Burden of proof

Serial killer Faryion Wardrip would have gotten away with murder if bricklayer-turned-investigator John Little hadn't stolen his coffee cup

"When I got in the car I started seeing these images of anger and hatred and started in on her. I told her to just drive. I don't remember which direction we were going. As she was driving I grabbed her and started slinging her around. She swerved off the side of the road and stopped. I had her by her jacket and told her to turn down this little dirt road that went into a field. I was slinging her and screaming at her. Screaming as loud as I could. I finally told her to stop the car, and when she did I took off her clothes and stabbed her."

"Do you remember the weather that day?" Smith asked.

"Cold. It was really cold."

Faryion Wardrip
Faryion Wardrip
The brutally slain body of Terry Sims, a 20-year-old health-care center worker, was found in the bathroom of a friend and co-worker with whom she was to spend the night.
The brutally slain body of Terry Sims, a 20-year-old health-care center worker, was found in the bathroom of a friend and co-worker with whom she was to spend the night.

Soon, though, Wardrip's memory became selective. He was able to describe the white Camaro Toni Gibbs had been driving and what she was wearing, even the color of the jacket she'd worn, but he said he had absolutely no recollection of having a weapon with him or of what might have happened to it after he committed the crime. "Probably," he finally said, "it stayed right there."

He had, he said, begun removing her clothing while they were still in the car. "I think she got away from me," he told Smith. "She got out the door and started to run. I think that's how we got out in the field."

Smith's impatience began to show. "Did you have sex with Toni Gibbs?"

"I don't really remember. I just remember screaming at her, screaming that I hated her. I don't remember if I had sex. I just remember screaming and screaming and screaming how much I hated her, how much I hated everybody."

"You said that you knew Toni and she asked if you wanted a ride," Smith said. "How did Toni know you?"

"From the hospital," Wardrip said. "I met her when I worked there. But she never had anything to do with me. I just knew her from there. It could have been anybody. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I never set my sights on anybody.

"I would just get mad and just get out and walk. I'd be in such a rage. I would just scream at the sky, scream at the trees, scream at God. Then, afterwards, I would just lay down for a while and sleep. Then I'd see it on the news, realize that something bad must have happened, and I'd trick myself into believing it wasn't me..."

Wardrip looked at Little, who decided it was again his turn. "I'd like to talk to you about another case I'm investigating," Little said. "About the disappearance and murder of Ellen Blau in September of 1985. Do you know anything about that?"

Little waited, trying not to show his anxiousness, as Wardrip paused for several seconds. Then, he almost whispered his reply:

"Yeah," he said. "Same thing. I was out walking. Just walking."

He described walking by a nearby airbase when he saw a car park in a small store's parking lot. He asked the driver what she was doing, and she said she was looking for someone. "There wasn't nobody around, so I just grabbed her and slung her up against the side of the car and pushed her in. I told her we were going to take a ride."

He described how he'd forced Blau to drive down a road on the outskirts of town, screaming at her, telling her how much he hated her. They turned down a dirt road. "I drug her out of the car, took her in a field, and stripped her clothes off. I don't believe I raped her. And I don't remember how she died. She probably broke her neck, because I sure was slinging her. I was just so mad, so angry."

It was, he insisted, never the victim he was seeing, but instead the face of his first wife. Each time, it was his wife's face he looked into as he committed the crimes.

Little leaned back in his chair and glanced over at Smith to see whether he had additional questions. Smith wearily closed his eyes and shook his head.

"Faryion," Little said, "did you kill Ellen Blau?"

"Yeah. I don't remember how..."

"Did you kill Toni Gibbs?"


"Did you kill Terry Sims?"


And so, in less than an hour, Faryion Wardrip had resolved questions that had, for 14 years, hung over the city of Wichita Falls. Finally, it was over.

Or so Little and Smith thought as they made ready to return the prisoner to the custody of the jailer.

"There's one more," Wardrip said.

With that he began yet another horror story, of the murder of a 26-year-old mother of two named Debra Taylor, as the two investigators sat in stunned silence. "It ain't here," he said. "This one's in Fort Worth. I'd left Wichita Falls and gone there, hoping I could find a job. I was staying at this Travel Lodge that was full of people selling drugs. So I just stayed there, shooting drugs. One night I went to this bar. There was this girl there, and we got friendly and started dancing. She was coming on to me, and after a while we decided to leave.

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My name is Jeni Gibbs, niece of Toni Gibbs. My family believes that justice shall be served and that being stated that the death penalty be served.