The Final Prank: A little girl is found raped and strangled. The identity of her killer will shock an entire community to its core.
If I Can’t Have You: If you love someone set them free, if they come back to you, they are yours forever… if they don’t, kill them.
The Body in the Suitcase: A suitcase is found by the roadside. Its contents will send investigators on a desperate hunt to catch a killer before he strikes again.
Murder at the Long Branch Saloon: A much-loved tavern owner disappears from his business in broad daylight, leaving the police with an apparently uncrackable case to solve.
Playing with Fire: Taylor was young and eager to experiment; Ben was older and happy to teach her. It was all fun and games until someone turned up dead.
The Seaside Murders: Four members of the same family are found hacked to death inside their home in a quiet beach community. But who killed them? And why?
A Cain and Abel Story: Its brother against brother in this convoluted tale of money, deceit, and murder for hire.
Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of
Murder Most Vile Volume 22
Over My Dead Body
Alan Bates’s friends couldn’t quite figure out what he saw in Jessica. Sure she was pretty, but she had a reputation around school and was part of a group of “Goths” known for their anti-social behavior. Alan, on the other hand, was an athlete and a straight-A student, one of the in-crowd. Still, they say that opposites attract, and thus it was with Alan and Jessica. They started dating in 1989 and a short while later Jessica fell pregnant. Barely out of high school, they were married and parents to their first child, a daughter.
Life wasn’t easy for the young couple with Jessica staying home to raise their child and Alan working several jobs while also trying to complete a college degree. It was made even tougher when Jessica became pregnant again, but Alan was ecstatic as he welcomed his second daughter into the world. He absolutely doted on his girls, and his only regret was that he was working such long hours that he seldom got to spend quality time with them.
By now, however, cracks were starting to appear in the Bates marriage. Alan had quickly learned that his wife was a materialistic woman who demanded the best of everything and damn the expense. Since this was hardly possible on their tight budget, Alan had to endure her constant barbs about his failure as a husband and provider. It began to wear on his patience to the point where he started seriously considering filing for divorce. The only reason he stayed was for the sake of his daughters.
But even fatherly love could not save the marriage once Alan discovered that his wife had been cheating on him. In 1994, he finally told Jessica that it was time to go their separate ways. Jessica, unemployed and thus concerned about her financial security, tried to talk him out of it, but Alan was adamant. His only concern was that his children would be cared for, and in this regard, he was prepared to make a considerable sacrifice. Since Jessica had always been their primary caregiver, he would not fight her for custody. He would, of course, pay child support and he would want regular visitation rights. With that in place, Jessica agreed to sign the divorce papers. Thereafter, the couple settled into a routine where Alan took the girls every other weekend. It was an amicable arrangement. Jessica and Alan even started being civil to one another again.
The former high school sweethearts were getting on with their lives, Jessica taking a job as a dispatcher with the Birmingham, Alabama, police department and Alan running a small theater company. Both were dating again, Jessica stepping out with a succession of police officers, while Alan began seeing art historian, Terra Klugh. That relationship soon became serious. Terra was the direct opposite of Jessica, refined and cultured where Jessica could be uncouth and foul-mouthed; even-tempered where Jessica was often impetuous. She also loved Alan’s girls and quickly struck up a rapport with them, something that did not sit well with their mother.
In June 2000, Alan and Terra made their relationship official and got married. Not to be undone, Jessica quickly tied the knot with Jeff McCord, the latest in her long line of police officer boyfriends. After that, the battle lines were well and truly drawn. Jessica started denying Alan his visitation rights, making excuses why he couldn’t see the girls and placing unreasonable demands designed to shorten their visits with him. Alan, at first, put up with it for the sake of his children. Eventually, though, he’d had enough. He took the matter to Family Court and won.
Not that the Court Order meant much to Jessica. She continued to be obstructive. Often, when Alan arrived to pick up the girls, he’d find no one at home. Jessica also moved house frequently, always failing to give Alan her new address. Inevitably, the matter ended up in court again, and the judge issued Jessica a stern warning. She was looking at jail time if she continued to defy the courts.
That warning had about as much effect on Jessica as the Court Order. Again and again, she denied Alan his parental rights, forcing him to seek remedy via the legal system. But Jessica had pushed her luck too far. In December 2001, she was sanctioned for contempt and ordered to serve ten days in jail.
Alan Bates had by now shelled out a considerable amount of money to attorneys just to ensure that his court-granted rights were maintained. He had also come to a realization. Despite all her faults, he had always considered Jessica a good mother, someone who put her children’s needs before all else. But that was patently not the case. In fact, Jessica was using the girls as pawns in a game motivated by spite and petty jealousy. That could not be good for the children’s long-term wellbeing. It was for this reason that Alan decided to petition for full custody.
Jessica’s response to the move was predictable. She exploded with anger. How dare Alan try to take her children away from her? How dare he! And that anger was motivated by more than just motherly love. Jessica was afraid. Afraid of losing the girls, yes, but afraid also of losing Alan’s child support payments. She’d recently lost her job over her jail stint and was unemployed again. She and her husband, Jeff, were deep in debt due to her reckless spending. She relied on that money. Then there was the issue of Terra. Terra had been nothing but civil to Jessica in their limited interactions and yet Jessica despised her. Terra who was so perfect at everything would likely be a perfect stepmother; she would likely show up Jessica’s poor parenting skills. Jessica would not allow that to happen. If Alan ever gained custody of her kids, it would be over her dead body.
