We have a series of occasional postings called "Famous Crimes," which looks back at Tarrant County area crimes that have left a lasting impression because they were so widely publicized when they occurred. Today Star-Telegram writer Martha Deller examines a case that had people talking nationwide about the tragic death of a little boy.
-- Lance Murray
His death seems like distant history, but in 1990 the tale of the 5-year-old Everman boy who died of alcohol poisoning stirred outrage in most folks who heard about it.
People instantly connected Tinky’s name with the phrase — “drink it like a man” — that persuaded him to down 4 ounces of bourbon, causing irreversible brain damage.
“This is one of the few cases in my memory that people recognized based on the victim’s name, not the defendant,” said prosecutor Richard Alpert, below right, who still keeps Tinky’s photo and a whiskey bottle from the trial on a bookshelf in his office.
It all started when Patricia Griffin took her sons, Raymond “Tinky” Griffin, and his 2-year-old brother, Rashad, to a small party at an Everman apartment complex the night of Feb. 23, 1990.
With the liquor flowing freely, some witnesses recalled Tinky toddling around all evening taking sips of beer or mixed drinks from the adults’ glasses.
Some said Tinky picked up the bourbon bottle himself. Others said someone handed it to him. But most everyone said 22-year-old Anthony Jimerson urged the boy to “drink it like a man.”
Accounts also vary about why Tinky was not taken to the hospital until 15 hours after he drank the alcohol and 11 hours after he began having convulsions. He died five days after the party.
Several key players in the highly publicized case are no longer alive.
Jimerson, who was convicted of felony murder in Tinky’s death, died in 2007, six years after he completed his 10-year probationary sentence. He was 39.
Defense attorneys Charles Baldwin and Quentin McGowan, who won an acquittal for Patricia Griffin on an injury to child charge, have died.
Lead prosecutor David Montague and longtime Judge Joe Drago, who presided over both trials, have retired. So has former Everman Detective A.J. Brown, the lead investigator on the case.
Tinky’s death has impacted the families in different ways.
Patricia Griffin, now 50, lost more than one child when Tinky died. A jury in Austin — where her case was moved because of publicity — acquitted her of causing her son’s death by failing to get him timely medical care.
But she still lost custody of Rashad and her baby, Rachel.
Born addicted to cocaine, Rachel was placed in foster care and later adopted. Patricia Griffin’s mother, Peggy Price, was given custody of Rashad. She returned him to Griffin when he was 14.
Griffin and Price believe the trauma of losing his brother indirectly led Rashad to prison on an aggravated robbery conviction. He is 21.
“One reason he is where he is now is thinking about his brother,” said Price, who turned 80 in January. “They were real close.”
Patricia Griffin added: “Rashad kept asking me if Tinky was coming back until he was old enough to realize that he wasn’t.”
Jimerson’s children weren’t even born when Tinky died. They know of Jimerson only as a good father who worked at DFW Auto Auction to support them.
“He told me about it awhile ago,” said Kristy Jimerson, 18. “But he got past that and didn’t go back.”
Jimerson’s attorney, James Teel, said he is glad Jimerson turned his life around before he died.
“He was not a mean-spirited or evil person,” Teel said. He was young, he found himself in a party setting where there was a lot of drinking and this is how it ended up. It was a tragedy but he never intended to kill
or harm anyone.”
Patricia Griffin also is raising a teenage daughter, who was born while she was seeking custody of Rashad and Rachel. She wants to spare her daughter the publicity associated with Tinky’s death.
“It’s really hard on me losing my child, “ she said. “I try to cope with it day by day. I’ve been disabled since 1999 so I sit in the den looking at his picture every five minutes and go out to the cemetery as often as possible.”
-- Martha Deller