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Authors: Patricia Springer

Body Hunter

BOOK: Body Hunter
The man's long strides were too much for petite, twenty-three-year-old Toni Gibbs to outrun. He slammed her to the cold, dry earth, then dragged her to the abandoned, burned-out school bus and ripped off her clothes. He pushed her shoulders down into the dirty floorboard, then rammed himself into her unyielding body, savagely raping her in a blind rage.
Finally the attack stopped. But the man wasn't done. He plunged a sharp knife blade deep into Toni's slim body again and again—three stab wounds to the back, three more to the chest.
His rage spent, the man quickly gathered up his victim's clothes and stuffed them under the floorboard of the rusted-out bus before fleeing.
Toni Gibbs crawled from the bus shell. One hundred yards away, she died.
Other books by Patricia Springer
Patricia Springer
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
This book is dedicated to four fabulous women
who through their friendships and talents
have enriched my life beyond measure.
Tina Church, LaRee Bryant, Melody Milam Potter,
and Jan Blankenship
For those of us who attempt to take the unbelievable actions of others and make them understandable, there are many people who assist in our quest. Some have helped with investigations, some with technical advice, and then there are those who have opened their souls so that we may realize their pain and know their everlasting love for their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, lovers and friends. To all, I say a heartfelt “thank you.”
Thanks to Julie Pruitt, station manager, Scott Cop-penbarger, news director, Dana Byerley, reporter, and Harold Ferguson, cameraman, of KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls; Carroll Wilson, editor, Sharon Chance, reporter, and Jill Sexton Smolko, of the
Times Record News;
Brad Duncan, Fred Duncan, and Dave Collard of Olney Door and Screen Company; Dana Rice, investigator, and Dorie Glickman, attorney-at-law with the Office of the Public Defender, Wichita County; Leslie Ryan-Hash, court reporter, 30th District Court; John Little, investigator for the Wichita County District Attorney's Office; Jan Blankenship, LPC, and Dr. Melody Potter, Ph.D.; Tina Church of TC Investigations; James Cron, certified latent print examiner; Bryce and Tina Wardrip; Richard Nunley; Floyd and Paulette Jackson; and Wilma Hooker.
As always my grateful appreciation to Karen Haas and LaRee Bryant for making my words work.
And lastly, gratitude to Faryion Wardrip for his exclusive death-row interview, as well as his candor.
Part I
Chapter One
December 21, 1984
The cold December air chilled twenty-year-old Terry Sims and her friend Leza Boone as they walked to the parking lot of Bethania Regional Health Care Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Terry's dark brown hair blew gently in the breeze and, as the cold night air could cut like a surgeon's knife, her coat was pulled tightly over her pink uniform. Terry, who aspired to be a doctor, had been working at Bethania for two years.
The young health-care workers laughed and talked about their plans for Christmas as they drove to the home of close friends to exchange gifts. Terry was in the Christmas spirit. She had given two boxes of chocolates to coworkers before she finished her three-to-eleven
shift. It was 11:25 by the time Terry and Leza arrived at their friends' home and nearly an hour later before they left for Leza's rented house on Bell Street.
“I need you to help me study for finals and help me stay awake,” Leza told Terry, who occasionally spent the night at her friend's house while both women, students at Midwestern State University, studied for exams.
Leza was scheduled to work a second shift at the hospital. She dropped Terry off at the small white, frame house and drove Terry's car back to work while her own vehicle, out of gas, sat in the driveway in front of the single detached garage to the left of the house.
Terry unlocked the front door with Leza's keys. A narrow awning-style roof protected the entrance from a drizzling rain. The glare from the front porch light was the only lumination into the darkened structure. It was 12:30
. The air conditioner protruding from the front window was silent. Winter had replaced the blistering hot Texas summer. Nature's coldness filled the room, along with peaceful silence.
In the darkened shadows and dripping rain, a man huddled inside his wet coat and watched from across the street. He noticed Terry Sims slowly close the door behind her and Leza speed away.
The stranger had been aimlessly walking the streets of his Wichita Falls neighborhood. He'd shot up some drugs and should have been feeling a radical high but, instead, all he sensed was hostility. But that was nothing new.
He hated everyone. He hated his family. He hated himself.
He wanted to lash out, to hurt someone.
As his anger mushroomed, the drugs clouded his thinking. Soon the anger took over.
