*Editorial note: Morgan’s mother, Colleen Nick, was made aware of our findings prior to the publication and broadcast of this story.
VAN BUREN, Ark. – Page by page, a case file is put together.
“This is the property and evidence found that we took,” retired Van Buren Police Detective Kevin Johnson recalled. “These are my notes right here.”
The attempted kidnapping
It was August of 1995 when Johnson got a call to investigate an attempted kidnapping on South Fifth Street. An 11-year-old girl with her brothers was getting a soda and french fries. Records show a drunk man, driving a red Chevy pickup truck pulled up and started making sexual comments to her.
The case file reveals the man started waving money around ‘like a fan.’ He told the 11-year-old that she could have the money if she would go to his house. Officers report the girl started to run and scream. The truck took off and swiped a utility pole along the way.
Johnson arrived on scene with heightened senses because a town over, investigators were entering their third month into the search for Morgan Nick.
“Your senses are more heightened in what’s going on right now. Those don’t happen. They’re very rare,” Johnson said.
A key witness reported getting 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 a hit. The license plate search returned to a red truck, registered down the road to Billy Jack Lincks.
Johnson knew he had the suspect.
“Once we went to his place of residence [and] found the pickup, found the mark on his truck, he was intoxicated,” Johnson recalled. “Yeah, we knew pretty quick.”
Lincks was interviewed by Johnson at Van Buren Police and then charged and convicted of sexual solicitation of a child.
When asked if Morgan Nick ever came up in the search, Johnson noted that his agency reached out to state and federal authorities.
“That’s the very reason we did turn that over to state police and FBI,” he said.
Johnson’s 1995 memo reveals Lincks was released to the Arkansas State Police and the FBI for further interviews.
“We know what that interview was. That was the Morgan Nick 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 pickup truck.
“I think [it was] specific for Morgan Nick,” Johnson said.
Documents show, investigators found hair fibers on the seat and floorboard, duct tape, a tarp, rope, machete and blood in one of the seats.
“Any sort of DNA or blood evidence is always one of the most important aspects of any investigation,” former prosecutor and partner at Kamps & Ward Law Firm Kelly Ward explained. “He lived about 13 minutes from where Morgan disappeared.”
DNA technology started coming online in Arkansas in 1995, about the same time the Crime Lab confirmed blood on Lincks’ truck seat.
Where’s the blood?
A state laboratory document shows the blood was retained for consideration of possible future analysis. So where is the blood, and could it offer any insight into Morgan’s case?
ASP spokesman Bill Sadler provided a written statement that the sample collected from Lincks’ truck was last known to be potentially used in a separate criminal investigation.
“On September 20, 1995, twenty-two days after the investigation began, an Arkansas State Police CID investigator discussed with crime laboratory personnel the possibility of submitting one particular evidence sample from the Van Buren case, along with other evidence, to the FBI Laboratory for analysis in connection with another case,” Sadler wrote.
There was no mention of Morgan Nick, though.
“At this juncture, it would be inappropriate for the Arkansas State Police to offer any further narrative regarding the evidence as it may relate to the case presently under the jurisdiction of another law enforcement agency,” Sadler said.
Sources said the blood sample is not at the state’s Crime Lab. Alma Police Chief Jeff Pointer confirms the blood evidence is not at his department, either.
So, could it be with the feds? FBI Little Rock only had two words: No comment.
“You need to analyze that DNA. You need to compare that DNA to a relative of Morgan Nick,” Ward said. “If it was a match, what it would tell us is, Morgan Nick was in that truck at one time.”
Johnson said he did not collect the blood or hair fibers from Lincks’ truck. In 1995, Arkansas law did not require agencies to keep evidence from some cases, such as attempted kidnappings. We’re told that changed in 2011.
“I wish we could go back and look at all the evidence and take it now underneath the microscope that we have now in 2022,” Johnson said.
The former detective recalled Lincks being cooperative with him, but documents show that when ASP and the FBI started their interview with Lincks he lawyered up.
The red pick-up truck
Detectives went home-to-home in 1995 to speak with Lincks’ neighbors. One neighbor told an investigator that he thought Lincks had a camper shell on the red pickup truck about two months prior. Last year, Alma Police released a photo of a red pickup truck with a camper shell on it. Officers believe the driver is Morgan’s abductor.
Johnson said some characteristics of the truck and of Lincks may fit with what happened in Alma, but he still has a hard time wrapping his mind around it.
“I did not think he was the type that would do that, but that was me personally,” he said. “I had dealt with Mr. Lincks since 1983. He had been arrested several times for DWI.”
The former detective said one day the right pieces of the puzzle will come together and the case will eventually 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 moment, no one has confirmed where the blood evidence is.
Records show in 1992, Lincks was placed on a suspended sentence for sexual abuse of a young girl. Lincks died in 2000.
Last November, the FBI Little Rock named Lincks a person of interest in Morgan’s abduction. Federal authorities asked anyone who knew him to call the FBI.
“Mr. Lincks was born and raised in Crawford County, Arkansas. He served with the U.S. Army during World War II and then worked at Braniff Airlines in Dallas, Texas, from 1962 to 1974. He returned to Van Buren, Arkansas, sometime in the late 1970s,” the FBI announced at the time.
If you have any information about Lincks, you are asked to call the FBI at: 1-800-CALL-FBI.
“Every piece of information about Lincks’ life is important-no detail is too small or insignificant,” said FBI agents.
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