The Case of the Devious Deejay The Duval Street gang must crack a murder suspect’s airtight alibi.

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Jun 19, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

 Editor’s note: The solution to this 70’s mystery wouldn’t hold up as well in today’s digital world where voice-tracking on radio stations is the norm. So you’ll have to read it as a period piece. At the time this story was written, the alibi used by the murderer was quite valid.

Someone knocking at the door. Mary Burnard sleeping – now sitting up in bed, switching on a lamp. The knocking continues. Who could be calling at this hour, she wonders. Donning a housecoat, she slowly strides toward the door with rapid remembrances flashing her mind. Maybe it’s Pete returning, she thinks. No, he’d left only an hour ago. But Pete was jealous. Yes, it must be Pete.

Reaching through the door latch and peering through the peephole, so sleepily. Johnny? She blinks. Of course it’s not Johnny. But the face she sees through her drowsy haze is familiar. The door now swinging open. He enters.

Something, catching a splinter of light, flickers in the darkness. It rises slowly, but falls rapidly, repeatedly. No screaming. No struggle. Blackness.

Two weeks after the Burnard murder, Rex Walton was taking notes during a lecture on criminal prosecution. The guest lecturer in the class was Warren Fulton, the Cedar Falls District Attorney. Walton had never met the D. A. before, and that’s why it took him by surprise when Fulton asked him to stay after class.

“Excellent lecture, sir,” Walton told him after the bell had rung. Then, he waited, still wondering what the prosecutor had on his mind.

“Walton,” he began, I read in the paper where you and three of your friends found some missing gold for one of your classmates. According to the paper, you solved some sort of clue.” Fulton was looking at Walton sternly, his eyes half-closed into slits.

“Yes, sir. Actually, a friend of mind named Morgan Stewart got us involved in that against my will. He put an ad in the campus paper that we could solve mysteries…”

Walton wasn’t through, but Fulton cut him off. “I’ve got a mystery of my own on my hands. I thought since you were here in class, maybe you’d like to hear about it.”

Walton had been afraid this would happen. Sure, the Duval Street Detectives had solved a missing gold problem, but a real crime detection mystery was something else again. But Walton wanted to be polite…

“Uh, yeah, this is my last class. I’ll be happy to listen to it. But unlike my friend Morgan Stewart, I don’t guarantee results.”

“Walton, this is something that really has me stumped. I’m looking for any kind of a lead that can help me crack this case. Here, let’s move into the faculty lounge.”

They strolled down a corridor, and into a room where professors went for some coffee during their off-periods. There was no one in the lounge when they arrived.

“Guess I speak to students here at Dawson so often that most people think I’m a faculty member,” laughed Fulton.

The D. A. was a large, stout man in his late 50’s. He usually was chomping on a cigar that he never lit.

“Problem is, Walton, a murder, rising out of a typical lovers’ triangle. One member of the triangle is dead. The other two are free because I can’t make a case. I don’t know which one to put in jail.”

“Do you have any leads at all?” Walton asked as the dropped a quarter into the Coke machine.

“Let me start at the top.” Fulton settled back, and Walton knew he was in for a long story.

“It happened just a couple of weeks ago – in a ground floor apartment in that new complex over on Beacon Street. A pretty young girl named Mary Burnard took six knife wounds to the abdomen and chest. Medical Examiner says she died instantly.

“So far, the investigation hasn’t turned up much – except the murder weapon and two jealous boyfriends. So we believe there’s a lovers’ triangle involved.

“There were no prints on the knife, but there were some prints on a couple of glasses left unwashed in the kitchen sink. After talking to neighbors, and checking the computer, we found that the prints belonged to one of the boyfriends, a Pete Skinner. Skinner’s a factory worker who sometimes works the graveyard shift. But he was off duty that night, and we found out he had been at Miss Burnard’s apartment. We think he had been gone about an hour when Miss Burnard was murdered.”

Walton broke in. “So you think Skinner returned and killed Miss Burnard?”

Classic photo: WSML

“That’s possible. At any rate, we took him into custody for questioning. He told us that he went straight home and to bed after leaving the apartment. But he has no witnesses to prove it – lives alone. But Skinner told us about Miss Burnard’s other boyfriend, a disc jockey named Johnny Marks. Mr. Marks works the all night shift over at KCED. Goes to work at midnight and leaves at the crack of dawn. Now as we learned from friends of Miss Burnard’s, she was seeing both these men, and she apparently liked them both. They, on the other hand, were not fond of each other.”

“What about this Marks guy? Did you question him?”

“Oh, yes. But we had to wait until 6 o’clock that morning when he got off the air. Marks was with Miss Burnard earlier that day. So we have a situation where both men saw the girl. Either of them could have become jealous and killed her. But which one? Problem with Marks is, he claims he can produce a hundred witnesses that heard him on the radio all night. We think Miss Burnard was killed around 2:00 a.m. Skinner, on the other hand, has passed a polygraph. Course, that doesn’t mean for sure he’s innocent.”

“How far from Skinner’s place to Miss Burnard’s apartment?”

“Not far. Maybe fifteen – twenty blocks or so.”

“How about the radio station?”

“A little farther. KCED is downtown. I’d say twenty minutes each way.”

“Either man in custody?”

“No. Marks’ alibi seems airtight. And without solid evidence I can’t hold Skinner since he passed the lie detector. Problem is, I need to get this case before the grand jury. But I don’t have a recommendation for them. I don’t know whom they should indict. It’s got to be one of those two men. But which one?”

