VAN BUREN, Ark. – Page by page, a file is created.
“It’s the property and the evidence that we found,” recalled retired Van Buren police detective Kevin Johnson. “These are my notes here.”
The attempted kidnapping
It was August 1995 when Johnson received a call to investigate an attempted kidnapping on South Fifth Street. An 11 year old girl with her brothers were getting a soda and fries. Records show a drunk man, driving a red Chevy pickup truck, pulled over and began making sexual comments to her.
The filing reveals the man began waving money “like a fan”. He told the 11-year-old that she could have the money if she went to his house. Officers report the girl started running and screaming. The truck took off and swept over a power pole along the way.
Johnson arrived at the scene with heightened senses because one town away, investigators were entering their third month in the search for Morgan Nick.
“Your senses are heightened in what is happening right now. It doesn’t happen. They are very rare,” Johnson said.
A key witness said he obtained the truck’s license plate. They told officers it was WJA 385, but that plate didn’t hit. Officers then transposed the numbers to WJA 835, which was successful. The license plate search returned to a red truck, road numbered Billy Jack Lincks.
Johnson knew he had the suspect.
“Once we went to his place of residence [and] found the van, found the mark on his truck, he was drunk,” Johnson recalled. “Yeah, we knew pretty quickly.”
Lincks was questioned by Johnson at Van Buren police, then charged and convicted of sexual solicitation of a child.
When asked if Morgan Nick had ever been involved in the search, Johnson noted that his agency had contacted state and federal authorities.
“That’s the very reason we turned this over to the state police and the FBI,” he said.
Johnson’s 1995 memo reveals that Lincks was turned over to the Arkansas State Police and the FBI for further interviews.
“We know what that interview was. It was Morgan Nick’s interview. My interview was over,” he said.
More than a week later and with a search warrant in hand, records reveal the ASP searched Lincks’ red van.
“I think [it was] specific for Morgan Nick,” Johnson said.
Documents show investigators found hair fibers on the seat and floor, duct tape, tarp, rope, a machete and blood in one of the seats.
“Any type of DNA or blood evidence is always one of the most important aspects of any investigation,” said former prosecutor and partner at Kamps & Ward law firm Kelly Ward. “He lived about 13 minutes from where Morgan disappeared.”
DNA technology first came online in Arkansas in 1995, around the same time the Crime Lab confirmed blood on Lincks’ truck seat.
Where is the blood?
A state lab document shows the blood was retained for review for possible future analysis. So where is the blood, and could it offer insight into Morgan’s case?
ASP spokesman Bill Sadler provided a written statement that the sample taken from Lincks’ truck was last known to potentially be used in a separate criminal investigation.
“On September 20, 1995, twenty-two days into the investigation, an Arkansas State Police CID investigator discussed with crime lab personnel the possibility of submitting a sample of particular evidence from the Van Buren case, along with other evidence, to the FBI lab for analysis in connection with another case,” Sadler wrote.
There was no mention of Morgan Nick, however.
“At this point, it would be inappropriate for the Arkansas State Police to offer an additional narrative regarding the evidence as it may relate to the matter currently under the jurisdiction of another law enforcement agency” , Sadler said.
Sources said the blood sample was not at the state’s Crime Lab. Alma Police Chief Jeff Pointer confirms that the blood evidence is also not in his department.
So, could it be with the Feds? FBI Little Rock had only two words: No comment.
“You have to analyze this DNA. You have to compare that DNA to a relative of Morgan Nick,” Ward said. “If this was a game, what it would tell us is that Morgan Nick was in that truck at some point.”
Johnson said he did not retrieve any blood or hair fibers from Lincks’ truck. In 1995, Arkansas law did not require agencies to retain evidence of certain cases, such as attempted kidnappings. We are told that this changed in 2011.
“I wish we could go back and look at all the evidence and take it now under the microscope that we have now in 2022,” Johnson said.
The former detective recalled Lincks cooperating with him, but documents show that when the ASP and FBI began their interview with Lincks, he got a lawyer.
The red van
Detectives went house to house in 1995 to speak with Lincks’ neighbors. A neighbor told an investigator he believed Lincks had an RV shell on the red van about two months prior. Last year, Alma police released a photo of a red pickup truck with an RV shell on it. Officers believe the driver is Morgan’s kidnapper.
Johnson said some features of the truck and Lincks might match what happened at Alma, but he still struggles to figure it out.
“I didn’t think he was the type to do that, but it was me personally,” he said. “I had been dealing with Mr. Lincks since 1983. He had been arrested several times for DWI.”
The former detective said that one day the right pieces of the puzzle would come together and the case would finally be solved.
“Someone will say the right thing at the right time,” he said. “The FBI, I know they have my field notes from the Morgan Nick case.”
At this time, no one has confirmed where the blood evidence is.
Records show that in 1992 Lincks received a suspended sentence for sexually abusing a young girl. Lincks died in 2000.
Last November, the FBI Little Rock named Lincks a person of interest in Morgan’s kidnapping. Federal authorities asked anyone who knew him to call the FBI.
“Mr. Lincks was born and raised in Crawford County, Arkansas. in Van Buren, Arkansas, in the late 1970s,” the FBI announced at the time.
If you have any information about Lincks, you are encouraged to call the FBI at: 1-800-CALL-FBI.
“Every bit of information about Lincks’ life is important – no detail is too small or insignificant,” FBI agents said.
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