Sunday, November 14, 2010

"This Night Wounds Time" year later...

On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, it will be one year since the book This Night Wounds Time: The Mysterious Disappearances of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley was released. And what a year it has been.

In the book’s Preface, I acknowledge the harsh truth that "solved mysteries are revisited by the media ad nauseam while cold cases – the ones truly needing exposure – languish." This proved to be largely true of the press’ reaction in 2009 to efforts to reignite the then 21-year-old Madison/Smalley case.

Thankfully, there are exceptions to every rule, with the most visible one in this instance arriving in the form of television reporter Jason Whitely who, on December 2, 2009, presented a story on WFAA-TV (the Dallas, Texas area affiliate of ABC) entitled "Unsolved Disappearance of Two Girls Detailed in New Book."

This news report did more for the case than anyone could have foreseen and a tremendous amount of thanks is definitely owed to both Jason Whitely and WFAA.

The WFAA story was viewed by many who remembered the Madison/Smalley case and, as I was able to report in a speech presented to the Friends of the Carrollton Public Library on May 24, 2010, "Since the publication of the book and the subsequent WFAA story, people have come forward with what I’ll term 'additional information.'" ("Detectives won't reveal what that information is," The Dallas Morning News would later report in this regard, "but they say it's credible.") This would prove to be but one of many positives.

This "additional information" was gleaned by a Carrollton Police Department which, as Jon Nielsen of The Dallas Morning News reported in a July 6, 2010 story, was devoting "new resources [to] the case [and] re-examining theories dismissed long ago." Of these theories previously dismissed, Sgt. Joel Payne of the Carrollton Police Department would tell The Dallas Morning News, "We threw out all the assumptions, and we started from scratch." Payne would later elaborate on this statement and tell The Carrollton Leader, "I pulled in some of the original witnesses and began to verify things."

In some of these efforts Payne has been assisted by the Denton County District Attorney’s Office which, according to The Dallas Morning News, became "involved with the investigation after a possible link to the area was revealed in the book." And their combined efforts continue.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all of this, legendary novelist Anne Rice, the author of Interview with the Vampire, raised the case's profile by graciously reviewing the book on Amazon.

Again, what an amazing year this has been. The focus, though, must remain on what lies ahead and the fact that the case has yet to be closed - nearly 23 years now since the girls disappeared.

At the time that he was interviewed by The Dallas Morning News, Sgt. Joel Payne stated, "What I need is something somebody's been holding on to for 22 years." If you or someone you know has information regarding the Madison/Smalley case (no matter how trivial), now is the time to speak up.

With thanks to Jason Whitely, Jon Nielsen, Kara Koilini, Senitra Horbrook, James Roth, and Christen M. Stroh, the following is a collection of the media pieces devoted to the Madison/Smalley case since November 2009:

Friday, October 29, 2010

No campfire story...

As we approach Halloween, I am reminded of the tall tales, ghost stories, and legends one hears in childhood around the proverbial campfire. Such stories oftentimes involve two teenagers (either two friends or a boyfriend and girlfriend) who veer from their usual path only to find themselves lost in the woods or in an old house where they encounter evil in one form or another. I vaguely remember one such story that involved something about a hook hand on a doorknob or some such silliness...

I mention these tales in this forum because it recently occured to me that, in the years since 1988, the Madison/Smalley case has become just such a "campfire" story in the minds of many. Case in point: thanks in large measure to the pre-2009 media, I have lost count of how many people have mentioned to me in the last year and a half how it always disturbed them to think about Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley being abducted by strangers and having the most salacious and sordid of fates befall them, such as being sold into prostitution in Mexico.

For those who do not know, this particular premise stems from nothing more than gossip. (Specifically, as recounted in a March 1998 article in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "A man who identified himself as a behavioral psychologist reported his 'feeling' that the teenagers crossed the Mexican border near San Diego with two men a week after they disappeared.") Yet, today this theory has been incorporated into many of the various missing websites that include entries about the girls.

