Deborah Ford was a 25-year-old single mother who lived at 315 East 74th Street in the Cedar Grove area of Shreveport with her two daughters, Nicki (then 9 years old) and Shawn (then 5 years old). The house they lived in was a small shotgun-style home. Because she had been burglarized, Ford had her father nail the back door shut and nail outside screens over all the windows.
On August 30, 1984, Ford took her daughters shopping for school clothes with Shawn's father, Danny Ware. They returned to 315 East 74th Street at approximately 9:30 p.m. While Danny Ware and Ford spoke outside, Nicki retrieved a stuffed animal to take to her grandmother's house, where the girls were going to spend the night.
Leaving the house, Nicki noticed the bathroom window was open and closed it, placing a wooden stick vertically above the frame to keep it shut. The window had no lock other than a nailed screen. The stick could be dislodged by jiggling the window. Danny Ware drove the two girls to their grandmother's house.
Ford spoke briefly to her friends who lived across the street, Gussy Bell and her daughter, Juanita Parks, but returned home sometime before 10:00 p.m. Michael Bell,
Gussy Bell's brother, visited Ford in her home until sometime after 11:00 p.m. Ford talked to a friend, Gregory Bell, three times between 8:00 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Following her usual routine, she slept in the living room on the couch.
Sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on August 31, 1984, an intruder pried the screen loose from the bathroom window and pulled it away from the house. The intruder raised the window and blocked it open with a piece of metal.
In entering the house, the intruder left a smudged partial footprint in the bathtub immediately beneath the window and knocked paint debris and dirt into the bathroom and outside the window.
During the intruder's assault on Deborah Ford, furniture was knocked over and the couch cushions were disarranged. Ford bruised her hands defending herself.
The intruder had cut electrical cord from a box fan in the kitchen and used it to tie Ford's hands behind her back. The cord was anchored firmly around her left wrist and then looped around her right wrist, leaving a space in between, like a handcuff. The loose end was tied to the cord on the left wrist.
Ford was gagged with clothing. While she was bound and gagged, the intruder stabbed Ford on the couch, then dragged her body to the floor where she was stabbed again. Ford was stabbed nine times in the chest, two times on the left side and seven times on the right side.
Some of the wounds were deep enough to enter her lungs. Finally, moving her body to the middle of the room, the intruder cut her throat six times from right to left, cutting through her jugular vein, carotid artery, larynx and esophagus, almost to the spinal column.
Despite her chest injuries, Ford was still alive when her throat was cut. She died from cumulative loss of blood. Forensic investigation established that the entire attack lasted from fifteen to thirty minutes.
Ford's body was discovered at 8:00 a.m. the next morning by her friend, Brenda Greggs. Greggs had walked over to use the telephone and discovered the front door ajar and the stereo playing. When her body was discovered, Ford was wearing only her nightgown turned inside out.
When police arrived at the Ford residence that morning, a small crowd gathered. Nathaniel Code, who lived in the neighborhood, was part of the crowd and talked to others about the murder.
Dr. George McCormick, the Caddo Parish Coroner, testified the crime was the work of one person and was clearly a signature crime. McCormick informed police the crime was the work of a serial killer who would kill again.
McCormick noted four signature elements: the perpetrator's total control over the victim; the perpetrator's use of a knife to both stab and cut; the binding of the victim with an electrical cord; and the unique ligature used by the perpetrator. McCormick stated the killer was right-handed.
Investigation of the crime scene revealed three latent palm prints and a thumbprint on the bathroom window, window sill and inside wall below the window. The position of the recent prints was consistent with someone opening the window from the outside. All three palm prints and the thumbprint were later identified as matching those of Nathaniel Code.
A few blocks from the Ford home in Shreveport, at 213 East 72nd Street, Vivian Chaney lived with her boyfriend, Billy Joe Harris. Also living in the house was Chaney's brother, Jerry Culbert, and her three daughters, Carlitha Culbert, Tomika Chaney and Marla Chaney. Vivian Chaney, Carlitha Culbert and Jerry Culbert were sight impaired. Tomika and Marla Chaney are mentally retarded.
