Death of Don Henry and Kevin Ives
Donald George Henry
September 30, 1970
|Died||August 23, 1987 (aged 16)|
Kevin Larry Ives
April 28, 1970
|Died||August 23, 1987 (aged 17)|
On August 23, 1987, the bodies of 16-year-old Don Henry and 17-year-old Kevin Ives were hit by a cargo train in Alexander, Arkansas as they lay on the tracks. The train driver attempted to stop and blew the horn, but the momentum of the train carried it over the bodies. It was later discovered during autopsy that Don Henry had been stabbed in the back and Kevin Ives’ skull had been crushed prior to being run over.
The deaths were initially ruled an accident, apparently the result of the boys' sleeping deeply on the tracks while intoxicated by marijuana. The parents of the boys insisted on a second autopsy, and after exhumation it was ruled that homicide was likely. Later, another pathologist ruled that Don Henry's shirt showed evidence of a stab wound.
About 4:00 a.m. on August 23, 1987, workers on a 75-car, 6,000-ton Union Pacific freight train, more than a mile long and traveling at a rate more than 50 miles per hour, en route to Little Rock, Arkansas, spotted two boys lying motionless across the tracks, about 300 feet ahead. Those on the train also stated that the bodies were partly covered by a green tarpaulin,  though police disputed the existence of any such tarp and none was ever recovered from the scene. Nearby were a .22 caliber rifle and a flashlight. The boys did not move, despite the roar of the train, its brakes, and its emergency horn. More than 1,000 feet of the decelerating train crossed the point where the bodies lay before the brakes brought to it a stop.
Those on the train reported the incident to railroad and law enforcement authorities. By 4:40 a.m., police arrived on the scene. Police never found a tarp.
The boys had reportedly left home about midnight to go hunting. The gun and flashlight near the bodies suggested they were using a hunting technique known as spotlighting, which involves blinding the prey with bright light before shooting it, and is illegal in their area.
The state medical examiner, Dr. Fahmy Malak, ruled the deaths an accident as a result of marijuana intoxication, saying the boys had smoked the equivalent of 20 marijuana cigarettes and fell asleep on the tracks. The parents did not accept this finding and conducted their own investigation.
In March 1988, Dr. James Garriot of San Antonio offered a second opinion and was skeptical of the findings about marijuana. A second autopsy by Georgia medical examiner Dr. Joseph Burton found the equivalent of one or two marijuana cigarettes, not 20. A grand jury ruled the deaths a "probable homicide." When it was found that Don Henry's shirt contained evidence of a stab wound to the back, and Kevin Ives' skull may have been crushed by his own rifle, the ruling was changed to "definite homicide." Don Henry's father also noted that he did not believe his son would have risked his gun getting scratched by laying it on gravel.
Suspects and theories
One week before the boys died, a man wearing military fatigues was spotted not far from the train tracks. When police officer Danny Allen attempted to stop him, the man opened fire and managed to disappear into the night. On the same night the boys died, a similar-looking man dressed in military fatigues was spotted nearby.
The usual theory given about the boys' deaths, believed by Linda Ives, involves drug trafficking. The theory is that the boys came upon a drug drop from an airplane similar to Barry Seal's operations near Mena and were murdered.
Dan Harmon, a prosecutor of the case , who was later arrested for dealing drugs, is one person implicated in the murder. Keith McCaskle, also implicated in the murder, was stabbed to death by an unknown attacker on November 10, 1988.
The case was profiled on the television program Unsolved Mysteries.
- Leveritt, Mara. The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0312198411.
- "Vigils held at Capitol, courthouse 25 years after Ives, Henry deaths - The Saline Courier". www.bentoncourier.com. Archived from the original on 2019-05-27. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
- "Arkansas mom's motion in bid to unseal files says DEA hiding crimes". Arkansas Online. 18 August 2018.
- Berry, Cody Lynn. "Kevin Ives and Don Henry (Murder of)." Encyclopedia of Arkansas, February 26, 2018.
- KATV (13 August 2018). "Judge orders agencies to review more information in 'Boys on the Tracks' FOIA lawsuit". KATV.
- Day, Chris. “Train Deaths Are Officially Homicides.” Arkansas Gazette, March 6, 1988, p. 3B.
- "The Mysterious Deaths of Don Henry & Kevin Ives".
- "New Witness? Man Claims to Have Seen "Boys on the Tracks" Murders". KARK. 14 February 2018.
- "Kevin Ives and Don Henry". www.idfiles.com.
- "The Train Deaths". 21 February 2005. Archived from the original on 21 February 2005.
- "Former Prosecutor Dan Harmon Arrested". www.mysaline.com. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
- [Arkansas gravestones.org/view.php?id=1133087 "The-Grave-of-Lionel-Keith-McKaskle"] Check
- "The Mysterious Deaths of Don Henry & Kevin Ives". Unsolved Mysteries. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
- "The Boys on the Tracks." Encyclopedia of Arkansas.