When I was a junior in high school, I dated a Very Nice Guy who was a senior. We went to the usual high school events--ball games, parties, school dances, movies, the Prom. We often double dated with his Best Pal, also a senior. Best Pal was dating a sophomore. Her name was Connie.
We hung out at my house sometimes, but my mother didn't liked Best Pal. Something about him rubbed her the wrong way. Being a teenager, I just thought she was crazy.
As a foursome, we didn’t have much in common. My boyfriend was adventurous and wanted to see the world, so after graduation he joined the military. Best Pal stayed in town and worked at a grocery store. I went away to college.
And Connie? Later, my mother would say, “All Connie ever wanted was to get married and have kids.”
She did. She and Best Pal married in the fall. It was football season (Geaux Tigers!) so I didn’t attend. In fact, I never saw Connie or Best Pal again. Everything that follows here comes via my mother and her sources at the beauty parlor, or old newspaper articles, or legal websites on the Internet.
After I moved away, I called home once a week. My mom reported on the local crowd. She told me when Best Pal and Connie had a baby, a little girl. A few years later, they had another daughter.
And then one day: “Connie ran off with another man. She didn’t take her kids with her. Can you believe it?”
This was in 1984. Connie was twenty-three.
Best Pal claimed Connie left him. A few days later, Connie’s mother received a letter saying Connie had met a man named Ted and she was starting a new life with him in Florida. She was writing while “on the run” but promised she would come home someday. Oddly, the letter bore a local postmark and was incorrectly addressed. Later, it would be proven the handwriting wasn’t Connie’s.
We all know where this is going, right? When a wife disappears, the police look at the husband. Connie’s parents contacted the sheriff’s department. Best Pal gave statements in 1984 and again in 1987. Some details didn’t jive. He admitted to a relationship with another woman. Deputies told Best Pal if they found any evidence of foul play, he’d be their top suspect. But there was no evidence of foul play. Connie had vanished.
A year after Connie’s disappearance, Best Pal obtained a divorce and married his amour. They split up and he married again. All the while, he lived in the house where he and Connie had lived, raising his daughters.
In 1991, eight years after Connie vanished, Best Pal sold his home. The new owners decided to replace the sewer lines. They consulted Best Pal about the old system. He advised them to avoid the spot covered by a small cement slab. He said it was left over from an old greenhouse, and the area was full of tree stumps.
You know what happened. The slab was dug up. And there was Connie.
“They got in a fight, because he was running around on her,” was my mother’s summation. “He pushed her and she hit her head on the fireplace. He panicked and buried her in the back yard.”
That was the local consensus when Best Pal went to trial for second degree murder in 1994, ten years after Connie disappeared. The prosecutor’s office had been very tight-lipped about the evidence. Everyone thought he’d killed her by accident.
At the trial, forensics testimony was given about perimortem trauma. Perimortem means at or near the time of death. Connie’s remains included a hinge fracture to the skull; trauma to a thigh bone, shoulder blade and two vertebrates; a broken finger and several broken ribs. Also, the blouse she was wearing contained one or two holes surrounding by lead particles.
My mother’s sources got it wrong. Connie vanished after Best Pal beat her up, fractured her skull, shot her, buried her in the back yard, covered the spot with cement, and told everyone she’d left him for another man.
You’ll notice I’ve used only one proper name in this post. I didn’t want to ID my old boyfriend because I haven’t seen him since high school, and why drag him into this? Best Pal is currently serving a life sentence in Angola State Penitentiary and, to be honest, I don’t want someone who knows how to use Google alerts to tell him I’m writing about him.
Why did I call Connie by name? Because she’s the victim, and the victim is too often forgotten.
Now for the twist. A few years into Best Pal’s prison years, when I was a struggling writer, my mother called. Best Pal, she said, had written an essay for some book about prison life. It was reported in the town newspaper, which called Best Pal a convicted murderer--and a published author.
I found the essay. In it, Best Pal
whined wrote about the difficulties of being a single parent from
behind bars. He moaned described the pain of not getting to see his girls grow up. Some gall, huh? No wonder my
mother never liked him.
Before writing this post, I dug out a photograph taken on Prom night, complete with formal dresses and wrist corsages. Looking at it, I could hardly believe that Connie was doomed to a violent death at the hands of the boy in the baby blue tux with his arm around her. Unlike my mother, I never glimpsed anything untoward in him. And all I see in the photos are two young couples enjoying a highlight of high school.
Have you ever known a murderer?