By all accounts, Kevin Ives and Don Henry were pretty average teenagers. They weren’t trouble makers, by any regard, but they also weren’t above getting into a little mischief from time to time.
According to witnesses, the boys had spent most of the night of August 22, 1987, hanging around a local parking lot – a popular spot for teens in the small town of Alexander, Arkansas. Kevin had been staying at Don’s house that night and, as promised, the boys checked in just a little after midnight. But they had no intention of sticking around.
Don walked in and asked his father if he and Kevin could go out “spotlighting” – hunting at night with flashlights. The practice was outlawed – never mind that it wasn’t even deer season – but Curtis Henry trusted that Don knew his way around the woods as good as anyone and agreed that the boys could go out there.
When Curtis Henry had realized that neither of the boys had returned home by 5 AM he knew that something had been very wrong. Henry called up Linda Ives and asked if she had seen the boys. She was under the impression that the boys had slept at Henry’s house. Henry admitted that he had allowed the boys to go out hunting that night and that they had never returned that morning. Both Henry and Ives had that sinking feeling in their gut that something terrible had happened and set out to try to find the boys.
The Boys on the Tracks
What had begun as a routine trip from Texarkana to Little Rock, became anything but routine within the early morning hours of Sunday, August 23, 1987.
The crew manning the cargo train had just gotten into the town of Alexander, located approximately 25 miles south of Little Rock. As engineer Stephen Shroyer descended Bryant Hill, the only thing that had been on his mind is making sure the train stayed within the federal speed limit of 25 mph. Nearing the bottom of the hill, Shroyer noticed an unusual dark spot that appeared to be located in the middle of the tracks. As the train sped closer Shroyer sounded the horn, alerting whatever critter had found its way onto the tracks to clear out, but the spot didn’t budge. Inching ever closer to the mysterious dark spot, Shroyer’s annoyance quickly turned to concern as he realized what had been on the tracks.
Shroyer pulled the emergency break, but it was already too late. The crew was met with a mighty thud as the breaks screeched and ground to a halt.
Fearing to face what they had already known, one by one the crew exited the engine in order to get a closer look at the macabre scene that awaited them. In all their years of working for the railroad, none of the men had ever experienced an accident involving a human being, let alone two, but they had plenty of experience running over animals who made the unfortunate decision to walk in front of a moving train. They expected to be met by a bloodbath but were shocked to see that though limbs from the two boys had been scattered around the area, there was surprisingly very little blood to speak of.
Still shaken to the core, Shroyer radioed the police and explained the bizarre accident that had just occurred. This was only the beginning for two families driven together by the mysterious deaths of their teenage sons and at least one woman’s fight to seek justice for everyone involved.
When Saline County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, the railroad crew described seeing the two boys lined up on the tracks side-by-side. There had been a tarp pulled over them, almost like a blanket. They were later told that this tarp must have been an optical illusion, even though one of the crew members managed to pull a piece of it out of a ditch that ran along the tracks.
It wasn’t long after the boys had been found that word had gotten back to Curtis Henry on the fate of Kevin and Don. Already there were wild rumors around town that the boys had been shot and tied to the tracks. Henry just couldn’t wrap his mind around how that would have happened, though, considering how well Don had known those woods. Linda Ives was as equally shocked after learning the news. She could do nothing but wait for her husband Larry – who, ironically enough, had also worked for the railroad – to return home.
Within weeks of the boys’ bizarre deaths, the families were asked to meet with medical examiner Dr. Fahmy Malak to discuss the circumstances that had led to the boys’ demise. According to Dr. Malak’s report, “At 4:25 AM on August 23, 1987, Larry Kevin Ives (17) and Don George Henry (16) were unconscious and in a deep sleep on the railroad tracks, under the psychedelic influence of THC (marijuana), when a train passed over them causing their accidental death.” Dr. Malak explained that the boys had smoked the equivalent of 20 marijuana cigarettes, causing them to lose consciousness and fall asleep there on the tracks. When the train came they didn’t hear it and were crushed to death.
