Tag Archive for politics

If the Cat Could Talk, What a Tale He Would Tell

Tommy Patterson the Cat

In memory of Ringo. RIP, jerk.
The reappearance of Tommy, a 9-year-old orange tabby, on the front stoop of the home he shared with William and Margaret Patterson in El Paso, Texas, only exacerbated the mystery of what happened to his owners.
 
The couple had been absent (most people considered them missing under suspicious circumstances) for more than four months when an undernourished and bedraggled Tommy showed up at his house, strengthening the belief that something bad was going on.
 
William, 53, who went by the nickname “Pat,” and Margaret, 48, had owned the Patterson Photo Supply Company in El Paso for years and were established in the community. Because they had no children, friends said Margaret treated Tommy “like a mother loves a child.” When they saw that Tommy had not been boarded at the D.L. Cady Animal Hospital as was the Pattersons’ habit when they traveled, friends went to the sheriff’s office with their concerns.
 
Presented with the strange circumstances (there was much more than the return of a wandering cat), Sheriff Jimmie Hicks opened a missing persons file and assigned Deputy Sgt. John Frizzell to get to the bottom of the matter.
 
Unfortunately for Frizzell, the Pattersons did not leave one shred of evidence that they planned to leave town. In fact, the opposite was true. Almost everyone interviewed in the investigation said the Pattersons were clearly staying put for a while.
 
It is possible, even likely, that Tommy was present during the Pattersons’ final hours in their home before they vanished, seemingly into thin air. Unfortunately, whatever secrets Tommy knew he would not part with, so Frizzell was forced to deal only with the humans connected to the case.
 
“Every phase of the case discloses that they vanished by surprise,” Frizzell said later. “Surprise to themselves as well as to every person who knew them.”
 
That was in March 1957 and what happened to Pat and Margaret Patterson remains one of El Paso’s greatest mysteries.
 
An article in the November 12, 1957 home edition of the El Paso Herald-Post, by reporter Cliff Sherrill listed the questions that plagued authorities then and now:

Where are Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Patterson?
Why did they disappear like magic from their home at 3000 Piedmont Avenue the night of March 5?
Did they leave voluntarily? By ruse or trick? By compulsion, under threat of instant death if they didn’t go?
If they left voluntarily, what was the reason?
If they left by force or threat, who forced or threatened them?
And if they disappeared by force or threat, what was the motive of the person or persons guilty of the force or threat? Robbery? Extortion? A desire to keep the Pattersons from telling something they knew?

At first glance, the couple’s lifestyle gives no clue to the answers to those questions. But scratch a little deeper and the story gets odd.
 
The Pattersons spent a quiet night in their home with friends days before they disappeared. They invited Cecil Ward and his wife, who goes by the nickname “Mrs.,” over for dinner. Following the meal the men went out to the Patterson garage to apply a coat of acrylic to the wooden boat Patterson was building.
 
Questioned by police, Cecil Ward said Pat not only failed to mention a trip, they discussed plans for later in the week.
 
“He talked about what we would do on the boat the other nights during the week, and about plans for fishing and doing a lot of other things in the spring and summer,” the owner of the Ward Motor Clinic told investigators.
 
Mrs. Ward confirmed her husband’s account.
 
“Margaret never mentioned anything at all about plans for a trip,” she said.
 
The next day the couples saw each other in the afternoon.
 
“They drove by here (the Ward Motor Clinic) and talked to us,” Ward said. “They said nothing about plans to go away.”
 
When the Wards opened their place of business Wednesday, March 6, Patterson’s prized Cadillac was left parked in the driveway of the Ward garage. That day, Ward said, Doyle G. Kirkland, a manager of Duffy Photo Service in El Paso — a rival firm, but Patterson’s friend — came into the shop and directed Ward to service the Caddy and repair a broken horn ring on the steering wheel.
 
Then Kirkland said something that appeared on its face to be quite benign, but in light of what happened, is extremely suspicious. According to Ward, Kirkland said that he had helped Patterson work on the boat on the previous evening, adding that “the Pattersons were going on a little vacation.”
 
Kirkland was connected to another possibly innocuous act that later raised eyebrows.
 
