DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - When Lester Clark first agreed to talk to us, I wondered the very same thing you might. If he witnessed Zoe Hasting's abduction, why didn't he do anything to stop it? Why?
It's a fair question, we all know what happened. But that very fact, is why the answer to the question is not as simple as we'd like it to be. We need the balance of context to understand. When I spoke to Lester Clark this week, he detailed the afternoon of October 11. Lester told me he was on a short break from the tattoo shop he had worked at behind the Walgreens on Garland Road. He stood with another acquaintance, at the corner of the Walgreens parking lot that met with Garland road. He said as he was looking toward the drug store, he noticed Hastings. Thought she was pretty, and that was about it. But he also noticed something else. He'd seen a guy sitting in a gray car, a few spots down from Zoe's van. Sitting in his car, with the door open. What happens next begins a chain of events that Lester plays back time and time again he told me. Hastings returned her movie, turned around and began walking back to her van. As she sits, that man in the gray car, now identified as Antonio Cochran, steps out, and urgently walks to the driver's door of Zoe's van. He didn't run, but he was going fast enough that Lester found that odd. It caught his attention. Didn't seem right. His radar is up. Then, as Zoe's door was nearly closed, Cochran stuffed his hand in, and pulled the door back open. Clark says the moment now has his full attention.
But then, Lester says, what follows, appears to be a discussion. He tells me his sense of something wrong, is now turning to "ok, wait, maybe this is just a boyfriend/girlfriend meeting up, or maybe having words," maybe nothing more than that.
Now comes the moment when we all ask ourselves, what would we do?
For Clark, he watched, waiting for some indication Zoe might be in trouble. A scream, a yell. He tells me he's even looking to see if there's a weapon. Nothing. This is all happening in a span of just seconds he says.
In that moment, as it's happening, Clark says it suddenly seems like probably nothing. He watches as Hastings moves over to the passenger seat, and Cochran gets in to drive. I then ask the question you may already be thinking.
"When she moves over, do you see anything that looks odd, other than she's moving over, and he's getting in, do you hear anything? That's the one thing I wanted to ask you," I say.
"I really didn't hear too much," answers Lester.
"No screams? No 'Help'," I ask.
"No -- nothing. Honestly, no sir. Nothing. Nothing really too out of the ordinary," sid Lester.
At this point, with all that he has seen (and not seen or heard) Clark decides, this has to be two people who know each other and 'it's just none of my business to wander over and stick my nose in it.'
It's easy to Monday morning quarterback things in life, and easy for us to ask why didn't you get involved once all the facts are known. But based on Clark's description to police, and to us, despite the dire and heartbreaking consequences, in that moment, it didn't seem to him, like he should walk over. This is a man who tells me he comes from the tougher side of life. He tells me he's grown up in rough neighborhoods, and where he's from, you simply don't stick your nose in someone else's business. Having said that, Clark told me that there is no question, had he heard something to indicate danger, a shout, help, or had he seen an indication, or weapon from Cochran, he told me that he would have run to her, and tried to take down Cochran. He told me multiple times, that he now wishes he would have heard something. Anything. To help him jump into action. Lester Clark is now a man who has to live with knowing that he watched what turned out to be an abduction, and literally minutes later, it turned into murder. If he saw Cochran again?
"I would want to do to him, what he did to her."
Clark spoke to police in the hours after the media learned of her death. He told me he only heard about what happened, on Monday October 12, after walking back toward his job at the tattoo shop. He saw a lot of media assembled at the Walgreens. He says he asked a reporter what was going on. She detailed the abduction from that Redbox nearby, and now the confirmation of Zoe's murder. Lester told me his jaw dropped. In an instant, he knew. It was Zoe Hastings he had watched being driven away, only then, he says he truly didn't realize that was actually happening. He is still emotional, and angry that he didn't act. But it's easy to Monday morning quarterback, once you know all the facts.
Lester Clark's witness statement is described by detectives as pivotal. It places Antonio Cochran at the scene of the abduction. DNA evidence, detailed in court documents, show Cochran at the location where Zoe's body and van were found. Two crucial links, in the abduction and murder case of Antonio Cochran, which will now wind its way through the judicial system. All while Lester Clark wonders each day, whether he could have made a difference.
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