Those who have read This Night Wounds Time know that I dismiss the likelihood of this possibility, along with the notions that the girls were:

... abducted by aliens from outer space, spirited away to Mexico and sold into prostitution, had gone to South Padre Island to marry boyfriends, had fallen victim to a roving serial killer, were sacrificed by Satanists in honor of the Vernal Equinox, or murdered as part of an illegal organ harvesting syndicate operated by Dallas bikers and Mexican crime lords. (p. 117)
The police officers I interviewed concur with this opinion; as I recount in the book:

When I asked Captain Greg Ward about this odd assortment of suppositions, particularly the gossip regarding the girls being transported to Mexico for forced prostitution purposes, his opinion was, "There’s a lot of speculation about what happened but, in my law enforcement career, I’m not aware of anybody from the United States, the Texas area, who was abducted and sold for what they call 'White Labor.'" When presented weeks earlier with a question regarding the rampant speculation surrounding the girls’ disappearances, Sergeant John Crawford had offered a similar response and added, "Everybody’s got a little angle on something." In other words, our television and tabloid-driven society has a tendency to reject plausible and likely explanations in favor of those which are more sensational and exotic. (p. 118)

In this regard, my assertion - based upon the research I conducted while writing the book - is that the evil Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley encountered on the night they disappeared was no stranger but instead someone known to and trusted by them. And this truth is far more frightening than any "campfire" tale anyone can manufacture.

In July of 2010, Joel Payne, the detective currently assigned to the Madison/Smalley case, told The Dallas Morning News, "What I need is something somebody's been holding on to for 22 years."

If you or someone you know has any information (no matter how trivial) regarding the disappearance of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley on March 20, 1988, please contact the Carrollton Police Department at 972-466-3300.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Madison/Smalley case featured in Paralegal Today magazine

The Madison/Smalley case is currently featured in the July/September 2010 edition of Paralegal Today:

Double-click on these images to see full size versions of these pages.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Disappearance" versus "disappearances"?

Over the course of the past few months, I've been asked a couple of times why "disappearances" was used throughout This Night Wounds Time in place of the more grammatically proper "disappearance."

This was a conscious choice made for two reasons:

(1) Two individuals (not one) disappeared on March 20, 1988 and, although it is presumed that such occured during one collective event, two separate families (not one) were consequently devastated. Accordingly, in this instance, the use of "disappearance" diminished and mitigated the ways in which the mystery of that night impacted both the Madison and Smalley families and continues to affect them two decades later.

(2) In Chapter 19 ("The Time is Now") of the book, I write:

Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley...are not just missing. They are also presumed dead...I have avoided using such terms as "death" and "murder" until now...because, knowing the Madison and Smalley families will read this book, I have done my best to be sensitive to their feelings...[but] the time for subtlety is over...[and] it is now time for someone to finally do the right thing and share what they know about the murders of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley.

Therefore, the word "disappearances" (plural) as used in the book is intended to be synonymous with "deaths" and/or "murders."

Chapter 19 of This Night Wounds Time is available for review in its entirety at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A case that reminds us to never say "never"
"Suspect in Fort Worth teen's 1984 slaying arrested on DNA evidence"
Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
By Deanna Boyd/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Friday, July 16, 2010

‎"Reconnecting can lead to connection in case"

‎"Reconnecting can lead to connection in case"
By James Roth
The Carrollton Leader
July 16, 2010

A 1988 missing persons’ case involving two popular Carrollton girls is drawing new attention because of modern technology.

On March 19, 1988, Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley were two normal girls who attended Newman Smith High School just months away from graduation. However, after that night, the city of Carrollton was changed forever.

That evening, Madison and Smalley traveled to many locations across the Metroplex. According to police, the girls went to the mall, then to a friends party in Arlington and then to a Steak and Ale restaurant in Addison where Smalley worked.

"It is hard to know exactly every spot they stopped at that night. If this were to happen today we would have been able to pin locations using cells phones and other technology," said Sgt. Joel Payne, lead detective on the case. "We talked to people at the party that took place in Arlington and found nothing there."

Payne said that once the girls left the restaurant their whereabouts and location are unknown. He said the next day phone calls were made by both Madison and Smalley’s parents but the police were not notified.

"This was Carrollton in 1988, bad things did not happen in this city," Payne said. "Both girls were very responsible, so the red flags of something horribly wrong did not go off in either household."

The following Monday, Madison’s father went to Newman Smith High School to see if the girls were in school. After talking to a security guard, Madison’s father found out that the girls were not at school and notified the police.

Madison’s car, a 1967 Ford Mustang, was found in the parking lot of the El Fenix restaurant at the intersection of Webb Chapel and Forrest Lane.

