He was hung-over from the night before and hadn’t wanted to go.
But Joellene was feeling a little stir-crazy, and the invitation to hang out by their friend Donna Gray’s pool, at an apartment complex in nearby Grand Prairie, was too good to pass up.
They are a reminder of the evil inside him, a violence that’s always waiting to be loosed. He stares into his eyes, which are inviting, almost kind. It’s far from any school playground, any park, any restaurant that might serve chicken fingers or ice cream. Across the road sits a trailer occupied by a dozen immigrants, he doesn’t know from where.
Down the way, there’s another trailer, one that may or may not be a meth lab; Greg is certain the people who live there are speed freaks. He stops and listens to the bleating of his neighbor’s goats. He climbs into his truck and sets out for Midlothian, about 25 miles west, to do work for a friend who installs wood flooring. His ears still burn when he thinks about it—and he thinks about it all the time. Greg sucks in his breath, tightens his grip on the wheel.
“We were all a little crazy,” one friend would later say. She and his mother stood behind him, crying, when the verdict was read.
“Greg was a little crazier.” He cussed out his mom. As his tormentor went to open the passenger door, he noticed the man’s wallet sitting on the dashboard. He was rinsing off again in the saltwater when a police officer found him. Granny’s confidence had always kept him going, but it wasn’t enough now to be strong. Stronger than everyone he was about to meet—and meaner, more dangerous. As soon as he got to prison, he began lifting weights.
They alone seemed to understand him, had seen enough hard living during their time to not be frightened by the turmoil inside him. Then he’d taken Greg to a motel, pulled his hair, slapped him around, raped him again. “Or I’ll kill you.” Greg had felt stupid, ashamed, like it was all his fault. He fought back, immediately, relentlessly, sustained by a hostility that never waned. He’d never touched Luke, not in that way, at least. But that was all it had been: a thoughtless, stupid joke. He’d never in a million years wish that on any kid. When he heard the day after the party that Brenda was pressing charges, he and his mother drove to the station in Grand Prairie so he could clear things up.
But they’d all been settling down lately, getting serious, having kids. The words in the police report, which spelled it all out with sickening clarity: how Luke, after returning to the party, had been “holding his rear end.” How, when asked what was wrong, he’d said he was in pain because Greg “made him bend over in the rest room and put a hot dog into his rear end.” Those words still swirl through Greg’s mind. Joellene and his mother put up money for his bail and hired a lawyer, who, convinced a jury would find him guilty and give him life, recommended a bench trial. Where kitchen workers put a razor blade in his coffee cup. Occasionally he awakes in terror that he’s back in prison, where guards allowed other inmates into his cell to beat him while he slept.In between the pranks and the chivalry, he began acting deranged, picking fights with grown men, jumping from the hood of a speeding car onto an eighteen-wheeler, riding his bike off the roof of a two-story apartment building into a pool. After that, Greg told his mom, he didn’t trust anyone, didn’t care if he lived or died. He was sent, in May 1994, to an alternative incarceration program, the Roach Boot Camp Unit, near Childress.His high school buddies could be unruly too—they all broke curfews, drank, fought—but Greg seemed to harbor a death wish. The days were brutal and militaristic—early-morning drills, long marches—but five months later he was released, still on probation. He and Joellene started dating, they soon became parents, and he landed his gig at Mack Trucks, making good money and attending the company’s on-site training school. And then came a hot June afternoon, when all he’d wanted to do was relax in the pool and play a little volleyball with some friends.“Be strong,” Granny had said that day in the courtroom, right before they took him away in handcuffs.At forty, he’s still boyish, with short brownish-blond hair and pale blue eyes.