Friday, October 14, 2011

(DOUBLE) DATING A KILLER



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?


16 comments:

Annette said...

Yikes, Ramona! Can't say that I've dated a murderer. Dated a jerk that turned into a stalker, but that's the extent of it.

Will be thinking of you from Confluence this weekend!

Joyce said...

Wow! What a story! I haven't known any murderers. Not even a stalker. Maybe a few jerks. There are always a few of those.

Jenna said...

No, and after this I'm glad. You gave me chills, girl!

Amazing how they never prosecuted the guy before, though. I know it's hard to get a conviction without a body, with no evidence that there's even been a murder, but it can be done. Nashville police got a guy named Perry March a few years ago, for killing his wife back in - I think -1997. It took them ten years or more to dig up enough circumstancial evidence to convict, but they managed. Her body's never been found, but he's in jail, and will be for a long time. But honestly, there was never any doubt that he did it. No one believed she'd left. She could have, because like Connie she simply vanished, but no one believed she would have.

Creepy story!

Cynthia D'Alba said...

WOW, Ramona. What a story.

I knew a guy who went to prison for murder. He and his girlfriend killed her daughter but I forget the details of what happened. He died in prison.

My hubs and I had a couple we were close to. Her son (from first marriage) got in with the wrong gang in Memphis. Went to prison for murder. I think he's out, but his mother and step-father are both deceased.

One of my good friends dated this guy when we were in our early twenties. None of us were crazy about him. They broke up and everybody moved on. He married the next girl he dated and, yep you guessed it. He murdered his wife. I always wonder if he'd have married my friend, would she have been his victim?

I had no idea I knew so many murders! Now I need to go lock my doors.

Ramona said...

Jenna, I read a long case history about this online, which was freaky. I knew so many witnesses.

I know that her family did everything they could to find her. I heard they even hired a psychic. My understanding (which may be wrong) was that the police were hampered because Best Pal was the next of kin, and he refused to file a missing person's report. The fact that he was able to get a divorce by reason of abandonment showed someone must have believed his story.

But you are right--I find the ten years astounding. I keep thinking, if this happened today instead of nearly 25 years ago, would it be all over CNN?

Ramona said...

Cyndi, I actually know another one, a murder-suicide, but it was a different situation.

It feels strange, doesn't it?

Karen in Ohio said...

Ramona, poor Connie. This story just saddens me for what must have been her really poor self-esteem that allowed him to abuse her for all those years. You know that wasn't the first time.

The closest to a murderer I've ever known was a guy who killed three people with his car while driving drunk. He was an attorney, and should have been at his best friend's wedding instead of at Oktoberfest getting tanked. Karma.

Jenna said...

Ramona,
interesting...! I didn't realize the next of kin had to file the missing persons report. In the case here in Nashville, the husband said the wife had gone away on a trip. She was supposed to come back in a week. When she didn't, and missed her kid's birthday, her parents got worried. I guess they'd been suspicious before then too, but when she didn't come back, they either made the missing persons report themselves or made the husband do it. Everyone in town knew he killed her. We just didn't think they'd ever get him for it, since there was absolutely no evidence she was even dead!

Voirey Linger said...

When I was a military wife, living on-base, my next-door-neighbor was an MP. On Mother's day, 1998, he came home from work very upset, all he wanted to do was hold his kids. All three of them piled in Daddy's lap to watch TV that night.

The next day his wife couldn't stop crying. A family 4 blocks down the road had lost their baby to SIDS. I knew the family. For the next two years I watched the mother go through depression, mood swings, paranoia. She didn't always seem sane. Neighbors and friends were worried, scared to leave their kids alone with her.

One day, she vanished, taking her 5 yo son with her.

A few days later, her husband, a sailor who worked with my then-husband, came to the house and spent two hours talking about his wife, their son, wondering where they could be, speculating that she had run off with a longtime lover, claiming that the baby hadn't been his daughter but he loved his wife enough to claim her anyway.

The conversation was... weird. Something struck me as wrong and I knew in my gut he was lying.

The next day he was on the news, arrested for first degree murder of the baby.

In honor of mother's day, he'd told his wife that he was going to give her a day she wouldn't forget, pampered her all morning. When it was the baby's nap time he told his wife to rest, watch a movie, and he's put the baby down. he fixed a bottle, laced it with poison and tried to get the baby to take it. when she wouldn't, he held a pillow over her until she stopped breathing, then washed the bottle, made lunch and watched the rest of the movie with his wife. He let her find the baby two hours later. Amy was three months and two days old.

She was also his daughter.

