ADDRESSES: Office—Arkansas Times, P.O. Box 34010, Little Rock, AR 72203.
CAREER: Contributing editor and columnist for Arkansas Times.
AWARDS, HONORS: Has received numerous awards for investigative journalism.
The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A nonfiction book about a triple murder in West Memphis.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Mara Leveritt is a contributing editor and columnist for the Arkansas Times. In 1999 she published The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice, the story of the deaths of two teenagers, Don Henry and Kevin Ives, who were both run over by a train near Little Rock, Arkansas. Initially ruled a suicide, the case was later described as an accident after authorities ruled that the boys had been smoking marijuana and had passed out on the train tracks where they were subsequently killed.
Linda Ives, mother of Kevin, fought for years to expose what she believed to be a cover-up, and to discover the truth about what happened to her son that fateful night of August 23, 1987. OnIdmedia.com, she wrote: "In August 1987, the body of my 17-year-old son, Kevin, who had been murdered, was left on a railroad track near our home to be dismembered by an oncoming train. His best friend, also murdered, was placed on the track beside him. The mutilation was a savage attempt to destroy evidence of the murders. Other futile attempts to thwart an investigation quickly followed—first in our county, then in our state, and finally during federal investigations. Even now . . . the FBI refuses to open its files on this case."
Investigative journalist Leveritt became interested in the story, as she explained in an interview with NewsMax.com: "It was a bizarre story from the very first. It remains bizarre to this day. I learned a long time ago that criminal investigations are supposed to follow certain procedures. If those procedures are followed the investigation moves along in an orderly and logical fashion." "The more I learned about this investigation," she continued, "the less logic in it I saw. It followed a crooked path that led in many strange directions. The further I looked at this case the more curious I became. So I devoted several years to looking as far down that crooked path as I could."
The result of those years of investigation was Leveritt's 1999 work The Boys on the Tracks. In the work Leveritt "draws no conclusions," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. "She merely fleshes out the context and explores all the leads in all their various directions."
One of these directions involves President Bill Clinton, his mother Virginia Kelley, and Arkansas state medical examiner Fahmy Malak. Leveritt argues that Kelley, an anesthetist at a local hospital, was involved in the deaths of two patients and that Malak covered up her responsibility. Malak was the man who ruled the boys' deaths were caused by marijuana. The bodies of both boys were exhumed and an independent pathologist ruled there was evidence to suggest the boys were indeed murdered. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, refused to remove Malak from office despite the public outcry. Malak eventually resigned after he received a job offer from Clinton associate Jocelyn Elders at the State Health Department. Clinton has denied any role in the case.
Critics were mixed in their assessment of the work. "If this Arkansas murder tale weren't a true-crime thriller by an established investigative journalist, it would be too crazy, complicated and bizarre to believe," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. The critic faulted Leveritt for exploring too many conspiracy-type theories, arguing that what is chilling becomes "merely fantastical." Patrick Petit in Library Journal concluded: Leveritt "handles a mountain of details well and succeeds in making this convoluted story reasonably understandable. However, her intimation, in the epilog, of an ongoing, largescale conspiracy is open to question."
"This story deserves serious mainstream interest," Leveritt commented in her interview onNewsMax.com. "And I am a serious journalist. So I tried to be cautious in this book and not get into things about which we do not have definitive information." She continued: "I was dismayed to run into some of the same walls that have blocked others seeking information on these matters. The Department of Justice has erected these walls to hide what should be public information. At the same time, I am proud of what I was able to discover and report about these dark affairs." Leveritt's investigative work has made her a respected authority for those who are critical or skeptical of the U.S. war on drugs.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, October 1, 1999, Patrick Petit, review of The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice, p. 112.
Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1999, review of The Boys on the Tracks, p. 61.
NewsMax,http://www.newsmax.com/ (February 3, 2000), interview with Leveritt.*