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  1. #1
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    AR - James Griffin, 18, & Dallas Bittner, 17, Saline County, 27 Aug 1974

    Hello! My name is Jess, and I am coming here to see if anyone can help me with a very cold case. This case happened in 1974 (two years before I was born!), but my family has done nothing about it because my grandmother couldn't handle dredeging things, up, but she died recently and now my mother and grandfather want closure. What happened was that my 18 year old uncle and his best friend were killed in what was officially ruled an accident, but that we are pretty sure was murder.

    On August 26th, 1974, my uncle and his friend were out on the town near Little Rock, Arkansas when they ran out of gas on a rural stretch of road. Around 10:30pm, a man called the police to tell them that they caught two boys (my uncle and his friend) trying to siphon gas out of his car - he claimed that he chased them but that they got away, leaving their out of gas car. The problem with that scenario: my uncle had broken both legs twice and his right leg a third time not long before this happened. His legs were held together with pins, rods, and plates - he absolutely could not run, in fact he often used a cane around this time, so if that man started to chase them he surely would have caught them.

    Anyway, the same man called the police around 1:30am on the 27th to tell them that they two boys had come back looking for their car, but by then the man had gotten the car towed. He said he told them they would have to walk home. A half hour later, a different man called to tell the police that he was driving down the road (near the home they had been caught siphoning gas) and saw what he thought was burlap sacks lying in the road. He said they were in the middle of the road and that he unsuccessfully tried to straddle them and that after he hit them he stopped, looked back, and saw what he then realized was a human arm. Does that make sense to any of you? He couldn't tell they were human in the headlights, but they way he said he could see a human arm when the bodies were only lit by his tail lights (it's a rural area with no street lights)?

    The medical examiner ruled that the boys were alive when they were hit by the truck but that both died instantly. Strangely, neither showed any evidence of trying to sit up or move out of the way of the truck. They ruled it an accident, and their comments in the newpaper clippings about the case are infuriating: they said that there had been 14 similar cases in the area over the previous few years (always two boys, always found after being run over while lying in the street). They said that drugs and alcohol had not been involved in any of the cases. Their theory? That the boys had gotten tired and decided to lay down and rest on the road because it was warm and dry Seriously?
    Possibly the most infuriating thing is that the policeman who came to tell my grandmother that her only son had died did so with a big smile on his face.
    Family members and I have been trying to get complete police records from the Saline County PD, but they claim to not have any records that are more than 20 years old except for homicide cases. We have limited records that they gave us at the time and newpaper clippings, and I am happy to share them with anyone who wants to see them (since they have names and other info I don't want to post them on here).
    What I am looking for is any type of suggestion on where to go next, info on any of the other cases mentioned in the newspaper clippings, etc. Any input is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. #2
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    I'm not sure but I think the only way forward to get answers are to talk to the detective who investigated the death's. The medical examiner if they both are still alive.

    I have had similar questions of my father's death and after 20 years I was told the same thing. If the death was ruled an accident then no records will be there after 20 years. I was advised my only recourse was to speak with the detective on the case because sometimes they keep copies of their reports.

    Other then that, a private eye but even if the Police on the scene and ME are deceased really nothing can be done.

    That is what I was told by an attorney and for years it has made me ill, knowing my dad was probably murdered but will never be investigated as such.

  3. #3
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    Where exactly did this happen? The medical examiner might still be alive. Same with the editor or reporters from the local newspaper. Plus, you'd think there'd be some sort of uproar if 14 young men died in the same kind of odd circumstance. Wouldn't the paper have archives with the stories -- the families of the other victims might have found out something.

  4. #4
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    That reminds of the Boys on the Tracks case....

