For agent Tase Bailey, the transforming moment came as they unearthed the victims, dumped together in their rural grave. The FBI man had seen many dead bodies before, but never a bullet-riddled mother and her little boy, curled up in his pajamas, murdered for no reason at all. Suddenly, what began as a routine drug case no longer was. Bailey vowed to track down their killer and did, artfully luring him into a trap. Now, on a summer evening 10 years later, the agent would keep a second promise, to watch the infamous Genaro "Geno" Ruiz Camacho--among the most feared and despised defendants ever tried in a Texas courtroom--die by lethal injection.
Standing silently in the low-lit cool of the death chamber's witness room, he stared at the doomed man who was strapped to a gurney, an intravenous line sticking out of his arm. Executions ordinarily didn't interest Bailey, but Camacho was no ordinary criminal, and the white-knuckle struggle to catch him--a secret operation until now--had been no ordinary investigation. Bailey still was haunted by what he had discovered at Camacho's crime scenes: In a brief spasm of violence, the fugitive had taught the FBI agent and other North Texas investigators more than any of them cared to know about the darkest side of human behavior.
Bailey also knew another unnerving thing about the coolly self-contained, even genial, prisoner, who now was chatting amiably through the window with his family: Camacho very nearly eluded capture altogether. Without a serendipitous assist from an unexpected source, plus exceptional luck and the success of a clever subterfuge, Bailey would never have brought him to justice.
Imagining that possibility was another good cause for Bailey to wish Camacho dead. His loathing for the killer was palpable, a bitter knot inside him. And now that Camacho's legal ammunition was spent, Bailey was free to express it.
"Suck it up, Mr. Badass," he muttered under his breath. "You're going to be dead in about five minutes."
The chemicals began to flow, and Bailey could hear the killer's family in the adjacent room banging at the glass, hoping for one last glance from their dying husband and father. It didn't come.
Then the prison doctor stepped forward, and Bailey finally moved his gaze from the lifeless figure in front of him. Geno Camacho was dead. Bailey turned, and as he walked out into the warm Texas night, he felt the hard lump of hatred begin to dissolve.
FBI violent crimes squads are do-all teams responsible for everything from chasing down federal fugitives to catching bank robbers. In the spring of 1988, in addition to handling their normal caseloads of maybe 30 investigations apiece, Bailey and his 13 fellow agents on the Dallas FBI's violent crimes squad were busy with the heartbreaking, unsolved abduction-murders of two girls--10-year-old Christie Proctor and 3-year-old Tamela Reyes--as well as the recent capture of a notorious serial bank robber, known locally as the Dapper Bandit.
Then, around 8:30 on Friday morning, May 20, four male UNSUBs--unknown subjects in FBI parlance--burst into a crack house in the southeast Dallas neighborhood of Pleasant Grove, where the intruders abducted Evellyn Banks, 31, a sometime drug dealer, and Banks' 3 1/2-year-old son Andre. Witnesses said two of the kidnappers appeared to be Hispanic. The third man was Anglo and the fourth black.
Sam Junior Wright, 52, Andre's father (and a fugitive drug dealer himself), had run from the house, shouting to neighbors to call 9-1-1. When the Dallas police arrived, they discovered the body of 25-year-old David Wilburn, Sam Wright's nephew, slumped on the floor. A single .357-caliber slug had been discharged at close range into the back of Wilburn's head.
Though bloody and violent, the episode was unexceptional in the illegal drug trade, what some jaded narcs call a "misdemeanor homicide." Agent Bailey, who had taken Friday off to be with his oldest daughter as she had her tonsils removed, heard about the incident on the radio and paid the news no special mind. Then, early the next evening, Bailey received a telephone call at home from agent Jose Figueroa, also of the violent crimes squad.
Figueroa explained that Sam Wright, now in hiding, had telephoned the FBI to report that the leader of the kidnap gang was a drug dealer known to him only as "Geno" who had snatched Evellyn and Andre as hostages against $30,000 Banks owed him for 25 pounds of marijuana.
David Wilburn, Wright continued, was an innocent victim. The volatile Geno had grabbed an accomplice's handgun, pushed the mildly retarded Wilburn to the floor, and executed him--simply to underscore how serious he was about recovering his money. Wright's only other information was that police in Mesquite recently had arrested Geno.
