The devil’s trailer Part 6


A day after his conviction was handed down, as a possible death sentence loomed on the horizon, and with the immensity of his situation weighing on him like a granite headstone, John Fryman shifted into panic mode.  “I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t do these things,” Fryman told Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV in a telephone interview.  “Her footprints were in the blood, not mine,” said Fryman as he desperately tried to pin the blame on Beverly Cox.  Fryman also hammered at his defense, questioning why neither he nor Cox was called to the witness stand.  Defense attorney Shiavone continued to stand by his client, but didn’t offer much in the way of alleviating Fryman’s mounting anxiety.  ”John is a very scared young man.  The electric chair, which he used to talk about so freely, is becoming a reality.  He’s confused, and I hope we can move on and save his life Tuesday,” Schiavone told reporters.

On the eve of Fryman’s sentencing, the grieving mother of Monica Lemen charged the convicted killer with playing mind games as he tried to shift the blame for Lemen’s murder onto Beverly Cox.  “He plays mind games.  People involved in psychology can get people in their confidence, and do things to people that are naive and not used to being around jailbirds.”  Patricia Lemen explained her daughter began receiving letters from Fryman in 1981 after she accompanied a friend to the Cincinnati Correctional Institution to visit the friend’s uncle.  Mrs. Lemen related how Fryman had threatened her daughter.  “She said Johnny drained the blood from an owl, and said to Monica, ‘I could do this to you…and spread your blood on the wall.’”  Patricia Lemen said she was not aware of the threats, or of Fryman’s involvement in satanism until after her daughter’s death.  The grieving mother was still trying to come to terms with the loss of her daughter.  “I feel like Monica went on a trip and didn’t come back.  But I know it’s permanent.”  Lamenting the life her daughter would never have, Mrs. Lemen described Monica as an “achiever, who wanted to get ahead by going to school for business administration and wanted to be all she could be.”

At John Fryman’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday, September 22, 1987, the only two people who really knew what took place at the mobile home on Sammy Drive in Fairfield, Ohio took the stand to deliver their testimony.  Beverly Cox, whose cooperation with investigators and prosecutors was instrumental in convicting John Fryman of aggravated murder, gave a tearful account of the horrific events of February 9th, 1987, and the personal struggles which led to her participation in those events.  According to Cox, on February 9th John Fryman told Cox he was going to bring Monica Lemen back to their trailer and kill her.  When the pair arrived, Cox hid in a bedroom closet, during which time she heard a gunshot.  Fryman told Cox to come out of the closet.  Monica Lemen lay dead in the “sorcery room” of the couple’s home, and Fryman told Cox, “Baby, you’ve got a dead body in the trailer.”  “He was all happy about it,” Cox testified.  The next day, Cox said, she held Lemen’s ankles while Fryman sawed off the legs to make it easier to remove the body from the trailer.  She also helped clean up the blood.  Cox said she assisted Fryman because she was afraid.  Cox’s testimony mostly mirrored the written confession Fryman gave police with a few extra details thrown in.  

In additional shocking testimony, Cox detailed her fear of Fryman and the dark magic he exploited to exert power over her mind and possibly her soul.  Cox said she learned about satanism from Fryman who variously referred to himself as Todva the Crazy and the prince of evil.  She claimed Fryman had her under his influence, “I didn’t know if I was coming or going.”  According to her testimony, she became free of Fryman’s psychic control in April, two months following the murder.  “I see it all now.  I see what he’s done.  I don’t believe any of that stupid crap anymore,” Cox testified.  However, further testimony and Cox’s jailhouse letters to Fryman revealed the young woman’s struggles with evil forces go back much farther than her acquaintance with Todva the Crazy.  Cox testified that her interest in satanism, demons and black magic extended back to high school when she wrote a report on witchcraft.  She stated that her former husband was a satanist and his mother was a witch.  According to Beverly Cox, the devil had been stalking her family for hundreds of years.  In an April 16 letter to John Fryman, Cox wrote, “He tried to get my father, but could not, so he went after me.  This devil had me.  I was going to kill myself.”  She described to Fryman an exorcism or ritual that took place in the jail to free her of a demonic spirit that had “settled around her,” and seized control of her mind and soul.  “I was pounding the walls with my fists, pounding my head against the walls, pacing the floor.  My body went blue.  I could not stop shaking.  It was horrifying,” Cox wrote.  On the stand, Cox characterized that jail cell experience as a “demon or spirit in the room that was removed out.”  The blueness in her legs she attributed to poor circulation.  Cox said her parents, Victor and Francis Dawson of Cincinnati, came to the jail on April 4th with her confirmation Bible.  “Dad was telling me everything was going to be alright, that Johnny couldn’t do anything to me.  Dad started to read the Bible.  He said everything will be explained, evil and hell are all around us.”  According to Cox’s testimony, a priest, the Rev. Walter Sherman of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrenceburg, IN, accompanied Cox’s parents to the jail the day of the exorcism ritual, and jail records corroborated her testimony.  However, Rev. Sherman, who sat in the courtroom with the Dawsons, denied taking part in the ritual to reporters, and claimed not to have met the Dawsons until April 19. 

