On September 26, 1999, Jesse William Dirkhising, 13, was bound, sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered in Rogers, Arkansas. Davis Carpenter and Joshua Brown were convicted of his murder.
Jesse Dirkhising, 13, lived in Prairie Grove, Arkansas with his parents, Tina and Miles Yates Jr. Jesse was a 7th grader at Lincoln Middle School. During the months of August and September 1999, Jesse had been spending weekends with a friend of his parents, Davis Carpenter, 38, and Carpenter’s life partner, Joshua Brown, 22. Carpenter owned a hair salon in the neighboring town of Rogers, Arkansas. Jesse’s parents believed Jesse was helping Carpenter at his salon, earning money. They thought the offer would be a good experience for their son.
The 911 Call
In the early morning hours of September 26, 1999, police received a 911 call to Carpenter’s apartment on Sunset Drive in Roger, Arkansas. Carpenter met Police at the door; he told police, “He’s not breathing, he’s not breathing.”
Police saw a younger nude man (later identified as Joshua Brown) with a flashlight and telephone, standing next to an unmoving teenage boy who was laying bound on the floor. The responding officer noticed Jesse had duct tape around his hand and inquired about it. Carpenter told the officer, “They were just playing a game.”
Medics immediately rushed the teenager to St. Mary’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 13. The medical examiner ruled Jesse’s cause of death as drugging and positional asphyxia. Positional asphyxia occurs when a body’s position prevents the chest or diaphragm from expanding or a position that restricts airflow from the nose and mouth.
The Crime Scene
According to court documents, police found Jesse unresponsive, on a mattress, which was on the floor of a bedroom. His mouth was blue. He had a weak pulse but was not breathing. There was also an empty medicine bottle on the mattress.
Jesse had been gagged with his own underwear, a bandana, and duct tape. His arms and legs were bound with duct tape and belts. Duct tape was also around one of his hands. His stomach and genitals were covered in feces.
An officer also noticed “some pills and a razor blade on a mirror” which were presumed to be illegal substances. The court documents state, while being questioned by officers at the scene, Brown assaulted an officer and was arrested. It does not describe the circumstances of the altercation. Investigators had initially attempted to speak with Brown that night but were unsuccessful.
During his second interview, the next day, Brown admitted to investigators that had been under the influence of meth at the time of his arrest. After taking Brown’s initial statements, police requested Carpenter come in for questioning. He did without incident.
Investigators learned Jesse had been going to Carpenter’s apartment every weekend for the two-months leading up to his death. Carpenter told investigators that Brown had been sexually assaulting Jesse during each visit. He stated he did not participate in the assaults, but he watched Brown sexually assault Jesse repeatedly. Brown told investigators that Carpenter had planned each assault, including detailed instructions and diagrams on what to do to Jesse. He also explained that he and Jesse tied each other up often, though it was not for sexual gratification.
During the interview, Brown told officers about the events that lead up to Jesse’s murder. He told detectives that he had snuck up behind Jesse and ties his hands behind his back. Brown then put underwear in his mouth, which he secured with a bandana and duct tape. He then secured a bandana with duct tape over Jesse’s eyes. Brown then put a shirt over Jesse’s head. He told officers he made sure that Jesse’s nostrils were not covered.
Brown continued to bind Jesse. He placed belts around Jesse’s legs, securing them together. He then untied Jesse’s wrist and them to the opposite sides on the mattress, and placed pillows underneath Jesse. Brown described how he and Carpenter had given Jesse antidepressants and a sedative. They also gave him a urine enema that had been laced with amitriptyline. Amitriptyline is a prescription medication used to treat depression but can be used to treat insomnia, migraines, and pain.
Brown would use “three fingers of his hand, his penis, a cucumber, a sausage, a banana, and a douche bottle” to repeatedly rape and sodomize Jesse. He said that Jesse was a willing participant in his “horseplay.” He stated he had taken a break to make himself a sandwich and had stuffed Jesse’s underwear into his mouth to “keep him quiet” while he went into the kitchen.
Brown then went up to his bedroom. When he went back to Jesse, he noticed that he was not breathing. According to his statement, he took the shirt off his head, as well as the bandanas and duct tape. He then got Carpenter, who was sleeping.
Carpenter told police when Brown woke him up, he told him “There was a problem”. Carpenter saw Jesse laying on the floor; his hands were still bound with tape. They discussed cleaning Jesse up in the shower and dumping his body somewhere rural, but ultimately, it was Carpenter who called 911.
The Search of the House
The police obtained a search warrant for Carpenter’s residence, located at 1207 West Sunset Drive. Upon their search of the living room, police found small green pills, multiple prescription pill bottles, including amitriptyline, a mirror, and a small amount of white powder. In the bedroom, police found two cucumbers, one had petroleum jelly on it; the other had fecal matter on it. They also found a sausage and a crushed banana along with a douche bottle with the top tapped on. Police also found items they believed Carpenter and Brown used for bondage, including multiple belts, multiple rolls of duct tape, strapping tape, handcuffs, nylon rope, a rubber jump rope, and electrical cord, and multiple jars of petroleum jelly.