Fulton stood up, then Walton did.

“That’s not much to go on, but I’ll tell the story to my friends tonight, and see what we can come up with. I’ll give you a call if we think of anything.”

“‘Preciate it, Walton. And do me a favor. Let’s keep this to ourselves until we’re ready to file charges.”

“No problem,” Walton answered. Both men headed home.

Later that night, Walton met with the other Duval Street Detectives in his apartment at the College Inn, located on the edge of the Dawson College campus. Walton told the story, just as he had heard it from the D. A.

Morgan Stewart was ecstatic that the quartet had gotten another case. Stewart was a journalism major, and was the one who’d first sought out mysteries to solve. “Seems pretty cut and dried, Rex,” he said. “Are you sure that Skinner and Marks are the only two who could have done it?”

“They’re the only two people the D. A. is investigating.”

Walton’s roommate Steve Larsen joined in the conservation. “Seems like a shortage of witnesses to me. Isn’t that a bit suspicious?” Larson was holding one arm in a sling. He was a phys ed major, and a tackle on the college football team. He had sprained his arm that afternoon.

“Not really,” Walton said. “How many witnesses can you expect in a small town at two in the morning?”

Howard Thornberry, the speech major, had been untypically quiet up until now. “You know, I’ve heard Marks on the air. Hard to believe he could be a murderer.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard him too,” Stewart said thoughtfully.

Walton got up to fix some drinks, and Larsen walked over to the stereo.

“Talking about deejays made me think of this new album I just bought,” he said. Larsen was fumbling with the record, obviously having trouble with his one good arm. “Hey, Morgan, how about some help?”

Stewart walked over, and put the record on the turntable. Without saying a word, he sat back down and thought for a second. Then he looked at Larsen.

“Steve, your stereo gives me an idea how the murder may have been committed.”

Walton had the drinks ready, but sure-handed as he was, he nearly dropped them.

“Oh yeah?” he said.

“Listen, Rex, let’s get permission from D. A. Fulton, and then make a trip down to KCED tomorrow to talk to the program director.”

The next day, Walton and Stewart visited the radio station, then, the quartet invited the D. A. to the College Inn.

“Come on in,” invited Walton as Fulton arrived. “Have a seat, and I’ll get you something to drink.”
“You men think you may have something? He asked.

“We think so. Mr. Fulton, I’d like you to meet my roommate Steve Larsen. And this is Howard Thornberry and Morgan Stewart who live upstairs.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“Well, sir, I told my friends here the story, just as you told it to me yesterday. Actually, it was Morgan who came up with the idea to check KCED’s logger tapes.”

“Their what?” asked Fulton.

“Their logger tapes,” Stewart replied. “I used to work for a small station part-time, and I also take some broadcast courses here at Dawson. So I knew that most all radio stations run a logger tape. That’s a very slow moving tape that records a whole day’s broadcast on one reel. Radio stations keep them for F.C.C. records and to prove to advertisers that their commercial were run.”

“You mean he whole broadcast day is saved on this…logger tape?”

“That’s right. Oh, it’s not very good quality. It runs very slowly. But you can understand what is being said. So we asked the program director to pull out the logger tape for the night of the murder. I wanted to hear how Johnny Marks gave the time.”

“How he gave the time? What would that prove?”

“Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot,” Stewart continued, trying to sound like a detective.

Thornberry butted in. “You see, Rex and Morgan figured that Marks could have stopped by Mary Burnard’s apartment on his way to work, just before midnight. But he noticed that Skinner’s car was there. So maybe he went on to work, planning to come back later and murder Skinner. Maybe Skinner had already left, and he took out his rage on Miss Burnard.”

“That’s the way I see it,” said Stewart. “But how could Marks have been two places at the same time? That’s why I checked the logger tape. Marks was giving the time by saying, ‘it’s twenty till’ or ‘it’s 5 after the hour.’ For a full hour, he never gave the time by mentioning the actual number on the clock. National networks do that too. But that’s because they’re broadcasting in several time zones at once. So they say it’s so many minutes before or after the hour without saying which hour. But in Marks’ case, he did the first hour of his show that way so he could replay it the next hour.”

“That gave Marks a full hour away from the station,” Walton said. “He simply ran a tape from midnight until one recording his show, then rewound the tape and played it back from one until two. In an hour’s time, he could have driven to Miss Burnard’s house and back to the station with twenty minutes to spare. That would actually place the murder at about 1:30 instead of 2:00 a.m.”

“And listening a bit further into the logger tape, it was evident that the second hour was a repeat of the first. All the same records showed up again, in the same order.” Stewart was very pleased with himself. “But Marks would be able to find plenty of witnesses who heard him on the air, and wouldn’t know it was just a tape.”

“So that at least explains how Marks could have done it,” Thornberry said. “And with the logger tape as evidence, you can probably get a confession out of him.”

Walton handed the tape to Fulton. “Here; the manager let me take the tape. But you’ll need a special slow-speed recorder to play it.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get one. Listen, you men did a great job. I must admit I didn’t really think you’d solve my little case. But it looks like my gamble paid off.”

Larsen turned to Stewart. “Last night – Morgan, what caused the idea to hit you?”

“You did, Steve,” Stewart exclaimed. “You and your sprained arm. When you asked me to put a record on the stereo, I immediately thought that Marks might be using a recording as an alibi.”

“Stewart, if you want back into radio, you might go apply at KCED,” Fulton said. “I think they’re about to have an opening for an all night deejay.”


© 2018 by Lynn Woolley. All rights reserved.

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