Posted on | November 24, 2013 | No Comments
I find op shops (second-hand, charity or thrift shops to my overseas readers) a great source for finding true crime books, and often ones that are out of print or hard to find.
I came across Deadlier than the Male by Terry Manners in a local op shop a few weeks back. I snapped it up, of course. It’s a case file book of female killers. Some I’d heard of like Beverley Allitt (the British nurse dubbed “the angel of death”), Canadian killer Karla Homolka and serial killer Aileen Wurnos but there were some chapters of women I’d not known about (and for true crime buffs it’s always good to discover new information).
There’s a chapter on teenage babysitter Christine Falling who was arrested in 1982 and convicted ofmurdering three infants. She’s also suspected of killing two more. It was a horrifying chapter. These babies were left in the care of the disturbed teenager and did not survive. She’s been dubbed the Florida “babysitter from hell”. Falling remains behind bars. (there’s a good article from NY Daily News published in 2012 about Falling and what they dubbed “the casual horror behind the case. Read more here.)
There’s also chapters on Dorothea Puente, the landlady who was convicted in 1989 of killing her elderly tenants and burying them in her backyard. Puente died in prison in 2011 aged 82.
This book was published by Pan Books in 1995. Terry Manners was, at the time, assistant editor of the Daily Express newspaper in London and most recently edited The Times of Malta.
Posted on | November 10, 2013 | No Comments
Some crime news and links from around the web:
Missing in America – There are over 87,000 adults and children listed as missing in the United States and most of these cases receive no media coverage. Read more. (HuffPost Live, November 9, 2013)
Karen Williams cold case - In Australia, South Australian detectives have mad an arrest in the 23-year-old mystery of 16-year-old Karen Michelle Williams’s disappearance and presumed murder. On November u, 2013, police charged 42-year-old Nikola Novakovich with murder. He was the last person to see Karen alive and had been interviewed numerous times over the years. Police are currently searching for Karen’s remains in Coober Pedy, where she was last seen. Read more. (News.com.au, November 8, 2012)
Siberian serial killer Mikhail Popkov - A former policeman known as a ‘perfect husband and father’ led a secret life as serial killer who murdered at least two dozen women in Siberia. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 7, 2013)
Hunt for French Riviera Serial Killer - A hunt for a serial killer is underway after the skeletal remains of four people, including a skull with ‘Death to paedophiles’ written across it, were found off the French coast. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 8, 2013)
Young detective turns mass killer - English writer and journalist David Thomas writes the true story of a talented German detective who catches a serial killer in Wartime Berlin, but then goes on to become a Nazi war criminal. The book is called Ostland. Read more. (chichester.co.uk, November 8, 2013)
Posted on | October 24, 2013 | No Comments
On Father’s Day is a devastating and powerful book by Megan Norris that tells the definitive story of one of the worst Australian crimes of recent years.
In 2005, Victorian father Robert Farquharson’s car – with his three little boys in it – veered into an icy dam. The children, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, all died and the traumatic impact of the tragedy made headlines around Australia. The children’s mother Cindy Gambino (pictured below with the author) was left completely broken by the crime and, at first, believed her ex-husband that it was a tragic accident.
But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood, example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage.
Norris, who worked for many years with Cindy Gambino to tell this story, has written the story with such detail and narrative power that the reader is compelled to continue reading, even though the content is so tragic. There are also the stories of other women whose children have been murdered by their fathers in revenge killings intended to punish them forever.
On Father’s Day is published by The Five Mile Press and available from all good bookstores.
Posted on | October 6, 2013 | No Comments
Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West is a journey into the modern wild west of America. Author Dan Schultz has written the definitive account of an extraordinary crime and three survivalists fugitives who would not be out of place as outlaws in American frontier times during the 1800s.
I found this book compelling. It’s exhaustively researched and that’s why it took me a while to read. I didn’t want to miss any detail. The backdrop of America’s “west” is fascinating and Schultz’s detailed writing provides social and geographical history as well as the story of the crime – the killing of a policeman in small town Colorado by three “desperados” Jason McVean, Robert Mason and Alan “Monte” Pilon, which resulted in a manhunt across 10,000 square miles of American wilderness.
The story did not end with the murder of Officer Dale Claxton – the mystery of what happened to his killers spanned a decade and I loved the detail about the workings of the various sheriffs offices and state and federal police and army units. The turf wars and failings of government agencies really add to this tale. The fugitives, all interested in survivalist pursuits, evaded even the most up-to-date technology and investigation techniques. The manhunt made international headlines.
This is one of my top true crime reads of 2013.
Dead Run is published by St Martin’s Press.
Posted on | October 1, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A. R. Muir
August 1934, a body was found in a culvert off a country road in Albury, a town on the border of NSW and Victoria. The body was that of a once voluptuous young woman. It was badly burnt and wrapped in a sackcloth. But the attempt at concealment had been unsuccessful, and the woman’s striking features were not erased by the fire. What followed was one of the largest murder investigation in New South Wales to date. The police and an avid media followed every available lead to identify their once beautiful victim. Yet surprisingly they were unable to match her to any missing women.
To aid in identification the NSW coroner took the unprecedented step of preserving the body entirely in a bath of formalin. Thus the mysterious Pyjama Girl (so named because of the oriental-style pyjama’s she wore) lay in state for the next ten years waiting for identification. Remarkably the case was re-opened in 1944 when new evidence and suspicions came to light. The Pyjama Girl’s body was so well preserved in the formalin that, after a liberal application of makeup, she was finally identified by those who once knew her as Linda Agostini. An Italian immigrant and hairdresser, Linda had been living with her husband in Sydney when she went missing in 1934. With these new revelations the police were able to track down her killer and pursue justice. Richard Evans’ book is excellently written, very much from the perspective of contemporary police investigators and the massive media response. The reader is invited to share the unfolding tale of mystery as police undertake a quest to put a name to the Pyjama Girl. It makes for addictive reading. Another advantage of the book is the astounding photographs of the preserved body (tastefully done but somewhat macabre). It would have helped to have some more explanations to go with the pictures to explain their context, or at least references in the text. However a quick search of the internet can quickly uncover extra detail and photographs.
This is a captivating read that is very hard to put down. 4 out of 5
Posted on | September 28, 2013 | No Comments
There’s much written about gangland activity in Melbourne and Sydney. Those with an appetite for reading about more crime from Australia’s other states are in for a good blast of it with Gangland North South & West.
Written by crime duo James Morton and Susanna Lobez, this book features fascinating tales of crime in “the wild west” of Western Australia and the “Top End” of the country. There’s also plenty of illegal goings-on in South Australia (a breeding ground for strange and shocking crimes). There’s contract killing, prostitution, robbery, illegal gambling and the stand-over game.
There are also the tales of the seeming exotic trade in pearls diamonds and gold, which are particularly appealing. One of my favourite chapters is ”Treasures of Diamonds and Gold” that features the story of about the Mickelberg brothers and the 1982 Perth Mint robbery. The brothers were framed for the crime and their convictions were finally overturned in 2004. There’s also a chapter on bikie activity and the organised motor cycle gangs that have ben active in Australia since the 1970s.
If you are like me and love a good crime case file book to get stick into then Gangland North South & West is a great addition to your reading pile.
Morton and Lobez have written several books together including Kings of Sting and Dangerous to Know.
