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According to the allegations, there were half a dozen adults involved in the sordid operation, including Shauntel Mayo, Sheryl and Harlan’s birth mother; Jamie Pittman, her boyfriend; and Sheila Sones, the kids’ maternal grandmother.
Many of the accused had drug or alcohol problems and lived in rural Tyler.
Five months later, the case resurfaced in Smith County, Wood County’s neighbor to the south. And the stories got uglier: The kids had been taught “sexual dancing,” and they had been forced to have sex with each other at a “sex kindergarten” run by a guy named “Booger Red”; after “graduating,” they were made to dance, strip, play doctor, and have sex with each other at the club.
The shows were videotaped, and in order to break down the kids’ inhibitions, they were drugged with Vicodin.
In Tyler, the kids’ testimony was enough, and the legal system marched on to the next defendant, Booger Red, who was convicted on August 21, 2008, and given life. How could the authorities in one county—the police, investigators, members of the DA’s office—arrive at such a different conclusion than the authorities in the county next door?
Everyone looked at the same basic facts, saw the same interviews, and read the same reports, but Wood County found nothing, whereas Smith County found the worst child sex ring in Texas history. The answers lie deep within a strange, winding story that covers two decades and two states and involves dozens of well-meaning adults and troubled children.
After marrying, the Cantrells settled in Vacaville, northeast of San Francisco, and had two children, Jacob and Jon-L.
“There are probably two hundred swingers within fifty miles of here,” Russ said.
“It’s a lifestyle is all it is.” Not, however, a lifestyle shared by the majority of the citizens of Mineola, a quiet town that’s home to 5,600 souls and a large number of antiques stores and Baptist churches.
“They braved the heat to enjoy music and good old-fashioned neighborly conversation,” read the caption. Above the Community Calendar and next to the letters to the editor, they came to a story titled “Sex in the City,” in which regular columnist Gary Edwards revealed that a club for “swingers and swappers” was operating in town. There were twelve rooms, two hot tubs, a karaoke machine, a stereo, a big-screen TV, a sex swing—and a lot of beds. It was located next door to the offices, in the former Mineola General Hospital, and its membership included locals as well as people from Tyler, Dallas, and Louisiana.
“We’ll do the operators of the facility a favor and we won’t say where it’s located for now,” Edwards wrote. The proprietors, Russ and Sherry Adams, lived just up the road in Quitman.