Freed to Kill

[Freed to Kill]

[Garrett County Press]

Excerpt from
Freed to Kill
by Gera-Lind Kolarik with Wayne Klatt


Thursday, August 3, 1978
Terre Haute, Indiana

Some people thrive in the quiet of the night, with the whisper of tires mile after mile, the artificial lights sweeping across the windshield. The world is smaller; everything is less confused. You can feel more of a person.

Larry Eyler brought his restlessness with him along the highways. Now he was heading for Terre Haute in his cluttered maroon-and-white pickup truck, looking from side to side along a row of aging bungalows on 7th Street at two in the morning. There under the glow of a street light was a young man with his thumb out. Larry, his butcher knife stowed in the clutter behind his legs, pulled to a stop.

"I'm just going to Voorhees Street," the hitchhiker told him as he climbed in.

Mark Henry was a slender young man with a pitted face and the muscles of a Marine even though he had been discharged the year before. He kept in shape doing carpentry work for his father, but he didn't like walking when he could just as easily ride. Besides, hitchhiking was friendlier.

The driver was a few inches taller than Mark, with a small mustache distinguishing his round baby face. Larry liked wearing T-shirts to show off the muscles he built up in gyms, and he wore a baseball cap even on sultry nights like this to cover where his hair was thinning toward the front.

As his truck approached a stoplight near the neon lights of the fast food strip, Larry motioned toward a ditch off the road and in his soft voice asked, "Why don't you come down here with me?" Mark had no intention of doing that. He reached for the door handle, but Larry pulled out the knife. The hitchhiker found himself staring at an eight-inch blade.

The light turned green, and the Chevrolet pickup shot through the intersection. The truck was reaching fifty miles an hour now, passing the Terre Haute Regional Hospital just off the four-lane highway. Larry still held the knife at Mark's shirt, and his blank expression gave the hitchhiker no hint of what might happen next.

The tires screamed as Larry turned sharply onto a dark road, throwing Mark against his arm. The truck skidded into another turn, heading north on a gravel road. It bounded across some railroad tracks, stirring up gravel dust in front of its headlights. Another skidding turn took them to a road used just for farm machinery. As they bounced over the ground, Larry never let go of the knife.

"I don't have any money," Mark said, his throat feeling like dry clay.

"It's not your money I want," Larry told him. "I'm not after your money." They had reached a grassy clearing against a small hill. Larry slowed to a stop and turned off the engine, then lowered the knife to Mark's side. "Just cooperate with me and you won't get hurt," he said. He ordered the hitchhiker to get out and take off his shirt.

Under the moonlight, Mark fumbled at the buttons of his short sleeved shirt. As he was pulling it off, a handcuff snapped around his wrist. The ex-Marine jerked his hand away and asked, "What are you doing?"

"Hold still," Larry answered, "and don't move."

Larry brought Mark's arm behind him and handcuffed the other wrist, then ordered him to climb into the back of the pickup. The young man moved awkwardly and couldn't make it over the bumper. Larry grabbed Mark's legs and pushed him into the truck bed.

Next he ordered Mark to lie on the cot, a thin mattress on an aluminum frame. Larry did not speak as he reached for Mark's belt and unbuckled it. He removed the man's jeans and boots slowly.

Larry waved off mosquitoes and ordered Mark to lie facedown on the plastic-covered mattress. Then he tied both ankles with clothesline, using a knot to separate the legs and to make it harder for Mark to get them loose. The young man strained to look over his shoulder and saw that Larry was naked now. This couldn't be just a sadomasochistic act. That's when two people are partners in a fantasy. Mark realized the danger he was facing, and he had to wait until the right moment.

Larry was stroking Mark's body lovingly with the flat of the wide knife blade in a ritual of the dark. Mark twisted and rolled to his knees, startling Larry as if waking him in mid dream. The ex-Marine pushed his way over the wheel well in the back of the truck and flipped backward to the ground.

Larry shouted for him to come back, but Mark kept hobbling along the dirt and grass as his ankles worked against the knots. The rope was loosening, giving him a chance to try reaching the utter darkness of the woods.

Mark was nearing the fringe of elm trees as he felt Larry's running-breath on his naked back. Still handcuffed and with the rope around his ankles, Mark turned around and screamed into Larry's blank face, "You fucking queer!"

The butcher knife plunged into his chest. "Oh, Jesus," Mark gasped, staggering and bewildered. He dropped hard to the ground, and Larry stood over him, the blood dripping from the blade. Larry seemed at a loss for what to do now, how to act outside his dreamworld.

Mark could feel his chest sucking air and knew his lung was punctured. Play dead, he thought. He closed his eyes, and Larry stayed above him with the power to kill. But he didn't. His eyes still closed, Mark heard him walk away.

