The Skyway accident still rings clear in Wayne Kirksey's memory. That was the day a minor check forgery he investigated for the Bainbridge (Georgia) Police Department turned into his most memorable case. A retired schoolteacher reported that someone had forged his name on four small checks at nearby food stores.
When Kirksey knocked at the teacher's door, a young woman answered. She and her husband had boarded there for about a month. No, the teacher wasn't home.
"She acted nervous," Kirksey said recently. "I said I needed to talk to him about the checks that had been forged. Then she really became nervous."
Kirksey went to the convenience store. The description of the woman who had cashed the forged checks matched that of the woman he had just talked to. When Kirksey returned, the woman had left. He asked around and found that her husband cleaned out trucks at a local feed mill.
At the mill, he just missed the couple. The boss reported that the wife had picked up the husband "in some kind of emergency."
"Then I pretty much knew they were on the run," Kirksey recalled. At the Trailways station, he discovered they had left town a half-hour earlier under the names of Alvin and Barbara Stone. In Tallahassee, they switched to a Greyhound bound for Sarasota.
Kirksey notified Florida authorities via computer. It was May 8. Three days later, a Hillsborough County sheriff's detective called Kirksey.
"She asked me if I was looking for Alvin and Barbara Stone. I said, "Yes, if you've got them, hold them and we'll extradite them.' She said, "Well I've got them, but there's a problem with extradition. They were on the bus that went off the Skyway bridge.' "
Fingerprints revealed the couple's names were bogus. He was really Woodrow Triplett. She was Sandra Davis, his girlfriend.
Handwriting analysis on papers the couple left back in Bainbridge confirmed that they forged the checks.
"I was about 30-45 minutes behind them the whole way," Kirksey said. "They'd probably still be living if I had caught up to them."