texasmonthly.com: How did the idea to do this story come about?
Katy Vine: A few newspaper articles about the arrests piqued my interest. In addition, a few years ago I wrote a story about U.S. Highway 281, and when I passed the gorgeous, old Baker Hotel in downtown Mineral Wells, I figured the place must have had a boom time and an incredible past. I became fascinated by Mineral Wells’ history. In a way, this event was an excuse to spend some time up there. The city’s past didn’t make it into the story, but I heard plenty of stories about the old days from locals to satisfy my curiosity.
texasmonthly.com: Why is it important to tell this story?
KV: Well, it’s not important with a capital “I”; there’s no rash of teenage murderers out there. But it’s sociologically appealing to try to understand what factors lead up to an event like this. Whenever I read a story like this in the paper, I wonder, ‘How can that happen?’ I mean, what little things add up to the moment when a teenage girl in a small town decides she needs to kill a person? That’s what I was trying to understand with this story.
texasmonthly.com: How was this story reported?
KV: I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone before the trials began, but I watched Jennifer Jones’s trial, and then began interviewing the key subjects. I was able to interview Jennifer in the Palo Pinto County jail right after the trial was finished, and then in the Gatesville unit a few weeks later. Bobbi Jo Smith’s lawyer didn’t allow her to talk, which