According to Payne, in 1988 Forrest Lane was a very popular place for people to drive around and hang out. He said once people became aware of the situation, leads began to come in from everywhere.

"We had all sorts of leads, from psychics calling in to people saying they saw them on a bus in New Mexico," Payne said. "Unfortunately nothing solid came in until that summer."

That summer, an ex-boyfriend of one of the girls admitted to his new girlfriend that he was involved in the disappearance of the girls. According to Payne, that lead was looked into but nothing conclusive was found.

As time went on, the months and years passed and the case became cold. Payne said while leads are continually worked, there is not enough evidence to figure out what actually took place.

Interest in the case was renewed when Carrollton resident Shawn Sutherland wrote the book "This Night Wounds Time: The Mysterious Disappearance of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley," telling the girls story.

Payne said that the book did not provide any new evidence on that night but it did make him think differently about how the night progressed.

"In talking to the author and looking back over everything I began to make different connections that were not there before," Payne said. "I began to start the whole investigation from scratch. I pulled in some of the original witnesses and began to verify things."

According to Payne, he was amazed at the memory that many people still had of that night.

"The disappearance of these girls is a benchmark for an entire generation of Carrollton residents," Payne said. "People know where they were and what they were doing. They are connected to that moment in time."

Payne said because so many people from Carrollton are connected to that moment in time, the conversation about the girls disappearance has never gone away. He said new forms of communication such as social networking has helped police bring in new witnesses to gather information about the girls.

"Facebook groups are huge," Payne said. "There is a Facebook group about these girls and people post information about them all the time. We are able to contact them and make connections."

Payne said that individuals who were friends with Madison and Smalley are now adults with children who are 17 or 18 years old, and they do not want another incident like this to occur.

"People are coming forward now and talking more openly about details that night," Payne said. "Back in 1988, someone we questioned might not have said something because they did not want there friend to get in trouble with their parents, or get themselves in trouble."

Payne said the culmination of technology and friends of Madison and Smalley now having children of their own are sparking interest in this case once again.

"We have been able to get a better feel for what took place that night because of things like people talking on Facebook," Payne said. "The better the description we get and the more people we talk to only help us."

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Madison and Smalley can contact the Carrollton Police Department at 972-466-3335.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"'88 case of missing teens gets jump-start"

"'88 case of missing teens gets jump-start: Book spurs investigators to re-examine episode that shook Carrollton"
By Jon Nielsen
The Dallas Morning News
July 6, 2010

The poster is from another generation.

A dozen tiny pinpricks above the words "MISSING PERSONS" mark where the flier has been tacked and retacked onto a bulletin board in the Carrollton Police Department lobby.

Below the block text pounded out on an old typewriter are pictures of the two teens missing since 1988.

Stacie Madison and Susan Renee Smalley stare back from their senior class photos. Their smiles, frozen in time, express youthful optimism.

Thousands of Carrollton residents remember the days and weeks after the teens vanished. They remember the posters scattered about the city and in the windows of businesses up and down Forest Lane, a popular teen hangout where the girls disappeared.

Time passed. The headlines subsided. As Carrollton grew, the memory faded until a full-time paralegal decided to write a book that reignited the investigation.

'Tell their story'

The case invaded Shawn Sutherland's sleep.

Sutherland, who was 24 in 1988 and had grown up in Carrollton, was haunted for years by the girls' disappearance.

Then, one night last year, Sutherland awakened with this phrase racing through his mind: "Tell their story."

Sutherland, now 46, spent much of his free time studying and writing articles about cults. After his epiphany last spring, he put a project about a California cult leader on hold so that he could write the tale of the missing teens. He called the book he self-published last fall This Night Wounds Time: The Mysterious Disappearances of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley.

Carrollton police had never closed the case. It sat inactive, like a jigsaw puzzle missing pieces, until Sutherland wrote his book.

"I was thinking I was going to write a book that maybe stirred citizens up. ... Maybe that would force police to do something," Sutherland said.

2 months from graduation

Stacie, 17, and Susan, 18, set to graduate in two months from Carrollton Newman Smith High School, were determined to make the last night of spring break count. They planned a sleepover at Susan's place and were determined to find a good party. It was March 19, 1988.

Stacie had endured the SAT earlier that Saturday and was waiting at home for Susan to drop by. Ida Madison, Stacie's mother, permed her daughter's shoulder-length blond hair as they waited.

