The death of West Side socialite Caren Koslow (see Part 1) reminds us that wealth is no protection against murder. Indeed, wealth can be a magnet that attracts metal objects (guns, knives, pry bars).
Today the case of an East Side man will remind us that poverty, too, is no protection against murder.
About 3 a.m. October 26, 2001 Gregory Glenn Biggs, thirty-seven, was walking along highway U.S. 287 near the Loop 820 intersection in southeast Fort Worth. He was a long way from home. In fact, he didn’t have a permanent home. But five miles away, at 1415 East Lancaster Avenue, he had a temporary home at Day Resource Center, a refuge for people experiencing homelessness.
Biggs was out of work, estranged from his family. He had suffered mental problems in the past. (Photo from Find a Grave.)
About 9:40 a.m. on October 27 two men found Biggs’s body in Cobb Park—three and a half miles from where he had been walking on U.S. 287. Both of his legs were broken (one almost severed), his body was contorted, and he had lacerations on his side and face, Fort Worth police detective Mike Carroll said.
Biggs was wearing a shirt and a jacket but no shoes or socks. Carroll said Biggs often went barefoot.
Police were investigating the death as a hit-and-run. They knew of no motive for anyone to kill Biggs. Biggs’s wallet and identification were with the body, and nothing appeared to have been taken, Carroll said.
Police speculated that the car that hit Biggs in the park left the scene under its own power or was towed away. Conversely, police also speculated that someone could have hit and killed Biggs elsewhere and dumped his body in the park where it could be found without implicating the driver.
Fast-forward four months. On February 26, 2002 Chante Mallard, twenty-five, was arrested in the hit-and-run death of Greg Biggs.
Police Sergeant John Fahrenthold said Maranda Daniel, a friend of Mallard, told police that she had heard that Mallard had hit a man with her car.
That’s when Daniel had called 911.
Based on Daniel’s information, police went to Mallard’s home on Wilbarger Street, a mile and a half from where Biggs had been walking on U.S. 287, and found hood damage and blood and hair on Mallard’s car.
The car’s seats had been removed and were found in the back yard, one of them burned, Fahrenthold said.
Fahrenthold said that Biggs and Mallard did not know each other and that Biggs’s death was probably accidental.
Mallard was charged with failure to stop and render aid and was free on bail on February 27.
Meanwhile police questioned the Tarrant County medical examiner about Biggs’s injuries. Based on the medical examiner’s information, one week later Chante Mallard was back in jail, now charged with murder.
Mallard broke down and revealed to police a bizarre tale of panic, cold-heartedness, and deception that brought this response from Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert:
“I’m going to have to come up with a new word. Indifferent isn’t enough. Cruel isn’t enough to say. Heartless? Inhumane? Maybe we’ve just redefined ‘inhumanity’ here.”
About 3 a.m. on October 26, 2001, Chante Mallard was under the influence of drugs and alcohol as she drove on U.S. 287. Greg Biggs was walking on the shoulder of the freeway when she hit him. He flew onto the hood of her car with such force that his head and upper torso smashed through the windshield. His legs were broken and curled onto the roof of the car. Mallard panicked and, with Biggs wedged in the windshield, drove home and parked the car in the garage and went inside.
Mallard’s vocation? Nurse’s aide.
Greg Biggs lived about twenty-four more hours wedged in the windshield in Mallard’s garage. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office told police that Biggs suffered no internal injuries and apparently died from loss of blood and shock.
Police said Mallard probably had help in dumping Biggs’s body in Cobb Park.
More arrests were expected.
After being charged with murder, Chante Mallard was released on $10,000 bail.
The bizarre story was page 1 news from coast to coast.
On June 21 Clete Denel Jackson, twenty-seven, was indicted and jailed for tampering with evidence in the Mallard case.
On September 5 Herbert Tyrone Cleveland, twenty-four, already in jail on an unrelated charge, was indicted for tampering with evidence in the Mallard case.
A week later Cleveland pleaded guilty and agreed to a prison sentence of nine years in return for testifying against Chante Mallard.
In January 2003 Jackson followed suit, pleading guilty and agreeing to a prison sentence of ten years in return for testifying against Mallard.
Chante Mallard went on trial in June 2003. She pleaded not guilty to the murder charge but had pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence by burning the car seat, a charge that carried a sentence of two to ten years in prison. So, she already had prison in her future when she went on trial for murder. A conviction for murder would result in a sentence ranging from probation to ninety-nine years or life in prison.
The nation was still following the story of the bizarre crime. As the trial began at the Criminal Justice Center, security was increased. Satellite TV trucks, reporters from CBS News, Fox News, and all four local network affiliates, and a large contingent of print media crowded the building each day.
Chief among witnesses called to testify was Chante Mallard’s best friend, Titilisee (“T”) Fry, who had agreed to testify against Mallard in return for immunity from prosecution.
Fry testified that on the night of October 25, 2001 she and Mallard had split a tab of the psychoactive drug Ecstasy at Fry’s apartment.
“She said she wanted to try it, and I told her to just take half because it was her first time,” Fry said.
