At around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 23, 1987, two bodies wrapped in a pale green tarp were spotted by the crew members of a Union Pacific locomotive. The 6000-ton cargo train was making its routine night run when engineer Stephen Shroyer first made the gruesome discovery. Unable to bring the train to a stop, he was forced to run over the bodies that lay motionless on the train tracks. Little did the crew know at that time, they were about to be part of one of the most famous cold cases in the country.
Who or What Killed Don Henry and Kevin Ives?
Stephen Shroyer’s cargo train was traveling at a speed of 52 miles per hour. Despite his efforts to bring the train to an emergency stop, the weight of the heavy cargo behind it made the task impossible. The terribly mangled bodies were identified the next day as 16-year-old Don Henry and his best friend, 17-year-old Kevin Ives, both were popular senior students at nearby Bryant High School.
“From the time that we had placed the train into an emergency position and laid down on the horn, I would estimate about three to five seconds to impact,” Shroyer told the news. “And that may not sound like a very long period of time, but when you’re bearing down a couple of children, it’s an eternity, honestly.”
The state medical examiner, Dr. Fahmy Malak, initially listed the cause of death as “apparent suicide.” However, all four parents were quick to turn down this conclusion. Judging by the fact that the boys were around the people who knew them, it was highly improbable that they had any suicidal tendencies.
A week after the two were buried, the victims’ parents got another cause of death report from the office of the state medical examiner. It was stated that the two were killed by THC intoxication, the mind-altering component of marijuana. They were said to have smoked around 20 sticks, causing them to collapse on the tracks that night before being run over. Though they did not dispute the coroner’s second results, the parents of Henry and Ives decided to seek help from a private investigator.
As a response, Don Henry’s father made this gut-wrenching statement:
“Well, I couldn’t believe that Kevin was knocked out on marijuana or into any kind of heavy drugs, anything like that, because I was at home a lot during the day, when Kevin come in from school and Linda was here at night and we’d never seen him in a state that he even act like he was you know spaced out or however you want to phrase it.”
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The normal lives of Kevin and Don
Kevin Ives and Don Henry were your typical teens. Don loved making his friends and family laugh while Kevin regularly chimed in with jokes of his own. They also loved cars, hunting, and often double-dated with their girlfriends. In fact, they went on their double-dates on most weekends. But on the fateful day of their death, Kevin and Don opted to meet some friends at the commuter parking lot, a local hot spot for the town’s teenagers.
The last person that is known to have seen Don alive was his own father, Curtis Henry. According to Mr. Henry, Don came to his house at 12:15 a.m. and told him that he was heading out. The teen then took one of his spotlights as well as a .22.
Like most teens, the boys enjoyed living on the edge. They often set off at night to go “spotlighting,” a form of night hunting that was made illegal in Arkansas. It involves transfixing the prey with the use of a spotlight by one person with the other one firing the lethal shot. Both Henry and Ives chose to hunt by the railroad tracks behind Don’s house. Three hours later, their motionless bodies were found lying parallel on the tracks and were said to be covered by a light green tarp. A few inches away was Don’s .22 caliber rifle.
“I started lying down on the diesel horn. And I got no reaction, none at all, not so much as a flinch. And we just . . . passed over them,” Shroyer added to his statement.
Months after the death of Don Henry and Kevin Ives, their parents announced that they had enlisted the help of Dr. James Garriot of San Antonio, Texas. Garriot had concluded that it was highly unlikely for THC exposure to cause the effects stated in Malak’s report. Toxicologist Dr. Arthur J. McBray of North Carolina agreed, even going as far as calling Malak’s conclusion “very bizarre.”
“Every time he would try to find out something, it seemed like he would meet resistance from different authorities . . . and we weren’t getting anywhere,” Larry Ives, Kevin’s father, said in a statement.
The reopening of the Henry and Ives case
The day after Ives’s and Henry’s family held the press conference, the authorities were forced to reopen the investigation. Prosecutor Richard Garrett requested for the bodies to be exhumed for a second autopsy. The findings shocked not just their families but the entire country as well.
The reports concluded that the boys smoked one to three marijuana cigarettes, a far cry from the 20 sticks Malak had stated earlier. One of the boys was already dead by the time their bodies were laid on the tracks, while the other was still alive but unconscious before the train crushed them to death. After coming up with the conclusion, the grand jury reversed the original findings from “accidental death” to “probable homicide.”
And then there was the issue of the green tarp.
The green tarp was apparent in the first report made by Shroyer and the train crew. Neither of the boys were known to have owned anything like it. So Garrett wanted to know why they were covered with a green tarp and who placed it over them in the first place.
“All four of the people on the train who were able to observe the scene prior to the accident stated that the boys were partially covered by a green tarp,” Garret said.
To make things even stranger, the tarp in question was nowhere in sight when authorities scoured the scene.
The train deaths suspects
This brings back the initial question: who killed Don Henry and Kevin Ives? One intriguing lead surfaced not too long after their deaths. Several eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a suspicious man dressed in military garb walking along the tracks a week before the boys were found dead. Police officer Danny Allen spotted the man with his own eyes and even stopped to question him. As soon as he approached, the man suddenly opened fire. On the night Kevin and Don died, witnesses once again saw the man heading down a road less than 200 yards from where the boys’ bodies were found.
So did this man have anything to do with it? Many seem to think so, including the family of the boys.
As it would turn out, key witnesses of the crime began to fall one by one. One of them was Gregory Collins, who allegedly had information to present to the grand jury in regard to Kevin’s and Don’s death, died from a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner ruled Collins’s death as suicide.
Many speculated that the boys had stumbled upon an illegal drug operation funded by the government. The man seen by the eyewitnesses was likely connected to the whole thing, he could even be one of those responsible for murdering the poor teens. An autopsy conducted by an expert pathologist later in the case would even reveal cuts in Don Henry’s shirt, possibly signifying that he was stabbed before being placed on the train tracks to die.
The tragic deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives remain unsolved to this day.