Some time between 11:30 p.m. on July 18, 1985, and 6:00 a.m. the next morning, the back door to the Chaney residence was forced open. Jerry Culbert, Billy Joe Harris, Carlitha Culbert and Vivian Chaney were murdered.
Each victim was found in a separate room. The youngest girls, Tomika, then 10 years old, and Marla, then 7 years old, were uninjured.
Twenty-nine year old Billy Joe Harris was killed in his front bedroom bed. He was shot twice in the left side of the head through a pillow. He was also shot twice in the chest. After being shot, he was still alive: his throat was cut.
His hands were tied behind his back with shoelaces. His right wrist was tied tightly and a loop was made for the left wrist in a handcuff ligature. His ankles were also tied together with shoelaces. A telephone cord was used to tie his hands to his ankles. He was fully clothed.
Twenty-five year old Jerry Culbert was fatally shot once at close range in the left side of his head. He was found in his bed, still in his bedclothes, in the back bedroom of the house. There was no sign of a struggle; he was apparently killed while he slept. There were no ligatures on this victim.
Fifteen year old Carlitha Culbert was found in the living room. She was lying on her stomach with her hands tied behind her with an electrical cord cut from an iron found in the house. The cord was wrapped tightly around her left wrist and then looped around her right wrist in the handcuff ligature. The electrical cord was loosely wrapped around her left ankle, as if there had been an attempt to hog-tie her.
There was an untied piece of shoestring draped over her left leg. She had been gagged with silver duct tape. The shorts she was wearing were inside out.
Her throat was cut. Her body was then moved slightly. While still alive, she was almost decapitated. Two large pools of blood were found by her body. One area of blood near her left knee contained a blotted semicircle. A second pool of blood was found by her neck, where she finally bled to death.
Thirty-seven year old Vivian Chaney was found slumped over the bathtub. Her hands were tied behind her with a telephone cord. The cord came around the front of her waist and then down between her legs to tie her ankles.
The bonds would have allowed her a hobbling walk. There was evidence that another ligature had been used around her neck to control her and to lead her around.
The back of Vivian's dress had a large amount of Carlitha's blood over the buttocks area and the lower hem, indicating that Vivian sat in the pool of blood caused by the initial cutting of her daughter's neck.
There was evidence of both manual and ligature strangulation. She had been beaten violently about the head. She died from a combination of manual strangulation and bathtub drowning.
The bodies were discovered at 6:00 a.m. on July 19, 1985, by Shirley Culbert, the sister of Vivian Chaney and Jerry Culbert. She had just arrived from out of town and hoped to surprise the family.
There was no answer to her knock at the front door, but she heard the stereo playing. She walked around to the back door, which opened when she knocked, and entered the house.
She found Tomika and Marla asleep in a bed. It was very difficult to wake them. When she succeeded, the girls were hysterical. She took them out of the house and called the police.
Relatives later discovered several items missing from the house, including Jerry Culbert's wallet, a jar of loose change, food stamps, a food stamp identification card, pictures of the girls and a striped tote bag. No money was found in the house, although Vivian Chaney had cashed a check for over $100 the day before.
Despite the number and viciousness of the murders, Dr. McCormick testified that the crimes were the work of one person. In his opinion, the crimes were committed by a serial killer working alone.
Serial killers not only kill repetitively, but their crimes escalate. McCormick thought that this crime was an escalation of the Deborah Ford murder committed by the same person. The serial killer probably lived in the neighborhood and would be among the crowd gathered at the scene.
The scene indicated a logical progression as the sole murderer moved among the victims. The teenager, Carlitha, and a gun were used to control the adults.
McCormick theorized that the killer threatened Carlitha's life to immobilize Vivian Chaney and Billy Joe Harris. Vivian Chaney was tied so she could walk; Carlitha's hands were tied. After binding Billy Joe Harris, the killer shot him through a pillow to prevent disturbing the sleeping Jerry Culbert. Jerry Culbert was shot while he slept.