Lying in pretended death, Mark knew he wouldn't be able to get far unless he found a way to close the wound. Every step he took would make him weaker from loss of blood. He had to get his hands in front of him. Mark pushed his buttocks against his handcuffed wrists, then he pressed his knees against the midline slice through his chest, smearing his body with blood. He forced his wrists around his feet even though for a moment he felt that he might blank out. Once his hands were in front of him, he yanked the rope off one of his ankles. Next he used fingertips, wrists, and even the cold metal of the handcuffs to press two waves of skin against the spurting wound. Then he began searching for help.

Mark reached the gravel road that ran along a field. The stones bit into his naked feet. He ran across the railroad tracks and reached the blacktop, still trying to close the three-inch cut. The young man staggered along the road and made out a faint light in a railroad shanty. He cried out but was too far away for anyone to hear.

Next Mark stumbled toward the lights of a trailer camp just past the railroad tracks. He reached the top step of a trailer but didn't want to lose more blood by taking his hands away from the wound to knock. "Help, I'm hurt bad!" he shouted. He could hear voices from inside, but no one opened the door. He pounded on it with the back of his head.

"Give me a rag, anything, just to stop the bleeding," he called out faintly. Too weak to stand, he slid down the steps and fell to the patio. With the pressure of his manacled hands compressing the throbbing wound, he lay on the concrete and screamed.

Amid the sirens and flashing lights Mark looked up, barely conscious, and saw the face of a sheriff's deputy over him. The man went away and came back with a first aid kit. The deputy covered Mark's nakedness with a thin blanket, which soon became soaked in blood.

"Keep talking," the deputy yelled, moving the top of the blanket to keep the wound open. "Don't go to sleep." Mark wanted sleep; then it would be over. . . . "Stay conscious," the deputy shouted. "Wake up!"

The deputy, Kevin Artz, put his hand over the slice in Mark's chest and called for a towel. The trailer owner gave him one, and Artz was able to staunch the bleeding. By then people from the camp were crowding around, getting in the way of police and an ambulance crew.

One of the men from the trailers pressed his way forward. Artz was about to tell him to step back, that this was an emergency, when he saw that the man was holding a small key. "A boy came to my door and said he stabbed somebody," the man told him.

"He says I should give this to you. It's for the handcuffs."

"What?" Artz asked in disbelief.

"We went back to help him, but we couldn't find him."

"Where's this boy?" Artz asked.

The man gestured toward the pickup truck that had just pulled up behind one of the police cars. A Vigo County sheriff's sergeant arrested Larry while Artz accompanied Mark on the ambulance ride to Regional Hospital.

Mark was moved from the stretcher to an emergency room table. A doctor in hospital green and a surgical mask placed an oxygen mask over Mark's nose and mouth; then he applied a compress to stop the bleeding. The butcher knife had cut through the right side of his chest between the fifth and seventh ribs.

Mark was unaware that from his shoulders down his body was covered in blood until the doctor told the nurse to clean him up for surgery. The nurse removed the rope tied to his left ankle. In a moment, she brought a suture table and started an IV. The surgeon used up swab after swab as he lifted blood from around the wound.

Police at the trailer park did not know just what had happened, but Eyler seemed willing to give them a statement when they brought him to the station. They seized his messy truck and in it found a security guard's badge, the kind you can buy in town. There were also a hunting knife, a metal-tipped whip, a butcher knife, a sword in a green velvet case, another pair of handcuffs, a knife with a folding blade, and a container of paralyzing tear gas.

In the hospital, the surgeon worked under a fixed magnifying lens to close Mark's wound with a dozen sutures on the lung and twenty-four on the inner and surrounding tissues. Afterward he inserted a tube that drained the blood that had accumulated in the lung, and he assured Mark that he would be all right.

Mark was in the intensive care unit when Larry was brought into Vigo County Superior Court, where a judge set his bond at fifty thousand dollars. Larry returned the following day, and the judge lowered the amount to ten thousand dollars. A friend came up with the thousand dollars in cash necessary to release him. Larry could always count on his friends.

Mark was released from the hospital a week later and was ready to testify on August 23 about his night of terror. But Larry's lawyer met him in a corridor of the courthouse in downtown Terre Haute and offered him a check for twenty-five hundred dollars, ostensibly for hospitalization and work-time lost.

When the lawyers reported to their client that Mark had accepted and agreed not to pursue charges, Larry changed his plea from guilty to innocent of aggravated battery. On November 13th, Judge Harold Bitzegaio dismissed the charge "with prejudice" and ordered Larry to pay $43 for court costs. This would not be the last time Larry would beat the system.


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