Deadly Triangle Author Fran Parker writes a page-turning saga about love, sex, jealousy, race, and Southern Justice in a small town involving two young ambitious students who were star athletes on a college Basketball Team. The story recaps the drama of the inner workings of a three-way romance affair that ended in cold blooded murder of both students. The perpetrator was another wealthy gifted student whose blood-thumping heart overflowed with envy and madness.
Monroe Louisiana: Joel Tillis’ future appeared bright and promising as a star athlete. Tillis, a 22-year-old African American woman, was highly respected as a crack-smart college student and outstanding Basketball Player at (NLU) – the prestigious Northeast Louisiana University College located in Monroe Louisiana, the eighth largest city in Louisiana state.
According to Louisiana history, Monroe is popularly known as the Southern City where two of the world’s renowned businesses started. Delta Airlines started as a crop-dusting service in Monroe in 1926, and if history is correct, Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant in Monroe.
Famous people were born somewhere. Why not Monroe Louisiana? Legendary NBA Basketball Player Bill Russell was born in Monroe as well as Black Panther Founder Huey P. Newton, just to name a few.
College Basketball For Women in Monroe was as popular as NBA Basketball.
Joel Tillis was a tough, ambitious student who endearingly played on the NCAA Lady Indians Women’s Basketball Team at NLU. NLU women’s basketball team was once the second best college team in the nation.
While attending NLU college, Tillis met and fell in love with a tall, curly-haired, handsome, African American, pre-med student named Irvin Bolden.
The whirlwind courtship between Tillis and Bolden blossomed into an engagement to marry upon graduation. Problems soon came into play between Bolden and Tillis after Bolden discovered that Tillis spent too much quality time with a classmate and teammate named Brenda Spicer. Blond and pretty, with sparkling blue eyes, Spicer was an attractive, 18-year-old, white girl. Bolden, referring to Spicer, once said the white girl appeared infatuated with his girlfriend Tillis.
In her book, Deadly Triangle, Fran Parker retells the incidents of how Spicer affectionately gave Tillis expensive brand name clothes and stuffed animals
Rumors spread like wildfire throughout NLU campus indicating Tillis and Spicer were secret lovers, although both women denied and dismissed the rumors as untrue, and further, Joel Tillis defended her closeness with Brenda Spicer as a “sister-to-sister” type relationship.
But Tillis’ denials failed to soothe Irvin Bolden’s jealousy over his thought that whenever he sought to spend leisure time with Tillis, the white girl Brenda Spicer tagged along like a little puppy.
During a heated confrontation, Bolden, as he had previously done, questioned Tillis about her close relationship with Spicer. Swelled with anger, Tillis chastised Bolden for trying “to dictate my life.” Feeling jaded, Bolden reached out in desperation and contacted Tillis and Spicer’s NLU coach. Speaking in a trembling tone, Bolden asked the sympathetic woman, “to help me get Joel back.”
Frustrated over all the nasty rumors about Tillis and Spicer, the coach had no advice on how to help the young man win his sweetheart back from another woman.
Bolden turned up the heat by sending a threatening handwritten letter to Spicer that said, “Stay away from Joel or I’ll handle it.”
Bolden’s threats frightened Spicer. But she wouldn’t break off her relationship with Joel Tillis.
When asked what motivated her to write a 304 page book about one of Louisana’s infamous crimes, the author of Deadly Triangle, Fran Parker, an English graduate from Louisiana State University, said in a email sent to this author, “I’ve been asked many numerous times why I chose murder to write about.”
“I knew that sports ranked higher in priority than academics, and that NLU would do anything to keep the lid on lesbian scandals involving coaches and players,” the author explained.
Previously, according to news media reports, the NLU Female Basketball Team had been placed on probation over questionable recruiting and evidence of a female coach having a lesbian affair with another female player.
Deadly Triangle recaps in vivid detail how Brenda Spicer’s lifeless, partially nude body, was found in a dumpster on NLU College Campus in March 1987. Spicer’s murder sent shockwaves of terror among NLU students and faculty members. Evidence showed the victim suffered strangulation. Sexually aroused, the killer pleasured himself by leaving semen in Spicer’s body. Traces of dry semen was found on the young girl’s breast.
Following Spicer’s brutal murder, an outpouring of grief and fear engulfed Monroe residents. Newspaper headlines asked a chilling question: “Who Murdered Brenda Spicer?” As Monroe’s widespread communities teetered on the edge, a majority of African American citizens feared the police would arrest the first African American who may appear guilty because the victim was white.
Yet the provocative questions remained: “Who Murdered Brenda Spicer? And what triggered someone’s motivation to murder the girl and throw her body away like trash?”
Investigators targeted Irvin Bolden. Joel Tillis’ boyfriend, due to reports of his suspicious behavior including peculiar unanswered questions surrounding the case:
- What did Irvin Bolden actually know about Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer’s relationship that nobody else knew?
- Was it true that an NLU coach once discovered Spicer in Tillis’ private hotel room under suspicious circumstances?
