Girls Gone Wild

When Bobbi Jo Smith and Jennifer Jones left Mineral Wells, they were young and in love. They had a full tank of gas, a case of beer,and the open road ahead. There was only one problem: They’d left their roommate—a 49-year-old amateur pornographer— lying in bed with three bullets in his head.

me for staying out… . He said something. “I’m about to not care if you come back anymore.”

Jennifer began to take pride in the comparison to her mother. The way she saw it, Kathy was tough and a survivor. People spoke of the time she’d barely dodged a bullet—literally—and the time she’d almost died in a bar fight. Jennifer hoped people would talk about her that way someday. And so she started to explore what she called the two paths. On days when she’d be at her Aunt Anita’s house, making sweets with Ritz crackers and marshmallows and peanut butter, she was as delightful as any niece. But whenever someone would test her delinquent side, she couldn’t help herself. Once, when her sister Stephanie’s friends dared Jennifer to burn herself with a cigarette lighter, she pressed the hot metal tip onto her arm and left it there until her skin melted like a piece of caramel.

February 18, 2001 Dear Journal, Hey, what’s up! So much has happened.…Went to Bluffdale to make a promise to stay sexually pure till you’re married. I already broke it. I’m not proud about it…

March 15, 2001 Dear Journal, My wish came true. I walked outside and got to the drag and Jesse and me went parking…He is so sweet and talkative. He can sing, play the piano…He is only 18, but he would be too smart and sexy for me. He is an honor student from Strawn and now goes to Texas Tech, I think.…He is so cautious about sex.…I’m going on about him like he is my dream man. We talk about everything except drugs and drinking. I think I know that he doesn’t do anything like that. He said that he would rather have a boy first, then a girl. He said that girls are hard to raise. And he is right.

Ever since Jennifer was ten years old, her well-heeled aunt and uncle in Granbury, Melanie and Robert Brownrigg, had taken an interest in her and Stephanie, presenting the girls with Christmas gifts and bicycles. But as soon as the Brownriggs found out that Jennifer had been having sex with boys and taking drugs, they stepped up their involvement. They paid for the girls’ braces and shuttled them back and forth to their appointments in Arlington. Jennifer tried to be good. She clung to Melanie, even tried calling her “Mom.” She passed her classes and quit smoking and drinking. She tried to attend school regularly. When the girls got good grades, they were rewarded with vacation trips and cruises to the Caribbean.

Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, however, Jennifer got busted for breaking into a convenience store to steal cigarettes. Two months later she was caught cashing a fraudulent check. The drug use continued, and by the next summer, the offenses had become more serious. Robert recalls watching his niece assist a magician on a cruise ship around that time: “I remember thinking, ‘That’s a beautiful woman up there. She looks so grown-up!’ And two days later she’s out stealing a car!”

January 4, 2003 12:55 a.m. Journal, I am going to see momma today. I have to wake up in 4 1⁄2 hours.…I have been awake for 36 hours. I feel ditzy!…I’m going to write Audrey. Then paint my nails RED.

January 5, 2003 1:17 a.m. Journal…I am such a bad person and do the stupidest things. Well, I am going to try and get some sleep…Bye. Please pray for me tonight!

In October 2003 Jerry and his girls were evicted from their apartment for being late with the rent. Thinking that a fresh start might keep Jennifer and Stephanie out of trouble, the Brownriggs invited them to come live with them. Melanie and Robert were building their dream home, and the blueprints for the mammoth house included plans for high-ceilinged bedrooms for the two girls. They even bought a Honda Civic for Jennifer to drive. But just a few months into the arrangement, Melanie discovered drug paraphernalia under Jennifer’s bed. That night she was shown the door.

Jennifer moved back in with her dad, who was then living in a motel in Mineral Wells. Six months later they moved into a late-sixties-era two-story apartment complex near the edge of town. She quit school. She got a job with a fast-food restaurant but quit that too, after a month. She was eighteen years old and bored out of her mind. She wrote her last entry in her diary at three o’clock in the morning on March 24, 2004.

Dear Journal, Hey, long time no hear. You have been too busy for me or what? Well…I have f—ed up again, like always. I had everything going good, really good for me, and I started on that shit again. This is where I always f—up.…I am going to make everything sweet and simple for you. I…moved in with Mel and Rob.…I got a car, cell, everything my heart desired. I had a boyfriend named Billy. Life was great. Well, now I’m in Mineral Wells with my dad and Audrey in the Spanish Trace Apartments. Billy broke up with me, and now I am not in school and haven’t been since Feb. 12th. I am going to Fort Worth in the morning and maybe Audrey will be back without her dyke girlfriend. I’ll write you later, Buh-bye, Jennifer Jones.

THE NEXT DAY, Jennifer was standing at her dad’s apartment door, on the back side of the run-down complex, where the asphalt had buckled and cracked. She was dressed in her pajamas, smoking a cigarette and looking at the field behind the parking lot when Audrey drove up with her girlfriend, Bobbi Jo Smith, in the front seat.

Jennifer had heard about this girl. Bobbi Jo was a notorious charmer, a party girl into every kind of trouble. Maybe because she was the only girl in a family full of brothers, many people mistook her for a young man, though she was a mother, having dropped out of school in the

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