[The following handwritten “letter” was dated October 4, 1991. Handwriting experts have confirmed that the author of the letter is Tony “Red Dog” Durst, formerly of Cordova, Alabama.]
We buried Jimmy today. I still can’t believe he’s dead. We had been friends since grade school and now he’s just… gone. It’s like a bad fucking dream I can’t wake up from. It was a closed casket funeral—I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him. What’s worse… I know I’m the next to die.
I know you won’t believe me. I can’t say I really blame you either. It’s my own fault. I’ve spent my whole life being a liar and a thief. I’ll admit it. I stole that money from your purse when I was fifteen. I knew you knew. You could always read me like a book. No matter who I bullshitted I could never bullshit you. That’s why I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you what really happened that night to Jimmy. I’ve got to write this down before I either go mad or something happens to me. I don’t feel safe anymore. They know who I am. I’m as good as dead and I know it.
I know everyone says Jimmy was drunk and fell off that cliff but that’s bullshit. Nobody knows this but I was there when he died. Me and him had scored some pot and a few beers from a couple guys we know down by the river. Our plan was to sneak off to the strip pits and tie on a good one. I mean, why not? There’s nothing else in this God-forsaken town to do but get high or go to church and the church folk haven’t cared much for me since word got out I had a drug problem. Maybe you were right. Maybe I should have gone to rehab last year. If I had things would have turned out way different.
I’m really not sure what part of the strip pits we ended up in. Jimmy was driving and he took me down a bunch of roads I’d never seen before. He said he’d found this really cool spot at the foot of a cliff with a waterfall nearby. I had no reason to question where we were going. Hell, all I wanted to do was to get high as fuck and forget that I live in this piece of shit town for a little while. We nearly got stuck in the mud four times as we bounced down the rutted out dirt road. I should have taken that as a sign to turn back but I was too eager to get high to think about it.
At first everything was fine. We were smoking and talking about Cordova’s football team. Jimmy thought they really had a good shot in the state playoffs. He went on and on about them and about Missy Watts, the new girl in town that he had a crush on. But that was just Jimmy being Jimmy. He could go on and on forever about that girl but before he could really get started we noticed something funny happening at the top of the hill.
It sounded like a bunch of people moving around and we saw what looked like a bonfire burning up there. I thought it was funny because we hadn’t seen or heard any vehicles approaching but when we started hearing voices it was clear that somebody had snuck up almost on top of us. I wanted to get the fuck out of there but Jimmy just had to go check it out. He thought maybe they were partying like we were. I think he was hoping to score some pills or maybe some whiskey. I’m not really sure to be honest, but he was determined to check it out. Jimmy was always looking for a good party. The more the merrier, ya know.
We crept up the side of the cliff and when we got close enough to see I thought we had stumbled upon a Klan rally or something. Everyone there was wearing robes but they were solid black instead of white and instead of hoods everyone was wearing these weird plastic masks. It was creepy as fuck, like something out of a bad B-horror movie. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The bad feeling in my gut started screaming at me. I begged Jimmy to just come the fuck on and leave but being the curious fucker that he was, he just had to stick around and see what the hell was going on.
The people were standing in a circle, chanting in some kind of weird language. Maybe it was Latin. I honestly don’t know, but whatever they were chanting, they seemed quite obsessed with what they were doing. They kept getting louder and louder. With every word they said I just wanted to run but I couldn’t leave Jimmy by himself. Friends don’t do that. So I stayed by his side until their chanting reached a fever pitch. That’s when they brought this girl out.
She was completely naked accept for a black hood covering her face. Even from where I was standing I could tell the girl had been beaten and abused, maybe raped too, but I can’t honestly say that for a fact. Four men carried the girl and held her down before ripping the hood off of her. The way she screamed and cried… it was horrible. She struggled to get free but the largest of the men kicked her in the head and knocked her almost unconscious. That’s when I saw her face. I don’t know her name but I had seen her face on a missing person’s poster at the Jasper Wal-Mart.
