Zeigler: The significance of the Jellison Tape (part XVIII)
Is it evidence? Is it exonerating? Is it implicating? The tape’s conversation has been posted in full so I refer you to the previous post to read it. As you know, it was suppressed by the state for about twelve years. Why? Because of what Jon Jellison saw and the implications of his observations.
It had to be suppressed because Jon Jellison said that after approx 8pm “there was a policeman out in the parking lot aiming his pistol over the hood of his police car at the back of the building.”
Why is this significant? It is significant because the statement shows the possibility of a time gap between the shooting of William Thomas Zeigler and the beating death of Charlie Mays.
Jon mentioned shots. He could have estimated the time at which he heard those shots wrong. But it is what Jon saw that makes the statement so powerful. He repeats what he saw. Even when Mr. Bachman, investigator for the prosecution, explicitly suggested a change in the chain of events, Jon remained steadfast in what he remembered and in what order. He first saw the police car and the officer in the parking lot. That alerted him to the fact that something was going on. That’s why he stayed outside to watch. And then, he heard shots!
If you place the Jellison statement in a time line with known facts and other witness testimony, it will become clear why the Jellison statement undermines the state’s theory that Zeigler is guilty. And that’s why it had to be suppressed!
To explain this clearly, we need a time line. All times are approximately.
Winter Garden, Christmas Eve 1975…
535pm: The sun starts to set. It will be completely dark in about 30 minutes.
700pm: Winter Garden Police Chief Don Ficke and his wife Rita open presents in their home with their family. Earlier, Eunice Edwards-Zeigler and Rita had arranged for the two couples to drive together to the Van Deventer Christmas party. Later that evening, the Fickes would head out to pick up the Zeiglers before going to that party.
720-725pm: Barbara Spencer is waiting for her brother. He was supposed to be at her parent’s house at 7pm. He is late, so Barbara is on the look out. Suddenly, she hears “three or four loud explosions.” When interviewed later, she said that she believed that those explosions were firecrackers (remember that it was Christmas Eve so people were celebrating). When she heard these explosions, she was sitting by a back window in her parents’ house located about a block west of Dillard Street, near Route 50.
What Barbara heard was the first round of shootings that led to the murders of Virginia Edwards and her daughter Eunice Edwards-Zeigler. Virginia Edwards was shot twice and Eunice Edwards-Zeigler was shot once.
Supporting Barbara’s statement is a clock inside the furniture store. That clock, see photographs, stopped running at 724pm. If you look closely at the photograph you will see the bullet hole that caused the clock to stop running.
735-745pm: Barbara hears a second round of “explosions.” This time she hears about six or seven explosions. She would later state that these explosions were loud and distinct and that she was certain from which direction the noise came. The noise came from the east from across an open area, a clearing. On the other side of that clearing, a couple of hundred yards away was the back of W. T. Zeigler Furniture.
The second round of “explosions” is the murder of Perry Edwards. Perry had come to the store together with his wife and daughter. He put up a fierce fight that took place all over the store. Perry fought the attackers, trying to protect his family, and tried to get the upper hand while his wife and daughter were murdered. Unfortunately, he was outnumbered. Perry Edwards was shot four or five times.
A little after 800pm: The Fickes take the unmarked police car to pick up the Zeiglers to go to the Van Deventer party. This will take about 10 minutes. When they don’t find them at home, they decide to drive past the front of the store, approximately another 10 minutes. Chief Ficke was not armed.
While driving around, Chief Ficke noticed a Winter Garden police car and an Oakland police car parked at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Tri-City shopping center, across from the furniture store. He would learn later that Oakland Chief Robert Thompson drove that car. Thompson had given his two officers the night off. The other police car belonged to Winter Garden patrolman Jimmy Yawn. Notice that Chief Thompson, outside his jurisdiction, does not officially log out until 830pm.
800pm: Kenneth and Linda Roach are driving south on Dillard Street in the direction of Route 50. As they drive past the furniture store, they hear a single loud pop, like a “firecracker.” They will later state that they thought that noise came from the direction of the store. A few seconds later, they hear a series of explosions of ten or more shots. Ken Roach would later state that to him it sounded “like a string of firecrackers going off all at once.” They did not stop driving.
What the Roaches heard was the attack and shooting of William Thomas Zeigler as he entered the store from the back. Multiple shots were fired but only one hit Zeigler. Remember that he went back to the store to get the Christmas presents he had hidden there. He was going to get help from his handyman and helper, Edward Williams.
