1977, June 13, 1pm, my son was born. Michael Charles Sawyer. 7 lbs, 1 oz, 20 ½ in.
1999, June 13—actually late that night/early morning June 14, 22 years and a matter of hours later, his life was brutally taken. Once a 140 pound healthy young man, full of life, with a future to look forward to. Now 6 ½ pounds of inanimate gray ash confined to a canister.
Why? Because he finally learned to save money toward a goal? For the first time in his life, he had saved more than a couple hundred dollars, nearly $1,000 over the past 3 months to buy a car. He had bummed rides, taken taxis, and walked to work since before spring break. He worked sometimes 13 hours per day to earn his money to buy food, pay his rent, and take care of other expenses … and to save towards a vehicle of his own. And these three criminals, one driving his own vehicle, decided that they wanted Mike’s money.
For the last 4 months since Mike’s murder, and for the rest of my life, I will be burdened by incomprehensible grief. My sleep is delayed each night, and often interrupted, by thoughts of Mike’s last hour of life. During my drive to and from work I can only imagine the confusion, the fear, and the pain he must have suffered. I’m reminded again when I see children walking home from school, as Mike did so many times himself not too long ago. Around our house, his room, his belongings, his pictures, things he liked to do, things we did together, ALL these and so many other "triggers", bring back the memory that he is no longer alive. Not just "dead," but physically tortured, beaten, kicked, cut up, and stabbed, by three "friends," acting like a pack of wild dogs. Then, as he tried to crawl away, he was kicked and stabbed again—by these 3 self-confessed murderers, for the sole purpose of getting a code number so they could take his money out of the ATM machine.
To those of you who are parents, you may understand my feelings of helplessness and frustration. Our parental duty is to feed, shelter, and protect our children; to alleviate their fears, and prepare them for their futures. I was unable to protect my youngest son from harm. Although I tried to teach him to avoid dangerous situations, and to critically evaluate the company he kept, Mike chose to live his own life and trust every one. I’ve been told that one of his murderers had been a "guest" in Mike’s room. Shelter offered, while an unfortunate acquaintance awaited the start of a new job. Herbert Langford and 2 of Langford’s friends who Mike invited to share in celebrating his 22nd birthday, chose to thank Mike by robbing him, then taking him out to torture and kill him.
Despite a fleeting $1,000 balance in his bank account, Mike was not rich. He had few possessions. Nor did he have a promising future. He had a low-normal IQ, and struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder. The highlight of his life was his graduation from High School. There were many times we thought that he’d never make it, but he did, and I never saw him so proud as the day the principal handed Mike his diploma! "Michael Charles Sawyer." We applauded as we never had before.
Born at Tyndall Air Force Base, Mike attended Parker Elementary, Evrett Middle School, and Rutherford High before we moved to New Mexico. Despite my Air Force career, Mike spent half his life here in Panama City before he came back on his own. He worked a number of jobs on Panama City Beach, mainly at Mango Beachwear, over the last three "beach seasons"—before Spring Break until near Thanksgiving. He chose to live here despite my misgivings.
You three will never understand what you’ve taken away from my family and me, and I don’t care that you won’t. I do hope that you fully understand what you have to look forward to for the rest of YOUR lives.
Before the Judge passes sentence, I’d like to review this crime one last time, which I’ve reconstructed using the words of the participants themselves:
Langford: Mike said I can crash over there for a few days till I get my shit straight because I had a job, one I had to start on Monday.
Duffield: Sunday was his birthday, I guess, that’s what he said and we went over to drink some beer with him…I’d say around 10 o’clock.
(Duffield and Turner leave. Mike and Langford are alone with a female acquaintance. While Mike is indisposed, Langford takes the money and ATM card out of Mike’s wallet.)
Duffield: ... we probably was gone probably about a hour and a half. … When we went back … Herbert was saying he was gonna’ kill him …
(The girl is gone. Mike is furious when he finds his money missing, and Langford accuses the girl of having robbed him. Sometime after midnight, the trio lure Mike into their truck under the pretense of going after the girl to get his money.)
Duffield: he just thought that we were going to get Sassy to get his money back.
(In a remote area north of town, they stop—Mike having fallen asleep from drinking too much.)
Turner: the next thing I know is Tom Tom (Langford) grabbed Mike by the head and went to pull him out the truck and just started beatin’ him up.
