One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer, p.10Lois Duncan
Then there came the inevitable request for money:
“Before I get into the details of what I know about your daughter’s murder, let me explain that I am a complete pauper. I am in dire need of stamps, cigarettes, gym shoes, etc. I also need to purchase important legal books. If you would immediately send me funds to help me obtain these necessities I would truly appreciate it. Any amount, be it a dime or a thousand dollars, would be appreciated.”
Lawrence then baited the hook with the statement that Kait’s girlfriend knew about all the things Kait had been planning to expose and had shared her information with him before fleeing Albuquerque because her life had been threatened.
“She told me there were two triggermen and she named them,” he said. “She told me she originally planned to be with Kait that night, and she was lucky she wasn’t.”
I sent him a money order for one hundred dollars.
Back came his thank you note:
“Thank you for the $100. I am truly grateful. But in no way will that cover the cost of my present needs. I must ask that you send me a money order for $900. If you honor this request I’ll send you information that can and will get the killers and those who assisted them convicted.”
He, then, extended a carrot that was irresistible:
“Kait’s girlfriend told me Kait had a fake friend, a white female, who set her up to be shot by being sure that within a certain time frame she’d drive down Lomas. Two Spanish guys with the same last name were paid to stalk and kill her.”
How long should I keep on going with this? The man was a cold-blooded opportunist, but that didn’t mean that his information wasn’t valid. We knew that Susan Smith had fled the state in fear for her life, and Paul Apodaca had the same last name as his brother Mark, who had recently been convicted of an unrelated murder.
I sent him another hundred.
“I request your permission to tell you something confidential about Kait,” Lawrence now wrote me. “Your daughter was undergoing very serious problems she feared to confess to anybody except me. She was coerced to get indirectly involved with something she didn’t desire to do. I was horrified when I heard about it.
“I appreciate the second $100 money order. You now owe me only $800. This is very reasonable considering all that I know about Kait’s awful secret which could solve this case for you.”
I wondered if Kait’s “awful secret” involved the importation of drugs. After all, she had worked as supervisor of imported clothing at a store where most of the merchandise came from the Orient.
I decided to get Pat’s advice before proceeding any further. I reached for the phone and discovered that my left hand wouldn’t close around the receiver.
“Oh, no, not again!” I tried to say, and the words came out as gibberish.
It was forty miles on a two-lane road to the nearest hospital, and Don got me there in just over half an hour. During that long wild ride I regained my speech, but I kept losing parts of my anatomy. First my left arm fell limp. Then my left leg. I was braced for my right side to start kicking in. Was anything going to be left by the time we reached the hospital?
But once again I was lucky. By the following morning my leg was working. It was several months before I could raise my left arm above shoulder level and over a year before I could type with my left hand, but I eventually got most of myself back.
Brain scans revealed no indication of a stroke, and the doctors concluded the paralysis had been caused by a massive, stress induced seizure that had trashed my nervous system. They said I must learn to relax, and I promised to try, but Lawrence wasn’t making that easy. His letters continued to pour in, with intimate revelations about Kait’s personal idiosyncrasies, some of which were disconcertingly accurate; and with ferocious demands for money.
Plus the constant titillating offers of important information:
“My sources in Albuquerque have now located Kait’s girlfriend. She has sent me the diary that Kait kept from 1987 through 1989. You know Kait’s handwriting, so when I send it to you, you’ll know it’s hers. Where is my $800?”
Pat ran a Federal Correction Department search on Lawrence’s name and prison I.D. number. It came up negative. She contacted the federal correctional facility to which I had been addressing my letters. This too came up negative.
Officially, Lawrence didn’t exist.
“But he has to be there!” I protested. “That’s where I write to him!”
“He might be in a witness protection program,” Pat speculated. “One of the methods the government uses to protect such people is to channel their mail through prison drop boxes.”
That was not an appealing idea, as it meant Lawrence might not be incarcerated at all and be out there right now, camping in a pup tent behind one of our bayberry bushes, watching us through the windows.
“Where’s my money?” he continued to write in an increasingly hysterical frenzy. “What kind of mother are you that you don’t want Kait’s diary and you’re not even interested in her secret!”
At the end of her patience, Pat forwarded that letter to the prison. The warden allowed that Lawrence was, indeed, an inmate there, whose crimes ranged from kidnapping to rape to aggravated assault. He described my pen pal as “a very large, violent, clever, jail-house lawyer,” a problem prisoner who was often in the “hole” because of his continued violent acts within the prison.
“That’s to our advantage,” Pat said. “Lawrence is currently in solitary, which means the warden will be able to get at his stuff. Prisoners have their rights to privacy, and their possessions are off limits unless they’re in solitary. Since Lawrence is in the hole, his property is in prison control and can be searched. The warden has agreed to see if he’s got Kait’s diary.”
