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The stuff TV shows are made of

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Column by Jim Clark

The last couple of weeks in Marion County, we had our own little version of CSI, Law and Order, Covert Affairs, NCIS and whatever other cop show you watch all thrown into one.
The occasion was the tragic deaths of four people in one house in the Northwest area. Two women and two children were found in a burning house on Aug. 5, and it was soon discovered that all four had been shot before the fire.
After a few days, deputies arrested the boyfriend of one of the victims and accused him of four homicides and one case of arson. He was booked into the county jail.
The arrest affidavit showed some bizarre events, all of which were worthy of a TV plot.
First, the boyfriend said he was in two other locations about the time of the murder. But he met with a friend and apparently asked him about cell phones being used to trace his whereabouts. That friend eventually went to deputies, and the Sheriff’s Office obliged by checking cell phone records, and they allegedly showed that he was in the area of the deaths at the time of the fire. So the next time one of the people on the TV shows gets on a computer and checks cell phone records, guess what? It can be real.
The suspect allegedly told the friend he was high on pot laced with other drugs, and said it all felt like he “was playing a video game,” according to the affidavit. All the TV stations really jumped on that phrase.
The Sheriff’s Office got the informant to “wear a wire,” and sure enough, the suspect allegedly made more incriminating statements on record, and eventually he was arrested.
There was another little subplot. Anyone who watches these cop shows will tell you that officials always look to family members first in a case like this, but the father of the two little children had a rock solid alibi – he was in jail on a DUI charge.
What made this even worse was that there were witnesses – children in a truck in which one of the victims arrived. One told deputies they saw a flash, heard a bang and saw their mother fall and get dragged inside the house. Can you imagine the trauma those young people went through? Neighbors pulled them out of the truck during the subsequent fire.
The bottom line is that our local Sheriff’s Office, confronted with a major crime that can test the emotions as well as the investigative capabilities, made an arrest within a few days. I’m sure it took a lot of man hours to get evidence against a suspect, and it isn’t over. As of this writing on Friday, they’re still looking for the gun, and a reward has been offered for information leading to the weapon’s recovery.
Now comes the long, drawn-out part, as the case works its way through the court system.
On TV, it’s all done in one or two hours. But in real life, it takes a lot more effort and hard work to prove a case. Law enforcement officials should be praised for what they’ve done in this gruesome crime.

Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger. He can be reached at editor@westmarionmessenger.com or at 352-854-3986.