One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer, p.4Lois Duncan
“But my whole reason for being on the show—”
“Is to point out the problems with the case,” Don completed my sentence. “You can still accomplish that, but let Larry King challenge Schwartz. Lois, this reading is a step-by-step description of exactly how the case is going to develop. I’ll FAX it to your next hotel. For now, just take my word that you need to go easy.”
I replaced the receiver on the hook and gazed uncertainly at my notes. So many of Betty’s predictions had come to pass that it was hard to shrug off this one, especially when Don appeared to be taking it so seriously. I wadded up my game plan and tossed it into the wastebasket. Then I took the elevator down to the lobby and went outside, where a studio limousine awaited me.
“There’s another guest too,” I told the driver. “I guess he hasn’t come down yet.”
“The guests on Larry King take separate limos,” the driver said.
“I don’t see him out here waiting for one,” I said doubtfully, scanning the sidewalk for the sight of the bushy moustache that was the district attorney’s distinctive trademark.
“They put him at a different hotel,” the driver told me. “They want their guests to battle on the set, not in a hotel lobby.”
When I signed in at the studio, Schwartz’s signature was on the line above mine, so I knew that he had arrived, although I still saw no sign of him. After a stint in the make-up room, I was assigned to a small private waiting room where a television set showed Larry King interviewing his first set of guests. After each commercial break the jacket of my book would flash across the screen and Kait’s mischievous face would twinkle at me and disappear again.
There was a self-conscious cough behind me, and I turned to see the district attorney standing in the doorway, his face as plastered with pancake make-up as mine was.
“I just thought I’d check and see what I should call you on the show,” he said. “Do you prefer to be ‘Ms. Duncan’ or ‘Mrs. Arquette’?”
“Call me ‘Lois,’ of course,” I said. “May I call you ‘Bob’?”
Before he could respond, a hand appeared out of nowhere, grabbed Schwartz by the collar and yanked him out of view. A woman’s head replaced his in the doorway.
“You are not to speak to each other before the show,” she told me.
The woman vanished and came back several minutes later to escort me to the set. As she led me down the hall we passed a second waiting room identical to mine where Bob Schwartz sat in isolation in front of another TV set. He glanced up as I passed the open door, and I gave him a thumbs-up sign, which I hoped he wouldn’t misinterpret. He responded with a nod and a wave.
A commercial was in progress as I was ushered onto the set, seated at a table, and equipped with a lapel mike. There was a surrealistic quality about the experience. There, across the table from me, sat Larry King — live! — a big flesh and blood replica of the miniature face I was accustomed to seeing on our TV screen, and there was no way to escape by switching channels.
“So, your name is—” Larry King consulted his notes— “your name is Lois Duncan and— your daughter was murdered?”
“Yes.” I was bewildered by the question. Wasn’t that why I’d been asked to appear on the show?
“Let’s see,” he continued, still scanning the notes. “Her name was Kaitlyn— Arquette? Why do you have different last names? Was your daughter married?”
“Of course not,” I said. “Kait was only a teenager. My married name is Arquette, the same as hers. Lois Duncan is my pen name.”
The awful truth hit me — Larry King did not appear to have read the book! This TV Superstar, whom Don had perceived as my knight-in-shining-armor, was preparing to conduct an in-depth interview about a murder investigation that he seemed to know little about. There was no way he could challenge Bob Schwartz with penetrating questions if he wasn’t aware of the issues!
The commercial ended, and King’s face appeared on the monitor.
“It’s every mother’s worst nightmare, and Lois Duncan is living it,” King said, gazing intently into the camera lens. “One night in July 1989, eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette was brutally murdered during a high speed chase in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police dismiss the case as a random shooting, but Kaitlyn’s mother, Lois Duncan, felt that her daughter’s death was no accident and launched an exhaustive search for the truth.”
I stared at him in amazement, terribly impressed. Nobody would have guessed that he was coming out of nowhere.
His notes ran out and he turned to me for assistance.
“What happened in July of 1989?”
I gave a short account of the shooting, wording my statements with care so as not to appear to be criticizing anyone in law enforcement.
There was another commercial break, during which Schwartz was hustled onto the set to take a seat next to me.
“What do you make of all this, Bob?” King asked him.
“The police investigation is almost a mirror image of what’s in Lois Duncan’s book,” Bob Schwartz admitted. “The police investigation tells us who did it, what happened, how it happened, what it doesn’t tell us is why it happened. And as a prosecutor you learn to quit trying to understand why people get killed and just accept it.”
“What do you mean it tells us who did it?”
“It tells us who most likely did it.”
“But you can’t prove it?”
“No, we can’t prove it.”
“Who, in your opinion, most likely did it?”
“The two young men who were arrested for the crime.”
“And it may have been murder-for-hire?”
“No, we don’t believe that,” Schwartz said. “Quite frankly, I wouldn’t hire these guys to mow my lawn, much less mow down a young woman in Albuquerque.”
“So it’s termed what now?”