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/740175/posts

    There's so many dodgy conspiracy theories around that case though, I wouldn't know what to believe. Just posting it because it happened just outside Little Rock, AR, so maybe the story will hold something useful for bubbabearzle.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bubbabearzle View Post
    He said they were in the middle of the road and that he unsuccessfully tried to straddle them and that after he hit them he stopped, looked back, and saw what he then realized was a human arm. Does that make sense to any of you? He couldn't tell they were human in the headlights, but they way he said he could see a human arm when the bodies were only lit by his tail lights (it's a rural area with no street lights)?
    It does make sense, actually... the driver was probably tired, late at night, with a closing speed of 50 mph or more. He hits the boys, figuring that he can straddle the obstacle or is better hitting the debris/animal than destabilizing his truck and risking hitting something bigger and harder. Of course he then wants to see what he just hit and then he realizes what it actually was, because even if there is less light, he has more time to make sense of what he can see.

    However, 14 similar cases... that makes no sense at all. The call to the police to justify interfering with the vehicle, rather than helping a traveler, and the fact that the boys were in the road in the first place are hinky as hell in one case, never mind 15.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the replies everyone, I appreciate the input!

    Lera - First and foremost, I'm so sorry about your dad, I cannot imagine how horrible and frustrating that must feel. Have you posted anything here about it?

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate (online) the officer who was in charge of the case, but seeing as it was 38 years ago I wonder if he's even still alive (the driver and homeowner are, though, I did check that recently). Plus, from the limited police records I was able to locate it looks like there wasn't really an investigation at all, they pretty much called it an accident from the outset.

    That did remind me of a VERY important detail, however - the police reports did state that they were requesting an autopsy, but the funeral director told my grandmother that an autopsy was not done (there was no Y incision)! I cannot understand why she didn't pitch a fit about that except for two things: 1 - there was apparently really obvious head trauma (med examiner summary report says it was the cause of death) so maybe the actual medical examiner decided that a full autopsy wasn't necessary and 2 - my grandmother was barely able to function from the shock of it all. My grandfather (who lived in Michigan at the time) did come down and spoke to the medical examiner, who promised him a copy of the full report (which he never received but has now ordered).

    Steadfast - this happened in Saline county, Arkansas (on the outskirts of Little Rock). I have to do some research, because the medical examiner who signed the final report was Rodney Carlton but a different doctor's name is on other forms. I wish I knew what newpapers the articles I have are from, but they are clippings. I like your idea of contacting the reporters, though, because two other articles mention the 14 similar deaths (they said it was between 1972 and 1974). As for finding articles on the other cases, I did try one of those web sites in which you can search for old newspaper articles, but I had no success and suspect I would have to go to actual microfilm records. Unfortunately, those papers would be in central Arkansas and I live in Seattle - I'll see what my mom can find out.

    Cappuccino - I have heard of that case, my aunt pointed it out to me because she was also shocked about the number of similarities between the cases. It happened pretty darn close by, but it was about 15 years later.

    Cymro - I see what you're saying, it could have happened that way, especially if he was out cruising in his brand new truck. I couldn't agree more on the hinky factor!

  7. #7
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    Based on details provided above it seems the most likely scenario is that the truck hit the boys simply because the driver could not see them until it was too late. It is reasonable to imagine that the teens would be trying to flag down a vehicle for a ride home, not realizing how poorly visible they were in the dark.

    It is possible that after the accident the truck driver panicked and for some reason (speeding?) would not admit the victims were standing up, or that they had tripped (remember the bad legs) and fell to the ground.

    About 30 years ago I was involved in a similar accident on a dark stretch of road. I was the passenger in a friend's car and coasting along at 50 mph we struck a man who was standing in the middle of the road at 3am. At that speed there was absolutely no way we could have avoided hitting him, when we saw him we were like 30 feet away. Took us 20 minutes to locate him in the pitch darkness and when we did we saw that there was nothing we could do, he was obviously dead. Paramedics who arrived shortly after said he was certainly killed on impact. People just don't realize they can't be seen in the dark.

  8. #8
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    KarlK: the medical examiner stated that he could tell the boys had been lying down in the road when they were hit - there were no injuries consistent with them being hit by the bumper, for example - all of the injuries were from being run over (in fact, the very short version medical examiner report stated that head trauma was the cause of death).

  9. #9
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    I have some questions, bubba.

    Do you know the exact location where your uncle and his friend were run over?

    Do you know the exact location of where the car was when it ran out of gas, the location it was towed from?