Posted on | September 7, 2013 | 1 Comment
True crime writer Justice Ford has done a great job with this book – One Piece of the Puzzle, which is about “Australia’s most chilling homicide investigations”.
Ford has had access to homicide investigators around Australia for her well-researched book. I loved that she featured some cases that were little known, and the book gives an important voice for the families of the homicide victims.
There’s the still unsolved double murder of two women in Cowra in 1987. Friends Catherine Holmes and Georgina Watmore were axed to death in Ms Holmes’s house after a party. Ford poses the possibility that the killer could be a woman.
Then there’s the baffling double murder of teen hitchhikers Fiona Burns and John Lee whose decomposing bodies were found at a truck stop near the South Australia/Victoria border. Were they the victims of a thrill kill?
Crimes against the very young and the elderly are always particularly horrifying because of their vulnerabilities and Ford also looks at the unrelated murders of two older people in New South Wales. The cases are unsolved but investigators hope that someone will provide them with vital evidence to bring two killers to justice.
Ford has done a great job of fearing a wide selection of cases that will intrigue readers. maybe they have “one piece of the puzzle” to help solve some of the crimes?
Last year The Five Mile Press released Ford’s equally excellent book Missing You about some of Australia’s most baffling unsolved missing persons cases. One Piece of the Puzzle is another winner from Ford.
One Piece of the Puzzle is published by The Five Mile Press
For more information on Justine Ford go to justineford.net
Posted on | August 28, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A.R Muir
“Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer” is the English translation of Hannes Rastam’s Swedish true crime book “Fallen Thomas Quick [The Case of Thomas Quick]“. It chronicles the author’s own investigation of an 8-time convicted serial killer called Thomas Quick. In 1992 while spending time for armed robbery in a mental asylum, Quick announced to his doctors that he wanted to confess to the sexually motivated killing of an eleven-year-old boy. Then he admitted the killing of another teenage boy, then an Israeli tourist, and a Dutch couple vacationing in Sweden.
But his litany of horror did not stop there. Under the careful guidance of his therapists and the police, Quick continued to remember having committed more than thirty rape-murders in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Eight of these murders were successfully brought to trial and Quick was sentenced to life in psychiatric confinement. He was thought to be Sweden’s most prolific serial killer.
There was only one problem as far as the journalist Hannes Rastam was concerned: Quick’s involvement in a number of these crimes seemed highly doubtful, even impossible. Throughout his exhaustive investigation, Rastam came to believe Quick has been wrongly convicted of ALL eight crimes. Rastam formed the opinion that Quick had in fact killed NOBODY, and his sentence was the largest miscarriage of justice in Swedish history. His book is a systematic and critical analyses of what went wrong in Quick’s psychiatric care and criminal trial. It contributed in a major part to every single conviction being overturned by the Swedish judicial system in 2012.
As a true crime book, Rastam’s work is above its game. But as a moral warning to the justice system (not just in Sweden) it is a standout triumph. Readers may be reminded of the recent release of the West Memphis Three, an American case that made headlines around the world for the deep questions raised about the justice system. There are a growing number of books on cases of injustice, and false confession, but Rastam’s book shoots straight to the top, and cannot be recommended highly enough.
This is one of the best true crime books of the year, and not to be missed. If readers can get passed the difficult Scandinavian spellings, it is well worth the effort. It goes without saying that readers are likely to find themselves more and more disgusted and outraged at the exploitation of this mentally disturbed patient, and the gleeful spree of opportunism exhibited by therapists, doctors and the police, not to mention Quick’s defence lawyer.
More true crime reviews by A.R. Muir can be read here at shelfari.com
Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer By: Hannes Rastam, Henning Koch (translator) and Elizabeth Day (introduction). Published in Sweden 2012 (English 2013)
Posted on | August 4, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A. R. Muir
‘Horrific’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘depraved’ can only begin to describe the crimes perpetrated by the subject of Things a Killer Would Know by Paula Doneman.
The murders committed by Leonard John Fraser in the Queensland town of Rockhampton are as bad as they come. As a criminal he ticks just about every box of perversion from necrophilia to bestiality, not to mention vicious rape, torture and remorseless murder. Fraser’s crimes started from when he was a boy, sent to a reform school for theft and threatening behaviour. As an adult, he spent much of his life in prison on various terms for rape and armed robbery. Yet he was granted early release and free to rape and murder at least four vulnerable or mentally challenged victims. One of these was eleven year old schoolgirl, Keyra Steinhardt. Her rape, abduction and murder being all the more tragic as it was witnessed by a couple who failed to immediately alert police.
Fraser’s crimes were committed using his fists, knives and strangulation with clothing. He further sought to hide his victims via burial, even going so far as to remove one victim’s head and bury it separately to hinder identification. He was tried and convicted in 1999 of four murders, although there is strong speculation that he may have killed more women in Queensland and New South Wales.
The book is very well narrated and well paced. The author takes time to reveal new details as the trial progresses so that the reader is induced to keep reading on for the final conclusions. As each crime evolves, it brings a new twist of revulsion and disgust. The only drawback is that there is quite a lot of repetition and retelling of each murder. It is as if the author needs to continually remind readers of what Fraser has done, even though the true horror of his crimes are quickly established during the first half of the book. Never the less, it is an extremely well put together true crime narrative which deals with a despicable predator and his crimes. It leaves the reader only too grateful that justice was achieved, and a serial killer was finally taken off the street.
Highly recommended, although some may find the details of these crimes distressing.
More true crime reviews by A.R. Muir can be read here at shelfari.com
Posted on | July 20, 2013 | 1 Comment
I’ve always been fascinated by relationships that happen between prisoners and people on “the outside”. In particular women who form relationships with men behind bars already. I mean, it’s like the ultimate way to have a relationship without lots of the drudgery that goes with long-term relationships. Or, how do women (or men) stay committed when their spouse goes inside?
Victoria Heywood has written a really interesting account of “love behind bars”. I found myself intrigued by the stories of some of the famous cases that have been in the news and especially the other ones of your average citizens caught up in really strange and horrifying situations.
The chapter I found really fascinating was the story of Perth woman Caitlyn John who has two children – one with a severe learning disability – and a boyfriend on death row in America. Caitlyn has been writing to death row inmates for over a decade and is active on Internet blogs and forums dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. Her boyfriend Tim was on death row for the murder of a guard during an armed robbery. He is now in jail for life but Caitlyn is trying to prove his innocence. What was telling was Caitlyn telling Heywood that Timothy was “the perfect lover”. “She has her own life and is free to do what she wants…all the while knowing there is a man out there who adores her and constantly dreams of the day they will be together…”
Love Behind Bars is published by The Five Mile Press.
Posted on | July 7, 2013 | No Comments
There was a BBC article this week that shocked me.
There are currently around 1000 unidentified bodies on police files. Some of these bodies date back 50 years.
This is so sad and baffling. How is it that people can go missing and NO ONE tries to find out what happened? I understand that many of these bodies will be people from Europe or other countries but still, how does this happen?
The website UK Missing Persons Bureau gives details of these bodies but despite it being “live” for seven months, there have been no new leads on any of the cases.
Posted on | June 22, 2013 | No Comments
In 1940, the disappearance of a 20-year-old Sydney doctor’s daughter captured the headlines of newspapers around Australia.
