The new tenant
Joyce’s family farm, where they raised a special breed of cattle, covered 120 acres at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. Joyce and her mother had separate homes on the land. Joyce’s older son lived in another house next to his grandmother. There was also a small, one-bedroom house to rent.
In August 2006, a man called Joyce, inquiring about the rental house. His reference checked out, so Joyce rented it to him. She was happy to have a tenant.
The new tenant’s name was Kenneth Hamilton. Soon he approached Joyce he didn’t have a lot of money, so could he trade labor for some of the rent? On 120 acres, Joyce, who by this time was a widow, had many projects that needed attention, so she agreed.
Eventually Joyce ran out of farm projects. But she did need someone to stay with her elderly mother during the day Grandma had been falling a lot, and had short-term memory problems. Hamilton agreed to do it.
Although Hamilton was only supposed to spend days with Joyce’s mother, he quickly moved into the old woman’s home.
Shortly after that, strange packages started arriving at Joyce’s house, like “get rich quick” schemes advertised on late-night TV, and materials from the Church of Scientology. They had been purchased with Joyce’s credit cards, except she didn’t buy them.
Joyce started having trouble with her phone. Services were added and dropped, causing hundreds of dollars in fees. Joyce kept calling the phone company, and no one could figure out who was making the changes.
Joyce also noticed that her mother was sleeping all the time, slurring her words and could not walk without a walker.
She began to suspect Hamilton was the source of her problems especially when her neighbor told her that every day, when her older son left for work, Hamilton went to visit Laurel Alexander, her son’s wife.
The mask slips
In the midst of all this madness, Joyce went to Texas to visit Patrick Alexander in prison.
Joyce had always held out hope that Patrick would reform. The first time he’d come up for parole, she and other family members wrote letters to support him. They said they would welcome Patrick back to the farm, and help him transition into normal life.
On this day in the Texas prison, Patrick sat on one side of the thick glass, and Joyce sat on the other. Patrick was trying to convince Joyce to do something for him she doesn’t remember what it was but she wasn’t going for it.
Suddenly, Patrick’s demeanor shifted dramatically.
“It was like looking into the eyes of Satan,” Joyce remembers. “It was presto change-o, and the mask dropped off his face.
“He said, ‘You wouldn’t like me so much if you knew the truth about my crime. Even the cops don’t know how horrible my crime was.'”
Joyce was shocked.
“I felt like a bucket of water had been thrown on me. And then the mask came back on and Patrick asked, ‘But Mom, what would Jesus do?'”
Joyce left the prison and never visited her son again.
In April 2007, a friend called Joyce with shocking news: Kenneth George Hamilton Jr., Joyce’s tenant, was listed on the Texas sex offenders website. Hamilton had been convicted of exposure and sexual contact with girls aged 9 and 11.
Joyce was terrified this sex offender was living in her mother’s home.
She was also concerned about her mother’s finances. Hamilton, Laurel Alexander and her older son had all purchased vehicles the money had to come from Grandma.
Joyce had been her mother’s power of attorney and the beneficiary on her checking account now her sons’ names were on those legal documents.
She demanded that Hamilton get out of her mother’s house. Hamilton refused, and her older son, believing Patrick’s story that his mother had a brain tumor, sided with the sex offender. Even Grandma didn’t want Hamilton to leave.
On May 4, 2007, Joyce petitioned the court for guardianship of her mother. Hamilton was ordered to leave Grandma’s home.
Grandma promised that she wouldn’t let Hamilton into the house. But a month later, he was back.
When Joyce learned that Hamilton had been incarcerated in Texas, she began to suspect that he knew her son, Patrick.
She remembered that Hamilton had called out of the blue to inquire about renting her house. How did he know about the house? Patrick must have told him. But why?
“It was like trying to put together a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, and the picture was modern art,” Joyce says.
She thought about the farm.
In 2004, she, her husband, her mother and stepfather had established an irrevocable family trust. Joyce’s husband and stepfather had since died. If Grandma died, Joyce inherited everything, and could do what she wanted with the property and its natural gas royalties. But if Joyce was not living when Grandma died, everything went to her sons.
Connecting the dots, Joyce believed that her cold-blooded killer son, Patrick, had sent his prison buddy, Hamilton, to the farm to hasten her demise.
Life in danger
Joyce believed that her life was in danger.
Her son, Patrick, was angry. Hamilton had been creating havoc since his arrival. These two criminals had apparently convinced her older son that Joyce was crazy and Patrick needed to be protected from her. And Hamilton was having an affair with her daughter-in-law, Laurel Alexander.
In the summer of 2007, Joyce bought a recreational vehicle and parked it at a lakeside resort about 35 miles from her home. Then she fled the farm.
Solve it now
Joyce’s older son learned about his wife’s affair. On Friday, August 3, 2007, Hamilton showed up at his door.
“Do you have a problem with me?” Hamilton asked. “Let’s solve it now.”
As Joyce’s son tried to shut the door, Hamilton stuck his foot in.
“Let’s just solve it now,” Hamilton said, and pulled out a pistol. Joyce’s son slammed the door on Hamilton’s foot and screamed to his wife, “He’s going to kill us.” Laurel kept saying the gun was hers and Hamilton was just returning it. Holding the door shut against Hamilton, Joyce’s son grabbed the phone and called 911. When he got through to the emergency responders, Hamilton and Laurel both left.
Luckily, sheriff’s officers were nearby. They arrived quickly, and found Hamilton and Laurel at Grandma’s house.
Laurel told the officers her husband was mentally abusive and she was living in fear. Hamilton said he just went to the house to talk to Laurel’s husband and give her the gun.
Laurel was arrested and charged with furnishing a firearm to a felon. Hamilton was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. They were both hauled off to jail.