This is a true story. I've embellished and dramatized the plot line a little (I couldn't help myself). The basic facts are true and horrific. Mike Harmon is based on a friend who was the Special Investigator in the actual case described in the story. He and others do a difficult job with their own satisfaction for justice as their main reward. All names and locations are fictitious and have been changed to protect the innocent.
Any mistakes in the time line are mine.
I hope you enjoy the story as much as I've enjoyed writing it. It's not often you get a chance to know and write about someone so dedicated.
"Good morning Special Investigator Harmon," Maria Reyes said as she entered Harmon's small office; he and another investigator shared the space. Seeing the look on his face she amended her greeting to, "I mean hello Mike." He had been working for her as an Investigator for six months.
"Hello Prosecuting Attorney Reyes," Mike replied and smiled at his boss then added, "Maria."
Maria Reyes was the recently elected Prosecuting Attorney of Maricopa County Arizona. In 2015 she had been elected in spite of being a woman in a male dominated field. Maria's predecessor, the incumbent, had become a little soft in his pursuit of the criminal element; preferring to hobnob with the political elite of Phoenix, which is the county seat of Maricopa County. This elite couldn't or wouldn't help him win the election.
Running on a law and order platform, Maria had handily bettered her opponent by almost 20 per cent. The fact that she was a stereotypical Hispanic beauty didn't hurt either. Maria Reyes was average height but the "average" stopped there. She wore her hair in a long dark, almost black, braid down her back. Her sharp dark brown eyes showed intelligence and at times a laugh. Built like an Aztec princess she rode through the political waters like a force of nature.
One of her campaign promises had been to investigate cold cases and bring the guilty parties to long overdue justice. To accomplish this she had recruited and hired two investigators who worked independently of each other. Mike Harmon with the most experience was senior and was usually handed the most difficult backlogged cold cases.
Harmon had done a stint in the Marine Corps when he finished high school. During the last two years of his tour he had served on the Presidential protection detail at San Clementi. Mike's father had served as the Fire Chief of Tempe, Arizona for 35 years.
Inspired by his father's public service and his own experience in the Corps, Mike joined the Phoenix Police Department after his discharge from the Marines. He made Detective First after only 4 years; one of the few men to accomplish that feat in the history of the Department.
He developed into a very accomplished investigator; sometimes his handling of a case was a combination of fact finding, correlation of the evidence and an innate intuition' or gut feelings as his partners said. During his 30 years as a lead detective, the Department offered him promotions and wanted him to head up the entire Detective division. Mike always said, "I'm a street cop. I don't want to sit behind a desk."
Maria Reyes dropped a file folder on Mike's desk. "You've done a good job on the three cases you closed out ... but this one is a little different."
Mike pulled the folder to him and opened it. "What makes this one any different than the others?"
"The case is over 25 years old, 27 to be exact."
"Not that it makes a difference, but why this case before the others"
"I was going through some of the older files and found this one from 1988. It was a horrible, heinous crime" Maria took a deep breath. "An elderly lady, Mrs. Helen Stoddard, was tortured, beaten and eventually killed for her money. She was 80 at the time and the thieves apparently got less than $1,000." Maria shook her head. "Someone killed that poor old woman for the money."
Leafing through the file, Mike said, "Looks like there were two suspects but nothing could be proven." Reading one of the police reports he looked up at Maria. "Okay, I'm on it. I'll let you know my progress."
"Get the bastards that did this Mike. Bring them to justice," Maria said with force, turned and left the office.
Mike pulled the file close and really read the details of the case. He planned where and when he would begin his investigation and then broke for lunch. His was not a normal lunch; he would go to the gym and work out with weight training and cardio for about 45 minutes. Mike spent the last 15 minutes of his lunch hour showering then eating a salad, or yogurt or some other healthy meal.
