720 thoughts on “Questions??? I Have Plenty!!!

  1. There has always been a lot of rumors surrounding the activities of Terry “Tab” Harper, foremost among them being that he was seen in Koehne Park the evening of the murders by many people, this is just not true. Also we hear a lot about Harper’s violent criminal history and as with most rumors there is some truth at the root of said rumor. Everyone is aware of the violent end of Tab Harper where he stabbed an elderly couple, killing the gentleman, and then Tab shooting himself as police were closing inn on him. Violent indeed but that happened in 1994, twelve years after the Lake Waco murders. Anyone would experience many ups and downs that would impact them over more than a decade traversing the long and winding road of life. Most of the names connected to this case had already had a wide variety of indelible experiences prior to the fateful night of July 13, 1982. The victims, the accused, the convicted, witnesses, friends and associates all had colorful lives, a rainbow of experiences would shadow their activities and behavior. Honestly it is this complex web of connections and shared experiences that is the most intriguing aspect of this case. Looking back we can see this was a train wreck waiting to happen, no one expecting the carnage hence no one was capable of stopping it, why? What if Gene Deal, David Spence’s parole, had violated him for failing to comply with the conditions of his parole which David obviously was doing. Or what if Anthony Melendez’ mother had been honest with police when they came looking for Anthony after the Corpus Christi robbery and sexual assault. Anthony would have probably been off the street his name never mentioned in connection with the Lake Waco Murders. And what about Tab Harper? If we are to believe all the rumors why was he even on the streets?

    I will take an excerpt from an August 6,1998 Dallas Observer article as an example but there are countless others I could use, this was just the first one I found at the moment. This article mainly deals with Brian Pardo’s involvement in the case but in doing so does mention the favorite target of many of David’s champions; Tab Harper.
    “In the weeks that followed the murders, several witnesses reported that a man named Terry Lee “Tab” Harper, who had been arrested 25 times for assorted assault charges, had bragged about killing three people at the lake. Police confirmed that he made his boasts before news of the murders had been broadcast. Harper was brought in for questioning, but he refused to cooperate. Witnesses who had been at the lake that night reported seeing the victims talking to someone in a van matching a description of Harper’s.”

    Now I have gone over the rumors of Harper being seen in the park that night ad nauseam. But did anyone else think 25 assorted assaults sounded strange? How many assaults does one have to commit in Texas before someone realizes maybe that person needs to be taken off the street for awhile, a long while? Most likely this is just another well traveled rumor. So what is the truth what are the facts?

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  2. Obviously if you want to find the facts of someone’s criminal history you need to read the police records and although Tab Harper was the primary focus and the majority of time was expended tracking down this lead early in the investigation, from July 16th until the end of July, there is very little actual information about him present in those reports. the primary and probably best sources of the little information we can cull from the reports come from two girls that knew Tab Harper to some degree and the details they give us though limited do give us a glimpse into the behavior and personality of Harper during that time period, 1981-1982, and this matches other accounts we see in the reports. The two girls were Rebecca DesMarias and Nell Priest. Rebecca was the girl that had been reported as an eyewitness to the murders and was missing leading to the believe that she might have fallen victim of foul play at the hands of Tab Harper. This all proved to be false, as most of the rumors surrounding Harper did. Rebecca had just eun away from home and had nothing to do with Harper and the murders. She had been present at Midway Park the night of Wednesday July 14th after the bodies of the victims had been discovered and Harper came to Midway and asked her if she had heard about the murders.

