fbpx

Episode 9: Sketch

Three years after John’s murder a lead emerges thanks to a teenage domestic violence survivor coming forward. Delia learns that investigators looked into the lead but never really chased the guy down. Delia follows up and finds the man, who’s now a convicted criminal serving time in a Florida state prison.

Episode Photos

Episode Transcript

Delia D’Ambra: 2006 was an active year in the John Welles case…probably the most active it had been since late 2003.

The three-year anniversary of John’s murder was looming and the Desoto County sheriff’s office and Florida department of law enforcement were still no closer to figuring out who killed John.

They had strong suspicions and some shaky circumstantial evidence, but nothing to really hang their hats on.

So, things had sat at a standstill…and the state attorney had made it clear, their office would not be moving forward with filing any charges until investigators could prove more.

The detective who’d taken it upon himself to keep the case from going completely cold was Curt Mays.

Kim Lewis was not a point person anymore and the F-D-L-E special agents who’d assisted with the case early on had officially wrapped up their involvement in the case.

According to a report filed by F-D-L-E in June of 2005, quote— “There hasn’t been any new information since December 2004 regarding this investigation. It has been decided that this investigation will be closed until new information or evidence warrants further investigative procedures. This case is closed.” –end quote.

So, Curt Mays was pretty much going it solo for DCSO—and he was up against tough odds.

Unfortunately, Curt declined my request for an interview for the show because he still has close connections with Desoto County sheriff’s office that he doesn’t want to compromise.

But based on what I’ve read in his reports from 2006, it’s clear that he went back to square one at the start of that year.

I guess with the intention to see if by starting over, he could find something new.

In late April of 2006, Curt asked Patrick Skinner to once again come into the sheriff’s office to discuss John’s case.

The interaction was videorecorded.

Curt Mays: “Patrick, I hate to pester you, but I’m still trying to figure out what happened with John.”

Delia D’Ambra: By that point Patrick had graduated high school and moved on with his life. He’d stayed in Arcadia but didn’t have plans to remain there long-term.

For a half hour, Patrick went over with Curt all of the same information he’d told authorities years earlier.

The interview was very basic…no drama…really laid back.

Curt started the conversation with a pretty candid question…to which Patrick gave an honest reply.

Curt Mays: “Have you ever felt like you was set up?

Patrick Skinner: “Have I ever felt like that since then, or just…”

Curt Mays: “That you was set up to be there or…”

Patrick Skinner: “I don’t know. A little bit, yes.”

Delia D’Ambra: The pair talked through scenarios of how it would have been possible for Skip and Pat to have committed the crime…but most of the conversation was one-sided with Curt speculating a lot.

From watching the tape, it’s obvious that the way Curt is asking his questions he’s hoping Patrick will confirm his theories.

But Patrick doesn’t.

He was unsure what to say.

He told Curt he felt skip could be responsible…and that john’s grandma was a weird lady, but he just didn’t have enough facts to say they had conspired to kill john.

Curt agreed.

Curt Mays: “John’s at rest now, but his memory can’t be put at rest until the facts are known.”

Delia D’Ambra: At the end of the interview, Curt thanked Patrick for his time and turned off the recorder.

A week later, Curt took another run at Pat and Skip trying to get them to agree to polygraphs…but they declined.

Their main reason for denying his request??

Helen Huff, John’s mother, was suing them.

On May 1st, 2006—two days before Curt contacted Skip and Pat—Helen had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pat and Skip seeking 15-thousand dollars in damages.

Once Pat and Skip and their attorneys were served with those papers, Curt Mays had no chance of getting his prime suspects to open up…about anything.

In Helen’s lawsuit—in which she represented herself—she claimed that Pat either intentionally or negligently murdered John.

She also claimed that Skip murdered John—which is kind of contradictory to the first point because there can only have been one actual trigger man or woman—but Helen just wanted to make sure her bases were covered.

So, she accused her mother and Skip for good measure.

The filing was obviously accusatory, but Helen had the right to sue in civil court and Desoto County took it seriously.

So, with that litigation ongoing, Curt was walled off from Pat and Skip…and to make matters worse, 24 days after the suit was filed…that’s when Skip died of a heart attack.

Whatever information he might have known, he took with him to his grave.

The only person left for Curt to focus on was Pat…but she wasn’t going to budge.

So, his next stop was re-interviewing Matt Welles, John’s older brother.

Curt didn’t record this conversation.

I have two transcribed reports though, that provide a pretty detailed summary of what they talked about.

