The Easy Crime

Colin Ridgway's murder goes unpunished, but his family pays the price

That is not the only crime Katherine has accused Kenneth Bicking III of committing.

According to Broward County, Florida, court records obtained by the Dallas Observer this week, Katherine claims that on April 2, 1997, less than two months after his release from Dallas jail, Kenneth picked her up at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, drove her to his home in nearby Lauderdale Lakes, and raped her.

In an arrest report dated January 1, 1998, eight months after she alleges the attack occurred, Katherine claims he tied her wrists together and led her to a bed covered in plastic. She says Kenneth then set up a video camera and forced her to perform oral sex on him, after which he raped her repeatedly with "various objects." She alleges he then forced her to drink wine, took pictures of her, and forced her to draft a document at knifepoint giving him custody of their children, now ages 6 and 8. She says she was sure Kenneth was going to kill her if she didn't obey his instructions. Katherine says Kenneth then let her get dressed and took her back to the airport, where she says she called police.

Bicking's Fort Lauderdale lawyer, Eddie Kay, says his client is scheduled to go to trial in August. Kay insists Bicking III committed neither the sexual assault on Katherine nor the murder of Colin Ridgway. He refers to Kenneth as a fall guy, the victim of Katherine's plot to get sole custody of their children--and the University Park cops' desire to find somebody to blame for the murder.

"I have no idea what goes through the mind of the University Park Police Department," Kay says, "but I would suspect very little." He says a lot more, all of it expletive-ridden and off the record.

This story has all the makings of an Elmore Leonard novel, only without a final chapter, a tidy ending. And there's nothing remotely comical about this tale, not when you look beyond the headlines and mistakes and begin to assess the toll Ridgway's unsolved murder has taken on those around him, from the innocent to the accused. Even Joan Jackson is now in seclusion in Dallas, her friends gone and her once-promising art career abandoned.

The tragedy reaches all the way to Ridgway's homeland of Australia, where his only remaining blood relative lives--his sister Wanda, and her husband of 49 years, Kevin Dixon. Wanda and Kevin, whose home is littered with photos of Colin as a child, helped raise Colin from the time he was seven, when his mother, Alma, died suddenly from a stroke. Kevin used to take Colin to track meets, where he was a high-jumping star. Colin would eventually place seventh in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne; at 17, he was then the youngest athlete ever to compete in the games. Nine years later, Colin was a Dallas Cowboys punter, though only for half a season, posting less than impressive numbers.

Wanda and Kevin are both in their 70s, and their health is failing. They moved to a remote part of northern Australia to be near a hospital. Wanda receives dialysis treatments several times a week, and Kevin has cancer and gets his oxygen through two tanks. When he speaks over the phone, there's a constant hissing in the background. It's not the overseas connection; it's the sound of the machines that keep him alive. Kevin says he began smoking heavily when he became obsessed with finding the people who killed his brother-in-law.

"This has wrecked my life," Kevin says. "Since this happened, I've been in a psychiatric hospital for six months, which is where they discovered I had cancer. I used to stay up every night ringing to America, and I was an inveterate smoker. It got to the stupid stage where all I did was smoke and became obsessed with trying to nail someone. Eventually my lungs gave up, and I'm on oxygen 24 hours a day. That's what it's done to me. It's frustration and bloody ruination. My wife cries all the time. Now, there's nothing left."

Kevin, the son of a police chief, was never officially notified of Colin's death. To this day, Kevin says, Joan has never sent a note or called to express her condolences. "She never had the guts to write to us," he says. "Can you believe that?"

The couple only found out about the murder from a friend who stumbled across the news in an Australian newspaper. The Dixons never had a chance to attend Colin's memorial service; he was cremated shortly after the murder.

Kevin and Wanda Dixon want someone to pay for Colin's death; Kevin talks about wanting to administer the lethal injection all by himself. He is furious with the University Park cops, angry even at Ridgway's friends--his anger knows no bounds. "This would have to be one of the greatest, most inept investigations I've ever had anything to do with," he says. "There's no such thing as the perfect murder."

Yet Erinn Bryan, who talks to Mike Brock of the UPPD almost monthly, says she almost hopes this case never goes to trial--all that pain to revisit, all those ghosts to confront one more damned time. Every day, she tries to put a little more of this behind her, hoping someday this wound will heal.

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