RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - It was one of the most heinous murders the Chattahoochee Valley has ever seen: a pair of robbers in Russell County slash a man's throat, then shoot his 12-year-old son, putting them in a homemade grave.
The father survived and still lives in East Alabama.
It's been 14 years since the crime happened. The case still haunts law enforcement and the community. The boy is still remembered vividly by his school, and the two killers are still on death row.
It's a story that also clearly stands out in my 18-year-career in television, since I first reported on it Feb. 18, 2002.
On Russell County Sheriff's Department dash cam video, obtained by News Leader 9, the deputy that first responds to Forrest "Butch" Bowyer, with his throat cut and bloodied, is overheard saying the following:
"I got a man that's been cut to hell and said his son's been shot 3 times, is buried in a grave down here at Uchee, and he wants to go get him. He (Butch) was buried and dug himself out, this is a bad one."
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor, who was chief of investigations at the time, can picture it like it was yesterday, getting an urgent call in the middle of that night, 14 years ago.
WARNING: The dashboard camera video can be seen as graphic for some viewers.
"Not one single time do I pass this area, where this occurred, that I don't think about that case," Sheriff Taylor told us.
Kenny Davis, Russell County District Attorney then and now, joined the sheriff and I on our trip back to the crime scene off Highway 431 in Seale, their first time back here since the murder.
"Throat cut from ear to ear and you're crawling, walking a quarter mile, bleeding the whole way," Sheriff Taylor said about the father.
On that deadly night in February 2002, D.A. Davis knew Butch Bowyer had his throat slit, and had crawled to the road for help, while his 12-year-old son Brett was dead next to the makeshift grave dug for them by the killers, both arrested quickly.
In interrogation video from 14 years ago, obtained by WTVM, Jimmy Brooks told investigator Taylor that Michael Carruth was the mastermind.
"He (Carruth) says OK, he says I did this one. Next one's yours," Brooks said while being interrogated in Russell County.
"It's crazy to think about he (Butch) survived that night," Sheriff Taylor said.
Bloodied Butch Bowyer told them where to find his son.
"Open field, you walk up and see a little boy in his jeans, lying there bloodied and muddied," Russell Co. District Attorney Kenny Davis described the scene from 2002.
At that time, Christy Dawson was a 1st year teacher at Glenwood School in Russell County.
"Brett was in my class, full boy, rambunctious, precious," said Dawson, who was Brett Bowyer's 6th Grade teacher.
She was coaching softball when she got the shocking news about the 12-year-old murdered.
A tearful Dawson said, "I walked back into my babies (students) and Brett wasn't there. We had to explain to our 6th graders that their classmate was gone."
She remembers things like Brett dancing with his girlfriend at the Valentine's Dance just days before. To this day, his father visits Glenwood School regularly.
"Butch comes every December and brings me a check," Dawson said.
"I think it's healing for all of us. And we love to see him (Butch) come by, for us to know he's doing well," Dr. Julie Graham, Glenwood School Ast. Headmaster, said. "It does good for him (Butch) to see that we still remember Brett."
They remember him with a picture of the boy and a plaque in memory of Brett Bowyer that reads, in part, "The light in his face will forever shine on ours...His spirit will always live with us."
Glenwood's multi-purpose building was dedicated to Brett in 2004.
"Every kid that walks into this gym knows him. It has been a phenomenal way to keep his memory alive. So much of what goes on in this gym can be attributed to his father Butch, who comes back every year to visit us. He walks the hallways where Brett walked," Dr. Graham said.
"He (Butch) always talks about his son, the things he wish he could've done, had grown up and watched him do," Sheriff Taylor said.
Butch's contributions have gone towards scholarships and mainly toward what some call "Brett's gym." That's where the 6th grader's class eventually graduated - with a empty chair, rose and gown on stage for the boy that would've now been 26 years old.
"Brett physically left this class, but he never spiritually left this class," Dr. Graham added.
There's also a plaque outside the 6th grade hallway at Glenwood School, in loving memory of Brett, from his classmates, some who still come back and ask about Butch, 14 years later.
Sheriff Taylor said, "It's not a good anniversary, but it is a symbol of saying...look, we still feel for you and we're still here for you as a community."
"You don't drive down past Butch's house in North Phenix City without seeing those trees and thinking about it," D.A. Davis told us.
Twelve Bradford pears were planted by Glenwood School for Brett. They're across from the Bowyer home, where that violent crime all started in 2002.
Michael Carruth and Jimmy Brooks, both on death row for the last 12 years, kidnapped the father and son from that home, stole money, then took them to that Highway 431 construction site - first cutting Butch's throat, then shooting Brett, tossing him on top of his father.
In the dash cam footage, Butch can be heard saying "They (the killers) are probably back in there (my home), trying to get some more money." And when the deputy asked, "Who did this?" Butch clearly responded "Jim Brooks."
In the interrogation by Investigator Taylor, Brooks confessed, crying and saying "I had to shoot him…in the head."
D.A. Davis said, "That's frightening to the community, because you can say, if it can happen to Butch Bowyer, it can happen to anyone."
Russell County's sheriff still talks to Butch, who he says works hard every day, honoring his son, waiting for the evil pair to be executed.
"He has some peace and closure with the case and how it turned out," Sheriff Taylor said.
"Every day, walking by (Brett's picture), looking at him and just smile and knowing he's looking down, looking down on his father and saying hey dad I'm OK, go ahead and live," his former teacher Dawson said.
Butch continues to wait for the killers to be put to death. The D.A. does not know when that will happen, as appeals continue, but the average stay on death row in Alabama is 16 years.
I was at both capital murder trials - Michael Carruth 13 years ago and Jimmy Brooks Junior 12 years ago. Earlier this month, I sent letters to both death row inmates at the state prison in Atmoore, the only way we can communicate with them. They have not responded to our questions yet.