A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
No matter what else might or might not be true, this much is not in dispute: Around dusk on the night of April 19, 2006, a slight, sandy-haired 18-year-old named Brady Alexander left his parents’ house near Ferndale, telling them that he and his friend Patrick Peters were headed to town to get something to eat. They were actually looking to buy some pot.
This much is also indisputable: By the morning of April 20, Alexander was dead. Just after 4 p.m. that day, detectives found his white Chevy Tahoe on a logging road near Wrightsville. The night before had been cold — lit only by a blade of moon and briefly by the fire his killers built to burn their clothes — but the day had come on warm and rainy. A slow drizzle was falling by the time a Little Rock police detective looked through the driver’s side window of the Tahoe and saw Brady Alexander’s body, wrapped in a sleeping bag and stuffed head-down into the passenger side floorboard.
Beyond that, things are less sure. Even in the phone-book-thick file on the case kept at the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney’s office — a file that helped send two men to jail for the rest of their lives and a third for the better part of his — the details of what happened that night are rarely clear. After awhile, the accounts of those hours as told by police, prosecutors and the people involved — most of them just kids — become a thicket, full of wasted young lives, broken families, and the unquiet dead.
By Tuesday, April 18, 2006, Marques Tavron and Martinous “M.J.” Moore were getting desperate.
For the past week, they’d been living in motels, burning through the money they had saved to rent an apartment together. As their bankroll thinned, they had slept a night or two in M.J.’s 2002 Grand Am. Old friends, M.J. and Marques had been living together for a few weeks by then, working shifts at the Sonic drive-in on Arch Street, spending their nights cruising and smoking dope. To make matters worse, a few days earlier, they had taken on M.J.’s friend Casey Harvey, an 18-year-old from Van Buren who had left home after a fight with her mother.
Originally from the Sweet Home area south of Little Rock, Tavron listed his mom’s house near Wrightsville when he had to fill in an address. M.J. had recently come to Little Rock from the tiny South Arkansas town of Emerson. By Tuesday, when the Grand Am’s “check engine” light started flashing, they were just this side of flat broke.
Though Marques and M.J. talked a good game, neither of them really knew anything about cars. After some discussion, Moore made a Hail Mary call and suggested that maybe things could be fixed by an oil change. Without enough money to have it done somewhere, the three decided to change the oil themselves, and had Casey buy the oil and an oil filter at an O’Reilly auto parts store. With the filter and fluid in hand, they were headed to M.J.’s cousin’s house near John Barrow Road to change it when Marques’ cell phone rang.
On the line was Gavino Mazurek. Marques had known Gavino — an 18-year-old former boxer; a fireplug-tough Latino kid — since the seventh grade. For the past few days, since he learned his old friend was without a place to live, Gavino had been keeping tabs on Marques via cell phone.