Jessica Dishon Case Update: A Confession and a Plea

I wasn’t sure whether or not Stanley Dishon would go to trial for murdering his niece, Jessica, back in 1999. As you recall me previously mentioning, this all occurred in my hometown of Shepherdsville, Kentucky. A couple days ago, the prosecution and defense reached an agreement; in return for Stanley Dishon submitting an Alford plea to manslaughter, the trial will be altogether forfeited. What is an Alford plea, you ask? (Hey, look, my college classes are coming in handy.)

Basically, an Alford plea is an alternative to pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. An Alford plea is the acknowledgement that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt. You can maintain your innocence, but for all intents and purposes, it is essentially a guilty plea without the actual admittance of guilt. It is the same plea the West Memphis Three wore forced to take. By submitting an Alford plea, you may be able to avoid the harshest punishment. Alford pleas work in favor of the prosecution sometimes because it saves the state money, and in this case, it puts an old case to rest; the media doesn’t get to keep dragging the public and the family through the emotional ringer of a trial.

Stanley will be eligible for parole in 16 years.

As for his motive? Word is that he was molesting Jessica and had been doing it for years. Considering his previous convictions, this wouldn’t be too surprising. The story goes that Jessica was threatening to tell, and Stanley attacked her in her yard.

Fifteen years in the making, y’all. Time to close the book on this one and pray the family can find some peace. I can’t imagine what her parents have been through, but to find the murderer is a member of your own family? It’s sickening.



Crime Historian: The Debate Coach & His Student

Crime Historian

Samford University, 2014

It is considered one of Alabama’s most brutal and notorious crimes of the 80’s. When I accidentally stumbled upon the story while chasing one rabbit trail or another, I was surprised to learn my university was connected to it. The timing of my discovery was really bizarre. I’ll explain.

I spent this past summer taking 4-week classes so I could stay on track to graduate with my Master’s in May of 2015. One of the classes I had to take was Debate and Argumentation. It was a full four weeks of debate: introduction to debate, the styles of debate, how to coach a debate team, debate tactics, and basically a crash course for us soon-to-be English teachers. The guy who taught the class is the current debate coach at Samford University. He’s a great teacher, and I can’t say enough good things about him. But right after I finished the class in July, I came across this old news story…

Apparently, Samford’s debate coach in 1989 went apeshit on a student and brutally stabbed him death.

The first thing you need to know is that Samford is in a decent part of town.

The second thing you need to know is that it is a Baptist-affiliated college, and therefore, generally attracts likeminded students and faculty.

The third thing you need to know is that Samford takes its debate pretty seriously. They win awards all the time. The members of the debate squad are deeply committed.

Though the crime did not occur on campus, the fact that it even occurred is out of the norm. In my experience, Samford is a safe place to attend school, and everyone is generally pretty friendly. It’s located in Homewood, Alabama, one of the more pleasant Birmingham suburbs. Though I was only 2 years old in 1989 and lived several hundred miles away, I think it’s safe to say the Samford and Homewood communities were shocked when the news broke.

William Slagle, 42 at the time, was displeased with his star debater. Rex Bartley Copeland’s performance was not up to par at debate practice. Rex, 20 years old, was getting tired of the demands placed on him by the debate team. Rex wanted to enjoy college and fraternity life, and he wanted to focus on his law school aspirations. Slagle, his coach, wasn’t having it.

At 2:00 AM on September 21, 1989, Slagle drove to Rex’s apartment in Inverness (a neighboring community) where the two proceeded to argue. Slagle stabbed Rex to death, leaving blood all over the apartment. He then went back to his office, and in a botched attempt to cover up his involvement, left a voicemail for Rex asking him to return later for more practice.

It’s a sad story. A star debate student’s life is cut short by a professor who takes debate too seriously. But that’s not even the weirdest part.

Slagle went to the funeral and offered condolences. He did all the things you are supposed to do when you have just found out your favorite student has been murdered. Several days later, he sent a letter to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office confessing his deed and then went on the run.