After Susan arrived, the teens pranced out the front door to Stacie's pristine yellow 1967 Mustang convertible. As they headed to the car, Ida reminded them about her midnight curfew.

"How will you know we'll be in?" Susan joked.

"You never know when I'll call," Ida said.

The girls planned nothing that night. In typical teenage fashion, they wandered around town. They went to the mall, dropped by Susan's house, and then went to a friend's party in Arlington. They didn't stay at the apartment long, left about 10 p.m. and returned to Susan's house in Carrollton. They called the Arlington apartment again at 12:01 a.m.

Between 12:30 and 1 a.m., they went to a Steak and Ale restaurant in Addison where Susan worked. Susan talked to a boy whom she wanted to date, and then the girls left in the Mustang, the convertible top down.

It was the last time they were seen alive.

Police discovered Stacie's car at Webb Chapel Road and Forest Lane the following Tuesday. The doors were locked, the convertible top fastened shut. It was about 45 degrees the morning of their disappearance, but the girls' jackets were found on the car's floorboard on top of Stacie's boombox.

The girls' families never thought that the teens would have run away. Susan's mother is sure something sinister happened that morning.

"There's a chance they might walk through the door. In your mind you think that might happen," said Carol Audett, Susan's mother. "But I know my daughter. She wouldn't have just left."

A fresh start

Sutherland began working on the book in April 2009. After his daylong shifts as a patent law paralegal in a downtown Dallas high-rise, he stayed up as late as 2 a.m. pecking the pages out on his keyboard in his Richardson home.

Sutherland, who has a stubbly salt-and-pepper beard and an arch of baldness across his head, binged on sandwiches and Pop-Tarts. The diet added about 20 pounds to his already husky frame.

For nearly eight months he wrote, researched and interviewed everyone from the original case detectives to the girls' high school teachers.

The book didn't reveal new details about that night in 1988, but it came at a time when Carrollton police were re-examining cold cases. His efforts prompted investigators to take a closer look.

"What this book did was push the full reset button," said Carrollton police Sgt. Joel Payne. "We threw out all the assumptions, and we started from scratch."

The department and Payne, the lead detective, are throwing new resources into the case. The Denton County district attorney's office also assigned an investigator after learning of a connection in its county.

With the case revived, investigators are re-examining theories dismissed long ago. There's a heightened urgency to get anyone with information about the case to come forward.

"Somebody knows something out there. Good, bad, rumor, we don't care. We just need to put some pieces together," said Denton County investigator Jerry Pomposelli.

Some who have remained silent for 22 years are providing information about the night the girls disappeared. Detectives won't reveal what that information is, but they say it's credible.

Payne said they need more.

"What I need is something somebody's been holding on to for 22 years," Payne said.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Shawn Sutherland publishes book to reignite interest in decades-old Carrollton mystery"

Photo courtesy of Jenice Johnson/The Dallas Morning News

"Shawn Sutherland publishes book to reignite interest in decades-old Carrollton mystery"
By Kara Koloini

From his office on the 71st floor of Bank of America Plaza, the highest point in the city, Shawn Sutherland has a clear view of everything in Dallas.

But it's an event that occurred more than 22 years ago, in a location still unknown, that Sutherland is most concerned with today.

Sutherland is at the center of a media blitz promoting his new self-published book, This Night Wounds Time, a methodical look at the 1988 disappearance of Newman Smith High School seniors Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley, the subsequent investigation, and its status as one of North Texas' most infamous unsolved mysteries.

"Anyone living in or around the area in the late '80s remembers the story, and they know what’s meant when someone mentions 'those two girls'," Sutherland said.

Exactly where the story of "those two girls" ends is yet to be determined. What is known is sparse: Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley, two high school students quickly approaching graduation, went out in Dallas one night and never returned.

Stacie’s yellow Ford Mustang was found parked on Forest Lane, with the girls' belongings locked inside, and was returned to her family without being fingerprinted or searched. The spring break timing of their disappearance left the Carrollton Police Department doubting foul play until nearly a month later, and after two decades, not a single arrest has ever been made.

This may soon be changing. According to Sutherland, with the publication of his book, a number of people have come forward with new information and in some cases, startling revelations. One particularly substantial development: The Denton County District Attorney's Office has become involved with the investigation after a possible link to the area was revealed in the book.

