Thursday, July 10, 2014

STONEWALLING: Funeral and police records, Cobb County, Georgia and Baldwin County, Alabama

My attempt to get police records at Baldwin County, Alabama were initially met with rude refusal by the two people investigating the death, Lt. Huey A. "Hoss" Mack, Jr., investigating deputy in charge, and Corporal John Garner, who hand wrote many of the reports. I was told at the police department I would have to get a court order and subpoena to get the records which I found unbelievable as a mother. Having never known of a police department set up as a military structure, I was also lead to believe these two men were in charge of the department.

It was 2001 after my divorce was finally settled and I had found a sound, safe temporary place to live without fear that I spoke at length with several of the people involved.  Records below are notes taken from  the actual phone conversations and from other sources.   At that time Huey A. Mack, Sr. was extremely helpful, even giving me the flight numbers that carried the corpse.  I was also told he stored the body and there was confusion of whether it was in the morgue or in the cooler that Coroner Huey A. Mack, Sr. kept at his premises.

In 2004 I inadvertently discovered that Huey A. Mack, Jr. was not in charge of the Baldwin County police department and they did in fact, have a sheriff named James B. Johnson.  A phone call to Sheriff Johnson produced the police records within a week.  Deputy Huey A. "Hoss" Mack signed the cover letter.

In 2008 I discovered that funeral homes were required to maintain certain records which should be available to me for the asking.  Because at that point I had suffered many dangerous incidents and was told I should be fearful of Baldwin County, I had an acquaintance approach Coroner Mack and request the records.  He returned with the same stonewall I had received seven years earlier: that I would only be able to access the records with a court order and subpoena.

This is taken from an email I received from a very kind Baldwin County gentleman and I have chosen not to publish his name or information, so I have merely clipped his text from the email:

At that point realizing the Coroner and investigating deputy were father and son, and suspecting the county was like many areas with very tight relationships, I figured there wasn't an attorney I could hire who could get the court order.  It would be a waste of money, which, had happened to me with this numerous times before. In fact my Georgia attorney said there was so much money against me I'd never get the truth.   I learned at that point the system was not what I had always believed it was.

THE TRUTH is that no county nor state should require any kind of court order nor subpoena for a mother to retrieve police reports relating to her child's death.

It's important to note that not only did Baldwin County police stonewall my attempts to get records, so did my ex-husband, Assistant Vice President of Communications and Signals for Norfolk Southern Railroad,  who had me jailed and incarcerated during the period of time between our son's death and burial -- a time when I could have actually identified the body myself.

It should be noted here that at the time of this alleged death and burial, I was still legally married to my husband and the natural and legal mother of Gerard J. Sniffen, III.  There was an ongoing divorce and a pending court trial initiated by the father. No financial settlements had been made with regard to the 23 year marriage.  There was no reason for Mayes Ward Dobbins to refuse me these records.

I have often wondered what it takes for a person to break through a wall, and I suppose it depends on how powerful the wall is.  Having believed all of my life that the truth is the most  powerful force on earth, I have saved my records and never lost hope that one day, the truth would emerge and I would have the answers after all of these years.

To what extent does a normal person who isn't an executive, and who isn't a wealthy person beyond means–– with no powerful family connections, and no political liaisons have to go for authorities to recognize there's really a problem?   In Alabama, below are some of the answers I received.

I have decided my only hope would be to present this story to normal, everyday people with hopes that they will never, ever suffer the incredible horrors I have had to endure in the United States of America.  It will take the little people gathering together to be sure anyone who is paid a salary with tax dollars performs with dignity, integrity and honesty.

In 2003 I was approached by a security guard for Pinkerton Government Services, who, in Stuart, Florida was working at the Vought Aircraft plant located at the airport there at that time. Tommy assured me that my son was still alive, and for three years we maintained contact through telephone conversations.  2006, Tommy's badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area behind the home he was renting from a woman named Deb Rickard. She explained that Tommy had "committed suicide" or overdosed on his medication, but later in speaking with his brother,  he said his family didn't believe the story.

In 2010, my divorce attorney, Kenneth H. Schatten of Atlanta, (on a rare occasion) received a phone call from me.  He proceeded to say I should take my blog down from the internet because I was making "people angry."  He wouldn't say which people.  He said they have my son "somewhere" and have told him that if he should try and contact me, or his other relatives we would be killed.

I refused to take my blog down and advised Mr. Schatten to tell these people to come ahead and kill us because living in fear is no way to live at all.  

If my son is being held hostage he should be reunited with his broken family.

A friend in 2013 scoured the net and found the case of George Erick James of Montgomery, Alabama who had disappeared two weeks before my son. Strange how similar the disappearance stories were.  Like my son, James was last known at a phone booth at a convenience store and  had been having an affair with an older woman. His vehicle was found abandoned on interstate, about an hour where a dead body was found two weeks later in Baldwin County.  My son's car was abandoned, as well in Georgia on I-85.  My son's records disappeared from Cobb County computers. James' records disappeared from police computers so that when the body was found in Baldwin, there was no record of his disappearance. George's mother, Tillis James wrote that she had to go and refile his reports when she found the records had disappeared.   This didn't happen until the body had already been identified.  

The body autopsied by Alabama Forensics did not match my son's description nor the description of George Erick James.

It is extremely serious that the NCIC system was misused, and when authorities refused to examine well-documented details that proved criminal negligence and exposed fraud and crime it was unbelievable, even incredible.  Nobody, neither child nor adult, is safe when these things occur and are not taken seriously by authorities–– and resolved.

I've accepted the fact that my son may be dead.  Evidence proves he did not die in Baldwin County, Alabama in 1998.  Whether he is alive or dead, no Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Grandfather, Grandmother nor Friend should suffer for years and years because elected officials and law enforcement failed to properly perform when potential criminal activity was brought to their attention.   

I hope my son's story and others similar will be remembered so that this can never, ever happen again–– anywhere.

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