By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The moment Meghan Bodson walked into her dorm room at Southern Methodist University, she felt as if she'd entered her fantasy: red brick, ivy, the high ceiling and tall window overlooking Perkins Chapel, a campus so picturesque it looked like a movie set of the perfect university.
SMU, in fact, was the only place she ever wanted to go. As a senior at Elkins High in Missouri City, Texas, Meghan had refused to apply to any other school.
The Bodsons had driven from Houston in two cars loaded with Meghan's stuff in August 2001. Bruce, an environmental lawyer, and his wife, Judy, who works for an interior design firm, were delighted when SMU accepted their only child. Though tuition, room and board for her freshman year totaled about $28,000, a stretch for them, seeing Meghan get her wish was more than gratifying.
Meghan, 18, had signed up for Perkins Hall after receiving a brochure describing it as a new concept: a "living & learning" community where "Hilltop Scholars" attend several classes together in a dorm classroom. Open to freshmen who scored at least 500 on the SAT Verbal, with fewer than 100 residents, Perkins promised a close-knit atmosphere.
"Several hall staff members live and work in the hall, including the Hall Director, Resident Assistants, a Learning Enhancement Assistant and upper-class PLC Mentors," the brochure said. Only students with magnetic swipe cards could enter the dorm.
It seemed perfect for Meghan, a petite strawberry blonde described by other students as sweet and a bit sheltered. "They were going to be looking out for kids who weren't adjusting well or having trouble in class," Judy says. "It seemed like it was going to be an extra blanket of protection."
SMU worked hard to sooth protective parents' fears. During summer orientation week, Judy had listened to deans and SMU police Captain Tommy Jones describe the campus as security-conscious, with fewer of the problems that plague big universities, such as drug dealing, sexual assaults and theft.
"Captain Jones told us he had a real police department," Judy says, "and he was very adamant: 'Don't go outside SMU when you have a problem. Come to us.' I was thrilled. I thought, 'This gets better and better.'"
Then a male student--"tall, with bad posture"--raised his hand to ask what officers did to students caught using phony drivers licenses to buy alcohol. Captain Jones lifted a wastebasket stuffed with confiscated IDs.
"Everybody laughed," Judy says. "They just take them away."
The Bodsons later learned that the student who'd asked the question was Doug Havard, son of a successful Dallas entrepreneur. As the Bodsons stowed their daughter's belongings in her room on Perkins' second floor, Judy noticed the same hulking young man schlepping his things into room 205 down the hall.
Judy got a bit weepy when she kissed Meghan goodbye. But she and her husband drove home feeling that Meghan was in safe hands, that she was surrounded by good kids from solid families.
They certainly had no idea that Meghan's slouching dorm-mate was at that moment under indictment for aggravated robbery. Or that he would turn Perkins Hall into Crime Central. That many of those "good" SMU kids would be sucked into it.
And that he'd turn Meghan Bodson's life into a hell of fear and depression from which she hasn't recovered today.
In August 2001, Meghan Bodson and Doug Havard--both 18-year-old college freshmen--were at dramatic turning points in their lives. Living on her own for the first time, Meghan threw herself into SMU, making friends and reveling in the school her grandfather recalled in glowing terms. Like most freshmen, Meghan was trying to decide what to do with her life.
Havard--intelligent, rich and educated at a private school--was already deep in his descent into a gangsta fantasy of drugs, thugs and ingenious scams, a fast-paced thriller with him as the star. "I liken the kid to the guy in the movie Catch Me If You Can," says an undercover cop who spent months chasing Havard.
In high school, Havard had survived brushes with the law. But this time, he was facing such serious legal problems that his parents couldn't bail him out as they had in the past. (Glenna Whitley first wrote about Havard in her December 26, 2002, cover story, "Crazy White Mother.")
One kid headed for independence, the other for possible incarceration, Meghan and Havard would become each other's nemesis. Havard became the serpent in Meghan's co-ed Garden of Eden: weirdly seductive without being sexual, tantalizing and terrifying at the same time.
Instead of Meghan's safe haven, Perkins became the headquarters of a campus crime ring spearheaded by Havard, dealing in fake drivers licenses, weed, pills and stolen electronics. By early October, most students living on the second floor of Perkins were either buying from Havard or working for him.
Pulled into Havard's orbit, Meghan awoke one night around Halloween after a party to find herself in his bed. Believing she'd been drugged and sexually assaulted, Meghan blew the whistle on his operation--and her friends--ending up in the middle of an undercover investigation into Havard's activities.
Though SMU police kept promising the Bodsons her antagonist would be kicked out of school "any day," Havard remained in Perkins more than three months after the alleged assault, a watchful, sinister presence, slithering through various snares set for him by authorities. Finally busted, Havard targeted Meghan and her family for retribution, according to SMU police reports.