Lucy Brown Craig, a happy, reliable and popular young woman, was last seen on Friday evening, April 11 getting off a tram at King’s Cross and walking towards Darlinghurst Rd. She had left her workplace in Macquarie St in the CBD and was assumed to have been meeting someone. The last person to see her an hour later (described in the newspaper as “…the son of one of Svdnev’s best known professional men and who knew Miss Brown Craig well..”) said she was “…with an athletic-looking man of about 22 with a small toothbrush moustache and dressed in a grev suit”.
Miss Brown Craig, who was often referred to in newspapers as a “society girl” was never seen again. Police appeals for this man “in a grey suit” to come forward were unsuccessful. Dr Brown Craig personally offered a reward of 200 pounds (he offered this reward several times over the years) for any information on the whereabouts of his daughter.
A Sydney woman, Ruby Gladys Evelyn, 27, appeared in court on April 27 after she rang Dr Brown Craig and demanded 1000 pounds for the return of his daughter. Evelyn knew nothing of Miss Brown Craig and was trying to menace money from the family.
Her family said it would be out of character for their daughter to disappear to “start a new life” and her father strongly refuted claims she had eloped. Newspapers reported that ”…the whole of her wardrobe, except the light clothes she was wearing, is intact and it is believed that she had only a few shillings in her handbag…”.
There were several alleged sightings of miss Brown Craig, including from a man who said he was certain he saw her, a week after she disappeared, in a car in Northern New South Wales at a petrol station. The witness said the girl “strikingly resembled Miss Brown Craig” and was with a man, around 35, with a thick toothbrush moustache. Another man rang police with a top that he had seen her hiking with a man, aged around 40, at Orbost, Victoria. Cruelly, one called rang police to say that the young woman was dead
The family and police were convinced Miss Brown Craig had met with foul play.
A photo of her was shown at cinemas before movie screenings in the hope it would jog someone’s memory and police around Australia conducted inquiries into the disappearance.
But there was never any solid leads on what happened to Miss Brown Craig.
In 1943, a handkerchief with her name embossed on it was found it a toilet block in Toronto, NSW. For a brief time this renewed hope for the family that their daughter wa sstill alive. However, the mystery was cleared up when it was discovered that Miss Brown Craig’s clothing had been givrn to a woman who had worked for the doctor. This employee had given the clothes to her daughter, who told investigators that she lost the handkerchief. (It seems strange to me that someone would use a handkerchief, let alone clothes from a missing woman, but then it was a different time).
In 1945 it was reported that her disappearance was still unsolved. The last report I could find on the case was in 1953 when she was mentioned as part of an article on a missing Perth man.
In her day, Lucy Brown Craig’s disappearance was probably the highest-profile missing persons case in the country.
If anyone know any more about this case please email email@example.com
Posted on | June 2, 2013 | No Comments
This is another great true crime offering from The Atavist. I am a big fan of The Atavist – non fiction stories by journalists that are longer than typical magazine articles but shorter than books. There’s fascinating “inline content” – audio the author, pictures, timelines, video. It’s the story behind the story and I was so impressed with the experience.
The Honeymoon Murder was a high-profile case and this longform article by Joshua Hammer gives a lot of fascinating detail. Anni Dewani was a Swedish-born Hindu from a wealthy family who married a handsome and extremely wealthy UK-born Shrien Dewani. They had a whirlwind romance that was the stuff of dreams. A Paris proposal, private jet flights and a lavish wedding, the couple were beautiful and seemingly untouchable. On their honeymoon in South Africa Anni and Shrien were kidnapped while on a backroads tour of slums in Cape Town. Anni was found with a single bullet wound to the neck and Shrien was released unharmed.
Playing the grieving husband, Shrien was devastated by his beautiful new wife’s murder but suspicion soon set in and he was the main suspect. It was alleged that Shrien masterminded the murder and to date, three South African men have been jailed for their part in Anni’s death.
Hammer gives a great detailed account of events in this dramatic case. I don’t want to ruin any of the story for readers, even if they know some of the details. Hammer’s account is really authoritative spanning South Africa to England, where Shrien lives.
Wanted in South Africa, extradition proceedings to get Shrien to face charges of murder will resume in July, 2013. The proceedings have been delayed due to Shrien’s alleged poor mental health.
To purchase The Honeymoon Murder for $2.99 go to The Atatvist.
Posted on | May 18, 2013 | No Comments
Author Charles Rickell specialises in the criminal history of Yorkshire and this ebook (also available in traditional format) details almost 200 deaths (murders and suspicious killings) that have occurred in the region. Yorkshire encompasses English cities Bradford, Leeds, Hull,Ripon,Sheffield and York and hundreds of quaint villages. (The map on the book cover is the traditional one that shows the three “ridings”. The area underwent a major local government rezoning in the 1970s.) I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For true crime readers it’s a perfect book to have on your tablet or phone. I’m addicted to looking at historical newspaper collections online so I’m tempted to learn more about the crimes that are detailed here. The murders detailed date from the 1800s to the present day.
One of the crimes that stuck in my mind was on November 8, 1965 when Rotherham biology master Alexander Mills Buttery, 46 murdered his wife and two children aged 10 and six and then killed himself with an overdose of barbiturates.
When you research and write about true crime you discover that there are so many family violence murders. The biggest threat to people comes from those closet to them in so many cases.
My husband spent his formative years in Yorkshire so i am very interested in the area. Rickell’s book is a real testament to his expertise on crime in Yorkshire.
Rickell has also written a book called Yorkshire’s Multiple Killers.
You can read more about Rickell’s work at his homepage charlesrickell.weebly.com.
A Calendar of Yorkshire Killings and Suspicious Deaths is available from smashwords.
Posted on | April 27, 2013 | No Comments
Reviewed by Rachel EC
House of Horrors by Robert Sberna is the story of Anthony Sowell ( aka. “The Cleveland Strangler”) who was convicted of 11 murders after a SWAT team investigating a rape found 11 corpses belonging to missing women in his home. This book had me absolutely hooked from the first page. It’s written in a classic true crime format and it’s quite a gruesome read.
Robert Sberna paints an incredibly powerful picture of the area in Cleveland where Sowell lived and killed his victims – a ghetto town infested with poverty and a serious crack cocaine problem. Sowell, an ex-marine slowly became a heavy user of crack cocaine and after a number of failed relationships turned into a real life monster.
Sowell had spent time in prison for rape previously, and it’s difficult to comprehend that how easily got away with further rapes and the murder of 11 women over two years as police failed to follow-up statements from families about missing women and women who were victims of horrific sexual assaults by Sowell.
Sowell charmed his victims. He was well liked by neighbours and locals. He was able to talk his victims (mostly wandering or homeless addicts) easily into his home with promises of food, companionship and most of all drugs. His victims were all crack cocaine users with numerous children they had left behind. The low risk category of his victims enabled him to continue to kill women even while there were many signs that he was, at the very least, assaulting women in his home.
The story sometimes seems a little repetitive at times but the 11 women whose bodies were found at Sowells were all very similar in appearance, circumstance and unsavory habits. Repeated sad stories of broken families, neglected children and desperate women in and out of prison and rehab so much that their missing status was often ignored.
It’s definitely not a story for the feint-hearted. The descriptions of the crime scenes and the rapes and assaults are graphic and the story told of the Cleveland area is bleak. A truly eerie true crime read about a serial killer and his victims that never made their way into the media much at all.
House of Horrors is published by Kent State University Press. More information at the author’s website.
Posted on | April 19, 2013 | No Comments
Playing Dead is a case compilation book of fake suicide tales.
