The Great Gummy Bear Heist - A True Story
Gummy Bears Identified an Otherwise Anonymous Criminal!
Everyone is entitled to a defense in this country, no matter how heinous the crime they are accused of, no matter how strong the evidence against them.
My late husband was an appellate attorney and handled the appeal for the man who committed the crime I am about to tell you about.
The interesting part of this crime is that without the heist of a package of Gummy Bears, this dangerous man would not have been identified as quickly -- or maybe not ever.
The facts of this case were taken from the court transcript of this man’s trial, which is a public document. Anyone can obtain a copy of a court transcript by requesting it from the court where the trial or appeal was heard. There is, of course, a fee for the copy.
Since my husband was handling the appeal for the man I am about to tell you about, he naturally had a copy of the transcript in his possession, and I as his wife and administrative assistant, had access to it. Nothing covered by attorney-client privilege is divulged in the following account of events.
This narrative is based on real events and real people, but names have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent.
It was a Saturday night and the dive Coy had just walked out of was jumping. It was only eleven o’clock or so, but he’d had enough excitement for one night and decided to go home and get some much needed sleep. He didn’t have a wife anymore. AmyLou had taken their two children and left because he couldn’t seem to hold a job or act responsibly about much of anything. He would go home to an empty room. Not an apartment, just a room.
Coy ambled to his pickup truck, weaving a bit along the way from too much alcohol. When he reached the old Chevy pickup, he had only just started to open the driver’s side door and raised his other hand with the keys in it, when suddenly there were two men, one on either side of him, grabbing him roughly, taking the keys from his hand and forcing him into the truck. Forcing him to move to the center of the seat while the guy who had grabbed his keys got in behind the steering wheel and the other man got in on the passenger side. He was sandwiched between them.
He felt something hard against his right temple. It was dark so he couldn’t see. Then the man on his right moved the hard object away from his temple for a few seconds and waved it around. He could see in the lights of the parking lot that it was a gun. It was soon pointed back at his right temple.
Things weren’t making much sense. He was drunk and tired. The men seemed to be arguing about where they were going to go. The man on his left had started the truck. The men were talking loud, but Coy’s muddled mind was having trouble concentrating on their words. He thought he should probably be worried since he didn’t know them or what they wanted, and they had a gun, but focusing on the situation was so hard. Coy just wanted to go to sleep. The truck started moving and their words became fewer, and seemed to fade away. He guessed they must have decided where they were going as he drifted into unconsciousness.
Time passed, but Coy didn’t notice. He was out. The truck made it’s way further and further into the West Texas high plains country where people were few and far between and the land was anything but welcoming. Mostly low brush and thin grasses with a lot of sand in between. Not an ideal environment for many living things. Rattle snakes, scorpions, and javelinas like it.
They drove for three, maybe four hours, before the truck finally stopped. It was still dark in the deepest part of the night. The driver of the truck left the motor running and the headlights on. There wasn’t another light anywhere to be seen. If there had been one it would have been seen, because the terrain was mainly flat with very little vegetation to block any light that might shine from a building.
West Texas Landscape
“This is the only place I’ve ever been where I was knee deep in mud while sand was blowing in my face at the same time.”
It wasn’t the desert. Lots of people think Texas is a big desert, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Texas is so big it has a little bit of pretty much everything in it somewhere. In the high plains region of West Texas there isn’t much of anything, but the desert has even less.
Once when the Gatlin Brothers were doing a show in Lubbock, Larry Gatlin quipped, “This is the only place I’ve ever been where I was knee deep in mud while sand was blowing in my face at the same time.”
Indeed, it sometimes rains mud in West Texas. That’s because a rainstorm comes up right in the middle of a sandstorm and gets all that sand wet while it’s blowing, and the added moisture makes the sand so heavy it falls to the ground with the rain.
Coy and his companions weren’t quite as far west as Lubbock, but they were out there literally in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere between Fort Worth and Lubbock and just a little North of both. Out literally in the middle of nowhere, with hardly any sign of human life for miles around -- the perfect place to hide an ugly deed.
The man with the gun grabbed Coy’s right arm, shook him, and started pulling on the arm while yelling at him to wake up. It was time to get out of the truck he said. Coy struggled to remember where he was and who the men were. He only vaguely remembered some guys hijacking his vehicle and forcing him to get into it and move center seat, and then there had been arguing and after that nothing. It all seemed like a long time ago.