The wife had always felt something was off, but had no proof. She found one of his work memo pads... something every guy had and we wives generally ignored... and tucked between notes on engine room notes and reactor chemistry was a checklist about Amy. It spelled out the plan, down to what time he thought she would find the body.

She took it to the police who advised her to get somewhere safe. She left that afternoon.

I always thought this man was weird, but then most navy nukes are. he bothered me more than most, but I ignored it. We weren't great friends, but our kids played together and I chatted with the wife frequently. I even held little Amy two days before she died.

It's really scary to think about what we can't see, and what we refuse to acknowledge.

Ramona said...

Jenna, this was a long time ago, in a little town in Louisiana. It may be completely wrong that only the husband can file a missing person's report, but that's what my mother told me at the time. In the case history I read, the police questioned him but without a body, I guess the case stalled.

Karen, I can't bear to think that he abused her over all that time.

Voirey, thank you for sharing that story. How sad and horrible. What strikes me (and probably the other mystery writers here) is that he left the list behind. Did this mean he really wanted to be caught? Or he was careless, or arrogant? That he would let his wife find her--their!--dead child is sick beyond words.

JM Reinbold said...

BJ, ME and I were BFs from elementary school through highschool. BJ and ME had known each other from birth and were BFFs.

I had recently met my then boyfriend, an older European guy, and had started spending more time with him and his crowd and wasn't hanging out so much with BJ and ME and their boyfriends.

I came home one day and my mother told me that BJ had called and wanted to talk to me. She said it was important and I should call her back. Well, I was busy and I didn't get around to it. Then a week or so later, we heard that BJ and her boyfriend had been arrested for the premeditated murder of ME.

What happened? BJ and her boyfriend had committed a capital crime: armed robbery and had gotten away. Apparently, BJ told ME what they'd done and then told her boyfriend that she'd told. After that -- BJ told this in testimony at their trial -- they followed ME until she was alone somewhere and kidnapped her. Took her way out in the country, killed her and dumped her body in a river. I don't remember now how BJ and her boyfriend were caught, but she would later testify against him at trial. He's in for life. She was paroled some years ago.

I know another killer, but I can't talk about that one.

Karen in Ohio said...

Yikes, JM!

Patg said...

I'm grateful not to know any, however I feel surrounded by serial killers out here. Green River, I-5 Killer, Ted Bundy and we have all kinds of 'murdered their family' cases--Diane Downs.
I guess I watch too many cold case documentaries because I don't find 10 years very long when you consider them on the whole. I'm glad states have departments to work those cases.
Patg

Voirey Linger said...

Ramona, the memo books the navy nukes carried around are treated a little different that your average memo pad. They were government issue and readily identifiable on-sight. they were for engine room notes, filled with information that meant nothing to us as wives.

Also, nukes have security clearance. Not everything that makes it home is information that anyone without clearance needed to know. We knew not to poke through work stuff. I don't think I ever, in 12 years of marriage, looked through one of my ex's memo books. They were practically invisible to us. it was also not unusual for several of them to be on my ex's dresser at a time. He'd grab one on his way out the door. The information in them was not something he'd need to refer back to at a later time, so there was no need to remember what was in which pad.

I can easily imagine someone writing a checklist and not being able to remember which pad it was in or or not being able to find it later... possibly even forgetting if it was torn out and thrown away.

I don't know what led this wife to look, but her looking at all was out of the ordinary.

For the record, the husband confessed within a few hours of his arrest. I believe his conversation with my ex spelled out his motive... he believed the wife was cheating and that the baby wasn't his. Sadly, the belief was nothing more than his own paranoid imagination and he ended up murdering his own child.

Even sadder, military communities are full of stories similar to this one. It's like the dirty little secret of military life. I know of many murders in that neighborhood in the time I lived there, this was just the one that struck closest to home.

Ramona said...

Joanne, that is truly frightening. What if you had returned BJ's call and she told you what she knew? You'd be another witness. That must give you shivers.

Voirey, that information about the memo books is completely different from what I imagined--but I know nothing about military life. (I'll bet some mystery writers are taking note, too.) His behavior does sound guilt-ridden and paranoid at the same time.

Ramona said...

Pat, I guess the ten years seems like such a long time to me because I knew her family. I heard through my mother that they never let up on trying to find her and/or trying to convince the police that he had to have killed her. So I'm thinking of the ten years as a very long time from the family's POV, not a long time as a case.

I wonder if it would have happened faster if one deputy or detective took a bulldog interest in Connie's disappearance? She was just a girl from a small town. I guess I've been reading too many stories to think that out there is always someone who will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her.