He ran for six months.

What does a middle-class professor do to support himself while on the run for six months in 1989??

Anyway. William Slagle wrote a few more letters, one claiming self defense. He was even featured on America’s Most Wanted.

Slagle was finally captured and found guilty. He is currently serving a life sentence. He was denied parole twice: once in 2001 and once in 2007.

It is worth noting Slagle’s side of the story. During the trial, he claimed he went to visit Rex after a bad practice to try to console him. They got into an argument and Slagle claimed he acted in self defense, even visiting a hospital for a slash wound 4 1/2 hours later. While no one can be sure what Slagle’s intentions were when he showed up at Rex’s apartment in the early morning hours of September 21, 1989, we do know that Slagle left Rex to die.

Rex’s parents later attempted to sue Samford for negligent hiring and supervision regarding Slagle.

This whole story is just weird. A professor takes himself too seriously, murders a student, then goes on the run. I’d like to interview this dude because none of it makes sense.

UPDATED 6/18/2016: A commenter recently noted that Slagle actually died in prison in 2010 of unknown causes.



Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon (Part 2 of 2)

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

If you missed part one of the story, you’ll want to start here.

I mentioned yesterday that Jessica’s uncle, Stanley, is her murderer. He was formally indicted on these charges (plus kidnapping) in October of 2013, fourteen years after Jessica was kidnapped and murdered. However, when this news was released, Stanley was already serving time in jail for charges of sexual molestation, rape, and sodomy dating all the way back to 1982. These are unrelated to the Dishon case. But you’ll find that to only be technically true, because it turns out the S.O.B. was molesting Jessica, too. He actually lived with her family until Jessica turned 13. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In May of this year, the first new physical evidence in years was released. I swear, every time I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

In April of 2014, after receiving information from two inmates who had spent time with Stanley in prison, police decided to search the barn on the property where Jessica’s body was found. Police found a pillowcase and a fitted sheet. The fitted sheet matches the other sheet that is still on Jessica’s bed, though Jessica’s mom is not sure exactly when it went missing. (Jessica’s room is still in the exact state it was when she disappeared.) Police now believe Stanley Dishon held and tortured Jessica Dishon in that barn before Stanley killed her, as one prison informant claims Stanley bragged about doing.

It’s very likely we’ll find, after tests are conducted and released, that this sheet did come off of Jessica’s bed, and her DNA is all over it. There was also foam found in the barn, the same type of foam found on Jess’s body. You can view photos of the recently released evidence here.

Additionally, both inmates reported that Stanley admitted to each of them separately that he killed Jessica because she was about to tell her family how he had been molesting her. One of the inmates said Jessica had recently learned Stanley had been molesting his own daughter and stepdaughter, and she was tired of it and was going to tell. (Stanley Dishon pleaded guilty to these crimes in 2004). We now know that he has molested six other victims besides Jessica. The inmate also claimed that Stanley took one of Jessica’s shoes, chopped off her foot and kept it, and took a pair of Jessica’s underwear.

Investigators never did find her missing shoe or her foot.

If you’re not convinced Stanley killed his niece, I’ll leave you with this: Jessica’s dad, Mike, reported that shortly after Jessica disappeared, Stanley told him he had a premonition that Jessica was buried in the river bottoms. When the family went to search the area, about two miles away from where Jessica’s body was found, Stanley had to leave suddenly because he started feeling sick.

Well I’ll be damned.

Reporters interviewed Stanley’s former wife, who he was married to at the time of Jessica’s disappearance. She admitted she thought it was strange that no one ever interviewed Stanley because his sleeping patterns were erratic after Jessica disappeared and he acted very strangely at the time.

Jury selection for Stanley’s trial began in September.

Here are the questions/thoughts I am left with:

1) According to one report, the property was searched during the original investigation. So where the hell was the evidence in, say, 1999? When was the evidence placed in the barn? Or did they just miss it the first time? Has anyone considered they are lucky as hell to have found it? Stanley could have disposed of it at any time in the last fourteen years.

