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Episode 6: Suspicions

Each primary witness’s story comes under the microscope as they re-create their version of events at the crime scene a week after John’s death. Delia investigates inconsistencies in Pat and Skip’s behaviors and examines their actions on the day of the crime. A second autopsy comes into play and tension builds at John’s funeral.

Episode Photos

Episode Transcript

Delia D’Ambra: The hottest part of the day in South Florida—in the middle of July—is usually between one o’clock and three o’clock.

It’s oppressive.

The sun’s beating down…and the sky is building with stifling hot air prepping to unleash into a massive afternoon thunderstorm.

A mushy, mosquito-filled pasture is the last place you want to be walking around…

But on July 15th, 2003—one week after John Welles was killed—that’s where Desoto County sheriff’s office detectives took their three prime suspects.

I say suspects because by this point in the investigation all documentation I’ve read names Patrick, Pat and Skip as actual suspects.

Kim Lewis: “You ready?”

Male Deputy: “We’re ready…”

Delia D’Ambra: At 1:30pm detective Kim Lewis started walking with John’s grandma through her pasture and woods and asked her to reconstruct what she remembered from the day John died.

Another detective video recorded.

In between embarrassed laughs from Kim as Pat joked about knowing her daddy… And Kim awkwardly digging around in the sand and grass with the toe of her boot….Pat essentially took the lead as they trudged through the property.

When they arrived at the trash pile and ditch where John’s four-wheeler and body were found, they stopped.

Almost all of the dialogue audio in the VHS tape is unusable due to the camera operator standing at least 10 feet from Kim and Pat at all times—but to summarize, Pat didn’t change her story from what she’d told Kim days earlier on July 9th.

For about 40 minutes she went through all of the same info…

She said she drove once on her own to look for John and didn’t find him…then she drove back there again with Patrick and that’s when her, Skip and Patrick found the gun, holster, belt and thigh strap strewn in a line.

Pat’s demeanor in the video comes off normal for the most part…until Kim started asking her to recall specific sequence of events that occurred at the trash pile.

Whenever Kim asked Pat to stand close to the spot where the four-wheeler had been..she avoided it.

Pat Strader: “I went this way…”

Kim Lewis: “Before we go that way…you said you asked him where it was…what did he say?”

Pat Strader: “Right there by the four-wheeler…”

Kim Lewis: “Okay, so the four-wheeler is facing this direction, correct? Backed up.”

Delia D’Ambra: In her body language alone, you can tell Pat is very expressive during the interaction.

She often uses big hand and arm gestures to describe the original scene…but she never wants to be too close to the ditch where John’s body ended up.

There are several moments where Pat kind of wraps up her thoughts and starts to walk away but Kim asks her to come back and be more specific.

During all of this, Pat doubled down on her theory of what she thought happened to John.

She believed he got attacked by bees or ants and started stripping off his belt, gun and holster— but she had no clue how he got shot.

Her theory got pretty confusing to follow at some points…even for Kim who was standing right next to her.

Pat Strader: “I remember I told you that looking at the scenario, I thought he was leaving that four-wheeler for whatever reason it was.”

Kim Lewis: “Yes ma’am.”

Pat Strader: “Dropped his gun, the holster went down, and there’s the (inaudible)

Kim Lewis: “So after the discovery of all these items you surmised that John might have fled something from the four-wheeler dropped the gun, dropped the holster, and dropped the belt. Am I following you correctly?”

Pat Strader: “Yes…and the only thing I think he would have had on because I didn’t know at the time was that he had taken his shirt off…but when I saw him, he was shirtless.”

Kim Lewis: “Okay”

Pat Strader: “And what else, he had tight jeans on so if he had ants in his pants…”

Kim Lewis: “Right…”

Pat Strader: “They’d have been hard to get off. Again, assumptions.”

Delia D’Ambra: Pat brought up an interesting observation about the way John looked when he was discovered…

He was shirtless.

What I think Kim Lewis should have asked her in this moment was why John was working shirtless in the woods in the first place if bees or ants were known to attack in that environment?

Where was his shirt?

Kim didn’t ask this question—no one did.

Based on police reports I’ve read, Skip brought up John being shirtless during his July 10th interview.