Agents Bailey and Figueroa recognized one fact for a certainty: Geno's extremely poor impulse control did not bode well for Evellyn and Andre Banks. If mother and child were to survive, the FBI would need to act swiftly. The odds weren't good in any case.
"Can you help me tomorrow?" Figueroa asked.
"I'll see you in the morning," Bailey replied.
His first stop that Sunday was the Mesquite police department, where detective Capt. Larry Sprague told Bailey that Mesquite police indeed had recently arrested a Geno--33-year-old Genaro Ruiz Camacho. The stocky, swarthy suspect--5-foot-7, 175 pounds--had been detained in March on a hot-check warrant. But a routine records check had revealed something far more ominous. Camacho was a fugitive from the South Texas hamlet of Mercedes, his hometown, where the previous summer he had shotgunned a man to death over a trivial name-calling dispute. Following his arrest in Mesquite, Camacho was held briefly at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas before being returned to Mercedes, where he posted a $35,000 bond--in cash--and was set free to await trial.
Bailey also learned from Sprague that Camacho was well known as a mid-level player in the Dallas illegal drug market. He was said to have a cold, Mephistophelean stare, with which he controlled his frightened wife, Vickie, and also scared the hell out of several lawyers Vickie had hired in abortive divorce proceedings against him.
Although the investigation hardly had begun, a consistent and deeply troubling psychological profile of Geno Camacho was beginning to form in Bailey's mind. The dope-dealer-turned-killer already was known to have needlessly murdered two people. How long would such a killer be likely to keep Evellyn and Andre alive?
Capt. Sprague provided Bailey a mug shot, a rap sheet, and an address for Vickie, who then lived in Mesquite with her kids.
"Vickie told us a lot about Geno's background," Bailey recalls. "How abusive he was. She hadn't seen him in a month or two, but said she was scared of him and wanted him off the streets."
Vickie Camacho also helped Bailey find Wanda Jackson, her husband's girlfriend, who lived in Garland. Jackson, an attractive black woman who wore special contact lenses that turned her eyes blue, was an expensive dresser, Bailey recalls, and a very evasive interview subject. No, she hadn't seen Geno since they had attended a family funeral on Thursday. No, she had no idea where he was.
Bailey would later learn from a member of Camacho's gang that Jackson in fact had just returned from spending the weekend with Camacho at a Dallas hotel. "Your big brother has been here," she told her boyfriend on the telephone as soon as the FBI agents left, "and he says you are a bad boy."
Late that Sunday, May 22, the violent crimes squad regrouped at the FBI's Dallas offices. The assembled agents quickly surmised that the black male reported with Camacho at the crack-house crime scene was Wanda Jackson's 24-year-old brother, Juan, who became the second object of the investigation.
Also on Sunday, capital murder and kidnapping charges were filed against Camacho. A news release, along with Camacho's mug shot, was provided to The Dallas Morning News.
The paper's story on Monday prompted a local bartender to report that Geno Camacho had been in the club where she worked on the previous Thursday night. He had been in an angry and threatening mood, she said, and had been in the company of a good-looking, muscular male in his twenties, whom the bartender knew only by the nickname Fast Eddie.
Another caller, a David Munoz in Fort Worth, claimed that he knew Geno Camacho from the drug trade. In a secret meeting held at an Arlington motel near Six Flags, Munoz told agents Bailey and Sherman Hopkins he believed Camacho's unidentified white male accomplice was likely one of three people. Munoz's first two suggestions didn't pan out. His third guess, Eddie Blaine Cummings of Lawton, Oklahoma, was a bull's-eye.
Fast Eddie was a precocious felon. Only 24, he already had committed a lengthy list of offenses from narcotics violations to illegal weapons possession to stealing several thousand dollars from his mother. Jail records also indicated that Cummings had been Geno Camacho's cellmate at the Sterrett Justice Center for a few days earlier that spring, while Camacho awaited his removal back to Mercedes.
A check with Cummings' parole officer revealed that Cummings' last known address was a two-bedroom apartment in North Dallas. The apartment now was empty, and Fast Eddie was missing. A federal parole violation warrant was issued for Cummings.
