By Jim Schutze
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It was soon obvious that he was not going to cooperate. Finally, he asked whether he was free to go. Little, disappointed that they had gotten no information linking Wardrip to the third homicide, looked at the man seated in front of him. "I'm afraid not," the investigator said. Standing, he stared silently at Wardrip for several seconds, then said, "Faryion Edward Wardrip, I have a warrant for your arrest...for the capital murder of Terry Sims and Toni Gibbs."
As the sheriff entered the room and handcuffed him, Wardrip began shaking his head. "I got nothing to hide," he said. "I didn't do this. I know one thing, though. This is going to be a big circus."
It was not until the following day, while hearing news reports of his arrest, that Wardrip learned the investigators had not told him everything. They had not mentioned having DNA evidence linking him to the crimes for which he'd been arrested.
That, the prisoner knew, changed everything. It was, indeed, going to become a "circus."
The following Tuesday morning, Glenda Wardrip sat in the jail visitation room, looking through a Plexiglas window into the tired, empty eyes of her husband. During the half hour they talked, he had not once suggested his innocence.
It was shortly before 10 a.m. when jailers escorted Wardrip from the visiting room back to his cell. The prisoner had said nothing until locked up, then, as the officers began walking away, he called out. "Tell that DA guy, John, that I want to talk to him," he said.
"And you better tell him to hurry...before I change my mind."
Since the weekend, Little had found it difficult to share in the excitement that had been vibrating through the district attorney's office. It gnawed at him that it didn't appear they would be able to tie Wardrip to the murder of Ellen Blau.
When the call came from the jail, however, his spirits lifted immediately. He contacted Archer County investigator Smith and urged him to meet him at the jail annex as quickly as possible.
The dejected man escorted into the room where the investigators waited looked nothing like the confident, self-assured person Little had earlier confronted. Wardrip was dressed in the standard-issue white jumpsuit with "Wichita County Jail" stenciled across the back; his hair was uncombed, his shoulders slumped. Several seconds passed before he lifted his head and his eyes met those of the visitor he'd summoned.
"I had a talk with my wife this morning," he said, "and we agreed that I've got to get right with God."
"You tell her what you did, Faryion?" Little asked.
"Naw, I didn't tell her. I couldn't. But she knew." With that his voice broke and tears welled in his eyes. Taking a deep breath and folding his hands, he said, "I'm ready to talk about it."
With a tape recorder and video camera chronicling the conversation, Little said, "OK, Faryion, what I'd like to do is just go back to the beginning...in your own words...and start with the events surrounding December 21 of 1984. This would be in reference to the death of Terry Sims."
Wardrip's fists clinched, then opened. He looked toward the ceiling, then at Little. While specific dates escaped him, he recalled it as a time when he was heavily involved in drugs, a time when his life had become a dysfunctional nightmare. He and his first wife fought constantly. His only escape from the hatred he felt for her was to leave the apartment and take long walks.
It had been, he said, while returning from hours of walking that he had noticed Terry Sims on the porch of the house where she was staying. He had seen several people that evening--total strangers--and had thought about lashing out at them but had managed to restrain his anger until he saw Sims.
"She was at the door," he said. "I went up and forced my way in. I slung her all over the house in a violent rage. Stripped her down. Murdered her."
Wardrip acknowledged stabbing her, but said he didn't "recall all the details." Little stared silently at Wardrip for several seconds. Nine stab wounds to the chest, slash wounds on the arms and hands, blood all over the house, and it's hard to remember?
"OK," he said, "let's move to a time approximately a month later--January 19, 1985," Little said. "Mr. Smith would like to ask you some questions about a case he's investigating."
Silent since Wardrip had entered the room, Paul Smith made no attempt at mock warmth. If John Little was understated and soft-spoken, the good cop in this three-man drama, Smith was the bull-charging, let's-cut-the-nonsense bad cop.
"We're referring to a nurse that worked at General Hospital. Toni Jean Gibbs. Do you remember that?" Smith began.
"Yeah," Wardrip replied, nodding. "Again, I was out walking. Been walking all night and somehow wound up downtown. By the time I started home, it was almost daylight. I was walking up by the hospital, and Toni saw me and asked me if I wanted a ride. I told her 'yeah.'
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