    One issue that arises about the night of July 14th and what actually happened and when at Midway Park that night is exactly what Harper said, what details did he have at that point and when did he actually arrive at the park. By all accounts given by the kids were present Harper did not arrive until around 9:00p.m., some of the kids thought it was closer to 10:00p.m., Rebecca stated she didn’t get to the park until about 9, she had left her home around 8:45p.m. and Harper arrived after she had. Again by all accounts Harper stated he had seen a lot of police cars headed towards Speegleville Park and that three kids had been stabbed, not very incriminating. So he didn’t have many details about the murders at that time. Even if he did again it would not be shocking or surprising as some have tried to point out. The Lake Waco Murders were very shocking even to the police tasked with investigating them and although they tried to keep details under wraps details and rumors spread immediately, again we clearly see this in the police reports. People like to point at Tab Harper when it comes to someone having details early on but he wasn’t alone, any number of people had details and were sharing them with anyone and everyone. Probably the most grievous account we get in the reports clearly shows how fast and far the details and rumors of this case were spreading. The Payne brothers reported James Lucas and Ralph Finstad had detals of the murders after Lucas or Finstad had allegedly stabbed ther younger Payne brother. Lucas had actually picked up the brothers from Koehne Park, so with this information of coarse the police were interested in talking to Lucas and Finstad. Lucas and Finstad denied any involvement in the murders, then they were asked how was it they had details of the murders, precisely that the girls had been violated with a foreign object. Finstad explained he had heard that from a girl he worked with. With that the police go to the hotel where Finstad worked and talked to the girl Finstad had told them had given him that information. She admitted she had given Finstad this information and when asked how she had gotten that information she replied she heard it from her mother. Apparently her mother was playing bridge with some other ladies at someone’s house when the subject of the murders came up and one of the ladies had mentioned a coke bottle had been used during the assaults on the girls The police track down the ladies that had attended this bridge game, it came to light the one of the ladies was the wife of an ex-officer of DPS and apparently she had gotten the information from him and the other ladies stated it was from her that they had heard it but that lady as well as her husband denied they ever talked about the murders. So just by this account we know information about the murders was spreading to 4rd and 5th and 5th degrees of separation. That anyone in Waco would have any details of the murders was probably closer to the norm than an alarm. One person that apparently hadn’t heard anything about the murders until Thursday July 15th was Nell Priest, the other girl that was the best source of information on Tab Harper.

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  3. It was the rumor mill that dragged Nell Priest’s name into the web of the Lake Waco Murders. While Mike Nicoletti was following up a lead he had received early he went to the Oakie Dokie to try to obtain further information and in doing so was told by another patron that he had talked to a girl, Nell Priest, a few days after the murders and this girl had told him this guy Tab Harper had told her about the murders and had threatened her. According to this patron Nell had expressed her days were numbered and that she might not be around much longer. The patron knew Nell lived at the Gemini Apartments and Nicoletti went there to talk to Nell but Nell wasn’t home when Nicoletti arrived so he put a Waco PD card in her door. Apparently Nicoletti hadn’t passed on this info to anyone and a few days later the Patron called the police station and talked to Ramon Salinas. Sometime later Nell Priest called into the station and asked why the police had left their card in her door, I would guess she had probably talked to the patron that had given given Nicoletti her name in between time. Salinas told her they needed to talk to her and asked if she would come in, which she agreed to do. When Nell affived Salinas interviewed her and informed her they had received information that she could provide information about the murders, Nell stated she didn’t have any information about the murders, she didn’t know anything about them. Salinas asked her if she knew Tab Harper, Nell said she did and then Salinas told her the information they had received. Nell cleared things up to some degree. Harper had threatened her but that had happened the year before.at Airport Park. She was out at the park drinking beers with friends, including Tab Harper. At some point she needed to use the restroom and was walking towards the restroom when Harper came up behind her, grabbed her, picking her up off the ground and wouldn’t let her go. When Tab wouldn’t let her go Nell busted a beer bottle over Tab’s head. At this point Harper dropped Nell and then pulled a knife out and told Nell he should kill her for what she had just done. Nell explained that Harper hadn’t held the knife on her lie against her neck or anything and she didn’t feel threatened by him, that was just the way Harper acted. This is exactly the same thing Rebecca DesMarias had said about Tab Harper when she was asked about the night at Midway Park. Rebecca stated Harper always was acting like that being his crazy self. He had tried to start fights with some of her friends but she wasn’t scared or intimidated it was just the way Tab acted. When some of the other kids that were present at midway that night including a couple of the kids Harper had tried to start fights with all said the same thing, Tab was always trying to start fights with them. That was clearly part of Tab Harper’s personality at the time he like to pick on and bully the teenage boys, some just blew it off while it truly intimidated others. One of those that was seriously intimidated was Rusty Escott, yes the same Rusty Escott that started and spread the rumor that Tab Harper that Harper was in Koehne Park the night of the murders. On July 16th after Nicoletti has received the calls naming Tab Harper as the party responsible for the murders and had been told he needed to talk to Rusty Escott and tracked him down, Rusty asked Nicoletti if Tab Harper was ever going to find out that it was he (Escott) that had given Harper’s name to the police, Nicoletti asked Rusty why and Rusty answered he was afraid of Harper and his friends. of coarse more on this later, but first get back to Nell Priest.

