(Read Part 1 here.)
August 21, 1995 was a busy time for the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center (OKFTC). Kenneth Michael Trentadue, once full of life, was now lying dead in the infirmary as a battered shell of what he had once been.
Acting Warden Marie Carter phoned Trentadue’s mother and lied, saying that her son had committed suicide by hanging himself and, contrary to federal law, asked permission to immediately cremate her son. Then Carter was on the phone with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office, asking what procedures to take to cremate Trentadue’s body, even though Trentadue’s mother had expressly forbidden it.
Tammi Gillis from the Medical Examiner’s office, along with an assistant, was on the prison grounds in the infirmary looking at the battered body of Kenneth Trentadue. Upon hearing officials say that Trentadue had simply died by asphyxiation due to hanging, Gillis was incredulous and requested entrance to Trentadue’s cell. This was denied, in which again, contrary to federal law, it was stated that the FBI was doing its own investigation. (This FBI investigation of the cell would never take place). Gillis was only permitted to look through the small window in Trentadue’s cell. All in all, according to records, she and her assistant were on prison grounds for a total of twenty minutes, taking the body with them.
At one point before the Medical Examiner’s team arrived, a videotape was made of Trentadue and his cell by Roger T. Groover, a guard at the prison. This recording was later deemed to not exist. (More on this later).
Enter FBI agent Kenneth W. Freeman, supposedly in charge of the investigation. Apparently, as part of his thoroughness, instead of treating Trentadue’s cell as a crime scene, there was assigned a team of inmates with prison guards looking on to meticulously clean the cell. This included blood spatter on the walls four feet off the floor, pools of blood, and pieces of flesh and hair strewn everywhere.
The Bureau of Prisons dispatched a team referred to as the Psychological Reconstruction Unit, the one part of the investigation required by law after an inmate’s suicide that actually was carried out. The team arrived at about 2 p.m. later that day. They found the cell wiped clean of everything: blood, flesh, hair, fingerprints-the truth-and left unable to do any real investigation.
Meanwhile, Medical Examiner Fred B. Jordan was examining the battered body of Kenneth Trentadue, while his assistants filed in and out to vomit, being sickened by the condition of the body. There were two dozen wounds to the body, including three skull fractures, his throat cut ear to ear, a broken hyoid bone (indicating strangulation, not hanging), fingertip wounds on his biceps (that is, from being held down), bruising on the anal verge (from being repeatedly kicked with hard-soled shoes), and others. That day, the Medical Examiner began an almost three-year journey to find out the nightmare that Kenneth Trentadue went through that early morning on August 21, 1995.
When the Medical Examiner finally gained access to that cell almost five months later, spraying the chemical luminol (which shows the presence of minuscule amounts of blood), the cell “lit up like a candle.” Along with blood on the floor and on the walls four feet from the floor, one of the most disturbing images that seared into his mind was a bloody handprint near the cell’s panic button, in which the handprint is shown to streak downwards (as if Kenny had tried to hit the button but failed to do so.) Was this the moment that Kenneth Trentadue’s soul left his body while his murderers, hands bloody with violence and hatred in their eyes, looked on? We will probably never know.
An inmate at the time of Trentadue’s murder, Alden Gillis Baker, would state that he heard Trentadue being beaten and tortured to death and named the perpetrators as prison guards Robert A. Garza and Wiley Creasey. He later asked for protection from the Government. That same Government found his claims of murder baseless, along with his call for protection. Conveniently, Baker would follow the same fate as Trentadue: he hung himself. This would be the second suspicious death. The third suspicious death was forensic audio-video expert Norman I. Pearle, who would state that the video recording of Trentadue’s body and cell taken by Roger T. Groover (a guard at the prison) did not, as reported, “malfunction,” but had been erased. Pearle would escape being hung and instead quietly die of a “heart attack.” Conveniently, for the Government, the audio-video forensic expert next in line had a contrary opinion of the blank videotape.
For almost three years, Medical Examiner Fred B. Jordan would fight an almost single-handed battle to find the truth, contacting the Bureau of Prisons, FBI, and finally the Department of Justice, working his way up to Deputy Attorney General (later Acting Attorney General) Eric Holder.
Jordan was told Holder wasn’t available.
What was found out later was that Eric Holder was indeed available, but not to Jordan. Holder would become the “point man” in the cover-up. He would orchestrate what the media would be told and would stave off a congressional investigation. As Jessie Trentadue, Kenneth’s older brother, would state in a letter to Congress in December of 2008 while Holder was going through confirmation hearings as Obama’s choice as Attorney General, Holder was not only the DOJ “point man.” He also had developed a “roll out plan,” beginning with lying to the court in order to file gag orders to keep the case out of the media so the DOJ had time to develop a strategy to quash both the grand jury and the Trentadue family’s wrongful death lawsuit proceedings.
Jordan would go on Fox News on July 3, 1997, passionately proclaiming he would one day get at the truth and expose the cover-up. He had met with the family and promised them he would never give up. According to Jessie Trentadue, “Jordan repeatedly told us this was a murder, but because the crime scene had been destroyed, he had to list the manner of death as unknown. He also looked my mother, Carmen, and sister in the eye and told them he would never go back on them.”
That promise was broken three years later when Jordan succumbed to political pressure and ruled Trentadue’s death a suicide.
Like the Brian Terry family, the Trentadue family is still waiting for answers.
Photo Credit: The Aspen Institute (Creative Commons)