The Death of George Raffield
If you are a child of the 80's like I am then you remember the television show 21 Jump Street For those of you who only know of the recent movies in my opinion there is no comparison. The television show was one of Johnny Depp's earliest roles. The show resolved around several young people who worked in undercover work, mainly in high schools, to solve crimes. The actors, including Depp, Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson, were all young adults but looked much younger, which was the idea of the show obviously. When I was researching the case of George Raffield I kept thinking of this television show even though in fairness there was nothing in any of the research that brought it up. Out of curiosity before finishing my research on the case I decided to see exactly when the television show premiered. After discovering that the pilot episode aired in April of 1987 and continued through the summer and fall of that year I was even more intrigued about a connection considering the fact that George Raffield was murdered in October of 1987. Before I get much further into things, and before anyone says anything, as I am sure someone has “gone there” already, I am not implying that the television show caused this crime to happen per se. I do not believe television and movies create murderers nor can they. However, I do believe that they can have some influence, especially on young people, as far as what people believe, which in essence can influence behavior. I will be curious to see if any of the readers here “see” what I saw as far as the connections.
If you remember anything about the 1980's then you have to remember that this was the Reagan Era when Ronald Reagan was President. As most of us know The First Lady almost always has her own cause that she fights for, most often directed at children. For Michelle Obama it was childhood health; for Laura Bush it was reading. Back in the 1980's Nancy Reagan's platform revolved around drugs and keeping them out of the hands of children. It was her program that had the slogan of “Just say No.” In the year 1986 the Anti-Drug Abuse act was created that enacted the mandatory minimum sentences related to drugs that most people believe were severely flawed. But, that's what the decade was about.... drugs. With all of this in mind came the idea that one had to identify drug users, to get to the sellers and nothing was more important than those that made it into the hands of our children. To do so police believed they needed to get into the schools themselves. To do this they recruited officers who they felt could pass as a teenager and integrate into schools. George Raffield was one such officer.
George Raffield had not officially been a police officer long in the small town of Wilmer Texas when he was asked to go into undercover training in Dallas to integrate into the Midlothian High School some twenty-five miles outside of Dallas. My research pretty much said that no one, including the police it seems, really thought there was a huge drug problem in the school, but for reasons only known to those in charge they wanted to integrate into the school. Maybe it was to be certain.... I am unsure. I also cannot say if this was possibly a statewide thing where many schools were integrated with undercover officers. When things were all said and done even the principal of the school said he had no idea that there was someone in his school that was undercover. However it was done, George Raffield registered under the name of George Moore, his mother's maiden name. It was unclear just exactly who knew who George Moore really was. I found nothing that spoke of any other “resource officers” (basically security guards) in the small school that only served about 750 students, total. It seems that many who I would think should have known, like the principal, had no idea who George Moore was.
A few other things that were unclear is what the “back story” George Moore gave fellow students or just when he registered into the school. Even if we believe that he started when everyone else did at the beginning of the year, it appears that it was not long before rumors had started and at least a few people had figured out that he was not a student like the rest of them. But, it was said by the time of the high school football game on October 23, 1987 the rumors were flying, not just that George Moore was a “narc” but that there was a plan to kill him. It became one of those situations where many people heard the rumors but no one actually believed either that he truly was undercover, or that a murder would occur. But, that is exactly what happened later that night.
It appears that it was quickly discovered that George Moore aka Raffield was missing. It had obviously been his job to not just integrate himself into the student body, but to do so specifically with those who may have been involved in drug activity and find out where they were able to obtain those drugs. While it was unclear just who knew what about his undercover work, it is reasonable to believe that his superiors knew what was going on and likely knew that on the night of October 23rd George was to meet up for what he thought was to be a drug deal. It is just as reasonable to believe that while he would not have been followed to the deal, that his superiors expected to hear from him just soon after the deal was made. By morning they had not heard from him and apparently he could not be researched so a search was made. It does not seem that it was long before George's body was found beside his truck in the remote area in which the deal was to have been made. He had suffered two .38 caliber gunshot wounds to the head.
Within hours arrests were made in George's murder. Three teenagers and a twenty-three year old man would all eventually face charges. But, one has to ask if this case would have made national news if it was not for the fact that one of the teenagers arrested was the son of a Dallas police officer. It appears that while both Jonathon Jobe (apparently the 23 yr old man) and Cynthia Fedrick both had knowledge, and possibly the planning of the murder they did not physically participate. Jobe and Fedrick would both ultimately plead guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder. Jobe was sentenced to ten years and Fedrick received eight, but they each served just under two years.