Sutherland has also confirmed that he has been working with Carrollton police as a consultant — giving him access to the case files and new evidence, including a renewed focus on specific leads generated in 1988.

Sutherland said he is pleased with the increased attention his book, which he is selling at cost, has brought back to the girls' story, and the enthusiasm of the Carrollton Police Department in investigating the case.

But he won't be fully at peace until the case is solved, and the Smalley and Madison families know what happened to their daughters that fateful night.

"When Stacie and Susan first disappeared, I was haunted by the idea that they disappeared like that, just vanished into thin air," Sutherland said. "Today, I’m haunted by the fact that there hasn’t been closure — that there has never been justice."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Text of address delivered to the Friends of the Carrollton Public Library

Thanks to Marisa Barrier, moderator of the "Never Forget Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley" Facebook group, the text of the address I delivered to the Friends of the Carrollton Public Library is now available online in its entirety.


Those who have followed the Madison/Smalley case may find the following of interest:

As I’ve said, this book was written to reignite fires that had long grown cold. I stand here tonight happy to report that it served that purpose; the Carrollton Police Department is back on this case, with possibly more gusto than they’ve ever had! Not only that, but the Denton County District Attorney’s Office "is assisting the Carrollton Police Department with the investigation" and, this is a direct quote from them to me, "our office became involved after the book revealed a possible Denton County connection to this crime. At that point we offered our assistance to the Carrollton Police Department." I know all of this because I can finally reveal that - since shortly after the publication of this book - I’ve been working with the Carrollton Police Department as a "consultant" on the case.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19th

Today is March 19, 2010. Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley were last seen by their families 22 years ago today on March 19, 1988.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Since the inception of This Night Wounds Time in April 2009, I have been asked countless times (and in a variety of ways) why I felt compelled to undertake the task of writing a book about Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley, two individuals whom I did not know personally.

The most concise answer I can offer in this regard is that, whether the world can comprehend it or not, I simply felt called to write the book. As Ephesians 2:10 says, "[W]e are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

While writing the book, for inspiration I looked to Oskar Schindler, whose deeds were, according to Herbet Steinhouse, the result of, "just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in."

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Missing trio"

In the preface to This Night Wounds Time, I write, "The equation is a simple one: solved mysteries are revisited by the media ad nauseam while cold cases - the ones truly needing exposure - languish."

Therefore, doing my part to promote other cold cases, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to the case of Julie Ann Moseley, Rachel Trlica, and Lisa Renee Wilson, three Fort Worth teenagers who disappeared on December 23, 1974. This case, like that of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley, has never been solved.

Please see for more information.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Webbs Chapel Village (Webbs Chapel Road and Forest Lane)

It was at this locale, Webbs Chapel Village (Forest Lane and Webbs Chapel Road) that Stacie Madison's Ford Mustang was located.

Again, these photos are posted for the benefit of those wishing to see higher resolution versions of the photos featured in the book.

Stacie Madison's 1967 Ford Mustang

Steak and Ale, Addison, Texas

Some have asked if it's possible to see better quality/higher resolution images of the landmarks shown in the book.

Here is a photograph of the former Steak and Ale at Belt Line Road and Sakowitz Drive, where Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley were last seen in the early morning hours of March 20, 1988.

Please note that this building still exists in 2010 but, since the corporate entity filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in 2008, it is no longer a Steak and Ale.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Since the release of This Night Wounds Time in November 2009, several people have raised the question of whether or not psychics were consulted in regard to the disappearances of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley.

I do not mention psychics in my book, but the answer to this question is yes.

This truth is found in the August 19, 2001 edition of The Dallas Morning News in which, in the article entitled "Vanished Without a Trace: 13 Years After Teens Disappeared, Families Still Wait, Wonder," author Michael Granberry writes, "With nothing else to go on, Carrollton police listened intently to several psychics..."

I'm told that the services of these individuals in 1988 proved to be a waste of time and resources. Therefore, to those persons intent on raising this possibility in 2010, I offer that it is a very safe bet that this is an avenue the Carrollton Police Department is not interested in exploring again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Anne Rice's review of "This Night Wounds Time"

Novelist Anne Rice, author of Angel Time, the Christ the Lord series, and Interview with the Vampire, reviewed This Night Wounds Time on January 12, 2010. Please see