And so Jessica McCord concocted a plan, a dreadful plan designed to remove her former husband from her life forever, designed to remove him and his prissy wife from this earth. Alan and Terra were by now living in Maryland and would be coming to Alabama for the custody hearings. That would give Jessica the opportunity to strike.
On February 15, 2002, Alan and Terra Bates flew into Birmingham International Airport. In the days leading up to their arrival, Alan had negotiated (via his attorney) a visit with his daughters. And so he and Terra drove directly from the airport to the McCord residence where they planned to pick up the girls and then drive with them to Atlanta, Georgia, to visit Alan’s parents. They would be back in Birmingham in time for the court date.
But Alan must have feared the worst as he pulled up in front of Jessica’s house. The drapes were drawn and the front door securely closed. Despite the gravity of her situation, Jessica had apparently not learned her lesson. Alan was about to drive off when Terra spotted something pinned to the door. It was a note from Jessica: “Come around to the back. We’re having trouble with the front door.”
Alan and Terra walked around to the rear of the house, where they found a strangely welcoming Jessica waiting for them. She told them that the girls were playing at a neighbor’s house and that she’d been about to fetch them. Then she invited Alan and Terra into the family room, invited them to sit and asked if they wanted a drink. As she left the room to fetch the refreshments, Alan and Terra must have been perplexed by her cordial attitude. They’d had little time to think about it when Jeff McCord entered. Unlike Jessica, he wasn’t smiling. In fact, he wore an expression like thunder. Without saying a word, he reached behind his back and drew a revolver. Almost immediately, he started firing, four evenly spaced shots which cut down Alan and Terra Bates before they’d even realized what was happening.
When Alan and Terra didn’t arrive in Atlanta at the expected time, Alan’s parents were not initially concerned. It was peak hour after all, and Atlanta traffic was notoriously bad. But when an hour passed and then two, when their calls to Alan’s cell phone went unanswered, they began to sense that something was wrong. Phillip Bates then called the police to find out whether they might have been involved in an accident. Then he and his wife started calling local hospitals. That their efforts came to nothing was both a relief and a cause for anxiety.
Several hours later, in the early morning hours of February 16, a farmer reported a suspected forest fire on his property, on the outskirts of Rutledge, Georgia. Firefighters were dispatched to the area and soon discovered the burned-out hulk of a car, still smoldering from the intense fire that had destroyed it. The initial theory was that someone had stolen the vehicle in Atlanta, taken it for a joyride and then set it alight. But that idea lasted only as long as it took the firemen to douse the remaining flames. Then one of them flipped the lid of the trunk and made a gruesome discovery. Two badly charred human bodies lay inside. This was now a matter for the police.
Tracing the car was easy. The extreme temperatures had partially melted the license plate but enough of it remained to track the vehicle to a Mavis Car Rental at Birmingham International Airport. That, in turn, allowed police to make a tentative identification of the victims as Alan and Terra Bates. That identification was soon confirmed, and officers were dispatched to pass on the heartbreaking news to Alan’s parents. On hearing of his son’s death, Phillip Bates immediately offered up a suspect – Jessica McCord.
Jeff McCord did not seem at all surprised when he was called into an interview room at work and questioned about Alan and Terra Bates. He said that Alan had been meant to pick up his daughters but had never arrived. Jeff and his wife Jessica had waited several hours and had then decided to drop the girls off with Jessica’s mother so that they could go on a belated Valentine’s Day date. They’d gone to see Lord of the Rings, he said. He’d even kept the ticket stubs and now reached into his pocket and produced them for his fellow officers.
Questioned at her mother’s house, Jessica told much the same story, adding that she had tried to call Alan on his cell and that he had not answered nor returned the message she had left him. The detectives weren’t buying it, though. The identical wording of the couple’s stories was a red flag. So too was the movie ticket stubs. Who keeps ticket stubs and then has them conveniently at hand to confirm their story? As a police officer, Jeff McCord should have known better.
On February 17, Birmingham police officers executed a search warrant at the McCord residence and immediately picked up something strange. A haphazard attempt had been made to redecorate the living room, with floor tiles and wallpaper replaced. But the paper didn’t line up and the tiles were not an exact match. Then, when officers peeled back a section of the new wallpaper, they discovered a hole in the drywall. It looked like a bullet hole and someone had quite obviously pried a slug from it. There had also been a recent cleanup done to the area, but cleaning up a crime scene is a virtually impossible task. Minute spatters of blood remained on the coffee table, and those spatters would later be matched to the victims, Alan and Terra Bates.
As the matter drew closer to trial, prosecutors believed that they had a solid case against the McCords. They believed that Alan and Terra had been lured into the house and then shot to death. They had then been loaded into their car, which was driven by Jeff McCord, nearly 200 miles to the outskirts of Rutledge. Jeff had stopped en route to buy a pair of tickets to Lord of the Rings, thus establishing an alibi. After torching the car with the bodies inside, he’d driven with Jessica back to Birmingham, where they had cleaned up the crime scene. That had necessitated the slap-dash remodeling job which had contributed to their downfall. Jeff had been the shooter, the police were sure of that, but it was Jessica who had the motive and thus she who had set the wheels in motion.
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