“It is an open investigation. It is dormant at the moment. We are hoping another lead will pop up. That’s what ultimately led me to drop the charges, because if we took a shot at this I was convinced we would have lost. There were two major problems. One was that the witnesses who originally put the case together for us started back pedaling and became unusable. The other was that the defense attorneys had gotten onto this Vietnamese connection, which was a much better motive for the killing than random shooting. It’s a good motive. You dangle a good motive in front of a jury, and we thought that would foreclose the case.”
King turned to me. “What do you want him to do, Lois?”
I choked back the obvious response and determinedly took the high road.
“Well, I think Bob will be very open to any new information that comes in,” I said demurely. “What I’m hoping the book will do — what Bob and I are both hoping will be accomplished here tonight — is that people who hear this story will be motivated to come forward with some concrete information that the police can use.”
“You’re not angry at Bob and the police?”
“No, I’m not angry at Bob,” I said. I could not bring myself to go further than that.
“You feel Bob was right in not going ahead with the trial?”
“He had no choice,” I said. “And I think the police did a very good job as far as making the arrests. I think where the police may have fallen down—”
I described how the police had refused to check out the calls made from Kait’s apartment to California on the night Kait died, when that apartment should have been unoccupied.
Schwartz sidestepped that issue as if it never had been raised, asserting with conviction that the police had “followed every leaf in the wind.”
King seemed irritated that he was not getting a rise out of either of us.
“What do you think about that book she wrote?” he demanded of Schwartz.
“It’s a good book,” Schwartz conceded.
After that we took phone calls, mostly from people in Albuquerque who posed a variety of questions, including whether Schwartz was using publicity surroundin
It was the final call of the evening that took us by surprise.
“What about the drugs?” a male voice demanded. “Why aren’t you talking about that?”
Schwartz quickly assured the caller that the shooting could not have been anything but “random.”
At the end of the show King thanked us politely for participating, although I suspected that he was disappointed in our performance. As we left the set, Schwartz asked me to autograph his copy of my book. Then, before I could suggest that the two of us go somewhere for a drink or coffee, we were dragged off in opposite directions to be whisked away in his-and-hers limos to separate hotels. My chance for a private chat with the district attorney, to fill him in on all the facts he wasn’t aware of, had been snatched away from me before I could reach out and grab for it.
Back in my room, I lay awake for hours, rerunning the evening’s dialogue in my mind, disgusted with myself for having allowed Don to convince me to give such a tepid presentation. When I realized that Larry King was not going to serve as our champion, why hadn’t I swung back to Plan One? Schwartz obviously had not been given the true facts. What would have happened, I now asked myself, if I had challenged him with those? What if I had responded to Larry King’s question, “What do you want Bob to do, Lois!” with the shriek of fury and frustration that had been threatening to strangle me— “If, as Bob says, the Vietnamese connection is a much better motive for the killing than random shooting, I want him to force the police to investigate that probability!”
I wallowed in that thought for a moment and then had to acknowledge the possibility that it could have finished off what was left of my credibility. If Schwartz was sincerely convinced that the police investigation was a thorough one, he would have labeled my accusations ridiculous, and because of his official position his statements would have carried more weight than those of a distraught mother driven crazy by bereavement.
As I finally drifted off, serenaded by flushing toilets and gushing showers as my next-room neighbors prepared to go down to breakfast, I consoled myself with the thought that Bob Schwartz did have a copy of the book, and, unlike Larry King, he apparently had read it. I wanted to believe that I had seen a glimmer of respect in his eyes as we maintained our dignity under the most stressful of circumstances.
Maybe, I thought hopefully, after taking a careful look at the flaws in the police investigation, the district attorney would become an ally.
Yet one question continued to nag at me even as I slid into sleep. Why had Bob Schwartz, an astute and aggressive prosecutor, so quickly dismissed the idea that Kait’s murder might be drug related? Why hadn’t he asked some questions and invited a discussion? That caller had sounded as if he might have had crucial information.
If only I’d taken the initiative and asked questions of my own! Hindsight was always 20-20.
If the mere suggestion of a possible link between an Asian criminal group and political VIPs involved in the New Mexico drug scene had been enough to cause the district attorney to shy away from it, could that have been what had blocked the police investigation?
Albuquerque Journal, July 11, 1992
MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME PAID WELL, DA SCHWARTZ SAYS
Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz gets the “Working Smarter” award of the year.
“I’ve never been paid so well for 15 minutes of work,” Schwartz joked of his appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” show.
King invited Schwartz and Albuquerque author Lois Duncan to discuss the 1989 murder of Duncan’s 18-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette.
“Ordinarily I work real cheap,” Schwartz said, laughing. His salary is $67,500 a year, which he says breaks down to an hourly salary in the upper $30s or low $40s. Of course, Schwartz said, he didn’t actually get paid to be on the show. But all his expenses were covered, including his plane ticket, cab fare, and two nights in the Bellevue Hotel on Capitol Hill….
As a bonus, publicity-savvy Schwartz gained international exposure.
In an impromptu phone interview last week, Schwartz reiterated that he didn’t do the show for political or campaign reasons.
