Shara David was fifteen years old in 1997. She spent the evening of October 10th and early morning hours of October 11th with Eugene Vent and Kevin Pease. Shortly after the police apprehended the four, they went to the Goebel residence where they interviewed Shara and others for a first time, and second time. These first interviews were not on tape. A last interview was taped. Shara describes these interviews as one of the worst experiences of her life.
The police used an interrogation technique, known as the Reid method, to interrogate the four suspects. This method is highly controversial, and illegal in many countries because it is so psychologically unraveling. Damaging. It is implicated in many, many false confessions. The method should really, if ever, only be used on suspects that interrogators know are guilty, and certainly not on youthful or intoxicated suspects. It should not have been used on the Fairbanks Four. But what is really heartbreaking and unique about the case of the Fairbanks Four is that this method was not just used on the four accused – it was used on those who came forward with stories that contradicted the police theory. It was used on kids that the police knew were innocent. On children, whose parents were not present. Shara was one of those kids.We should all remember that although we hear from people who are adults today, in 1997 many of them were just kids.
Shara cried through both interviews, has been haunted for years by her treatment and the experience of watching this wrongful conviction unfold. Her story is a reminder that so many tears are shed, and that so many people heartbroken in the pursuit of injustice. The experience changed her life and hurt her badly. It is brave, very brave, and admirable that she agreed to tell her story. Here it is:
On That Night
It was just a normal night. A fun night of going out and everything. If this wouldn’t have happened the memories of that night would be just a normal night of going out.
After all these years of trying to forget there are so many things I don’t remember. Mostly little details. Like what it was like at the party at Kevin’s house, and how it was, or who all was there. But I know it was me, Kevin Pease, Kevin Bradley, Shawna, and Eugene. And Joey, he drove.And the things I remember well, its like vivid.
When we were driving back, like toward the Eagle’s hall, I saw a clock. A digital sign clock, I guess it must have been on University and Giest. And I saw that clock, I saw the time. I was so sure. All these years later I don’t remember for sure what it said, two something maybe, but I know that in that first police interview I KNEW. I was sure. So insistent when the police first talked to me about the times. Its been years, all these years of trying to force myself to forget but there are some things you can’t get rid of. Like that clock. I know I saw the time, and when I told them that first time I know I was right.
We got back to the Eagles and it was late. Like, from the time that we first pulled up to the Eagle’s and then drove over to Conan’s and back, and were at the Eagle’s for a while. All of that could not have even taken an hour, from when we first pulled up to the Eagle’s to when Marvin gave me a ride. It was so fast.
Another memory that is so clear is that at the Eagle’s Eugene was standing at the door. He was so drunk that he was swaying and leaning on the door. He kept asking every woman he saw to dance with him and we were like clowning on him about it. He was so drunk and just asking everyone to dance, and we were, he was our friend, our boy ya know, but we were clowning on him about that. It was funny.
I got a ride out of there from Marvin. And he was sober. He was sober and everything was fine, normal. Him, his car. He dropped us off at Conan and Shawna Goebel’s house, Allen and I.
We were there for a while – I think probably not much more than an hour. And what I remember about Kevin coming over there was we heard his three wheeler pulling up. Allen and I were sitting on the couch. Kevin never really got that drunk, so it was kinda funny you know. He came in just blabbering and laughing I think about something, and kinda fell back. And we were like, what the hell are you doing driving?
And it was dark, really dark, and late. So he was kinda rolling around laughing, we were just, it was funny. And that used to get to me after the cops kept saying maybe he was crying, maybe….that used to get to me sometimes, but in reality it was planted. The cops just tried to drill things into your head, to like make you doubt your memories.
But I know I was with Eugene, I mean, the whole time, the whole night. Even without perfect times, I know it was from early, that whole time at Kevin’s party, and then at the Eagle’s. And I was with Kevin the whole night, too, except for when he was at his mom’s but after that he came to Conan and Shawna’s and passed out there. And so I have always known, I mean KNOWN, that they are innocent.