Sourced from all over the world, Aussie author Wendy Lewis presents these fascinating stories of people who have pretended to be dead.
I mean, it’s the most extreme way to opt out of life as you know it, besides the actual act of taking your own life.
The stories Lewis has chosen range from fake suicides for financial gain, murderers on the run, people facing financial ruin who need to get out of town…
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a book that you can dip in and out of, which is perfect for me as I have little kids and don’t get as much time as I used to to read. The beauty of case compilation books is that you can snatch 10 minutes at a time to read a chapter.
Some of the cases are:
- Patrick McDermott who was Olivia Newton John’s boyfriend of almost a decade who failed to return from a Californian fishing trip.
- Stephen and Nelle Kelleway, psychologists who escaped fraud charges in England by escaping to Russia.
- British MP John Stonehouse who was once touted as a future prime minister. Stonehouse “drowned” at a Miami and was arrested in St Kilda, Melbourne. Dodgy business dealings were the cause of his fake suicide.
Playing Dead is published by The Five Mile Press
Posted on | April 7, 2013 | No Comments
review by Rachel EC
James A. Ardaiz was a young district attorney in Fresno County at the time of the crimes of Clarence Ray Allen and his violent gang. It is a detailed story of a string of interconnected crimes that started in 1974 and documented the police work and court cases and up until the state’s retribution chapter in 2006. As the case went on and Ardaiz’s career progressed he continued to grieve for the victims both deceased and left behind by the murders committed by Allen and his crew.
I found the background story of the crimes that occurred dull in comparison to other current crimes but continued on and finished the book feeling satisfied that it told a story worth reading. The descriptive scenery of Fresno County in the early 80s and the historical timing of the story often made it feel fictional but was turned around by the strong use of police and forensic descriptions.
Ardaiz’s writing about police work and interview tactics was in depth and he often compared police tactics to well known TV fallacies. He also ensured that the reader understood the positions and personalities of all the different law enforcement staff. I found the police content of the book fascinating and an interesting part of the way that the story was told. The dates of the crimes meant that very little ‘CSI’ technology was used and the story is based almost solely on classic police techniques. I found the overuse of law enforcement nicknames of detectives confusing at times but the second half of the book was interesting enough to keep me reading.
The final chapter ‘The time of retribution’ surprised me. It was really interesting and thought provoking and it put a different perspective on the death penalty for me. In my opinion well worth reading the book just to read the last few chapters of Ardaiz attending the execution of someone he had prosecuted was unexpected and had me thinking about the book long after I had finished it.
Hands Through Stone is published by QuillDriverBooks.com and can be ordered here.
Murder in Texas: Love, Sex and Betrayal. The Shelia Dillard-Jennifer Lewis Story…and the $300 Hitman!
Posted on | March 24, 2013 | 2 Comments
Murder in Texas: Love, Sex and Betrayal. The Shelia Dillard-Jennifer Lewis Story….And the $300 Hitman!
By Clarence Walker
Tuesday evening, March 23rd, 1993, 27-year-old Jennifer Lewis and Cheryl Allen, both nursing students headed to class at Houston Community College of Health Career Professionals, a highly respected medical training center in Houston Texas. This academic facility was located in the 3100 block of Shenandoh street, an area of Third Ward near North Macgregor and interstate freeway 288. Cheryl later graduated.
But Jennifer Lewis never achieved the academic goal she anxiously desired because a lone gunman shot her down in cold blood in that evening as witnesses watched. On this dreadul evening 20-years ago Cheryl parked her vehicle in the school’s parking lot then joined Jennifer as they leisurely strolled towards the entrance building. Other students mingled on the campus awaiting for a chauffered rides to their destination.
As Cheryl and Jennifer crossed the street towards the entrance a female student identified as Jessica Anderson later recalled a frightening episode while waiting for a relative to pick her up.
“I got out of school around 5:10 p.m.- I noticed two ladies walking out of the parking lot into the street when this black guy came up behind them. Then I heard a shot!”
“I saw the smoke from the gun and the ladies began running and the man ran eastbound with a big black gun in his “right” hand.”
The gunshot stunned everyone into panic. So when the victim collapsed on the ground, her friend Cheryl screamed, “Jennifer, Jennifer!” “Call an ambulance, she hollered, my friend been shot!” Students and curious onlookers rushed to the wounded woman.
Gasping for breath, the precious life of Jennifer Lewis hung in the balance. The scene was chaotic, pierced with the sound of wailing sirens from Houston Police patrol cars and emergency medical vehicles.
Medical personnel quickly loaded the victim into an ambulance. At high speed with its siren blaring and overhead lights blinking the ambulance raced down 288 freeway towards Ben Taub hospital.
Ben Taub hospital is an elite historic hospital renowned for its superior trauma center. HPD patrol cars flooded the area, blocking off mainline intersections that allowed officers to check out “Red cars” fitting the description.Doctors worked feverishly to save Jennifer but she died from a gunshot wound that entered her back and exited her chest area. Jennifer’s death was a sad day for relatives and friends who showed up at the hospital in droves.
“Lord my child is gone,” one of her parents sobbed. Back at the scene a full-scale homicide investigation got underway. Houston Police Sergeant-Homicide Detective Reuben Anderson and John Burmester conducted the preliminary canvass.
A TV news crew showed up and aired a live report. For its late evening news. HPD officer C.A. Payne monitored the scene to preserve physical evidence.(Crime Scene Unit) officer J.L. Kay arrived at 1800 hours to to work his expertise. First, Kay photographed and videod the scene where the victim collapsed in the street. Kay circled the perimeter numerous times searching for shell casings but none were found. A Nokia cell phone, an earring, and a plastic lunch container were retrieved as evidence. These items belonged to the victim.
Witnesses were shocked into fear that a brazen criminal would shoot a woman on school campus in broad daylight.
Detective Anderson and Burmester interviewed witnesses who saw the shooting. “Tell me the best you remember what you saw and how the shooter looked,” Anderson asked a young lady.
“The man I saw do the shooting was a black man, early 20′s, 5″9, very thin, dark complexion, wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, black jeans and tennis shoes.”
Witnesses description of the wanted killer varied. Yet they all agreed that the suspect was a young black man with a thin build and wearing a cap. Two other witnesses told detectives they saw the suspect jump into a Red compact-type car and that another person was driving. One witness remembered the car as a 1991 or 1992 Red Pontiac Sundance with no license tags. Detective Anderson met with the deceased parents and siblings including a current boyfriend identified as Melvin Leon Reed. Reed was employed as a U.S. Postal worker and served as associated pastor at a prominent baptist church in Southeast Houston. Happily engaged to marry, Reed and Jennifer attended church together. They were deeply in love.Anderson offered condolences to the grieving relatives but as a homicide detective he had to cast emotions aside to hunt down a killer.
Anderson discovered from relatives that Jennifer Lewis had no enemies, that she didn’t engage in malicious habits and attended church frequently. Also she worked in the medical field and took nursing courses to advance her profession. How could their child’s life be tragically taken so soon from their life, the victim’s parents wondered. No one who knew Jennifer well could figure why someone wanted her dead. She was a pretty, friendly, classy, young Christian woman, in love with an aspiring pastor.