Linda Ives didn’t know much about marijuana but had a hard time believing that marijuana intoxication would cause a person to completely lose consciousness. Officially the deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry were ruled an accident, but that explanation didn’t make sense and both families called Dr. Malak’s report into question. The families quickly realized that if they wanted any sort of serious investigation into the death of their boys, then they would have to do it themselves.
The first thing Linda Ives wanted to do was to have a second opinion on Dr. Malak’s ruling. She requested to have samples sent to another forensic pathologist out of Memphis named Dr. J.T. Francisco. Dr. Francisco’s conclusion matched Malak’s. It was later learned that Dr. Francisco had not had the samples tested at all, concluding that he could infer that Malak performed the analysis properly because he knew that his lab used standard procedures. Both families refused to give up and instead located two forensic pathologists who were notable for their work with marijuana. Both of these pathologists were blocked by Malak’s offices from gaining access to tissue and fluid samples.
With Malak blocking the families’ investigations, both families felt they had no choice but to turn to the media for help. The Iveses and the Henrys called a press conference in order to discuss their dissatisfaction with the investigation and publicly called into question the rulings of Dr. Fahmy Malak.
The Ruling of Dr. Malak
The press conference was enough to persuade former Sheriff James Steed to call for Arkansas State Police to reopen the investigation. During the hearing, an ambulance driver who was called to the scene the morning of the boys’ death recalled that she had to drive through a patch of woods in order to get close to the location the boys had been hit. As she maneuvered her ambulance through the woods she came across three men who claimed they were volunteer firefighters for a neighboring city and wanted to see what was going on.
This information convinced state police to reopen the case for further examination and the boys’ cause of death was changed from “accidental” to “unknown.” Eager to spearhead the preliminary hearing before the grand jury was an ambitious attorney named Dan Harmon. Harmon had been running for election and hoped that challenging a guy like Dr. Malak would make him a popular choice for state prosecutor at the polls.
During this hearing, Malak’s ruling would be overturned again when another medical examiner found tears in the shirt believed to have been worn by Don Henry. Henry’s shirt had been found separate from his body and had tears that were believed to have come from a sharp object, such as a knife. Additionally, tissue samples taken from Kevin’s cheek suggested that he had sustained injury from a blunt object, possibly from the butt of Don’s rifle that was found destroyed at the scene.
Other sworn testimony by Dr. Malak had begun to come into question by the media, including one incident where a man had been found decapitated and Dr. Malak testified that the gentleman’s own dog had chewed his head off. Dr. Malak’s testimony was enough to allow the suspect in the man’s death to walk free.
After this information had been made public by local journalists, then Governor Bill Clinton was asked for comment on Malak’s negligence. Clinton told reporters that he believed that Malak had been doing a great job and attributed Malak’s mistakes to being overworked and underpaid. Malak was not reprimanded for any of his bungled examinations. In fact, he was given a raise and promoted to the state’s lead medical examiner.
Even when asked to stand before a state review board, Malak was untouchable. The board ruled that no one presiding over Malak had the authority to challenge his findings. Investigative journalists have pointed out at least one possible reason for this unusual decision.
Dozens of witnesses were brought forward to testify before Harmon’s grand jury. These witnesses included law enforcement officers, EMTs, and railroad workers, among others. Out of roughly 125 people who had information related to the deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives, not a single suspect could be produced in either of their deaths.
As it would turn out, in the months proceeding what the grand jury had deemed as the “possible homicides” of Kevin and Don, other unexplained and unusual deaths began popping up around Saline County. One-by-one, anyone who may have known anything about the deaths of the two boys on the railroad tracks died under mysterious circumstances. Among them had been Keith McKaskle, a bar owner on the outskirts of dry Saline County who dealt in methamphetamine, and had also been known to work as a police informant.
McKaskle eluded to one officer he knew well that he had some information about what happened on the railroad tracks the night Kevin and Don were found. None of this information was ever proven and McKaskle was one of the few people who could provide that information to the grand jury. He was found stabbed to death in his own driveway.
