Longform

Burden of proof

Page 7 of 8

"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?"

"Yeah."

"Did you kill Terry Sims?"

"Yes."

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.

"We went out into the parking lot around back and I made my advance toward her. She said 'no' and slapped my face. When she done that, I just snapped. I slung her around, and I killed her."

For several minutes Little questioned Wardrip in an attempt to pinpoint the date of the Fort Worth homicide. Wardrip said he could remember only that after he murdered Ellen Blau he had hitchhiked to Fort Worth and while there committed the crime. (In fact, investigators would later find that Wardrip killed Taylor before he killed Blau.)

Smith and Little looked at each other, neither saying a word. Hoping to clear three homicides, they now had confessions to four.

"Will you be willing to cooperate with authorities in Fort Worth to help them with that case?" Little asked.

Wardrip shrugged, then nodded his head. "Yeah. It's all over with now. I've done what God said I should do. I've confessed to my sins."

"Were you promised anything in return for giving me this statement?" Investigator Little was cleaning up the loose ends of the interview.

"Eternal life with God is what I was promised," Wardrip answered. "I was promised that I won't burn in hell. What I've told you is the truth. It's all over. I give up. I can't go no more. You can kill me now; I don't care. I'm tired of living on this earth, tired of the pain and suffering that Satan brings to people." And then, for the first time during the interview, he broke down, slowly rubbing his clinched fists against his temples, moaning.

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers