GETTING AWAY WITH murder (2024)

One dawn 10 years ago alittle boy woke up to play.De Quin Montgomery hada lot ol’ friends in Sher-wood Forest Apartments. a sprawling complex onNorthwest Highway that had a half-timbered, castled look. De Quin lived there with his mother, Carol, 28, and her roommate, another woman of about the same age. The roommate was gone for the weekend to visit her parents.

Although only 6, De Quin had put himself to bed the night before. This was not unusual, for De Quin was used to being left alone while his mother worked. She had left her job as a co*cktail waitress at 1:30 in the morning and had come home without disturbing her son. She was a pretty, diminutive woman, already well-liked at her job after only three weeks. Co-workers said she confided to them about her struggle to raise her son by herself.

When De Quin woke up that August morning, he found his mother lying on the living room carpet. What was wrong with her was incomprehensible to him. So he let himself out of the apartment and rode his tricycle around the apartment parking lot with some of his friends. Several times he told them that his mommy was very, very sick.

The mother of one of his friends grew suspicious and went to the apartment. She found Carol Montgomery on the living room floor, covered in a blanket her son had placed over her.

What she found under the blanket was horrible.

It turned the stomach of even a veteran Dallas homicide investigator like Gus Rose. Carol Montgomery had been viciously butchered, her throat slashed, her breasts mutilated, and her chest cut open. A foot-long butcher knife and a steak knife taken from her kitchen were still embedded in her body. Her blouse, ripped and shredded in the frenzy of the attack, lay nearby.

In a chair by her body was propped a message written on the cardboard backing taken from a picture frame. It read: “I’ve got the wrong one. I’m sorry.”

Whoever did it was not sorry enough to turn himself in, and the police had few clues to work with. They found no signs of a struggle or forced entry to the apartment. They surmised that the killer spent some time in the apartment and even brought in the morning paper before the summer sun awakened De Quin.

Rose quickly ruled out the people who knew Carol Montgomery. Her ex-husband, a musician, fully accounted for his activities the night of the murder. A young woman who had created a disturbance the night before the murder was also ruled out.

The homicide detectives did not take the sign at face value. It appeared that the killer must have talked to the victim before killing her. If he had intended to kill someone else, he could have realized his mistake before committing mayhem.

More likely, says Rose, the note was written to the woman the killer saw in his mind when he killed Carol Montgomery. Chances are it was the ravings of a maniac who really wanted to kill his wife or mother. Instead, he killed a stranger, and a killing by a stranger is the hardest crime to solve because there are no motives.

Shortly after the murder, Rose predicted that with a little luck he could make an early arrest on the case. But he has had little luck in the last 10 years.

After nearly 20 years of service in the Crimes Against Persons section of the Dallas Police Department, Rose left to take charge of criminal investigations for the county. He still asks questions of anyone who was around the Willow Creek Club or the Sherwood Forest Apartments 10 years ago.

He can’t forget what he saw, and he hopes that maybe something will turn up. He thinks the killing was done by a transient who moved through town and spoke to no one. He may be dead or in prison. Or he may be wandering around 10 years later with a head full of wild remorse and resentment.

Unsolved murders gnaw at men like Rose. He’s used to solving them. Dallas had 320 murders in 1980, a figure that has been steadily increasing with the growth of the city, approaching an average of one every day. Halfway through 1981 the count stood at 153. Police are proud of the fact that 90 per cent of the murders are solved or “cleared” (the detectives’ term for cases turned over to the district attorney’s office with the name of the person the police think is guilty).

Last year the Dallas County District Attorney’s office did not even have to try 85 cases of murder before a jury because the defendants pled guilty. Of the other 109 cases that went before a jury, 90 convictions were returned, with nine acquittals and 10 hung juries or mistrials.

The police can do little to prevent murders. The best they can do is advise people on how to avoid assaults. Women are told never to go out alone at night, advice that perhaps ought to be given to men as well. They are told to keep their car keys ready in case they have to get away quickly. They are warned to lock their doors and windows at night.

But no one broke into Carol Montgomery’s apartment. The killer either surprised her in the parking lot or at her door or she invited him into her home. Nearly half the murders in Dallas occur in homes, and they are good, secretive places in which to kill. The annual Dallas murder analysis shows that the odds are good that a murder victim will know his killer, and the odds are overwhelming that the killer will be of the same race as the victim.

The weapon most favored by Dallas murderers is the handgun, followed by knives, rifles, shotguns, and “other.” “Other” could include anything from a brass teapot to a stick of firewood to a macramé plant hanger.

If murderers were reasoning people, they might get away with it more often. But most murders are not planned and occur in emotional outbursts unchecked by reason. The murderer does not think; he acts or reacts. Chances are that someone will know about the grudge he carried against the victim. Or he will be seen by someone, or will even turn himself in.

The fact that 10 per cent of the homicides committed in Dallas County go unsolved means this: Statistically, every 10 days a murder is committed in which the identity of the killer will never be known. Police feel time is on their side in such cases. A murderer may confess his crime three decades later. A clue may turn up that had been previously undiscovered. A witness may come forward years after the crime. But occurrences like that don’t change the fact that dozens of times each year, a human life is mysteriously swept away as though it had never existed, and the person responsible vanishes as rapidly and totally as his victim.

Tn the blandest of shopping centers, near the corner of Preston and Forest in North Dallas, Joel R. Pomeroy ran the Brass Buttons Realty and a small insurance agency in the summer of 1979. He had some land deals and small business ventures going on the side -none of them spectacular and all of them legitimate. He was not a wealthy man, and kept little money in his office. The daily routine at the Pomeroy office was generally dull. But today would be different. It was the day before the Fourth of July and the fireworks were going to start early.

