205 Chapters
Medium 9781574410297

18: WHO KILLED CHARLES WHITMAN?

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press ePub

18
Who Killed Charles Whitman?

I

In 1985 two sociologists from Northeastern University, Jack Levin and James Alan Fox, completed a “comprehensive exploration of the characteristics of and the circumstances which precipitate mass murder,” producing a work entitled Mass Murder: America's Growing Menace. In 1994 they followed up with Overkill: Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed. In the foreword of Mass Murder noted defense attorney F. Lee Bailey wrote that Americans know little about mass murder and that much needs to be done to understand and prevent it.1 In their work Levin and Fox present a composite profile of a mass murderer: a white male, in his late twenties or thirties, whose motives to kill include money, expediency, jealousy, or lust. American mass murderers, hardly ever career criminals but sometimes with a history of property crimes, often commit their murders following lengthy periods of frustration. For some, like Charles Whitman, guns become a solution to this frustration and are seen as the “great equalizer.”2

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Medium 9781574411805

One—“Stop right there or I’ll kill you!”

William T. Harper University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter One

July 24, 1974 • Day One

“Stop right there or I’ll kill you!”

—Fred Carrasco, hostage-taker

Ronald (Ron) Wayne Robinson kept looking at his watch, anxious to get home for his daughter Sheryle’s eleventh birthday party that night. Aline V. House was kicking herself for forgetting to bring her bloodpressure medication to work. Bobby G. Heard kept looking through the doorway to see if his relief was on his way up to take his place as the only guard in the prison library. Ann Fleming was thinking about her eighty-year-old mother in a Nashville, Tennessee, nursing home. Novella M. Pollard was worried about getting her rent check in the mail on time. Elizabeth

Yvonne (Von) Beseda’s concern was the alteration of her daughter ’s University of Texas cheerleader uniform. All in all, it was just a routine day in

Huntsville, Texas.

That routine ended abruptly with the roar a .357 caliber Ruger Speed Six, blue Magnum revolver made as it was fired in the confined quarters of the thirdfloor library of the State Penitentiary in Huntsville,

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Medium 9781574410723

7 Going to College

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press PDF

7

Going to College

“This guy is sitting by somebody’s wife and somebody’s daughter in class!”

—Parnell McNamara,

Deputy United States Marshal

I

At the beginning of 1991, McDuff reported to his Temple parole officer that he was working in a warehouse in the Dallas area as a forklift operator. Six days later he asked to transfer his parole supervision to the Dallas

District. But less than two weeks after that he reported to his Temple parole officer that he was back in Temple living with J. A. and Addie.

Kenneth’s aging parents apparently had little energy for raising a fortyfive-year-old teenager; McDuff moved into the Jean Motel in Temple during much of March. Only six weeks earlier McDuff had discovered a way that he could have access to a private room, eat three meals a day in a cafeteria, receive money for subsistence—even during holidays—and receive an education. All he had to do was go to class. Kenneth Allen

McDuff was going to college.1

Project RIO (Re-Integration of Offenders) was an outgrowth of the

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Medium 9781574414974

16. Heartbreaking Stupidity

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press ePub

16

Heartbreaking Stupidity

“The truth was pushing him around the parking lot.”

Tim Steglich

I

The Bell County Sheriff’s Department could hardly have been more generous with Tim Steglich’s time. For months he did little more than assist the many other law enforcement agencies engaged in the pursuit of Kenneth Allen McDuff. Many leads eventually led to Belton and Temple, and policemen like Tim and Mad Dog Owens provided valuable help. Officially, for Tim, it was a missing person’s case filed by Addie McDuff, and as long as Kenneth was missing he had a duty to look for him. Other agencies were looking for McDuff, but for very different reasons.

On March 24, 1992, the jurisdictions with an interest in Kenneth McDuff met at Bill Johnston’s office in Waco to share information. Don Martin and J. W. Thompson represented the Austin Police Department. Don briefed Tim on his interview of Beverly and mentioned that someone named Morris had directed McDuff to Beverly’s house in Del Valle. Tim readily agreed to look for Morris. He found him the next day, but it was not an easy search. Although Morris was deathly afraid of McDuff, Tim successfully convinced him to give a statement, which was forwarded to the Austin Police Department. After reading the statement, Don and J. W. wanted to talk to Morris. When Tim contacted him again several days later, Morris became abusive. He said he did not want to be harassed. Very patiently, Tim worked with Morris and eventually Morris had a “change of heart.” On April 7, Morris met with Don and J. W. and repeated his statement detailing his trip to Del Valle with Billy and McDuff. He was also willing to take a polygraph to prove he had nothing to do with the abduction of Colleen Reed.1

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Medium 9781574414974

9. The Cut

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press ePub

9

The Cut

“There’s an awful lot of weirdos out there, and you never know when you are going to meet one.”

—Richard Stroup, McLennan County Sheriff’s Deputy

I

Living her adult life in a culture with an absence of beauty took its toll on Brenda Kay Thompson. She looked much older than her age—thirty-seven. At 5’5” tall and weighing only 115 pounds, she was a small woman. Her drawn and hollow-looking face made her look emaciated, almost skeletal. What were once beautiful brown eyes were instead sunken into bony sockets surrounded by a rough complexion. She looked tired. Her tragic life gave her a “worn” look common among the “older” (both in terms of age and arrests) girls at the Cut. She had several aliases, including Debbie Johnson, and Debbie Ward. A criminal background check reveals a long history of a dozen or so petty crimes ranging from small thefts settled by paying fines to more serious charges of possessions of controlled substances carrying with them five- and six-year sentences. Additionally, she had a history of DWI and moving traffic violations, trespassing charges, and numerous counts of forgery.1

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