The following is the first chapter from my book Predator: The Man Who Didn’t Exist.
She lay face down.
At least, that is how they found the body—face down.
They, being the hastily established Manatee County team of sheriff’s deputies, forensic personnel, fire department paramedics, and the county coroner’s office staff that had been called into service on August 3rd, 2009, in the middle of the night. It was their job to descend on the horrifying scene at a residence in a quiet neighborhood in response to her husband’s frantic 911 call.
Manatee County 911, what is the nature of your emergency?
The operator’s voice was calm, well-practiced, having responded thousands of times in the same cool manner during stressful telephone calls as this would soon become.
Caller: (Unintelligible) I just got home, my wife is on the floor!
The voice was breathless, filled with shock and terror.
Three years after the Manatee County 911 system recorded the emotion-filled phone call from a distraught man, the prosecution introduced the tape as evidence in Case No. 2010-CF-000479, The State of Florida vs. Delmer Smith, a murder case.
The Court, jury, and gallery would sit and listen completely absorbed by the conversation being played back for them. While the horror of the night slowly became indelibly evident for everyone else in the room, the defendant appeared indifferent. He spent most of his time looking at the highly-polished wooden conference table-top where he sat, or at his handcuffed hands.
He focused on them, turning them over, then right side up. He twisted them one way, then another, carefully examining each hand like a person would checking to see if they might need to wash them. Perhaps, in this case, to remove the invisible stain and erase the scent of his victim’s blood that only he was conscious of.
The act was eerily reminiscent of the scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the Thane of Fife’s wife spoke those incredibly memorable lines, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! … What! will these hands ne’er be clean? … Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
The 911 operator immediately obtained the caller’s name, address, and phone number. He then went on to ask questions of the caller concerning the nature of his call and then:
Caller: (unintelligible) she’s tied up. It looks like someone hit her on the head with something here. I don’t know. It’s just….
The man’s voice stumbled, falling away, trailing off. His breathing, haggard, short gasps for air recorded, played, filled the courtroom.
911: Are you with her now?
Caller: Yeah (unintelligible)—I think she’s already dead!
911: How old is she?
Caller: Kathy is in her — 40s. She was — born in — 1960. Holy — shit. Please (unintelligible)….
The painful distress in the caller’s voice was clearly palpable as it tumbled in volume into a stumbling pile of meaningless garble.
All who sat in the relative safety and comfort of oak-paneled courtroom 5-A of Florida’s Twelfth Circuit that day in Manatee County and listened to the replay of the taped telephone callmade that alarming night would never forget what was said; nor would they ever be able to erase from their memories the emotions they felt individually as a result of hearing the heartbreaking descriptions of the scene as addressed in that tragic recording.
It was a simple conversation between a 911 operator, who identified himself only as “operator 143,” and a distressed husband who had just entered into a nightmare world of epic horror-filled dimensions. Yet, as it unraveled, it would leave the courtroom chilled and silent except for the voices of the attorneys and their witnesses who were called to testify. By this point, Operator 143 had the address and the name of the caller: Dr. James Briles, a local physician who lived on Terra Ceia.