Cheryl Allen was a bright young lady who adored Jennifer Lewis. They often rode to nursing college in Chery’s vehicle. She gave Anderson a lengthy statement of the tragic events. “This afternoon I called Jennifer from work and she asked if I would take her boyfriend Melvin home before we went to school.” “After I got off work at V.A. Hospital at 4:30 P.M.—I drove over to Jennifer’s house on Daphne street and picked her and Melvin at 4:45; then I dropped Melvin off home near the Astrodome.
“After dropping off Melvin, me and Jennifer continued to school.” As they walked towards the front entrance to enter the building, Cheryl told detectives she thought she heard a car backfire. “When I told Jennifer this,” she said, ‘I been shot.’ ”
“I saw a wound in Jennifer’s chest near her sternum. And while examining the wound I looked out the corner of my eye and saw a man running eastbound.” “We began running but Jennifer collapsed. Chery described the shooter as having a medium afro, between 17 and 45, wearing a dirty blue t-shirt and blue jeans. I didn’t get a good look at his face.”
Sergeant Anderson along with Detective Clarence “C B” Douglas exhaustively worked the case, over the course of days that turned into months, then over into the next year of 1994. They chased down leads no matter how insignificant leaving no stones unturned. Anderson and Douglas had worked well together after Roy Ferguson, Anderson’s former long-time partner transferred to recruiting division.
A lifelong resident of Houston’s Sunnyside, Reuben Anderson, upon returning from Vietnam, joined Houston Police Department as a rookie patrolman in 1970. Less than a year on patrol the young energetic Anderson transferred to narcotic division where he worked alongside legendary narcotic officer E.J. Stringfellow including Billy Williams, Bennie Alcorn, Joe Landrum, Robert Brady, Roy Furguson, including other notable officers dedicated to sending dope dealers to prison who made a living off human misery by distributing deadly drugs throughout Houston area.
Detective Clarence Douglas also served in the Vietnam War. He left the military in 1971 and joined Philadephia Police Department in 1972. Leaving Philly P.D. Douglas joined Houston Police Department in 1982. He transferred to homicide in 1992 from the Hiram Clark Station. Musically gifted, Douglas played guitar for the popular 1970′s Philadephia singing group, “The Stylistics”. Douglas also has a son who is a highly regarded movie producer and screenwriter. The thrill of police work was like no other adrenalin rush. Unlike Douglas, Anderson exuded a tough veneer, the perfect image of a hard-nose cop who impressed upon suspects it was best to get their business straight. Douglas came across as a more caring, understanding kind of guy. But he was no pushover. He knew how to get tough.
Douglas wanted a feel for the scene so both officers returned to Shenandoah street where the crime took place. “How could a woman be shot to death with people packed around the campus during daylight?” Douglas surmised to Anderson. “Whoever did it wanted her dead because the person could have shot the girl that Jennifer was walking with,” Anderson theorized. “But the shooter only shot Jennifer.” “No doubt Jennifer was the target,” Douglas agreed. Autopsy report confirmed obvious results: Jennifer Lewis died as result of a gunshot wound, the entry wound possibly made with a .38 caliber type.
Who Murdered Jennifer Lewis?
Melvin Leon Reed recalled to detectives how Shelia Dillard, an ex-girlfriend, excessively stalked him, burglarizing his apartment and stole his .380 pistol. Further Reed explained, that Shelia, in a fit of rage, stole a beautiful photo of Jennifer that sat on a stereo in Reed’s house. “Shelia wanted us to get back together after I got with Jennifer but I didn’t want too. I loved Jennifer and wanted to make a life with her.” Reed further said he had a son by Shelia named “Little Melvin” and that he often had contact with Shelia through his son.
“After Shelia met Jennifer at my place she called me repeatedly wanting us to get back together. But I wasn’t interested.” Reed’s statement confirmed the sequence of events initially provided by relatives and witnesses who came in contact with Jennifer that tragic day on March 23rd.
Reed said he left work around 11:30 a.m.–and had a friend to drop him off at Jennifer’s house off Scott street. He stayed there with Jennifer reading the bible until Cheryl Allen arrived to pick Jennifer up so they could go to nursing school.On three occasions an unknown person called the Lewis home while Reed was there. Two of the calls came from a man asking for Jennifer and when her parent asked her to come to the phone the caller abruptly hung up. “When I answered one call, the voice made a grunt sound and hung up,” Reed said.
Once Melvin was dropped off he kissed Jennifer goodbye and handed her his cell phone. Later that evening a relative of Jennifer called Melvin by phone informing him of Jennifer getting shot walking to class and that she had died.”Do you think she had anything to do with it?” Anderson asked the man. “I don’t know for sure but she may have.” Reed divulged how Shelia once followed him and Jennifer into a Chinese Restaurant. In Gulfgate Mall. “Then she stole my .380 automatic pistol twice!” Reed got the gun back but not before Shelia pulled a strange stunt. “During one conversation I had with Shelia on the phone I could hear her hitting the phone with an object and she said, “I’m going to kill myself.’ ”
“Then I heard a shot!” “I started calling her name but she didn’t say anything for five minutes until finally she came back on the phone and resumed talking. I went and picked my gun up.” “I really wouldn’t talk to her afterwards. I kept telling Shelia that she was crazy.”
Shelia Dillard was love-smitten and by any means necessary she desperately wanted Melvin Reed back into her life. She called Melvin’s phone so repeatedly until he decided to cool her off by answering.
“What is it that you really want?” Reed said he asked Shelia. . “I want that bitch dead,” Reed recalled her saying. “She started laughing and said,” ‘I didn’t mean it because if Jennifer comes up dead everyone will be looking at me.”
Douglas and Anderson felt Shelia’s words as a future threat.
“What Shelia said when you told her that Jennifer was dead?” Douglas asked in his northern Philly accent. “She said, ‘Oh no.’ “I swear on my brother’s grave, Shelia insisted I didn’t have anything to do with Jennifer’s death.
Reed promised detectives he would contact them if he found out who killed Jennifer.
“I think Shelia is involved somewhere with Jennifer’s death,” Douglas commented to Anderson. “It appear she may know something; she stalked Melvin and Jennifer, and she threaten to commit suicide and even said she wanted the bitch dead,” Anderson responded. “Let’s bring her butt in for questioning and a polygraph,” Anderson suggested
Shelia Dillard Interview
Detectives explained to Shelia that she was a suspect based on certain things she said about Jennifer to her ex-lover Melvin Reed. Shelia denied killing and denied having someone to kill Jennifer.
She admitted to being in love with Reed and that she was badly hurt when she discovered him dating Jennifer. She recalled Police arresting Reed
in her car for traffic warrants and that Jennifer had took the car to Reed’s roomate. Reed later apologized to Shelia for having Jennifer in her car but added that Jennifer had needed
a ride home from church. “On the day Jennifer got killed I was home doing my mother’s and girlfriend hair. And on that day I did not have a car.”
Shelia further admitted to detectives that she had stole Reed’s gun to make him come to her home to get it.
“The reason I took Jennifer’s picture from Melvin’s house and ripped it up because he had had her in my car.”
“After Jennifer got killed, and nine days later, Shelia continued. “Melvin Reed called me over to his house and we made love. We have been seeing each other once or twice during the week after that.
“The last time we made love Melvin wanted us to get in the pool but we didn’t. But I still spent the night.” A polygraph examiner had Shelia to take a lie detector test focused on specific questions: if she murdered Jennifer Lewis or had anyone to do it. “She passed the test,” the examiner told detectives. Anderson, speaking in a tough-tone voice forewarned the female suspect: “If we find out you had something to do with Jennifer’s death you’ll be going to the pen for the rest of your life.”