    So Nell hadn’t been threatened by Tab around the time of the murders, if she had ever been threatened, she didn’t feel she had been. She had run into Harper at Midway Park a couple days after the murders. It was this encounter when Harper apparently shared more details about the murders, specifically he had bitten the nipple off one of the girls’ breasts. Nell didn’t recall hearing Tab talk about the murders, the friend that had met her at the park that day had, that girl had come to the station with Nell that day and had been the girl that had first told Nell about the murders. Her name was June Wilson, Salinas interviewed her and June had heard Tab make these statements. June added it made her sick and she just wanted to leave the park after Harper had given the details of what he had done. Nell Priest didn’t remember any of this, what she did remember was Tab had said he was getting ready to get locked up again and he wanted to hurt someone before he did. Now those that want to point to Harper as the culprit interpret this as he is admitting to the murders and that he knows he’s going to get arrested and sent away. Again this looks like another case where the facts have been bent to match a certain narration. With Nell telling us that Tab told her that he was getting ready to get locked up “again”, it tells us Harper had been locked up before and felt he was headed back but what had he done?

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  4. So two days after the murders Tab Harper is at Midway Park divulging graphic details about the murders and telling a friend he is about to get locked up again, in the eyes of many Harper is implicating himself in the murders, I suggest we take a step back. All we have on Tab Harper at this point is he probably has beat up some kids somewhere along the way, that’s a far cry from a triple homicide even though the victims were teenagers, Harper’s preferred target, well at least males, that would fit Kenneth Franks. Again we have to turn to the police reports, this time police reports not associated with the Lake Waco Murders. I sent a request and received some reports a few months ago. Keep in mind when you make these request you can’t just ask for a complete criminal history, I guess they don’t want to make it easy.. I had to break it down to a few years, I wanted what crimes Harper might have committed around the time of the murders, so I requested and received the police reports on Harper for the years 1982 through 1985. I will get around to getting the reports for the years prior to this. So the reports I received might be limited in scope but they are very interesting and I believe very telling.

    Tab Harper was arrested on June 12, 1982, one month before the murders. Shortly after midnight Tab Harper and a friend named David Dunkin highly intoxicated walked into the 7-11 located at 1844 Lake Shore Drive. Gary Carter was the clerk working at the time and there were two customers playing video games in the back of the store when Harper and Dunkin strolled in. According to Gary Carter once in the store Harper and Dunkin went to the back of the store where the two customers were playing the video games and started yelling at them, apparently scaring one of the customers and causing him to leave the store. Then Harper grabbed some frozen food out of the freezer and threw it in the microwave and yelled out to Carter asking if 7-11 was going to pay for his food, Carter replied no 7-11 wasn’t going to pay for his food. Somewhere around this time David Dunkin having drank too much and not feeling well decided to go back out ro rhe car and wait for Harper. Apparently then Harper started a fight with the one remaining customer, Carter wasn’t sure if Harper had hit the customer but did see Harper swing at him and added Harper hit something but he just wasn’t sure if it was the customer or something else, then Harper chased this customer out of the store into the parking lot. While Harper was still outside in the parking lot, realizing the situation was getting out of hand Carter called the police. Harper re-enters the store and again according to Carter pulls out a knife and again Harper asks Carter if 7-11 is going to pay for his food. Carter now feeling threatened now replies yes 8-11 is going to pat for Harper’s food and with that Harper decides he wants more groceries. Carter states now Harper grabs a few empty grocery bags and then tells Carter be also wants the cash in the register. Trying to stall Harper until the police arrive Carter tells Harper to go get his groceries first then Carter will give Harper the cash from the register. Harper walks over to the aisles and starts filling the bags he had grabbed. About this time Waco PD pulls into the parking lot, David Dubkin sitting in the car in the parking lot sees the police pull in and walks back into the store and tells harper they need to go, Harper replies he will be out in a minute and Dunkin returns to the car. Two officers from the Waco PD responded to the call; Officers Rhudy and Swinson. When they enter the store Harper is still in the aisles acting like he is just shopping. Gary Carter explains the situation to the officers informing then there is another guy sitting out in the parking lot, referring to Dunkin, who the police saw when they first pulled in. Swinson goes out to the parking lot and approaches the car where he sees Dunkin has vomited ll over himself and the side of the car, figuring Dunkin isn’t much of a flight risk he returns to the store. Rhudy has already confiscated the stuffed grocery bags from Harper and then while searching him the officers two cans of Deviled ham in his boots. Now the police are unsure what they should Harper be charged with.Harper had filled the bags with groceries but he hadn’t left the store, so he really hadn’t stolen anything at that point. He had asked for the cash but hadn’t gotten it nor had forcibly tried to take it and although he had pulled out a pocket knife he really hadn’t used it in anyway. They could get him for shoplifting for the two cans of deviled ham but the cost of those cans were 89 cents a piece for a grand total of $1.78, was that even worth the effort. Finally the officers decided to charge both Harper and Dunkin with public intoxication, take them to the station, place them in a holding cell then go talk to someone in C.I.D. and see what they advise. So Rhudy and Swinson cuff Harper, go out collect Dunkin, have the car towed and proceed to the Waco PD station, place the drunk duo in a holding cell and make their way to C.I.D…

