BOWLING GREEN, Fla. (AP) – When Florida executed David Alan Gore last year for murdering six women and girls as one of the state's most horrific serial killers, the victims' families expressed satisfaction that he finally was dead, three decades after his crimes.
But that was only half the story in a case dubbed “The Killing Cousins.”
The man Gore said joined him in hunting women and girls and then raping, killing and dismembering them – his cousin Fred Waterfield – will never meet the same fate. Instead, Waterfield is serving life sentences at Hardee Correctional Institute in central Florida for first-degree murder for two killings.
He insists he is innocent, that he was also a hostage when Gore committed the public murder that got them arrested and that he wasn't present and had nothing to do with Gore's other crimes. He said Gore lied when he implicated him in all six killings and that the prosecutor fabricated evidence against him because he wanted to make a name for himself by getting a conviction.
He said that the fact that the prosecutors tried and failed to get him a death sentence like his cousin's shows the case against him was weak.
“All throughout this case I felt that the injustice would never allow that (a death sentence) to happen,” Waterfield, 60, told The Associated Press recently in his first interview since his 1983 arrest. He is serving as his own lawyer as his ex-wife and daughters try to clear his name and get him released.
The prosecutor who tried him and the victims' families doubt that will ever happen. They are convinced of his guilt.
“Yes, I would have liked to have seen the same fate happen to Waterfield as happened to Gore, but the fact is it didn't,” said Nancy Byer, whose 14-year-old daughter Barbara Ann was murdered along with the teen's 14-year-old friend, Angelica LaVallee. “I'm just hoping he's having a miserable life. I mean that. I hope it's miserable for him because he's caused a tremendous amount of grief along with his cousin, and they did it for years.”
Back in the early 1980s, women and teenage girls began disappearing in and around Vero Beach, a small Atlantic coast town best known as the former spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A 17-year-old girl and her 48-year-old mother. A 35-year-old woman who had gone to the beach.
Gore was a suspect – during his spree, he had been found hiding in the backseat of a woman's car. He was shirtless and had a cocktail in one hand and a gun in the other. He also had handcuffs, rope and a police scanner. Detectives tried to connect him to the disappearances, but didn't have enough evidence. He was out of prison in less than two years and soon after Barbara Ann Byer and LaVallee, who had been hitchhiking, disappeared.
Then came the kidnapping and murder that broke the case. On July 26, 1983, Lynn Elliott and a 14-year-old friend were hitchhiking on a beach road when Waterfield, then 30, and Gore stopped to pick them up. Waterfield offered the girls marijuana, but before they could smoke it Gore pulled a gun. They drove to Gore's house, where Gore tied the girls up in separate rooms. Waterfield left, heading back to the nearby auto repair shop he owned.
Gore raped Elliott then went to rape her friend. Elliot untied her feet and ran from the house naked. Gore, also naked, ran after her and shot her twice in the head. A boy riding his bike saw what happened and told his mother, who called police. When they arrived, they found her body in the trunk of Gore's car and her friend alive in the attic.
Waterfield insists he was also a hostage. He said Gore had shown up at his shop – he had once worked there – and had tagged along as Waterfield drove to a storage facility to pick up a part. He said that as they were heading back to the shop, Gore suggested they drive by the beach. That's when they spotted Elliott and her friend and picked them up. He insists he didn't know Gore would kidnap and rape the girls. He said that when Gore pulled his gun, he feared that he would be shot if he tried to intervene.
Waterfield acknowledges a 30-year-old man shouldn't be offering marijuana to high school girls, but he insists he had no plans to have sex with them.
“I had to get back to work,” he said.
He also can't explain why Gore would let him leave the house if he wasn't involved.
“He knew I wanted nothing to do with that. I tried to talk him into putting the gun away. I don't know why he didn't shoot me, and the only thing I could think of is the good Lord above stopped all that,” Waterfield said.
He said he planned to call the police from his shop, but when he got there a customer wanted to talk. Before he could get to the phone, he says he saw police cars speeding in the direction of Gore's home so he figured something had happened. He drove there, but said police wouldn't listen when he tried to say he had information about the crime. Gore was already in custody and Waterfield was arrested soon after.