2) Can anyone confirm Stanley’s alibi for the day of the murder? He says he was working. No one? Nobody? Didn’t think so.

3) It would have been nice if Stanley’s wife had reported his odd behavior so the police could have looked into it. I guess it’d be hard to tell on your husband, but the bastard molested both of her daughters.

It is worth noting that as of July 2014, Mike Dishon, Jessica’s dad, still believed Bucky had something to do with the murder, but I imagine it’s hard believe that your own brother molested, raped, kidnapped, and killed your daughter. A state of denial is completely understandable.

I truly hope this is a speedy trial so that the Dishon family can have some peace and the community of Shepherdsville can put this horrible crime to rest.

You can say that the public has already convicted Stanley, just as we did Bucky, and maybe we have. I’d be surprised if the defense doesn’t file for a change of venue.



Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon (Part 1 of 2)

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

As some of you may know, I am from a little town just south of Louisville, Kentucky called Shepherdsville. It’s located in Bullitt County, a primarily a white area whose population boomed as a result of “white flight” in the 60’s and 70’s. Residents love Shepherdsville because it provides a small-town atmosphere with easy access to Louisville since I-65 runs right through it. There are four high schools in Bullitt County and three of them are located in Shepherdsville.

I spent the summer of 1999 on the north side of town, preparing for the seventh grade and begging my mom to buy me tickets to see the Backstreet Boys. Meanwhile, Jessica Dishon spent the summer preparing to start her senior year at Bullitt Central.

I never met her.

It’s a small town, so I’m sure I’ve seen her somewhere before. I think my mom dated her cousin or something. You know how it is. Everyone knows everyone, and if they don’t, then they know someone who knows someone.

She went missing on September 10, 1999.

People don’t go missing in Shepherdsville.

I remember watching the news incredulously. The police were baffled. How could a teen, who was looking so forward to her senior year, just vanish from her driveway? Her car was still in the driveway. Her purse, cell phone, backpack, keys, and one of her shoes were found inside.

The investigation was initially botched at the beginning, but not through any fault of the responding officer. Officer David Greenwell was a rookie cop, and though he called the lead detective to the scene more than once, his request for assistance was denied. It was days before an actual detective showed up.

Police and family members searched. For seventeen days. Unfortunately, Jessica was not found alive.

People don’t get murdered in Shepherdsville.

Her body was recovered from a ditch off a rural road in a wooded area of Mount Washington, a neighboring town. Evidence showed that she was likely killed elsewhere and moved to the location. It would be nearly fifteen years before this theory was confirmed.

In the meantime, David “Bucky” Brooks, a nearby neighbor of the Dishons, was charged with Jessica’s murder. Bucky is not exactly what you would call an educated man, and the trial focused heavily on his lack of education. Interestingly, the Brooks family owned property right next door to the Dishons where they operated a water business. Coincidence or not? The judge eventually declared a mistrial in 2003 due to a blunder regarding admissibility of evidence. Apparently, the prosecutor forgot to tell the detective that lie detector results are not admissible in Kentucky.

People still talked.

Bucky Brooks got off on a technicality, they said. Bucky did it. Everyone knows it. Bucky got away with murder.

I heard it, and I just assumed it was true and was one of those sad things that would never be proven.

When asked after the trial by a reporter why he thought he was the only suspect in the case, Bucky responded: “My opinion was that we had the water company right close to the Dishon home and we was just the scapegoat for them. That’s what I’m thinking.”

I moved away in 2005, and every once in a while, I will Google the case to see if there are any new developments. When I heard that Bullitt County hired a cold case investigator, I hoped that new evidence against Brooks would be found and that Bucky would finally get what was coming to him.

Bucky did it right? Everyone knew it. Residents took to online forums to gossip about and speculate about it here and here.

Except Bucky didn’t kill Jessica Dishon. And all those years the public shamed him and treated him like a leper were for naught.

Because it was actually her uncle Stanley who killed her. And the fact that it was her uncle is not even the worst part of the story.