Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.
This is the second of four posts about a lie that I believe Hanna told in court. If you haven’t read the first post yet, you should probably do that before reading this one. Part 1, The Background
The lie itself, is that Hanna testified that she came in 16th out of 300 other girls in a one-mile cross-country race. It didn’t seem likely to me, especially since it was her very first race, and because, as she said, she “was one of the youngest girls there.” Luckily, there were parts of the story that I thought I could disprove empirically. I decided to find out what actually happened that day. In 2013, after reading the trial transcripts, I started trying to find that particular cross-country meet, a seventh grade race held in Langford in late August or early September of 2001. I made calls and sent emails to schools and runner’s organizations all across the Langford area. That search led me nowhere for at least a couple of years. Nobody, including schools in the Deep Springs area, said they had records of races that long ago. I asked Steve and Beau what they could remember about the race. Robin died in 2012, so I wasn’t able to get her memory of it. Her health started going downhill once Steve was incarcerated, and Marri was too young in 2001 to remember much.
Steve said he remembered the race, but not very well. He did think the number 300 was way too high, though; and he said that, if Hanna had run that well against that many runners, they would never have heard the end of it. He said she would have been bragging about it for months.
I asked Beau how many girls ran against her, adding, “More or less? How big was the pack?” At first he said he thought it might have been around twenty or thirty, but said there were “quite a few.” I pressed him on numbers, going way too high, “600?” He said no. “300?” He said, “No.” I asked him if he remembered what place Hanna came in “out of the group,” and he said “It wasn’t the first. It was below half.” Yes, I know what you might be thinking. Beau is biased, he’s Steve’s son, but I do think he’s accurate. Keep reading.
In both 2014 and 2015, I met with officials at Alderson ISD, Hanna’s school district, and let them know I was intending to write a book about the trial. We talked about Hanna’s time there as a student, and they were very helpful about a number of things, but about the track scores they also assured me that they wouldn’t have any records that far back, and didn’t know of any track meets the school might have attended in Langford. I knew the race had happened, though, Steve and Beau and Marri had verified that much, and they also thought it had been in Langford because they all ate lunch at a restaurant there afterward.
In the fall of 2015, I tried some more Internet searches (like “Alderson ISD” “cross-country”) and found a link to a race results file that Hanna’s school had posted on their homepage. The results were from a cross-country meet they had just attended in Miler, Texas, on September 8th, 2015. Miler is a small community located about ten miles outside Langford’s city limits. I was sure I had found the right school. The file contained a complete summary of Miler’s 2015 invitational cross-country race (who ran, what school they were from, and their ranks and times). Another search (using “Miler” in the search that time) found results files for 2011, 2013, and 2014, but nothing earlier than that. Every year after that I did a search in mid-September, and eventually also obtained stats for 2016 through 2018 as well.
Naturally, I contacted Miler High School immediately, but they said they didn’t have any records of races as far back as 2001, but they did give me the name of Miler’s cross-country coach in 2001, Charlie Correll, and told me he was teaching in Marlette, Texas.
I found Correll’s contact information right away, but he didn’t answer any of my emails or voice-mail messages. I persisted, and finally got an answer in March 2016. I knew it was a long shot, but I asked him if he might know if a 7th grade runner from Alderson had placed 16th out of 300 runners in 2001. He said he had been gone from Miler for eight years at that point, and didn’t keep any files from his time there. About the 7th grade races, he said they “were a little over a mile and ran through a coastal field behind the school,” but he had no way to verify how any individual runner placed in the 2001 race. He did say, though, “We never had 300 girls running in any division. Probably closer to 150 at most.” As I looked through the results sheets I had, it was clear that more runners were entered in the high school races than in the 7th grade ones, so I thought it was probable that the 2001 7th grade race also followed that pattern. So Coach Correll’s estimate of “150 at most” would probably have been for a high school boys or girls race, not a 7th grade one.
Also, thanks to information from officials at Alderson, I managed to locate Hope Dawson, who had been Hanna’s 2001 cross-country coach. In March 2016, I sent her emails, asking her for confirmation of several points. Such as: How many girls were on her 2001 7th grade team? How many girls were in the Miler race in total? And, did any of her 7th grade girls place high in the rankings that day? In June, after I sent three requests for information to her school e-mail address, and left two voice messages (which, unfortunately, isn’t an unusual number of tries to get a response when doing research) she e-mailed me back, and said, “Sir I’m so sorry that I can’t give you any particulars about this race. To [sic] long ago to remember.” I e-mailed her back immediately, and asked her if “there was ever a 7th grade race that had as many as 300 runners in it? And did you ever have a student who placed as high as 16th in any of the races?” She didn’t respond. I tried again a few times with no response, but gave it one more shot a year later. That time she did answer, saying that “any races we attended were small,” and confirmed that 7th grade races when she was there would have been “between 20 and 50 runners.” That narrowed the numbers down a little more. In 2016, I also talked to one of Miler’s current coaches, Curtis Hamner. He said he was teaching at Miler in 2001, but didn’t remember that year’s race specifically. He did say, though, “I do know that we did not have 300 kids in a 7th grade race, ever.” He also said, in an email, “We had our biggest meet ever this year and there wasn’t but 800 kids running from 7th grade thru 12, boys and girls, total.”
There is also some pictorial evidence from Alderson’s website (a group identified as their 2015-2016 girls cross-country team, was only eight individuals; plus pictures from races at other nearby schools, each showing lines of between thirty and forty girls ready to run.
In addition, the Miler rankings charts I found showed that, in 2011, only 45 girls ran in Miler’s 7th grade girl’s race, 62 ran in the 2013 race, 90 in the 2014 race, 105 in the 2015 race, 123 in the 2016 race, 145 in the 2017 race, and 115 in the 2018 race. That’s a pattern of a meet that was gaining in popularity nearly every year. It doesn’t make sense that it would have been three times as popular in 2001 as it was in 2018 (which is what Hanna’s scenario of 300 runners would require). Hanna’s numbers were also contradicted by Curtis Hamner’s statement, “We did not have 300 kids in a 7th grade race, ever.” No single race in any of their meets came close to the 300 runners than Hanna claimed were running against her. Her story is hyperbole at its most extreme.
In the next post we’ll look at some actual race times and see which elements of this cross-country story makes sense, if any.
Standard Disclaimer: Please post a comment below if you would like to. All comments are personally moderated by a grouchy old guy, though, so posts by self-promotional schemers, spammers, and lunatic ranters won’t make it through. Everyone else, whether your thoughts about this story are positive or negative, please feel free to speak your mind, but don’t ask me to reveal the identities of any of these individuals. Thanks.