Earlier that evening, he had encountered two or three people, persons he didn't know, but for some unfathomable reason had desired to harm. The overt aggression had bubbled to the surface like pudding coming to a boil. The destructive emotions had thickened as the long night wore on.
Drenched from the persistent rain, the stranger decided to head home. Perhaps his rage would have lessened by the time he walked the four blocks back to his apartment. Then he noticed Terry Sims on the front porch of the small house on Bell Street. He watched her as she entered the house alone.
Moments later the tranquility of the empty residence was broken by a loud knock at the front door. As Terry Sims gently opened the wooden closure, she could see a tall, thin man standing between her and the screen door he had pushed ajar. Rainwater dripped from his shaggy brown hair and beaded on his scruffy beard.
Before Sims could react, the man thrust his way into the house. The morning newspaper, protected from the rain in a knotted plastic bag, was wedged in the folds of the door mat that had been jammed between the screen and wooden door in the intruder's rush to enter. The alarm system had been turned off.
“I want to talk to you,” the intruder blurted out, his deep-set blue eyes wild with rage.
Terry's petite body quivered, and her eyes widened in fear.
“I need to talk to someone!” he shouted. His eyes were aglow with fire. His voice filled with wrath.
Sims looked toward the door, looking for a way out of the house, away from the mad man who had busted into the house. She lunged for the door.
The six-foot, six-inch, two-hundred-twenty-pound man grabbed Sims and tossed her petite five-foot, three-inch, ninety-four-pound body across the room like a child discarding a rag doll. He pounded his large fists into her slim body, struck her across her heart-shaped face. He screamed obscenities.
Terry was defenseless. She fought instinctually, but her efforts were no more effective than trying to swim upstream in a strong downstream current. Knocked to the floor, she struggled to reach the coffee table where her school books and a
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
lay ready for study. Nearby sat a red candle surrounded by small poinsettias to celebrate the Christmas season.
The inside of Sims's upper lip began to swell. The bridge of her narrow nose turned red as her glasses fell to the floor. Strike after brutal strike left its mark on her pale, frightened face. The brown eyes that had danced with Christmas excitement only an hour earlier flashed with pain. She begged for mercy.
Terry's small body fell against the brown-and-cream-striped sofa. Cushions tumbled to the floor. She bumped against a magazine-filled basket as she fell forward. The glossy pages of magazines cradled in the brown wicker hopper were smeared with her red blood.
The assailant yanked the pink flowered smock over Sims's head and tossed it inside-out under the cluttered coffee table. Then he dragged her squirming body across the brown shag carpeting to the adjacent bedroom.
The stinging rug burns were seemingly ignored as Terry Sims fought to escape her batterer.
Taking a four-inch knife from his jacket pocket, the man began to poke Terry's chest with the blade's tip. The wounds barely broke the skin of his victim, but they provoked the reaction he was looking for. A reaction he relished. The young nurse was visibly terrified and momentarily paralyzed with fear. Her attacker felt a sense of domination and control he had never had before.
Instinct ostensibly overcame reason and Terry Sims grabbed for the knife the man gripped in his right hand. The sharp blade severed the little finger of her right hand and sliced deep into the four fingers of her left hand. Flesh hung from the bone. Her shrill, agonizing cries echoed throughout the small dwelling and remained confined there. No one heard her screams.
The overpowering man slung Sims's body on top of tan plaid sheets warmed by the heated waterbed mattress. Then he began tearing at her clothes. Her pink shirt, which had been covered by her smock, fell to the floor, along with her blood-stained bra tangled within the shirt fabric.
The spirited woman would not give up, or give in to her attacker. She continued to battle, slapping at her attacker's arms, thrashing at him wildly with her legs.
Between the water bed and the brown paneled bedroom wall lay a yellow electrical cord. The man quickly seized the cord and cut a section to bind Sims's hands behind her back. Securely tied, she had no chance of fighting off her attacker, or of reaching the Slimline phone on the headboard of the bed to call for help.
Terry Sims was rendered defenseless.
The attacker yanked Terry's white Nike tennis shoes from her feet with his bloodstained hands. The shoes made a muffled thud as they dropped to the floor, the ties still neatly bowed. While the man tore the pink uniform pants and underwear from the woman's body, blood from her wounds seeped onto the bedsheets. Terry's frightened expression was frozen across her battered face.
The anger that roared within the unknown assailant like a hungry lion looking for prey had not dissipated. It was not Terry Sims who lay on the bed in front of him, but someone else. Someone who ignited the rage inside him.