“But did I mind the exposure? Of course not. I hope it comes in handy. You never know.”
Already he has received lots of back-pats from Albuquerqueans.
While Bob was being congratulated back in Albuquerque, I proceeded on to Chicago where the FAX of Betty’s new reading was waiting for me. I now understood why Don had reacted so strongly, for it predicted a time when those around Dung would “show how dangerous they truly are, and they will turn on one another. At that time Dung will be in great danger, and before he will depart to parts unknown he will tell the whole story and it will be accepted. The mysteries will be cleared up in such a professional manner as to surprise those who will complete them about themselves… There will come a kind of crackdown on certain activities, and this will lead to the capture of all those who will seem to have missed the loop in all this. The stage is set!”
However, I noted that the reading did not specify that the investigators would be local law enforcement. They might be DEA or FBI agents.
When Don phoned me that night he had something new to tell me.
“I had a call from a man who said Susan Smith was desperate to talk to me,” he said. “He gave me an out-of-state phone number and told me to call her. When I did, she had only one topic on her mind – the time Kait got to her house. In Who Killed My Daughter? you quoted her as saying Kait got there at nine-thirty. Susan seemed frantic to convince me she got there at seven-thirty.”
“Who was the man who called you?” I asked.
“He wouldn’t identify himself. And another odd thing— he didn’t call our home number and leave a message on our voice mail. He phoned the office here at the campground.”
“But nobody knows where we parked the trailer!” I exclaimed. “How did he find you?”
“I can only imagine that he was a cop,” Don said. “They have ways of tracking people down. Yet, why would Susan relay her message through a cop in order to refute the police reports?”
The promo tour was a magnificently orchestrated road show that whisked me in and out of one location after another. Eventually a day came when I woke up in the morning and had to call down to the desk to find out where I was. I did not use the deadbolts on the doors of my hotel rooms in case I had another stroke and needed medical attention. I also obeyed Kait’s instructions, via Betty’s reading, to keep a vigilant eye out for “the walker, the innocent walker who does more than walk.” I interpreted that as a warning that I might be mugged.
Newspaper headlines chronicled my route across the country:
LOIS DUNCAN WANTS TO GIVE HER DAUGHTER ONE FINAL GIFT— JUSTICE
New York Times
NON-FICTION MYSTERY IS RIVETING —
A MOTHER SEEKS HER CHILD’S KILLER —
GRITTY SEARCH LEADS TO BOOK —
The tour terminated in Los Angeles where I participated in a segment of Sightings, a Fox Network production that focused on paranormal happenings. Noreen Renier was filmed in her apartment in Florida, describing her psychic impressions of Kait’s killer to a police artist, and Betty Muench was shown in her home in Albuquerque, taking dictation from her spirit guides. The major part of the reenactment was filmed in Albuquerque with the chase scene staged on Lomas Boulevard. Another scene was filmed at the cemetery with a photograph of Kait’s face superimposed upon her grave stone.
At the LAX airport on my way back to Albuquerque, I picked up a paperback to read on the plane. Coincidentally the novel, H Is for Homicide by Sue Grafton, turned out to be about car wreck scams in Los Angeles. Among the resources listed on her acknowledgements page were Michael Fawcett, special agent for the National Ins
The minute I got home, I contacted Sue, whom I once had met at a writers’ conference, to get mailing addresses for Fawcett and Wharthen, and I sent them copies of my book.
Both men called to thank me.
“Your book lays out the case very well,” Fawcett said. “We believe that some of the particular people you identify have been doing this type of crime for years.”
Wharthen was equally supportive and went so far as to contact Bob Schwartz and request that he assign a researcher to the case. He also asked Schwartz to put pressure on the police to give us back the materials from Kait’s desk, which they had been holding as evidence since August of 1989. Those items included a letter to Kait from the girlfriend of the capper, Bao Tran, and snapshots of other people in California, who we suspected might be participants in the insurance scam.
Prompted by Robin, I consulted two additional psychics. Robert Petro, a medium in Arizona, told me Kait’s car had been stationery when she was shot and her killer looked familiar to her. Shelly Peck, a blind psychic in New York, described that killer, but her description didn’t match that of either a Vietnamese man or Miguel Garcia, the Hispanic suspect charged with Kait’s murder. She also made some confusing references to gas tanks.
In the time that I had been away, summer had crept from the Rio Grande Valley to the slopes of the Sandia Mountains, scattering wild flowers in its wake. I joined Don in our temporary trailer home and we tried to decide what to do next. Most people taking early retirement have already planned their next chapter of life, but for us that wasn’t the case. We were running away from something, not running to something. So we procrastinated, clinging to the moment and allowing the beauty that surrounded us to become part of the storehouse of memories that we would carry with us.
In the evenings we sat outside on aluminum chairs, listening to the rhythmic chant of the cicadas and gazing up into the clearest skies in the world. At such times we reminisced about other summer evenings when we camped with our children at Elephant Butte Lake and, after gorging on hamburgers and toasted marshmallows, lay on blankets to watch for satellites passing overhead.
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