Patterson had been using Ward’s electric sander and on Friday of the same week, the mechanic needed it back for a job. He called Patterson Photo Supply and asked that it be returned. He did not speak with Patterson. Later that day, Kirkland showed up with the sander. He had obviously been in the Patterson home some time earlier that week as Ward remembered leaving it in the Patterson garage. Ward did not say that he expected Patterson to deliver the sander, however, or that having Kirkland deliver it was unusual.
 
Comments made by Ward paint a picture of Patterson as a man who only liked the best in life — and when he got it was happy to let you know about it.
 
“If it wasn’t the best, he wouldn’t want it,” Ward said. “Sure, he was loud-mouthed and a braggart, but a pretty good guy. He lived it up, but I guess he was making up for all those years when he didn’t have anything.”
 
Patterson’s loud mouth got him into trouble on occasion. A month before he disappeared, Pat got drunk in a Juarez, Mexico “night club,” and when his waiter refused to serve the Mexican girl he was with because she worked at the “night club,” a fight started and Patterson found himself outmatched by the club’s bouncers. Fortunately, he was not badly hurt nor arrested. It turns out that the woman he was with, 20-year-old Estefana Arroyo Marfin, was his girlfriend.
 
Both Pat and Margaret were pretty much closed-mouth about their backgrounds, except to hint that each had a rough upbringing. Pat was a native of Chicago and worked as a carny, touring the country working the games and serving as a barker, jobs that easy to come by and hard to track. It is not surprising that with a pedigree like that, Pat would fall short of the expectations Margaret’s family had for a suitor.
 
Friends said Margaret never told them where she was born or even her birth date. They did not know how she and Pat met, or how long they had been married. They knew she had a brother somewhere, but that they were estranged.
 
“It seemed they told her she would have to choose between them and Pat,” said one friend. “She chose Pat.”
 
The couple moved to El Paso from Dallas around 1940, where they built up their business. During the war, Patterson sold nylon stockings smuggled from Mexico on the black market and made quite a nut for himself.
 
His father, Luther, testified in a court of inquiry and asserted that his son still had a little bit of carny in him:
 
“I always knew Pat and Margaret would take off like this some day, but I figured it to be four or five years away,” he testified. “They’re not dead; my boy has done things like this before. He made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks.”
 
Although she later retracted the statement, Estefana Marfin told authorities that Patterson told her he may have to disappear soon and do it quickly.
 
The El Paso Herald reported that a few years later Luther Patterson said he suspected his son and daughter-in-law were dead.
 
Besides not boarding Tommy, other evidence was circumstantial proof that the Pattersons did not plan ahead to leave town:

  • Expensive clothes, including a fur coat, were left with cleaners and a furrier, without instructions to store them
  • Utilities including telephone, gas, and electricity were not disconnected
  • Mail was not stopped and no change of address was given to the post office until 21 days after the disappearance, when the post office was told to deliver all mail to the photo supply store. There is no evidence that either of the Pattersons issued the change request. Newspaper delivery was unaffected
  • Dishes from dinner the night before the vanishing were left unwashed in the kitchen sink
  • The Pattersons had been planning to attend the spring National Photographers Association convention in Washington, DC, but did not show up at their hotel or attend the conference. The hotel could not locate any record of a cancellation, but the Pattersons never registered at the conference.

 
The best clue to the fate of the Pattersons came on March 15, when Herbert Roth, the Pattersons’ accountant, received a telegram with instructions on managing some of the couples assets and their business.
 
Roth was directed to act as business manager of the Patterson Photo Supply Company and directed to cancel the reservations for the Pattersons’ trip to D.C. He was told to hire a new manager for the store who would replace the missing owner, to sell a mobile home owned by the Pattersons and to use the proceeds to support the store.
 
The message also indicated that the Pattersons planned to be gone for some time: Roth was instructed to rent out the Patterson home for at least nine months.
The telegram came into the Western Union office in Dallas via pay phone in an area near Love Field, possibly indicating that the couple was flying out of the area. However, the sender of the telegram was listed as “W.H. Patterson.” His middle name was Durrell. The mistake might have been made by the Western Union agent, of course.
 
The manager Patterson wanted hired to oversee the operation in his absence was Doyle Kirkland, who was the self-admitted last person to see them alive. No evidence other than conspicuous behavior linked Kirkland or anyone else to the crime. He disappeared from the police radar after he moved from El Paso in the 1960s.
 
In 1960 Sheriff Bob Bailey went to a resort town outside Mexico City, tracking down a rumor that the couple was seen there. He found some hotel workers who identified photographs of the Pattersons as a couple who stayed at the hotel for several months in 1957. However, there was no record of the Pattersons registering at the hotel and from there the case, for the most part, went cold until the mid-1980s, according to the El Paso Times when a witness came forward claiming to have seen blood and other signs of violence in the Patterson garage.
 
Freddie Bonilla, former El Paso homicide dick who is now a private eye, said that an illegal immigrant named Reynaldo Nangaray, the caretaker of the Pattersons’ home, made an official statement that he not only saw blood, but that there was part of a person’s scalp on the propeller of Pat’s boat. Further, writes Sam Stall in Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Minivans, Nangaray witnessed one of the Pattersons’ friends putting bloody sheets from the house into a car.
 
Bonilla said Nangaray was afraid to come forward because he was an illegal immigrant at that time. Unfortunately, Nangaray died in a car accident two years after speaking with the cops.
 
“Nangaray told us he found blood in the garage and a piece of human scalp on the propeller of Patterson’s boat,” Bonilla told the El Paso Times. “He found a pair of jeans with a Rolex watch that belonged to Patterson, and said he also saw one of Patterson’s (associates) remove bloody sheets from the home and put them inside the trunk of a car. He did not talk to police sooner because he was an illegal immigrant at the time, but when he came to see us, he was a U.S. citizen.”
 
As for theories of what happened, it’s a you-pick-’em:

  1. They were kidnapped and killed
  2. He killed her and fled
  3. She killed him and fled
  4. They were spies and returned home
  5. Alien Abduction
  6. Tommy killed them both

Item 4 might seem a bit far-fetched until one looks at Pat Patterson’s behavior. He got his start in El Paso as a “street photographer,” taking pictures of everyone and everything and was reportedly seen around nearby Fort Bliss with his camera on a regular basis.
 
In 2009, El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego said the espionage theory was valid.
 
“I think they were spies,” he told the Times in a retrospective. “The way they got up and just walked away and left everything behind. The Russians, or whoever sent them, probably told them to drop everything and go back. Some people said they had seen Patterson take photographs of Fort Bliss and of military shipments on the trains that came here.”
 
The Times did not report if Samaniego was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but reporter Diana Washington Valdez did take the next step of checking with the FBI to see if the couple was ever under investigation for espionage. The SAC for El Paso at the time said the Pattersons were not in any records going back that far.
 
There are many people in El Paso who think that the Pattersons never left the home. At one time, Sheriff Bob Bailey said, it was believed that the couple was buried on the property somewhere, but nothing was ever uncovered.
 
That prompted people to believe the place was haunted by the spirits of Pat and Margaret Patterson, which only caused problems for the police.
 
“When I was a city patrolman, the house on Piedmont was in my district,” Samaniego told the Times. “I would get a hundred calls … all these kids would stop by the house because they thought the house was haunted, and they would scare this poor old lady who (once) lived there.”
 
On March 27, 1964, the Pattersons were officially declared dead. The Patterson mystery is regularly reviewed by the city and county cold case squads.
 
What happened to Tommy the cat is also a mystery. When he reappeared at his home, the persons renting the place took him to the Cady Animal Hospital where his trail goes cold. No one has reported seeing the ghostly apparition of a cat around the old Patterson house.

One for the Books

David Clark

Regular readers of the Malefactor’s Register (and we hope there are some of you out there) know that as far as crime is concerned, the facts are frequently outlandish and mystifying. More often than not the story of a true crime would get even the most popular mystery fiction writer laughed out of a publisher’s office. Every once in a while we see a crime that inspires a fiction writer, but only rarely do we see a crime that seems to be ready-made for a book or film with little or no embellishment to make it appear like fictional “reality.”
 
The story of David H. Clark is one of the latter.
 
In 1931, Clark, a former deputy district attorney who was a candidate for a Los Angeles municipal judgeship, was arrested and tried for the murder of a double-dealing newspaper editor and a “millionaire political boss” who consorted with known underworld figures to oppose Clark’s campaign. Also involved in the case was the girlfriend of a high-stakes gambler serving time in San Quentin thanks to Clark’s prosecution.
 
When the story first broke on May 21, 1931 — less than 2 weeks before the general election — the newspapers speculated that Clark was the victim of a frame-up by Los Angeles’s underworld. But those reports were quickly dashed when Clark surrendered to the Los Angeles police and admitted he had shot both men, claiming self-defense.
 
Crawford and SpencerThe killings occurred in politico Charley Crawford’s opulent Southern California office where Clark had been summoned by the political boss. Just why Herbert Spencer, editor of the political magazine Critic of Critics was involved in the meeting is anyone’s guess. Spencer, who rose from police beat reporter to be city editor of the Los Angeles Evening Express before buying a stake in the magazine, developed close ties to the underworld thanks to his work as a cop reporter.
 
However, most recently Critic of Critics had been on an anti-gambling kick, running a series of articles highlighting the ties between Los Angeles politicians and the underworld. Some suspected that Spencer wasn’t too serious about his anti-corruption views. The targets of Spencer’s articles were usually low-hanging fruit — has-beens or mobsters on the outs with the rest of the underworld. A mention in the magazine might cause a raid by the cops, but if the targets were the competition of Spencer’s friends, so be it.
 
If Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler had written the script for this case, the people involved in the Crawford/Spencer killings would be lounging around a big office in black-tie tuxes discussing who would be the next senator from California. Outside the office, while bodyguards stand watch inside the ritzy nightclub, a torch singer secretly in love with the honest DA croons. Cut to the honest, corruption-fighting DA bursting into the room where the political fixers are schmoozing with the gambler, intent on a showdown that ends with somebody getting shot.
 
In reality, there wasn’t any opulent casino and nobody was wearing a tux when Clark gunned down Crawford and Spencer. While Crawford was a connected guy and political bigwig, he worked as a real estate agent in a nondescript downtown LA office building, and was described as quite the chameleon.
 
“He was quite at home with gamblers, ministers, fancy women, grocery clerks, bankers, chauffeurs, and judges. Charley Crawford could stand at a bar one minute and a church pew the next and never bat an eye,” wrote celebrity reporter Erskine Johnson. “Behind the doors of Crawford’s real estate office no one knows what political manipulations took place,”
 
There was no torch singer, although there was the moll whose boyfriend, imprisoned gangster Al Marco, was still directing the Los Angeles underworld from his cell in San Quentin. Leggy brunette June Taylor (no relation to the dancer and Jackie Gleason show regular) had a long history of morals charges in Los Angeles, and was apparently Marco’s outside connection to the mob. Shortly after Clark shot Crawford and Spencer, Taylor made a visit to San Quentin where she reportedly informed her boyfriend of the killings.
 
Questioned by police about any involvement, Marco simply said “it was another June Taylor” who visited him, and he told reporters that he was sorry it wasn’t Rev. Robert “Fighting Bob” Schuler, a radio preacher who was Marco’s personal nemesis.
 
“I was sorry to hear about the deaths of Charles Crawford and Herbert Spencer in Los Angeles,” he told the press. “I sort of wished it had been Bob Shuler who got bumped off.”
 
In the end, what, if any role Marco played in the story is unclear, except that he was happy to hear that Clark was unlikely ever to serve as a judge. It had been Clark who put Marco in prison after he was arrested for beating up a patron at one of his vice dens. When Marco was arrested he claimed he would never be charged, and after he was charged he predicted no jury would convict him. He was partially correct: the first jury hung on the assault charge, but Clark vowed not to drop the case. A second jury convicted Marco and he was given a long term for his crime.
 
After the news of the shootings broke, the press was quick to head to San Quentin to interview Marco, which led to the speculation that Clark was being framed.
 
The day after the killings, Clark surrendered to his former boss, DA Burton Fitts, for whom he had served 8 years as a deputy. Fitts vowed that no favoritism would be shown to his protege, and after sending Clark to the county hospital for observation lest he try an insanity defense, quickly applied for and received a special prosecutor to try the case.
 
Once Clark said his defense would not be insanity but rather the affirmative defense of self-defense, he was arraigned and sent to the county jail.
 
He refused to talk to the police or the press — which only demonstrates that this is the best course of action when accused of a serious crime.
 
“I won too many cases where the defendant talked too much when I was a prosecutor,” he said. “I am an accused man now and I’m not saying anything. Just wait until the trial. I’m not guilty, and there will be plenty of sensations in testimony.”
 
