Courtland Ray Edmonds never seemed the type to join the Aryan Brotherhood. Today, however, he and several other alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas sit in the Dallas County Jail, charged with capital murder for the August 2006 death of Anthony Ormwell Clark.
Edmonds is mentioned briefly in last week’s cover story: Police believe Clark’s body was prepared for disposal at Edmond’s Mesquite home on Shepherd Lane. I requested an interview with Edmonds, along with his co-defendants, while writing the story to get a peak into the kind of man Dale “Tiger” Jameton seemed to be to his friends. Mostly, I wanted to learn how a man could enter the Texas prison system a petty theft with a drug habit and come out a killer committed to the twisted ideology of one of the state’s most dangerous prison gangs.
Edmonds initially consented to an interview through his mother and later declined on advice of his lawyer. So I sent Edmonds a letter with a list of questions, mostly about Jameton, hoping to get a response before we went to press. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his letter until yesterday.
The 26-page letter sheds new light on the case, including possible reasons Breanna Taylor was killed. It also paints Jameton as a man who projected a tough-guy exterior, which was cultivated in prison, to hide the vulnerability and hurt he felt. Based on the letter and what we know of the crimes Jameton has admitted to, he was a man capable of tenderness and compassion (“Dale loved kids!,” Edmonds writes), but he could also sink to extreme and depraved levels of violence, even against women. As Edmonds put it, “Drugs did not help.”
“Dale can be a lot of fun to be around when he’s not trying to live up to some image he’s built, whether it’s real or his own hype,” Edmonds writes. “He definitely has two sides.”
The softer side of Jameton came out when he met Jennifer McClellan, a Mesquite woman who police say would become his accomplice in two crimes -- the murder of Breanna Taylor and an aggravated robbery not long after.
“He didn’t put up walls with her,” Edmonds writes. “She felt protected when he was around and they found something in each other that the other one desperately needed.” Edmonds says the “docile Dale” also came out when kids were around and that more than anything else, Jameton wanted to be a father.
“Dale became ‘Tiger’ when he felt like someone was challenging him or showing some kind of disrespect," Edmonds writes. "It is the penitentiary mindset. Something he couldn’t seem to escape. Calming him down was always easy for me. I tell him to just calm down, look at me and explain what was going on. If you didn’t feed into his paranoia or mood he would become calm and rational.”
Edmonds says he never met or saw Clark, who Jameton has admitted to killing on August 1, 2006. Clark’s body wasn’t discovered until August 6, and Edmonds says he isn’t sure what lead police to zero in on Jameton as a suspect (although he thinks Jameton’s drug contacts ordered the killing). He says that while police tried to get him to admit that he disposed of Clark’s body, he had nothing to do with it. “I would love for them [the police] to release any document I signed or any recorded statement where I admitted I helped in any murder,” Edmonds writes.
As for the murder of Taylor, he says news of her death broke his heart. “Bre was a beautiful sweet young woman who just wanted to fit in and be loved.”
She stayed at his house often, he says, and became close with his fiancée. The Dallas Morning News has reported that Edmonds kicked Taylor out of his house because she was on drugs; Edmonds said his words were twisted. “I did ask her to leave my house but not because she was out of control on drugs the way it sounded in a previous interview. Michelle (my fiancee at the time) was struggling with a strong drug addiction and because Breanna also had a drug addiction they could not live around each other. Michelle was off drugs and became pregnant and we could not risk a relapse.”
After that, he says he didn’t see Taylor as much, and then didn’t hear from her for some time, which wasn’t unusual. “There are no words to describe the pain when I found out she was really dead,” he writes. “…I wish there were words to say to her family to console them but all I can say is she was and is loved and is greatly missed. She touched the lives of all who knew her. She had problems but she was a good person…Her friends would have given their lives if we could have protected her.”
He says he hopes her admitted killers, Jameton and Devanrin Manuel (Manuel gave Mesquite police a detailed and chilling description of the murder, although he is now leaning toward a trial) get the death penalty for killing her. “I do not believe in a man EVER putting his hands on a female!” he writes. “I may be friends with Dale but I made it quite clear there is no understanding on my part.”
Edmonds does admit that belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, but maintains that the group is not a criminal organization, but rather a support group. “We help underprivileged kids buy school clothes, supplies, food and Christmas gifts…We have special days where we all get together and have a kids day (BBQ, hayrides, moonbounces, etc.).” He also says the ABT is not racist. “We had a black gentleman living at our clubhouse and I personally hired him at my remodling business over ‘bros’ on several occasions.”
An investigator close to the case told me Edmonds had been running the outfit’s Mesquite-based meth operation while the group’s leaders were in prison. Edmonds insisted that he himself has never done drugs (Jameton confirmed this), and that he was an upstanding citizen with a business, a house and a family.
William D. Rowlett, a Dallas lawyer who represented Edmonds in the late '90s on several theft charges, told me in an e-mail he is shocked by the turn Edmonds’ life has taken.
“I got to know Courtland's family and (I thought) Courtland fairly well," Rowlett says. "The last thing I ever expected was to see him in the newspapers charged with capital murder. I never remember seeing him with Aryan Brotherhood tattoos or anything of that nature while he was my client. This is quite a shock.”
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In several phone conversations with Edmonds’ mother, she maintained her son’s innocence. A deeply religious woman, she told me she was praying for him regularly and visiting him in jail as much as possible. She said she was also praying for Jameton.
Edmonds declined to answer whether he still considers Jameton a friend. “Friendship is non-conditional (to a point),” he writes. “I feel Dale has his own demons to face. I’m still in shock he did or was a part of the crimes.”
In the end, he says Jameton has to answer to God, and that’s more important than what he thinks of Jameton.
Jameton is currently serving two life sentences at a state prison in Amarillo. --Jesse Hyde