy had actually asked.

I've never really known how to feel about the concept of The First 48. I think a lot of cops--especially the dedicated ones--will tell you that the clock isn't nearly as important as the evidence and even if they don't make their arrest in the first 48 hours, they will still maintain a decent confidence they can nail their criminal. Around these parts, the cases that remain cold for too long tend to remain that way. I have entire files on cases that plagued the local cops for way too long. When the Blue Ridge Bank triple murders happened, I heard a lot of quiet talk among the investigators about who they believed was responsible. When Dale Fetner was stabbed outside his apartment, I heard a lot of the same talk. Both of those cases remain open. The Devon Epps death, though, is not like those cases. Though there is quite a bit of hand wringing about the lack of an arrest, this one doesn't at all feel like a case that will go cold. No, this case feels familiar for an entirely different reason. So familiar, in fact, that it goes without saying.

Tonight, as I try to figure out why I keep writing about this case instead of my normal silliness, I wonder. Did I visit the scene of the crime tonight? Or did I visit the place where the county coroner found him dead? Because there may be a difference and, if there is, the answer will make a lot of difference in how this story ends.

Previously:

Reading between the lines of Devon Epps' death

Devon Epps, Amanda Smith and the difficulties of reporting crime news

Labels: ,

9 Comments:

Blogger golden said...

Please keep writing about this case as long as you can stomach it and as long as your being urged to do so by unseen forces. I'm a dad too and it's important to me that someone cares about a dead 7 year old boy.

You keep saying "you don't know why" your drawn to this place, and this case. I know why; you've been choosen. The urge to do so is coming from an unknown place or else you would know why. Ergo, you've been choosen. Thanks for answering your call to duty in the Epp's case.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of cops--especially the dedicated ones--will tell you that the clock isn't nearly as important

BUZZ


How about when the alleged baby killer is running into the back end of trucks on Hwy 176, in the meantime.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We know the truth and more importantly the good Lord above knows what happened and he will provide justice for Devon and closure and healing for his family.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Terry Dale Fetner intimantly.He was going through his child custody case and had just won against Tracy. He told me if anything happens to me Tracy's brothers told him they would kill him after the hearing for his son.I know in my heart they did it, but I only have the word of Dale and he's gone and I have no proof. Isn't it suspicious he was alone and didn't have his son with him . Someone who could only know this was in her family , and it was a very; violent beating and stabbing. Dale was very tall and of good size and very strong. there is no way 1 person could have done this alone and his ex-brother in laws knew when he was returning from working on his house in N.C. I miss him and hope someday someone will come forward and clear their guilty heart and get right with God.

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Dale continued telling me to be careful due to the custody battle he was having with Tracy. After 8 long years my heart still aches and it probably always will. Dale and I were sole mates and were very much in love. He and I were planning to marry. I still can't beleive after this long no one has come forward. I beg of you everyone...for his son,family and myself please come forward with anything you may know. I miss Dale so very much...life just hasn't been the same without him. There isn't one day that doesnn't go by I don't think about him. When he had to work on his house in N.C. where I live he blew me a kiss, give we had a personal sign for each other and he had shown me that gorgous smile he always had as he pulled out of my drive way. I knew he was going to work on his new house and I just couldn't wait to see him again but I never expected the phone call. Its the call no one ever wants to get. My life stopped and I knew his ex had something to do with it. I feel so helpless wish there were something I could do to help solve this horrible crime and have justice and hopefully some peace of mind for the family and myself. I beg anyone that knows anything please go to the police and tell them anything you may know. Please....

9:00 AM  
Blogger Truth Speaker said...

Dear Anonymous Soul Mate of Dale's,

I will gladly attach my name and contact information should you want to know facts, rather than feelings involving your lover.

Fact One: Dale was still married to Tracey when he was building the home you apparently live.

Fact Two: Dale NEVER won custody of his son.

Fact Three: Both his brother-in-laws are outstanding men in our town. One a business owner, another a stellar Marine, both with impeccable records. They were never involved or proven to be involved in this case. (Careful when slandering...it's illegal)

Fact Four: Dale was in court proceedings for the sexual abuse of a child.

Fact Five: Dale was involved with many shady situations and people which is probably why they haven't solved this case...so many possibilities.

I am sorry for your loss. It was a horrible crime.
I pray that his family, especially his son, find closure. More importantly, I pray this so that Tracey's family name be cleared from suspicion from people like you.
Lastly, I pray that Dale asked for forgiveness for what he has done before he left this Earth.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Tinsley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible that get info on this cold case

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi darla.

1:27 PM  

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