In a back office Pomeroy was going through some files with his son, Allan, 23. Three years earlier, Pomeroy had divorced Allan’s mother after a bitter struggle about the land they had owned and the businesses they had run. Pomeroy had recently married Margaret Braziel, 41, a woman 11 years younger than he. Like Pomeroy’s first wife, Margaret was going to work in the office. She had been there only a week.

Helping them was Fred Casares, 39, a trusted friend and part-time employee. He was often out of the office on real estate deals, but on this day, in the middle of the lunch hour, Casares was working in the office.

At 12:30 p.m., a young man in his late twenties, of medium height with brown hair, came calmly through the door of the Pomeroy insurance agency. He was dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt and carried a brown paper lunch sack. Someone in a late-model, light blue Chevrolet sedan waited outside for him in the bright heat of the parking lot while he conducted his business.

The young man did not speak a word when he entered the office, but his actions would have great meaning for the four people inside.

Casares, seated at a desk near the door, glanced up from a phone call. The visitor pulled a .22-cahber pistol from the sack and fired point-blank at Casares, hitting him squarely in the forehead. The young man pivoted quickly and aimed the gun at Margaret Pomeroy, who was seated at a desk a few feet behind Casares and to the left. Pop. Another perfect shot. The bullet struck Mrs. Pomeroy in the head, killing her instantly.

Joel Pomeroy quickly emerged from the back office and stood in the doorway directly behind his wife’s desk.

“What the hell is going on here?” Pomeroy demanded.

In an instant, the young man showed him. The gunman pulled a second weapon from the sack, this one a larger caliber pistol, a .38. He fired quickly, hitting Pomeroy in the face. Allan Pomeroy walked out of the back office directly behind his father. The young man squeezed off a fourth shot, hitting young Pomeroy in the center of the chest, literally piercing his necktie. Then the killer spun around and left. His transaction at the Brass Button Realty had taken just under 30 seconds. In the parking lot he ran for the blue Chevy, which was now moving, jumped into it, and sped off toward Preston Road with a screech of tires.

The real estate agent who had been talking to Casares had heard a shout, shots, and the heaving dying gasps at the other end of the line. When the breathing stopped, she called the police.

Allan Pomeroy sat slumped in a chair, the wind and the world knocked out of him, and phoned the police, who dialed back to make sure the call was for real.

In the Pfau Tire Warehouse next door, manager Joe Bovinich heard the rapid popping sounds and ran to the window. He saw Margaret Pomeroy’s legs protruding from behind a desk. He saw Fred Casares slumped at his telephone. Blood was everywhere. From the back, Allan Pomeroy beckoned him to enter.

Bovinich was stopped by Richie Earl, a Richardson reserve police officer who was working at a mobile blood unit in the parking lot when he heard about the shootings. He entered the office with his pistol drawn, thinking the killer might still be inside. But he was gone.

Bystanders tried to administer first aid, but for everyone save Allan Pomeroy, it was too late. By the time police got there, the people who had been trying to help had simply made matters worse. Much of the blood that had spattered the desks and covered the floor had been wiped up. Desks had been moved. The clues and traces of evidence that an undisturbed crime scene will often yield for detectives were simply gone.

The headlines in the next day’s papers said the police were baffled, but the headlines often say less than the police really know. This was an execution, plain and simple. Investigators would later determine that the man for whom this blue-jeaned grim reaper had come was Joel Pomeroy. The killer had apparently expected Pomeroy to be alone in the office during the noon hour. The others had died for the offense of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The executioner didn’t want their lives that day, but he had to take them anyway. No witnesses. It is a code to which professional killers adhere for the most basic of reasons: survival. But the killer had been a bit too hasty in his work. The shot that pierced Allan Pomeroy’s chest would not kill him.

Sgt. Gus Rose of the Crimes Against Persons section almost immediately deduced that a grudge was involved. Pomeroy’s ex-wife was ruled out. She had recently been on good terms with her former husband. Pomeroy had been involved in a lawsuit over a land deal in Crockett, but that was ruled out, too. Both sides were settling through their lawyers, not killers.

Police had a good witness in Allan Pomeroy. He knew his father’s business and he provided a detailed description of the killer, far better than that released to the press. Before long, the police decided they knew who the killer was and how much he had been paid – several thousand dollars. While they waited for him to turn up, fate took a curious twist. The murder suspect was driving his car down a rural Louisiana road one night six months later when he lost control and veered into the oncoming traffic lane. His car spun sideways; it was hit broadside. The driver of the other car was unharmed. The murder suspect was alone in his car at the time of the wreck. Police believed that the Pomeroy job was his first professional killing.

Police now think they know who hired him. He was involved in a legitimate deal with Pomeroy that went sour. He decided to get even. He is on the run now, and the police are confident that someday they’ll catch him. Meanwhile, Allan Pomeroy is scared. The person who bought his father’s death is still out there somewhere. And Allan Pomeroy must cope with a world in which you can die for a few thousand dollars.

When Nan Fitzgerald, a young woman who livedwith her sickly mother on a secluded stretch of Mockingbird Lane, came home one sunny Friday afternoon in August 1953, she heard the plaintive cries of the next-door neighbor’s cats. It was unlike Miss Selma Adele Ullman, a 40-year-old Highland Park spinster, to neglect her pets, and Miss Fitzgerald decided to take some food down the tree-shaded path and charitably deposit it by the front door. As she neared the 11-room house, everything inside seemed curiously still. Even with the cats’ meows and the steady buzz of cicadas in the trees, the house exuded an eerie silence. Miss Fitzgerald knew Miss Ullman went out of town every now and then, but on all other occasions, she had announced her departure beforehand.

As she bent down to feed the cats, Miss Fitzgerald was startled to see that the screen wasn’t latched. The house was open. And when Miss Fitzgerald gingerly pushed the front door ajar, she saw Miss Ullman on the floor. Her immediate assumption was that the woman had suffered a heart attack. Then she saw the blood. Then she saw a brass Indian teapot.

When police found her, Miss Ullman was stretched out in the front hall. She was clad in a brightly colored sundress. She wore no underwear and only one shoe. The other shoe and a cushion from the couch were found nearby alongside the murder weapon – the brass teapot -which was covered with dried blood and bits of hair and scalp.

Miss Ullman had been dead for two days.

The autopsy showed that she died from two deep lacerations to the head. Fingernail marks were found on her neck.

“The blows could have been struck by either a man or woman,” said Police Chief W.H. Naylor at the time. “Her throat had been scratched, but we are unable to determine if the nails were those of a man or woman.”

There were few suspects. And because Miss Ullman’s Highland Park house was not burglarized, and she was not sexually assaulted, police strongly suspected her teapot-wielding assailant was someone she knew. Perhaps someone she knew quite well.

But that’s the catch: Miss Ullman appeared to know very few people. She had acquaintances with whom she attended the opera. She had a real estate agent. She employed a yardman. She didn’t need to work an office job, and was said to spend most of her day puttering in the garden and working inside on her small sculptures and ceramics. She was an artistic woman, an individual who didn’t mind living and working alone. She had never married, and she was survived by only one immediate relative: her sister Bernice Couch, of Richardson, the wife of a government employee.

One of her opera-loving friends, Mrs. Lillian Baker, had spoken to Miss Ullman on the Monday evening before her death. They had decided to see an operetta on Wednesday, but when Mrs. Baker phoned that afternoon to see if Miss Ullman would like to have dinner, no one answered. Puzzled, Mrs. Baker drove by the house and noticed the car in the drive, a porch light left on, and the blue glow of the television set. Everything seemed all right, she thought. Police believe Miss Ullman was quite dead by then.

The 43-year-old black man Miss Ullman had hired to maintain the yard was originally arrested as the prime suspect. Police investigated his apartment on Oak Lawn Avenue and found blood-stained clothing on a chair. Acquaintances of the deceased told Chief Naylor that the yardman had upon occasion demanded money from Miss Ullman. All signs pointed to the man’s guilt until lab tests showed that the bloodstains were not associated with Miss Ullman’s murder. He was also said to have been doing yardwork elsewhere at the time. After questioning (during which the yardman is said to have fallen asleep), the police released him and began to search for additional leads.

They questioned the real estate agent and found only that Miss Ullman had fairly substantial holdings in land willed to her niece, an airline stewardess named Jean Vickery, Bernice’s daughter from a previous marriage. It didn’t take long for neighborhood gossips to come up with their own interpretation of the crime. Almost everyone suspected the sister, Bernice; it was obvious, they thought. She did it for family money. She and Selma were often heard arguing ferociously.

But Bernice made an emotion-packed public plea of innocence during a press conference aired on radio station KLIF. She was never arrested.

Police continue to get calls, inquiries, and tips about the Ullman case on file -covered now with almost 30 years of dust – but there haven’t been any significant leads.

The superstitious regard Friday the Thirteenth as a day to take extra care, a day when something terrible is bound to happen. Beverly Antoinette Bruneau may have been superstitious, but for her this Friday was a day off, a day to relax. The 35-year-old Braniff stewardess made herself a light breakfast and sat down to address some valentines. Tomorrow, after all, was Valentine’s Day, and Beverly had a lot of friends on her list.

The man Beverly was living with, Leo Bailey, had left for work earlier that morning. He, too, worked for Braniff, as a cargo handler.

Beverly sat in the quiet privacy of her Grapevine apartment, relaxing in her nightgown and robe. What happened to her between that time and later that afternoon only her killer knows. No one in the complex says they heard anything until Leo came home from work.

A neighbor described it as screams coming through the thin walls.

“Call the police! Call the police!” Bailey screamed. It was shortly after 3 p.m.

According to police, Bailey was nearly hysterical and in a state of shock. Beverly, an attractive brunette with faint streaks of gray in her hair, was dead – strangled to death. Police estimated she’d been dead for at least six hours, lying on the floor in her morning clothes between the sofa and an armchair.

While there were signs that Beverly had put up an extensive struggle with the killer, she did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. Tests later confirmed this. The murder weapon had been an electrical extension cord. Multiple abrasions covered her arms and legs. By the time Valentine’s Day had passed, police admitted they had few clues and no suspects in the slaying.

But they did find fingerprints left in the apartment. Some of them might belong to the killer.

The first man police turned their attention to was Bailey. The 36-year-old boyfriend told police he had known Beverly for several years. She had moved in with him four months earlier after her home in Dallas burned. Friends said the couple appeared to be on good terms. In fact, they had been out together the night before the murder, and they looked extremely happy.

Neighbors said the two kept to themselves and didn’t mingle much with others in the apartment complex. They also said Beverly Bruneau was not one to leave her door unlocked. Police decided the killer must have been someone she knew.

A few days after making his grisly discovery, Bailey took a lie detector test to satisfy police he had not killed Beverly. Bailey passed the polygraph.

Police turned their attention to other people Beverly knew and to some she didn’t know. One of those people was a man named Donald Wayne Hemphill, who had been suspected in the “Lipstick Murder” case of Debera Martinson. Dallas police informed Grapevine investigators that Hemphill’s wife had lived in Grapevine, and that Hemphill had twice been ticketed for moving violations in the vicinity. Like Beverly Bruneau, Debera Martinson had been strangled.

But Grapevine investigators proceeded on the assumption that Beverly knew her killer, and let him into her apartment that morning since there were no signs of forced entry. They also speculated that whoever killed the woman received a few cuts and bruises in the struggle. But time was running out … soon those telltale signs would heal.