The two then drove to Joe’s Big Bamboo Club in Arlington, where they met Clete Denel Jackson, a man whom the prosecution described as Mallard’s “sometime love interest.” Also present was Jackson’s cousin Herbert Tyrone Cleveland.
Joe’s Big Bamboo Club was offering sixty-nine-cent drinks that night, and, Fry said, she and Mallard drank at least three hurricanes each and smoked marijuana. When the club closed, Fry testified, she drove Mallard back to Fry’s apartment, and Mallard drove away in her own car.
Less than an hour later, Fry said, her telephone rang.
Mallard, frantic, whispered, “‘T, come pick me up,’” Fry said.
Fry drove to Mallard’s home. When she arrived, Fry said, Mallard ran toward her car.
Fry said, “She was just crying. She said she hit a guy, and he was white, and she was sorry, that she didn’t mean to do it, and she tried to get him off” her car.
Fry looked into the garage.
“I saw her car parked in the garage and the backside of a body, sort of lodged out of the window.”
Fry said she told Mallard to call 911, but Mallard refused. Fry went back to her car, saying she didn’t want “anything to do with this.”
Fry drove away.
Fry’s vocation? Like Mallard, she was a nurse’s aide.
The next day, Fry said, Mallard, Jackson, and Cleveland met at Fry’s apartment to discuss how to get rid of the body.
Fry said that later the trio told her they had dumped the body in Cobb Park.
Fry testified that Mallard told her not to say anything.
But Fry did. She eventually told Maranda Daniel. Daniel told police.
Fry was brought in for questioning. To protect herself, Mallard, Jackson, and Cleveland, she testified, she lied to police, prosecutors, and a grand jury—twice.
When prosecutors threatened to prosecute her for perjury, Fry said, she decided to tell the truth.
As Mallard’s trial began, prosecutors Christy Jack, Richard Alpert, and Miles Brissette conceded that Chante Mallard might have hit Greg Biggs accidentally but that she murdered him by failing to get medical attention for him. She then dumped his body to cover up the murder.
Jack said that the only four people who knew what had happened—Mallard, Fry, Jackson, and Cleveland—had vowed to keep silent.
Police “ran into a wall—a wall of silence built by Ms. Mallard, her friends, and her associates,” Jack said. “No one was talking. . . . Days became weeks, weeks became months.”
But in the end, someone did talk: Mallard’s friend Maranda Daniel.
Mallard’s defense attorneys Jeff Kearney and Reagan Wynn did not deny that Mallard struck Biggs with her car. But they claimed that Biggs’s death was an accident. They further suggested that Biggs was unconscious after smashing through the windshield and that Mallard, who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, was in an “altered state of mind” and may have believed that Biggs was already dead when she reached her home.
(But Maranda Daniel had told police that in 2002 Mallard told some friends that, after leaving Biggs wedged in the windshield of her car in her garage, she and her boyfriend had sex in her house and later went into the garage and listened to Biggs plead for help. They then went back inside the house.)
Kearney described Mallard’s panic when Biggs crashed through her windshield, with glass flying everywhere.
“Next to her is a body . . . upside down, head in the floorboard, legs in directions that no one thought was humanly possible. You can’t imagine. You can’t imagine.”
He told the jury that the accident had rendered Mallard “hysterical, terrorized, and confused.”
When Mallard telephoned Fry and later Clete Jackson for help, Mallard babbled and cried uncontrollably, Kearney said. She was so incoherent, he said, that Jackson initially thought Mallard was having a bad reaction to the Ecstasy.
Kearney argued that Jackson, not Mallard, was the mastermind behind dumping Biggs’s body.
When Jackson finally learned what had happened, Kearney said, Jackson came up with a plan.
“Clete Jackson took charge immediately,” Kearney said. “Clete Jackson is the one who said, ‘I know what to do.’ And Clete Jackson is the one who told Chante Mallard and T, ‘I will take care of this.’”
When Clete Jackson took the witness stand he said that when he woke on the morning of October 26 he had “twenty-something” messages from Mallard on his cellphone.
When the two finally talked on the phone, he said, Mallard told him, “I need to talk to you. It’s important.”
Soon after, Jackson said, he met Mallard at his grandmother’s house. Mallard, who was driving Fry’s car, drove Jackson back to her house.
As she drove she said she had “messed up real bad.”
“I said, ‘What did you do?’” Jackson testified. “She started crying. She couldn’t really explain it to me. She said, ‘You’re going to be mad at me.’”
And when he saw Biggs’s body, he was mad.
“I knew the dude was dead,” Jackson said. “I tasted death in the air—the same thing I smelled when my mama died.”
Jackson had seen his mother murdered in 1981.
Twenty years later Jackson was mad because he had just gotten out of prison and had promised his family that he wouldn’t go back.
“What . . . did you call me for?” Jackson said he yelled at Mallard as she cried.
“I just got my life right,” he testified. “I knew she got me in trouble.”
He said he and Mallard went to Fry’s apartment to decide what to do. Jackson said Fry suggested burning the car and the body.