Within hours of identifying Cummings as a suspect, the FBI also heard again from Sam Junior Wright. Realizing they needed the frightened Wright if they hoped to rescue Evellyn and Andre Banks via a potential ransom deal, agent Figueroa came up with a scheme to capture him. On the phone, Figueroa told the fugitive drug dealer he was leaving the office and asked Wright to call back at another number in 20 minutes. In the meantime, 10 two-man squads of agents were deployed in unmarked cars around Wright's known South Dallas haunts, and a trace was set up on the phone.
When Wright called again, Figueroa kept him talking long enough for his location, an Oak Cliff convenience store pay phone, to be established. Agents rushed to the address, but then allowed Wright to drive away, under close surveillance. When they were certain Camacho's gang wasn't also watching Wright, they pulled him over and arrested him.
The plan was to use Wright to lure the kidnappers into the open with the bait of a $30,000 ransom. Wright, who was headed back to prison one way or the other on drug charges, was willing to cooperate. But even though Camacho had told Wright that $30,000 would buy back Evellyn and Andre, unharmed, and had given him a cell phone number to call when he had raised the money, no one ever answered the number. By the end of the week, the possibility of ransoming the Bankses seemed dead.
It is axiomatic in law enforcement that for each day a case remains open, the odds against successfully closing the file lengthen dramatically. Although the FBI quickly had identified its suspect, as well as two of his three accomplices, by the end of the first week the trail was cold.
"There was lots of frustration," Bailey says. "We had no idea where Camacho was or what he'd done with his hostages. He made no effort to contact anyone about a ransom. All that we knew about Cummings was that he'd left town. Juan Jackson had vanished too. We didn't know if they were together, or apart, or what."
In fact, no substantive new leads surfaced until mid-June, when a local topless dancer named Pamela Miller was reported missing. A friend of Miller's told police that Miller, 23, who danced at a joint near Bachman Lake called Baby Dolls, recently had told her that she'd witnessed "something she shouldn't have" and that she would be going away for a while. Another friend recognized Camacho in the newspaper as the man she'd seen with Miller and others at Baby Dolls.
June turned to July with still no progress and scant remaining hope that Evellyn and Andre Banks were still alive. Then came the first of two lucky breaks. In early August 1988, about 10 weeks after the kidnapping and murder in Pleasant Grove, a snitch reported to the FBI that the fugitive Eddie Blaine Cummings was hiding out in Lawton, his hometown, and planned to be at a certain restaurant there on a certain day.
Federal marshals were on hand to spoil the meal.
On August 7, agents Figueroa and Christopher Lawlor interviewed Cummings in the Lawton jail. He confirmed what they'd already surmised: Geno Camacho had recruited him into his drug organization while they were cellmates at Sterrett. Cummings also disclosed that the missing Pamela Miller had been his girlfriend.
Early on the morning of May 20, he told the agents, Camacho had appeared with Juan Jackson at the North Dallas apartment Cummings shared with his friend George David Cooke. "Wake up," Camacho yelled. "We got work to do!" But Cummings, who was in bed with Pamela Miller, replied that he was too tired for anything, and fell back asleep. David Cooke, however, did go with Camacho, as did Larry Gene Merrell, 38, another friend of Cummings', known familiarly as "The Indian."
A short while later, according to Cummings, he again was awakened, this time by the sound of a crying child--Andre Banks. Gradually, the story of the murder at Sam Wright's house emerged. Cooke related how Camacho had ordered him to execute the young black man--David Wilburn--who had walked into the house as they were handcuffing Evellyn. But Cooke, whose criminal history to that point was brief, proved squeamish, so Camacho grabbed the gun and killed Wilburn himself, apparently relishing the task.
Cummings told the FBI agents that he and Pamela Miller left Dallas by car for Lawton on Sunday, May 22. Two days later, they would meet up with Camacho and Cooke in Oklahoma, and part company. Camacho insisted upon taking the dancer with him, lest Miller decide to go to the authorities with what she knew. Cummings said that he last saw Miller driving away with Camacho, Cooke, and a third man, and that he believed they were headed for Mexico.