The murderer next cut Carlitha's throat but did not kill her. He made Vivian Chaney sit down in her daughter's blood before taking Vivian to the bathroom and killing her by strangling and drowning.
When the killer returned to the living room, Carlitha had either moved or the murderer moved her. He finished killing Carlitha by trying to decapitate her. At some point, the killer returned to Billy Joe Harris and stabbed him in the neck.
Investigative officers found pieces of duct tape consistent with the type used to gag Carlitha Chaney in the alley behind the Chaney house. Processing of the crime scene revealed three latent left palm prints on the bathtub over which Vivian Chaney's body was draped.
McCormick theorized that the right-handed killer had used his dominant hand to hold her head under water while he steadied himself with his left hand. Testimony established that the fresh prints had been left after the tub had last been cleaned. The palm prints were later matched with Nathaniel Code's left palm print.
The two survivors of the murders did not testify. Both Marla and Tomika were examined by doctors prior to trial and found to be mildly mentally retarded.
Tomika was interviewed several times by the police and by doctors. Sodium pentothal was administered in an effort to retrieve information about what she may have witnessed.
She gave conflicting stories. The majority of the time she stated one killer broke in the back door carrying a knife with holes in it and a rope. Tomika's drawing of the knife matched the description of a knife missing from Deborah Ford's house.
She also gave other statements about the killer and "ladies" breaking in that night and putting flies and spiders on the face of Billy Joe Harris. Officers arriving on the scene found flies on Billy Joe Harris; the coroner found evidence of post-mortem roach bites on his face.
Marla was generally withdrawn. By joint stipulation, the state and defense agreed not to call the girls as witnesses. Testimony regarding Tomika's differing statements and a videotape of Tomika's interview were admitted in evidence.
Nathaniel Code's 73-year-old grandfather, William T. Code, lived at 641 West 66th Street in Shreveport. On August 4, 1987, William Code worked in his yard with the two grandsons of a friend, Enamerteen Williams. The two boys, 8-year-old Eric Williams and 12-year-old Joe Robinson, were seen working with William Code in his yard as late as 8:00 p.m. Mrs. Williams gave telephone permission for the boys to spend the night with William Code, as they had done in the past.
Mrs. Williams became concerned when the boys did not return home the next morning and went to William Code's residence that afternoon. The doors were locked, and steel burglar bars on the windows and doors kept her from gaining entrance. There was no sign of forced entry.
Although no one answered her knocking, she heard music playing. It was later discovered the television was on. Through the window she could see the bound foot of Joe Robinson. Mrs. Williams went home, called the police and returned with her brother, niece and granddaughter to William Code's house.
After using her key to open the burglar bars on one of the windows, Mrs. Williams and her brother discovered the bodies of William Code and the two boys. All three victims were found in separate rooms.
Joe Robinson was found lying face down on the living room couch. He had been struck in the forehead with a blow severe enough to have dazed him. He had bruises on the shoulders beneath the skin and over both collarbones.
His ankles were tied with a white plastic cord. Each end of the cord was tied around an ankle and there was a gap in between. A length of the same cord had been used to tie his hands together behind his back, with one end of the plastic cord tied to one wrist and the other end tied to the other wrist like handcuffs.
A loose length of cord around his neck held a gag; a doubled length of the cord was used to strangle him. The boy was only wearing a pair of underwear which had been turned inside out.
Eric Williams was found lying face down between two twin beds in a small bedroom where he had been dragged from one of the beds. Plastic rope held a gag around his neck.
His hands had been tied identically to the way the other boy's hands were tied, in a handcuff ligature. One ankle was tied with this cord, but then it ran out.
The killer then took electrical cord to finish binding the boy's ankles together. A second length of electrical cord was used to strangle the boy. There were no signs that a struggle took place. The boy was wearing a pair of underwear.
