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Murder, Rage, And Betrayal In Small Town Arkansas

Saturday, May 16th, 1985 Ruie Ann Park was brutally murdered.   The park family was a prominent family in a small town of Van Buren in Arkansas. Hugh Park and his wife Ruie Ann owned the local newspaper in town, which was a really big deal back then Ruie Ann was a retired school teacher, founder of the Van Buren Garden Club and Historical Association, and many other civic groups. She wanted to be involved in everything, she thought of herself as an upper crust lady but has been said that she didn’t have a nice personality. It was said that at times she was rude and not very well-liked in the community.  


There was one person who always brought out the good in Ruie Ann. That was her only child Sam Hugh Park Sam was the apple of his parent’s eyes he was considered to be very bright and had many talents they put him on a pedestal when Sam was five years old the parks decided to adopt a seven-year-old girl Linda.  When Ruie Ann first got Linda she dressed her up in little dresses with big bows in her hair and seemed to show her off.   Ruie Ann was like look at me, I’ve got this little girl I got out of an orphanage, but the reality was that very soon after she had adopted Linda she regretted it.  Linda was very shy and wasn’t nearly as smart as Sam.  Linda didn’t get the same attention from her parents especially from Ruie Ann, it was obvious that she treated Linda differently than she did Sam.  

Ruie Ann later divorced and after high school both Sam and Linda enrolled at the University of Arkansas embarking on two very different life paths.  Linda got married and settled to a quiet life of obscurity about three hours away in Cabot Arkansas, while Sam Hugh graduated law school returned to Van Buren and found success as the youngest ever US prosecuting attorney of the fifth District of Arkansas.

Ruie Ann Park

Sam was part of the in crowd and also an outcast according to Ron Fields former Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney, “ he was gay at the time when it wasn’t politically correct to be gay” that caused a lot of people to dislike him according to Anita paddock author of Blind Rage, a true story of sin sex and murder in a small Arkansas town, said that Sam had young men that he would get out of jail and he would bring them to his house. They would do odd jobs for him, he was drinking and there were lots of parties there, unfortunately, Sam’s partying started to become an everyday thing and he would eventually lose his job as a state prosecutor.  At some point who moved into one of his mother’s three rental properties just a few hundred feet from the main house where Ruie Ann lived and opened up his law practice, but clients were not exactly banging down his door since Sam’s law practice was not successful.  

Sam had a need for money at the time.  There were numerous statements from Sams acquaintances saying he was constantly trying to borrow money from his mother.  There were even reports of heated public exchanges between the two.  Some occurred just a few weeks before the night that would change everything.  

Saturday, May sixteenth, 1981 Sam had supper with friends of his Linda and Rusty Myers. According to Linda Myers, “our kids were with us he enjoyed our kids and we just had a really good evening together”, then just before 7:00 pm Sam told the couple he wanted to go home to catch a movie on TV.   Later that night Sam talked to his mother on the phone before drinking himself to sleep the next morning.  Sam had a hangover, which was pretty normal for him, he went outside and saw his mother’s newspaper was still lying where she demanded it to be thrown daily.   He didn’t think much of it and went on about his day.  A few hours later he said that his mother’s newspaper was still lying in the same spot.  This was very unusual so he went over to investigate.  The door at Ruie Ann’s  house was locked, as it always was.  There were three keys to the residence.  Of course, Ruie Ann had one, Sam had one, and his sister Linda had a key.  Sam used his key to get into the residence and found his mother’s body lying in the den in a puddle of blood.  

Sam called the police, then called his sister Linda.  By the time Linda and her husband Howard arrived at the house the police were already investigating the scene.  The initial police investigation revealed that someone had managed to get inside Mrs. Park’s home, which was always locked even when she was at home.  She had been beaten with an object on the head.   It looked like a crime of anger because of the number of blows.   It was later revealed that Ruie Ann had received ten separate blows to the head with a foreign object.   To the police it was obvious there were no signs of a break-in.   They immediately questioned the only two people with access to the home Ruie Ann’s children.   Sam and her adopted daughter Linda.   Linda told investigators she was at home with her youngest child in Cabot Arkansas, about three hours away and according to Ron Fields, the prosecuting attorney, they asked Sam where he was the night before and Sam’s alibi basically was I got drunk and passed out, I don’t remember anything.   That made Sam the only person around who had a key to the home and also stood to inherit Ruie Ann’s estate.   There was a lot of talk that the police focused solely on Sam because he was gay, this was 1981 in rural Arkansas and it said that many people within the police department sort of had it in for Sam for this reason.   

Also in my own experiences, there are many times when law enforcement and defense attorneys really don’t like each other or get along, because they battle in court.   Under testimony, the defense attorney’s job is to make law enforcement appear or seemed as if they did something wrong in the case and at times will attack law enforcement on the stand,  but that’s that’s their job.    