On the strength of Cummings' testimony, the FBI obtained a federal kidnapping warrant for George David Cooke, who had listed an address in Stephenville, west of Fort Worth, when he rented the Dallas apartment with Cummings. Assisted by officer Don Miller of the Stephenville police, Figueroa and Bailey located Cooke and arrested him on August 15 for his role in the Pleasant Grove murder and kidnapping.
Tase Bailey recalls that Cooke at first feigned indifference to his arrest. Cooke's mood changed, however, after he was denied bond and spent eight days in Lew Sterrett reflecting on the seriousness of his situation. At that point, Cooke decided to accept his attorney's advice to make a deal. He was allowed to plead guilty to one federal count of kidnapping in exchange for what he knew--which was detailed and horrifying.
Cooke was taken before a magistrate at the federal courthouse in Dallas, then spent all night Wednesday, August 24, and into Thursday morning recounting the murder at Sam Wright's to Bailey, Figueroa, and detective Tommy Barnes of the Dallas police.
Two days after killing Wilburn, Cooke said, an agitated Camacho told him that "my blue-eyed woman"--Wanda Jackson--had just been interviewed by the FBI--Tase Bailey--and that it was time to move. Camacho was furious that the FBI was so close on his tail so soon after the murder. He angrily instructed Cooke to fetch Evellyn Banks and Andre from Cooke's apartment (Eddie Blaine Cummings and Pamela Miller already had departed for Oklahoma) and to locate Spencer Stanley, 26, a sort of brute dogsbody to whom Camacho delegated disagreeable tasks.
Once the group was assembled, Camacho directed Cooke to drive them north to Ardmore, Oklahoma, just across the border from Texas and about 60 miles southeast of Lawton. Along the way, Camacho kept Evellyn Banks calm with a story of how he knew of a clandestine airstrip near Ardmore, where he'd arranged for her and Andre to be flown to California. When the heat died down, he assured her, she could return. Banks gave no sign of doubting Camacho.
The next evening, Evellyn and Andre accompanied Camacho, Stanley, and Cooke on a ride out into the Oklahoma countryside. When instead of an airstrip she saw the deep grave that Stanley had dug for her and Andre, Banks screamed and fainted.
Tase Bailey shuddered inwardly as Cooke, betraying no emotion, described how son and mother were then murdered. Spencer Stanley, who had been carrying Andre on his shoulders, flung the child into the pit, and he and Camacho fired four .380-caliber rounds into Andre's head. Then Evellyn was shoved on top of her boy and executed. A thick layer of cat litter was spread over the two victims. Then Stanley shoveled dirt back into the hole and pulled some brush over to camouflage the grave.
"We really didn't have a feel for what Camacho was really like until we sat down with David Cooke in the jail," Bailey says. "Once we realized just how evil he was, I guess we made a commitment: 'This guy needs to be caught before more people die. Someone has to stop him.'"
David Cooke had even more to tell.
Two days later, as Bailey, Figueroa, and Dallas police homicide detective Barnes were driving from Dallas to Ardmore to search for the Bankses' gravesite, Cooke was asked about Pamela Miller, Eddie Cummings' erstwhile girlfriend.
"We hear Camacho took her to Mexico," said Tommy Barnes, sitting next to Cooke in the back seat.
"No," Cooke corrected him. "She's dead too."
Bailey at the wheel exchanged glances with Jose Figueroa.
"OK, where's her body?"
"You'll never find it."
Bailey could see in his rearview mirror that Cooke was in tears.
"Because we chopped it up and ran it through a tree mulcher."
Two days of bouncing around the back roads of southern Oklahoma were required before David Cooke at last located the Bankses' remote grave.
It was a typical August afternoon, stultifyingly hot with no hint of a breeze, as the officers carefully began to dig down in search of the bodies, retrieving spent .380 cartridges as they went.
After two hours of work, they were waist-deep in the hole. Then an FBI agent's shovel hit something that sounded hollow. The agent gently tapped the spot, which gave way in a mini cave-in.
Suddenly, an overpowering reek enveloped the agents, who neutralized the stench by daubing Vick's Vapo-Rub under their noses and dug on until they uncovered Evellyn as she had died, lying supine atop Andre. Both were partly mummified by the cat litter.