It’s been almost eight months now since Beverly’s murder. Her mother and sisters buried her in Minneapolis, where she lived before she moved to Dallas 16 years ago. Whoever killed Beverly Bruneau is still at large. Police have no strong suspects.

DEBERA MARTINSON, 28, was constantly afraid something horrible would happen to her. When her husband drove his Corvette off to his office each day, | Debbie locked all the doors and windows of their split-level $200,000 house near Preston Trails Country Club in North Dallas.

She passed her days talking to and playing with David Bryan, her 16-month-old son, and cleaning up the huge house she hated. She had no pets. Her husband, I Don, had made her give away a pet co*cker I spaniel before David’s birth. One of the women at the doctor’s office where she I used to work gave her some birds, but Don I disliked them because they cheeped, so the I birds went too.

Sometimes she drove to Medical City and ate lunch with her former co-workers I in the office.

“But she could never go out and eat with us,” says Beverly Smith, “because she I didn’t have enough money. They lived in a I $200,000 house and she couldn’t afford to I spend $3 at El Fenix.”

Debbie did everything her husband and I her fear told her to do until the last day of I her life. On March 31, 1980 she let a man I into her house, and he made her take off I her clothes and have oral sex with him. I Then he strangled her with a woven-yarn I macramé plant hanger just long enough to I reach around her neck.

In a sinister parody of Debbie’s own neatness, he took each item of her clothing I and dropped them in a neat path leading I from the bedroom door to her nude body. I She still wore her watch and her wedding I ring. Nothing was taken. There was no I sign of a struggle. Some human feces found near the body suggested to police that her son, David, had been changed nearby. He was found in his crib, crying but unharmed when Don Martinson returned home at 6:45 that evening from jury duty.

After comforting his son, Martinson went to the master bedroom, where he found the track of clothes and his wife’s nude body next to their king-sized bed.

On the floor-to-ceiling mirror behind the bed was scrawled a message in Debbie’s pale rose lipstick that made the newspaper headlines for weeks: “Now we’re even Don.”

Was the message addressed to Don Martinson as an instrument of revenge for some wrong inflicted by his law practice? Was it a ruse to throw police off the track? Or was it the signature of a prime suspect, Don Hemphill, a television repairman who was later no-billed by the grand jury?

The Lipstick Murder offers too many questions. The police carried off the huge mirror for analysis and comparison of the handwriting to that of Hemphill and any other suspects.

To Sgt. Bill Parker of the Dallas Police, the Lipstick Murder is solved. He points west to Fort Worth, where Hemphill was arrested this summer for aggravated rape, and sits in Tarrant County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond. But some police officers and reporters who followed the case think murder is just not Hemphill’s style. He has been convicted of sexual indecency, assault with the threat of rape, and attempted extortion, but Hemphill seems more like a bungler who couldn’t bring off a crime. Would he risk his new life in the Valwood Baptist Church, his job and his future on the first anniversary of his marriage by signing his crime like a high school sophom*ore on the town water tower?

Why did Debera Martinson keep the house she hated so neat? Why did her pride keep her from confiding her unhap-piness to her parents? Why did her husband refuse to talk to the police for a week, and hire one of the state’s leading criminal defense attorneys, Phil Burleson, for his counsel?

Every one of these questions has answers, but they do not add up to a convincing emotional picture.

Why did Debera, who was always so afraid, let her assailant in the house? Could it have been that loneliness melted her distrust to a fatal degree? No sign of forced entry to the house was found. The killer had even locked the door considerately behind him, so that when Don Martinson came home nothing looked amiss. Only that David Bryan was crying in his room, unharmed but unattended.

Donald Wayne Hemphill had come to the house twice that month, and had set up another appointment. Records show that he had done work on the Martinson’s TV on March 10 and again on March 14. He failed to keep a March 22 appointment to complete the repair and installation of the aerial. Had Hemphill, a talkative man, won her trust and then taken advantage of it?

At first, the investigation was delayed by Martinson, who holed up in a law partner’s home and refused to talk to police for a week after he had found his wife’s body. Husbands rarely sexually molest their wives before killing them, police say. Besides, Martinson had been in a jury room all day, and the coroner had fixed the time of death as some time in the morning after Martinson had left. Robert Fanning, Martinson’s law partner, said Martinson was in shock and couldn’t speak coherently to the police.

“In domestic murders I think the spouse is the first suspect about 60 per cent of the time,” says Burleson. “I just didn’t want anyone taking advantage of Don while he was in such an emotional state. He was in really bad shape after that murder.”

Burleson was hired, he told the newspapers, not so much to defend Martinson against the suspicions of the police, but to carry out his own investigation of the murder. Fanning and Burleson supplied the police with the household papers and records thai led them to Hemphill.

With Hemphill’s prison record, his friendly chats with Debera while installing the aerial, and his knowledge of the house, it seemed simple. Almost too simple. If Hemphill had killed Debbie Martinson, it would be his first successful crime.

Hemphill had been discharged from the Marines for psychiatric reasons. He had spent two years in Oklahoma State Prison for indecent exposure. He had forcibly held a 19-year-old woman while he masturbat*d. In 1974 he was given three years in prison for attacking a Tulsa grocery clerk with a steel bar and threatening to rape her. A customer came into the store and prevented the crime. In Texas, Hemphill botched an attempt to extort money from a South Dallas used car dealer by impersonating an FBI agent. The car dealer saw through Hemphill’s story, and when Hemphill showed up at a meeting place to collect his money, the police were waiting for him. For that, he was sentenced to three years in a federal reformatory in Texarkana.

While on supervised release in Dallas, Hemphill met a young Carrollton divorcée. Jan McMeans, and started going to church with her. He got a job with JCPenney, and they had begun to talk about marriage when he was arrested in the parking lot of the Richardson Public Library for exposing himself. His parole was revoked and he was sent to the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma. Members of the Valwood Baptist Church were shocked by the news, but they stood by him, praying for him and writing to him. When he became the prime suspect in the Lipstick Murder, his congregation again prayed for him. Hemphill had spent the year between his marriage and the murder in a life of work and church-going. He had counseled the son of one of the church members who had gotten into trouble. No one believed he could do it.

