SALINE COUNTY, Ark. — In March of 1987, Billy Jack Haynes wrestled in front of a record-setting audience of 93,000 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan during Wrestlemania III.
That same year, 900 miles away, teenagers Kevin Ives and Don Henry were brutally killed in Alexander, Arkansas. Eventually the case ran cold.
Today, 31 years later, Haynes (whose real name is William Albert Haynes) claims he witnessed their deaths: a double homicide.
The big questions: why should investigators believe Haynes? And why now?
The unsolved crime has been given the label “Boys on the Tracks.” For three decades, people in Saline County and well beyond have tossed around theories, shared ideas, and spread rumors about who was responsible for the deaths of the teens on August 23, 1987. No one has ever been arrested.
Victim Kevin Ives’ mother is holding onto Haynes’ claim as the key to solving who killed her 17-year-old son and 16-year-old Don Henry.
Haynes says he sobered up a few years ago and reached out to Larry and Linda Ives after years of guilt. The trio connected with private investigator Keith Rounsavall and Haynes spilled his side of the story in a YouTube video designed to raise money for Rounsavall’s investigation.
“I come with no hidden voice. I come to you straight face-to-face, because this is reality, man,” remarked Haynes in the video. “Don’t hide nothing!”
In the taped confession, he claims that while performing in the ’80s for the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE) as a 6’3″, 280-pound wrestler, he also transported and trafficked cocaine through the United States. His side job eventually brought him to Arkansas.
“I was also an enforcer who provided muscle to other parts of the criminal element to ensure that their illegal business dealings were collected upon,” added Haynes. “In August of 1987, I was contacted by an Arkansas criminal politician and was asked if I would provide muscle at an Arkansas drug (transaction).”
In the near six-minute video, Haynes refers to a male “criminal politician” multiple times, but never names him by name. Haynes says the politician was suspicious that cash from drug money drops was being stolen.
“While conducting security for the drug money drop, I witnessed the murders of two young boys: Kevin Ives and Don Henry. They were murdered by other individuals who were working for the same criminal politician. Their bodies were placed on the railroad tracks to be mutilated by a passing train,” Haynes alleges.
The retired wrestler, now 64, says he reached out to Linda Ives in 2016 to explain what he saw. In addition to providing his account of what happened, Haynes says he handed over names of everyone who was at the scene.
“I’m standing here putting my life on the line, telling you that I could very well be killed,” added Haynes. “They have to be taken down.”
The Investigation with No End
At 4:25 a.m. on August 23, 1987, a train engineer reported running over two teens. The worker told authorities the boys were motionless and lying on their backs; their bodies covered by a tarp from the waist down.
Investigators later discovered a rifle and flashlight nearby.
It’s believed Ives and Henry were using those items to “headlight” for deer. It’s an illegal form of hunting where you temporarily blind the animal before shooting it. Friends say the two may have been drinking.
So how did they end up on the tracks? Investigators don’t conclusively know.
The state medical examiner ruled suicide. He thought the boys smoked pot, passed out on the tracks, and were then run over by the speeding train. A later autopsy found anything but. An Atlanta-based pathologist found the boys were knocked unconscious or killed before their bodies were dumped on the tracks. A grand jury concluded the deaths to be the result of homicide.
Over the years, theories have been spread that the boys walked up on a drug drop and were killed. Rumors have circulated as to who might have been there and ultimately be responsible.
The tragic story has been brought to life in books, television, and movies. No matter the medium, the end is always the same: no conclusion; a family waiting for answers.
A Mother’s Quest for Justice
After cases turn cold, many investigations quietly vanish. Detectives retire. Family and friends move on with their lives. Case files are closed.
Linda Ives won’t let that happen.
Over the years, she has collected every piece of evidence she can get her hands on. She has conducted countless interviews. She remains committed to keeping her son’s story in the news cycle until justice is served.
In 2016, Ives filed a lawsuit hoping to get unredacted documents from three Arkansas law enforcement agencies and eight federal agencies. Ultimately, the suit claims insufficient response to FOI requests. Ives alleges a coverup of the story behind the death of her son, a theory supported by Haynes’ claim that a “criminal politician” was involved.
A judge tossed out most of Ives’ 2016 lawsuit. However, he ordered the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security to hand over all documents related to the case for his review, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
That review continues.
After three decades with few answers, you can understand why Ives was immediately hopeful when she received a call from Billy Jack Haynes.
“We’re very excited about the information that he has,” said Ives in a video posted by her private investigator.
Series of Questionable Statements
This may not be the first time you’ve heard of the man who claimed to be at the tracks the morning of August 23, 1987.
Many people will remember Billy Jack Haynes as the WWF superstar who battled wrestling titans like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Harley Race in the mid-1980s, but his notoriety didn’t last. He bounced around between jobs. It seemed addiction and aggression was getting the best of him.
A search of Billy Jack Haynes’ name on YouTube will produce a number of interviews riddled with far-fetched claims. Haynes has said he considered killing WWE promoter Vince McMahon, believed McMahon fathered the child of a now deceased wrestler, and claimed Steve Austin is ultimately responsible for the death of wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Some would say he has a history of seeing his own truth.
However, it’s worth noting that Haynes has discussed playing a role in drug trafficking in interviews dating back to the early 2000s.
In 2014, Haynes filed a federal lawsuit against WWE alleging “egregious mistreatment of its wrestlers for its own benefit.” In the suit, he claimed he suffered at least 15 concussions and that his three years working in WWE resulted in depression and symptoms of dementia. The suit was dismissed two years later.
Even with all that, Ives believes Haynes wouldn’t have anything to gain from coming forward about the 1987 murder, and she chooses to be optimistic that he can provide new leads in her son’s cold case.
“We’re in the process of corroborating his information,” added Ives. “We feel very hopeful and excited.”
We’re waiting to hear from Saline County investigators about whether they’ve spoken or plan to speak with Haynes.