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

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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

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