Gore confessed to six killings and took detectives to four bodies. He said Waterfield had been involved in all the killings, but Waterfield was only charged with three. First, Elliott's, because under Florida law anyone participating in a kidnapping can be charged with murder if the victim is killed, even if the defendant had no involvement in the actual slaying.
He was also charged with the murders of Byer and LaVallee after prosecutors said his signature was found on a credit card receipt, showing he had purchased gas from a station near where the pair disappeared and about the same time. They said that corroborated Gore's story. Prosecutors didn't charge Waterfield with any other killings because there was no evidence beyond Gore's statements.
Waterfield was tried first for Elliott's murder and prosecutor Bob Stone sought the death penalty. Waterfield's attorney, Michael Bloom, pushed for a speedy trial, something the defense almost never does in murder cases. He knew Gore was implicating Waterfield in the other murders. He also knew Gore wouldn't be a good witness and he wanted to get the trial started before investigators could find other evidence that might corroborate Gore's statements.
“Gore, when we interviewed him, he was talking to God. He was totally off the wall. That's why Stone didn't call him in the (Elliott) case. He was so incompetent when we saw him in his jail cell,” Bloom said. “I said that Bob's not going to call this guy, he's not that stupid. And the case was over.”
Without Gore's testimony, the jury only convicted Waterfield of manslaughter, apparently feeling he was negligent by not calling the police. He was sentenced to 15 years, a sentence he finished long ago.
Waterfield was then tried for the murders of Byer and LaVallee. Stone decided not to seek the death penalty, thinking perhaps some jurors didn't convict Waterfield of Elliott's murder because they didn't want him executed if he wasn't actually the killer. He didn't want the same thing to happen again.
“That's one of the things you're never sure you make the right decision on. You do what you feel's right at that time,” Stone said.
The trial was different than the Elliott case. Gore testified, but there was no surviving victim tying Waterfield to the crime. While Waterfield said he wasn't with Gore that night, prosecutors used the credit card receipt to show he was in the area. Waterfield claims prosecutors fabricated the receipt.
Stone said the credit card company produced the receipt – its executives would have to be involved in the plot for the receipt to be fabricated.
“I never had any doubts in my mind about Waterfield's involvement. My conscience is clear about what I did in that case,” Stone said. “He got a break when he wasn't sentenced to death and he needs to stay where he is the rest of his life.”
Under the old Florida law Waterfield was sentenced under, he will be eligible for a parole hearing when he has served 50 years – he would then be 81.
“I doubt I'll live that long, but you never know what the Lord has in store for you,” Waterfield said.
He said his appeals have been hampered because transcripts of his pretrial hearings are missing, he thinks intentionally. “Every time there is some instance that might help me, the record disappears.”
His ex-wife, Donna Hinkle, and twin daughters are convinced he is innocent. She's helping Waterfield with his appeal – he no longer has a lawyer and writes his court documents by hand. While they were divorced when Waterfield was arrested, she said she has always supported him.
“We always loved each other. We still love each other,” said Hinkle, who wears a diamond ring and wedding band Waterfield gave her at Christmas. Their twin daughters gave Waterfield the rings to give to their mother. “I never had the first doubt.”
Hinkle and her daughters were fine with Gore's execution. They see him as not only causing horrendous pain for the victims and their families, but also taking Waterfield away from their lives.
“I was relieved,” Michelle McClure, Waterfield's daughter said of Gore's execution. “Nothing that could happen to that man would equal the hurt and suffering that he caused for those families. He got out easy.”
But they also realize Waterfield could have been in the same situation.
“I have no problem with the death penalty, except what I've seen in Fred's case. And they went for the death penalty,” Hinkle said. “Fred could have been executed before we ever had an opportunity …”
She trailed off as she tapped on the file she believes proves Waterfield's innocence
Waterfield still expresses sorrow for Elliott's family.
“The Elliotts wanted closure and I hope they got closure on it and I hope they forgive me for things not turning out differently,” he said.
It's not a message that's welcome with Elliott's father.
“We always thought he was the brains of the outfit,” Carl Elliott said. “And I feel we're cheated because he hasn't gotten more. We all know he's a damn liar. We know that. And he's trying to use his family to get out of this thing that he was so deeply involved in. He was just as guilty as Gore as far as I'm concerned.”