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Lawsuit over records in Arkansas teens' 1987 deaths dismissed

Benton mother seeking answers by Linda Satter | September 20, 2019 at 7:01 a.m.
At left, Linda Ives is shown in this 2007 file photo. At right, the initial 1987 coverage in the Arkansas Democrat on the deaths of Ives' 17-year-old son, Kevin, and 16-year-old Don Henry.

A federal judge has dismissed a Benton woman's 2016 lawsuit that sought to force three federal agencies to turn over decades-old documents that she believed might shed light on her son's 1987 death.

Linda Ives filed the suit under the federal Freedom of Information Act, saying she had been trying for 29 years at that point to learn how her son, 17-year-old Kevin Ives, was killed after his body and that of his friend, 16-year-old Don Henry, were found on railroad tracks early Aug. 23, 1987.

The state medical examiner determined the boys were struck by a train as they lay on the tracks in a marijuana-induced deep sleep, while another pathologist said he believed the boys were killed before their bodies were placed on the tracks. The engineer of a 4:25 a.m. train that sped down the remote stretch of tracks at 50 mph said he sounded the horn and tried to avoid hitting the boys after a spotlight illuminated them lying side by side across the tracks, face-up and motionless, covered by a tarp from the waist down.

The mystery surrounding the boys' deaths has led to many theories over the years, with a focus on the possibility that the boys witnessed criminal activity, perhaps involving drug drops by low-flying planes that had been seen in the area. The theories have been the focus of a 1999 book and more than one film, but the deaths remain unsolved.

Henry's family, which later moved out of the area, hasn't participated in the continued speculation.

Ives sought information over the years from eight federal agencies and three Arkansas-based law enforcement agencies demanding access to all documents in their archives that mentioned her son or Barry Seal, a pilot who was assassinated in 1986 in his hometown of Baton Rouge.

Seal had testified in 1985 that he smuggled tons of cocaine from Colombia to drop zones in Louisiana swamps, flying in and out of the Mena airport in Polk County. According to rumor, he was initially hired by the CIA to fly low over Central American countries taking photographs of rebels, and then began smuggling drugs back into the United States for extra cash.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dismissed most of the agencies from the lawsuit in November 2017, but ordered the three remaining defendants -- the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, which didn't exist at the time of the boys' deaths -- to turn over to him for private review all unredacted documents that they claimed were exempt from disclosure.

The documents may have included minutes or transcripts of grand jury proceedings dating back to the early 1990s; investigators' private notes to each other; the names of confidential witnesses; and secret investigative techniques, according to court filings.

Miller said in 2018 that the DEA had improperly withheld some information requested by Ives, and ordered that information produced.

But after Ives and her attorney at the time, David Lewis, got their hands on some of the sought-after documents, still heavily redacted, earlier this year, Lewis indicated the documents didn't clarify anything about the boys' deaths.

Attorney Tona DeMers, who later took over the case for Ives, couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday. Ives hasn't publicly commented on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Metro on 09/20/2019

Print Headline: Lawsuit over records in Arkansas teens' 1987 deaths dismissed


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