Richard Goeglein and Greg Knighten were both juveniles at the time of the murder. Knighten's father had worked for the Dallas police department for nearly eighteen years in 1987. It appears that when they were initially arrested they each accused the other as being the shooter. It was not until after their arrests that the local police were notified that Goeglein, who had recently relocated to the area from Arizona, had been a witness or somehow involved in crime that involved the beating of another person. It was made clear that he was not a suspect in the beating but had been present when the beating occurred and my research indicated that the case was still going through the courts at the time of George Raffield's death.
Finding details about any court proceedings was difficult. In fact, I found nothing that stated officially that either Knighten or Goeglein faced any trial within the court. However they both got a forty-five year sentence. They both will serve their maximum release in October of 2032 but have been eligible for parole since 1999. Considering the Department of Corrections still show them serving their time for this crime says that all parole has been denied. I can say that by 2006 Knighten was denied for the 4th time by the parole board, but then again that was eleven years ago. Finding specific details, especially concerning Goeglein was difficult to say the least. Knighten has been mentioned more if for no other reason that his father was a police officer at the time of the crime. In fact, back in 2010 the son of the newly enacted chief of police in Dallas shot and killed another officer. The son was then murdered by responding officers. Knighten's crime came back into the light and his father, Tom, expressed sadness and understanding to the chief as he had gone through many of the same things back in 1987. George Raffield's story was revealed again to a new generation of people.
All of this still leads me back to the era of time and yes truthfully wondering if at least the idea behind the television show 21 Jump Street did not have an impact. It was hugely popular at the time and could have heightened the awareness of the students. I also have to wonder just how trained and prepared any of the participants were in this case. As I stated earlier, I do not know for a fact just when George Raffield entered the school posing as a student. Even if we believe he started at the beginning of the school year then within two months his cover had been blown. And if the rumors were so rampant around the school as it has been reported I have to wonder where any back up in the school could have been. One has to believe that George did not know his cover was blown, or at least to the extent that it was. But, one also has to wonder if there were others who were aware of his status and heard more information if they could not have warn George, and or his superiors to the point in which they would have removed him from the school and effectively prevented his death.
I believe that this era in which there was such a focus on drugs became just one more issue or topic that is often addressed in an era and rather than really taking the time to truly come up with a solution, things are rushed and either things go wrong like in this case or laws go from one extreme to another. Two other good examples of this sort of thing is domestic violence and the care of the mentally ill. In decades past domestic violence was not taken seriously and in many cases it was almost a given as the idea was that women were to “mind” men, much like the children were. When laws were changed and police officers began with training and dealing with it more it was the men who were now being violated by the laws. Women could say whatever they wanted, whether true or not, and men were arrested and yet the same could not be said when the men told the truth. Nearly the same thing happened with the care of the mentally ill. Decades ago there were institutions everywhere and it took very little to get someone placed in one, even against their will. When it was revealed the conditions behind these hospitals and institutions and the care they were receiving more eyes were on the situation. Hundreds of people were not only released but laws were changed in a way that even well meaning family members could not get help for a loved one. In some cases it is even difficult to receive care when the patient admits that they need help unless they exaggerate their situation to get the care they need. Laws like mandatory minimums and three strikes laws did much of the same thing. In fact, one could argue that these laws helped contribute to the drug epidemic that we have now in 2017.
Do not take my above information as an excuse per se for murder or that I condone in anyway what happened to George Raffield, because I absolutely do not. The point that I was making pertaining to this case is two fold. First there was the extreme focus and fear that was put on drugs, really of any kind. While this was the “Just Say No” era, this was also the era of “Tough Love.” It was a time in which you heard story after story of parents who allowed a more extreme punishment for something thinking it was going to teach their child a lesson. While the drug activity at the school was apparently minimal and if any of the participants involved would have likely had little done when it came to punishment for their involvement in drugs, first we have to remember they were teenagers who were impressionable, and they had likely had the “Fear of God” put in them over any drugs activity. Along with this and all the talk of mandatory minimum laws and no tolerance these kids over estimated or feared punishment that would not have likely happened at all. But no one wanted to tell them that, not that they were asking anyone. Ironically I suspect that George Raffield was murdered because these teens did not want or plan to spend the rest of their lives in jail and yet by committing murder that is essentially what they did.