Rescue & redemption: ‘God was not ready’, Part 2

Published 7:00 am Monday, March 6, 2023

The man who found 14-year-old Amy White Archer laying in a Warren County creekbed on Aug. 26, 1989, was Eunich Jones.

Jones was traveling down Fox Road with two female family members and, when passing over the one-lane wooden bridge, happened to glance down and saw a body. After calling down to Archer and learning what happened to her, Jones stayed with her while the women traveling with him took their car to find a pay phone to call for help.

Now-Sheriff Martin Pace, Investigator Roy Reddit and Deputy Ralph Lick were the first on the scene. Of the law enforcement officers who worked the case, Pace is the only one still on the force.

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“She was a scared little girl,” Pace said. “And she had the most horrible things happen to her. She was hog-tied and just barely able to keep her face out of the water.”

‘God was not ready.’

That Archer survived at all, Pace said, is a miracle in itself.

The creek she landed in is very narrow, with broken concrete and boulders flanking it. Had she landed in any other spot or had her body been in any other position, the deputies would’ve been investigating a homicide.

“God was not ready for this little girl. Where she fell were these large stones, and in maybe a foot of water, she hit apparently flat and perfectly spaced between those rocks,” Pace said. “The fact that she hit flat broke the fall. Had she been in a dive, it would have killed her. It would have broken her back, broken her neck. She apparently hit the water flat and perfectly between two of those stones. This is the only reason that she survived and actually didn’t receive more serious injuries from the fall.”

Archer didn’t get off scot-free, though; she had been stabbed, had several broken bones and had a bad concussion. The bones healed, but she still deals with chronic pain and memory issues from that night.

“They got me to the ambulance, and I was scared to death. I gave (my attackers’) names only after they promised me I would not be hurt, that they would protect me,” Archer said. “My muscles in my back were spasming so hard that it made my spine look curved. I had a basal skull fracture, blood behind my eardrums, my sacrum was broken. To this day I have numbness on the back of my right leg.”

The kindness of strangers

The length of her hospital stay was close to a month. During that time, Archer said she experienced more kindness than she thought possible.

The Jones family visited her hospital room and brought her a small blue teddy bear, which she still has today. Deputies, including Pace, were in and out collecting statements and checking on her recovery. But perhaps, she said, one of the kindest people was the woman tasked with being her night guard.

“The woman who sat with me at night, she brought me pizza in the hospital for my birthday, and gave me flowers,” Archer said. “She took care of me like a mother should have, or would have, if I had been hers.”

Pace identified the night guard as Debbie Wyatt. At the time, Wyatt had a daughter a few years younger than Archer. Her daughter, Pace said, recently won Teacher of the Year at Redwood Elementary School.

After being discharged from the hospital in September 1989, Archer traveled back to Florida with her mother. Archer was facing criminal charges for an assault in Florida. Still recovering and walking with a walker, she was sentenced to time in a juvenile detention center and three months in a halfway house.

In October of that year, she traveled back to Vicksburg for what she was certain would be the final time.  Pace and a female civilian staff member — there were no female deputies at that time — traveled to Pensacola, Fla., to retrieve Archer and transport her back to Vicksburg to testify before the Warren County Grand Jury.

Her attackers were all sentenced to prison time. The juvenile male and adult male both received the heaviest sentences, Pace said, because they were the ones who threw her off of the bridge.

Faith and Redemption

The next 33 years weren’t easy ones for Archer. She has been in constant pain since the attack and, she said, her bad decisions didn’t fully come to a stop.

Inadequate physical and mental health care after the attack left her with immense challenges at school — her mobility issues kept her from being able to climb stairs, and social anxiety and learning difficulties kept her from being able to focus on classroom tasks.

“It changed who I was. I was outgoing and adventurous,” she said. “And after Mississippi, I couldn’t ride a bike anymore, couldn’t skate anymore. Anxiety and depression took over.”

She and her mother also kept the truth about the incident hidden from their family after instances of victim-blaming; family members said the attack was her fault because she ran away.

Archer entered into an abusive marriage in her late teens, staying with her ex-husband and the father of her children from 1990 until 2012.

In 2018, she met her current husband, Glen Archer. It’s Glen, she said, who encouraged her to seek closure.

“He’s helped me deal with what happened back then,” she said. “I spoke to Sheriff Pace at his encouragement and decided that there were things I needed to see to get closure and put this to rest.”  ‘I love a happy ending’

Archer had maintained contact with Pace over the years, beginning in the early 2000s. But the week of Jan. 17, 2023, was different. After years of vowing never to return to Mississippi, she was back and asked Pace to meet her and take her and her husband to the scene of the crime.

While it’s not unusual to get messages of thanks from people he’s helped, Pace said it is rare to have a victim make contact more than 30 years after the fact.

“I was hoping that what she was asking would be beneficial to her and not harmful to her,” he said. “I’ve been involved in hundreds of cases. That case is one that I had never forgotten and I have never driven down Fox Road that I didn’t think about Amy White.”

Archer, her husband and Pace spent a day and a half not only walking through the crime scene but also experiencing the good parts of Vicksburg, she said. The rickety bridge that nearly sealed her fate has been replaced by a concrete two-lane structure. The trailer park on Paxton Road is slowly decaying.

One of her attackers is dead. Two have not responded to her attempts to make contact. But one, the juvenile male, responded and the pair have formed an unlikely bond Archer said is only possible through the redeeming love of Christ.

“I spoke to him on the phone. He also reached out to Sheriff Pace,” she said. “He has real remorse. To hear him say, ‘I am so sorry I did this and it wasn’t your fault.’ Fourteen-year-old me needed to hear that.”

Today, Archer is a proud Nana to 14 grandchildren and is working to use her story to help others. Most importantly, she’s found peace.

“I have a little bit of peace now. I don’t have to run and hide anymore. I’m not a victim — I survived,” she said.

“I’ve been running from who I am since 1989. I’m not that same girl, but when I look in the mirror now, I see a glimmer of her in my eyes again.”

Part 1 of this two part series published Sunday.