He said in passing that the teen had taken his shirt and hat off while they were together changing the trash trailer’s tire at the house.

Skip said John left those articles of clothing hanging in a shed in the backyard.

What’s weird to me is that nowhere in the evidence item list for this case is there any mention of detectives going back to retrieve John’s shirt and hat from the day he died.

Those items were never seized as evidence and to this day remain unaccounted for.

Before wrapping up her field interview with Pat… Kim asked her straight up if she thought Skip killed John, to which Pat said “no.”

Kim asked her if Patrick did it, to which Pat said, “I don’t think so.”

Then—before cutting off the tape, Kim asked Pat if she was responsible for John’s death or was involved in any way.

Pat replied quote— “I feel I am because I let him over here with the gun knowing that he was young but I’m going to come back and say I don’t think I could have shot him. I was not over here. Heaven help me if I was.”–end quote.

I found her response kind of strange…

“I don’t think I could have shot him.”—it’s such an odd way of answering Kim’s question.

Before I read into it too much, I have to remember that all of Pat’s behaviors and words during the VHS walk through could be a result of her still being in shock from what happened to John.

I mean after all, he was shot on her property, under her supervision, carrying a gun he wasn’t legally supposed to have on him.

I have to consider that Pat’s behavior might just be a result of her blaming herself for not watching over John better.

It’s either that, or she was involved somehow…but it doesn’t appear from anything authorities documented at that time that they thought her response was odd or that they thought she was the person who pulled the trigger.

The next person Kim brought out to the field was Skip.

Kim Lewis: “Alright Mr. Strader, when you came in the first time, 1:30-ish looking for John…you came in this way, then which way did you go?”

Delia D’Ambra: And just like Pat…Skip’s story didn’t change from what he’d been telling investigators since the first time they’d sat down with him.

For most of the interview Kim asked Skip to recall step-by-step the route he walked from the sawmill and through the woods along Joshua Creek to meet up with Patrick and Pat.

Skip Strader: “Now I don’t know exactly but he said it was laying next to the four-wheeler.”

Kim Lewis: “Uh huh, we’ll go over that way now.”

Delia D’Ambra: Kim wanted to know how long his trek had taken…what he first saw when he arrived…and if he handled the gun, holster, belt or strap after Patrick picked those items up.

Skip told her he thought he’d held the holster at one point while helping Patrick place all of the items in the Explorer…but he wasn’t sure.

His theory as to what happened to John mirrored Pat’s…which was that John had been trying to get away from bees or ants that had been attacking him.

After 20 minutes at the original scene with Skip, Kim ended the interview.

The last 22 minutes of the VHS tape is Kim walking through the scene with Patrick Skinner.

Patrick was wearing dark jeans and a black t-shirt—a brutal combo for such a sweltering day.

His soft-spoken demeanor makes it nearly impossible to hear everything he says to Kim…but you can tell from the get go that he was visibly shaken up to be back at the trash pile and ditch.

Both Kim and the detective filming the tape chimed in a few times to prompt Patrick into opening up more about specific details he remembered from July 8th.

Most importantly, details about the moment he picked up and unloaded John’s revolver.

Male Officer: “Which way was the barrel of the gun pointing when you picked it up?”

Patrick Skinner: *points away from trash pile*

Male Officer: “It was pointing this way?”

Patrick Skinner: *points* (inaudible)

Male Officer: “So it was laying like on its left side?”

Patrick Skinner: *nods*

Male Officer: “Okay. Did all of the rounds fall out of the cylinder?”

Patrick Skinner: “Not all of them…(inaudible)

Male Officer: “Okay, but you’re sure all of them fell out?”

Patrick Skinner: (inaudible)

Male Officer: “Three of four fell…”

Delia D’Ambra: Towards the end of the interview, Kim asked Patrick if he killed John, to which Patrick replied… “no”

Kim asked him if he agreed with the theory that John’s stuff being strewn in a line indicated he was trying to get away from bees—and somehow his gun fell off of him and fired in the process.

Patrick answered that he wasn’t sure…

In his interview with me recently he said he considered this theory at first …but in his heart it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Patrick Skinner: “Frankly it sounded kind of stupid at the time when I was thinking it. I don’t know why I was thinking it.

