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Man steals identity of Red Lantern Massacre victim

Steve Valentine
Last updated: 5:05 PM, 08/03/2009
 


Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Echoes of Newport's Red Lantern Massacre continue to be heard nearly three decades after the event.

The Plain Talk has learned that a man alleged to have escaped from the Haywood County, N.C., state correctional facility, while serving a 15-year sentence for second-degree murder, built a new life for himself in Indiana using the name and Social Security number of one of the victims of one of Cocke County's best-known crimes. He lived there as a respected member of the community from 1988 until his secret life was shattered with his arrest in 1997.

But his story was not over. Released after completing his North Carolina prison term on Jan. 21, 2001, the man known as Roy Stephen Valentine was identified as a suspect in connection with an Indiana kidnapping incident which left a man dead. He was captured in Arizona in January of this year after a chase and shootout with police at an interstate highway rest area.

The Cass County, Ind. Sheriff's Department identified the man they arrested in 1997 as 43-year-old Jerry Roger Brackett. Brackett had been living under the name "Roy Stephen Valentine" in the Kokomo and Galveston, Ind. area.

The real Roy Stephen Valentine-who was known by the nickname "Steve"-was 18 years old when he was shot to death inside the Red Lantern Tavern just west of Newport early on Christmas Day 1975. Four men were killed in the shooting and two were injured

How Brackett obtained Steve Valentine's Social Security number and other personal information is not known, although he is alleged in media reports to have been questioned in connection with several crimes in the Cocke County area and may have learned of the Red Lantern incident. Yet, there is no firm evidence that Brackett has ever visited Cocke County.

District Attorney General Al Schmutzer said his office has not been contacted by authorities in Indiana or Arizona and said he knows of no investigations involving Brackett in this district.

Convicted in 1984 of second-degree murder in North Carolina, Brackett was a prisoner in the Haywood County Correctional Facility just 40 miles from Newport. He escaped from prison in 1988.

That appears to be when Brackett adopted the name Roy Stephen Valentine and moved to Indiana.

Using the alias, Brackett became a well-known and well-liked member of the community in the Kokomo/Galveston area. "Roy Valentine" lived in Indiana for nearly 10 years and married-concealing his true identify from his wife-before he was arrested and his true identity was discovered.

Brackett was returned to the North Carolina prison system to complete his 15-year term for second-degree murder. He was released on Jan. 24, 2001, and apparently returned to Indiana.

On Jan. 20 of this year, Brackett is alleged to have abducted 57-year-old Kokomo resident, Mary Jo Pate, from her home. The victim's 70-year-old husband was found dead in the home the next day, and police say the stress of the abduction of his wife is believed to have triggered the heart attack which took his life.

After a police chase and a gunfight ended at an interstate rest area on Jan. 22, Brackett was arrested by Arizona authorities. He is currently being held in the Yapavai County Jail in northern Arizona on 15 felony charges ranging from kidnapping and possessing a firearm to using his vehicle as a deadly weapon against police officers.

Marriage In Indiana
On Aug. 30, 1991, Brackett-then known in the community as "Roy Valentine"-married Teresa Boring in Galveston, Ind.

In an interview published in the Kokomo Tribune in March, Boring said the bearded man "seemed friendly and out-going-someone you could trust."

Boring said she first met Brackett in 1989 at a campground in Jackson Hole, Wyo. He introduced himself first as "Ed Parker" and told no one he was wanted for escape from a state prison.

"He came up back-packing with a pup tent," Boring told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was sitting at a table eating a bologna sandwich. He seemed like a super nice guy. We started talking and got to know each other."

Although she now believes that some of his actions should have been signals something was amiss-like the time when he did not respond when addressed by the name "Ed Parker"-Boring said the man's charm made her ask no questions.

"He was such a wonderful guy," she said in the newspaper interview. "He always bought the kids in the campground ice cream."

Boring said he stayed at the scenic campground for a month or two and moved on. He first talked about traveling to Mexico, but ended up in Winterpointe, Tenn.

Boring had given the man her phone number, and he soon called. But this time, his name was not "Ed Parker." It was "Roy S. Valentine."

"He said he had a business and was dealing with taxes, and he was on vacation and didn't want anyone to know where he was," Boring told the Tribune.

Phone calls led to a visit to Indiana in 1989, that visit led to the couple exchanging letters, and "Valentine" proposed to Boring on Aug. 30, 1991.

"Looking back, Boring said she should have been suspicious something wasn't right when Valentine became angry when she asked about his family," Tribune Staff Writer Mike Fletcher wrote.

"He said his family were dead, Boring told the newspaper. "He got angry and would say, 'Don't ever ask me about my family again.' I never thought anything about it. Some people don't like to talk about their family."

When Valentine sold her antiques and later was apparently involved in the death of her 16-year-old fox terrier, Boring said she again should have seen the signs. But each time, Brackett was able to talk his way around her questions.