A  few weeks before her death Ruie Ann had reported a prowler on her property.   In the days and weeks that followed attorneys continue to look at Sam alone according to Anita Paddock, author of Blind Rage, the true story of sin sex and murder in a small Arkansas town that Ruie Ann had strands of long black hair clenched in her hand when she was found in the den dead.   Sam had really short brown hair, also at the crime scene, there was a fingerprint and a bloody handprint on the fridge door that I don’t know if any prints were ever taken of that according to Miss Paddock. they did perform a polygraph test on Sam and he passed.   The man who was the examiner of it said obviously because Sam was so smart and that he was a lawyer that he figured out how to trick to test.   According to Paddock the test had to be graded as inconclusive and that’s another reason why the police felt that Sam was the correct suspect, said Ron Fields.   The police requested warrants from our office, said Fields at that point I refused to give them the warrants.   The proof, in my opinion, is just not conclusive.   

The general consensus in town was everyone just thought that Sam had gotten mad at his mother and that he had killed her.  Sam just really let himself go.   He pushed his friends away.   His whole life, living situation, law practice, and everything became just more and more torn apart, said Rusty Myers which was a personal friend of Sam Hugh.   Sam’s drinking which was already a problem became completely out of control.  Once he started ordering whiskey by the gallons.   Another friend of his tried to stage an intervention, but Sam’s words of them were,” I haven’t the least desire to stop drinking and I intend to die like this.” Not long after that Sam started coughing up blood, it was a little under two years after his mother’s deaths that Sam Hugh, the only suspect in the murder, was rushed to the hospital.   Before investigators could dig up enough evidence to get an actual arrest warrant for Sam he took himself out of the equation.   It hadn’t even been two years since his mother’s brutal murder and Sam Hugh died from the effects of alcoholism.   He was just 40 years old.   To many in the town, Sam’s passing closed the case of Ruie Ann’s murder.   Sam was guilty, and he had just executed his own death sentence.   

Three hours away in the small town of Cabot Arkansas Sam’s adopted sister Linda was positive her brother had nothing to do with it.   Even though she had barely seen him since the murder the fact was her mom’s death hadn’t been the only trauma she was dealing with she found out her husband was having an affair before she could confront Howard.   She found out she was pregnant with his fourth child.  Howard decided to leave her for another woman.   They divorced soon after, Linda got custody of the two younger boys and Howard the two older boys.   Howard also got their house and most of the other assets.   Linda initially agreed to the arrangement, but when she got word that Howard had bought his new girl an expensive engagement ring something snapped inside this normally meek woman.   Linda’s attitude changed, she got mad and she wanted all the boys now.   She wasn’t going to take just what Howard gave her she was going to fight Howard.  Howard got a message that Linda wanted to meet him and had arranged for a private meeting.   Linda, a woman many people in Van Buren had forgotten even existed was all of a sudden arrested for the vicious murder of her own mother.    According to Ron Fields, the prosecuting attorney. we got a phone call one night than an attorney, and he said I have her on tape admitting to killing this woman.   

Linda’s husband Howard before ranging that meeting with his ex had arranged to deal with the Van Buren Police to have his own office wired.   We sent the police there and they took a statement from her and she fully confessed.  Linda told police it was the weekend her husband was out of town on a camping trip and she found out he was having an affair.   After Linda found out she was devastated and overwhelmed.   She decided to drive to Van Buren Arkansas three hours away hoping that her mother might put her arms around her and say everything’s going to be alright.   You have a home here, I love you, I love your children but that’s not what she said instead Ruie Ann tore into Linda, she always had, and always consider her as a disappointment.   She told Linda she shouldn’t have married that man anyway, she shouldn’t have had all those kids, and she berated her like she always had.   Linda stated that something snapped, she went into a rage.   Linda grabbed a gavel that was broken off of a plaque the Sam had gotten when he left the U.S. Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.   It was lying on the table and with a minimum of 10 blows, she dispensed her own twisted judgment justice.   She then quietly slipped out of the house, drove back to Cabot throwing the murder weapon out along the roadway.   It’s very possible no one would have ever figured it out if she hadn’t taken her husband spare car to commit the crime.   When he was off on a camping trip, Howard was such a troll freak that when he got home from the trip the first thing he did was go and see if Linda had driven that car.   He kept up with the mileage and saw the discrepancy in the mileage.   So he put two and two together and questioned Linda until she finally admitted to him yes I did it.   

There was never a trial.   The murder charge was dropped to second-degree murder and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison with the possibility of parole.   Linda ultimately served less than a quarter of the 20-year sentence she was paroled after only four years.   According to Ron Fields, it was a crime that if not for her husband calling and turning her in would not have been solved this day and to this day people would have said Sam Hugh killed his mother.

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