The Tattooed Man
Perhaps as unsettling as the Bojangles incident is the account of a mysterious hitchhiker sometimes called "the tattooed man." Ken Govar was travelling east on I-40 when he picked up a hitchhiker on the road about 20 miles outside of Little Rock. The man said he was heading to Knoxville, Tennessee. He was described as intense, angry. Most unnerving to Govar was a large tattoo of a devil on the passenger's forearm. When they arrived in West Memphis at 3:30 pm, the hitchhiker insisted on being left there, even though Govar would have been able to take him further along the way to Knoxville. He asked to be let out at a convenience store on the south side of interstate. From the description, this store would either have been directly next to the Blue Beacon or further down next to 18th Street. Ken Govar gave an interview to the Little Rock Police and they made a sketch of the individual and the tattoo (above).
". . . on the forearm of his left arm, he had a 6" to 8" tattoo of a devil sitting on its haunches with three claws up on his hands and the face, looked like kinda dinosaur sitting there on his haunches, with the three claws up like this but he had the face of a traditional devil, like you would draw a devil with a pointed chin and you know the horns and everything. . . . It was horrible."
The police made a file with the sketches and the notes from Govar. He said was never contacted again by the West Memphis police.
In the door to door interviews, one woman described someone with a devil tattoo. She talked about the Wren twins, who at age 19, already had jail time and a prison break to their names. "The Wren boys have dropped out of sight last couple of days! A boy & girl have been in the neighborhood for the Wren boy's. This boy has a tattoo on his left forearm of a devil with a hood on! with scratches on chest! Jeff." (The exclamation marks were in the original police notes.) She went on to describe Jeff as a white male, 5'9, 180, 18 years of age with a yellow Monte Carlo.
The police interviewed a Jeff Looney, who in some ways fit this description. He knew the Wrens, having dated one of their sisters. His father had a "butterscotch" Fifth Avenue, a car that is large and boxy like a Monte Carlo. He was on the thin side of thin, 5'11 and 140. He had a job trimming bushes. He had a number of tattoos and his arms were photographed. However, none of the tattoos looked like a devil.
The sketch made by Govar looks like the suspect, William Welch. According to his intake form, Welch did have a Grim Reaper tattoo on his left arm and a rose and heart on his right. He was 5'10 and 160, but he could be better described as muscular rather than thin. His hair was sandy blonde.
Could either of these have been the tattooed man? The only explicit link in the West Memphis police files was Govar's sketch found its way into the jacket of another mysterious individual. On May the 6th, someone had taken a cab from Memphis to Centerville, Tennessee, 168 miles. Initially, he asked to go to a hotel near the airport and then asked to be driven to Nashville. He got out the cab in Centerville, Tennessee when the driver was refueling.
I contacted Ken Govar last year and sent him several photos to see if he could identify "the tattooed man." I sent him the photos at the time of the arrest of the convicted, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. Although none fit his description, I deemed it best to have him look them over. I sent him also Jeff Looney, William Welch and Tracy Laxton.
Tracy Laxton was brought in to the police because he had frightened several local teenagers (including Jessie Misskelley). Based on the fact that Tracy Laxton admitted to hitching rides and returning to town recently and the fact that he had red hair was 5'7 and 140 pounds he was included in the line-up, although his heavy facial hair probably excluded him. Govar responded that none of matched the person who he remembered and that the tattoo was a devil, not a grim reaper.
Correspondence with Ken Govar.
Line up sent to Govar (sketch not sent, included for comparison. Also sent was the pictures of the convicted.)
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill
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