By Rex Evans
Still to this day, this very solemn morning, I desperately try to let the memories pass me by. I found the harder I’ve tried to send them away, the more they pressed forward. Not much sleep for me over the last few days. My mind, my heart…still ache. This one little, red headed, blue eyed precious little boy. A single life, which ultimately, changed many lives.
As the tears well up in my eyes…. My hands shake as I struggle to hit the right keys this morning. You see, this case is, for me, the hardest. For five days and four nights, hundreds, literally hundreds of people came to volunteer their time, expertise and equipment. Some, who could not physically remain out in the heat and rough, swamp laden terrain brought food and water and above all….prayer. I was placed in Command of this massive operation. Much like directing an Orchestra. Individuals coming together, under direction, creating something bigger, than themselves. Something better.
I called for more Deputies. Troopers came. The Texas Rangers came. Fire Fighters, Medic, Dispatchers, Game Wardens, FBI Agent’s, US Marshal’s even a couple of Postal Inspectors. Everyone heard the call and as the daylight faded into night, they still poured in. Houston Police Dive Team, Helicopters and K-9s from Houston, Montgomery County, Conroe, Dive Teams from Austin. Game Warden Special Teams from as far as Lufkin and Wharton / El Campo…it seemed to me, it was as if God called upon the hearts of many for this one child, and no one failed to answer the call.
Being in Command is no easy task, especially for such a large scale operation. Daily, over two hundred people, millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and personnel from all over the State of Texas. Aircraft, boats, UAV’s, K-9’s, thermal imaging devices, sonars. You name it, we had it at our disposal. Very few times, in the history of this State, has such an Operation ever been attempted. Ours was no easy endeavor. And, time would ultimately reveal, in the end, we did not fail.
Many a person did I see, covered in sweat, dirt, mud, pond or swamp water, blood and tears. Everyone out there gave everything they had. No one complained, for we all saw the family. The Mother and Father were broken forms of human beings who were stoic figures whereby we all counted our measure of resolve.
The first of two very difficult moments for me, came on the last day. No one who is in charge of such an operation ever wants to make this call. It is a call which will, literally, tear and rip at your heart and break your soul. I had to stand before God, Devon’s parents and hundreds of people, the media and the world…and announce at 1700 hrs. that very afternoon, the “Active Search” would stop and the investigation would have to go another direction. Gasps for air. Tears. Much sorrow did I see before me thru those announcements.
Then, just prior to the last hour, for me, an answered prayer. We were to not leave him behind on the field of that battle. We had located his tiny, now lifeless body just a few hundred yards away from the Command Post in a pond. More pain was yet to come…much more.
No one knows or understands how hard it is. How much pain is involved when you have to look a Mother in her eyes and tell her “I am sorry. We did all we could. Your son has been found. He’s gone.” The impending cries and screams….they echo in my mind from time to time…whether in the dead of night or in the middle of the day….I jolt from their impact. Hitting me like a bullet. Hurting and burning like the same. Both pains I know….thus I can compare. Neither did I ask for. Yet, the scars from both remain with me forever more.
Next, to walk over to the Dad. One Father to another. In the corner of the Command Center…we held each other tight. Surrounded by some of the finest men and women I ever served with. Texas Rangers, Federal Agents, fellow Deputies from my own Department. They all stood silent, stoic behind me as I held him and let him scream, cuss, cry, beg God for mercy…..many more tears here……nothing, I mean nothing, removes this kind of hurt, this kind of pain.
It’s odd how some have judged me and others like me. Yet, they’ve never stood a moment or walked one step in our boots. I doubt most of them ever could. The pain, the decisions…the hard, life altering decision we made and continue to make in this, our career, would crumble most. So, I just keep doing what I feel my heart tells me is right. I walk as close to the Word as I can, falling short like all of us do.
I revisit that old bridge every year. I stand on the exact spot where I stood and in the most honest, humble and sincere moment of my entire life was captured by the Montgomery County Police Reporter. At no time in my life before or since, have I ever felt so close to God, Himself. I literally, felt Him and for a moment, we connected. I know He heard me that day. And, He answered…
You see, this was the last hour of the last day of a five day, four night continuous search. I begged God for forgiveness for all I had done. I prayed before God, “If you’ll just have a little mercy here…not for me, God, but for them…please, do not make me leave here without that little boy.” I have never prayed with more openness and sincerity. I had never come before Him with such humility and pain. Nor have I since…
From time to time, I reflect back to that moment on Devon’s Bridge. I knew God was real. I knew He was always there. But, in one moment of time, He showed me…literally, showed me the way. It was not the ending any of us wanted. Yet, it was an outcome which somehow, in a way, brought some level of Peace to many, including me. To leave the Field without Devon, for me, was just unacceptable. We all worked so hard. We sweated, bled, cussed, prayed, cried and remained covered with mosquitoes for days…and not once, not one time, did any man or woman out there complain. Not one.
When we found him and brought his little body back, there was not a dry eye among the men there. Texas Rangers, Troopers, veteran Detectives, myself among them….we all wept. But, tears pushed aside, we continued our job, our Duty. We did what had to be done. Truly, one of the proudest moments of public service in my lifetime to have stood with them, among them and guard this little boy and bring him back for the closure his family so desperately sought. So desperately needed. So few ever get.
For me, this case, took a part of my heart, my soul from me. A part of me remains down there in those “river bottoms”. A part which I will never recover. When I look back, it is but a small price to pay for the price paid by this family was far higher. I reckon it is fair to say, anyone and everyone who was involved, left a small part of themselves there that day…
I know little Devon is in Heaven with all the little children who left this world much too soon. I know the Father and the Son hold the children dear. I pray, one day, when I am called home, whether I get to enter or not, I am allowed a moment to tell one very special red headed little boy hello and how much he meant to so many. To kneel before him and tell him I did the best I could…
I reckon this one old saying is true…”Some crosses are just too hard to bear alone.”