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Monday, October 27, 1997
10 years later, family clings to memory of
officer slain by teen drug users
By MIKE JACKSON / The Dallas Morning News
MIDLOTHIAN, Texas - Ten years have passed since a young narcotics
officer - his cover as a high school student blown - was lured
to a remote field and shot to death by a 16-year-old drug abuser.
Yet the memories remain vivid, the feelings acute.
"Around the anniversary I get weepy-eyed," said Sheryl
Weatherford, one of Officer George Raffield Jr.'s sisters. "It's
not a good day for me."
Former Midlothian Police Chief Bob Vaughn can still picture
the 21-year-old former Boy Scout he hired to ferret out drug dealers
at Midlothian High School.
"George Raffield was just a good young boy," Vaughn
said. "Any parent would be proud to call him theirs. He gave
his life for something he believed in."
And his family says he did not give it in vain. Drug awareness
and teen counseling programs that were started within a year of
Officer Raffield's death are still in place. His sisters have
told the tragic story over and over to warn young people away
from drugs. And an annual $500 scholarship for Midlothian High
seniors is named in the rookie officer's honor.
"I think of him every time I walk into the Midlothian
Police Department," said Ellis County District Attorney Joe
Grubbs, who back then was a private lawyer assigned by the courts
to defend the youth accused of pulling the trigger.
This quiet Ellis County town of 6,000 was used to teenagers
cruising the streets and maybe occasionally buying beer with a
fake ID. But premeditated murder by one so young - by a Dallas
police officer's son - was hard to fathom.
Overnight, Midlothian was thrust into the national news and
forced to face the sobering reality that the serene community
was no longer immune to the effects of drugs.
"We all wanted to say that happens someplace else,"
But on Oct. 23, 1987, it happened in Midlothian.
The courts later determined that three teenagers and a 23-year-old
accomplice had conspired to kill Officer Raffield.
Freshman Greg Knighten shot Officer Raffield in the back of
the head after suspecting that the student he knew as "George
Moore" had gathered information on drug buys by Knighten
and his friends.
Convicted of murder, not capital, Knighten and accomplice Richard
Goeglein are serving 45-year prison sentences. Neither answered
a request to discuss the case or their lives since, though Grubbs
said he knows Knighten has obtained his high school equivalency
diploma and taken at least some college-level courses in prison.
For their parts in the crime, Jonathan Jobe and Cynthia Fedrick
both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder. Jobe
was sentenced to 10 years, Ms. Fedrick to eight. Each served about
20 months before being paroled. Jobe could not be reached for
comment. Ms. Fedrick has remained in Ellis County, where she says
the crime has left her life a shambles.
The killing, Grubbs said, wrought a change in the way Midlothian
residents perceive their community. The city lost its innocence,
he said. People became more street-savvy and determined to deal
Officer Raffield's death "almost marked the end or beginning
of a period," the district attorney said. "Even now,
I have less crime in Midlothian than in any other city in the
Officer Raffield's family still mourns, but his sisters say
that in some ways the community gained from their loss.
"God meant for my brother to make the sacrifice, and God
meant for us to come forward so that he won't be forgotten,"
said Sherrie Walker.
A Drug Awareness and Resistance Education program, commonly
known as DARE, was set up as a result of Officer Raffield's death,
said Vaughn, who retired as chief earlier this year. And a volunteer
group called REACH was formed to give teens someone to talk with
about problems and to sponsor drug- and alcohol-free events. Both
programs are still in effect, Vaughn said.
But the most enduring benefit to the community, Officer Raffield's
sisters said, is a book called "A Hero Named George."
It is a children's version of the longer book "Innocence
Lost," written by the same author, Carlton Stowers.
"The thing that keeps the story alive is the reaction
that the kids have to the book," Ms. Walker said.
Though written for elementary school children, "A Hero
Named George" doesn't sugarcoat the story. It describes Chief
Vaughn's plan to root out high school dope dealers by assigning
an undercover officer to find them.
And it describes how Knighten and Goeglein lured Officer Raffield
to a wooded area south of town by telling him they planned to
meet a friend there to buy marijuana.
"Suddenly three shots rang out," the book reads.
" 'Bang! Bang! Bang! ... He was dead."
The chilling story is a lesson to children on how drugs can
lead to big trouble.
"One bad decision like the one Greg Knighten made can
affect your life and the lives of a lot of other people that you
care about," Stowers said. "... There's a very strong
message in that story for kids."
The book has been embraced by police departments and schools
in the Dallas area and as far away as San Antonio and Wichita
Falls, Stowers said.
Teachers invite the author to speak to their classes. And Officer
Raffield's sisters and former Chief Vaughn have often gone along
to talk with students.
"They all sit there and they want to know more and more
information," said Ms. Weatherford, Raffield's sister.
Students typically ask what the family was doing when they
learned Officer Raffield had been killed, and how they felt.
Ms. Weatherford replies that the family was gathered together
listening to a police scanner as law enforcement officers searched
for her missing brother. A voice said Officer Raffield's pickup
truck had been found. Then, "Victim located."
" 'Victim' means death," she said.
A few minutes later, the family turned on the TV for more news.
There, they saw "an aerial view of the truck with the body
lying next to it," Ms. Walker said.
The family remains bitter about that image.
"Don't show the body," Ms. Weatherford said. "When
you see that picture of him lying face down in the dirt, you're
thinking he's been there all night. Where's his dignity?"
Ms. Weatherford said she cries sometimes when she answers the
"But I don't want them to think that they should stop
asking questions because I'm crying," she said. "Crying
is natural and it is part of what the family goes through."
For several years after the murder, the family set out a plate
for Officer Raffield each Thanksgiving. But his mother, Shirley
Moore, never put up a Christmas tree again.
"It wasn't fun anymore," Ms. Weatherford said. "He
was the one who put up the lights. She didn't want the constant
Ms. Moore died in February. Officer Raffield's father did not
want to be interviewed, his sisters said.
Sometimes after the sisters' talks with schoolchildren, one
or two will pull them off to one side with personal concerns.
"They'll come up to you and say, 'You know, my brother
or sister is doing drugs and I don't want this to happen to them,'
" Ms. Weatherford said.
Perhaps, Officer Raffield's sisters said, the lesson of their
brother's death helps.
"We've turned a personal tragedy into some positive things,"
Ms. Walker said. "I've vowed that I wouldn't let his sacrifice
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