When Calvin Moses and his passengers came upon a young John Hartman badly beaten, barely alive, and draped over a curb around 2:50am on that cold night in October 1997, the sight of his body was so frightening that the four adults did not get out of the car for fear the attackers were still nearby. They rushed to a nearby apartment complex and called 911. In fact, John Hartman was so bloody and badly beaten that they could not tell if he was a boy or girl, face up or face down. Only that if he was alive, he was barely alive.
One EMT who responded to the call was so badly shaken that he called home, woke his wife, and pleaded with her to lock the door. In the first newspaper article about the case (HERE) the lead detective described the crime scene as “horrific.”
Perhaps Detectives Aaron Ring and Jim Grier (who did the bulk of the police work on this case) believed that when the lab results came back from the car, the clothes, boots, shoes, hands, and feet of the four young men they had arrested in the hours immediately following the girssly discovery of the murdered boy, that the lab results would show what any reasonable person would expect to find on the people and car used to commit a violent stomping and beating death – DNA. And lots of it. But the lab results didn’t tie the Fairbanks Four to the victim. So, they tested, and retested. They took Marvin’s car apart to the point that it cannot be reassembled, searching for blood. And they found NONE.
NO DNA EVIDENCE HAS EVER LINKED THE FAIRBANKS FOUR TO THE CRIME THEY ARE CHARGED WITH COMMITTING.
When the police realized that there was no physical evidence linking Marvin Roberts, Kevin Pease, Eugene Vent, or George Frese to the murder of John Hartman, they did not begin looking for other leads. They did two things – they shopped for jailhouse snitches and “lost” a lot of evidence that would have supported claims of innocence by the four young men and pointed to the guilt of others.
So many things have been lost in the Fairbanks Four case. Life. Time. Freedom. Hope. Memory. Intangible things.
But a lot of other things were lost. Tangible things. Evidence. For example, the first interview police did with Chris Stone. That was “lost.” The transcript of the police interview with EJ Stevens simply directs the reader to the audio recording. Somehow, it was lost. Perhaps no coincidentally “lost” piece of evidence stands out more than the missing crime scene pictures. With no photographs of the crime scene, the public and juries had to rely on the word of the investigators who examined the crime scene (primarily Ring and Grier).
For many in the Native community the moment that the crime scene went from “horrific” to “virtually bloodless” was the moment when it became completely clear that something was extremely wrong with this case. These are, after all, a people who have many times seen a death on the first winter snows when they are blessed with a moose to feed their families. The idea that place where a boy was kicked and beaten to death would be bloodless has long seemed to be a deliberate lie. We can now confirm that anyone who saw the crime scene and later described it as bloodless was lying, and readers can confirm that for themselves by looking at the recently unearthed photograph above.
When KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage did their documentary The 49th Hour: The Fairbanks Four, they were granted access to the historical footage shot by KTVF. During this same KTUU documentary (which you can watch HERE) the CURRENT Fairbanks Police Department police chief applauds the exemplary work of the detectives who investigated the murder of John Hartman, even calling it “model” police work. In that film footage from KTVF that KTUU producers unearthed, buried in the long-forgotten reels of film shot the day that John Hartman died, were a series of images of the crime scene the police and DA described as bloodless. This photograph of the place John Hartman was killed looks exactly as we would have imagined.
Those of us that live with the land and feed our children with what we can gather and hunt know something about blood and snow. We have seen the warm blood of an animal hit snow and race across the surface, frozen. We have seen it seep, and spread slowly from a wound. The place where a life is taken, even when taken respectfully with one swift and cordial wound, is marked on the snow until spring washes it away. We know the way that snow makes blood sticky, how the course hair of moose cling to your hands and boots and resists any attempt to cast it away.
To take a life is to spill blood, and blood remains there where life poured out, and upon those who touched it. It tracks on boots and pants, fingers and hands. Life does not disappear without a trace. John Hartman did not lose his life without leaving a mark behind. Those who killed him did not leave the scene of the crime without the blood of John Hartman on their feet, in their car, on their clothes, their shoes, and hands.
That DNA evidence probably washed over time, as seasons changed. But blood is on the hands of many in the case of the Fairbanks Four: Those who really did kill John Hartman, those who chose to deliberately wrongfully convict the Fairbanks Four believing they had so little value that they would never be remembered and fought for, and those who “lost,” altered, hid, corrupted, and lied. Those people have blood on their hands that cannot be washed away with water or with time. For all those in our community and world who have blood on their hands through murder, corruption, conspiracy, or through the crime of silence, we have a prayer always on our lips and in our hearts for you – that someday you will be free from the prison you built for yourself. That you will choose to redeem yourself as best you can during your time on this earth. That you remember that every day that innocent men spend in prison for a crime they did not commit, you commit another crime, and your guilt grows.
You can try to bury the truth. You can try to outrun it, you can try to lose it by forcing it deep into the darkest theatres of the mind. But you cannot destroy it. You can take a lot from another human being – their life, their time, even their hope. But you cannot take their story, and you cannot take the truth. Truth has a power of its own, and someday, the truth will FREE THE FAIRBANKS FOUR.