During their chat Curt tried to shake up Matt and questioned him harder about his alibi on the day John was killed.

Matt again reiterated that he was 45 minutes away in Avon Park at college when his brother was killed.

Curt suggested it was possible Matt drove over and killed John and then returned to school…something Matt denied.

Now—this is certainly a scenario I’ve considered too and explored.

In my interviews with Mac, John and Matt’s dad, I learned that the brother’s relationship had never been great…

In fact, the older they got, the less and less they got along…

Mac Welles: “Him and Matt didn’t get along real well. Big brother, little brother. Five years, six years difference.

His older brother was a real ass…and he was always constantly and causing him to be upset. If he was going to be upset about anything, it would have been Matt, his older brother, that he’d have been upset about. Matter of fact, I didn’t take them both at the same time, ever.

Matt was always pissing on him and instigating things, and I was constantly having to make them stop and explaining to them. I said, “I can’t enjoy both of y’all together, and that’s hurting my feelings.” I said, “Y’all got to quit this. You don’t want me getting upset.”

Delia D’Ambra: Helen mentioned in her interviews with me that there had always been friction between Matt and John.

Helen Huff: “They always had a rivalry going.

It was always a thing was, “Well, Matt gets to do it, why can’t I?”

Delia D’Ambra: During Patrick Skinner’s 2006 interview with Curt, he’d expressed the same thing.

That portion of the interview tape is fuzzy but Patrick said quote— “His brother was the one of them that told everything John did. Ratted on him all the time. Got anything he wanted.” —end quote.

Curt asked Patrick point blank if he saw Matt at the southeast Hansel property at all on the morning or afternoon of July 8th, 2003….just in case Matt was lying…

But Patrick said no. Matt didn’t show up until later that night after Skip picked him up from school and brought him to Pat’s.

I can’t ask Matt for myself because he’s declined to do an interview and I can’t get access to his attendance and class schedule records from his former community college…so, I’m left to trust that what he told Curt in 2006 is in fact the truth.

I have to trust him when he said he wasn’t in Arcadia and didn’t have anything to do with John’s murder.

At the end of Matt’s conversation with Curt back in 2006, he said he believed his brother had taken his own life because he was depressed over Mel Senior’s death.

Matt said he didn’t know why the evidence didn’t point to that…but for him, John choosing to end his life was the truth Matt had come to believe.

A week after questioning Matt, Curt got a strange phone call from Manatee County sheriff’s office…a department just a few miles west of Arcadia.

A deputy from that neighboring agency told Curt that a young woman had filed a report with their office regarding domestic violence…and she said that during a heated fight—her boyfriend said he knew what happened to a teenage boy who was shot in a pasture in Desoto County in July of 2003.

That tip set off some bells and whistles for Curt…

The next day, he sat down to interview the young woman to learn everything he could about her boyfriend’s bold claims…

Sarah Rhoden: “Ask me what his body looked like. That’s what he kept saying. He goes, John was a nice guy. He goes, John had a problem.”

Delia D’Ambra: In late October 2006, 19-year-old Sarah Rhoden came into the Desoto County sheriff’s office and spoke with detective Curt Mays.

For more than an hour she detailed a violent and tumultuous relationship she had with her 19-year-old boyfriend named Kevin Gregory Callahan.

Sarah Rhoden: “They told my mom yesterday, Kevin Callahan is not something you take lightly. If he says he’s going to do something, he will do something.”

Delia D’Ambra: Sarah wanted to talk to Curt because she said she and Kevin had had a big fight. She said he’d threatened to kill her and her family.

During his fit of rage, she said he’d left her house, then called her home phone ranting about how he’d have no problem killing her because he’d already killed people before in his life.

Sarah Rhoden: “The more and more that I wasn’t paying attention the worse he got. He said ask me about John and the green Explorer.”

Sarah Rhoden: “I’m saying he probably repeated himself ten times and he goes ask me about John and the green Explorer Sarah…ask me about John and the green Explorer.”

Delia D’Ambra: Ask me about John and the green Explorer…

That’s what Sarah said Kevin kept screaming at her.

Over and over…

Sarah said when she asked Kevin what he was even talking about, he went on to suggest that he knew details of a murder of a boy named John who lived in Arcadia in 2003…

Sarah Rhoden: “Ask me why at first they thought he drowned and he goes ask me how later on they found out that he got shot. He goes and ask me why I used to have a gun that would match the bullet, a bullet that would match the gun that I had. He goes ask me about John and the green Explorer.”

