SALINE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) -- It's a case that's captivated Arkansans for a quarter of a century. The mystery of The Boys on The Tracks is still very much alive. At first, police said the two Saline County teens were asleep when a train hit and killed them, but then that all changed.
Thursday is the 25th anniversary, and Today's THV is taking a look back.
It was August 23, 1987 around 4 a.m. at a set of railroad tracks near Alexander. Union Pacific Train engineers say they saw the teens stretched over the tracks. There was a rifle nearby. They tried to stop but couldn't.
The train hit 17-year-old Kevin Ives and 16-year-old Don Henry, dismembering their bodies.
The State Medical examiner at the time, Dr. Fahmy Malak, ruled the teens smoked 20 marijuana joints, then fell asleep on the tracks. He listed their deaths as suicide.
Ives father Larry spoke to Today's THV in 1988. "Our sons are not here to protect themselves, if they were here, they could tell us what happened, but they're not here," he explained.
The boys' parents questioned the suicide ruling. They petitioned the court and received permission for a second opinion.
Saline County picked Dr. Joseph Burton, a leading medical examiner from Georgia, to preform the second autopsy.
In April of 1988, crews exhumed the bodies and Burton began tests. Scientific evidence revealed they hadn't smoked enough pot to be unconscious and they possibly died before the train hit them.
In his words, the deaths are "not accidental." Burton says Henry had a stab wound not related to anything the train did to him. As for Ives, it appears someone hit him in the head with the butt of his own gun.
Burton's autopsy confirmed what the victims' families suspected all along, they'd been murdered.
Next, Saline County formed a grand jury to investigate. Soon to be the county's special prosecutor, Dan Harmon took control of the investigation.
Harmon told THV in 1988, "There is no doubt in my mind that it was a homicide, there's no doubt in the grand jury's mind."
In late 1988, the grand jury changed the suicide ruling to homicide. It was a victory for the boys' families and friends.
But who covered up their deaths? Many believe it points to a possible drug ring, political corruption and two teens in the wrong place, at the wrong time.