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  5. And whom was on duty when Rhudy and Swinson arrived? No other than Detective Ramon Salinas, the same person that would pick up and release Tab Harper on July 16th early on during the investigation of the Lake Waco Murders. Rhudy and Swinson give Salinas the run down of the information they had obtained from Gary Carter. Salinas advises Harper and Dunkin should be charged with aggravated robbery in addition to public intoxication and this being prior to the Lake Waco Murders and Salinas having a light case load at the time, he took over this less than.overwhelming case. Salinas interviews both Harper and Dunkin and officially charges the pair with public intoxication and aggravated robbery. By the time Harper and Dunkin were arraigned the aggravated robbery charge had been dropped against Dunkin, he was returned to the city holding cell until he paid the fine for public intoxication.Harper was arraigned on both charges and his bail was set at $1,500 and he to was returned to the city holding cell and would stay in the custody of the city until he paid his fine for public intoxication, then Harper would be sent over to the county jail. Salinas wrote his report on this case on June 17thm five days after the events had occurred and at that time Harper was still in the custody of the City, Salinas writes that the city will continue to hold Harper until he pays his fine and then send him over to the county, the reports never say when Harper paid this fine nor when he posted his bail so I don’t know exactly when he was finally released from jail. After his arraignment, Harper apparently had sobered up and realized he was in a world of trouble and asked the D.A. or the assistant D.A. if he could talk to Salinas. The A.D.A. passed on the request and Salinas agreed to talk to Harper. During this meeting Harper told Salinas he didn’t want any trouble and that he was innocent, he hadn’t pulled out a knife nor went behind the counter and grab the grocery bags nor asked for the cash out of the register. There is a little discrepancy in the reports of Rhudy and Salinas as to what Harper did with the knife,; Rhudy states Harper stabbed the counter, Salinas states Harper tapped the blade on the counter. Harper explained he knows Carter and he goes to that 7-11 to buy beer after hours and sometimes he gives Carter marijuana in exchange for the beer and Harper had offered Carter marijuana that night and then Cater told Harper he could grab some groceries and handed Harper the bags. Salinas asked Harper if he wants to file a complaint, Harper declines but insists he is telling the truth and tells Salinas he will take a polygraph. Salinas tells Harper he won’t give him a polygraph because Harper was intoxicated at the time in question but Salinas says what he will do is bring Carter in and give him a polygraph and if any irregularities show up Salinas will pass it on to the D.A.. Salinas contacts Carter and asks him him to come to the station to go over some things about the case. When Carter arrives Salinas gets him to write out a statement. Carter produces a four page statement. Afterwards Salinas questions Carter about the information Harper has provided; Carter admits he knows Harper and that he has sold him beer after hours before but Carter denies ever taking marijuana from Harper in exchange for beer. The reports never state if Carter was ever given a polygraph and if so what were the results. The reports on this case end with Harper going to court in December 1982 and agreeing to plead guilty for a five year sentence. He was out of prison by April 1985 which was the next time Harper had problems with the law when he held a loaded gun to his sister’s head. That case went nowhere when the sister decided she didn’t want to press charges and didn’t want to cooperate with law enforcement, the warrant issued for Tab was returned and the case suspended and that would be the only eun in with the law Harper would have in 1985. So in the four years I’ve reviewed Harper was convicted of one charge and it was not an assault and I would say it was more drunken stupidity than violent. Either way it’s a long way from 25 assaults or even a long violent history. But as always a few questions.