While Clark sat in jail, Crawford was buried with the style befitting a political boss. His coffin was priced at $15,000 and the press estimated that there was at least $5,000 worth of flowers covering it. Reporters made note that one memorial wreath was sent by Guy McAfee, “Los Angeles gambling czar.” McAfee sent a similar arrangement to Spencer’s funeral.
 
The story of what really happened in Charley Crawford’s office was related by David Clark and other witnesses during his August 1931 trial.
 
It was in the afternoon of May 20, 1931, when David Clark, upstanding former assistant district attorney and candidate for a municipal judge’s seat, answered a summons from political boss Charley Crawford.
 
He was first to arrive for the meeting, and was immediately ushered into Crawford’s private office by one of Crawford’s two personal secretaries. Shortly after Clark arrived, Spencer showed up in the office. He was kept cooling his heels for a few minutes while Crawford talked with Clark. Then Crawford appeared in the lobby and invited the publisher into his office.
 
Unbeknownst to Spencer and Crawford, Clark had purchased a revolver three days earlier and for some reason had it in his pocket when he came to the meeting. During his testimony, Clark claimed he bought the gun because Spencer had threatened his life.
 
The subject of the conversation was not directly Clark’s candidacy, he said, although Crawford hinted that if Clark played ball his election was a shoe-in. What Crawford didn’t acknowledge was that Clark was leading in the polls against the machine’s favored candidate. It was likely that Crawford knew that and wanted to hedge his bet by getting Clark on the hook in case the election didn’t turn his way.
 
Clark said Crawford wanted him to participate in a frame-up of Los Angeles Chief of Police Roy Strekel. Again we’re left to speculate just what that frame-up involved, but based on his history and influence, there was little doubt that Crawford could arrange something. As a publisher allegedly crusading against corruption, the idea probably appealed to newspaperman Spencer. According to Clark, Spencer was at the meeting to explain the surreptitious death threats against him.
 
When Clark refused to play ball, Crawford jumped up from behind his desk (that we can assume, in the words of Raymond Chandler, was the size of a tennis court), and approached Clark holding what Clark thought was a pistol.
 
Clark drew his weapon and fired, hitting Crawford in the chest and dropping him to the floor. Writhing in pain, Crawford urged Spencer to “get” Clark. When Spencer went for the candidate, Clark fired again. Spencer lurched for the door, Clark told special prosecutor Joseph Ford.

Ford: Did Spencer fall to the floor, too?
Clark: No, the minute I fired he turned and walked toward the porch door.
Ford: You followed him?
Clark: I looked around the corner of the door and I didn’t see him. I went out another door opening on the porch.
Ford: How long were you in the room after Spencer left?
Clark: Just a few seconds.
Ford: Isn’t it a fact that you shot both men, they then crumpled to the floor and you thought you had killed them?
Clark: No, not then.
Ford: Isn’t It a fact that after you shot Crawford you saw he had no revolver?
Clark: I didn’t notice.
Ford: When Crawford fell to the floor after you shot him, did he retain the revolver In his grip?
Clark: I don’t know.
Ford: What became of the revolver?
Clark: I don’t know.
Ford: You didn’t attempt to pick it up and then inform the police?
Clark: I went right to the door on the porch after Spencer.

No pistol was found at the scene, indicating that Crawford was unarmed when shot by Clark.
 
The prosecution claimed it was unlikely that Crawford and Spencer would kill Clark, but not that they might want him dead.
 
“For them to attempt to kill Clark would have been contrary to all the rules of the underworld,” Assistant Special Prosecutor A.H.Van Cott told the jury in summation. “If they had planned that, someone else would have been employed.”
 
For most of the jury at Clark’s trial, the defense was able to make a strong case that Crawford was the type of man to threatened an adversary’s life, and that Spencer was a lackey who would jump when Crawford told him to.
 
When the case went to deliberation, there were 11 votes for acquittal and one holdout who was convinced of Clark’s guilt. The judge had no choice but to rule the case a mistrial.
 
As expected, Clark’s second trial a month later was a rehash of the first. This time, however, the defense, daring jurors to sentence Clark to death, convinced all 12 jurors that Clark was innocent of murder and that the shootings were a case of self-defense. Primary to the defense case was that Clark had no real motive to kill Crawford and Spencer.
 
Ironically, although he lost the election while awaiting trial, Clark managed to receive just a third fewer votes than the machine candidate.
 
Things ended well for the former assistant DA: He was forgiven by society and went on to a successful law practice as a criminal defense attorney.