Thursday, May 28, 2020

Betrayal of Trust in Fort Leonard Wood Murders

Frozen Tears: The Fort Leonard Wood MP Murders

Author: J.B. King and Sandra Linhart

Publisher: Red Engine Press

Publication Date: October 19, 2019

Length: 315 pages

About the Author
J.B. King had a long and successful career in law enforcement. He was a member of the Missouri Highway Patrol and served as sheriff of Pulaski County for eight years. Mr. King has written two books about the Civil War in Missouri and a book about his law enforcement career.

Military Game Warden Kidnaps, Rapes and Murders 
This is a true-crime account of the events that took place in the early morning hours of January 13, 1977. Four teenagers were pulled over on a lonely road near the south gate of Fort Leonard Wood by MP/Game Warden Johnny Lee Thornton. He shot the two young men, Wesley Hawkins and Anthony Bates, and took the young women, Juanita Deckard and Linda Needham, to a game warden cabin and raped them. He then shot the women and left all four of the victims buried under the snow in the woods. 

Juanita Deckard was wounded but was able to walk for six hours through the snow and rugged terrain to find help from a rural home near the base. Miss Deckard was able to identify Johnny Lee Thornton and he was found guilty in federal court.  He was sentenced to three life terms and is currently held in federal prison.

My Thoughts
I don't usually read true crime books. I tend to change into a paranoid mess and start hearing strange noises at night when I read books like this one. This is a story that nightmares are made of.

However, I had a personal connection to Plato, Missouri. In 1977, I was working as a school librarian in the Union R-XI School District. My younger sister had just graduated from college and accepted a job working as a teacher in the Plato R-V School District. Plato is located about ten miles south of Fort Leonard Wood. I remember visiting my sister on a Saturday and spending the entire day hiking secluded trails in the Mark Twain National Forest. 

This story is shocking. These young people were taught to respect the authority of a police officer and had no reason to believe that their trust would be betrayed in such a horrible way. Things like this did not happen in rural southeastern Missouri. I don't think anyone could have been prepared for what happened that night.

The authors did an excellent job collecting interviews, news articles, court records, police reports, and medical records that pertain to this case. Their research was very thorough and they presented information that has not been previously made public.

I hope this book is chosen for a movie deal. 


FYI ~ I borrowed a digital copy of this book with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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