There are bees for the orange groves. I’m not a farmer. I don’t know if they’re around that time of year or not, but I don’t know why I thought bees.

Probably because it almost looked like someone was stripping to go into the water and I’m thinking, ‘Why would somebody strip to go into the water?’

Delia D’Ambra: In the end, Patrick told Kim he didn’t think bees attacked John and his gun accidentally discharged.

He said he thought his friend had been killed and then placed in the water.

Right after that, the interview was interrupted…

Delia D’Ambra: A large cow had inched closer to the camera operator and was moaning so loudly no one could hear one another anymore- I guess that was the cue to wrap things up and at 3:52pm, the tape ended.

When all was said and done—Kim’s separate walks in the pasture with each suspect didn’t result in anything useful for the investigation.

I don’t know if she was expecting one of the three to go out there and confess or make some big mistake or what…but in the end, the entire VHS recording seemed to be a wash.

A lot of sweating, for no reward.

While Kim had been in the woods, F-D-L-E special agent Smith and Desoto County detective Curt Mays had been following up on interviews they’d conducted with Helen Huff, John’s mother and Beth Flowers, John’s recent ex-girlfriend who was just 16 years old at the time.

During both of those interviews, detectives gleaned more insight into how Skip and John got along…or rather, didn’t always get along.

Here’s audio from Beth in her 2003 interview.

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “I know John has a little smart mouth so if they were working across the street, I’m sure John was basically since Skip was I guess you could say new to the sawmill, John was pretty much running him around telling him things to do and stuff like that. John always thought he knew everything.”

Delia D’Ambra: What Beth was getting at, was that in her mind she felt it would have been John who’d have barked orders at Skip—not the other way around.

She said in her opinion, John felt like he knew the sawmill better than Skip…so she thought it was totally possible John could have mouthed off at Skip while they were working together.

Helen on the other hand said in her interview in July of 2003 that if there was tension between Skip and John…it wasn’t because John was the problem.

She told authorities Skip was known to have vices that made him unpredictable.

Helen Huff: “He’s decent but he has got a terrible, terrible, terrible drinking problem. Terrible.”

Detective: “How about his temper?”

Helen Huff: “He’s really pretty laid back, but he’s that kind of silent but deadly type. You know, you push and push and push and he sits around and mulls around about it. You wouldn’t actually see him have an outrage but if something didn’t rub him the wrong way, it would boom, boom and I think it might be over or something. But I understand now, ain’t nobody seen him sober since all this has happened, I mean since Mel died.”

Detective: “How’s his relationship with John? Him and John pretty close…or?”

Helen Huff: “As far as I knew like he thought of him as like one of his own…but if there was extenuating circumstances you know anybody can turn.”

Delia D’Ambra: Anybody can turn…

That’s certainly a theory police were mulling over regarding Skip.

They’d accused him of as much during his July 10th interrogation…and now were hearing from more and more people it was possible he could snap under pressure.

But here’s the thing…what Helen told authorities was hearsay. It was her opinion— and police couldn’t work with just her opinion.

Helen didn’t even live in Arcadia in 2003 or spend much time with her son for that matter. Who was she to know what John and Skip’s relationship was like?

Investigators needed to talk to someone who wasn’t John’s mother in order to give them better insight into Skip’s behaviors and actions.

And Beth Flowers was ultimately that person…

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “He came up and hugged on me…and he was intoxicated…and he just shouldn’t have been acting like he was. He was the only one there acting that way.”

Delia D’Ambra: On the night of July 8th, 2003—just a few hours after John was pronounced dead—a bunch of people stopped by Pat Strader’s house to comfort her.

At that time, friends and acquaintances weren’t sure what had happened to John.

They thought he’d drowned or died in an accident in the woods—they had no clue he was shot.

No one would learn that information until the following day—July 9th.

Beth Flowers was one of those people who stopped by to see Pat.

Just like everyone else, she was completely in the dark as to what had happened to her ex-boyfriend.

Right after arriving to the southeast Hansel house, she started getting weird vibes.

Skip…was visibly drunk.

