Time to kill
When Heather’s bloated body washed up, three boys found themselves in deep water... TIME TO KILL Crime for your coffee break
Rivers of blood
When she saw the phone bill, Heather Rich’s mum was hopping mad. Her daughter had racked up over £200 nattering to her pals.
‘All you do is cost me money,’ Gail shouted, as Heather, 16, stomped upstairs to her room.
Heather was a good girl, really – she got decent grades at school. But, lately, she’d been difficult.
She’d even been suspended from the cheerleading team after turning up for practice drunk.
‘Teenage rebellion,’ sighed her long-suffering mum.
The next morning, she went in to wake Heather, but her daughter wasn’t there. Her bed hadn’t been slept in and the window was open.
She must have sneaked out, like she’d done a couple of times before.
When she didn’t turn up for school, Gail, 41, and Heather’s dad, Duane, called the police.
Heather’s little brother remembered her taking a call at 10pm, that night in October 1996.
Heather told him that it was from Carly, her best friend. But, when questioned, Carly said they hadn’t spoken.
‘I bet she was talking to Josh,’ Carly suggested.
‘Or maybe Randy.’
Heather had dumped Randy Wood to go out with his friend, Josh Bagwell.
She’d felt bad about it, so she still talked to her ex.
Randy, 17, was on the football team and had recently been voted homecoming king.
The night before, he’d been with Josh, who he was still friends with despite losing out to him in love.
They hung out in Josh’s den – a trailer in the garden of his rich grandparents’ house.
Their friend, Curtis Gambill, was there, too. He was 19, a bad boy with juvenile convictions.
But, that night, the boys were just drinking beer and playing dominoes together, said Randy.
They’d gone out to get some fast food about 10.30pm, but no, he hadn’t seen Heather. Josh, 17, and Curtis said the same thing.
Their close-knit town of Waurika, Oklahoma, formed search parties, while Heather’s family hoped against hope that she was OK.
Seven days later, a farmer and his granddaughter were crossing a bridge over the Red River in Montague, Texas, 40 miles away, when the old man said, ‘Look, that’s one of my calves.’
He pointed to something floating in the water.
‘No, Grandpa. I don’t think it is,’ his granddaughter replied.
The bloated body in the river belonged to Heather. She’d been blasted in the back and head nine times with a shotgun.
She had to be identified through dental records.
Responding to an appeal for information, the owner of a hardware store said he’d sold shotgun shells of the type that killed Heather to two young men, just before she’d disappeared.
The signatures on the receipt? Josh Bagwell and Curtis Gambill.
At first, Curtis told the police that the shells were for target practice. When he realised they didn’t believe him, he cut a deal.
He said they’d called Heather that night from a phone box, and when she turned up, her ex, Randy, raped her while he and Josh stood by.
Then Randy insisted that they murder her, so she couldn’t testify against them. But, when questioned, Randy said it was Curtis who’d killed Heather.
The truth of the matter lay somewhere in between…
Josh confessed that he and Heather had sex in the trailer while the other two boys went to get a takeaway.
When they came back, she had passed out, drunk, and they took turns to have sex with her. It was Curtis’s idea to bundle her into the truck, drive her to his childhood fishing spot, kill her and dump her in the river.
At Montague County Court, Texas, it was suggested that Curtis had fired the shots.
A former inmate from juvenile detention said Curtis confessed to a fantasy of raping a pretty girl and then shooting her dead.
After separate trials in 1997 and 1998, all three were found guilty of Heather’s murder under joint enterprise and sentenced to life in jail.
In 2002, Josh and Curtis escaped, after overpowering a guard with a makeshift knife.
But, after a week on the run, they handed themselves in after an armed stand-off with police outside a petrol station.
It’s of some comfort to Heather’s mum, Gail – though she’s forever tormented their last words were spoken in anger.
Heather’s body was found in the Red River Heather was just 16 when she was murdered Heather’s ex Randy was the homecoming king who killed Josh (above) and Curtis (left) tried to bust out of jail in 2002