Coy’s head was groggy as he clumsily slid over to the passenger side of the truck and got out. The man with the gun grabbed his right arm again and pushed him in the direction of the front of the truck. Coy tripped over some vegetation and fell. The man kicked him and called him an ugly name and then yelled at him to get up and move. He tried, but his foot got tangled in more vegetation. It was dark and he couldn’t see very well, and his head was still full of fog. He finally managed to stand up and then caught his foot still again, causing him to fly headlong in front of the truck. The lights were bright and they hurt his eyes. He closed them from the pain.
The man with the gun was swiftly beside him and grabbed him again to get him up off the ground, but not all the way. He ordered Coy onto his knees. Coy managed to right himself and get settled on his knees. The man then ordered him to hand over his wallet. Coy found his wallet in his left rear pocket and handed it over to the man waving the gun around.
Opening the wallet, the man found only a five-dollar bill and a couple of singles. Not much for all the effort that had been expended so far to get it. Angry there was so little cash in the wallet, the man pointed the gun at Coy and pulled the trigger. He hadn’t bothered to aim very well and the bullet entered Coy’s right thigh. Coy howled with pain and fell over onto the ground where the man kicked Coy in the ribs several times.
Every time the man kicked Coy he seemed to make himself angrier. He got down and straddled Coy and pistol-whipped him several times. Afterward Coy’s nose was broken and he had a huge gouge on the side of his face near his eye. One more blow and his eye would have been gouged out. Three of his teeth had been broken as well. Next the man stood up and walked to the truck and sat down. He was out of breath between so much physical exertion and being so angry he could hardly think. Thinking had never been one of his stronger abilities under any circumstances.
Walking over to the man with the gun, the man who had driven the truck said he thought they might as well go back. No reason to hang around out in the middle of nowhere.
Grunting a response, the man with the gun said he’d be ready to go back in just a couple of minutes, and then he walked back around to the front of the truck where he kicked Coy again, and again -- in the ribs, in the head, and even in the crotch. Finally he took his gun and aimed it at Coy’s head and pulled the trigger. Coy had been groaning in pain, but stopped and lay still, unconscious, but not dead. The bullet had entered his skull just above one eye and had exited the back of his head.
More West Texas Landscapes
The two men got back into the truck, turned it around, and drove off, leaving Coy for dead.
The two men got back into the truck, turned it around, and drove off, leaving Coy for dead. A few hours later they arrived back at the roadhouse where they had picked Coy up, and ditched his truck there with the keys still in it. It had already been light for several hours and they wanted to be a long way down the road before anyone started wondering where Coy had disappeared to. They got back into the vehicle they had originally arrived in and left.
About 34 hours or so after Coy had been left for dead, a man hauling some garbage out to a dumpsite came across Coy. It was late morning. Coy was in terrible shape, still unconscious, but alive. He had a pulse. The man called for help and Coy was taken to the closest hospital, which wasn’t very close at all, and his many injuries and wounds were tended to. The bullet was recovered from his leg and with much effort; investigators found the bullet that went through Coy’s skull into the dirt where it remained until police dug it out after several hours of searching.
Coy wasn’t much help to investigators trying to piece together what had happened to him. Shot twice and left for dead out in the wilderness where he surely would have died a slow, agonizing death, had the man hauling the garbage not happened along. Police seriously wanted the person or persons who had committed such a vicious crime. They didn’t like the idea of someone who would do such a thing to another human being for no obvious reason left loose to leave a string of Coy’s all across Texas.
Investigators found Coy’s wallet lying several feet from where Coy had been laying. The wallet had Coy’s driver’s license and a few other things still in it, but no credit cards or cash. The police figured there probably hadn’t been any credit cards from the look of things. Coy looked pretty scraggly, and not the sort who would qualify for a credit card, but there might have been some cash. They allowed that there may have been other reasons for what had happened to Coy, but it looked like a robbery to them for starters. Coy’s truck was eventually discovered at the roadhouse and so police figured that was probably where he had been abducted.
When Coy was finally conscious he had very little memory of what had happened to him and he didn’t remember anything about the men or even how many of them there had been. Police determined there had been at least two men from the footprints in the dirt near where Coy had been discovered. There were some smudged fingerprints on the wallet that weren’t very useful, and basically no evidence to go on at the time. They would have to hope for a lucky break of some kind.