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “Everybody else was very distraught and emotional and sad…and he was just, I don’t know. I’m like, of course people may drink whenever something like that happens, but he was just weird. I don’t know, it was definitely off.”

Delia D’Ambra: Beth says Skip’s behavior that night has never set well with her.

Later that week she said Pat allowed her to come by and stay the night in John’s room one evening as a way to cope.

During that visit, she only had interaction with Pat—who seemed to be acting like you’d expect a grieving grandmother to be.

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “It didn’t seem off with her at all, but it definitely seemed weird with his uncle.”

Beth didn’t see Skip…and never did for the rest of the week.

By the time July 15th rolled around and Desoto County investigators had formally interviewed her…Beth wasn’t sure if she could trust anyone in John’s family to give her straight answers.

Rumors were swirling in town and she found herself having more and more questions for John’s grandma and step-uncle.

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “I just don’t understand the steps of what went on and how exactly did he get found. If he got found by all three, why were all three there?

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “I don’t believe that Patrick had anything to do with it and I don’t believe that Skip didn’t have anything to do with it. Like I just don’t get the steps of how he got found.

I heard that Skip said they seen something in the water and Skip said, “Oh, that’s John. He’s dead.” Well, how did he know he was dead? If he didn’t go over there and flip them over or pick them out of the water, did you really just leave him there in the water?

Like, what exactly happened? If that’s what was said, how did you know he was dead?”

Delia D’Ambra: Other people close to John had their concerns too.

Laura Welles, John’s aunt, remembers a strange interaction she had with Pat the day John died.

According to Laura, she called Pat’s home on July 8th around six o’clock.

Laura Welles: “It had just happened when I talked to her.”

Laura Welles: “When she answered the phone, all that she was able to say to me was, “It was a terrible accident, it’s just a terrible accident.” She was in tears and telling me that it was a terrible accident. And I said, “Well Pat, what happened? And you know, you’re saying an accident, how?” And that’s when the phone was jerked away from her. “

Delia D’Ambra: Laura said the person who snatched the phone from Pat was Pat’s brother, a guy named Kenneth Adams.

Laura Welles: “Grabbed the phone and said, “She can’t talk to you. She can’t say anything to you at all.” And he just hung up on me. And I was very shocked that he treated me that way, because I had always been good friends with him, but he wasn’t telling me anything.”

Delia D’Ambra: That interaction, combined with information she was hearing second hand about Skip being a target of the investigation made Laura form an opinion she couldn’t shake.

Laura Welles: “I immediately in my head thought, Skip had done this, Now, you know, that’s just me thinking, because I knew they didn’t get along… I knew that they had times they didn’t get along.

Delia D’Ambra: “Right. Is there anybody else though that would have crossed your mind?”

Laura Welles: “Yes. That he might’ve had something happened between him and his grandmother.”

Delia D’Ambra: According to police reports in the case, from July 15th to July 18th detectives kept working leads primarily related to Skip…but they also were paying close attention to Pat.

On the 18th they asked her to come back to the station for a second sit down interview.

The audio recording of this interrogation is unusable but what I can tell you is that F-D-L-E special agent John Smith steered the interview and he was very direct in his line of questioning.

Kim Lewis was present too, but she took a back seat.

For two hours, agent Smith grilled Pat on a lot of the details of her story.

He told her that it did not make sense to anyone that she and Skip had both gone to the trash pile before being joined by Patrick and not seen John’s body or the gun or the items strewn around.

Pat’s answer to that was—- she simply didn’t look down during her first search for John. She said she’d been looking outward into the pasture assuming John would be walking around, upright.

When agent Smith asked her why no one in the family seemed to be acting upset— but instead she and Skip seemed very closed and worried about protecting themselves — she replied that she knew she’d made things difficult for the investigation by moving evidence, but she was not responsible for what happened to her grandson.

She stuck to her theory that John had to have died from some kind of terrible firearm accident while being chased by bees and trying to get to water to get them off of him.

And since Pat is still talking about bees I thought it would be a good time to mention that when you watch the VHS tape of Kim Lewis’s walk through of the crime scene with all three suspects…not once does there appear to be any bee activity.

No one is swatting at bees or mentions seeing them or says like ‘hey watch out’

Nothing.

