Tag Archive for serial killer

A Modern-Day Bluebeard

Lowell Amos

Carolyn Lawrence Amos might still be alive today if she had followed her instincts and not taken her estranged husband, Lowell Amos, back the day after his mother died.
 
Instead, in 1989, Carolyn was murdered by her husband, a modern-day Bluebeard, who collected $800,000 from an insurance company. Ironically, Carolyn threw Amos out in 1987 when he refused to cancel the overly large policy he took out on her life.
 
According to Amos, Carolyn was accidentally electrocuted by a hair dryer while she stood at the bathroom sink. However, the autopsy revealed no evidence of electrocution, but did show that Carolyn had ingested Valium and alcohol shortly before her death. The coroner ruled the cause of death undetermined and the case was closed.
 
In hindsight, it is surprising that the Middletown, Indiana, police did not look a little more closely at the circumstances of Carolyn’s death. It occurred less than a year after Amos’s mother, Mary Toles, died under mysterious circumstances only a few weeks after Amos moved in with her. Just what killed the 77-year-old woman was never determined. Because of her age no autopsy was performed.
 
But that’s not all. In 1979 Amos’s first wife, Saundra Heard Amos, 36, died after she allegedly fell and hit her head in the bathroom. Traces of Dalmane, a sleep aid, and alcohol were found in her blood during the autopsy. Again the coroner ruled the cause of death undetermined and closed the case. Amos collected $350,000 in life insurance.
 
Amos wasn’t finished, however. In 1994 his third wife, Roberta Wagner Amos, died of a drug overdose under circumstances that can only be called bizarre.
 
The couple were in Detroit for Amos’s consulting firm’s Christmas party. They spent the evening drinking and around midnight returned to their room in the Atheneum Hotel where they began using cocaine.
 
A friend of Amos’s business partner told police that she was with the Amoses until around 4:30 a.m., December 10. She said that Roberta looked tired and “like she was drinking” while Amos appeared to be “jumpy and talkative.”
 
Amos and Roberta went to bed and when he awoke later that morning he found Roberta dead next to him. She had apparently been dead some time because one employee called by Amos after discovering Roberta’s body said Amos graphically told him her corpse was cold.
 
“I touched her and she was cold,” an equally cold Amos reportedly said. “She’s laying in the next room — cold as a mackerel.”
 
Amos told them he had waited to call anyone so he would have time to get rid of the evidence of cocaine use. Amos handed the man an overnight bag and asked him to take the bag from the hotel before the police arrived. When the man got to his home he opened the bag to find a syringe without a needle, a “foul-smelling hotel washcloth with an unrecognizable substance on it,” according to reports, and a sports coat. He turned the evidence of — something — over to police.
 
Unlike the Indiana authorities, Detroit cops, who coined the phrase “routine murder,” opened a homicide investigation even before the results of the autopsy were in. Amos was talking with Detroit homicide detectives back at the hotel where he admitted the couple had used cocaine. Amos told the cops that the couple had inserted the coke anally and in Roberta’s vagina.
 
“Obviously, Roberta is a 37-year-old healthy female that had a completely unexpected death,” said Detroit homicide detective Patrick Henahan. “Then the following day we started getting calls from these other locales regarding the other wives and that’s what made us delve into it.”
 
Roberta’s autopsy revealed that she had a “tremendous” amount of cocaine in her body, according to Wayne County medical examiner Sawait Kanluen.
 
“It was 15 times the amount typically seen in a cocaine overdose,” he later testified. The ME pronounced her death a homicide.
 
There was good reason to rule the manner of death homicide: Roberta’s mother, Marie, testified that Roberta did not use drugs, and a professor of emergency medicine told the court during Amos’s preliminary hearing that Roberta’s symptoms as described by the friend who was with her that night did not fit with a cocaine overdose.
 
“The symptoms of a typical cocaine overdose include nervousness and hyperactivity,” said Dr. Suzanne White. “Mrs. Amos would not have simply fallen asleep or died quietly had she overdosed.”
 
In addition, other friends of Roberta’s told police that Roberta was afraid of her husband and preparing to leave him because he was seeing another woman, something that was part-and-parcel with Amos’s psyche. He cheated on his first wife, Saundra, with Carolyn Lawrence, who he married just months after Saundra died. Two days after Roberta’s death, Amos treated a pair of women to a $1,000 dinner. The women reciprocated the favor by engaging in a menage a trois.
 
Unlike with the other deaths, Amos did not benefit financially from Roberta’s death.
 
“It makes me wonder how much did he have to hate her to do this,” said Marie Wagner. “Or did he just think he could get away with it here? No one has that much bad luck.”
 
Roberta’s death did prompt Indiana authorities to reopen the cases involving the deaths of Saundra, Mary Toles, and Carolyn Lawrence Amos.
 
“When you have one situation, you don’t have a track record. When you have two you start looking,” Anderson Detective Michael Williams said. “When you have three you get into a situation where you may have some kind of pattern.”
 
It took the Detroit police 11 months to gather enough evidence to charge Amos with first-degree murder. He was arrested in Las Vegas, where he moved after Roberta’s death.
 
There was plenty evidence presented at the preliminary hearing to indicate that Amos was a serial killer. Similar to a grand jury, the rules of evidence in a preliminary hearing held before a judge in state courts are different than those at trial, so prosecutors were able to introduce evidence connected to the deaths of Amos’s previous wives.
 
