Hugs and tears: a reunion for the ages

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A day of celebration for retiring Minden Police Captain Julie Harmon became the second day she will never forget.

You see, after more than 30 years, some things get hazy … sometimes it’s hard to remember certain events and how they unfolded.

But there are two women who will always remember December 23, 1988 when Salena was kidnapped from a convenience store on Lewisville Road. Well, maybe three, if you count the baby who doesn’t remember the event but knows she did not have to grow up without her mother.

After Salena was found safe and her kidnapper arrested and sent to jail, she never saw then-patrol officer Harmon again. Until Thursday, May 12, 2022, when Salena and her daughter, Heather, surprised the retiring Harmon with a visit to the Minden Police Department.

“She’s alive and well, in part thanks to you,” said Heather, who was less than a year old when her mother was kidnapped.

Hugs and tears. More hugs and tears. For all concerned it was a very emotional moment.

“If it weren’t for you and Sammy (late Minden police officer Sammy Spillers) … y’all always checked on me,” Salena said, shrugging at the thought of what could’ve happened.

Harmon remembers how frightened Salena was as she worked the “graveyard” shift at the convenience store. She would hide behind a partition and Harmon and Spillers checked on her multiple times every night.

Then, came the night Salena wasn’t there. Harmon was on patrol.

“He might not have kidnapped me if I’d had money in the register,” Salena said. “He was there to rob me. But then, again, he might have killed me instead.

“I used to remember every detail,” Salena continued. “But I just don’t any more. The man was like a drifter … not from around here.”

But the more they talked, the more seemed to come back to them.

“Usually, when you’d walk in the door, her head would pop up, but that night, nobody was there,” Harmon said, choking up. “I thought maybe she was in the bathroom, but I checked and there was nobody there. Her car was, but she wasn’t.”

Harmon called the station and then Det. Jack Tucker, took over the investigation. But any detective will tell you, the first hours are critical, and Harmon’s quick call to MPD may have made the difference.

Although her kidnapper told her he was going to kill her, he didn’t. Instead he took her to a Marshall, Texas motel, rented a room and left her there.

“He said he was going to kill me, but I think it’s because I just kept talking about my baby girl and how I was never going to see her first birthday,” she said. 

“I guess even though he’d done bad things, maybe he had a little conscience,” Heather added.

Before leaving, Salena said the man told her that he had signed his real name on the motel register – Brian J. Bush.

A 1989 Shreveport Journal article states Bush, 27, was from Florida. He was wanted in Pennsylvania, California, Nevada and Kentucky, as well as Minden and Caddo Parish.

He was never tried for Salena’s kidnapping, but that’s OK, she said. It was three strikes and you’re out, so she knew he would spend the rest of his life in jail.

Bush was recently released from Angola but only because Pennsylvania had a “room” waiting for him. Now Salena and Heather can rest easier knowing not only is he still in jail, he’s no longer in Louisiana.

It’s been difficult for Salena and Heather. Salena has a good job, but she doesn’t like crowds, her daughter said. Hence, the reason they decided to come see Harmon before her retirement party, rather than during a celebration where she knew there would be a number of people.

For a while, Salena and Heather moved away, but then some time ago, they moved back to Webster Parish. So close, and yet so far away.

“I had no idea you were still around here,” Harmon said, as she continued wiping tears.

Some people prefer to forget about bad experiences, but Salena and her daughter were willing to put it all aside to thank Harmon.

“Partly because of you, I didn’t have to grow up without my mama,” Heather said.

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