One theory holds that people who expose themselves do not rape and kill, and that rapists and killers do not expose themselves. Hemphill was capable of bad things, but strangulation and oral rape were not yet part of his known history.

On the day of the murder, Hemphill was on vacation. A 12-year-old girl told the grand jury that she saw Hemphill at the Martinson house the day of the murder. But the leasing agent at Hemphill’s apartment complex said she had seen him off and on that day when he had come in to pay his rent. Hemphill steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. District Attorney Henry Wade didn’t have enough evidence for a conviction and he knew it. He would have to wait. Hemphill’s wife heard the news of the no-billing during a routine telephone call to their lawyer. “All glory to God!” she exulted. She had always insisted on her husband’s innocence.

In Houston, Debera’s father, John Woodson, still can’t forget. He advised her against marrying Don Martinson, who had grown up next door to them in the modest suburb of Spring Valley in Houston. When Don went off to Vietnam, the romance seemed to have ended, but it started up again when Martinson returned. Debbie had her RN and worked as a nurse to put her husband through Baylor’s law school. When he graduated in 1973, he joined the firm of Fanning, Harper, Wilson and Fanning as a law clerk and worked his way up. His ambition, Debbie’s friends say, was to become a millionaire by age 40.

The issues he dealt with didn’t create personal animosities that would lead someone to kill Martinson’s wife for revenge. After Martinson was made a partner in the firm, they moved into the big house on Deer Park Drive, in January 1980.

According to Beverly Smith, Debera had $200 a month to buy food and essentials. Every penny she spent over that she had to ask for and account for with receipts. She had no credit cards. Her husband handled all the finances. In turn, she kept a spotless house and lived a lonely life. She didn’t think she could turn to her parents because they had advised against the marriage. She confided in her friends, but she saw them only occasionally.

Her father, John Woodson, vows to see the case solved. Don Martinson has recently remarried and is raising his son. He refers all questions about the case to his attorneys. Donald Wayne Hemphill has other worries right now.

Plenty of people have made up their minds about the case, but a court of law hasn’t settled it. The full truth may have already disappeared in the quicksand of human nature.

STANDING ON the Valley View Road overpass of Highway 183, the sniper could clearly see the headlights of the oncoming cars below. The sky was as dark as a Texas sky can get in early December and, from a distance, the sniper may have thought the headlights looked like lights on a video game. Perhaps it was the wind in his ears and the sound of cars approaching below at high speeds that hypnotized him into committing murder. He took aim.

On the highway beneath the sniper, a 1978 Ford station wagon sped towards the south entrance of D/FW airport. It was December 9, 1978. Inside, the conversation revolved around the two boys in the back, Steven Gaulden, 12, and his older brother Scott, 14. The family had just returned from a lively game at Texas Stadium where their hometown team, the Piano High School Wildcats, had scored a big victory. Steven had coaxed his parents into getting hamburgers to celebrate the big event. After eating, the family was to drop Mrs. Gaulden off at the airport. She was going to catch a nightcoach flight to California to visit her mother.

The atmosphere was animated; the boys were teasing each other as they often did. Suddenly the sound of shattering glass and a slight explosion stopped the laughter in mid-breath.

Steven slumped in his seat. His brother said he knew they’d been shot at, but by whom and from where? Steven never had a chance to say anything. He was killed instantly.

The first thing his father, Joel, did was to stop the car just past the Esters Road exit. The family knew Steven was injured and tried to flag someone down for help. A motorist stopped and asked what was wrong. Another went to call the police. When it seemed like emergency vehicles were taking too long to get there, the first motorist rushed the family to a hospital.

As they piled into the car with their injured son, the Gauldens heard another shot. It seemed to come from the overpass.

Ray Andrews, a 43-year-old Mobil Oil computer specialist, and his wife had been heading home to Arlington after a Saturday night square dance in Dallas. This particular night, Ray was at the steering wheel. Suddenly his wife broke the silence by talking about a car that must have swerved off the road. The occupants appeared to be getting out and waving at other cars, as if they needed help. Ray continued to drive, stretching his neck a bit to see what was going on.

Within seconds, Mrs. Andrews recalls, her husband’s head fell onto the steering wheel. Glass flew everywhere. She grabbed for the wheel and managed to maneuver the car off the highway.

By this time Irving police had received a call from someone notifying them of the shooting. By the time they reached the scene, squad cars were already attending to the Andrews family. That’s when they found out about the first shooting. The only connection they could find between the two was that both families had been driving station wagons. At this point, they weren’t even sure whether there had been one or two snipers.

Steven Gaulden was pronounced dead at Hurst-Euless-Bedford Hospital. The bullet had struck him in the head. Raymond D. Andrews was pronounced dead on the highway by a field examiner for the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office. The sniper had hit Andrews squarely between the eyes.

The senseless killing of the Gaulden boy stunned not only his family, but also the community he lived in. The night after the murder, friends gathered in the Gaulden’s home in Piano to comfort the family. No one felt much like celebrating Christmas.

By the time both victims of the sniper attack had been buried, Irving police learned that a third shot – possibly even more -had been taken on Saturday night. It happened at approximately the same time Steven Gaulden and Ray Andrews were killed. Like the others, it came from somewhere between the Esters Road exit and the Valley View Lane overpass. But unlike the others, the bullet had bypassed the two women riding in a pickup truck, striking one of the tires instead. They had assumed it had been a blowout and pulled under the overpass to change the tire. It wasn’t until the next day the women found out what had actually punctured their tire and how vulnerable they had been to the sniper’s deadly shot.