William Code was found lying face down on his bed, dressed in a dressing gown. His ankles were bound with electrical cord, then the cord was brought up the front of his legs and tied to his wrists. His hands were tied behind his back with electrical cord in the handcuff ligature. A telephone cord around his neck held a gag in place.
The autopsy showed William Code had been struck a very heavy blow to the side of his head which alone could have caused his death. Hemorrhages in his brain were consistent with being beaten about the head with a fist.
He had been stabbed five times in the chest, seven times in the back, and once in a major artery of the right upper arm with a long knife. Several of these wounds would have been fatal, but William Code died of their cumulative effect.
Pat Wojtkiewicz of the North Louisiana Crime Lab testified that medium velocity blood spatter was found on the wall in William Code's bedroom where he was killed.
McCormick testified that one person was responsible for the murders. The two boys were tied in the same way, gagged in the same way and killed in the same way. Materials from the house were used to tie William Code.
McCormick testified the victims were probably killed in the order in which they were found. Since there was no sign of forced entry, Robinson probably let the murderer in the front door.
Robinson was subdued by a strong blow to the head, then gagged, tied and strangled. Williams, who was in the front bedroom, was probably surprised as he slept. There was no sign of a struggle. Williams was then tied and killed.
McCormick testified that the focus of the murders was William Code. There was no element of overkill in the two boys and no knife was used on them.
By contrast, William Code was beaten repeatedly over the head and rolled front and back to be stabbed many more times than would have been necessary to kill him. McCormick theorized that this showed an emotional relationship between the victim and the murderer.
No money was found in the residence, although William Code had cashed checks totalling between $400 and $600 the day before he was murdered. A small caliber pistol was missing as well.
Investigators found a knife and a set of keys in a storm drain approximately 600 feet from the residence. The knife was similar to a set found in William Code's kitchen; the keys fit the victim's door.
Donald Ray Johnson, William Code's neighbor, testified he saw Nathaniel Code exit William Code's residence sometime after 8:00 p.m. the night of the murders.
Johnson saw Code shut the inner door and the iron bars, check to make sure they were locked, then walk out to a vehicle. Code drove down the street toward Johnson and stopped to say hello through the car window. Code introduced the female passenger in the car as his new wife, then the two drove off.
Johnson thought the situation unusual because William Code always walked guests to the door to make sure the security doors were locked and because he knew William Code would not allow Nathaniel Code into his house.
Johnson had been present two weeks before when William Code had refused to loan any more money to his grandson because Nathaniel Code had not paid him back.
John Huckabee, an electrician who installed security lighting at the Code residence, testified about a conversation he had with William Code in which William Code stated he was afraid of his grandson and told of Nathaniel Code's attempt to borrow money from him in the past. William Code had refused to lend his grandson the money.
After the bodies were found, Nathaniel Code approached investigating officers and introduced himself as the victim's grandson.
Code stated he had received a call from William Code on the evening prior to the murders at approximately 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. in which William Code asked him to come to his residence complaining there were people hanging around his house.
Code stated he went to his grandfather's house at approximately 2:00 a.m. on the morning of August 5. Nathaniel Code stated that after his grandfather let him into the house, he checked the house and the surrounding area for suspicious persons, then left on his bicycle. He returned once to check the outside again, then rode his bicycle home.
Nathaniel Code agreed to accompany police to the station to give a statement since he was, apparently, the last person to see his grandfather alive.
Investigators became suspicious of Code because he stated he touched the vacuum, fan, humidifier and phone while at his grandfather's house; these were the items from which the electrical cord was cut to bind the victims.
Code agreed to allow the police to seize the clothes and shoes he had worn the day before.
His finger and palm prints were matched to the latent palm prints found at the Chaney homicide. Code was informed of his constitutional rights, questioned and arrested for the Chaney homicides.
Later, Wojtkiewicz of the crime lab located a medium velocity blood spatter on the tennis shoes worn by Code. Although the crime lab determined the blood was human, there was an insufficient amount to do any further typing.
Later, the police obtained consent from Code's wife to search their residence. Among other items, police seized several cut electrical cords and professional grade duct tape.