It was nice and warm. It was a beautiful Spring day. Our youngest son, David, wasn’t born yet. He was still on the way.
A Mecklenburg County Police Officer and I had hooked up and we were checking driver’s license on a good-sized country road. Traffic was light but we’d written a good many tickets. We were getting some work done and were enjoying ourselves at the same time.
Rather rapidly two farmers in a pickup truck approached us. As we stood there in the middle of the road, the truck pulled up. The driver leaned out of his window.
“Officers,” he excitedly said, “We just found a skull lying in the middle of one of these back roads! Follow us and we’ll show you where. We don’t know what it is. It looks like something we’ve never seen before!”
We formed a caravan and made our way back thru the country. We drove down Allen Black Road and then made the turn onto Union Road. I’d never even been on this little road before. We were almost at the Union County line when we pulled over onto the shoulder. Sure enough, about 100 feet ahead of us was a round object lying in the middle of this desolate and lonely road. When I got up to it I could tell … This was not a skull. It was a head!
Maybe an animal had dragged it there. The smell was horrible! The insects were going to town on it and it was hard to tell what kind of creature it had belonged to. Its features were not very clear. A feeling of horror began to creep over me. This was not the head of your run of the mill farm animal. Neither had it belonged to a normal forest creature … It was just too perfect and round.
No. No! It just couldn’t be! This must be the head of that missing little 5-year-old girl. She’d been missing for more than a month now. Yes, this must be the partial remains … Of that sweet little Neely Smith.
I could feel it. I could feel her desperation! As we walked thru the woods searching for more evidence and remains … I could just feel it. I could just tell she’d been there. She was so little. She must’ve been so scared! The tracking dogs led us to her scattered bones and clothing. She must’ve looked so precious in blue. A monster had kidnapped her, then dragged that innocent little thing back here and had his way with her … Then killed her, so she wouldn’t tell. She was still here. He was long gone.
The crime scene detectives came and taped off the area. They had it covered and I had no more business there. I wiped the tears from my eyes and got back into my patrol car. My shift wasn’t over yet. I had other obligations. I had more work to do.
Her killer has never been charged. The prime suspect in this case was later found guilty of killing another little girl, Amanda Ray … Two years before Neely’s death. There’s lots of similarities between the two cases. Both little girls had lived in the same neighborhood, about 15 miles away from here … But Neely’s folks didn’t know about Amanda’s death, they’d just moved there. He was still lurking. He lived in the same apartment complex as Neely. He didn’t go anywhere.
Fred Coffey is completing his life sentence. He’s already pled guilty to nine counts of taking indecent liberties with children in Caldwell County. He’s eluded the death sentence twice. He’s come up for parole many times and will continue to do so until he either dies or is released. He’s been lucky. He’ll probably be out before too long. Are you ready to welcome him to your neighborhood? Shucks, maybe better scenery will help a pedophile … What do you think?
Personally, I think he’s had enough chances. I think he’s already seen more than his share of sweet things. So don’t count me in with those who’d give him another chance. I’ve been there. I’ve seen!
I’ll not forget that little child’s head.