830pm: Samuel Harrison and family give Felton Thomas a ride to Oakland. They know him from Oakland and the citrus groves. Thomas is one of hundreds of itinerant pickers who return yearly to Orange County for the harvest. Later, Samuel Harrison would explain that Thomas sat quietly in the backseat. However, as they approached Oakland he mentioned that he had just left Charlie Mays and that something strange had happened at Zeigler Furniture. Felton Thomas would later testify for the state and lie.
830pm: Chief Thompson uses his radio to log out of service and meets Patrolman Yawn at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for coffee. It remains a mystery why Chief Thompson was outside his jurisdiction knowing that he had less officers on the street!
After 830pm but before 920pm: Jon Jellison sees a police car at the back of the furniture store with an officer aiming a gun over the top of the car at the back of the store.
If Jon is right about the time AND the police car, it suggests that after the shooting of William Thomas Zeigler, the accomplices called for assistance. They had been surprised by the unexpectedly necessary three murders of Virginia Edwards, Perry Edwards and their daughter Eunice Edwards-Zeigler. They needed help concocting a story that would frame William Thomas Zeigler for those three murders. Someone was standing guard at the back of the store while the accomplices inside were concocting their story. During this time period, Charlie Mays loses his cool and would later be beaten to death (see previous posts).
Mays might have been shot by William Thomas Zeigler earlier during their fight but Mays was still very much alive. The accomplices may have asked for advice what to do with the store, the bodies, and with Mays. If Jon’s recollection is accurate, it suggests that police were involved in the cover-up and framing of William Thomas Zeigler.
If Jon is wrong about the time but DID see a police car with an officer aiming his gun at the back of the store, followed some time later by shots fired inside the store, than that means that Jon heard the shots that killed the Edwards and their daughter. Why? Because when asked later what happened when he approached the back of the store, William Thomas Zeigler stated that he was entering the back lot with Edward Williams but he never mentioned a (police) car present in the back parking lot. Remember that they were going to get the Christmas presents.
If Jon is right about the time but saw a car RESEMBLING a police car, than we would still be dealing with someone who was guarding the back door. However, this could have been anyone and not necessarily police.
Either way, at this time Charlie Mays is confronting his accomplices about the three unnecessary deaths and the bad planning. Mays might have been shot; tension is high, and the emotions are raw. He may even start a fight with one of his accomplices but ultimately he is overpowered by them. He is beaten while one of the accomplices sits on him and hits him with the linoleum crank. To make sure that nobody could trace that person, they clean up around Mays’ dead body.
845pm: the Fickes cannot find the Zeiglers at home. When they drive by the store, the front is dark. They drive back once more to the Zeigler home. Not finding them there, they decide to go ahead to the Van Deventer party.
850pm: Chief Thompson logs in again after he leaves KFC. He returns to his jurisdiction and finds his town quiet. He decides to stop in at the Van Deventer party.
900pm: the Jellisons, who earlier saw “a police car in the back lot of the store with an officer aiming a gun over the car” towards the back of the store, now hear shots …
What the Jellisons now hear is the butchering of Charlie Mays by his accomplices. Mays was shot twice but not fatally. What killed him was the beating. After Mays was dead, the accomplices fired extra shots at random throughout the furniture store to confuse forensic experts looking for patterns. In other words, the cover-up included random shots to prevent proper crime scene analysis.
These shots, the ones that killed Mays and the random ones, are the shots that the Jellisons heard. These shots simply cannot be the shots that the Roaches heard because they kept driving on Dillard Street towards Route 50. Also, the Roaches heard shots around 8pm. In other words, the Jellison statement demonstrates a gap in the assumed time line. Therefore, it presented a threat to the state’s theory.
Firing extra shots at random to confuse crime scene analysis would also explain the number of bullets found inside the store. Inside the store, 28 bullets were found. However only ten or eleven (depending on how many times Perry Edwards was shot) hit a target.
Virginia Edwards was shot twice, Perry Edwards was shot four or five times, Eunice Edwards-Zeigler was shot once, William Thomas Zeigler was shot once, and Charlie Mays was shot twice. In total, ten or eleven bullets were used to shoot five people and kill four of them. But 28 bullets were found. The remaining 17 or 18 were the ones randomly shot inside the store to distort any trajectory work that would be done by crime scene investigators, and to mask the real crime scene. Those random shots were deliberately fired. Despite the massive shooting, chasing of the victims through the store, and shooting while fighting, not one bullet hit any of the plate glass windows in the front of the store!