Agent Smith once and for all put the bee attack suggestion to rest stating quote— “none of the evidence from the ME’s office supports that John did this or it was an accident” –end quote.

Once again, Pat didn’t have anything to say to that…she was adamant that she did not think Skip or Patrick committed the murder and she had no clue what happened.

Something that stuck out to me while watching this two-hour interview is that Pat cannot provide clear details of the events surrounding finding John….but…without hesitation she’s always able to establish a timeline of where she was and what she was doing leading up to discovering John.

Here, I’ll explain what I mean.

The day John was found and police swarmed the property –Pat provided Patrick’s mother Lisa and law enforcement with the paper receipt from the Walmart gas station where she bought gas.

She would have gotten this receipt during her transaction before stopping by Patrick’s driveway.

According to case documents, that receipt was timestamped for 3:34pm on the dot…

My question is… Why did Pat feel obligated to show people this receipt on the same day John was first found dead? More than that, why did she even go to get gas in the first place before getting Patrick if she was in such a panic to find John?

GPS: “Head North of Southeast Hansel Avenue towards Walnut Street.”

Delia D’Ambra: To get a better sense of if Pat would have had a lot of ground to cover in order to get back to the trash pile to search for John a second time… Or if she would have needed a lot of gas, I took a trip out to the southeast Hansel property with one of my associate producers, David Payne.

David Payne: “Whew. It is hot”

Delia D’Ambra: “It is. Very hot…think how hot it was in July.”

Delia D’Ambra: When David and I got to southeast Hansel Avenue in Arcadia, everything looked pretty much the same as the pictures of it from 2003.

Cows were roaming around…there was little to no traffic on the two-lane road.

And it was dead quiet.

I knew from doing background research that Pat still lives in the house and owns the pasture and woods where John died.

Delia D’Ambra: There were ‘no trespassing’ signs everywhere…along with barbed wire…and lots of locked gates leading to the pasture.

We didn’t go in.

The one glaringly obvious thing we noticed walking along the right of way was that the distance between Pat’s house, the entrance into the pasture and Patrick’s old address is like a matter of a few hundred yards.

You can easily walk it.

After sweating in the heat for a few minutes, David and I got back in our car and cranked the a/c.

We had some things to discuss.

David Payne: “Explain this to me. She thinks she needs to go get gas to drive 500 feet to get Patrick and drive across the road into the pasture. She drives 7 minutes away to get gas?”

Delia D’Ambra: “Why do you have to go get gas to go 500 feet down the road to get Patrick or go knock on his door. Why do you have to get gas before that, if you’re both intending to literally walk across the street.”

David Payne: “Why do you have to get gas when you’re so frantic about the whereabouts of your grandson?”

David Payne: “If you have enough gas to get to the Walmart and get gas, you have enough gas to get across the street to get Patrick and to look for your grandson that you’re so frantically worried about.”

Delia D’Ambra: “For sure”

Delia D’Ambra: According to her July 18th interview Pat told investigators that when she went to get gas she didn’t fill up.

She only put fifteen dollars in her tank and then she drove the seven minutes back from the Murphy gas station located at Walmart to stop at Patrick’s and honk the horn.

Authorities never asked her why she took the time to go out of her way to get gas if she was in a rush to continue looking for John.

Police also never asked her why she and Skip didn’t just go in Skip’s truck together and look for John.

Her and Skip taking two vehicles on multiple trips down to the trash pile created multiple sets of tire tracks to and from the crime scene.

That would eventually make post-crime processing much more challenging for investigators.

The second thing that I can’t let go of—and neither could detectives back in 03’—is the notion that Skip and Pat both went down to the trash pile on separate searches during the time John was missing and they did not see his body floating in the ditch or anything that made them think something bad had happened to him.

This is the one thing Patrick Skinner can’t comprehend either.

Patrick Skinner: “There is absolutely no way, no way that someone spent any amount of time or around that little area and didn’t find him. Didn’t find the gun. Didn’t find the belt. I don’t believe they were…either they weren’t back there looking, I don’t know what to say past that…”

Delia D’Ambra: Until his interview with me, Patrick had never heard the audio from Pat’s initial 911 call.

Delia D’Ambra: “Like I said it’s about 8 minutes long, so just bear with me.”

