THE THAI CONNECTION

PROSECUTORS WILL SAY NARCOTICS PLAYED NO ROLE IN THE TEMPLE MURDERS. THE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS OTHERWISE.

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@body:Today, prosecutors believe the drug coincidences are irrelevant to the temple murder case. Though they will not comment on the case, prosecutors believe they can reconstruct the bloodiest mass murder in modern Arizona history.

The official version prosecutors plan to present to a jury later this year holds that in the muggy predawn hours of August 10, 1991, Doody and Garcia kitted themselves out in military fatigues and invaded the temple Wat Promkunaram.

"If they were to come in and say, 'We'll tell you who helped us,' I'd have to say, 'No thank you, boys, I want you,'" says K.C. Scull, the lead prosecutor on the case. "We can't say for 100 percent certain that they were the only ones there that night, but they were there."
Scull believes they herded the victims into a tight circle and made them lie down. Then, after ransacking the office and living quarters, Doody methodically shot each in the back of the head.

A cursory examination of the crime scene gave up evidence of both chilly sophistication and heedless crudity. While the Buddhists had been systematically executed, someone had upended a fire extinguisher and sprayed it about a bedroom. And, in the hallway, someone had scratched--in foot-high letters--the word "bloods," underlining it with three slashes.

Prosecutors will contend that Doody and Garcia left the temple with about $2,500 in cash and a sackful of cameras and consumer electronic products. But two of the dead Buddhists had wallets concealed in their robes--one contained $260 in cash, the other more than $100.

Also, although the living quarters were a shambles, the temple's sanctuary--where worship services were held--apparently had not been violated. Near the altar, four small, wooden collection boxes crammed with cash and secured only by tiny padlocks were left undisturbed. The invaders also ignored a small, potted "money" tree, currency taped to its branches as leaves, in the sanctuary. If they were after money, why would the intruders ignore the easy pickings in the sanctuary?

It was apparent that the invaders tried to open the stainless-steel safe in the living room. A few feet from the safe--a few feet from where the Buddhists died--investigators found every set of keys in the temple heaped on a dining table. The lock required a key and a combination; sources in the Thai community say that even if the residents had supplied the intruders with the safe's combination, for security reasons, the key was not kept on the premises.

Some people cannot understand how two teenage boys could control nine people, some of whom were quite robust. Even with Garcia holding a shotgun on them--he says he fired four times, inflicting nonfatal injuries on four of the victims--it seems hard to imagine that nine people could go so meekly to their deaths.

But an American who once served as a Theravada Buddhist monk says the monks would not have lifted a finger to defend themselves. The former monk, who requested anonymity, believes they would have accepted their fate with quiet dignity.

"Hatred is never appeased by hatred," a passage in the Dhammapada, a Buddhist catechism, reads. "Hatred is appeased by nonhatred. That is the eternal law."
Similarly, Gananath Obeyesekere, a professor of anthropology at Princeton who is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on Buddhist theology, says two of the central tenets of Buddhism are the futility of vengeance and the absence of a concept of intrinsic evil.

"It is impossible for the Buddha to say, 'Vengeance is mine,'" Obeyesekere says.

Others find it hard to reconcile the terrible facts of the crime with its beardless villains. Doody and Garcia are unlikely suspects. Nerdy, quiet kids, neither had any known serious brushes with the law prior to their arrests in the temple case. Nor had they experienced any particular problems in school or with their families.

Still, these boys said they did it. And physical evidence collected by investigators corroborated their statements. Forensic science has provided the cops with a murder weapon and detectives' footwork has put that weapon in Doody's hands.

The County Attorney's Office will focus on the botched robbery theory, on Garcia's testimony against Doody, and the two teens' statements to investigators. They will try to keep the jury from hearing "irrelevant" information about a possible connection between the temple and illegal drugs.

Yet there is much unanswered, much that Peter Balkan, Doody's attorney, might be able to use to raise a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. It is his job to exploit the investigation's labyrinthine twists and aporias, to try to introduce confusion into what may be a laborious trial.

Balkan will tell the jury how the Tucson suspects were questioned and confessed, and about how even after their release, Sheriff Tom Agnos insisted they were involved with the temple murders. Can the statements of Doody and Garcia be trusted in light of the four "false" confessions obtained from the Tucson suspects? Can the forensic evidence be trusted, given the political pressures occasioned by the murders? Can a jury believe young Johnathan and Alex did this all by themselves, with no help, no direction, and no support? And what about the drug connection?

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