“I didn’t her,” Mr. Anderson. Detectives tried another tactic to find the Red car seen by witnesses leaving the scene.
Shelia Dillard Spotted in a Red Car
On April 14th homicide detectives contacted Sergeant Tyson in the Major Offenders Division. They explained to Tyson that it was important to find out if Shelia Dillard had connections with anyone driving a Red Pontiac car similar to the one that witnesses saw leaving the murder location in Third Ward. Major Offender officers surveyed the suspect’s apartment located at 7700 West Airport #215.
Surveillance units observed several people walking inside and outside of the targeted apartment until finally they spotted a Red 1990 Pontiac Sunbird registered to an address at 503 Fawnwood street.
Officers saw Shelia in the Red Pontiac with a black male! Shelia exited the vehicle and walked inside the apartment. Officers kept close watch as the man in the Red Pontiac drove three females to a nearby shopping center where they met with another black male in a Red Chevrolet Beretta.
After the Red Pontiac driver dropped the women off, officers followed him to 6600 Dumfries street. Detectives were advised of the new developments involving the Red car that Shelia had been riding in. Anderson and Douglas went to the registered address on Fawnwood to speak with the car owner. They discovered from a neighbor that the family had moved to Missouri City. And that the woman’s son who had lived there did drive a Red car.
Additional investigation showed the car belonged to Broderick Franklin who resembled the wanted suspect. Franklin was tall, well-built, and often wore a cap.
Franklin agreed to take a polygraph to clear himself.
When shown a photo of Shelia Dillard the young man denied knowing her. “She was in your car when you brought her home over on West Airport,” Douglas informed Franklin. “And you dropped off three other women at a shopping center.”
Franklin jogged his memory and responded. “I remember picking up the three girls but I don’t remember picking up Shelia.” He then explained not having the Red car anymore. It burned up in a fire,according to Franklin on May 8th 1993.
A subsequent polygraph test showed Broderick Franklin told the truth on the following questions:
(1) “Was you at Houston Community College on the day of the shooting of Jennifer Lewis?”
(2) “Do you know who shot the woman and have you ever let someone use your Red Sunbird without you being in it?”
(3) “Do you know Shelia Dillard?”
Detectives were back to square one. As big city homicide detectives other murders had to be solved that they worked on. Still they refused to give up. In between working other cases Anderson and Douglas read the offense report searching for any clues they may have missed. Jennifer’s killer would not go unpunished.
A Call From Harris County Jail
On April 5th 1994, Deputy Price from Harris County jail contacted detectives about an inmate with important information about Jennifer Lewis death. Deputy Price briefed detectives of the interesting details that the inmate had privately told him. Detectives rushed to county jail on Franklin street where they met inmate Patrick Rynell Curry. Curry admitted that his girlfriend Lisa Randall, a close friend of Shelia Dillard had told him that Shelia hired a dope fiend to kill the girl walking to class. “On the day I found out about the murder I heard Shelia tell Lisa, “I got her.” “And Lisa said, do you know what you’ve done?”
Curry said he suspected Shelia was talking about the lady who had been dating Melvin Reed, Shelia’s former boyfriend.
“The next day I saw Melvin on TV talking about his girlfriend who was shot in the back as she walked to class with another girl.” Curry also remembered Shelia telling him and his girlfriend that she passed a polygraph test at the police department by sipping beer and taking a Xanax pill to calm her nerves. This witness swore he was telling the truth.
Leaving county jail the detectives were excited; the adrenalin in their veins pumping faster than a Texas oil well. From beginning both lawmen suspected the hit on Jennifer was connected with Shelia; proving it had not been easy. Detectives sprung into action to find other witnesses with first-hand knowledge about Shelia Dillard’s brutal deed.
Sergeant Tom Ladd partnered with Burmester to assist Douglas and Anderson to bring the case to a final solution. Ladd interviewed a female witness on April 6th at Saint James Rehab Center in Houston. Samari Michelle Dobbins, a close friend of Shelia Dillard, shared her own secret about murder. Samari said Shelia broke down crying implicating herself in the homicide.
“Me and Gary Chopp followed Jennifer to school,” Samar recalled Shelia’s words. “And we parked near a track.” When Shelia saw Jennifer, Samari stated, Shelia said to her that she ordered Chopp, “to go get that bitch, go get her.”
After Chopp killed the defenseless victim, Shelia told Samari the hitman ran back to her car and they drove off. Samari further recalled being at Shelia’s apartment on West Airport watching TV news when a report came on about the murder. “Shelia turned to Chopp, and shouted, ‘get rid of that hat.’ ” Embarrassed, Chopp threw the hat into a dumpster outside the apartment.
Meanwhile Shelia, Samari remembered, “paced the floor back and forth, waiting for her brother Darrell Dillard to return with her car. Samari explained to Ladd that Shelia had swapped off her beige-colored Ford to drive a Red Pontiac car that she used in the crime, a car owned by Darrell’s girlfriend named Gail.
“That night, Samari further told Ladd, the 10 P.M. news came on showing a photo of Jennifer Lewis. “And this is when, Little Melvin, Shelia’s son, said, ‘mother that’s my daddy’s girlfriend.’ ”
Then Shelia asked the kid, “if he liked his daddy’s girlfriend. And if he thought she was pretty.”
With an innocent look, the young child, replied, “Yeah I like her. She’s pretty momma.”
Ladd cracked a smile about the amusing incident. Samari identified Darrell Dillard as the person who introduced Gary Chopp to his sister, Shelia. And she also revealed the fact she knew Darrell provided the gun, a 38, to Chopp. Darrell disposed of the gun and Shelia paid Chopp the money for the hit on Jennifer.
But there was a catch. Darrell had sold Chopp so much crack cocaine in advance on credit, the money he earned for the murder, he wounded up handing over a total $300 back to Darrell. Samari consoled Shelia as she sobbed uncontrollably, then according to the witness, Shelia deadpanned. “I didn’t want the bitch dead!” “I’m hurt and I wanted the bitch to be hurt too.”
After taking Samari Dobbins statement, Anderson, Ladd, Burmester and Douglas met at Harris County District Attorney Office where they discussed the evidence with Assistant D.A. Susan Brown. Brown filed murder charges against Shelia Dillard, Gary Lane Chopp and Darrell Dillard. Lieutnant Knunkel organized detectives and HPD patrol officers to take the suspects down.
Clad in raid jackets, armed with heavy firepower, three different groups of officers during (early morning hours) at 2:a.m., they hit three address simultaneously. Detective Anderson arrested Shelia Dillard at Melvin Reed’s apartment on South Loop West.
Anderson berated Reed for lying about Shelia not being there. “I wanted to take him to jail,” Anderson recalled to this writer.
Detectives Burmester, Mike Peters, George Aldrete and Frank Scoggins arrested hitman Chopp on Heatherbrook. Detective Douglas, Tom Ladd, and A.T. Hermann took Darrell
Dillard down on Fondren. All three suspects were transported downtown to the city homicide division.
Truth Comes to Light
Trapped like a wounded animal, Shelia Dillard sobbed heavily until her eyes appeared blood-shot red. She didn’t want to talk with Anderson. He had already put the fear of God in her when he talked to her the first time. Douglas was her choice. Like a patient mentor, Douglas kindly explained to Shelia that she was carrying a heavy burden, and that she had made the worst mistake in her life. He impressed upon her that he needed to hear the whole story to get everything straight.