    Does your grandfather or mother remember the name of the wrecker service? Are they still in business? Sometimes, some business owners save everything. They may even have the information on where they picked up the vehicle. It's doubtful, but you never know. It's also possible the friend's family may have obtained that information way back when.

    If this really should have been treated as murder case and not an accident, it is important to know the distances between where the car was towed, and where the boys were hit by a truck. You happen to know what kind of truck hit them? The size? Pick-up, wrecker, 18 wheeler, etc?

    Do you know if when the car was picked up from wherever it was towed to if it had gas in it or if the friend's parents had to put gas in it before driving it home?

    Can you name some of towns or specific locations where the other mysterious deaths took place, and any dates you have available for those? Do you have names as well? Were they all in Saline County?

    Some things I would do if I were in your shoes. Talk to living family members of your uncle's friend if you can. You're really going to need their help. Talk to any friends that knew them in school, and find out what the word was at school, if the boys had any enemies, if they might have been into drugs even in a minor way, just smoking a little pot on the side, anything to add to what you already know.

    Post information about all the deaths you know of that might be related to your uncle and friend's death on Topix.com for whatever city or town is appropriate or central to all the mysterious deaths. You might generate some interest, run across people, former friends of theirs who remember when it happened, and may have information or at least an idea or inkling of what otherwise might have happened to the boys.

    See if you can get a copy of the death certificates for both your uncle and his friend. Perhaps the friend's family has a copy of their family member's death certificate. If not, and they're interested, get them to order one so you can compare cause of death, any doctors or medical examiners who may have signed off on one or both. Were both handled by the same funeral home?

    Start there. I may have some other ideas come up. This case is very cold, and time is of the essence due to people's ages.

    I'm sorry for your family's loss.
    jt

  10. #10
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    Justthinkin- Thanks for allof your thoughts on the matter, I'll answer what I can:

    I don't know the exact location (I have never lived in Arkansas so I'm unfamiliar with the area), but I do know that it is about a mile from the house where they were caught siphoning gas and the police info we have shows a sharp curve in the road not far from where the boys were found. It was on Sardis road in a remote part of what was then Saline county, but apparently it is considered part of a different town or county nowadays.

    The car was abandoned almost right in front of the house where they were stealing gas, that's why they were able to have it towed (if it wasn't on their property I doubt they would have been able to get an "abandoned" car towed that quickly).

    I'm not sure about the wrecking company, but I don't think it would be possible for us to get the info ourselves since the car was owned by the friend and not my uncle. The vehicle that hit them was a 1974 pickup truck (the same year as the accident). I spoke to my grandfather (thr the first time in my life, and I'm 35!) when he was in for the funeral of my grandmother and he seems to think he heard that the car's tank was NOT completely empty, but I need to talk to him again to find out how he knows that.

    Unfortunately, try as I might I have not been able to find out anything else about the other incidents. The only thing I have that mentions the rash of similar incidents is a clipping from the local newspaper at the time that quoted the medical examiner. I will have to bug my mother about checking out microfilm newspapers at the library, since she now lives back in the area and I am in Seattle.

    The drugs idea has crossed my mind, my uncle was a bit of a troublemaker and it wouldn't have surprised anyone too much. It seems especially possible after learning the following: my uncle was still in high school and was bugging his parents for a motorcycle. Of course, neither of them helped him buy one and he had no job, but oddly enough he apparently "owned" one at the time of his death. The police records showed that my uncle supposedly parked his motorcycle in a shopping center parking lot where he met with the friend that evening. After the boys were found dead the police also had the motorcycle towed. Nobody was ever able to explain why they thought the motorcycle (which was NOT registered in his name) was his OR, if it was his, how he got it with no money. They also never explained how they found it within hours of his death and connected it to him.

    I will ask my mom if she can find a way to connect with and speak to some of his friends, maybe they would be willin g to talk about things now that they wouldn't talk about then, KWIM?
    Jess


  11. #11
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    bubba,

    Sardis Rd. is a long one, runs through Bauxite, Ar and Mabelvale, AR. The sharpest curve I see is right outside of Mabelvale going WSW.