Now that they knew of a third shooting, Irving police were convinced of one thing: The sniper had been mobile, driving his car from location to location as he spotted new targets. Police also speculated he might have been shooting at headlights, not directly at passengers. Perhaps it was when his aim had veered off that he shot over the headlights and killed his two victims.

So far, there were only two clues: a spent cartridge from a .30-caliber rifle that was found on the Valley View overpass when the sun came out the next day, and reports of a yellow car seen in the area the night of the shootings.

It took Irving police months to come up with a suspect and enough evidence to make an arrest. On top of their efforts to solve the attacks, the unsolved murder files at the Irving Police Department were growing larger. Some officers began complaining of poor morale because of salaries they considered too low. Others explained that the city was just growing too fast for the force to keep up. Now they had a sniper on their hands who could strike again at any time.

Someone did strike again, this time on May 14, 1979. At least police suspected this was their first sniper. An Irving teenager, Craig Franklin Foster, was arrested for standing on an overpass and opening fire on cars traveling down Highway 1U The shooting had once again taken place at night. Three people were injured, none seriously. At least this time no one was killed.

Foster, a member of a special class for slow learners at MacArthur High School, had been under psychological care for two years. The psychologist told police his patient had fired only at the headlights of the cars, never connecting them with the people riding inside.

There were two similarities: Foster had worked from an overpass (as had the Irving sniper part of the time), and Foster drove a light-colored auto. It could have been the old-model car seen near the highway the night of the original attack.

But there were also differences. The December sniper had used a high powered .30-caliber weapon. Foster had shot with a .22, and his aim had not been as accurate as the other sniper’s.

From the moment of his arrest, the youth maintained his innocence, swearing he was not the Saturday night sniper who had left two people dead. Finally, police arranged to have Foster take a lie detector test. Three days after his arrest, he passed a polygraph, clearing him of any involvement in the deadly December killings.

It was back to square one.

Now, almost three years later, Irving police say they are no closer to any leads or suspects in the murders of Raymond Andrews and Steven Gaulden. More than 20 people have been questioned and tips continue to flow into the office. A reward still remains for information that will help convict the killer or killers. And the people who remember the night of December 9 continue to pray that the Irving sniper doesn’t come back for a repeat performanc

THE STRUGGLE must have been tremendous; that much was obvious. The woman’s body was a map of fingernail marks. Two fingers on one hand had been cut to the bone. Three distinct wounds -a deep gash, a large bruise, and a mass of scratches below the ear -lined the right side of her head. Four puncture wounds were scattered across her forehead. Inside the right wrist remained the imprint of a set of teeth; the wound was so deep blood had spurted out of it. A long gash that extended from one ear to the other had severed all the arteries and veins in her neck – this alone had killed her quickly. She was almost decapitated.

The body of Florence T. Brown was discovered by a fellow employee on the floor of a bathroom that led from a private office in the Robinson-Styron Realty company building. The murder occurred between 8:05 and 8:30 a.m.; she had arrived for work only minutes earlier. The body -still warm -lay in a large pool of blood that covered her face and hair. A bowl full of bloody water and a towel soaked in blood rested on a nearby table. A gold ring belonging to the victim lay crushed and broken about six feet from the body, apparently stepped on during the struggle. No weapon was found.

This grisly murder occurred in downtown Dallas on July 28, 1913. No clear motive other than “cold-blooded murder or the work of a maniac” was ever established. Few clues surfaced; rumors ran rampant. Only one piece of evidence -a bloody pearl button from the assailant’s shirt -was ever discovered.

Dallas gripped the tragedy wholeheartedly. This type of thing didn’t happen that often in a small town like Dallas in 1913. Within minutes after the discovery of the body, mobs of downtown workers crowded Field Street across from the Robinson-Styron building; the more morbid of the group remained there until almost midnight. At one point, particularly curious onlookers peering into windows cracked the plate glass of the large Robinson-Styron office window. Angry men shouted threats of vengeance and urged an immediate lynching once the killer was apprehended. By the time investigators arrived, the body had already been carried off by an undertaker.

Every police officer in Dallas County was notified of the murder and told to watch for “suspicious characters.” Consequently, any man found wearing tattered clothes or anything faintly resembling bloodstains was arrested and questioned. Several farmers captured one man who turned out to be a laborer walking from Dallas to seek farm work. One woman claimed a man who had offered to mow her front lawn was wearing a bloodstained shirt -the “blood” turned out to be red paint.

The rumors ran the gamut: The killer had signed a full confession and had been whisked away from Dallas for safe keeping. Florence Brown had been seen talking to a man outside the Robinson-Styron building. Florence Brown had recently sold a large, valuable tract of property in Oak Cliff and her death was prompted by someone who wanted the money.

Usually, the rumors complicated matters even further. Detectives working on rumors of men seen running from the scene of the crime later determined that one such sighting was actually Times Herald reporters running to their office to get the latest update in the “extra.”

“Extras” during the next few days included tidbits like “Florence Brown’s Last Hour of Life”; the mother’s reaction to the crime; the father’s reaction to the crime (he was the first policeman at the scene); an uncle’s reaction to the crime (he was a partner in the firm); notice of a $50 reward offered by the Times Herald and later expanded by those of several others whose names were listed periodically; the Order of Service at Florence Brown’s funeral; an editorial cartoon showing a man hunched over a desk wringing his hands through his hair with another man (labeled “Conscience”) lurking eerily behind him pointing a long stern finger at the forlorn figure. The headline read: “Someone, Somewhere.” The caption: “Conscience is sometimes the best detective.”