They were in such a hurry to arrest someone,didn’t matter if they were guilty or not.I told my husband that if they were guilty one would have turned on the others.I didn’t know any of the young men involved but reading everything told me there was no evidence.The truth will come one day but these young men will Never get their youth back!
Makes me sick to thing that some one can be tried,punished and loose their life’s for something they are not guilty of. And out there the guilty has not been found for one reason or cover up to hide the guilty party or parties. Why aren’t these boys freed after all this time and no evident.. Praying someone will look into this case and right a wrong.
Just talked to Kev
Just sent screen shots of this
He will call tomoro
One of the things I learned in EMT class was the technique for estimating blood loss and that in snow the amount of blood often appears on the surface to be much less than it actually is. Warm blood can quickly melt through the top layer of snow and pool under the surface. Regardless of the amount of blood left at the scene, Calvin Moses’ passengers described John Hartman as “All bloody”. Marvin’s family members were eagerly awaiting the results of forensic testing of his shoes and car, knowing that no blood would be found and feeling certain that this further proof of his innocence would result in the charges against him being dropped. Of course we know that did not happen…but WHY did it not happen? I have long had a feeling that there was more going on than just inept investigators.
As a supporter sitting in on current evidentary trial, l too believe there is a much bigger corruption picture with in the FPD and cover up on a huge drug ring, whice includes investigators, Former bar owner who is a St witness on current trial and many more. Fairbanks is a small city with word out on the streets of much corruption during that period, they can run but they can’t hide, truth will prevail… God help them when it does
The word of God (bible) says that God gives a chance for people to repent of their wrong doings. If no repentance, then their evil deeds will be shouted from the rooftops(news). It is just a matter of time before the truth is exposed by our living God. Praying for conviction to come upon the quilty one or ones or anyone who knows of what happened. For it to happen very soon so these innocent ones can be freed.
Don’t give up. The truth will come out. It always does.
The four that are accused are RIGHTFULLY incarcerated! I grew up with them and know for a fact they are capable. Do not let them fool u! And thier families are ering for raising such monsters! John heartman was a great kid! KID!!!! HE DIDNT DESERVE what happened. Si if the four are released, you are saying its ok for someone to beat YOUR KID, BROTHER, SISTER, MOM, DAD, OR LOVED ONE TO DEATH! If you support these lies of wrongful accusations, I pray it isnt you or YOUR loved one next! Cause all youde be doing is enforcing the murderers and thier actions.
Fascinating – you grew up in several places at once, and seem to have a very different opinion that those who actually did grow p with these men. If you grew up with them, who are you? Surely all the people who did grow up with them would know you. Hope you remain proud of your comment in light of the recent filing proving their innocence.
Sounds to me like someone involved in the investigation might be responsible for the crime committed…
Where is Chris Stone? Why hasn’t he been interviewed again? Why no mention of the drugs taken that day? Melissa Stevens stated “she knows Chris Stone knows more”. Where are these interviews? Evidence is lost? This is “justice”? This is NOT justice. 5 people lost their lives.
Read the interviews people. Read them.
Good question, witness protection to shut him up on Fbks biggest drug ring in which investigators had their dirty , crooked, bloody hands in?
I thought I knew all I needed to know about this case, until I read the interrogation interviews with all these guys and did a little research of my own by way of the internet. I think if more people do as I have done, as well as others like me, by actually taking a closer look at the real facts of this case, the truth will reveal itself. I can no longer understand how these boys were charged for this crime. I should mention, however, that it appears clear they may be responsible for the assault on Frank Dayton at this point, but, I can NOT find them guilty of murdering Jonathan Hartman. I was saddened to discover today that first, I used to work with Evalyn, and second that she also died in an accident.
This was a case of convenient enough to charge a couple of kids for a crime. This isn’t a case of the charges rightfully belonging to those who were charged.
How can you praise ANY law office for a “job well done” with so many loose ends and missing evidence, and overlooked suspects? Why wasn’t Chris Stone interrogated, and if he was, why isn’t it available to the public?
Thank you Calvin for doing what you could on calling 911 during that time so many years a go may you to find peace in your soul
Please watch the link above. The case presented is strikingly similar I’d say. It’s time to get the wheels turning in the right direction for these guys.
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Just a correction, I was with two other people when we found John. It was Louise Joseph-Lambert and her late sister Christine Joseph. I still remember that scene like it was yesterday, its something I will never forget. My prayers to the late John Hartman and to the four young men who lost the better part of their lives for a crime that they didn’t commit. I hope that the Court system has a change of heart and let them free. If you still do not believe that they are innocent then please read the stories and the police interrogation transcripts and you will see that it was physically impossible for Arlo Olsen to see who exactly assaulted Frank Dayton. It is impossible to not find any physical evidence of the assault in Marvins “getaway” car and on the boots and clothes of the four.
Well written, thank you for station g the truth. May God have mercy on all who have been affected in this horrific crime, taking away innocent lives, Hartman, Roberts, Pease, Frease and Vent… May those who have a chance to redeem their selves by coming forward and state the truth please do so in order to set the Fairbanks Four FREE!