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  6. Going back to the conversation Nell Priest had with Tab Harper on July 15th, two days after the Lake Waco Murders and a little more than a month after Harper had been arrested for aggravated robbery the obvious question is isn’t it most likely Harper was talking about the crime he had been charged with when he told Nell he was getting ready to get locked up again? And when he told her he wanted to hurt someone before he was sent away again he had a certain person in mind; Gary Carter, the person that had called the police on him? When you remove the often repeated rumors this has to be the only reasonable conclusion, if reality was only that simple.

    When Detective Salinas interviewed Gary Carter, Salinas asked Carter if he knew the names of the two customers playing the video games that Harper ran off. Carter said he didn’t know their names, so Salinas told Carter if those customers ever returned to the store get their names and let him know. It doesn’t look as if Carter ever came up with these names. So whom were these guys. I take it that they were guys, just don’t see Harper fighting girls or chasing girls out of the store. And that takes me back to Rusty Escott and his confession to Mike Nicoletti that he was afraid of Tab Harper. When you read police reports and trial testimony over and over and over .you get into the habit of finding questions you wished law enforcement or attorneys would have asked. When Rusty told Nicoletti he was afraid of Harper why didn’t Nicoletti ask if there was a reason had something transpired between the two. That was the first thing that came to mind when I first read the report on this incident at the 7-11. I figured the two guys that Harper had run out of the store must have been teenagers, what adult man would have just allowed some loud rude obnoxious drunk to run them out if a store, you night get your ass beat but you are not just going to run off. So the guys that did runoff must have been young and intimidated and that made me think of Rusty Escott. And that he was worried about Harper finding out he had given Harper’s name in connection with the Lake Waco Murders, I can see Rusty as one of the guys being run off and then hearing about the murders and how Harper had talked to Rebecca DesMarias about the murders, Rusty found a way to cause problems for Harper. This is just my opinion, if anyone has anymore reliable facts or information on this please share.

    There are a couple things about these reports that stick out to me. First there isn’t any mention of a probation or parole officer or that Harper was on either on parole or probation, which you would expect to see if Harper had a long violent criminal history. Either the crimes Harper had committed in the past were not serious enough to require parole nor probation or the crimes he had committed in the past had happened so long ago before this crime that the terms of a a month later?ny parole or probation had run it’s term. Maybe whenever the last time Harper was locked up was for a parole or probation violation which would have cleared any further parole or probation. Again I don’t know the facts just one of those things that stuck out to me, you hear about Harper having such a long violent criminal history but he’s hot locked up nor on parole or probation just doesn’t seem to add up.

    On June 12th Tab Harper is telling Ramon Salinas he doesn’t want any trouble and tries to explain his actions, including given out marijuana in exchange for alcohol, remind you this was 1982 the time of the escalation of the war on drugs in America, in hope of lessening his culpability. Does this sound like someone that would commit a brutal triple homicide a month alter? Some might say well if he snapped out on drugs he could have done it. But that is why the trademark shallow stab wounds are so important. The person that committed these rapes and murders just didn’t snap out. This killer was in control of both the victims and himself, a confident rampage unconcerned with place and time, totally consumed with the pleasure he achieved while exhibiting the domination he had over his victims and inflicting pain with impunity. This is not the makeup of Terry Lee “Tab” Harper. This clearly comes out in the reports about the 7-11 incident, Harper is too easily distracted, when he asks for the cash Carter simply delays him by telling him to go get his groceries first and Harper complies, he is not in control, his mind isn’t clear he is just a drunken idiot and I would say this is the same thing with the bullying of the teenagers we read about in the Lake Waco Murders police reports, Harper stumbles around trying to cause havoc but never really accomplished anything.

    To be fair I guess I still need to obtain the police records on Tab Harper prior to 1982 and I know I have been slow on this. The reason I have been so slow is because I know Tab Harper just didn’t commit nor had anything to do with the Lake Waco Murders. I would hope at some point this will become the general consensus but there are always going to be the die hards and those that have only heard the rumors and that’s all they are left with to believe.. So much time and effort has been spent on Tab Harper and in doing so others with more connections to the case, with questionable stories and incoherent timelines slip under the radar, rarely mentioned and never scrutinized and it becomes more difficult as time goes by.. And most of these people are still alive today and can still be questioned. Yes I am talking about Clifford Oliver, Todd Childers, John Arnett Jr., Cal Frazier Josie Scionti, Diane Scionti, Harold Windham, James Gutierrez and Terry Gutierrez. Any number of this group hold the answers.

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