They came I think it was that next day. The evening I think, and they talked to us. It was not an interview. It felt like an interrogation. I don’t even know how to describe it. It was scary, terrifying. I was crying and crying. I agreed to talk to them just to, you know because I should. You know this is how young I was, that it scared me to tell them that Kevin drove because I thought he would get a DUI. I told them, but that is how I guess naive I was that I thought like the worst trouble, that maybe I could get him in trouble for driving. But when we got to times and everything is when it turned so bad. I was just saying the truth, all I remembered about the night. Calling me a liar, the way they treated me, it was terrifying. I thought they would take me to jail, I thought that they would take me away. That there was nothing. Nothing. I can’t describe it.
The second interview then they were just trying to mess me up. To drill their times into my head, to make me unsure about everything. And it did. I was scared, and I thought that they were going to take me away. I was crying, and it was just bad.
On the Call From Kevin
“The police tried to make it like, they said that Kevin called and told us to lie. But didn’t. That wasn’t how the call was at all.
When Kevin called it was after the first time when Aaron Ring was there. He said how he had made a huge mistake when he lied, that he had told the police he was with his girlfriend all night, that he shouldn’t have. I did tell him that it was so scary, how bad it was they way the police were talking to us. He was, really, he was just reassuring to us. He told us to just stick to the truth, and he felt bad about the way, how the cops had been to. He said just keep your head up, tell the truth. He was always that kind of person, I don’t know, just watched out for you. And he said, tell the truth. He never, ever, never asked us to lie.”
“After they were arrested, I honestly thought they would get out. I knew they were innocent, so I honestly thought they would. I was young, all I thought was that justice and cops was there to bring real justice. Now, I understand that there is a lot of wrong in the world. It’s like, I thought the cops were there to protect us, so I thought they were there to do the right thing. That they would do the right thing. Learning that that is not true, it’s hard.
I have always known they were innocent. It changed me. It changed my life. It sucked so much until I forced myself to block it out…it was really hard on me at first. For a long time. Them going to jail and being innocent, me being interrogated and it was so terrifying, it as just a lot for me. Them calling me a liar and all that stuff. And just the fact KNOWING that your friends are innocent and you can’t do nothing about it.”
I always kept up on it, the case and articles, at first. For a long time I thought honestly they would get out. But eventually I had to let it go. So for a long time I just have blocked it out.
And then when you and Ricko emailed me, I kinda thought it over, I talked to my sister for a long time and I’ve thought and thought and I finally decided that this is a big issue in my life, and I really need to not sit here and do nothing.It was something so hard to remember, to deal with it, that I worked, I really worked at blocking it out. But eats at you. That’s why it’s so hard.
I dream about it. I used to dream about it ALL the time. I can’t even remember the details of the dreams, just like fear. Fear, nightmares. Especially from getting interrogated. I felt like I was being arrested. Nightmares because of the helplessness of it. I felt like I couldn’t do nothing, nothing to help. So I tried to forget.
I was fifteen then, and now I’m 30. I hated him. I hated Aaron Ring for a long time, a real long time. I don’t hate them anymore. I’m an adult, so I choose to believe that they were trying to do their jobs. I think they need some intensive training on how to interrogate people, that what they did to us, it should never be done to anyone. That they were the total wrong people to deal with the situation at all.
I wish I wouldn’t have been so young then. I wish I wouldn’t have been so scared. They scared me so bad, but I wish I had sat there and stuck up for the truth, been more persistent. Just not be scared. I wish I had sat there and stuck up for my friends better.
I am an adult now. I want to say that these men are innocent and I KNOW that. I was there, and that there is no way they did this crime. I was so scared back then that they were going to come take me and put me in jail. Now that I am older, I just want to say that I know for a fact that I saw that clock, that I was right, that I was with them that whole night. So it’s hard, but for me to sit here now as an adult and KNOW that this is just wrong, I have to speak up. This hurt me so much, it changed me. And it’s still hard, you know, to talk about. But I want to say that these guys, they are innocent.
We cannot applaud Shara enough for sharing her story. There are many people out there in our community who have information about who killed John Hartman – information that could change lives and heal wrongs. You can come forward completely anonymously by calling 907-279-0454, or if you wish to come forward and give your name, be eligible for the ever-growing reward for information in this case. If you OR ANYONE YOU KNOW has information about the Hartman case, please come forward.