The next case I want to tell of came about a month after Danny Rodgers’s case and was the case that really started everything. It was like this one case was related to every other homicide in the county. Jared walked in and slammed the papers down like he always seemed to do. My impression was that he didn’t too much care for me, but felt he had to respect that his daughter was happy with me.
This was the case of Jake Self, a thirteen year old that had been stabbed with a pocket knife and was announced dead upon arrival. This was one of those cases that should have been solved. All the evidence was fresh at the time of the murder and it was obviously done by a young teenager, not a professional criminal. The problem was police didn’t really care enough, or really at all. The murder took place at Dinkins Middle School. Dinkins was pretty much the most popular school in the state. The elementary, middle, and high school were all on the same campus, which made it convenient for parents with kids of different ages. Our first person to talk to is always a remaining family member. Luckily Jake’s dad was still living nearby the school.
Jan and I were glad to see someone nice at the door. Usually when you bring up a cold case, the relatives don’t react nicely. They’re usually angered at the fact that it took so long for justice to even try to be served. But Jeff, Jake’s father, was one that was grateful someone finally cared.
“My son was stabbed on a school playground. Nobody claims to have witnessed it and police didn’t even care. Emergency services took over a half hour to even come to the scene that day. It was the longest wait I’ve ever had. Well, besides the wait for someone to actually care about my son’s death.”
“Does Jake have a mother?” Jan asked.
“Yeah, somewhere; she left me a year after he was born for another man.”
“Do you think she could hold a grudge or have any reason to…?”
“Nah, she never even tried to gain custody. She was happy with her new family and Jake barely remembered her so it was for the best really that she stayed out of our lives.”
“Well, is there anyone at school he might have had a problem with?”
“He didn’t talk to me much about school, but there is this kid named Wesley that had problems with him from what the teacher told me. If you want to talk to Wesley I have his address. I kept it after Jake’s teacher told me they were having problems with each other. I figured it might come in handy one day.”
We went to Wesley’s house hoping to get some answers. When there’s a murder the first person to look into is someone that had a problem with the victim. Wesley didn’t look like the criminal type though. He seemed too caring to be a murderer.
“I only had problems with Jake because he picked on my little brother. He was six then and Jake was 13. I know Jake was just messin’ around, but my brother’s a bit more sensitive even when compared with the average six year old. He’s 10 now and still way too sensitive.”
“Could we speak with him?”
“Jerry doesn’t talk much, but you can try.”
Wesley screamed for Jerry, who was upstairs in the 2-story house.
“W-what y’all want?”
I let Jan do all the talking because she seems to get kids a lot better than I do.
“We need to talk to you about Jake Self. Can you tell us anything?”
“Robert fought, knife, mom called.”
“Where are your parents?”
“Jerry, I need you to go back upstairs, okay?” Wesley nicely asked and Jerry did as he said.
“What does he mean?”
“Our parents died in a car wreck when he was 2. We stayed here with our grandpa, also known as “Mom” but he died a while ago. I have a good job so I’m allowed to keep Jerry here. Jerry never really learned to talk well. He hardly lies though, so probably would be good to talk with Robert.”
“Tell Jerry we said thank you.”
Now it was on to Robert’s house. Robert looked a bit rougher. If I had to choose someone by looks, I’d say Robert was a lot closer to the killing type than Wesley is. But of course, our judgment can’t be done on just looks. We also have to have evidence.
“I knew everyone would blame me. Jake and I fought a lot and we had fought earlier that day. I’d never kill him though. We were just fighting to show how tough we were. Never woulda gone that far.”
“We hear you pulled out a knife on Jake that day.”
“Nawl, Wesley did that. He was sticking up for his little brother. And I’d say it was about time. Wesley would never have killed him though. He just used that knife to scare people away. He’s way too nice to be a killing type.”
“So Wesley, who led us to you, did the stabbing?”
“Nawl, I didn’t say that. I just said he pulled out a knife. If he did kill ‘em I sure didn’t see it and never would guess it either.”
“We’ll go talk with him again.”
We headed back to Wesley’s house, but this time got no answer at the door. Any time someone disappears or is unavailable for a time after being questioned it looks suspicious. Jerry answered the door after Jan yelled for Wesley. Once again, I decided to let Jan do the talking.
“Get in the car. We’ll go find ‘em.”
“Let’s just wait and see if Wesley comes back.”
At least Jerry was smart enough not to get into the car with someone he barely knew. It was nearly an hour before Wesley came back home. It looked like he’d been grocery shopping.
“Here Jerry, go put this in the kitchen. I got some footage of Jake’s death. One of the bagboys taped it. I guess nobody ever cared to see it. I haven’t watched it, I just remember he had mentioned he had it all on tape.”
We watched the video, which I was amazed was still around and that someone could just sit there recording as a kid is stabbed to death. The video clearly showed Robert and Wesley both drawing knives, but Wesley never opened his. Wesley just threatened to. But as Wesley threatened Robert drew his knife and stabbed Jake for the kill. Both pocket knives were gold colored, which said to me that these were probably popular around the school. We went back to Robert’s.
“What er y’all doin’ back here?”
“Wesley found footage of you stabbing Jake.”
“So much for our code of honor. We were supposed to never tell. We would lead y’all out of state and never tell. Guess Wesley forgot about that too.”
Robert was kept at the jailhouse near the office. Because he was young and went to a school that was said to have had a lot of crime we thought it would be helpful to keep him nearby. Poor Wesley was found in a ditch with his car crashed from what was believed to be a hit and run about two weeks later. Of course, with such little evidence there was no chance of finding who crashed into him. Jerry luckily got adopted by Jake’s dad. Jake’s dad said he couldn’t live with himself if Jerry were put into an orphanage after his brother basically lead us to his son’s murderer.