Monday, October 31, 2011
A 9-year-old girl from Yuma on vacation in Flagstaff with her family was riding her bicycle on Old Walnut Canyon Road on June 6, 1988.
It was hot that day when police found her bicycle alongside the road. There was no sign of Jennifer Wilson; she was nowhere to be found.
City and county officials launched a search for the little girl.
Her body was found 19 days later on June 25, 1988, on Sheep Hill on the east side of the city. She had been tied up, molested and beaten to death with a blunt object.
The man accused of Wilson's kidnapping, molestation and murder, Richard "Ricky" L. Bible, now 49, was convicted and sentenced to death. Throughout the investigation, the trial and afterward, Bible has maintained his innocence.
On June 30, just over 23 years after Wilson's murder, Bible is scheduled to be put to death by the state of Arizona.
RIDING HER BICYCLE
According to Bible's May 19, 1990, presentence report, Jennifer had been riding her bicycle from a home in Flagstaff to a nearby ranch, where she was to meet her mother and siblings.
"Mrs. Wilson contacted her daughter while en route to the ranch and instructed her to hurry to her destination, which was between one-half mile and one mile away," the report stated. "Mrs. Wilson then proceeded to the ranch and became alarmed a short time later when her daughter failed to arrive."
She went out to look for Jennifer and found her daughter's bike along the dirt road.
During the ensuing search, Mrs. Wilson remembered seeing a four-wheel drive vehicle in the area and described it to authorities.
"The defendant was identified as a possible suspect in that he was reported to be driving a vehicle similar in description to the one observed in the area by the victim's mother," the report stated.
Bible was arrested after a short chase on unrelated charges.
"Shortly after the defendant's arrest, he was interviewed in regard to the missing girl and he adamantly denied any knowledge of the girl or her possible whereabouts."
Her body was found in an area a short distance from where Bible was living and where he had been many times as a child and as an adult. His shirt had blood on it that turned out to be Jennifer's.
Evidence found at the scene where her body was discovered was also found in Bible's possession.
CONVICTED AT TRIAL
After a jury convicted Bible, he told the presentence report writer that he was innocent. He also said that he did not receive a fair trial.
At the six-week trial, the jury heard of his 1981 conviction for kidnapping, tying up and raping his underage cousin. She survived and Bible served six years in prison.
In a June 5, 1990, sentencing recommendation by the Coconino County Attorney's Office, attorneys Fred Newton and Camille Bibles stated the death penalty was appropriate, in part, because killing Jennifer would prevent her from testifying at any trial -- unlike Bible's cousin, who testified about what had happened to her. The manner in which she died fit the criteria of cruel and heinous.
The attorneys for the state found no redeeming qualities to Bible that would allow for mercy from the death penalty. His juvenile and adult criminal histories were extensive; his violence toward people was evident.
"The defendant is and always has been a violent thug who preys on the weak and the innocent," the attorneys concluded.
The defense asked Judge Richard K. Mangum for mercy, saying that Bible was addicted to alcohol and drugs and had a difficult family history.
The defense wrote in its sentencing memorandum, "The defense asserts that neither revenge nor the desire to satisfy a community's thirst for blood is recognized as an adequate basis for sentencing."
When asked by the presentence report writer about Bible's feelings toward Jennifer's family, he wrote, "Mr. Bible stated that he feels sorry for the Wilsons and for the grief that they are going through.
However, the defendant did not wish the Wilsons to feel gladdened by his conviction because, 'I didn't kill her -- the real killer is still out there.'"
In the intervening years, Bible has appealed his conviction through the state and federal court systems. The families, investigators and attorneys have all moved on with their lives.
Bible's appeals state that the jury, the judge and the attorneys made errors in the case. All were denied. His last appeal was stopped at the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2009.
Bible's current attorney, Dan Maynard, is scheduled to argue for clemency from Gov. Jan Brewer on June 27. If clemency is not granted and there are no further stays in the case, Bible will take his last breath three days later in the execution room at the Arizona Department of Corrections in Florence.
In the 1990 presentence report summary, the writer stated, "Once what was, is no more. What was once a happy and prosperous family has been left an empty and grieving shell of its past. What brought about this change was not only the death of a loved one, but the violent and heinous manner that this loved one was prematurely taken from them."
The report continued, "In cases such as this, it is not only the family, but the community as well as society as a whole who are indeed the true victims. The victim in this offense is beyond pain; the living will grieve forever."
The report writer said Bible's removal from society was the only way to keep society safe.
"Perhaps without fear of the defendant, the Wilsons and the community can start healing again. Unfortunately, regardless of the healing, the wound will never go away."