Delia D’Ambra: I played it for him and he became even more convinced of his nagging feeling that Pat and Skip not finding anything important until they brought him to the scene—was extremely odd.

Pat Strader: “My grandson he went across the road and he was gone a long time. We went over to try and check on him. We made two trips and we just come back from over there and we found him in a ditch over there under water.”

Dispatcher: “Is there anybody there giving him CPR or anything?”

Pat Strader: “No mam. He’s been under there a long time. He’s been missing since…When did you go over there, Skip? (muffled)…about 1:30 or 2 and he called and called and we didn’t know what was taking place and figured he was walking through the pasture…and then I went over there later and called him and he didn’t answer. So, I went and got his friend and we went out there walking and looking for him and they just found him.”

Dispatcher: “Do you have a cell phone or anything that you can take over there to try to resuscitate him?”

Pat Strader: “Oh…uh she wants us to try and walk over there to resuscitate him. That means he has to take him out of the water and try to resuscitate him?”

Dispatcher: “If it’s safe for him to do so without getting hurt?”

Pat Strader: “He said he can’t do that.”

Dispatcher: “He can’t do that?”

Pat Strader: “No.”

Dispatcher: “Okay.”

Patrick Skinner: “I don’t think I could have been quite so calm…or quite… not even calm, just nonchalant about some of it.

You call 911 when something like this happens, you kind of get right to the point. I feel like there was a lot of just kind of waiting around. My address is this. My address. Not, my grandson is…

All the time they looked for him she mentions on that call…or all the time they claim she looked for him and they walked all around him and never saw him…that’s b….I don’t believe it.”

Delia D’Ambra: The last thing that convinced me Pat’s story is worth looking into a lot more has to do with a connection I made while repeatedly listening through her 911 call and police interviews.

It’s something I don’t think law enforcement picked up on…or at least not something they noted in any of their reports.

It has to do with why Pat kept saying she thought John was stung by a bee or fire ants.

Initially she told police it was the nature of John’s belongings being strewn on the ground that made her assume he’d been stripping to get away from bugs…

But what I think might be possible is that she saw John’s face after he died…but before he went in the ditch water, face down.

Stay with me here…

Postmortem photos of John’s facial injury show that the wound to his eye was not traumatic. Like I said in an earlier episode, it didn’t even look like he’d been shot.

He literally had a small swollen, scab-like bump on his right eyelid…a bump that closely resembles a festering bee sting.

Because Pat mentions multiple times in her 911 call that she thought John had been stung by bees makes me wonder if she saw his face before he ended up in the water

I know this is me speculating, and want to be clear, I’m not accusing Pat of anything…but it’s an observation I wanted to bring up because I think it’s important if we’re going to try and understand why Pat used the specific language she did in the 911 call and during her police interviews.

She specifically says in the 911 call that she thought John had gotten into some ants or bees and they stung him…not just that he was chased by them.

I’m not saying she was involved in what happened to John…I just want to make sure I explore all of the options out there.

Investigators in 2003 never really got anywhere with Pat in her July 18th interview.

And by the end of that week, they were still nowhere in terms of connecting physical evidence to any of their suspects.

Lab results still had not come back from F-D-L-E and the clock was ticking.

Since he’d been killed, John’s body had remained at the 12th district medical examiner’s office in Sarasota. Desoto County investigators didn’t release him for burial until they knew more.

On July 25th –17 days after John was killed—Desoto County sheriff’s office and F-D-L-E staff had a conference with everyone who worked at the ME’s office—this included Dr. William Anderson, his boss and ME investigator Meghan Simrak.

During that meeting law enforcement requested a different associate medical examiner by the name of Daniel Spitz review Dr. Anderson’s initial findings and conduct a second autopsy on John Welles.

According to a 2-page report filed by Spitz that I was able to dig up, he was asked to make a determination on what he thought John’s manner of death could be.

At the time, Dr. Anderson felt the request was out of the ordinary.

He didn’t mind a second set of eyes on his work…but he felt like law enforcement had come back to the table hoping a second opinion might weaken his original homicide ruling.

William Anderson: “This was really unusual situation to have this.”

