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Male body discovered in park

Nov. 14, 1997

By Alyson Ward

Staff Writer for The Baylor Lariat

Police found a man's body in Cameron Park late Wednesday, making the second time a body has been found in the park in the past five weeks.

Even so, park officials and police say people shouldn't be afraid of the east Waco park.

The body of 33-year-old James Anthony Scott was discovered just after 10 p.m. Wednesday near Jacob's Ladder in the park. Scott had been shot several times and died of a shot to the head, police said.

The first incident occurred more than a month ago. On Oct. 9, police found the body of 37-year-old Dedrick Webber of Houston, who was also shot in the head. Lance Alexander, 17, turned himself in Oct. 28 and was arrested on a capital murder charge.

The two incidents are isolated and don't mean the park is a danger zone, said Sgt. Dennis Kidwell of the Waco Police Department.

It is likely neither of the victims was killed there, he said. Even if Scott's death Wednesday did occur in the park, he said, that doesn't mean it's likely to happen to anyone who visits the park.

From what police had learned about the murder, Scott was not attacked by someone lurking in Cameron Park.

'He wasn't just an innocent visitor to the park,' Kidwell said.

Crime facts about the park disprove any rumors that it is especially unsafe, Kidwell said.

In 1997, police have responded to 18 calls from Cameron Park.

'Only seven involved people actually visiting the park,' Kidwell said.

Those seven reports have included vehicle burglaries, broken vehicle windows, a stolen car, and one robbery, Kidwell said. The others have been reports of stolen plants, a lost child and public intoxication. No assaults have been reported this year.

The recent incidents don't mean people should start avoiding Cameron Park, Kidwell said.

'It's a real safe place to be,' he said. 'This didn't have anything to do with people visiting the park.'

The people were probably killed elsewhere, and the bodies have likely been left in the park because it is an 'isolated, dark area they could put the body without being seen,' Kidwell said.

'Parks are always that way after dark,' he said.

Sally Gavlik, director of parks, facilities and grounds for the City of Waco, said the bodies found in the park don't represent a safety problem for park visitors.

'We don't have a concern at all about safety in the park,' Gavlik said.

Park rangers patrol the area, she said, and the recent incidents shouldn't cause extra concern.

The people were likely murdered in that area of town, Gavlik said. If they had been killed on the other side of town, the bodies would have been placed elsewhere and Cameron Park would never have been involved.

Any wariness about the park is unneccessary, she said.

'I think it's more of a perception type of problem that the media has created,' Gavlik said. She said Cameron Park's dangerous reputation is created 'when the only time you have the park highlighted is when something like this happens.'

Families, school groups and Boy Scout troops spend time in the park, Gavlik pointed out. It is a safe place for recreation, she said--at least until darkness falls.

'We feel very comfortable with safety in the park,' she said.

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