"I was with the Marines in Vietnam for 13 months," Bailey says. "But nothing ever affected me as that grave did. Andre was just 3 1/2. Years before I'd lost a daughter, also 3 1/2, in a traffic accident. It really bothered me to see that little kid down in the hole in his pajamas. It was tough."
It got tougher. The next morning, Sunday, as the group drove southwest back into Texas toward Stephenville, David Cooke hesitantly recounted how Pamela Miller was murdered.
He said that she returned to Dallas from Oklahoma with him and Camacho and Spencer Stanley after the Bankses' killings. By now it was early June, and Camacho--mindful that the FBI was searching hard for him--wanted to make a drug score and then head south.
He took a hotel room near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and worked his connections for several days until a drug dealer by the name of Michaels agreed to discuss a possible deal. On Friday night, June 10--Pamela Miller's birthday--Camacho summoned her and David Cooke to a Dallas hotel bar, where he was to meet Michaels, a heavyset Anglo in his 40s.
Miller was in a party mood, Cooke recalled, and drank enthusiastically that night. When Michaels walked into the bar, she blurted, "Hey! I know you. You come into Baby Dolls a lot."
Michaels, who was also a fugitive at that moment, was not amused by Miller's boozy familiarity. He excused himself and bolted out the back door.
"And that," Bailey says, "apparently really pissed off Camacho."
He dragged a protesting Miller by the arm to the car, where he punched her hard in the face--breaking her jaw--and then threw her into the back seat.
"Go get Spencer Stanley," he told Cooke.
Though in great pain, Miller taunted Camacho from the back seat, belittling his manhood. He hit her several more times, then reached back with his hand to crush her trachea, apparently believing that would kill her. When Spencer Stanley, seated next to her, reported that Miller was still alive, Camacho ordered the car stopped, pulled the woman out, slammed her to the pavement, then directed Cooke to run over her head before pitching her once again into the car.
Though unconscious by now, Miller still was not dead. So Camacho repeated the process.
"Let's go to your ranch," he said at last to Cooke. "I'm tired of digging holes."
First they arrived at a townhouse apartment Cooke maintained in Stephenville. Pamela Miller was placed in a 55-gallon drum retrieved from an empty lot next door and deposited on Cooke's back porch. The next day, Camacho ordered that a tree mulcher be rented. Miller's body was trucked in the barrel to Cooke's ranch outside Stephenville, where at Geno Camacho's command Spencer Stanley split Miller with an ax and fed her body, piece by piece, into the machine.
It was a macabre experience for Bailey. One day before, he'd excavated Evellyn and Andre in Oklahoma, and then drank a lot of beer that night, trying to get them out of his mind.
Now he had listened to this ghastly story of murder and mutilation on the drive down from Ardmore with Cooke, only to walk out onto the cow pasture where the mulcher had been put to use.
"We took about three or four steps out into the grass," he says, "and we found a bunch of bone chips with marks on them. There was dried and mummified tissue in the trees, all over the place, covering an area about half the size of a football field. You really can't explain what that is like."
According to David Cooke, Geno Camacho committed one further crime, the rape of a young woman in South Texas, before crossing into Mexico in early July 1988. He traveled south to the town of Arcelia, northeast of Acapulco, where, according to intelligence reports, his brother-in-law, Ramiro Pineda, owned a trucking company and profited in the marijuana and cocaine trade. Pineda's sister, Jackie, served as Camacho's common-law Mexican wife.
David Cooke told the FBI he already had visited Camacho in Arcelia by the time he directed Bailey and the other agents to the Ardmore and Stephenville crime scenes. He traveled down to Arcelia, he said, at Camacho's request--they discussed setting up a methamphetamine lab--but Cooke became wary of Camacho's true intents and fled back to the United States.
Cooke's instincts probably served him well. When he later was being held at Lew Sterrett, the Dallas sheriff's intelligence unit intercepted a letter from Camacho in Mexico to a Jamaican drug dealer, also then an inmate at Sterrett, offering payment if the Jamaican could permanently silence Cooke.
