Former CSI recalls processing shootout scene on I-57 near Paxton

PAXTON — In her first year on the job as an Illinois State Police crime-scene technician, Jodi Barth investigated dozens of homicide scenes, including 32 in the first month alone.

“I’d seen and done a lot,” Barth said.

But the homicide scene Barth was called out to on April 7, 1979, was different. Among the victims of the bloody gunfight on Interstate 57 south of Paxton were two police officers.

Initially, Barth did not realize the scope of what she would encounter at the 259 mile marker on I-57 that Saturday night. All she knew, based on what a District 6 dispatcher had told her, was that there was an “officer-involved shooting.”

Barth received a page from the District 6 dispatch center around 9:30 p.m. while she was having dinner in Bloomington, and it took her about an hour of driving before she arrived to see what clearly was one of the most horrific homicide scenes she had seen at that point in her young career.

“When I was a few miles out, I could see the squad lights, and I knew I had something more than just an officer-involved shooting,” Barth recalled. “I could just see lights — red lights, white lights — as far as you could see.”

Driving an unmarked squad car, Barth was directed to the scene by her state police colleagues, who had already closed off the southbound lanes of I-57 and were busy rerouting traffic. Barth got out of her car and saw two dead bodies on the pavement. Others had already been removed.

At that point, Barth and the other officers at the scene were unaware that a murder suspect was still on the run.

“We didn’t know about Monroe (Lampkin) then,” Barth said, noting that in a time before cell phones, the police responding to the scene had not been fully informed of what had just taken place.

The storms are coming
Barth’s attention, of course, was on processing the scene itself. It was the state police detectives’ job to investigate the crime.

With the threat of storms coming, Barth had little time to waste.

“Big storms were predicted to hit the area, and I had almost a quarter-mile of scene (to process),” Barth said. “I had multiple (shell) casings; I had cars; I had bodies ... and I couldn’t get any help. All of the crime-scene techs that could help me were busy.

“It was an outside scene, so it wasn’t like we could just wait for morning. We knew we had storms coming in, so I had to get started.”

The first thing Barth did was a walkthrough with her hands in her pockets — “just to get a general idea of what I’m facing, what happened, what does it look like happened, where do I start and where do I finish.”

Barth then took triangulated measurements and photographs of the scene, breaking it up into 13 smaller crime scenes.

Barth started with a Ford Thunderbird that was parked just south of an overpass above the interstate. She would later find out that the Thunderbird was the car that Monroe Lampkin was riding in. It was being driven by Monroe’s brother Cleveland, who was pulled over for speeding, along with three other vehicles, by state trooper Michael McCarter.

Starting with the Thunderbird, Barth took measurements. She then worked her way to the north, moving on to McCarter’s car, which was behind the Thunderbird. She then moved on to Paxton police officer William Caisse’s squad car, which was behind McCarter’s just underneath the overpass, before moving on to a pickup truck that had been driven by another Lampkin brother, David.

Barth noticed there was a big gap between the truck and where Paxton police officer Larry Hale’s squad car was parked to the north. It later became known that Hale had parked behind three of the vehicles that had been pulled over — two of which had left the scene when shots started being fired.

The four Lampkins brothers, from Michigan, were headed to Mississippi for their grandmother’s funeral. Police said they were part of an auto-parts theft ring based in Detroit, and it is believed the brothers feared police would find the weapons they had in their vehicles, so they fired on the officers.

Clyde and David Lampkin are believed to have been in the pickup truck behind Caisse’s car, while Monroe and Cleveland were in the Thunderbird.

Unexplained blood stains
While doing her initial walkthrough, Barth had noticed some blood splatter that “didn’t match what I was told had transpired.”

“It just didn’t make sense to me, so I knew it was something I had to explore but I wasn’t sure,” Barth said.

After she finished taking measurements and photos, Barth began checking out the blood droplets more closely.

“They started in the passenger compartment doorway of the Thunderbird, and they trickled into the grass there (to the west side of the interstate), and it looked like it went up the hill (to the overpass area),” Barth recalled. “So we started exploring that area to the west of the crime scene up the embankment, and that’s when we found a hat with blood stains in it.

“And there was a fence that separated the highway section, or the embankment, from the farmland next to it. There was a fence that went up that entire embankment to the road. And right at that fence we found a bunch of casings with blood on it — a bunch of unused cartridges, live cartridges with blood on it. And we just followed those up to the top of the road, and then we found additional casings up there where it looked like somebody had dumped a cylinder of casings out.”

Barth also discovered a watch with a bullet hole in it.

“It was at that moment that we knew we had one individual missing — at least one individual that we knew of was missing — and that he was probably wounded in his wrist and was armed, because we knew that we had ammo from a gun that we had not recovered. So it was at that point we knew we had somebody on the run.”

That person was Monroe Lampkin.

“We immediately called in canines,” Barth said, “and unfortunately the rains were coming fast. The canines did get a (scent) taking us south toward the creek area, and there we found a foot bridge that we think he crossed as there was some potential blood (found) there. But the downpours then started, and the canines lost the scent.”

A wounded Monroe Lampkin was captured the following day walking on the outskirts of Paxton.

Monroe Lampkin was suspected of shooting at officers from the overpass area. The gun he used — which, according to Barth, was either a .38-caliber handgun or .357 — was never recovered.

It was Monroe Lampkin’s brother David who police think eventually fired the bullets that killed Caisse and McCarter, along with McCarter’s brother-in-law, Donald Vice, who was riding along with McCarter.

David Lampkin also shot Hale in the chest and right leg. Hale, however, returned fire and killed him.

Also killed in the shootout was Cleveland Lampkin, presumably by McCarter.

Clyde Lampkin was never implicated in the incident.

Barth said it was a bloody crime scene.

“Mike McCarter was in his squad; Cleveland Lampkin was at the base of Mike’s car; Vice was outside the rear door — he died where he laid on the ground — and Caisse was right next to (Vice) basically,” Barth said, noting that some of the bodies had already been removed by the time she arrived.

Testifying at trial
Monroe Lampkin was eventually charged with the murder of McCarter and McCarter’s stepbrother. After two overturned convictions, Monroe Lampkin was convicted of first-degree murder for a final time and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1991 – a sentence upheld by an appellate court in 1993. Now 82, he remains at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet.

Barth testified and presented evidence at all three trials.

“It was virtually a 15-year process to get him put away forever,” Barth said. “My testimony alone in each case was over eight and a half hours each time. A lot of people think it’s like on TV, where you read from reports (during a trial), but you don’t get to do that in court; you have to remember stuff; you have to testify from your memory. So each process was huge as far as preparation goes.

“Just in physical evidence alone we had over 200 pieces of evidence — physical evidence.”

Barth said she felt the state had a strong case throughout the trial process.

“We knew that the only person who was available to be shooting still from the overpass was the person who left the scene,” Barth said. “And we knew that there were four Lampkin brothers, and we had three of them, so it had to be Monroe. And Monroe actually had a bullet wound in his wrist, and his blood matched as much as we could tell (to the blood droplets in the overpass area).”

With the victims being fellow police officers, Barth said the case became personal to her.

“You don’t ever want it to be personal — you really don’t — but at some point it becomes that,” Barth said.

When Monroe Lampkin was finally convicted for a final time, Barth was relieved.

“I mean, that’s what keeps people like me doing this,” Barth said.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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