Three and sometimes four times during the week he would get up early and run 5 miles before he went into work. The summers in Phoenix could be brutal so he ran at daylight to avoid the heat as much as possible. Mike trained harder on the weekends in between, his wife Millie's, honey do list and spending time with the family. Almost every Sunday, their son and his wife, his daughter and her husband and the five grandchildren would visit. Sometimes when the kids stayed over the weekend the two oldest would run with him; at least part way before they returned to the house.
Mike had entered a couple of 5 K and 10 K runs and was planning to enter a full marathon in the fall. The result of this healthier life style was a man of 66 that could pass for 35 or 40; except for his hair. No amount of exercise could stop his hair being more salt than pepper for which he received a lot of good natured kidding from his children. Mike's waist was within an inch of when he joined the Phoenix Police. His weight, at 175 pounds, was actually less than back then; a result of healthier eating habits and more exercise. At 5 feet 10, he gave the impression of a steely blue eyed solid block of granite.
During the last 7 or 8 years as a Phoenix Detective there had been more than one young man who thought Mike's graying hair made him an old fart. They misread the look in his dark eyes and if they acted up, they soon learned their mistake. Mike would, if need be, educate them and teach them a lesson they didn't soon forget. The word got out in the building and on the "street" not to screw with Detective Harmon.
Back in his office Mike reread the details of the report in more depth. The two suspects were the 25 year old boyfriend of Mrs. Stoddard's granddaughter and his 24 year old brother. The granddaughter, Judy Swanson, had been 18 at the time of the murder.
Statements from neighbors and from Swanson said that her boyfriend, James Duncan and his brother William had done odd jobs and maintenance around Mrs. Stoddard's home several times. Apparently Mrs. Stoddard hired them because of James' connection with her granddaughter.
That Friday evening, after dinner with his wife, their son and his family, Mike went into his office/den and planned his investigation. Millie and Mike's son knew he was involved in a case and didn't push him about the details. She had learned early in his career that he would only discuss a case or the people involved when his investigations showed results. Millie also knew that if it was a hard case or one that was especially horrible or ghastly that he became very focused if not obsessed. The only thing she did ask when Mike was so totally involved on any case was that he be careful.
During his Saturday morning training run, with no company this time, Mike finalized in his mind how to proceed on the Stoddard case. He first planned to see if any of the people the original detectives talked to were still around. Finishing his run and after showering, Mike took care of a few "honey do" projects Millie had for him. That evening and Sunday would be his last normal days until he either solved the case or ran into a brick wall. He knew that the "wall" would have to be very wide and very tall to stop him.
On Monday morning, Mike did research using government files, tax files, auto registration files and found that only four people were still around or available from the time of the Stoddard murder. Those four were the granddaughter, Judy Swanson, a neighbor named Brodry and the two suspects, James and William Duncan.
He decided his first step would be to interview the only neighbor of Mrs. Stoddard's that was still living in the area; one Charles Brodry. Charles Brodry's parents had owned the house to the east of Mrs. Stoddard and left the house and an acre of ground to their son.
Brodry had grown up in that house and was living there in 1988. He was in his mid 30's when the murder took place and he moved away shortly afterwards. Brodry was living in Seligman Arizona when his parents died in 2010 and left him the house. Being recently divorced, Charles moved back to the house. He was now in his late 50's. It was amazing what Mike had been able to dig out of the files accessible to the police.
"Mr. Brodry?" Mike asked when the man opened his front door. When Brodry nodded Mike said "I'm Special Investigator Mike Harmon," showing his badge and I.D. "I'd like to talk to you about Mrs. Stoddard's murder. You know, the lady that lived next door."
Charles Brodry was shorter than average at 5' 4". He was rotund, with thinning hair and a kind jovial look about him.
Brodry looked at the credentials and said, "That was almost 30 years ago. Why are you askin about her now?"
"I'm reworking the case," Mike replied. "If I can I'm going to find out who killed Mrs. Stoddard and make them pay for it."
.... There is more of this story ...