Arcelia and the surrounding area were then under the absolute control of drug traffickers. Local officials told an unofficial emissary sent down from the Dallas sheriff's office that nothing short of a military action would pry Geno Camacho from their midst. As long as he stayed put, Camacho was practically untouchable.
Bailey tried various ploys to lure Camacho back across the border, but nothing worked. Soon, the previous June and July's sense of frustration returned, amplified now by August's grisly excavations and the grim prospects of ever bringing Camacho to justice.
"I became removed," Bailey recollects. "No communication. One night my wife commented, 'Your demeanor reminds me of what you were like when you first came back from Vietnam.'"
Nor was Bailey the only Bureau employee to be unnerved by what he'd seen and heard. Several members of the Dallas office's support staff, including those who transcribed witnesses' statements and processed the physical evidence, were afflicted with anxiety attacks, depression, and insomnia. A member of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia, an expert in emotional trauma who usually consulted with local law-enforcement agencies after police shootings, was brought to Dallas to counsel them.
Then, as hope began to run out, there came a second, even luckier, break in the case. John Lunt, a Drug Enforcement Administration street agent in Fort Worth, received a telephone call on a Friday in early March 1989 from an informant with intriguing news.
"I'm going to be in Monterrey this weekend," said Lunt's source, "and someone wants to set me up with a guy interested in doing a big weed deal. All I know right now is that he's a fugitive from the United States."
Lunt urged his source to keep the appointment and waited eagerly for a report.
On Sunday, the informant called again. "He's using the name Tomas Sanchez, but his real name is Geno. He's wanted on some murders up in Texas, and he says he will not come to the United States, no matter what."
John Lunt sent his source a picture of Geno Camacho--just to make sure. Then he contacted Bailey, and the two agents went to work on what they both knew was likely their best chance ever to bring Geno Camacho to justice. They couldn't blow this one.
According to their plan, Lunt's informant bragged to Camacho that he was well connected with mob figures in Kansas City, and that his friends in organized crime were interested in buying 10 tons of marijuana. At the time, marijuana's wholesale price on the border was about $300 a pound: A $6 million deal was in the air.
Bailey, meanwhile, figured Camacho would call around to check out Lunt's guy. To add a convincing bit of verisimilitude to the plot, Bailey contacted one of his own confidential sources in the Mexican drug trade, alerting the snitch that Camacho might be calling. When he did, Bailey's source assured Camacho he was dealing with the real thing.
"People tell me they know this guy," Bailey's snitch told Camacho about Lunt's snitch. "He's connected, and everybody's afraid of him. But he's got a lot of money behind him."
The hook was set, but Camacho still refused to come over the border. He called Lunt's informant several times daily while the two considered various ways to do the deal. Lunt at one point instructed his snitch to suggest that Camacho consider coming to a supposedly neutral site, the Cayman Islands, where the U.S. agents were prepared to execute what is now called an extraterritorial arrest.
"Back then, we just called it a snatch," Bailey says.
Finally, in the third week of March, it was decided that Lunt's snitch would offer Camacho a special lure: $100,000 in earnest money, which he could personally pick up just across the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas.
On March 27, 1989, Lunt's source had urgent news: Greed at last had gotten the better of Camacho's native cunning; he'd agreed to come over. That night, Bailey and Lunt flew to McAllen.
The informant had arranged to meet Camacho on the Texas side of the International Bridge and then take him to a nearby hotel room to collect his money. To ensure there were no problems with mistaken identities, Lunt's guy sent Camacho a set of clothing to wear that day: turquoise-and-white Cole-Haan loafers, white shorts, a flowered shirt, and a baseball cap that read: Beauty is Only Skin Deep, but Ugly Goes to the Bone.
Incredibly, Camacho hadn't balked. Next morning, he loomed onto the International Bridge, clad in the ludicrous ensemble.
"Here he comes," said an agent on the scene over the phone to Bailey.
"Are you sure?" Bailey answered.
"Yeah, he's wearing those goofy clothes."
To protect their informants, Bailey and Lunt had decided to make Camacho's initial arrest seem to be a routine stop of a suspected illegal immigrant. The FBI and DEA operatives who grabbed the killer as he confidently set foot on American soil identified themselves as agents of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, and asked Camacho for identification.