When it was Fryman’s turn to take the stand, he refused to take an oath, and proceeded to deliver an hour-long monologue in which he characterized Beverly Cox as a sinister femme-fatale that murdered Monica Lemen out of jealousy and skillfully cast the blame on him.  The only time Fryman expressed anything resembling regret was when he described dismembering Lemen’s dead body.  “I knew I couldn’t just carry her body out in broad daylight.  We ended up cutting her legs.  It’s something I can’t explain, it was totally irrational.”  Regarding his written confession, he called it “totally bogus” and said, “I had no reason to kill Monica Lemen.”  

While acknowledging he went by the satanic name Todva, Fryman denied an involvement in satanism, blaming Cox for his trailer’s devil themed decor.  “I catered to this woman’s madness,” Fryman said of Cox.  No word yet on whether HGTV has optioned “Sorcery Room,” a home improvement series in which Beverly Cox shows you how to take that old outdated spare bedroom and turn it into a modern, functional space for practicing occult magic.  Fryman also surprised the court by revealing a wicked swastika tattoo inside his lower lip.  He referred to the symbol as a “wheel of life” and claimed it was a good sign.  And in yet another instance of Fryman’s flair for the dramatic, he related a story Cox had told him about her visit to a psychic that seemed to foreshadow the tragic events.  “She (the psychic) said she and another person would be arm in arm with a mutilated body between them,” Fryman told the court.     

Despite not taking an oath prior to delivering his suspect testimony, and his lack of remorse and failure to take responsibility for the crimes, Fryman was ultimately spared the death penalty and given life in prison.  As for Beverly Cox, she got off with a jailhouse exorcism and time served in protective custody.  Cox also received $25 for every day she was in the Butler County Jail.  Immediately following her testimony, she took her $5300 and embarked for Germany to stay with her sister who was serving in the military there.  At some level, it does seem that Beverly Cox managed to elude justice in this case.  To what extent she was an innocent victim of the evil magician Todva, or a willing participant and advocate for the evil deeds committed by the pair, it will most likely never be known.    

Justice was swift in the severed legs case with slightly more than seven months elapsing between the commission of the crimes and the sentencing of John Fryman.  However, it took quite a bit longer for the justice system to make Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church whole again.  The headstone that John Fryman and Beverly Cox had stolen from the church for use as a satanic altar sat in the basement of the Butler County Courthouse for five years following the trial.  Stained by soot and candle wax, the headstone weighed 450 pounds and took four trusties of the Butler County Jail to move and load onto a truck for transport.  How Fryman and Cox were able to move the hefty slab of granite from the church to his trailer’s sorcery room is unknown.  Barring a levitation spell cast by Todva the Crazy, is it possible the pair had help from others within their magic circle?  

At the time of its theft, the headstone occupied a space leaning against a column inside the church.  The inscription on the stone read, “To the memory of Elizabeth, wife of William Tyner, who departed this life Aug. 2, 1810, age 36 years 3 days.”  The Rev. William Tyner was the church’s first minister.  According to the July 29, 1954 edition of the Brookville Democrat, it was the only headstone uncovered with the discovery of the burial ground and thirty other grave markers on the church site.  The headstone featured “the intricate engraving of willow tree, coffin and lamb as well as the delicate etching around the word ‘Sacred.’”  Apparently it was not so sacred that caretakers refrained from uprooting the ancient headstone and placing it inside the church.  

Whether or not the act of disturbing the burial ground produced a cosmic disturbance that would ultimately result in an unspeakable evil revealing itself at the Cedar Grove site is a matter for speculation.  However, historical events do not appear to rule out the possibility.  Regarding that previously mentioned earthquake that hastened the construction of Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church, E. A. Wood wrote in 1894 that “quite a number of the members of this church who had become careless as to matters spiritual, interpreted this violence as a visitation of the Almighty upon them on account of their sinfulness”.  Additionally, Wood reported that the fledgling congregation struggled mightily to keep Freemasons out of its midst, the baptists in those days being not so liberal “and very antagonistic to secret fraternities.”  Ultimately, however, the church’s leaders relented and restored membership to congregants who had refused to renounce Masonry.  It wasn’t long after this fateful decision that the congregation began to fade out of existence.  According to Wood, “The church continued to prosper until about 1850, when the Reaper began to gather the harvest and the members of the old church were gathered in.”  

If there was a spiritual struggle between those seeking the Lord’s favor and malevolent forces that sought to inflict destruction and despair on the Little Cedar Grove community, John Lee Fryman seemed eerily attuned to that conflict.  Despite possessing an education in the science of human behavior, and for a time showing a desire to use it to help others, Fryman instead chose to push further and explore the murky pathways that lay beyond the boundaries of scientific understanding.  There he saw something, something that led him to make an offering of the severed legs in order to, as he stated, “increase the power of that spot.”  Whether the devil made him do it, or he took it upon himself to curry favor with his dark master matters little.  It is a certainty that John Lee Fryman lost himself in a domain beyond his understanding and ability to control.  He wandered willingly down a dark path, which he could have turned back from at any time, but instead chose to follow the pull of black magic and mystery until he was gathered into its black abyss.


The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dayton Daily News

The Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis News

The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana)

The Brookville Democrat

Franklin County Historical Society

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