Prison officials confiscated Lawrence’s belongings. Although they found no diary, they did find clippings of articles from Albuquerque papers that must have been sent to him by an accomplice in New Mexico. There was also a file of clippings about other unsolved murders and drafts of letters extorting money from the victims’ families.
“Compassionate Doris, peace be with you,” one of them said. “Back in 1993 and 1994, me and your daughter Kippy used to correspond, and she told me a terrible secret….”
Reading that letter and visualizing Kippy’s poor mother, I was violently sick to my stomach.
Soon after that, I experienced that same reaction when Paul Apodaca suddenly hit the headlines:
Albuquerque Journal, October 5, 1995
MAN RAPES STEPSISTER TO GET INTO PRISON
An Albuquerque man told the judge he raped his 14-year-old stepsister so he could go to prison to protect a younger brother imprisoned on a murder conviction. Judge Richard Knowles obliged with a 20-year sentence for Paul Raymond Apodaca, but recommended to the Department of Corrections that Apodaca not be housed in the same prison as his brother.”
By now Pat had interviewed the first two officers at Kait’s scene. Their statements conflicted so radically that they might have been at two different crime scenes. Each blamed the other for not taking information from Apodaca. Cop Number One said he assigned that job to Cop Number Two, because, “I had to make a choice — I had to stay with the injured person.” Cop Number Two was adamant that Cop Number One had specifically told her not to take information from Apodaca, because he already had done so. Cop Number Two told Pat that, as soon as she suspected murder, she called her supervisor. Yet the supervisor recalled no call from Cop Number Two and said the person who called her was Cop Number One.
Pat went down to the detention center to get Apodaca’s version of the story.
“The first thing he asked was, ‘How did you find me?’” she told us. “He apparently thought the police reports had made him untraceable.”
When she questioned him about his presence at the scene, he explained he was in the neighborhood to buy drugs from a friend named Lee. He described how he and Cop Number One had gone together to look into Kait’s car, but
Apodaca went on to say he had given Cop Number One his name and then driven off in his car — a VW bug — and gone around the corner to his drug dealer’s house. According to Apodaca, he remained with Lee for about half an hour, and when he left he noticed an ambulance at the scene.
Pat recognized Lee’s name from a public records report of Apodaca’s 1990 arrest for shooting a prostitute from his VW bug. At the time of that incident, Apodaca had presented Lee’s MVD identification card, apparently assuming that Lee would be immune to arrest.
Pat went to Lee’s home, and his mother answered the door and said Lee was sleeping. When Pat identified herself as a private investigator who was working on the Arquette case, the woman responded, “You mean the girl who was shot by those Vietnamese guys?” Lee’s mother confirmed that Paul Apodaca was a close friend of Lee’s and promised to give Lee Pat’s card.
She also proudly volunteered the fact that her other son was an APD narcotics officer.
Highlights of 1996:
Jim Ellis retired.
Michael Bush and his wife became parents of a little boy.
Pat Caristo became the grandmother of a little girl.
Don began doing volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity.
Kerry wrote her first book and won the Colorado Young Readers Award.
Both Robin and Brett got married.
Donnie won $11,000 playing a slot machine on an Indian reservation.
As for me — I dreamed.
What I dreamed about was Kait’s diary.
During daylight hours I obsessed about that diary. With Lawrence now out of the picture, I would never know if Kait’s journal actually existed. Despite the fact that the man was a sadistic con artist, his information about Kait’s personal life had been disturbingly accurate. He had known that, at age sixteen, she had posted an ad in a singles magazine and misrepresented her age by three years. That was not a specific you pulled out of a hat. If Lawrence himself was a fraud, then he had to have obtained information from somebody who knew Kait.
Either that, or his conspirator had access to her diary.
One night before falling asleep, I said to Kait, “I’m going to sleep with my mind propped open. I want you to try to get into it and tell me what’s in that diary. If there isn’t any diary, then tell me what you would have written in a diary if you’d kept one.”
That night I had a vivid dream in which Kait appeared, shaken and teary-eyed, and announced that she had been raped. Then, suddenly I was reading an account of that rape in a journal. The entry was worded in third person, as if the author was trying to distance herself from the violence, and it ended with the sentence, “Then Katie sat down and read a magazine.” At the bottom of the page there was a little stick-on heart like the ones our grandchildren liked to paste on envelopes. In the dream I reached out and touched the heart, and it came off in my hand. I turned it over, and on the back there was the name “Roxanne.”
I woke up with a start and lay, staring into the darkness, trying to discern the meaning of this extraordinary message— if, indeed, it was a message. We had no reason to believe that Kait had been sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t aware of any friend of hers named Roxanne. Kait had been an avid reader when it came to novels, but the only place she read magazines was under the hair dryer.
Kait’s purse had been returned to us by the hospital and contained a date book with a page in the back for phone numbers. I kept that book in the bottom drawer of my dresser. Now, I got out of bed and groped in the drawer for the book, which I carried into the bathroom so I could turn on the light and read without waking Don. The calendar revealed that, on the week of her death, Kait had had not one, but two, appointments with her hairdresser, one for a haircut and the other for “pictures with Roxanne.”