Originally, the sheriff stated that the murder must have been committed by a “madman; a cold-blooded, deliberate killer.” Several police officers countered this by claiming a woman must have killed her out of jealousy or revenge. “It does not look like a man’s work to me,” one detective said. “The bestial manner in which the crime was committed indicates hatred which was terrible. Men in attacking anyone do not scratch and bite. It has been demonstrated that Miss Brown was not hated by any man in Dallas. Could this be the work of a member of the weaker sex?”

The revelation of a parallel murder in Angleton, Texas, added to the mystery of the slayer’s sex. Another woman, Mrs. J.M. Seitz, had been killed in downtown Angleton at dusk two weeks earlier. She, too, had put up a struggle; several sets of deep teeth impressions were left on her right arm – one upper tooth was missing. Florence Brown’s killer was also missing an upper right molar. But if this were the same killer, how could the motive be revenge?

On Friday, August 1, 1913, the Times Herald ran a statement issued by police officers and the family of Florence Brown that the murderer of Florence Brown would be arrested “within the next few hours, perhaps Friday afternoon.” This followed a search of the contents of the Robinson-Styron office safe, after which the Dallas county grand jury ruled out the possibility of robbery or attempted robbery. The statement claimed “police were hot on the trail, and that the man who killed Miss Brown would without doubt be brought to justice within the next few hours.”

No arrest was ever made.

AS GROVER HOPE pulled into the driveway, he noticed his wife’s car in the garage. A few minutes earlier a friend of hers had called him at work. Jean was supposed to have picked her up for a luncheon date, but she hadn’t shown up, which wasn’t at all like Jean. Feeling a little apprehensive, Grover jumped into the car and headed for his ranch home in Addison, a five-minute drive away from the office. He walked through the front door, calling to his wife. No answer. Noticing a piece of firewood leaning against the fireplace, he picked it up and walked slowly back to their bedroom, his hand tightly clutching the fire log.

When he entered the room, he noticed the contents of two of Jean’s purses scattered across the bed. He breathed a little easier; Jean had a habit of emptying out one purse and transferring needed items to another.

He dropped the log and walked back out into the hall. Then he noticed the door of his son’s bedroom. It was tightly closed. Jean never kept that door shut.

Jean’s body – or what was left of it – lay in a pool of blood near the closet in the bedroom. She had been beaten beyond recognition; her skull had collapsed. All 10 fingers and both hands had been fractured. Jean had put up one hell of a fight.

Hope immediately called the police. Homicide and Crime Scene Search units arrived quickly. Undergarments and shoes were found near the bedroom door. Splotches of blood remained near the door, beside an aquarium, and by the telephone. Two bloody footprints marked the direction of the murderer’s flight.

Police had little evidence to go on. Although they quickly determined that the piece of firewood Hope had picked up as he walked into the house had been the murder weapon, they also knew it would be of little use to them. Since the wood was so rough-surfaced, no fingerprints could be lifted from it. And since the room in which the body was found was the only section of the house in disarray, they assumed the motive was not robbery. Hope searched several drawers and found nothing missing other than his watch, which investigators were sure would turn up.

The medical examiner’s report was just as inconclusive. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office concluded that Jean Hope had not been raped; the state medical examining facilities, however, did not rule out the possibility.

After the funeral, Hope noticed Jean’s wedding ring had not been returned with her personal effects. He checked around the house and realized that certain pieces of jewelry and some cameras were gone, too. At last, the investigators had a possible lead. They persuaded the press to keep a lid on the new information, and waited for the burglar to pawn the goods.

Police thought back to another brutal attack in that neighborhood. Fourteen months earlier, a woman Jean was to have had lunch with was attacked. A man had entered her house and forced her to follow him from room to room while he filled a pillowcase with valuables (she ignored the sentimental pieces and gave him the expensive ones). Then he raped her, tied her to a chair, poured gasoline on her, and asked for a match. While he searched the house for one, she struggled free, grabbed her two children, and ran across a field to safety. The man had been captured and sentenced to life. Of course, Jean Hope’s murderer couldn’t be the same man, but he might have been a friend of his.

The case was assigned to detectives Chuck Dhority and Gus Rose. Dhority headed the investigation, following every possible angle: Could it have been a professional burglar, a sex criminal, a dope addict? Perhaps even an angry husband or an estranged boyfriend? They quickly ruled out Grover Hope as a suspect. Every second of his morning had been accounted for the day of the crime; besides, it was well known that he and Jean were very happily married. That canceled out the possibility of an estranged lover, too. Passing thought was given to the possibility of a hired killer, but that was immediately rejected: Why would someone who was hired to kill use a piece of firewood?

Grover Hope couldn’t remember whether he had entered an unlocked door or had unlocked it himself. More likely, the killer entered and exited by way of a back porch. Frequently, Jean would do laundry on the porch and then forget to lock the door when she came back in. Maybe she forgot to lock the door that day. No one knows for sure.

Workers in the area said they couldn’t remember hearing anything unusual that morning, but some recalled seeing a white ’61 Chevy parked a short distance from the Hope’s house. The lead later developed into a major break for Dhority. He began tracing the trail of a white Chevy that had been used in another North Dallas burglary. He learned that the plates on that car had been stolen by a professional burglar named “old Bo,” who made his living strictly by stealing. And despite a foot-long arrest record, he was again on the prowl.

The clean manner in which the Hope burglary was executed fit Bo’s MO -he was particularly fond of tidy jobs. Now all Dhority had to do was find him.

When he finally located Bo’s hideout, Bo was once again on the run. After attaining a search warrant, Dhority discovered all kinds of collectibles scattered around the house. At least Dhority now knew Bo was still in business. He immediately launched a full-scale search. Bo turned up near Longview, where he had been arrested for burglarizing the DA’s home. After an easy escape and reappre-hension, Dhority finally questioned Bo.

“We got you on a real bad burglary in North Dallas,” he said.

“I didn’t kill that woman,” Bo said, without flinching.