Another one of the cloaked figures pulled a dagger from his cloak and that’s when I knew it was fucking time to get out of there. I elbowed Jimmy and told him we had to get the fuck out of there. For once, he actually listened to me. He had seen enough and from the look in his eyes he was as scared out of his mind as I was.
We started back down the hill and that’s when Jimmy stepped on a tree branch. The damn thing snapped so loud it could have woke up the dead. I had prayed no one at the bonfire had heard but before I could move two of the robed men were coming down the hillside after us. The larger of the two grabbed me. I’ll never forget it because the guy had this crazy dragon tattoo on his right forearm. I punched him as hard as I could and took off running for the truck.
I never knew what happened to Jimmy. I was running like the Devil was on my heels. Maybe he was, but I figured Jimmy was right behind me. He was one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen. I figured if I got free, he did too. I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I made it to the bottom of the hill and Jimmy’s body landed right beside me. His head smashed against a rock and cracked his skull open. I actually saw his brain there as the blood pooled all around him. I knew he was dead. I didn’t have to check. Seeing that, I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran and I never looked back.
I ran like I’ve never run in my entire life. I ran until I had battery acid pumping through my veins and then I ran some more. I didn’t even stop at the truck. Not that it would have done me any good. Jimmy had the keys in his pocket and I’d be damned if I was going back the direction I had just come. I ran all the way back to the main road and was lucky enough to be picked up some some teenagers who had been out doing the same thing me and Jimmy were doing. I didn’t dare tell them what I had seen but when they offered me a joint I sure as fuck smoked it. My nerves had never been so bad. I could hardly keep my hands from trembling as I smoked half the thing by myself.
After much debate, I called the police first thing in the morning. To my astonishment there was a police officer at my door within five minutes. Five fucking minutes! It was like he was waiting on me to call. The officer introduced himself to me and when he offered me his hand I noticed the exact same dragon tattoo from the night before. I then noticed he had a black eye in the exact spot I had punched the man who had tried to grab me the night before. It was him! He was one of them! I knew I was fucked so I refused to talk to him.
Officer [name omitted for legal reasons] just smiled at me and told me “to be careful.” I may be a dumb drug addict but I know a threat when I hear it. They’re coming for me and there’s no one who will even believe me. Yea, I admit I’m a pothead and I’ve smoked crack a few times and I’ve been a thief in and out of trouble with the law for years but I swear to fucking Christ I’m telling the truth this time! But who the fuck is gonna take my word over a police officer’s? Nobody. In this town I ain’t nothin’ but white trash and that’s about all my word is worth. Jesus himself could descend from Heaven and tell people I was telling the truth and people would still think I was lying!
That’s why I’m writing this letter, mamma. If something happens to me, don’t you believe what they tell you. I love you, mamma. I’m so fucking sorry I’ve been such a pain in the ass over the years. I never meant to be so much trouble. It’s not your fault, mamma. You raised me good. I was just a fuck-up from the day I was born.
Oh shit! I think I hear something outside. Someone’s trying to break in! I love you mamma! Please forgive me for all I ever put you through! Pray for me…
[editor’s note: On October 5, 1991, Tony Durst, the author of this note was found hanging by the neck in his bedroom closet. Despite severe bruising on his face, broken ribs, and a fractured wrist, Tony’s death was declared a suicide by the Walker County Coroner’s office. Upon cleaning out his trailer a week later Tony’s mother (Ruth Durst) discovered a notebook shoved underneath the couch. Inside the notebook was the above message. Ruth Durst has petitioned three times for a new investigation into her son’s death and the activities he witnessed seeing. All three requests have been denied. The officer named in the letter was sought out to be interviewed. It was later discovered that he to was deceased. His body was found on April 4, 1993. His official cause of death: suicide by hanging. Both cases remain closed and there are no plans to investigate either death any further.]