The man seized Sims's head and forced the pretty young nurse's face over his genitalia, demanding that she perform oral sex. Tears streamed down her face as she reluctantly widened her mouth to encircle him. His large hands pressed against her head as he thrust his hips back and forth until he reached climax. But his anger was not satisfied with the orgasm. With Sims's uniform pants and underwear still encircling her ankles, the intruder shoved her back down on the bed. Then he roughly wrenched her legs apart, climbed on her small quivering body, and plunged himself inside her. Ferociously, demeaningly, he raped her.
But neither of the violent sexual acts satisfied the rapist. His anger ran too strong, the well of hostility within him too deep.
He dragged Terry's bruised and bleeding body to the small bathroom across the hall with no more effort than it took to carry a toddler. Bending Sims's torso over the edge of the white porcelain tub, he escalated the brutal attack. Stab wound after stab wound riddled her body. The four-inch blade ripped into her freckled back once, twice, three times, leaving wide, gaping wounds on the upper right side near her shoulder blade. Seven stab wounds penetrated her narrow chest, along with several smaller cuts near her modest breasts. A quick slashing motion caught Terry's left upper arm, ripping the skin open in a wide cut.
Sims slumped to the reddish-brown, vinyl-covered floor. Her hair was wet and matted with her own blood, and scarlet streaks marred the front of the bathtub, splattered the square bath tiles, and puddled on the tub's porcelain ledge and the white bathroom chest. Blood flowed from each of the wounds and pooled beneath Terry's battered body. Her head near the kitty litter box, she lay on her left side, her right knee elevated toward her chest. Her hands remained bound behind her by the yellow cord. Except for a thin gold necklace, two small gold studs, one in each earlobe, and two gold rings, she was nude.
The fight was finally gone from Terry Sims. Seventeen vicious knife wounds had pierced her pale flesh. She gasped for air one last time as her lungs filled with blood. Terry Sims was dead.
The violent intruder slipped away from the house on Bell Street and walked back to his apartment. He lay across the bed and closed his eyes. Disbelief filled his mind.
, he thought.
There is no way I could have killed that girl.
He had no reason to attack the young nurse. No reason to beat, rape, and stab her.
The vicious aggressor began the process of convincing himself he hadn't really killed Terry Sims.
Leza Boone finished her second shift at Bethania Health Center at 7:15
. on December 21, 1984. Tired and anxious to start studying for finals, Leza drove directly to her rented house on Bell Street where she expected Terry Sims to be waiting.
Leza's knock on the door went unanswered. She thought her friend must have fallen asleep. She knocked again, but there was still no answer. The door, equipped with automatic locks that secured the entrance when closed, wouldn't open. Leza walked two doors down to the landlord's house and borrowed his spare key.
The duplicate key released the lock and Leza walked in to find the living room in disarray. She sucked in a quick breath.
“Terry,” Leza called, her voice shaking. “Terry, are you here?” she yelled louder.
A cold chill of fear ran over Leza's body.
Cautiously, she walked through the small, frame house, noticing tossed cushions, Terry's glasses on the floor, and a dark stain that was not there when she'd left for work the day before.
As Leza reached the bathroom door, she stopped suddenly, freezing in horror. A pool of bright red blood was puddled on the floor. Leza ran screaming from the house, frantically waving her arms in the air.
Neighbors looked out their windows at the sounds of Leza's cries. It was 7:20
“Something's really wrong! I'm scared!” Leza breathlessly told her landlord. Near hysteria, she told him of the disheveled living room and the blood on the bare bathroom floor. They immediately phoned the police.
The landlord and his wife followed Leza back to the seemingly empty house and went inside to check on Terry while Leza paced anxiously on the front porch.
The moment Leza saw her landlord's ashen face as he emerged from her home, she knew something horrible had happened to Terry. She cried deep, racking sobs.
Wichita Falls police officers arrived at the Bell Street house and immediately secured the area. Detectives searched the house. They found a bloody Kleenex on the coffee table, the victim's purse and wallet scattered across the waterbed, and Terry Sims's bloody body on the bathroom floor.
Cleaning products scattered around the bathroom and towels taken from the rod caused detectives to wonder if the killer had attempted to clean up the crime scene. If he had, it was obvious from the amount of blood splattered on most of the small room's surfaces that the task had been too large. The killer must have given up any futile efforts to wash away the traces of his evil act.
The glum detectives approached Leza. The men confirmed her worst fears—Terry Sims had been murdered.
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