“I said, ‘We ain’t going to burn no body. We’re just going to put him somewhere so his family can find him and bury him,’” Jackson testified.
Jackson said he called his cousin, Herbert Tyrone Cleveland, who later that night came to Fry’s apartment.
Mallard, Jackson, and Fry left to borrow a car from one of Jackson’s friends. Cleveland later rejoined Mallard and Jackson at Jackson’s grandmother’s home, Jackson testified.
The trio went to Mallard’s house, where Jackson backed the borrowed car up to the garage door. He and Cleveland then removed Biggs’s body from Mallard’s car, Jackson testified.
Jackson said he laid a blanket on the ground beside the passenger door of Mallard’s car. Then he opened the door.
“His [Biggs’s] weight was shifted against the car door. His body just tipped out, sort of,” Jackson said.
Jackson told jurors that he then wrapped the blanket around the body.
“I kind of, like, apologized, sorta, to him,” Jackson testified.
“To who?” prosecutor Alpert asked.
“Mr. Biggs,” Jackson replied, explaining that he knew the man’s name because he had examined the contents of Biggs’s wallet.
Jackson testified that after he and Cleveland loaded the body into the trunk of the borrowed car, they and Mallard drove to Cobb Park, cut the blanket off, and left Biggs’s body there.
They then went to a carwash and cleaned the car, and Mallard threw the blanket away, Jackson testified.
Jackson admitted that he told the other three: “Don’t say nothing to nobody.”
During cross-examination by Kearney, Jackson said Mallard cried the whole time and appeared to be in an altered state as they made decisions about what to do.
“She was in a zone somewhere,” Jackson said. “She shook her head. She didn’t know what she was saying.”
The prosecution contended that Biggs was moaning while in Mallard’s garage and could have survived if he had received prompt medical care. Prosecutors accused Mallard of “indifference” after the accident.
Prosecutors called Tarrant County Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani, who testified that Biggs could have survived for hours.
Peerwani said Biggs had no “instantaneously fatal injuries. He did not have any spinal cord trauma, no brain trauma, no major cardiac lacerations, or lacerations to the aorta or major blood vessels.”
And Fort Worth Fire Captain Jim Sowder testified that he was certain that if someone had called 911, any Fort Worth firefighter—all of whom are certified as at least emergency medical technicians—could have saved Biggs’s life.
When prosecutor Brissette asked Sowder if he knew any member of the Mallard family, Sowder said Mallard’s brother, James Mallard Jr., was a lieutenant with the fire department and was on duty the night his sister hit Biggs.
“I’m of the opinion,” Sowder said, “Lieutenant Mallard could have saved Mr. Biggs’s life.”
The jury took less than an hour to find Mallard guilty of murder and also sentenced her to ten years in prison for tampering with evidence.
Chante Mallard had not testified during the trial phase of her case, but she did testify during the punishment phase.
She described the accident:
“When I hit him, there was a very loud noise, and all this glass started flying in the car, followed by a lot of wind,” Mallard said. “The glass was cutting me on my skin, just stinging me.”
Mallard said she exited the freeway at Village Creek Road and saw the man under the dashboard with one leg protruding from the windshield.
“I didn’t know what to think. I was scared, and I didn’t know what to do,” Mallard sobbed. “I was asking God, ‘Tell me what to do.’”
Mallard said she kept driving until she got on Martin Street, where she stopped at a stop sign, got out of the car, touched the man’s leg, and panicked more.
She got back into the car, and as she drove to her home in the 3800 block of Wilbarger Street, she heard the man moan, she said.
“When I heard him moan, I looked, and his leg was in the car,” Mallard testified.
Mallard said it never occurred to her to drive to a fire station or pay phone to call for help. Instead, she said, she drove home, parked in her garage, and closed the door.
Mallard said she regretted taking Ecstasy just hours before she hit Biggs, saying that if she not taken the drug, she would have done the right thing and sought medical attention for Biggs.
Mallard admitted that she had used marijuana since age eighteen and later began smoking it morning, noon, and night. She said she often went to work stoned at nursing homes and at a correctional facility. She passed her drug tests by using another person’s urine, cleaning out her system, and, one time during a random test, putting a drop of bleach into her urine sample.
In the weeks after Biggs’s death, Mallard said, she drank and smoked marijuana more than usual.
“My conscience was bothering me so bad,” she told the jury.
“I have ruined lives of other people,” she sobbed. “I have ruined my family’s life. I have put people through pain, and I am so truly sorry.
“I feel like I do need to be punished,” Mallard said.
“Do you feel like you need to go to the penitentiary?” asked defense attorney Kearney.
“Yes, sir,” Mallard replied.
The jury agreed and sentenced Chante Mallard to fifty years in prison.
Greg Biggs is buried in Crown Hill Memorial Park in Dallas.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates Chante Mallard (#01183569), Kristi Koslow (#00677795), and Brian Salter (#00678090) (see Part 1) no doubt have the year 2027 circled in their ten-year planner: That’s the first year all three will be eligible for parole.