    From what you've said about the boys lying in the road when they were struck by a pick-up truck, it sounds to me like they were likely already deceased when placed in the road. That of course would mean they had been murdered, and with the hope their being struck by a vehicle would hide that fact. As someone else said earlier, it is very reminiscent of the two boys found on the tracks in 1987 IIRC.

    Who in your family identified the body of your uncle? Your grandfather? How did he determine the body was your uncle's? Was the identifying person only allowed to look at your uncle's face or did he view the entire body? The reason I ask is if there may have been other injuries your grandfather or whoever identified your uncle saw, and that perhaps didn't fit with your uncle being run over.

    Where did you hear about the boys being in burlap bags? Was that from a newspaper article or from family sources?

    I'm having trouble with the 3 hour interlude between when the boys were run off, and when they showed back up at that house. That's a significant time lag.

    If they had been run-off as claimed, they would have had two thoughts on their minds, one seeing if they could get someone close by to help them, either by loaning them some gas or by calling their parents to bring gas for the car. How much time would they have spent trying that angle? They also might have been thinking about catching a ride into the nearest town in hopes of getting gas, that is if the car was truly on empty. It seems more likely to me that they would have returned to the car much sooner than 3 hours. They were teens, and teens do things in a hurry. If they were able to get no gas, then why would they even come back to the car? Most likely they would have just tried to hitchhike back home, and deal with angry parents, and then go get the car.

    If the car still had gas in it when it was picked up from the wrecker service or whatever lot it was towed to, then one possibility may be that the boys were acting as mules, trafficking drugs for someone, and were shot once they'd completed the task they were assigned or that they'd witnessed a drug drop, and were shot to keep them silent. Then the whole story of them running out of gas was entirely made up. Of course there could be plenty of other explanations, and at this point, it's pointless to speculate. However, I see nothing to suggest this was a simple accident. The burlap bags alone, negate that altogether.

    You can order a copy of the death certificate from the state of Arkansas on line since you're a relative.

    I guess it all boils down to how serious your relatives are about getting answers or if you are the one pushing them to ascertain the answers. If, the latter, at some point they're likely to clam up, not wanting to dredge up their feelings, and possible feelings of powerlessnesss to do anything about it at the time.

    If OTOH, they are totally serious about getting to the bottom of it, at some point, but not just yet, they may need to think about exhuming your uncle's body. If as you say, no autopsy was performed then someone had a hand in preventing it from being done, and it was prevented for a reason. Maybe an autopsy would have revealed stab wounds or gunshot wounds in addition to injuries sustained by being run over.
    Last edited by justthinkin; 10-20-2011 at 06:44 PM.

  12. #12
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    I am also very troubled by the lack of an autopsy. Even if there was obvious head trauma, that doesn't mean that is what they died from. In fact, if they were truly lying in the road when they were hit I would want to see some toxicology reports. How did they know drugs and alcohol were not a factor without tox screens?

    This is bizarre. I'm off to Google people killed while lying in the road.

    So sorry that your family has had to go through this.

  13. #13
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    bubba,

    I just looked at a map, and see that where those two boys were found lying on train tracks outside of Alexander, AR is only about 5 miles from where the bodies of your uncle and his friend were found, that is if they were found outside of Mabelvale. Regardless, both instances took place in Saline County, though 12 years apart.


    jt

  14. #14
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    So, I did some Googling and was surprised at how many people have died after lying in a road and being run over but some unsuspecting motorist. Many articles I read stated that the victim was intoxicated or police were waiting for the results of toxicology reports which I found very interesting. In fact, I don't think I read one article where the cause of death was declared without toxicology reports coming back first.

    I am baffled as to why this type of testing wasn't done. Even if they felt the death was accidental, I would think that they would want to have ALL of the information. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

  15. #15
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    Bubbabearzle, I have seen you on another thread I'm on
    Have you made any progress with this? Can I ask are their names Dallas Glenn Bittner and James Connor Griffin or am I off base? Unless I missed it it's hard to help without a name. Do you have any links to articles?

    ETA: if you don't want names here please let me or mods know and will delete
    Trust Your Instincts



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