Reynolds accuser to release fiction book

June 15, 2008 10:00:00 PM PDT
In August of 1995, 19-year-old Beverly Heard's future seemed uncertain. Heard's testimony helped convict U.S. Congressman Mel Reynolds on numerous child sex assault and abuse charges related to alleged crimes against her.

When the case ended, Heard's lawyer at the time publicly pleaded for any college to overlook a "checkered past" and accept her.

It took almost a decade for Heard, now 32, to realize her dream of a college education. But now she is aiming for renown as a fiction writer and publisher. Her book "There Is Always One: 1 A Collection of Truth-stories" is set for release this winter and draws from her experience with the Reynolds trial.

Heard now goes by Solomohn Ennis after changing her name in 1997.

Recounting the Case

Ennis said she met Reynolds when she was 16, and they began a sexual relationship. She said he was nice to her, telling her she was beautiful and should be a model.

"Having so much emptiness in my life, I was drawn to that," she said.

Ennis said she wanted out of the relationship and joined the Air Force at 17. She was stationed in Portugal, but after deciding the Air Force wasn't for her, she returned to the United States, where Reynolds made contact again. She said she called police because she was worried about other possible victims and Reynolds' daughters.

Ennis said at first she felt safer knowing he was being prosecuted, but the respite didn't last long.

"There was a sense of relief because he wasn't trying to reach me anymore, but then another pressure was created," Ennis said. "You're having to divulge these very personal, intimate, shameful details about your life. And then also, you know, he had to do the same thing."

Ennis said she was called a liar and extortionist, things she denies. After recanting her story, she spent a week and a half in jail until she un-recanted and testified. She said she changed her mind and took the stand because she had an obligation to continue to help those she originally set out to help.

"If I step forward help people, I have to continue to do so, and I even have to help myself," Ennis said.

"And I had no business sitting in jail," she added.

Reynolds served nearly three years for child abuse but remained in jail for three more years following a federal conviction on fraud charges. He was released in 2001 via a pardon from outgoing president Bill Clinton.

Coping through Writing

Ennis said she still feels at times as though she's on the defense about a trial that ended 13 years ago. She said people assumed she knew what she was doing at age 16. But actually, Ennis said, after the case ended, she spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened.

"When you come out of a situation like that, you're very angry," she said. "People have been pointing the finger at you, and you're pointing the finger back at them."

Ennis said she spent time analyzing relationships and the motivations of people. She then channeled that knowledge into her writing, which she said has been helpful to her.

"I've been to college, I've worked, I've started a company. But what is of most important is how I've pulled together what has happened to me," Ennis said.

She said she's trying now to, in narrative form, explain why ordeals like hers happen. She said it's important to delve into because it happens to young kids all the time.

With that in mind, Ennis first started her artistic endeavor, Black Freighter, in 2005. She called it the Wal-Mart for artists. Her goal is to get young writers and artists exposure and a path to publication. She recently began molding the publishing arm of the company. She said she seeks to provide fledgling artists with professional packaging for their work, along with editing and story development help.

"There is Always One: 1 A Collection of Truth-stories"

Ennis used her experience as a teenager to produce a fiction work that draws on what she's been through. "There is Always One: 1 A Collection of Truth-stories" is set in Carbondale, Ill., and tells the story of 16-year-old Jamal Johnson, a teen molested by his mother. In the book, Jamal assaults a 6-year-old boy. Eight episodic stories chronicle Jamal's understanding of what he's done, how he came to that point and the effect it has on others' lives.

Ennis says the book is targeted at 13- to 19-year-olds, much like herself in the mid-1990s, who don't understand how they ended up in the situations they may face.

Ennis said she chose a fiction avenue because it is more exciting. She said in trying to reach young adults, she wanted to employ high drama, which is also why she decided not to write a memoir. And despite the media's coverage to the contrary, she said she really doesn't think her personal tale is all that exciting.

"Some of the things that I did, it doesn't make a good story," Ennis said. "To keep the drama coming, I had to restructure the stories. But trust me, a lot of my life is in here."

For someone who might not get a chance to read her book, Ennis says, the one nugget of advice she can give is to tell the truth.

"Don't recant your story, regardless of the circumstances," Ennis said. "Be brave. Tune out the people who are trying to influence you to do otherwise. Tell it exactly as it happened and move forward."

She also urged sexual predators to seek the help they need. She suggested that Reynolds could have helped other men in the community by talking about what he has been through.

"They sacrifice God and country just to do these terrible things, and it just ruins their careers and their family life. It's not worth it," she said.

Ennis herself said she wishes she could've have written this book sooner to help other young adults. Third World Press has agreed to publish the book, Ennis said.

Moving Forward

Ennis said she used to be ashamed of her association with the trial.

"And for good reason. I was receiving death threats. I was told I brought a black man down," she said. "But now that I'm coming to this page in life with my own pen, I'm beginning to define what it means to be attached to it."

She says because of her experience with Reynolds, she now has her book and sensitivity toward men and their problems.

"I have a heart for black men," Ennis said. "I have a heart for these little boys of all colors because I'm really worried about them regarding how they express themselves sexually, and the types of relationships they get into and the types of identities that they end up taking on."

Despite being the victim of Reynolds' crime, Ennis said her greatest daily struggle is avoiding the mistakes that Reynolds made. She said that because he gave up so much, including a coveted position in Congress, "just to have sex," she said she worries that she could fall into the same trap because she feels she has much less to lose than he did.

For strength, she said she doesn't always attend church but often reads the Bible.

"I come from a black family who migrated from the South, so I know Jesus," she said.

So after Ennis' lawyer, following the trial in 1995, made a public plea for a university to let his client matriculate, what happened?

Ennis said she had the heart and intelligence for learning, but not the discipline.

"I went back to school with a lot of bad habits and a lot of deficiencies," she said. "So, I spent a lot of time at the counseling office." She called it a "painful experience" but is happy to finally have her education. She often rattles off a list of professors that have shaped her life.

She received an undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2004. Ennis said she hopes to one day pursue a Ph.D.


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