Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> No wonder Lonoke jail so popular

BY GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader publisher

No wonder the Lonoke jail is always overcrowded. There’s a party atmosphere over there, according to Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain, who accuses the police chief and his wife of serving up more than just baked beans and day-old bread for the prisoners.

McCastlain accuses Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly of handing out alcohol and drugs to inmates, while Mrs. Campbell is also charged with having sex with prisoners.

There’s so much fun in the Big House, why should inmates leave when their sentences are up?

Remember, too, the rent’s free. No wonder the place is overcrowded: Everyone wants to get in since they found out what’s really going on over there. It’s party time.

With all that liquor and dope that are part of the daily diet at the Lonoke jail, not to mention the sexual favors that are available for the asking, the jail is more like a frat house or a seedy motel, McCastlain’s indictment suggests. It looks like they have it pretty good at the jail.

Free booze and dope and sex, and the next thing you know, people will pay to go to jail. That would be a good way to fund a new facility, since the old one has long been considered substandard. If McCastlain’s indictment is to be believed, they have no standards at the jail.

Did we mention that Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett stands accu-sed of using inmates to do work around his house? Small stuff when compared to the charges against his police chief and his Mrs., but the mayor looked all shook up after he was booked at the city jail. You would have thought Prosecutor McCastlain was charging him with serial murder, animal cruelty and drinking on the job, instead of just using prisoners to put up his Christmas lights at his house, which a lot of mayors consider one of the perks of holding office.

It’s a mess, I know, but the story gets even more complicated. We’ve heard from Linda Ives again. She has accused Campbell, when he was with the State Police, of being responsible for the death of her son Kevin, who died under mysterious circumstances on some railroad tracks near Benton, along with another boy, back in 1987.

She’s been leading a campaign against Campbell and former Saline County Prosecutor Dan Harmon for years, but we haven’t heard from her in a long time. Both have dismissed her allegations, although Harmon served time on drug and corruption charges.

Ives sent us this e-mail on Tuesday with the heading “I told you so:”

“Years ago, long before he was convicted and sent to prison, I tried to tell the media and the public about Dan Harmon. Everyone in the media pretty much wrote me off as a conspiracy nut. But I was right.

“I tried to tell you and the citizens of Lonoke about Jay Campbell, and you did the same thing — pretty much called me a nut case. Well, time has proven me right again.

“But the things that have been exposed are only the tip of the iceberg — the least of which Campbell and Harmon are guilty of. I am certain in my own mind that both of them are involved in the murder of my son, Kevin Ives. Perhaps someday I can tell you ‘I told you so again.’

“I just hope that Lonoke County doesn’t start raining dead bodies first.”

She should contact Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld if she has serious evidence against Campbell and Harmon.

Herzfeld met with Ives three years ago when he was elected prosecutor, but he doesn’t think he can reopen the case now. He says several grand juries have looked into the deaths and have come up empty.

“I would like nothing better than to solve the boys on the tracks case,” Herzfeld, who is running for attorney general, told us Tuesday. “Unfortunately, without a major break, such as a confession or murder weapon, I don’t see how that would be possible at this point.”