Todd Sheppard had been beaten, tortured and left to die in the woods south of Park Crossing, not too far from James W. Wilson Elementary. He was taken to Jackson Hospital where he spent six days in a coma due to his severe head injuries. He was found by a man out walking his dog.
Todd could have died but doctors said he was anesthetized by the amount of alcohol in his system. It seemed the excessive number of kamikaze shots had numbed and slowed his heart rate enough to keep him alive.
Sam had managed to hitch a ride to Marathon Gas and report the crime. He too was taken to Jackson hospital for stitches and observation regarding the possible concussion to his head. He was cleared a few hours later but obliged to answer police questions.
At that point, Todd had yet to be located.
Sam had called Sofia to explain what happened and ask her to pray for Todd.
Sam was escorted to the station by police cruiser. He gave police an eyewitness account of the events he could remember. The deputy sheriff went to great lengths trying to comprehend the connection between he and Todd. Police were dumbfounded how the klan attack left a black man relatively unharmed, while near killing an upstanding professional white male, albeit a homosexual man.
“Where is Todd?” Sam asked.
“He’s been found barely alive. They’ve got him in ICU. We’ll let you know,” the officer said.
Sam’s testimony included dialogue between him and the assailants, “Naw, we got lots of you before,” and “We need to teach this fruit a lesson.”
The deputy sheriff said, they had whacked Sam in the back of the head with a spade shovel, that was found lying on the trail next to the family picnic spot.
Sofia called back to report she had turned her ladies card game into a prayer circle, which may well have worked since Todd was found alive.
Later resting at home, with tea and a blanket Sam was calm instead of the blithering mess he’d been when Eunice first picked him up.
She sat with him watching TV coverage. The story quickly went national due to the nature of the crime. There had been gay bashings and there had been a history of lynching’s past and present but never before had they been rolled into one. The questions raised put Alabama and the southern states on the defensive.
The media characterized the South as being backwards with countless examples pulled from its checkered past, thus stirring up memories of prior lynching’s.
The status quo had thought crimes like these had been a thing of the past. Montgomery swiftly and fiercely became a poster child, for an America living in the dark ages regarding race discrimination.
What are you guys doing about your hate problem down there?
He watched how riled up Eunice got, “Sam you’ll see. I’ll get the posse gang on board pretty quick.” She was near foaming at the mouth, as she watched the news.
Sam was too tired, to respond in detail but his love for her was set for life. Even though she was cold and neglectful, she was also this magical superwoman from another planet.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper, showed up with his team to report live from the trail entrance on Taylor Road. Vans with satellite dishes, camera equipment and tons of crew milled around, juxtaposed against the wall of beautiful Longleaf Pines.
The spotlight on infamous lynching’s, from the past generated necessary conversations. CNN started doing nightly segments linking Todd Sheppard’s attack to a history of discrimination.
CNN News: History of Violence
“I’m Anderson Cooper, reporting live from Montgomery Alabama. Tonight Todd Sheppard, 27 years old from an affluent American family was purposely degraded, simply for being gay. Roll the tape.”
Footage showed scenes of the hiking trail on Taylor Road, the field where Sheppard was found and Todd’s mother Louise Sheppard saying, ‘This simply cannot be. Not in Pike Road!’
“As we await details in the Sheppard case we delve into America’s past. First to define lynching:
Lynching is not simply a hanging but a method of utter degradation. To hurt someone by capturing, torturing and executing in a public way aimed as a warning to those witness to it. (9)
“Of course this is not the first time. What can only be deemed the most notorious crime of this type was the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till a 14-year old visiting Mississippi from the North.
He was killed for allegedly having wolf-whistled at a white woman. Till was so badly beaten, one of his eyes was gouged out. He was shot in the head before being thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His body weighed down with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. (10)
“Till’s mother courageously insisted her son have an open casket at his funeral, to show how badly his face and body had been disfigured. The images stunned the world reaching people through print and television in communities where they hadn’t known about America’s race problem.”
Footage shows unidentified man’s commentary.
“The south had a sportsman’s penchant for it ever since slave days, mixed breeding, and accusations of seducing white women. It was the preferred lesson used by the sheet disguised klan.”