The computer screen in the living room was running with the monitor off. When police turned it on, “Medical Drug Reference 4.0”, a pharmacology program, was seen on the screen.
According to news sources, when detectives searched Carpenter’s apartment, they recovered child pornography. They also discovered an instructional guide on how to sedate a child and a diagram that illustrated how to position and bind a victim. Carpenter had also made extensive notes that detailed different fantasies of molesting children.
On the kitchen table, police found a receipt dated September 26, 1999, at 3:07pm. The items bought were ‘Eckrich’ (sausage), two cucumbers, and tape.
The notes police found in Carpenter’s house revealed he referred to Brown as ‘Baby’. The following information is taken directly from the third page of the affidavit, which can be read below.
The search also revealed a piece of paper on which a note was written to “Baby”. (The Investigation has revealed that Carpenter refers to Brown as “Baby.”) In the upper right hand of the note are listed three types of prescription pills.
The text of the note refers to making a male (“him”) take “those pills.” It then refers to positioning pillows beneath the male in a certain way. A different portion of the same piece of paper says to tell “him” not to fight or else for the next “14 hours” he will be sexually assaulted.
The search also revealed another note, addressed to an unnamed person, which refers to a piece of meat being inserted in that person’s anus. The note also refers to “Davis” engaging in sexual intercourse with “you blindfolded on pills.” There is also a note addressed to “Baby” that refers to “duct tape in place.”
The search further revealed a hand-drawn diagram depicting a person on a bed.
There are notations that refer to pillows, “tape all the way around,” “face down,” the buttocks of the person “raised app. 2 feet.” Another note was found in the kitchen area addressed to “baby”, and states “Could cause serious damage-back to 3” sticking out and duct tape in place.”
The search also revealed a five-page letter addressed “Hey Baby.” The letter is signed by “Davie.” In the letter, “Davie” describes seeing “Baby’s” “little 10-year-old blond whore” at her bus stop in the morning. “Davie” graphically describes how he can envision “Baby” engaging in various sexual acts with her.
The search also revealed handwritten texts on a legal pad. In those texts, the writer describes a man making a “fine crushed white powder” from “the small oddly purple colored pill” The writer describes him cutting the pill in ¼ sections so that he would have “enough to do this again in 4 hours or so, if he needed (or wanted!).” He then describes the man giving a nine-year-old girl a glass of milk with the pill powder mixed in. The writer then writes of the man laughing out loud, “knowing in 20 minutes the pill dust he’d added would render her helpless and drunk…” He then describes in detail the man having the girl first masturbate and then perform oral sex on him.
The case went to trial, and a jury found both Carpenter and Brown guilty of rape and first-degree murder. Initially, they were each individually charged with six counts of rape and one count of first-degree murder. The six counts of rape were reduced to one count. Both men were given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder, plus each man received an additional 25 years for the rape charge with the consideration that Jesse was not yet at the age of consent and was extensively drugged.
Brown had a criminal record which included possession of marijuana, contempt for failure to report to his probation officer, and a citation for an expired license plate.
The Media’s Role
The media became under fire shortly after the murder of Jesse Dirkhising. A comparison was made between Jesse Dirkhising’s murder and a murder that happened a year prior, the murder of Matthew Shepard. Matthew was murdered by two men in Wyoming for being gay. The murder became national news. When Jesse was murdered, there was hardly any coverage, and the few articles were written only focused on the fact lack of coverage and the political side of crime, instead of the murder itself. The 1999 media argument was that both cases should have had similar coverage instead of one having more coverage than the other.
The media arguments became more about what constituted story coverage: a child who was viciously murdered by two gay men who were pedophiles and sadists, versus a gay man who was unjustly defiled and savagely murdered based on his sexual identity. Accusations of liberal media bias and homophobia flooded national media outlets. Still, to this day, the topic of coverage of these two cases is widely debated.
Joshua Macave Brown is currently serving his sentence in Brikeys, Arkansas, at the East Arkansas Regional Unit. Carpenter. He attempted a legal appeal in September 2003, stating that police promised him a lesser sentence if he cooperated with their investigation. The court ruled against his appeal, based on his initial videotaped confession.
Davis Don Carpenter died while in Tucker, Arkansas, at the Arkansas Department of Corrections Maximum Security Unit. In 2019, he and his attorney attempted to introduce “exculpating evidence” by requesting DNA testing. His request was denied based on his willing confession of raping Jesse and being at the scene during Brown’s raping of Jesse.
Jesse was buried in Friendship Cemetery, Springdale, AR. Faculty and students at Lincoln Middle School turned his locker and his school bus seat into memorials so that he would never be forgotten.