“Alright Shelia tell me what happened,” Douglas spoke in his gentle tone voice. Shelia Dillard confessed hiring a heartless killer to murder Jennifer Lewis, a killer that she paid $700 dollars! Detective Douglas listened in awe as this scorned woman recalled masterminding a scheme to eliminate a rival who won the affection of Melvin Reed, a man who Shelia loved too much, and had loved him so much until she killed another woman, standing in her way. Shelia said after she broke up with Reed in December 1992 that her brother Darrell Dillard made repeated comments indicating, “I looked stressed, had lost weight, and appeared worried over losing Reed to another woman.”
“I told him that I was just sick. But he said he would take care of it and make it alright.” Darrell and his girlfriend named Gail was living with Shelia at the time on West Airport. She would drop them off during the day at a crack house on Darlinghurst street.
“The day before the shooting I was at Melvin Reed’s place and I saw his phone book sitting on the bar. I already knew Jennifer’s phone number. But I didn’t know her address so I looked in the phone book and saw a letter sent to Melvin from Jennifer. I wrote the address on paper. And when Melvin came out of the restroom taking a shower I went home.”
On following day, that she received a “pager beep” that she carried in her purse. When she called the number, Darrell Dillard asked Shelia to meet him at the “crack house”.
Referring to killing Jennifer, Darrell said, “I got someone to take care of everything.”
“I didn’t ask him what he meant,” Shelia offered to Douglas.
After entering the “crack house” Shelia recalled Darrell introduced her to Gary lane Chopp, a drug-addicted hitman ready “asap” for the job.
“This is my buddy named Chopp,” Shelia recalled her brother saying.
Stalking a Victim
Shelia Dillard and her gang stalked Jennifer for hours before she was hunted down and brutally shot to death. Along with Shelia, Chopp and her brother Darrell, the trio drove to Melvin Reed’s apartment located on South Loop West to see if Jennifer was there. When no one answered Shelia’s repeated door “knocks” the suspects left. Having Jennifer’s address off Daphne street, Shelia drove down Daphne(prounounced Daph-her-nee) with Chopp riding shotgun. With no sign of the intended victim, Shelia dropped Chopp and Darrell off at the”crack house” on Darlinghurst street.
On March 23rd, Shelia met again with Darrell and Gary Chopp. Chopp, anticipating to shed blood, looked intently into Shelia’s eyes, and said, “I’m going to take care of that girl,” Shelia said to Douglas. The detective boiled with anger over the fact the young woman lost her life over a senseless situation.
“I told Chopp that Jennifer must be home because Melvin was at work. I drove on down Scott street to an Exxon Station on Yellowstone where I called Jennifer’s number from a pay phone. Once I dialed the number I gave the phone to Chopp.”
In a mild-tone voice, Chopp asked, “Is Jennifer there?”
A person who answered the call, said, “she’s here.” Chopp hung up, turned to Shelia, and stated, “she’s there.”
Playing spy games, Shelia and Chopp parked on Daphne street in front of a vacant house watching Jennifer’s address where she lived with her parents. When a suspicious man observed the couple, Chopp exited the vehicle driven by Shelia, walked over to the man, explaining they were waiting on a real estate agent.
Shelia continued. “We were still waiting when Chopp, looking through binoculars saw an uniformed mailman carrying a black briefcase walking across Jennifer’s yard.
“It’s Melvin,” Shelia yelled out. Next, Chopp pressured Shelia to drive to a nearby store so he could buy a cold beer. At the store, Shelia gave Chopp the phone again after dialing Jennifer’s number.
“Is Jennifer there?” Chopp asked. Hearing a man’s voice, the hitman quickly hung up.
Realizing she needed to pick up her children from elementary school, the stake out momentarily ended. After picking up her children, Shelia and Chopp met her brother Darrell along with his girlfriend to exchange vehicles in the parking lot of a popular nightclub called Carrington. Carrington was located off South Main street near 610 loop Freeway. Shelia gave Darrell her beige Ford Topaz and he gave a late model Red Pontiac Sundance that belonged to Gail his girlfriend. The car had dealer’s tag in the window. Darrell convinced his girlfriend Gail that his sister needed to use a different vehicle to take care of some business.
Returning to Daphne street where Jennifer lived, Shelia and Chopp observed Jennifer getting into a vehicle with two people inside. Shelia followed the vehicle to Melvin Reed’s apartment where the driver stopped at the entry gate.
“We stopped on the street and when Chopp jumped out of my car and walked up to the car that Jennifer was in–he saw a security man at the guard shack.”
Hesitant to act, Chopp hurried back into Shelia’s car. They followed the vehicle onto the premises. Undecided how to approach the vehicle the suspects watched as Melvin got out of the car, handed Jennifer a cell phone. Shelia watched in a state of rage as her former lover passionately kissed the new woman in his life. Her heart broke into many pieces.
“What happened when you all made it to the campus where Jennifer went to school?” Detective Douglas inquired.
“When we got to the school….Jennifer and another girl went into the parking lot. Chopp told me to drive straight and stop by the Railroad Tracks and keep the car running. I stopped at the tracks, Chopp got out, walked behind the car towards the school with a gun inside a bag.”
“Then I heard a gunshot. I looked up in my mirror, and seen Chopp running towards the car. He got in and told me to go! He still had the gun in his hand.”
Both suspects fled the scene; the getaway car crossed over the tracks as Shelia drove the vehicle onto the 288 freeway. Gripping the steering wheel, she accelerated the gas pedal to a high speed while Chopp pulled off a burgundy shirt and threw it out the window.
“She’s at the hospital,she’ll be alright,” Shelia spoke out loudly. “No, I got her real good in the back; it’ll stop her from breathing,” hitman Chopp shot back with a glare. “I started to shoot the other girl walking with Jennifer, Chopp further said, but I only had two bullets in the gun and had to save a bullet, in case someone tried to catch me.”
Safe at home, Shelia told Douglas she was so upset until she cried out to her friend Samara Dobbins. “I told her that Chopp had shot Jennifer so she got me something to drink to calm me down. We stayed inside and watched the news.” “I got a call from Melvin Reed later that night asking for Jennifer’s picture.
When I asked why he wanted the picture, he said because Jennifer is dead!”
A Cheap Hitman Paid Off
Hitman Gary Chopp was paid off a few days later for killing Jennifer Lewis when Shelia returned to the ‘crack house” where Chopp, her brother Darrell and other small time dealers and users mingled in and out of the residence. Actually Shelia tried to dupe Douglas into believing she never paid Chopp any money for the hit. Instead she insisted she gave money to her brother Darrell to invest in his crack selling hustle in return for a profit on the money she fronted. “If Darrell gave the money to Chopp it was because Chopp was working for Darrell in the dope house.”
Yet what Shelia didn’t know is that her friend Samari Dobbins had already made a detailed statement to police indicating she knew firsthand that Shelia paid Chopp $700 in increments for shooting Jennifer. Dobbins told Detective Anderson and Douglas that Shelia told her that when she saw Jennifer on the campus she had told Chopp, “there go that bitch, go get her. I’m hurt and I wanted the bitch to be hurt.”
