John Wayne Hearn grew up with an overbearing and overindulgent mother. Mary Watson could never find any fault with her son, but she just refused to let him grow up. When he went into the military, she insisted on his being stationed nearby and then would sneak around to watch his daily drills. And when it came to the women in his life, well no one was ever good enough. Mary ran off plenty of wives and girlfriends.
But when John met Debra Ann Sims Banister, Mary met her match. Debbie, as she was called, had a hold on John like no other woman. Her hold was so great that John he was willing to whatever she wanted.
The first thing Debbie wanted was for John to kill her former brother-in-law Cecil Batie. Cecil and Debbie’s sister Marlene Sims Watson were in the midst of a heated custody battle. Marlene’s opponent needed to be eliminated in order to ensure her victory.
Next Debbie wanted her husband and father of her two boys, Joe Banister, killed. Their marriage had gotten stale and Debbie just couldn’t be in a relationship with no fun. Falsely accusing Joe of abuse to her lover, she devised a plan that would not only get her out of her dull marriage but guarantee custody of the children plus over $100,000 in insurance benefits.
But she just couldn’t stop there. No, Debbie Banister wanted things. Lot of things. And it takes lots of money to buy lots of things. So she told John there was a job in Texas he needed to do.
Bob Black was in love with his first cousin Teresa Black Heatherington but there was a problem: his wife, Sandra Eimman Black.
Bob solicited a few thugs to murder his wife around their hometown of Bryan, Texas, but never had any serious takers. So he turned to Soldier of Fortune magazine and there he found a classified ad placed by John Hearn.
Debbie’s greed, John’s ad, and Bob’s lust would turn out to be the undoing of them all.
The 1992 true crime The Soldier of Fortune Murders: A True Story of Obsessive Love and Murder-for-Hire by Ben Green follows the twisted, bloody trail of John Hearn from The Sunshine State to The Lone Star State; from a $40 classified ad to a multi-million dollar lawsuit where the First Admendment would be tried and tested.
I remembered seeing a movie on Lifetime titled When Love Kills about the case, but it couldn’t begin to hold a candle to the book. Between the insanity of Mary, the crazy twisted sisters, family trees that don’t fork, and other redneck tales from the home of The Swamp and the state with an express lane to the Death Chamber, there is never, NEVER a dull moment.
The Soldier of Fortune Murders might leave your head spinning, but it definitely won’t bore you!
UPDATES FROM THIS BOOK:
As recent as 2005, Debra Ann Sims Banister was living in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. At that time, she was tied up in a lawsuit with Alachua County for codes violations.
Joe and Debbie’s daughter, Amanda Banister, has overcome life’s obstacles and seems to be doing well in a behavioral sciences career. Current information for her brother, John Ceree Banister, could not be found.
Marlene Sims Watson (Reed) apparently remarried soon after she was released from prison; however, information on such a marriage could not be located. At this same time (around 1990), she established the Stay & Play Today, Inc. daycare business with her father. The business has long since closed. It is believed that Marlene still resides in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
Gary Wayne Black is believed to be married with children and living in El Paso, Texas.
Marjorie Eimann passed away on February 13, 2000, at the age of 76.
Mary Hawthorne Watson passed away on September 7, 2004.
Brad Batie lives in Gainesville, Florida, and carries on the family business of tree cutting. His brother Adam Batie seems to be following Mom’s footsteps with his own arrest record in Santa Rosa Beach.
Iris Sims died on April 24, 2000. Franklin Sims passed away on September 28, 1995.