The Times West Virginian

November 20, 2013

Former trooper: ‘He was street-wise’

Washington’s signature on written interrogation cited as confession to 1974 Windmill Park homicides

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — “I didn’t think nobody could prove it.”

Eddie Jack Washington signed and initialed this statement on a written interrogation in 1978, what’s being called a confession to his role in the 1974 triple Windmill Park murders.

The last witness of the trial’s second day was former West Virginia State Police Trooper Larry Henry of Williamstown. He and another trooper, Richard Cunningham, had interrogated Washington on Aug. 26, 1978, after his arrest on another matter.

They asked him questions about the crime and wrote down his answers, then read the entire document back to him. Any corrections would be made before he signed his name and initialed each response.

The questions were written in cursive, which Washington has said he cannot read, defense attorney Neal Jay Hamilton said.

Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Wilson asked Henry how Washington appeared that night.

He did not appear tired or on drugs or alcohol, but was responsive and lucid, Henry said. He understood his rights and signed a waiver.

“He was street-wise,” Henry said. “He knew exactly why he was there.”

In this document, Washington said he knew that Phillip Bush pulled the trigger, he had been with Bush, his car was used in the crime, he knew the doomed trio before this and had met them that night at a local bar. He said Bush wanted to have a physical relationship with Wanda June. He also said that Junior Phillips was killed first, followed by Billy Ray Cobb and then Wanda June, all with a 22 automatic.

Washington went to Morgantown “to cool off and have an alibi.”

Why didn’t he leave town after the murders? the troopers asked him.

“I didn’t think nobody could prove it,” he said.

Hamilton grilled Henry about the protocol of 35 years ago. Did Henry know how Washington got to the station? When? What was he wearing? What was his date of birth? Social Security number? Telephone number? Address?

Henry answered “no” to all the questions.

“That should have been included,” he said of the last set of information.

He had had some training in interrogation procedures, and learned more “on the job,” he said.

Hamilton said Henry and Cunningham knew the information they wanted Washington to give them before they even asked him.

The interrogation was neither audio nor videotaped, although the technology was available then, Hamilton said. Neither the original report nor notes can be located.

Hamilton pointed out a glaring error in the report.

One question asked Washington about his involvement in the Windmill Park murders on Aug. 2, 1978.

Did they actually say “1974” to Washington (the year of the murders) but write “1978,” or did they say and write “1978”? Hamilton asked.

“It was a mistake,” Henry said. “No one caught it.”

Earlier, Dr. Robert Thompson continued testimony about medical reports gleaned from the triple autopsies of the victims.

Each had been shot in the head multiple times at close range with a small caliber handgun. The men died instantly; Wanda lived for up to eight minutes, Thompson said.

The discoloration on the forearm of one of the victims could be blood, mud or an abrasion.

Cobb was blood type O, and the Phillipses were both type A. Only type O was found on Cobb; only type A was found on the couple.

A blue print shirt that was found in an abandoned house on Washington Street in Fairmont also had Type O blood on it, according to a Case Submission Report.

Thompson agreed with the provisional crime report by the late Dr. Milton Hales that the three victims had been shot where they were found, as the defense is contending, and not shot elsewhere and taken to the park, as the prosecution says.

Grass clippings found on Wanda’s bare feet and under her halter top matched the cut grass where she was found.

Jack Clayton, now police chief for Fairmont State and then patrolman with the Fairmont Police Department, was one of the first on scene that morning. His morning shift had just started at 7:30 a.m. when a groundskeeper from the park came to the station to say there were three potential homicides there.

At first, Clayton thought the three were asleep but realized they were dead after checking for vital signs and finding none.

In an aerial photo of the park taken that morning in 1974, three white forms — the sheet-covered bodies of the deceased victims — were visible between the dirt road and the paved road.

The grass was heavy with early morning dew, Clayton recalled. Not far from the bodies they found a tire track, some footprints and a shoe print, which they preserved in castings.

Paraffin castings were made of the victims’ hands, and Wanda’s chest and neck to check for gunpowder residue.

Clayton said two names came to mind “almost immediately”: Phillip Bush and Eddie Jack Washington.

What were thought to be lead shavings on Washington’s hands turned out to not contain lead at all, Hamilton said.

The trial continues today at 9 a.m. in the Division I Courtroom, Marion County Courthouse.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.