I flipped to the back of the book and found the number for the beauty parlor. In the morning I dialed it and asked to speak to “Roxanne.” The receptionist told me that nobody named Roxanne was employed there. Then a voice in the background called out, “There was a Roxanne who used to work here. I think she quit to start her own shop.” I asked what Roxanne’s last name was, but nobody could remember.
I phoned Pat and told her about the heart dream.
“I think Kait wants us to talk to her hairdresser,” I said.
Pat was kind enough not to scoff, but she wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement.
“You don’t know where Roxanne works or what her last name is?”
“No,” I said. “But I do think we need to find her.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Pat said without much enthusiasm.
Several days later, she called me, sounding stunned.
“I found Roxanne,” she said. “You’re not going to believe this! Roxanne has a heart tattoo on her upper arm!”
Roxanne told Pat that she had been more than Kait’s hairdresser, the two had been personal friends. Kait had babysat for Roxanne’s children, and Roxanne had used Kait for a hair model, which accounted for the notation “pictures with Roxanne.” And, not only had Roxanne cut Kait’s hair, she also had cut Dung’s hair.
“I asked her if she had a problem understanding Dung’s English, since that’s the reason the police gave for not being able to properly question him,” Pat said. “Roxanne said she understood him fine, except on the night Kait was shot. She said he phoned her a little before midnight, babbling, ‘Kait’s dead! They shot Kait!’ He was so hysterical that she had to keep asking him to repeat himself.”
“He called her before midnight?” I exclaimed. “But he wasn’t told about the shooting until three the next morning! Is she certain about the time?”
“Her husband’s confirmed it. They’d just watched the evening news and were getting ready for bed. If that’s true, it means Dung knew about the shooting three hours before police informed him. And it sounds like he knows who did it. He didn’t say, ‘Kait’s been shot,’ he said, ‘They shot Kait!’
“Roxanne also knew about the car wreck scam,” Pat continued. “She said Kait was very upset about Dung’s activities and wanted out of the relationship. Kait also told her that Dung’s group was stealing cars and changing the engine numbers, which would certainly be a reason for them to frequent that body shop. Roxanne said she tried to give that information to Detective Gallegos, but he told her she wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know.”
“Is Roxanne willing to sign an affidavit?”
“She’s eager to do that. She’s always wondered why the police wouldn’t take a statement from her. Oh, and one other thing — I just had a call from a woman named Linda, whose son, Nathan Romero, was murdered in Albuquerque in 1993. Linda thinks his case may link to Kait’s.”
She gave me Linda’s number, and I immediately dialed it.
“Nathan was chased down by three cars, stabbed, and left to die in the street,” Linda told me. “He was found with a Vietnamese medallion clutched in his hand, apparently snatched from his killer during the struggle. APD didn’t bother to place that medallion into evidence. It was turned over to me along with Nathan’s personal effects.”
Friends who had been with Nathan had identified his killers, but the police had refused to arrest them.
“That Asian gang harassed me for years,” Linda said. “The men were so cocky they’d park in front of my house and sit there grinning. They’d laugh at Nathan’s friends and ask them if they wanted to be killed next. Even when two gang members came forward as witnesses, APD didn’t make arrests. During one phone conversation, a police captain got so furious with me that he bellowed at the top of his lungs, ‘We know who killed your son just like we know who killed Kait Arquette! This is police business — butt out!’ When I asked him why he was connecting those two cases, he
Linda refused to be intimidated and informed her private investigator, who contacted the mayor and warned him that the City could expect a massive law suit if the police didn’t do their job.
“Then things started to happen,” Linda told me. “The case detective, Steve Gallegos — wasn’t he your case detective too? — got transferred out of the department, and Nathan’s killers were arrested. Not that it did much good, because they plea bargained.”
When I asked Linda the name of the APD captain who had linked our children’s cases, it turned out to be the same captain who had stated on “Good Morning, America” in regard to Kait’s case, “The Vietnamese angle was extensively looked into. We could find no tie to the homicide with any Vietnamese gang.”
Meanwhile, our family was experiencing happy times also, for in the course of two months we had acquired a daughter-in-law and a second son-in-law. Brett and his girlfriend Cindy eloped to Las Vegas, while Robin was married to Anatole in a small but joyous ceremony in a garden in Florida. We were worried about the weather because it had been raining off and on all day, but when the bride stepped under the arbor, radiant with happiness and more beautiful than we ever had seen her, the sun broke through the clouds and the sky was split by a rainbow. Kerry, who was matron-of-honor, stood slightly apart from her sister to acknowledge the space where Kait would have stood if she had been there. When I looked at that space I was almost able to convince myself that — for just an instant — it was occupied by the misty form of a girl in a peach color dress the same shade as Kerry’s. Then the image was gone, and I accepted it as a trick of the light and an overactive imagination.
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