Delia D’Ambra: “Was it common practice to have a second ME look over autopsies out of your office?”

William Anderson: “No.”

Delia D’Ambra: As I read through hundreds of pages of report for this case—I found something that might explain one reason this second autopsy was requested.

A short line in Meghan Simrak’s investigative report states that in late July the Desoto County sheriff Johnny Fugate had heard a rumor that John may have been a victim of sexual abuse.

She noted that the sheriff’s concerns about that rumor were what prompted this unusual request.

Dr. Anderson had checked for signs of sexual trauma during John’s first autopsy which is standard procedure, but he didn’t find anything that indicated that had ever taken place.

So—why law enforcement wanted to be extra sure on that, made no sense to Anderson.

I ran this by Patrick Skinner during our interview and he firmly said John never spoke of being sexually abused growing up.

Delia D’Ambra: “Did you ever know John to express that he had been a victim of sexual abuse or molestation or anything in his family history?”

Patrick Skinner: “No.”

Patrick Skinner: “Definitive, No. Nothing was ever expressed to me and none of anything he ever confided in me ever led me to believe anything like that.”

Delia D’Ambra: Regardless of what law enforcement’s motivation was in asking for a second autopsy…Dr. Spitz conducted one.

What he concluded was the same as Dr. Anderson…John had not been a victim of any kind of sexual trauma and without a doubt his manner of death was homicide.

In Spitz’s report he stated quote— “It is my opinion that Mr. John Welles was shot in the head by another person. It is also apparent that following the shooting Mr. Welles’ body was dumped in a creek located a short distance from where the shooting occurred. It appears that Mr. Welles was still alive at the time his body was dumped in the water.”

The day after this second autopsy, the ME’s office and law enforcement released John’s body to John’s parents, Helen and Mac.

In the weeks between July 8th and July 25th, Helen had fought hard to have a Desoto County court grant custody of John’s remains to her and her ex-husband as way of keeping Pat from having last rights…and she won.

John’s funeral took place on July 26th at the only funeral home in downtown Arcadia.

During the service, Helen’s friends and supporters stood on one side of the funeral hall….and Pat, Skip and their friends stood on the other.

Also in the mix was Patrick and his mom…Beth Flowers and lots of John’s other teenage friends…and last but not least, law enforcement was there.

The scene was tense.

Helen was watching her mother’s every move.

Helen Huff: “The casket was closed at the end of the funeral, but they said when Pat came out and she got to that coffin, that she broke down and started screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God. It was such a terrible, terrible accident.”… and I’ve said this a thousand times, she has kept saying that from the day things hit the fan. ‘It was a horrible, horrible accident.’”

Delia D’Ambra: Helen distinctly remembers a conversation the funeral director had with her regarding things he’d seen on John’s body.

Helen Huff: “Fred Grady was a longtime funeral director, funeral guy. He had his own business, but he was older, and it was “Ponder Kays and Grady” or whatever. At some point in time, he knew all of our family members, he worked on half of them in the plots and all that stuff. So he,,, and he said something about, ” That boy put up a fight.” And he says, “What?” He says, “Yeah. He put up a fight.” Something about marks on his fingers.”

Delia D’Ambra: I can’t interview Fred Grady, the funeral director, for myself because he passed away many years ago…but I think what he was talking to Helen about had to do with the scratches and abrasions that Dr. Anderson had initially observed on John’s body.

Those marks alone couldn’t definitively confirm foul play…but I guess they stood out enough to the mortician that he felt like he needed to mention something to Helen.

By the end of July John was in the ground and Desoto County sheriff’s office had to accept they had a true ‘who-done it’ murder on their hands.

Two forensic pathologists had confirmed John died as a result of a homicide…but investigators had no way of proving how it had happened or who was responsible.

At least…not yet.

Within a matter of weeks…forensic results from the F-D-L-E lab started coming in and what they revealed…

Keri: “Nothing is what it seems.”

Delia D’Ambra: Is coming up on the next episode of counterclock…

Delia D’Ambra: “Did you find it odd that John’s fingerprints weren’t on that gun?”

Patrick Skinner: “Absolutely.”

Delia D’Ambra: Listen to episode seven— “Sweetheart”—right now.