Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Pundits and TV anchor creatures love pronouncing about politicians ’
“character,” when all they’re really talking about is personality. Hence
glib, superficially charming candidates invariably win plaudits in the
reality-TV epics we call presidential elections. This year’s GOP Prince
Charming is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. When it comes to
ingratiating himself, few surpass the one-time Baptist preacher. He’s
witty, he’s warm, and doggone it, people like him. Character consists of
something deeper. That’s why it’s important to know the truth about
Wayne DuMond, the serial rapist and murderer Huckabee freed from the
Arkansas penitentiary to kill again. Unfortunately, that’s the last
thing you’ll hear from the candidate himself.
DuMond was a cunning con-man, a predatory psychopath adept at playing
victim. A naïve and inexperienced Huckabee went for it, hook, line and
sinker. So did others for whom professional skepticism is supposed to be
a job requirement. In springing DuMond, the Arkansas Republican courted
praise from the Clinton hating right-wing press, whose responsibility
for the murder the ex-con committed after his release shouldn’t be
Here’s the backstory: in 1985, DuMond, a handyman with a long rap sheet,
kidnapped 17-year-old Forrest City, Ar., cheerleader Ashley Stevens and
raped her at knife point. DuMond’s trademark MO was cutting off his
victims’ brassieres with a hunting knife, vowing to murder them if they
Stevens not only reported the crime, she later recognized the newly
cleanshaven perp on the street, and agreed to testify.
While free on bond, DuMond was found castrated on the floor of their
remote mobile home by his children, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels
nearby and his own bloody footprints everywhere. DuMond’s blood alcohol
level was 2. 8, falling-down drunk. His wife asked police if he’d
mutilated himself. Investigators suspected he had. It’s an uncommon, but
not unknown, sympathy ploy. No evidence of the masked intruders DuMond
claimed gelded him ever emerged.
Two things made the case notorious. In a touch of Arkansas gothic, the
St. Francis County Sheriff (who’d played no role in the rape
investigation ) exhibited DuMond’s testicles in a jar. Second, although
her identity wasn’t initially disclosed, young Stevens was a distant
cousin of then-Gov. Bill Clinton.
After Clinton became president, Du-Mond portrayed himself as an innocent
victim of the satanic “Clinton machine.” Soft-headed conspiracy
theorists who circulated “Clinton death lists” found the notion
New York Post columnist and “Current Affairs” correspondent Steve
Dunleavy churned out articles of near-hallucinatory inaccuracy
championing DuMond’s cause. He portrayed DuMond as a blameless Vietnam
vet with no criminal history. In fact, DuMond avoided prison in Oklahoma
by testifying against men tried and convicted of beating a man to death
with a claw hammer. He’d been convicted of second degree assault in
Oregon, and charged with but not tried for a previous rape in Arkansas.
Dunleavy claimed DNA evidence exonerated DuMond, but that a vengeful
Clinton prevented his release. Both were categorically false. No DNA
evidence existed; Clinton had recused.
DuMond became a right-wing cause célèbre. One Guy Reel wrote a book
entitled “Unequal Justice,” parroting the same bogus claims. Most
significantly, Jay Cole, a Fayetteville, Ar., Baptist pastor and pal of
Huckabee’s, bought into the delusion.
No sooner had Huckabee become governor after Kenneth Starr’s conviction
of his Democratic predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker, than Huckabee began
talking about commuting the presumptively innocent DuMond’s sentence. He
clearly expected to be congratulated. Instead, Prosecutor Fletcher Long
erupted. How could the governor even think of doing that without reading
the trial transcript ?
Abandoning her anonymity, Ashley Stevens invaded Huckabee’s personal
space: “This is how close I was to Wayne DuMond,” she said. “I will
never forget his face. And now I don’t want you ever to forget my face.”
Professed victims wrote agonized letters begging Huckabee to desist.
Today, Huckabee alibis that nobody could have predicted DuMond’s
Missouri crimes. Many people did. Even this column warned that: “Rape’s
not a crime of passion; it’s a crime of rage. Violent sex offenders,
innumerable case studies show, keep at it until something stops them. If
Huckabee doesn’t understand that, he’s got no business getting
involved.” Instead of backing off, Huckabee got tricky. He held an
improper closed-door meeting with the parole board, several of whom say
they’d felt pressured. Last week, Huckabee’s then-chief counsel, Olan
“Butch” Reeves, basically seconded their claims. After the board voted
to parole DuMond to Missouri, Huckabee wrote a “Dear Wayne” letter
stressing “my desire... that you be released from prison” —the
proverbial smoking gun he can’t now rationalize or whine away. Angry
Missouri cops say DuMond’s victim’s severed bra straps were like a
calling card. They found his DNA under her fingernails. Huckabee’s
latest book claims that DuMond died in prison before coming to trial. In
fact, he was convicted of murdering Carol Sue Shields on Nov. 12, 2003,
and at the time of his death was a leading suspect in the murder of a
second Missouri woman. You’d think Huckabee might have noticed.
–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.