The Dreams of Ada Summary & Study Guide

Bob Mayer
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The Dreams of Ada Summary & Study Guide Description

The Dreams of Ada Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Dreams of Ada by Bob Mayer.

The Dreams of Ada by Robert Mayer is the true story of Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot. Ward was questioned for more than five hours in the disappearance of Donna Denice Haraway, finally confessing to her rape and murder. However, it was later revealed that Ward's confession was full of holes and was based on a dream he had. The police charged Ward anyway and his friend, Karl Fontenot, who also confessed to the murder. Ward and Fontenot spend more than ten months in jail before being convicted, without a body or murder weapon. Four months later, the body of Denice Haraway was found on the same day Ward and Fontenot had been scheduled to die before their stays were granted. Dreams of Ada is a book of mystery, of foolishness, and of justice gone wrong.

Donna Denice Haraway was working in McAnally's convenience store on April 28, 1984 when she disappeared. Three customers stopped by the store and saw a woman and man leave just before walking inside and discovering the store empty. The police were called, but due to a misunderstanding, were sent to the wrong store. When the police finally arrived, they called in the manager who wiped down the counter with no thoughts to possible fingerprints. Denice Haraway's husband was called and informed of his wife's disappearance. The next day, Steve Haraway participated in a large search for his wife, but nothing was found.

Within days, several witnesses came forward. A clerk from another convenience store down the street came forward and told how two men were in her store in the few hours before Denice Haraway disappeared, acting odd and making her nervous. The clerk gave a description of the men and a composite sketch was drawn. The eyewitnesses from McAnally's picked one of the sketches as the man who left the store with the woman, whom the police believed to be Denice Haraway. After the sketches were released, many calls came into the police department giving possible identities to the two men. Two names came up more frequently than others, including that of Tommy Ward. The police called in Tommy Ward, but he had an alibi for the night in question.

More than five months passed. One day a man came into the police station and told a story of how Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot confessed to a group of people at a party how they killed Denice Haraway. Based on this information, which later proved to be inaccurate, the police went looking for Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot. The police found Ward in a nearby town working with a company that put siding on houses. Ward went into the police department willingly. However, Ward changed his alibi for the night in question. The police became suspicious and arranged for Ward to take a lie detector test. Before the day of the test, Ward had a dream about the Haraway disappearance. During his interrogation following the news that he failed the lie detector test, Ward told the police about this dream. Eventually Ward found himself giving a confession on video tape. A few days later, the police brought in Karl Fontenot, who also confessed.

Despite many inconsistencies on the confession tapes, including the fact that Ward and Fontenot both said Odell Titsworth helped them kill Haraway even though the police knew he could not have, Ward and Fontenot were charged with murder. For several months, the legal wrangling for the case kept the trial from taking place. The body of Haraway had not been found and the defense felt that the prosecution had no case without it. However, in Oklahoma a body is not necessary to prove murder. Based on a previous legal finding, the prosecutor felt confident in going forward to trial without a body. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor convinced a judge that he had enough evidence to prove a crime had taken place and to allow him to present the confession tapes to the jury. Also during this hearing, Ward made a statement in court that placed him at the scene of the crime. This too proved to be lies, but further aided the prosecution's case.

When Ward and Fontenot finally went to trial, the prosecution presented several eyewitnesses who placed Ward at McAnally's the night of the crime. The prosecution also established that the confession tapes provided an accurate description of the clothing Denice Haraway was wearing the night she disappeared, something even Haraway's husband could not testify to. The prosecution then presented the confession tapes. After several days of deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Days later, the same jury returned a recommendation of death for both Ward and Fontenot. Ward and Fontenot were scheduled to be executed on January 21, 1987. Due to a paperwork snafu, Ward did not receive a stay of execution until his appeals could be exhausted until days before his scheduled execution. On the same day Ward and Fontenot were to be executed, the body of Donna Denice Haraway was retrieved from a field where it had been discovered the day before by a hunter. The body of Haraway appeared to have been shot in the head. However, when Ward's lawyer sought a new trial based on this evidence, the court ruled that the wound could have occurred after death, therefore the presence of a gun wound did not prove that Haraway had not been stabbed as Ward and Fontenot claimed.

Eventually Ward and Fontenot would receive new trials based on the fact that by showing the confession tapes at trial, the prosecution had biased the jury against each defendant. Fontenot would go to trial first in Pontotoc County, the same location as the first trial. Fontenot's lawyer would present evidence that Fontenot confessed out of a sense of guilt in the death of his mother. However, the jury was not swayed and found him guilty once again. Fontenot received the death sentence a second time, but sentence was overturned when it was discovered that the jury had not been given the option of giving Fontenot life without parole. Fontenot was then sentenced to life without parole. Ward was also tried a second time. Ward's trial was moved to another county and Ward himself took the stand. However, once again the confession taped seemed to dominate the evidence and Ward was found guilty a second time. Ward received a life sentence and could be eligible for parole after twenty-five years.

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