In today’s lightning fast news cycle it is rare for a story to last longer than a few days. But the longevity of the case of Debra Sue Carter, the young Ada woman brutally murdered here over two decades ago, is just one in a long list of odd facts about it.

Debra Sue’s body was discovered in her ransacked Eighth Street apartment Dec. 8, 1982. Eventually convicted of the crime were Dennis Fritz, a schoolteacher, and Ron Williamson, a local star athlete who briefly made it to baseball’s big leagues.

Fritz was sentenced to life in prison, Williamson to death row. Both were exonerated due to the new science of DNA testing, which proved hair and semen left behind by the killer belonged to neither of the accused.

The court eventually decided the actual culprit, whose DNA did match the crime scene, was Glen Gore, a witness in the original trial. Gore was already in prison for other crimes. Case closed.

Well, not quite.

Last August Gore was granted a new trial (which starts here Monday) in which he hopes to overturn his conviction. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal appeals ruled that because Gore was not allowed to submit evidence to provide Williamson as an alternate suspect in the murder, he was denied a fair trial.

Williamson died in December 2004 at the age of 51 and his obituary in The New York Times caught the eye of John Grisham, prolific author of legal mystery novels. Grisham visited the Ada Evening News last year to research Williamson’s story for his first attempt at writing a non-fiction book.

Grisham said, like Williamson, he once aspired to a career in professional baseball. It was a sort of dark fascination to him that a guy who held so much promise could end up going to jail for a crime he presumably didn’t commit, be exonerated, and then tragically die of cirrhosis of the liver at a relatively young age.

Ada’s (and possibly the world’s) greatest John Grisham fan is Alba Little. She has read ALL his books and, having heard Grisham was writing this book, jawboned me well before she finally showed up here to let her meet him if he ever did visit.

With Grisham’s permission, I called Alba and told her she needed to come to the newspaper to meet someone.

“I’m not ready to go out for the day yet, Lone’,” she said plaintively. “Who is it?”

Grisham motioned for me to give him the phone. “Alba, he said forcefully into the receiver, this is John Grisham, and I understand you’re my biggest fan.”

Alba’s subsequent scream could be heard by anyone standing in a four-block area. She arrived approximately four minutes later, breathless.

He agreed to autograph all her Grisham novels. They have been mailed and we await their return. Though we feel sure he will send them soon, at least for Alba, this exciting part of the story also still continues.

This Week's Circulars