Gary Lane Chopp confessed being the hitman who stole the life of a beautiful, progressive, innocent woman, all for a few hundred dollars spent on “crack cocaine.” “I have known Darrell Dillard (Shelia’s brother) for about 4 or 5 years. Last year I was using crack, about 5 or 10 rocks per-day. Darrell was someone I would buy crack from.” “One day Darrell asked me if I would like to make a little money doing something for someone. He said he needed someone hurt and that the job would pay $700.” Darrell, acting as a broker and middleman, told Chopp that out of the $700 that he wanted $400 and that Chopp would get $300!
Chopp resumed his story. “I told him, yeah, I can do that. Then I started getting crack from Darrell on credit. He let me have it so I could do this job for him.” Finally Darrell introduced Chopp to his sister Shelia at the dope house on Darlinghurst. During this initial meeting, Chopp said Shelia impressed upon him that she wanted something done to her boyfriend who worked at the Post Office.
Chopp’s statement pretty much corroborated Shelia’s involvement in Jennifer’s murder except for he told detectives it was Shelia who set everything up; spying on Jennifer’s house with binoculars,exchanging vehicles with her brother, and had went as far as to buy flowers for him to act as a delivery man to get Jennifer to come to her door so he could kill her.
Recalling in vivid details how himself with Shelia driving the Red car followed Jennifer and her friend from Melvin’s house to the nursing school off 288 freeway at Macgregor, Chopp stated: “Shelia parked by the Rail Road tracks and I got out of the car and walked up to where the two girls was walking and shot Jennifer. She took off running down the sidewalk when I shot her. Then I ran to the car and we took off.” Next day, Chopp said Darrell told him the woman died. Detectives were repulsed to hear the young woman was murdered by someone who was so cold who took her life to be paid $300.!
Detective Anderson gave Darrell Dillard his Miranda rights, explaining he had the “right” to remain silent or have an attorney present during questioning. But Dillard rebuffed detectives by denying accusations leveled against him. Sergeant-Detectives Mike Peters and George Aldrete joined Anderson to coax Dillard into incriminating himself to strengthen the murder case. “I have nothing to do with nobody’s murder,” Dillard told detectives.
When shown a photo of Gary Chopp, the man who Dillard hired for his sister to kill the victim, he denied knowing Chopp. Detectives tried another ploy. Since Gary Chopp had told detectives that he wanted to speak with Dillard, the officers seized this opportunity to have Chopp confront the guy.
“Maybe he’ll break,” Anderson suggested. Once Chopp entered the room he stared at Dillard and said, “You need to get your business straight. Look at us now. If it wasn’t for you, none of us would be here. We’re screwed up because of you!” Dillard acknowledged him, but said nothing in return. Sergeant Peters read Shelia’s statement to Dillard implicating him in the murder, still, he refused to admit involvement. After wrapping up the case, all three suspects charged with murder were placed in city jail.
News Media Coverage
On Friday, April 8th 1994, local TV stations aired several stories highlighting the work done by police that led to solving the case. Houston Chronicle published a feature story about the arrested suspects charged with murder in the 185th Criminal District Court. Houstonians were stunned to hear how a young lady was murdered in cold blood at the hands of a drug-addicted hitman whose share of the $700 payoff, was a pitiful $300.
In a perverse way, Gary Lane was a cold piece of work by killing an innocent woman for $300. Equally disgusting, Chopp, the hitman, never got the money in cash; he owed it for crack cocaine that he purchased in advance from Darrell Dillard, the drug dealer who brokered the murder . Still in mourning yet the arrests satisfied the victim’s parents.
“At first I thought it was a dream,” Bernard Lewis, the victim’s father, told a Chronicle reporter about the 4:a.m. call from detectives.” “To think somebody would take a life on that account, it’s just unbelievable, like an animal so to speak,” Mr. Lewis added. Attending church with friends and prayers to God helped the victim’s parents to cope with the tragedy. “When somebody’s gone, that’s all you can do,” the father lamented.
Detectives were overwhelmingly excited to put the killers behind bars. “We never put the case down,” Douglas told reporters. “We always waited for the final piece. It feels real good. We put in a lot of hours.”
Anderson agreed. “We were ecstatic to call Mr. Lewis and say, we caught your daughter’s killer.
What impulse triggered Shelia Dillard to kill another woman over a man who now neither one would have. Douglas summed it up: “It was all about jealousy.” “Shelia couldn’t stand to lose Melvin to Jennifer. He had broken up with her and wouldn’t take her back, but he still would have sex with Shelia. But Jennifer was the woman he wanted to marry.”
Convicted murderer Shelia Dillard (inmate#754469) received 50 years in prison on May 31st 1996. A model inmate she now resides at a prison unit in Gatesville Texas. She came up for parole in 2010. Her parole was denied until 2014. Gary Lane Chopp (inmate#739474) got life in prison on November 14th, 1995. He reside at the Clements prison in Amarillo Texas. His next parole date scheduled for 2029.
Darrell Dillard previously made parole on the 20-year sentence that he received for his role in Jennifer Lewis death but currently he’s back in prison serving a long stretch on an unrelated case.
Sergeant-Detective Rueben Anderson retired from the city police department in 2003, the same year he unsuccessfully ran for Harris County Constable Precinct# 7, a top law enforcement position.. Bored with retirement, Anderson returned to Houston Police Department in 2007 to work as an information analyst in the Homicide Cold Case Murder division.
Leaving the department again in 2009, Anderson retired into a dedicated christian life working in the ministry, winning lost souls for Christ.
Sergeant Clarence Douglas left Houston Police Department in March 2005 to work for Recovery Healthcare Corporation. Prior to leaving the city, Douglas worked on the heartbreaking high-profile case of Raysate Knight aka Angel Doe. Raysate was a 6-year-old child killed by her mother and stepfather. Along with Detective Darcus Shorten. Douglas persistent work on the Angel Doe case was featured in Lois Gibson true-crime book: Face of Evil. Gibson is a world-renowned forensic artist.
Gibson’s superior artist work has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The world’s most successful forensic artist whose sketches has helped law enforcement capture over 1000 wanted criminals.”
It has been 20 years since Jennifer Lewis was murdered. Her remains lie in Houston Memorial Garden Cemetery. But her spirit lives on.
Clarence Walker can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on | March 13, 2013 | No Comments
The prologue for Mafia Summit is so intriguing and sets the scene for a vivid, cracking true tale of a pivotal moment in the history of organised crime in America. Picture a bunch of sharp suits and slick vehicles in the tiny town of Apalachin, New York State. It was a midweek in 1957 and an eagle-eyed local police sergeant was about to rumble a secret meeting of the elusive Mafia.
This book by Gil Reavill is simply a well-paced, fascinating read about the Mafia, the events that led up to the 1957 gathering and what happened after in terms of law enforcements’ efforts to tackle the mobsters.
The detail is exhaustive and those who are familiar with Mafia history will really enjoy this book. The crime details are fascinating but it’s also quite detailed in the quest by the Kennedys to bring the Mafia under control.
There’s a handy map featured that pinpoints where the Apalachin Summit attendees were from and is a great way to do your own further reading about the mob, though Mafia Summit is perfectly good as a stand-alone read.
Highly recommended. I’m not hugely interested in reading about the Mafia but this book ignited my interest in reading more.
Mafia Summit is published by Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St Martin’s Press).
Posted on | March 3, 2013 | No Comments
Some interesting article this past week:
- Why Serial Killers are so popular with TV viewers (Boston Globe)
- Michigan woman’s hobby helps solve missing persons cases (USA Today)
keep looking »