The story of ‘Happy Thanksgiving, sorry I missed you’ |

The story of ‘Happy Thanksgiving, sorry I missed you’

Ken Beaton

Ken Beaton

Nov. 27, 1980, was an ordinary Thanksgiving Day on Virginia Street near the "Biggest Little City" sign until 2:57 p.m. John Oakes was the Washoe County Deputy District Attorney on call. John's reaction was, "I thought they were kidding me; it's Thanksgiving. It was carnage. People were crying and ambulances were responding."

Priscilla Joyce Ford, a 51-year-old schizophrenic, drove her 1974 black Lincoln Continental up to 40 mph on 100 feet of the Cal Neva's sidewalk. Seconds seemed like an eternity. Three women and three men were dead. Twenty-three people littered the sidewalk with the gamut of medical injuries. When her Lincoln stopped, there was a small shoe and a female's body on the hood! Later, an injured person died.

Priscilla asked Deputy DA Oakes, "How many did I kill?" Oakes responded, "Five or six." A Reno police officer said Priscilla commented, "Good, the more dead the better." Her blood alcohol was .162, twice the legal limit, .08.

Priscilla had a troubled past. Six years earlier she lost legal custody of her 11-year-old daughter, Wynter Scott. Priscilla wanted to have Wynter artificially inseminated so she could give birth to Jesus Christ! And you thought the 2016 Presidential election was bizarre.

Priscilla's trial in 1982 cost the Washoe County taxpayers $274,494. Using "Inflation Calculator," $274,494 in 1982 is worth $846,475.79 in 2016! Her jury of seven women and five men found her guilty of six murders and 23 attempted murders on March 19, 1982. Nine days later, March 28, 1982 the same jury sentenced Priscilla to "death in the gas chamber."

During Priscilla's almost 25 years of incarceration, she had a total of five missed court appointed execution dates. During those years she was isolated. Correctional officers and her legal counsel were Priscilla's only human contacts.

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You're asking yourself, "Why did Ken write about Priscilla Ford for Thanksgiving?" In 1983, I had been a Business Educator in Nevada for 11 years, three years at Battle Mountain High School and eight at Carson High School. I was asked to teach at the Women's Prison next to the Men's Maximum Prison on East Fifth Street in Carson City. My students were female inmates who would be paroled in 6-12 months. They learned Typing I, Typing II, Typing III, Medical terminology and Medical Transcription from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday from May to August 1983. The reasoning was to lower the recidivism rate.

You and I are familiar with door locks. Prison door locks are different. When a prison door is locked, you can't leave or enter unless you have the key. In June 1983, without thinking, the nurse locked the door when she left at 9 p.m. I was locked in the classroom with 16 female convicts; one was convicted of attempted murder and another for second degree murder.

Each evening before I entered the women's prison, I had to give the guard my car and house keys. I didn't have prison keys, a walkie talkie or a guard with me. One of my students began flashing the classroom lights off and on until one of the guards at the men's prison guard tower called the women's prison. The women's prison sent a guard to my classroom to investigate. She unlocked the door for us.

The next day several of my students asked, "Mr. B, were you scared being locked in a room full of convicts?"

I didn't have to think before responding. "You and I know prison life sucks. This class is your ticket to a life. No, I didn't consider my life was in danger."

"Mr. B, you'll enjoy this true story. Last Thanksgiving (1982) the guards were passing around a card that several of us saw. The card had a nice Thanksgiving setting on the front. The inside of the card said, 'Happy Thanksgiving, sorry I missed you! Priscilla Ford." Obviously, a guard with a Gary Larsen sense of humor bought, signed and circulated the card.

Priscilla Joyce Ford died of emphysema on Jan. 29, 2005 at 11:05 a.m. in the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center in N. Las Vegas. With an IQ of 140, unfortunately she's remembered for her negative decisions.

Today, if you can't stand your relatives; you're better off than lying injured on the sidewalk 36 years ago.

Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.