in Writing

The killer in a wheelchair

“Hello?” I answered the phone.
“Hey it’s Ted.”
“Long time no talk to Ted,” I said.
“You doing anything tonight?” Ted asked.
“I had some homework but it’s done.”
“You want to go and get something to drink at Perkins? I’ll buy,” He said.
“Sure.  See you in a few minutes.”

“I’m going to go and get some coffee with Ted,” I told my parents who were still sitting at the table.
“Okay,” They said.

Perkins was only a couple of blocks away from our house, but any excuse to drive, was a reason to drive.  So that’s what I did.

The wait staff led me to the back of the restaurant and in a corner sat Ted.  He had his back and wheelchair to the wall.  I’d only known him for 2 school years before he ended up paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair.  Most would have thought it was a detriment, and it was, but Ted had made the best of it by becoming a nationally ranked wheelchair racer and a local celeb of sorts.

“Hey man,” I said.
“Long time no see.”
“Yeah. What have you been up to?”
“I’ve been working for this web site company.  Just doing a little bit of programming and stuff.”
“Cool.”
It was either late 1997 or early 1998 and the internet was in it’s infancy.  There were still things called chat rooms where people made up cool names like ZeroCool or something like that.  Ted and I had spent our fair share of time in them and he had taken it a bit further and had learned how to program C++ and was helping this company get going with the internet.
“Yeah things are going well.  Might have a job for you if things keep going well.”
“I’m just working at Pizza Hut and going to the community college,” I told him.
“I took some classes at the community college. Not bad.”
“Cheaper than going to one of the universities.”
“Say I have something else I want to talk to you about.”
Through a few conversations we had over the most preceding this meeting, I knew something was up that was not on the up and up.  I thought it had something to do with guns, but I had no idea.
“Ted, I appreciate you asking me, but I don’t want to know.  I’m curious and want to know, but I’ve heard enough.”
“That’s cool and I totally understand,” Ted said.
We chatted for a few minutes longer and then parted.

Sometime in early 1998, Ted got in touch with me for the job at the internet company he was working for and offered me a job.  I was still making pizzas at Pizza Hut and considering making it a career by going into management.  But eventually the math kicked in and I realized that I could make more working 20 hours a week then working 40 hours, or more, at Pizza Hut.  So I made the switch sometime in February or March of 1998.
It was grunt work that I was doing so Ted could work on more programming things.  We worked fairly closely and things were going well, until one fateful April afternoon. I think it was April 20th to be exact.  I left work before 5, say around 2 or something.  As I was walking out a man came into talk to Ted.  Later I would learn it was a detective.  That afternoon, or perhaps that night, I learned that Ted had been arrested for a murder that hadn’t been solved in a couple of years.  Talk about a shock.

Apparently Ted had been doing burglaries on the side and a lot of them.  At one house they were robbing, not far from his parents house, he a man came upon him and Ted put 6 shots into him and a 7th in the head.  His brother had been in the house and was bringing their take out for the night when it all happened.

I got to see Ted in jail a couple of times before he went to trial.  My boss saw him as well and wrote an article that Ted was not happy with.  I’m not sure of the correctness or not of it, but it was what it was. Ted and his brother, Jesse, went to trial.  In the background there was supposedly some deals made that would put Ted in jail longer and Jesse would get out sooner. The judge did or didn’t, I’m not sure, follow those agreements and both were sent to prison for a long time.

At this time I had moved to Iowa and had communicated with Ted a few times. When he told me he had cable in his cell I lost it and that was the last line of communication.  Sometime after that I got a call from Jesse’s new lawyer.  They were going to get Jesse a re-trial because of klinefelter syndrome.  I’m not 100% sure what it is other than there’s low testosterone and this was how they were going to eventually get Jesse out of jail.

The re-trial of Jesse was not a pretty affair.  From what I saw and heard, the whole family was shattered when that came down. Both sisters testified and maybe Ted (my memory isn’t that good anymore).

We are near on 16 years since Ted was arrested and I’ve had no contact with him or any of his family. All I know is that he attempted to escape from prison once and is now in a private facility in California.

If your interested in reading more there are a few articles on line that give more details, biased or unbiased is for you to determine.  Search for Ted Ernst.  There’s one from Sports Illustrated, Dateline, and somewhere a Rolling Stone article.