- And when Bolden heard about the bedroom incident involving Tillis and Spicer: did Bolden go into a rage in the lobby of a Beaumont Texas hotel?
- Did jealousy turn Irvin Bolden into a ticking time bomb that set him off to rape and murder his lover’s best friend?
The fears of the African American community came true when Monroe homicide investigators charged Mr. Bolden with Brenda Spicer’s murder.
Deadly Triangle explores deeply the conclusion of Bolden’s trial for the murder of Brenda Spicer, a concludion as shocking as the murder itself. The shock was that the jury declared Bolden “Not Guility” in Spicer’s murder. You have to read the book to try understanding how a jury concluded that the accused murderer was “Not Guilty.”
The “Not Guilty” verdict came in spite of two things:
- DNA testing showed that male semen found “on and inside” the victim’s body proved to be Type-A blood, the same blood type as Bolden. Spicer had Type-0 blood.
- At trial, Bolden’s girlfriend Joel Tillis gave Bolden a different alibi, an alibi radically different from the one that she initially gave to Monroe homicide investigators.
Parker’s amazing true crime book further delves into what many eyes don’t see: that Southern Justice don’t always go astray to convict a Black person accused of committing crime against whites … because Irvin Bolden’s acquittal in Brenda Spicer’s murder illustrates the classic example.
“Another deterrent to justice was that so many involved had their own inside agenda for lying to help the defense,” the author said.
From a critical viewpoint, the only downside with Deadly Triangle is that the author occasionally shifted from one scenario to another without making the appropriate transition, but this is minor when compared to the totality of the superb writing.
… The Human Heart Is The Most Deceitful Of All Things … And Desperately Wicked … Jeremiah 17:9
“Starting All Over Again is Gonna Be Rough … But I pray That the Lord Help Us Make It.” Those words are lyrics from a !970’s popular song which in a true sense of the words exemplified the “trials and tribulations” that Irvin Bolden and Joel Tillis had already endured.
At Bolden’s trial for the murder of Brenda Spicer, the infectious and charming Joel Tillis betrayed her loving friend in death and stood proud by her man by contributing false testimony which in fact re-contributed to Bolden’s freedom. Now the couple would start over again in another larger city, several miles away from the harsh judgemental people down in Monroe.
But the nightmare wasn’t over yet.
On June 11th 1989, Joel Tillis’ decomposing strangled body was found in a grassy field in Arkansas, 25 miles from Memphis Tennesse. After Bolden’s acquittal in Spicer’s murder, Tillis and Bolden had packed up and moved to Memphis to pursue their dreams of marriage and success in the business world, and possibly have children. Both shared their dreams during pillow talk, but their dreams had to be put on hold when Brenda Spicer was murdered.
When Tillis’ body was found, it was like deja vu, because Irvin Bolden drew immediate attention from police once they discovered the dapper gentleman filed a bogus missing person report on Tillis. Investigators subsequently charged Bolden with Joel Tillis’ murder. In a bizarre twist, the murderer that Tillis had gave her love and loyalty, had now turned on her like Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde. He murdered Tillis in the same manner he’d murdered Brenda Spicer.
Deadly Triangle is a must-read for true crime fans who savor probing the darkest deeds within human nature. This compelling story exemplifies an unstable love affair, filled to the brim with jealousy, unbridled passion, lesbianism, shattered manhood, and betrayed loyalty; the kind of toxic ingredients that ends in a deadly twist of double murders: the murders of Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer, two precious lives extinguished forever.
Ace crime writer Fran Parker unravels the complex layers of a tragic story to finally expose the naked soul of a depraved mind of a heartless murderer who escaped the most deserving and severe punishment. The book reveals how the search for true justice in America’s criminal justice system can go awry.
In another twist; after police charged Bolden in Joel Tillis’ murder, Louisiana authorities pursued another crack at him, but not for murder. Prosecutors convicted Bolden on a perjury charge. This stemmed from the fact that when Bolden testified in his own trial for murdering Brenda Spicer, he lied under oath, denying he murdered the woman. Yet when authorities questioned Bolden about his involvement in Joel Tillis’ murder, he boldly confessed to Spicer’s murder. He even provided graphic details how he assaulted and strangled the life out of the Basketball star.
Louisiana authorities realized under the double jeopardy statute that Bolden could not be retried for murder. They settled for 10 years in prison on the perjury charge after his admission to authorities at the time of his arrest. He admitted he murdered Brenda Spicer, even though the jury acquitted him. Tennessee authorities gave Bolden another 10 years for the murder of Joel Tillis. Both sentences ran concurrently.
And for the families of Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer, many years have passed since the tragedies, but overall, both grief-stricken families finally realized there will never be a peaceful closure and no real justice for some murderers, including Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer.
Irvin Bolden was paroled from prison several years ago.
Editor’s Note: Although true crime journalist Clarence Walker resides in Houston Texas, Mr. Walker is a native of Southeast Arkansas located near Monroe Louisiana. Mesmerized by this sensational case down through the years, he followed all the twists-and-turns of the Tillis-Spicer murders. The Book “Deadly Triangle” is the final chapter.