Arkansas Teen Death
Documentary Maker
Must Pay $600,000
By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wild rumors have swirled through Arkansas for the past 12 years about the mysterious deaths of two teenagers, 17-year-old Kevin Ives and 16-year-old Don Henry, on the railroad tracks in rural Saline County in 1987.
Initially, the boys' deaths were said to be due to a marijuana-induced sleep. Later, a grand jury overturned that finding, and out-of-state pathologists determined that the deaths were in fact homicides.
At that point, controversial film producer Patrick Matrisciana entered the scene. Matrisciana, from Hemet, Calif., is best-known for his 1994 conspiratorial "documentary" <news/1998/03/cov_11news.html"The Clinton Chronicles," a mail-order film that's an underground bestseller on the <news/special/clinton/whitewater.htmlClinton-hating extreme right.
Matrisciana's resulting 1996 film on the railroad mystery, "Obstruction of Justice: The Mena Connection," alleged that the teenagers were killed after they accidentally witnessed a clandestine drug deal in which top state officials were involved.
The film asserted that the boys' bodies were laid on the tracks so a train would run over them and destroy evidence. It further alleged that two veteran sheriff's deputies, Jay Campbell and Kirk Lane, were the boys' murderers, and that the crimes were covered up with the help of state and federal prosecutors and -- naturally -- then-Gov. Bill Clinton.
But last week, an Arkansas jury ruled that Matrisciana's film had demonstrated "reckless disregard for the truth" and had libeled deputies Campbell and Lane. The jury awarded the two sheriff's officers nearly $600,000 in damages.
In so doing, the jury rejected Matrisciana's contention throughout the trial that he could not be held responsible for any libel because he gave full editorial control over the film to Linda Ives, the mother of one of the boys, and Jean Duffy, a former Saline County deputy prosecutor.
The unsolved mystery of the train deaths has attracted national media interest over the years, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. In 1996, the Journal's Micah Morrison wrote "The Lonely Crusade of Linda Ives," an article flowing with conspiracy theories.
"It adds some credibility to a story when something as widely known as the Wall Street Journal prints the story," noted Jay Campbell, one of the deputies vindicated by the libel ruling.
The conservative Arkansas Democrat-Gazette heavily criticized the Journal at the time for its inability to decipher fiction from truth. "There is apparently no old story, discredited piece of gossip or wild rumor that the Journal won't take seriously so long as its subject is Arkansas," the paper editorialized.
(The Journal's Morrison did not return calls for this story.)
Meanwhile, the recent libel trial brought out some new evidence about who may have been behind the boys' deaths, including indications that they may indeed have been killed for witnessing a drug deal of some sort.