Duffield: … I parked and that’s when he (Langford) opened the door and pulled him out and he didn’t even have a chance because, I mean, he was half asleep, you know. Mike was like, "What are you doing?" and he’s just like, "what’s your PIN number" and then when he (Mike) said, he (Langford) hit him, and then he kept on hittin’ him.
Duffield: Uh, he (Langford) was asking him for the PIN number and he’s like "tell me and if you don’t I’ll break your finger " and so he didn’t say anything so he broke the first pinky and then he didn’t say it, he kept on lying about the numbers. Every time he would holler, that’s when we either hit him or Tommy would kick him. He (Langford) broke some fingers, and then broke his arm by twisting it around … that’s when he hollered the most.
Turner: They kept beatin’ him up, John didn’t touch his fingers, he just kept punching him and kicking him, Tom Tom broke his fingers.
Duffield: Tommy (Turner) kicked him a couple of times. That was direct in the face. That’s why his (Turner’s) ankle’s hurting, you know.
Duffield: Herbert (Langford) pulled the knife out of his pocket and held it to his throat and said, "what’s the number?" and he (Mike) still lied about it so he (Langford) put a little bit more pressure, and so I went to the truck and was looking in his wallet, and took everything out of his wallet.
Turner: once they thought that they had a positive number, Tom Tom had him on the ground and stuck him in the neck with a knife, and then on the other side, stuck him in the neck again, and then started stabbin’ ‘em a whole shitload of times.
Duffield: Tom Tom comes up the window and says, "I just cut his throat." I got out of the truck and walked up there, and all I could hear was gaggling, you know, on his own blood.
Turner: he kept trying to get away from ‘em and they kept on stabbing him … the boy started moving and they kept kicking him and stabbin’ him in the back … Mike tried crawling away even though he was gonna’ die and they kept kicking him and John kept sticking him in the back a whole bunch of times.
Duffield: all you could hear was his gargling on his blood, he was trying to breathe and kept trying to get on his hands and knees and just try to get away. That’s when Tommy ran up and kicked him in the ribs and it made him flip over ‘cause he hit him so hard, you know. And then they stabbed him in the chest area or stomach area, I believe.
I think you now have the picture, the vision I go to sleep with every night, and think about often during the day and night.
Dragged by the feet, leaving a trail of blood. We personally saw it in the impression his head left in the sand as they dragged him, and left him deep in the woods, for animals and insects to feed on.
We were not allowed to view Mike’s body, to stroke his hair, touch his cheek, or kiss him good bye one last time. The results of your handy-work were too grotesque. I’d like you to visualize how you left Mike and take that picture with you to prison. A few quotes from the medical examiner’s report:
There are early putrefactive changes of the body with light green discoloration of the left side of the face, the neck, and the upper portion of the chest. There is light green discoloration of the right and left lower quadrants of the abdomen. There are numerous small maggots in the eyes, nose, mouth, ears and chin and in some of the sharp force injuries described below.
#4 under head: There is hemorrhage into the left temporalis muscle. There is heavy maggot infestation of the overlying scalp.
#3 under extremities: The joints of the fingers of the hands have palpable dislocations of the base of the right and left thumbs, and the left little finger, and the middle joint of the left 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers and the right 2nd and 3rd fingers—(that’s all 5 on the right and 3 on the left)
Paraphrasing, Under Sharp Force Injuries, Head and Neck:
Paraphrasing, again, from Sharp Force Injuries, Torso:
Many other bruises and abrasions.
And, from the medical examiner’s report, I know that Mike’s heart weighed 270 grams, expected to be between 229 to 399 grams.
In closing, I’d like to say that a sentence of death would have been too civilized to be called justice in this case, and I thank you for prolonging your pathetic lives. Perhaps there will be justice in prison? In prison, the criminals have little fear of retribution, especially if they are already serving life sentences. I’ve been told there is a "code of ethics" among criminals. For example, a local building contractor where we live in New Mexico, was convicted of child molestation, and sentenced to prison. His fellow inmates felt "prison time" was not punishment enough, to their thinking, so the smeared him with Vaseline and set him on fire. I hope something equally as painful, or worse, faces YOU three, and I hope it happens over and over and over again, for the rest of your lives.
I wish you a terrifying and painful existence in prison, and a timely agonizing death, at which time you can burn in Hell for eternity.