When I got out of law school in 1980, something possessed me to drag my wife from Austin to the hell hole called Amarillo. Now, Kerrville is a weird place, but Amarillo is in a league of its own. It's so bad and ugly it inspired Billy Joe Shaver to write a song about it:
Sometimes I want to hug her, sometimes I want to wring her neck
She wants to be a big star but she can't even sing a lick
Shes got an ass about thirteen axe handles wide
And to stay here would be suicide
Som I'm leavin' Amariller, I ain't coming back again
A year or so before I went there, an Amarillo jury acquitted T. Cullen Davis, a Ft. Worth billionaire, charged with shooting his 12 year old step daughter point blank, then shooting his wife, and two young men. One died, one was maimed and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. While he was in jail, Amarillo ladies baked cookies and cakes for him. Stanley Marsh III strutted around in bizarre outfits and the press ate it up.
Which brings us to the story that prompted this little walk down memory lane. Texas Monthly has an excellent article this month, Darkness on the Plains, by Skip Hollandsworth.It starts:
"For decades Stanley Marsh 3 was Amarillo's most famous citizen, a widely creative eccentric who charmed everyone he met (including Hollandsworth). Now his world is crumbling amidst sordid allegations of sexual abuse of teenage boys. How could we have all been so wrong?"
Well, Skip, you were all so wrong because you were awed by the little pervert's wealth and celebrity. Burying a few Cadillacs is not exactly in the league of Picasso, but you, the rest of the "isn't Texas precious" crowd, the lawyers and politicians who sucked on the teat of Marsh's money didn't want to see the truth. The firm that I worked for in Amarillo, Underwood Wilson, otherwise a very reputable, respected firm, represented Marsh then and my old friend Kelly Utsinger represents him in the multiple civil lawsuits brought by Marsh's young victims. Without his money and political connections, Marsh would have gone to prison 30 years ago.
One Amarillo lawyer, George Whittenburg, sued Marsh for locking his teenage son in a chicken coop and ordering him to "flap your wings like a goddamn chicken." This sounds an awful lot like what the Ellebracht family did for years in Kerr County at their "slave ranch." Whittenburg comes from an established wealthy Panhandle family. If he had been just your run of the mill lawyer, they would have run him out of town and probably framed him for something and gotten him disbarred. After he filed the suit, young men began coming to Whittenburg with stories of being plied with drugs, viagra, and sexually abused by Marsh. But who would believe teenagers from poor, broken homes, with records for drug and alcohol offenses. You have to hand it to Marsh, he knew how to pick victims who were powerless.
As for Whittenburg, Hollandsworth blew him off as "a proper, rock-ribbed conservative Amarillo lawyer." So, no matter who has the audacity to criticize the "rich eccentric," they aren't credible. Marsh's criminal lawyers in the latest scandal call the boys' lawyer an "aggressive personal injury lawyer from Houston."
It took a lawyer with the guts and financial resources to go after an untouchable like Marsh. Tony Buzbee, an uber-successful Houston plaintiff's lawyer, took him on, suing him for ten young men that the old perv molested. Let's just say it - he raped and sodomized these boys. Buzbee's investigation led to the Amarillo police finally getting off their asses and charging Marsh, who now claims to be disabled and mentally incompetent, appearing for court in a wheel chair and blank look on his face.
Wealth buys a lot of latitude to break the law and do unspeakable things to other humans. John Smithee, an Amarillo lawyer and state representative since 1985, told Hollandsworth, "It was difficult for people to believe those kids' stories about someone who had brought such wonderful attention to Amarillo."
It's like the Kerrville Slave Ranch. People, including law enforcement, knew the Ellebrachts were pickup up hitchhikers, and sometimes one of them would escape and tell the sheriff's department or DPS what was going on. But they were just drifters, and the Ellebrachts were an old ranching family, and good Christians to boot. And they were right - when it finally unraveled, the old man got probation - for organized crime and murder!, his son got 15 years and was out in less than three, and the wife, Joyce, never even stood trial. Money talks.