Several months passed with no leads regarding who could have carried out such a heinous act. Coy recovered as much as he could, but would never be completely well again. It had taken months for his broken ribs to heal, and plastic surgery had been necessary to prevent his eye from falling out of its socket. He had never been anyone’s idea of a genius, but after his cruel beating that resulted in serious head injuries, and being shot in the head besides, he would never be anyone’s definition of normal. He had to learn how to talk, and even who he was, all over again.
An Attractive Woman Unintentionally Helps Solve the Crime
Then one late night in the wee hours, a very attractive woman in her early thirties was shopping in a well-known grocery store in a medium sized town in Texas. It was pretty slow because of the hour and the night shift stock boys and other night workers didn’t have a lot to do. One of them spied this “hottie” on a security monitor and alerted the other guys to her presence. They all huddled around the monitor watching her every move as she walked up one isle and then down another, filling her grocery cart.
When it was time to check out, she put everything on the conveyor belt except one item that she kept hidden under her purse in the little basket at the front of the shopping cart. Several of the nightshift guys and security detail had noticed when she had put that item under her purse. They had scrutinized every detail about her, what she did, and how she did it. They all knew the item was there under her purse. They noted that she didn’t put it on the conveyor to be scanned by the checker, as she did all the other items from her shopping cart.
When the total for the groceries and other items was presented and the woman had paid the bill, several of the young men watching the monitors had already moved downstairs from the monitoring room to get a closer look before she left. Also, they wanted to be close enough to intercept her on her way through the exit just in case she tried to slip out without paying for the item under her purse, as they suspected she might try to do. Several of the young men started following the woman to the door once it was clear she had not paid for the item under her purse. The night shift guys from all over the store raced to the front entry of the store to participate in apprehending this woman.
Once the woman was through the automatic doors, all the store security agents and the stock boys surrounded her. There must have been at least twenty of them, and they stopped her from leaving because she had just shoplifted an item hidden under her purse. That item was a bag of Gummy Bears priced at about $2.95 at that time. For some reason the woman had felt compelled not to pay for them.
Someone still inside the store called the police who were on their way while outside the young men continued to surround the woman who had tried to steal the Gummy Bears, preventing her from leaving.
From his pickup truck where he had been waiting, the woman’s husband observed all the commotion. He took note of all the young men who were surrounding his wife and preventing her from leaving or bringing her purchases to the pickup truck to load them in, and he naturally wondered why they were doing such a thing. He was angered that these young men were preventing his wife from leaving, and that they were surrounding her as they were. He didn’t know why they were doing that, but his anger was getting the better of him, because they dared to treat his wife in such a way. They were all wearing shirts or vests with the store insignia, so he knew they were workers from inside the store, but he still didn’t trust them. Why were they hassling his wife?
The woman’s husband reached under the driver’s side seat of the pickup and pulled out a gun. He then got out of the truck and walked the fifty feet or so to where all the young men were surrounding his wife and waved the gun at them as he ordered them to release her. He discharged the gun a couple of times in their direction, inflicting minor wounds on two of the young men. Several of the young men then jumped him and wrestled the gun away as the police were arriving.
Both the woman and her husband were arrested. She for shoplifting a bag of Gummy Bears, and him for attempted murder since he had discharged his gun and injured two young men. In addition, he didn’t have a permit to carry a concealed weapon and the gun was not registered properly. In fact, it wasn’t registered to him at all.
A few days later it was discovered that the bullets recovered from Coy’s leg and the dirt near where he’d been left for dead matched the gun used at the grocery store! The man who had beaten Coy so viciously was caught because that man’s wife tried to steal a three-dollar bag of Gummy Bears. Of course the man’s accomplice, the man who had driven Coy’s truck the night they all went out into the wilderness where Coy was left for dead, was soon discovered as well.
The man might still not have been discovered if it were not for his quick temper that so easily got away from him. Had he not used the gun to try to free his wife, he might still be walking free himself.
While the name and some of the details of this case have been changed, it is based on a true story. Only information that is on public record is included in this story. The case was indeed solved because of a bag of Gummy Bears. The angry man will have many years to learn to control his temper – if he doesn’t get stabbed with a shiv during his stay in prison. He was spared the death penalty because Coy survived, but he did receive life in prison.
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