Delia D’Ambra: Curt wasn’t sure what to make of the information.

He advised Sarah to get a restraining order against Kevin and to never speak to him again.

Then, he peppered her with questions to vet her story a little more.

What he learned was that Kevin was originally from Arcadia but had moved to Ocala and racked up a criminal record for drugs, traffic violations and domestic violence.

Sarah Rhoden: “He has slapped me. He has physically grabbed me and threw me across the room onto his bed. He has.”

Delia D’Ambra: Sarah told Curt she had no idea who the ‘John’ kid was that Kevin had been referring to. She wasn’t from Arcadia and had no idea what anything about a green Explorer meant.

She figured Kevin was just trying to intimidate and threaten her into getting back together with him.

After their fight ended, Sarah said she asked a friend of hers from Arcadia what Kevin could have been referring to and that’s when she learned that a 17-year-old boy named John Welles had been shot in Arcadia in 2003.

The fact that Kevin had mentioned ‘John’ and ‘a green Explorer’ was key for Curt Mays. It gave Sarah’s story a little bit more credibility.

You see, Curt knew that John Welles had driven a bluish green Ford Explorer and that detail had not been published or released in any media coverage about John’s death.

So—Curt figured, more than likely, Kevin Callahan knew John Welles…or at least knew him enough to know what kind of vehicle he drove back in 2003.

And as it turns out…Kevin did know John.

According to police reports filed in 2003…Beth Flowers, John’s ex-girlfriend and Patrick Skinner both mentioned that John knew two young men that were slightly older than him who were known to be involved in drug use.

One of those young men’s names was Kevin Callahan.

The other, was named Danny Jones.

Now—originally these two guy’s names were redacted from the interview transcripts in reports …but…when I listened through the video and audio recordings police conducted with Patrick and Beth back in 2003, the boys’ names were not redacted.

I’ve also have had several people confirm their identities outside of official records.

Based on my research in this case, I can confirm law enforcement initially questioned both Danny and Kevin, but nothing about their statements stuck out.

Danny told police that John had been at his house on the night of Monday July 7th for a small party…but then left to make it home in time for his curfew.

Danny said before John walked out, the two made plans to go fishing together on Joshua Creek later that week.

Kevin told police he was also at that party and remembered seeing John.

Beth Flowers, John’s ex-girlfriend, didn’t go to that party but knew about it…and heard there was cocaine being passed around.

Beth Flowers-Waldron: “I was at somebody else’s house, just a couple of houses down and somebody was like, “Hey, did you see John over there?” And I was like, “Yeah, I guess he’s hanging out with Danny or whatever.” And there’s like some rumors or hearsay that they was over there doing stuff that they weren’t supposed to, but he wasn’t really into stuff like that.”

Delia D’Ambra: Other than telling police they were with John the night before he died, Danny and Kevin’s initial interviews with law enforcement in 2003 were very brief.

What’s interesting to me is that after looking into Danny and Kevin a lot more…I found some information that I think is important to bring up.

Remember when I said in an earlier episode that John had been arrested for cannabis possession in May of 2003—two months before he was killed?

Well—he wasn’t alone when he got stopped and busted.

He was with Kevin and Danny.

I’ve confirmed that information from Kevin himself…who’s sitting in prison.

According to the Florida department of corrections, Kevin is currently incarcerated at a state prison.

He got there because in 2016 he was convicted for trafficking methamphetamine and a judge sentenced him to almost seven and a half years in prison.

He’s scheduled to be released in October of this year (2022)

So, when I wrote him an email about the John Welles case…the thirty-five-year- old had nothing else better to do than to reply.

Let me preface this by saying…Kevin Callahan is not an awesome guy.

Court records show he has a documented history of domestic violence, drug arrests, burglary, battery and stalking, dating back to the early 2000’s.

He has been in and out of jail since he was 19 years old and has had at least four women press charges against him for financial and violent crimes.

He has never been named a suspect or person of interest in John’s murder.

But—in his written exchanges with me he talked about what little he did remember about John.

Here’s a voice actor reading his verbatim responses from a series of emails we exchanged in September of 2021.

Male Voice Actor Kevin: “He was a really good person, he liked to fish and box and listen to music. He liked to play pranks too, he was a positive influence. Sorry I don’t have too much…I had a kid that was just born so I was limited to hanging out.

The incident in Charlotte I remember we was just riding around hanging out smoking out enjoying the night we had no destination, just little road trip. When we got pulled over, he was quick to take the charge. I don’t know why he did it… but not many people would do something like that.

