Friday, September 21, 2007

Persistence, luck, danger and good reporting

Remember Earl Swift's narrative whodunit on the Norfolk mayor shot to death 35 years ago (see this post)? Here's a great tale from Lon Wagner, who edited the piece, on how Earl got the story.

I'm going to get with Earl to ask him a few things about the story to put here on the blog. If anyone has any questions they want to ask of Earl, let me know with a comment to this post.

Meanwhile, cue Lon:

"Background is this: We aim for one of these local history narratives every summer, due to the popularity of the Fever two years ago.

Last year, Diane wrote the pirate serial. We thought we were not going to have one this year, but Earl was looking into this and we thought, "well, just maybe." Key was getting access to the actual police file, or so we thought.

We thought the mayor was going to arm twist the police chief there for a while, but due to various political things around town, the mayor decided not to do battle over this and the file was out of the question. But somehow, Earl arranged to be in the room with the file and ask specific questions.

He gets a lead that the cops had actually pursued this case as recently as 2004, and we thought, "hey, that makes it current, maybe it's a two or three parter." Then Earl found out that one of the only living people in the story was a guy named Eddie "Boo" Creedle, who lived in South Hill, about two and a half hours from here.

They arranged to meet one night in South Hill, and since Eddie Boo had been convicted of various crimes involving guns and people dying, Earl said, "I'm calling you on the way IN to the interview; I'm calling you as soon as I get out. Here's where I'll be....."

So after about three hours, it was 9 p.m. and I still hadn't heard, so us couple of old guys texted each other: "You OK?" (it took me 10 minutes to find the question mark)

A few minutes later, Earl shot back: "Still at it."

Next day, Earl unloaded what he had learned: Creedle had tried to rat out his friend, Johnny Ozlin, decades earlier. Creedle told a long yarn about the supposed killer, how they knew each other, etc. We knew we had a serial, with a story that could end in 2007."