Pleading that he had none, that he was Tomas Sanchez, a tourist from the Valley returning with a bottle of brandy that he showed to the agents, Camacho was told he nevertheless would have to be detained, while his fingerprints were checked. He offered no resistance as he was handcuffed and driven away to the INS lock-up in McAllen.
Bailey at the moment experienced an adrenaline spike.
"I was just pumped," he recalls. "It was like winning the state football championship. I called Dallas. 'We got the sonuvabitch!' I told them. I went into the DEA gym and did dips and push-ups just to burn off the energy."
Two hours later, his excitement firmly in hand, Bailey arrived at the INS facility to interview Geno Camacho.
He found his quarry serene, imperturbable.
"The fingerprint records say that you are Geno Camacho," Bailey said evenly, savoring this moment above any other in his career.
"Well," Camacho replied, "if that's what the computer says, it must be true."
Bailey then showed Camacho his mug shot from Lew Sterrett.
"And is that you?"
"You're under arrest for murder and kidnap."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Bailey produced a photo of Evellyn Banks in her grave.
Then a picture of Andre.
"How about him? You put four bullets in this little boy's head."
"I don't know anything about him."
"Do you want to tell me about Pamela Miller?"
"Don't know anything about her. I don't want to talk anymore."
End of interview.
Camacho was taken to Lew Sterrett, where chief jailer Bob Knowles ordered his prisoner sequestered in a one-man cell and placed in an orange jumpsuit to make Camacho immediately discernible among his white-clad fellow inmates. Two officers escorted Camacho wherever he went in the facility.
He was convicted and sentenced to death in the spring of 1990 for killing David Wilburn. The moment the sentence was read, Knowles' men put Camacho in handcuffs, leg irons, and a belly chain and whisked him away to the Mesquite Airport for an unprecedented direct delivery by helicopter to Death Row in Huntsville.
The following January, 1991, as Camacho awaited federal trial for kidnapping, the still-fugitive Juan Jackson was featured in an Unsolved Mysteries segment on television. One viewer, an employee in a Compton, California, bottling plant, recognized Jackson as the co-worker he knew as "Country," for his thick Texas accent, and notified the program. Jackson was arrested the next morning and returned to Texas.
Over the course of the next several months, Juan Jackson was convicted in federal court for his role in the Wilburn murder and was sentenced to life without parole. David Cooke's plea bargain earned him 24 years in federal prison, 85 percent of which must be served before Cooke is eligible for release. Spencer Stanley received two consecutive life sentences in state court trials in Dallas and Erath County. Eddie Blaine Cummings and Larry Gene Merrell did eight years of federal time and have been released.
Last August, 10 years exactly from the day the federal agents exhumed Evellyn and Andre Banks in Oklahoma, Tase Bailey and his former boss on the violent crimes squad, Joe Hersley, accompanied Pamela Miller's mother, Mickey Miller, to Geno Camacho's execution. The two agents were fulfilling a promise they had made to Miller the day Camacho was condemned in court.
Inside the witness room, she pressed herself against the glass, near to the condemned man as she could get, and chanted with quiet satisfaction as Camacho expired: "You're paying. You're finally paying."
The last act of Geno Camacho's life restored Bailey's peace of mind too, although the now-retired agent did reflect at the time on the comparatively gentle manner of the killer's leave-taking.
"He got a pretty good deal," Bailey thought as he watched Camacho quietly succumb on the gurney. "Any one of his victims, given a choice, would much rather have gone out the way he did than the way they did."
Yet Bailey would not dwell on the point. Hours later, their collective mood of cold contentment still upon them, Bailey, Hersley, and Miller gathered a final time in a Huntsville motel room to once more salute the moment.
"To a job well done," said Miller, lifting a glass of Asti Spumante, the sort of gesture she knew Pamela would have appreciated.
"To Pamela," Bailey replied.
All three took a long drink.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- Houston vs Dallas: How Super Bowl Performers Stack Up
Thu., Feb. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 12, 8:00pm
Sat., Feb. 13, 2:00pm
Sat., Feb. 13, 7:00pm
- A Texas Doctor Again Puts on His Hat as Virus Hunter
- Why the Crackdown on K2 Among Downtown's Homeless Won't Work