The extra random shooting could also explain why at least one of the RG revolvers was reloaded. One of the RG revolvers would later be handed over to police by Edward Williams and turn out to be the weapon that shot the most bullets.
That weapon was a Securities Industries chrome plated .38 caliber six-shot revolver. Eight bullets were found in the store and traced to that weapon. This means that the weapon was used until all six chambers were empty. Then it was reloaded. It fired at least two more bullets before someone opened the chamber and removed all remaining bullets. Then, with a completely empty chamber, that revolver was handed over to police by Edward Williams! The same man who accompanied William Thomas Zeigler to the store that fateful night. Williams, whose deposition was interrupted by order of the State. Williams, who had no answers for the simplest of questions, who testified for the state and lied.
Neither Felton Thomas nor Edward Williams have been featured here on DCC. My aim right now is to show you that William Thomas Zeigler never had a fair trial and that any alternative explanation for the facts was immediately crushed and suppressed. If you wish to know more about Williams and Thomas, I refer you to Finch’s “Fatal Flaw.”
Back to the time line …
915pm: Ed & Madelyn Nolan drive to her mother’s house which will take them to Dillard Street.
918pm: Chief Thompson checks out of service again, as he reaches the Van Deventer home. At approximately the same time, William Thomas Zeigler regains consciousness and crawls towards a phone in the store to call for help. He knows that his friend, Don Ficke, would be at the Van Deventer party, so he calls the Van Deventer home.
As Thompson walks to the door, Van Deventer and Chief Ficke dash out. There was trouble at Zeigler Furniture, Ficke told Thompson. In separate cars, they rushed to the store with their emergency lights flashing. The trip took less than a minute.
920pm: Edward Williams enters KFC after closing hours to use the phone.
921pm: Chief Thompson radios the Winter Garden dispatcher that he is en route to the Zeigler store on Ficke’s authority, and that they should send other units. The dispatcher logs the call at 921pm.
Two other officers were within a quarter mile of the scene. Officer Cindy Blalock was in the Tri-City parking lot, escorting a TG&Y’s manager as he carried out a bag of cash. Patrolman Jimmy Yawn, who had been with Thompson less than an hour before at KFC, was at the Winter Garden Inn. In his deposition he stated that “he was the supervisor of the shift” and that he “was on routine patrol” and “was sitting in front of the Winter Garden Inn.”
Yawn cut through a service station on the corner of Route 50 and Dillard Street to drive to the store. While he speeds to the scene, he almost collides with the Nolans who are driving there. The Nolans react swiftly to avoid Yawn. They park the car across the street to catch their breath. Then they see where the police car is going and watch on the sidewalk with other people who have gathered there.
We do not know how long the Jellisons stayed outside watching that night. They were never asked. We know that they heard the other police cars arrive at the front of the store but we do not know how long after that moment they remained outside. Therefore, we do not know whether Jon saw Officer Cindy Blalock arrive at the back lot of the store. She went to the back lot to cover the rear while Officer Yawn and the others began searching the store. It should be obvious that no shots were fired after the arrival of both Chiefs Thompson and Ficke and officers Yawn and Blalock! So it is not likely that the officer that Jon saw was Officer Blalock.
And there you have it. The significance of the Jellison tape. At the least, the statement warranted better investigative work. In a proper police investigation, parents would have been asked to come to the phone. All family members would have been questioned in person and the differences in their statements would be investigated. How long were the Jellisons outside? Were they able to actually see the police cars arrive at the front of the store? Were they outside long enough to see that police officer leave before Officer Blalock came to cover the back of the store? What kind of uniform was the officer they saw wearing? Were they all certain about the time they were outside?
And yes, the Jellison tape is evidence. Let me show this to you in another way by making a matrix: Jon is either wrong or right concerning the time and/or the police car.
|Jon Jellison||right about the time||wrong about the time|
|right about the police car||Suggestion that accomplices called for assistance/advice before they killed Charlie Mays. This also suggests that police was somehow involved.||Someone was standing guard after William Thomas Zeigler was shot but before Charlie Mays was killed. Or, the police car was there before the first three murders of the Edwards and their daughter. Then Jon would have seen an officer, a police car and then the shots would follow. But this suggests that police was involved from the beginning.|
|wrong about the police car||Someone was standing guard to make sure that nobody left alive or tried to enter the store. ||Jon possibly saw officer Blalock but then no shots should have been heard. When the Chiefs, Yawn and Blalock arrived, no shots were fired.|
No matter how you look at the Jellison tape, it shows an alternative explanation for the facts and with that reasonable doubt.