The death of McKaskle may have been considered a coincidence. A rough end to a man who lived a rough life, but he wouldn’t be the first, nor the last, person connected to the case who would turn up dead. Within months of McKaskle’s fatal stabbing,
Gregory Collins who also allegedly had information to present to the grand jury in regards to Kevin’s and Don’s deaths died from a gunshot wound to the head. His death had later been ruled a suicide.
If the deaths of two key witnesses weren’t enough, Keith Koney, another boy who had known Kevin and Don and had allegedly gone with the boys to the tracks that night, had also died under mysterious circumstances within months of Kevin and Don’s discovery. According to reports, Koney had been driving his motorcycle at a high rate of speed when he crashed into the back of a semi-truck. Some say it was a tragic accident, while others believe that he was being chased because of what he may have known.
With the difficulty the grand jury had with keeping witnesses alive, it isn’t any wonder why this case still remains unsolved. Several other loose connections had been made to the case and other people who have died under extremely odd circumstances within the state of Arkansas, but whether those connections were made in an attempt to stretch the truth in a political smear campaign or whether those connections are far more solid than what is provable is anyone’s guess. What is known is that in spite of the efforts that may have been taken to silence those who knew too much about the case, the grand jury did later rule conclusively that Kevin and Don had been murdered and their causes of death were determined to be bonafied homicides.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Meanwhile, Linda Ives’ quest for truth began to lose steam. While it seemed like Dan Harmon was the only person of any power fighting to find the truth on behalf of two teenagers who never got to grow up, his motive was much more sinister than what would meet the eye.
It was learned that years after Harmon was tasked with assembling the grand jury in the case of the train deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry that Harmon, himself, may have known more about the morning the boys were found than he had let on. Unknown to most of the community, Dan Harmon had been heavily involved in the local drug trade, particularly drug parcels that were regularly dropped around the area.
On the night Kevin and Don went spotlighting, a woman named Sharlene Wilson claimed that she too had been on the railroad tracks. She, Dan Harmon, Keith McKaskle, and others had all met there in anticipation for a scheduled drug drop. The group hadn’t realized that Kevin, Don and other boys from the area had heard stories about airplanes flying low near the area and wanted to check it out for themselves. Whether it was simple curiosity or if the boys had planned to steal the drugs for themselves is up for debate, but according to Wilson, when the boys were spotted something had to be done about them.
In Mara Leveritt’s book Boys on the Tracks, she claimed that in Wilson’s confession letter, Wilson described the men roughing the boys up, before handing them a knife from her boot. Don had been stabbed and Kevin had been knocked out before being placed on the track and covered with a tarp. The group then piled into Wilson’s car with drugs in tow and fled the scene.
Harmon, who would later become county prosecutor, had been eager to assemble the grand jury on the case. Linda Ives had believed that Harmon, a father himself, had seen the lack of justice for her family, as well as the Henrys, and had taken pitty on them. It was later learned that Harmon’s motive was to find out the names of local informants and others who may have information on what had really occurred that night and take them down one by one.
In spite of Wilson’s confession, which many believed to be credible since it implicated herself in the crime, Dan Harmon was never considered to be a suspect.
Eventually, drugs would get the best of Dan Harmon and he has been in and out of prison for a number of drug-related charges. Harmon’s most recent arrest was in 2010 after he was caught selling hydrocodone and morphine to an undercover police officer near a school. He has never received any charges related to the train murders, in spite of Sharlene Wilson and other witnesses being able to place him at the scene that night.
Prosecutors may have been reluctant to pursue a case against Harmon, but Linda Ives refused to back down. Ives, with the help of former DEA Agent Jean Duffy, formed an organization to raise funds in order to file a civil suit against Harmon, as well as other elected officials who she believes were instrumental in covering up the deaths of her son and Don Henry.
To date, Linda Ives has not taken Harmon to civil court. As recently as 2016, Ives has filed suit against multiple government agencies as well as local Saline police for their refusal to answer to Ives’ Freedom of Information Act requests and for withholding information in regards to her son and Don Henry’s deaths. The train murder case remains open to this day.