KIDS KILLED AT SPEEGLEVILLE
At Spence’s second trial, the Melendez brothers testified that the
teenagers were killed at Koehne Park and then transported in a pickup truck around Lake Waco and dumped in a remote area of Speegleville Park. The new blood-spatter evidence, which was a relatively unheard-of science at the time of the murders, indicated that the teenagers were killed where they were found, contradicting the testimony of the brothers.
Retired Oklahoma City Police Captain Tom Bevel did the analysis.
Bevel, considered one of the foremost US authorities in blood-spatter
analysis, studied the science at London’s Scotland Yard. After closely
reviewing crime scene and autopsy photos, as well as the autopsies
themselves, Bevel, concluded that the three teens were killed precisely where they were found. This makes perfect sense to Detective Salinas.”No blood was ever found at Koehne Park. In a crime where the victims have been stabbed up to 21 times each, you would expect to
find at least a drop of blood somewhere in the area,” Salinas says.
Bevel based his findings on several details: “There were no changes of
blood flow patterns visible in any of the photographs. Had the bodies been thrown into the back of a pickup, driven around the lake, pulled out and then dumped, you would expect to see some changes in the direction the blood traveled on the bodies.”
Bevel also noted that no intermingling of blood was reported in the autopsies. Had the bodies been piled on top of each other in the back
of a truck, as alleged, Bevel, believes it highly probable that at least
one of the victims would have bled on one of the others.
Bevel’s most substantial piece of evidence, however, came in the form
of what he calls a “blood froth cap.” A blood froth cap, according to Bevel, is a white foamy secretion that is emitted through the mouth when the lung has been punctured. It is emitted at or very near the time of death. “A blood froth cap can be seen in one of the crime scene photos laying next to the head of Raylene Rice,” Bevel says. “They are very fragile, so it is highly unlikely that it would be present if she were killed somewhere else.”
Further clouding the issue of Spence’s guilt is the Laurel and
Hardy-like testimony of his two alleged accomplices. Gilbert Melendez gave no fewer than five statements to police before testifying at Spence’s trial, with each statement differing dramatically from the previous. “I had no idea what I was talking about,” Gilbert recalls. “I would give a statement, the cops would say it couldn’t have happened that way, so I would change it.” The most obvious example of Gilbert’s fabrications are his recollections as to what vehicle was used to transport the lifeless bodies. In his initial statement, Gilbert claims they used Spence’s gold Chevy Malibu to carry the bodies. After it was learned that Spence had sold the Malibu three weeks before the murders, Gilbert amended his story to say they used Spence’s
white station wagon. After a complete examination of the station wagon failed to turn up any trace evidence of the crimes, Gilbert changed his story again, this time claiming his own 1963 blue pickup truck was used. It has since been learned that the pickup was in the shop the night of the murders with three flat tires and a broken ignition.
The Melendez brothers only testified at Spence’s second trial. A
conviction was secured in the first trial without eyewitnesses. Instead, the State relied heavily on six inmates who testified they heard Spence make incriminating statements about the Lake Waco Murders while in jail.
Since the trial, several of these witnesses recanted their stories, claiming they gained information about the crimes through authorities. In exchange for their testimony, all claim they were given special privileges while incarcerated in the McLennan County Jail. While entirely possible, it would seem highly unlikely that these inmates would be lying now, especially since they are admitting to perjury.
The State’s most critical evidence against Spence came in the form of
expert forensic dental testimony. Dr. Homer Campbell testified that a dental mold of Spence’s teeth matched what he identified as “bite marks” on the body of Jill Montgomery. This was the only piece of physical evidence ever presented against Spence.
In 1992, an adjunct law professor at the University of Texas
commissioned a dental study of his own. Raoul Schonemann, who took up Spence’s appeals, found it odd that the autopsy report did not indicate any bite marks being present.
Schonemann sent the exact evidence used by Dr. Campbell to five leading dental experts, with credentials ranging from FBI Academy instructor to State Police Dental Expert to head of dentistry at a major university. All the experts participated in the study without knowing any of the circumstances surrounding the Spence case. All five experts concluded that there were no bite marks evident on the bodies of the victims. Worse, if there were bite marks, there would be “no way with any degree of scientific certainty” that a match could be made. Yet, several of the jurors cited the bite marks as the single most convincing piece of evidence against Spence.
In an ironic twist, Spence’s mother, Juanita White, was murdered in
1986. What makes her death so suspicious is when it occurred. White received a letter in February of 1986, written by one of the inmates who testified against her son. In the letter, inmate Robert Snelson claims he lied at Spence’s trial. Ms. White turned the letter over to Spence’s attorney, Russ Hunt, who in turn notified the Waco Police Department. On February 28, 1986, an inter-office memo was released throughout the police department detailing the letter. Juanita White was brutally murdered in her home the following day.
The night after her murder, White’s house was broken into a second
time. Official police reports indicate that “nothing of value was stolen from the house,” but that several boxes of Ms. White’s personal papers had been dumped on her bed and “gone through as if someone had been searching for something in particular.”
With no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence tying them to the crime
scene, two black males were quickly convicted of Juanita White’s murder. In an eerie replay of Spence’s first trial, the State used inmate testimony and the same forensic dental expert to secure the convictions against these two unfortunate men.
In an interview shortly before his death, Spence said, “It’s not about
justice anymore, it’s about politics. They just want to kill me and
close the book on this case.” The book is closed for Spence but there are others like him on death row right now awaiting their final chapter.