He never had problems to the point someone would want to hurt him like that.

I never knew the real story about what happened but someone killing him was hard to believe.

I was officially talked to. From what I know he didn’t owe anything; he wasn’t on drugs like that from what I knew.””

Delia D’Ambra: After a few more messages back and forth…I asked Kevin if he’d be willing to get on a phone call and let me record our discussions further.

His reply to that request was extremely agitated…and defensive.

Male Voice Actor Kevin: “I don’t see how I seem to be the only mother (Beep) to get bothered about this (Beep) when I went out one time seems like everyone forgets he had a car and had multiple friends.

I was probably the one who was with him the least an occasional blunt and some catch with the football when he was around. Other than that, I know nothing he had going on except he came from a decent family and liked weed and fishing and coke on occasions.

I can look you up when I get out, but I feel you are badgering me and honestly, we only got high together. That’s as far as we got. So, I been trying to figure out why out of everyone, I’m the most harassed and I was the one who was around the least.

I’ve been locked up since 2015. I probably won’t make it long when I get out either just cause’ I have to make money and get back what was taken from me.

In the end, I only know what I told you. Maybe you can tell me why you’re so persistent with harassing me if you read the records, you would know I wasn’t around all the time and wasn’t in his life. Like… that one trip don’t make us lifelong companions.”

Delia D’Ambra: I never got the chance to ask Kevin directly if he was involved in what happened to John …or why he allegedly made the claims Sarah Rhoden said he did… Because our communications stopped after that.

Kevin also began to make remarks and ask me questions that made me feel uncomfortable.

I’ve also had no luck in getting Danny to speak with me either, despite multiple attempts to contact him.

It should be noted, Danny has never been named a suspect or person of interest in the case either.

All I know is that Kevin and Danny were both in Arcadia on the day John died and they had connections to drug use and drug dealers that they may have exposed John to.

I asked Beth, John’s ex, if she felt like John’s associations with Danny and Kevin could have contributed to his murder…

Delia D’Ambra: “Did John, have any bad blood with any of the young men in his friend group or had there been any sort of drama that people would say, “Hey, there was bad blood between so-and-so and John?”

Beth Flowers-Waldon: “No. Not any friends, like I said, we just had a tight knit friend circle and you were in it or you weren’t, but there wasn’t any really drama or problems or anything like that.”

Delia D’Ambra: Patrick Skinner also said something similar.

Patrick Skinner: “John didn’t really have, neither one of us really had any enemies. I mean he for the most part got along with everyone.”

Delia D’Ambra: The reason I even bring Kevin and Danny up is because they are those rabbit holes leads that pop up when you’re doing investigations like this…and based on what I’ve read in Curt Mays’ reports it appears they were spoken with a few times in 2006 and in the years following…but eventually were cleared.

Curt’s official verdict, based on what he wrote in his reports, was that Kevin Callahan was just lying to Sarah when he made those statements about ‘knowing what happened to John who drove the green Explorer’

He indicated in his reports that Kevin just seemed like a loose cannon who wanted to scare people in order to have control over them.

I certainly got a tiny taste of that in his last email to me.

For now, I have to put the Kevin and Danny theory to rest…because I just can’t chase it any further.

Could those boys have known John was going to be in the woods at exactly 12:30 on July 8th, 2003 and gotten into it with him for some reason? —sure.

But no one can prove that…and few people close to this case believe that…

Patrick Skinner: “I don’t think someone would have just happened to be back there.

That main gate is the only way to drive in.”

Delia D’Ambra: while I was chasing down Kevin and Danny’s information…I took a trip back to Arcadia.

My associate producer David and I wanted to poke around a few more places for clues and interviews.

But what we ran into when we got there…

Was completely unexpected.

Steve Blanchard: “That means somebody committed a crime and didn’t get caught for it….and therefore, they’re still out there. And what kind of danger is that to anybody else?”

David Payne: “There’s the Ford Explorer.”

Delia D’Ambra: “Oh my gosh. No way.

David Payne: “Get a picture of that.”

Delia D’Ambra: “That’s the Explorer!”

Delia D’Ambra: “That is definitely the same Explorer from back in 2003.”

Dispatcher: “Desoto County Sheriff’s Office on a recorded line, how can I help you?”

Pat Strader: “This is Pat Strader…”

“There are a couple of people over there talking to my neighbor wanting some information. I want somebody to come tell them to stop it however legally you can do it.”

Delia D’Ambra: That’s on the next episode of counterclock— “Security”—listen, right now.