One oddity Boring noticed is that Brackett did not like Christmas.

Boring told the Tribune she heard Valentine speak about the death of Steve Valentine, who died at the Red Lantern in Newport on Dec. 25, 1975, but she thought he was talking about his father, which would explain his feelings about Christmas.

The Truth Revealed
Boring discovered the truth when she had to go to the telephone company office and show the company her driver's license in order to establish telephone service.

When she arrived at the phone company offices, she was told that the problem was that Valentine's Social Security number did not match.

Howard County Sheriff's Deputy Harold Vincent conducted a background check on the Social Security number and found out the real Roy Valentine was dead. The deputy then called Newport and learned about the Red Lantern Massacre and that Steve Valentine had died early that Christmas morning.

The investigation moved deliberately as authorities gathered evidence; it took four years for the sheriff's office to obtain enough evidence for an arrest. That came after Boring alerted authorities that Brackett was considering moving to Arizona to open a flea market.

Then Brackett signed the name "Roy Valentine" on a document to obtain a license plate for a van he purchased-that was a crime.

Brackett was arrested at his workplace at Galveston Lumber Co. by Cass County police on a charge of perjury, the authorities alleging he had made false written statements at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined Brackett's true identity after his fingerprints were taken at the Cass County Jail.

Brackett was then returned to North Carolina to serve out his prison term in Haywood County.

From prison, Brackett kept in communication with Boring-as well as Mary Jo and Joseph Pate, who would become victims of a later crime. Again, he regained their trust.

"I let him kind of come back," Boring told the Tribune. "We talked on the phone, and he said he had changed. We met in the park in Kokomo and talked all afternoon."

Boring resolved not to continue the relationship with a man she did not really know, and the last time she spoke with Brackett was last Christmas.

Wife Abducted, Husband Dead
Boring knew Joseph and Mary Jo Pate and said they were friends who showed an interest in Brackett's flea market plan. But she said she knew nothing about the Pates' fate until police came to her door early this year.

Brackett had become friends with the Pates through a mutual interest in citizens' band radios.

Police allege on Jan. 20, 2003, Bracket went to the Pate home.

Kokomo Police Captain Michael Wheeler said Brackett is alleged to have abducted Mary Jo Pate and fled in the couple's vehicle. Her husband was found dead in their home the next day.

Police said 70-year-old Joseph Pate died as a result of heart problems, but they believe the kidnapping incident may have caused his death. Mary Jo Pate was not seriously injured and was returned home after Brackett's arrest in Arizona.


Shoot-Out and Arrest
On Jan. 23 of this year, authorities located Brackett at an Interstate 17 rest area near Flagstaff, Ariz. He was driving Joseph Pate's van, and Mary Jo Pate was in the vehicle.

Police exchanged gunfire with the suspect and, when Brackett tried to flee in the van, officers fired on the vehicle, which crashed into a tree about 150 yards from the rest area.

Brackett had been wounded in his upper torso and left arm. Although he fled into the Arizona desert, authorities arrested him a few hours after the incident. He was treated-while always under guard-at a Phoenix hospital.

A sheriff's deputy, who was injured when he was struck by the fleeing van, was treated and released from a local hospital and Mary Jo Pate was returned home unhurt.

The suspect is awaiting trial in Arizona and could also face charges in Indiana, authorities said.

The Lifetime television channel is preparing an episode of its Secret Lives series focusing on Brackett and the events that occurred since 1988. The program is expected to air sometime this month.

The Newport Plain Talk contacted the family of the late Steve Valentine to tell them of the identity theft story so they were not surprised when it was published in Cocke County.

In fact, they were upset and shocked at the revelation that someone stole his identity and used it so many years.

Valentine's mother, Martha Hicks Finchum, recently suffered a heart attack but is recovering. She suffered the attack in the weeks between meetings with Plain Talk Editor David Popiel.

She said information provided to her stated that in 1997, police were notified a man had assumed Valentine's identity but nothing ever became of the local investigation.

She also said that the Internal Revenue Service was told of the situation but she said the IRS didn't seem interested so long as taxes were paid.

"We should have been contacted at that time," she said of the 1997 information given to local authorities. But the family was not notified.

"It's obvious he (Brackett) is a dangerous man. It's sad to think he may have found a local attorney who needed money that bad," to help with assuming Valentine's identity.

Although it has not been substantiated, Brackett claims to have paid an attorney $500 to get Valentine's Social Security number and identity.

"We would like to find out who he is, so he could be brought to justice," said Finchum.

She has three daughters, all of whom were younger than their brother: Freda Ball, Debbie Bridges, and Linda Henderson.

They said the incidents and stories about Brackett and their late brother have "upset the whole family. You think you are at peace and then a murderer takes our brother's name."

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