Today I received a letter from Tiny, Whit's longest close friend at Terre Haute. Tiny was transferred not long ago to an Ohio state prison to finish his last 9 months of incarceration. I had gotten a letter from him 10 days ago wondering why he hadn't heard from Whit in a while, updating me on what was new, asking me to tell Whit to write and to pass this along: "Tell Smitty he'll always be my retarded cousin!" Tiny is pictured in the "Super Friends" photo in one of Whit's posts.
I was shocked to learn that Tiny hadn't heard through the grapevine, and writing the letter telling him what happened was a hard thing. I told Tiny that any friend of Whit's is a friend of mine, and that I hoped he would stay in touch and even look me up when he gets out. This is what Tiny wrote today:
You have my deepest sympathies, I can't imagine how hard this has been on you. I got your letter today, during our rec time and I'm reading it in the day room and I broke down crying. I am numb right now. Smitty was like a brother to me. We carried each other through a lot of stuff. Smitty was one of those people that didn't belong where he was at. I have done a lot of time, Jeff, and some people you meet in prison need to be exactly where they are, but not Smitty. He was a good person who just made a few mistakes. I think that is why we got so close, in Smitty I saw myself 20 years ago and I knew he wasn't going to end up like me, not if I could help it. He used to get mad because he thought I was preaching to him, and in reality I guess I was trying to get him to see what life would be like if he didn't wake up and see that this was no way to live. He is my buddy and I am going to miss him a lot. Maybe what you said in your letter was true and he just needed to move on.
If you can, please forward my address and prison number to Doliboa, I still know some staff up there that he might be able to find out something from. You're right when you said that a father deserves an accounting of what happened to his son. My advice on that is to contact your state Representative or Senator in Washington and maybe they can pursue it for you. I have seen several times where that was the way families got their questions answered.
Jeff, I am going to end this by letting you know that you are in my thoughts and that I would like to keep in contact with you if possible.
As it happens, I have already contacted both Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to ask for assistance in obtaining the report of the Bureau of Prisons investigation of Whit's death; I am waiting to hear the results of their efforts. Otherwise I have been unsuccessful, even with the aid of a lawyer who knows an Assistant United States Attorney; the AUSA yesterday indicated that he "cannot comply" with my request, and so I still do not know anything about the circumstances of Whit's death. Either the BOP has something to hide, or it is their general practice to be secretive and uncooperative. In either case it seems unconscionable to add such a bureaucratic nightmare to the grief a parent already feels. On the other hand, based on Whit's 3 years in the "care" of the BOP, it shouldn't surprise me in the least.