Dhority pressed Bo. Finally Bo gave him the name of another man who was crediting himself with Hope’s murder. The lead dead-ended, and once again old Bo slipped away

Then, after another burglary and apprehension, Dhority was reunited with the suspect long enough to administer three lie detector tests. The first two were inconclusive. While Dhority and the examiner prepared for the third one, old Bo tried to pick the lock on the door of the room he was locked into.

The first question of the last polygraph test asked him point-blank: “Did you just try to escape from the interrogation room?”

His answer: “No.”

The polygraph needle did not move. Investigators decided Bo was a pathological liar, and since Dhority still could not come up with anything substantial, he turned to other leads.

A junkie known as “Jimmy the Thing” was Dhority’s next suspect. Jimmy had been a companion of the man who raped Jean’s friend. But Jimmy had alibis for his whereabouts the morning of the murder. And the neatness of the job just didn’t correspond with the actions of a junkie. Another dead end.

By the first-year anniversary of Jean Hope’s murder, her killer had still not been apprehended. During that year more than 100 suspects were checked out; since then, more than three years of detective man-hours have been poured into the case.

Detectives still disagree about the prime suspects. Some believe Bo is a prime suspect, while others think it was the work of a covert maniac (someone who only murders once). Still others think it was a violent burglar or a narcotics addict.

Hope worked on the case as intensively as the police did. He kept files on the murder, combed newspapers daily for any clues; he ran ads offering a reward in the city and suburban papers, even running a list of the stolen property in Spanish. He hired a private investigator to pursue leads across the country. He even hired a neuro-psychiatrist to draw a personality sketch of the killer. Police became concerned that the murderer would come after him. Hope’s response: Let him.

The reward is still outstanding today, although no clues have surfaced in eight years.

Time and religion have helped heal Hope’s wounds, but the years haven’t stopped him from looking for his wife’s killer. His children have grown up and Hope has remarried. But to Grover Hope, the file on Beverly Jean is still as crisp and new as the day it was opened.

GETTING AWAY WITH murder (2024)


What percent chance do you have of getting away with murder? ›

Murderers have a 50% chance of getting away with their crimes, analysis shows. According to a recent report, murders in the US are on the rise, but the rate of homicides being solved is among the lowest ever, as murderers have around a 50% chance of getting away with it.

Is it possible to get away with murder? ›

The rate at which murders nationwide were solved or cleared has dropped to around 50%. That's a record low. And several cities have seen the number of murder cases resulting in at least one arrest dip into the low 30% range.

Why is How to Get Away with Murder and 18? ›

Parents need to know that How to Get Away with Murder is a drama with an ensemble cast of law students who work with a powerful, complicated attorney and professor. Most of the action falls along the police-procedural spectrum; expect graphic descriptions of violence, death, and murder, occasional depictions…

What percent of murders go unsolved? ›

In California, the statewide homicide clearance rate has fluctuated over the past 20 years and at times dips below the national rate, according to data from the California department of justice. In 2020 the rate was 59%; the following year, it dropped to 54.5%.

What is the hardest crime to get away with? ›

Murder, First Degree

The most severe criminal charge that anybody may face is first-degree murder. Although all murder charges are serious, first-degree murder carries the worst punishments.

Do people often get away with murder? ›

If you commit murder in the United States, there's a 40 percent chance you'll get away with it.

Why did they stop filming How to Get Away with Murder? ›

According to show creator Peter Nowalk, it wasn't easy to cut HTGAWM loose, but he and Shonda Rhimes just thought it was time. “Deciding to end this series was a brutal decision, but ultimately the story tells you what to do—as it did here,” he said, according to Deadline.

Why did Netflix remove how do you get away with murder? ›

The drama series stars Viola Davis as a criminal defence lawyer. Viola Davis' popular drama How To Get Away With Murder is set to be removed from Netflix as the streamer's deal approaches its expiration date.

Did Annalise and Tegan end up together? ›

Annalise gently rejects Tegan's offer of love, telling her she deserved to be with a woman who could give her the love and happiness that she was offering to Annalise. Though visibly devastated, Tegan remains on Annalise's team for the rest of the trial.

What state has the most murders? ›

Murder rates in red states were 33% higher than in blue states in both 2021 and 2022. As in 2019 and 2020, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama hold the first, second, and third highest murder rates in the country, respectively.

What US city has the most unsolved murders? ›

The unsolved homicide rate is over 55 percent in six cities: Chicago, Buffalo, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and Stockton. For more than 50 percent of all murders in these cities, no one is arrested for the crime.

How many murders happen a day in the world? ›

The population of the earth is roughly 7.53 billion. That means that the annual number of homicides is 466,860. A year is 365.24 days, that means that the daily rate is an average 1,728 homicides per day.

What are the odds of being a victim of crime? ›

One in five Californians acknowledges having been a victim of crime in the last five years . Half of these acknowledge being a victim of a violent crime . Two in three of these crime victims acknowledge having been victims of multiple crimes in the past five years .

Is there more how do you get away with murder? ›

The sixth and final season of the American television drama series How to Get Away with Murder premiered on September 26, 2019, and concluded on May 14, 2020.

What is the murder rate in the United States? ›

U.S. murder/homicide rate for 2022 was 0.00, a 100% decline from 2021. U.S. murder/homicide rate for 2021 was 6.81, a 6.02% increase from 2020. U.S. murder/homicide rate for 2020 was 6.42, a 28.78% increase from 2019. U.S. murder/homicide rate for 2019 was 4.99, a 1.14% increase from 2018.

Was it easy to get away with crime in the 1800s? ›

Crime and punishment in the 1800's was very unlike today. Punishments were much more violent and severe back then with crime rates being high. However, a lot of the crime was unaccounted for due to how easy it was to get away with crimes back then. Compared to today, where as crime rates are increasing daily.

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