By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The toddler, John Kelly Redicks, died hours later of a gunshot wound to his head. Police eventually made an arrest in the murder: Mega, also known as 21-year-old Patrick Andrew Buchanan. He'd never be brought to trial, though. Nine months later, he was found dead on what was once Soldier's turf--the Regency Village apartments. A single bullet fired from a distance had struck his chest, punctured a lung and severed his spinal cord. The murder has not been solved.
Nine days after the toddler died, on September 1, 1988, another murder took place near Briarcliff. A witness would later tell police that he saw three men run down 36-year-old Orville McLean, and one would shoot at him with a handgun several times. He collapsed in the courtyard of apartments across from Briarcliff, dying from gunshot wounds to his head and leg. The witness picked out "Gregory Allen" from a police lineup two years later, in July 1990. Once again, though, the crime didn't result in a prosecution. As Assistant District Attorney Lana McDaniel--now a state district judge--was preparing for trial, her sole eyewitness, a drifter named Drewer Anthony Thomas, absolutely refused to testify. The murder charge was ultimately dropped, though not before Soldier had spent nearly a year in jail.
Thomas knew nothing about that crime and would soon break up with John. But while he was in jail, her own life began to disintegrate. Long hours on her feet had worn her down, as had the stresses of John's bizarre life and the people who wanted to tell her everything about it, whether it be myth or fact. She ran a beauty shop in Duncanville, but she says the local cops were harassing her clients, stopping them in the street for trivial matters and searching their cars. They probably suspected them because of her involvement with Soldier, who was once arrested on a weapons charge in Duncanville. She'd eventually give up her shop.
Meanwhile, she'd started sampling marijuana cigarettes that seemed to pack an unusually strong kick. A friend would share them with her, calling them primos, and after a while Thomas wanted them for herself. Plain old joints didn't seem to satisfy anymore, because her primo's jolt was fired by crack cocaine.
Thomas is settled down today, married to a good man who goes to work every day in a legitimate occupation. They met after she got out of prison in 1997, where she'd served less than a year for a forgery conviction brought on, she says, by the chaos of her life with John. In prison, she got off crack; hard time probably saved her life, she says. Now she is working on demos as an R&B singer.
After serving time for an aggravated assault conviction in the shooting of Darryl Blair and another man, who'd given police a fake name, Soldier got out of prison in 1993 and appears to have returned to his old ways, judging by the continuing weapons arrests and a marijuana possession charge in 1994, for which he was ultimately convicted. Thomas last saw him in 1996, shortly before he left for other states. One of them was Maryland, according to a letter he wrote to a judge in one of his cases. He'd burned out his welcome in Dallas.
He pops up in New York in 2000 and 2002, where he was convicted of misdemeanor drug offenses involving marijuana and crack cocaine. The small amount of crack baggies in his possession in two of those arrests on Harlem streets suggests that what Thomas heard many times, that at some point John began using his own product, could indeed be true.
Julie Lyons wrote about the survivors of the 1990 bathtub shooting in the July 17, 2003, cover story, "The Girl Who Played Dead."
Dallas Observer Editorial Assistant Michelle Martinez contributed to this report.