J. B. King was one of a handful of Missouri State troopers that has been awarded the Medal of Valor by the Missouri State Highway Patrol which he received in 1997. It was the only medal awarded that year. He took into custody a gunman who had, seconds before King tackled him, fired seven shots at other officers. The complete story is in an anthology from the "Pulaski County, Missouri Inspirations" book from Red Engine Press. But it was the case he was involved with in 1977 about the murders at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri that he wrote about in his book, Frozen Tears.
“In January of 1977, the Missouri State Highway Patrol sent me south on highway 17 in Pulaski County to check on 4 runaways. When I arrived on scene, I found that I had walked into a triple murder committed by an on duty military police officer. This case had a profound effect on my thinking and emotional status that day. It haunted me for 40 years and, frankly, I cried every time I thought about the case.
“In 2016, After hearing my presentation on this case the owners of Red Engine Press asked me to do a book based on it and I agreed to do so. Besides my own recollections of the case, through my research efforts I was able to reconnect with several officers on the federal side of the house who had actually worked on the case. I received intense cooperation from these federal officers. They were just as emotionally upset as I was. I could not have asked for better cooperation than what I received. As a result, the book that followed was an extremely complex and detailed account of a very horrific crime.”
King said he did not have any special preparations to go through to write the book.
“As far as how the flow of the book went, I simply told the story from A to Z, start to finish.
“My research was mainly talking with the immediate officers involved in the case, the majority of which were people I already knew or had worked with in the past. It was simply a matter of finding them in retirement and reconnecting with them and persuading them to give me their story of their efforts in this case.”
As far as the resources he used to write the story, he states, “my main resource was my co-author Sandra Miller who located in excess of 400 newspaper articles that were printed at the time of this case and that gave us quite a bit of background that we could use in the book and quite a few people to contact and lines of inquiry to follow up on for the research of the book.
“Sandra Linhart Miller worked with me as my coauthor and as the illustration specialist for the book. I basically wrote the book and Sandy rewrote the book. As a writer I have a tendency to go for long paragraphs and Sandy did a magical job of taking my long paragraphs, cutting them down into more manageable reading segments, but at the same time keeping my train of thought and my word usage to the point where I couldn’t tell she had edited the book but my long paragraphs were no longer there.
“Sandy Linhart Miller was my illustrator. She probably did 20 some covers before we all agreed on the one we used.”
King states that he wrote the book at his house. “I have an office/writing Den set up and that’s where I wrote. I simply wrote the book in the sequence of events that had occurred. That presented a challenge because on day one we had eight crime scenes and 20 some people we needed to have interviewed immediately and finding a way to present those was impossible as there was no chronological order you could follow. I simply picked one crime scene, a major crime scene, and started there.
“I need to make it perfectly clear that the case rested in the hands of the federal authorities because as a Missouri State officer I had no jurisdiction to investigate the crimes on the Federal Reservation, the United States Army base of Fort Leonard Wood. I could assist the federal officers if requested and they did request.”
King stated that he wrote whenever he had the time and had material ready to go. No special time of the day or no special rituals were involved.
Aside from writing, he was assigned to the Pulaski County Zone of Troop I in December 1969 as his first assignment following training academy.
“I have been in a law enforcement capacity of one type or another in Pulaski County since that date. I was a Missouri State Trooper for 32 years, followed by almost four years in retirement as a reserve municipal police officer for the city of Waynesville, Missouri. I followed that by running for the elected Office of Sheriff of Pulaski County which is a four-year term and I was elected twice so I served 8 years. When I tried to retire as the sheriff, the gentleman who replaced me, Ron Long, was a longtime friend of mine and he immediately demanded that I become his deputy. I served under him for four years as a reserve detective. After four years Ron decided to retire and the man who replaced him had worked for me for eight years while I was sheriff. I have one more year to go as a reserve detective working for him because he has announced he will retire at the end of 2024. At that point I’m not sure what my status is going to be in the world.
“Besides law enforcement I have written a total of five books now. The Frozen Tears book that we’re concerned with in this interview plus two short story books of law enforcement stories told with an emphasis on humor. I have also written two books about the American Civil War in Missouri “The Tilly Treasure” and “Justice Military Tribunals and Civil War Missouri.”
And what is king working on now?
“In 1987, a Rolla, Missouri, police officer was shot one night and a manhunt immediately began for the suspect. One day later, the suspect entered a church outside of Rolla, Missouri, and executed the church caretaker. He then stole his car. Unfortunately for the suspect, as he was leaving the church, he ran right into a search team and he abandoned the team and reentered the woods. The name of the suspect was John David Brown and law enforcement officers eventually took him into custody in the state of Oklahoma. He was tried and convicted for the murder of the church caretaker and sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary to serve life without the possibility of parole.”
King served eight years as sheriff of Pulaski County, Missouri. “During my eight-year tenure, we uncovered a 22-year-old cold case murder committed in our county in 1985 and we were able to successfully investigate that case. The man later pleaded guilty to a second charge of first-degree murder and was given a second sentence of life in the Missouri State Penitentiary without parole. I am working on a book that concerns all of his criminal events.”