Connie Alexander, a former neighbor of Amos and Saundra, said the night Saundra Amos died in 1979, Saundra and Alexander shared a beer at Alexander’s house in Anderson, Ind. Saundra Amos went home about 11 p.m. A few hours later, her young children knocked at Alexander’s door.
 
“They said, ‘Something is wrong with Mommy, and the ambulance is stuck in the snow,”‘ Alexander said. She said her husband helped free the ambulance.
 
Alexander testified she went to the Amos house after hearing Saundra Amos had died. She found Lowell Amos burning something in the fireplace.
 
Binding Amos over for trial, Wayne County District Court Judge Deborah Lewis Langston asked rhetorically: “Is Mr. Amos unlucky in love? I have my own opinion.”
 
Then she looked down from the bench at Amos.
 
“May God have mercy on your soul,” she said.
 
At trial, Amos testified that he loved Roberta and was heartbroken when he learned she planned to end the marriage.
 
His stepson told jurors that Amos knew he would be under suspicion because of the earlier deaths. Gary S. Lawrence, Carolyn’s son, said he talked to Amos outside an Indiana funeral home after his third wife died.
 
“He told me he was glad he had no life insurance on Roberta. I told him it wouldn’t matter because if she had stepped off the curb and got hit by a bus people would swear he paid the bus driver. He said, ‘I know it.'”
 
Amos’s defense attorney argued that the state had not proved its case in his closing argument.
 
“As horrible, as sordid, as unfortunate as this particular case is,” the attorney said, “it is not murder.” At most it was a case of manslaughter.
 
The jury was allowed to hear evidence involving the death of Carolyn, but not those of the two other women, which helped establish a pattern of behavior. Jurors did not take long to convict Amos of murder. In Michigan the penalty for first-degree murder is a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
 
At his sentencing Amos continued to proclaim his innocence.
 
“You’re a young judge,” Amos said. “I hope this is the first time and the last time you have to sentence an innocent man.”
 
Judge Jeffrey Collins was unmoved, describing the former General Motors plant manager as a dangerous killer without conscience.
 
“Thank God for the safety of our community you will be locked up for the rest of your natural days,” he said.
 
As of May 2014, Amos is serving his sentence in an Upper Peninsula prison. No charges were filed in the deaths of Saundra, Carolyn, or Mary.

Black Widower

Jerry Stanley

Cindy Rogers Stanley never really had the leisure time to repent her hasty decision to marry professional hunting guide/serial killer Gerald “Jerry” Stanley. Their marriage ended in her murder after just 38 days.
 
The pair met on July 3, 1980 at the Trinity County Fair in Hayfork, California. They were married in Reno on July 7 and headed to Lake Country where Cindy’s parents owned and operated a motel-resort in Nice, near Clear Lake.
 
n.b. Follow this link to another murder connected to the same Clear Lake in California.
 
After Jerry sexually assaulted and beat Cindy on July 16 they separated. Two days later, Jerry burned down Cindy’s house in Lucerne. When Cindy went to the police and filed charges against Jerry for the rape and arson, he torched her car.
 
Jerry quickly went underground because he knew that the charges meant he would definitely be headed back to prison. After all, Jerry was on parole for the 1975 murder of his second wife, Kathy Rhiley Stanley, with whom he had two children. For that crime Jerry served a whopping 4 1/2 years.
 
Jerry was concerned that Cindy’s criminal charges would have a negative effect on another legal matter he had pending before the courts: he was attempting to regain custody of the two children whose mother he murdered right before their eyes.
 
Kathy’s murder took place on January 14, 1975 while Jerry and Kathy were separated after a little more than 7 years of marriage. There was plenty of evidence that the marriage was not a happy one. There were frequent fights and beatings, and Jerry allegedly sexually molested Kathy’s sister at gunpoint and liked to watch her take baths, but that didn’t come out until Jerry’s second murder trial.
 
Jerry had a strange way of trying to reconcile. They would get back together or there would be trouble, he said. Shortly after the estrangement, Jerry showed up at the home of Kathy’s mother and threatened to put Kathy in a condition where her mother could not recognize her unless Kathy returned a pickup truck.
 
Kathy’s murder was particularly horrific, which makes one wonder how anyone would have even considered letting Jerry out of prison after serving less than 5 years, not to mention why any court would bother to review his custody petition.
 
On the morning of the murder Jerry was lurking outside the office of the elementary school where his daughter attended classes. He had already drunk a tallboy and taken three or four codeine pills. His plan, he claimed, was to kill himself in front of her and the kids. When Kathy drove up and stopped to let her daughter out, Jerry jumped into the car on the passenger side. Kathy tried unsuccessfully to get out of the car.
 
With the two children between them, Jerry grabbed Kathy by the neck and shot her twice. Kathy fell out of the car and Jerry grabbed his daughter by the hand, running ran away with her while his son, just a toddler, tried to follow them.
 
Jerry said he remembered getting in the car and Kathy screaming, but did not remember shooting her. The next thing he recalled was being down the driveway with his daughter and hearing his son calling to him. He was arrested shortly after, and while in the jail he called his first wife, Linda Faith, to tell her he planned to feign mental illness and if she interfered he would “take care of her like he did Kathy.”
 
Stanley was convicted of second-degree murder and went off to prison for a few years until he emerged and went looking for another murder victim/wife.
 
If you’re thinking that Cindy was wife/murder victim number 2, you’re wrong.
 
Before there was Cindy Rogers, there was Diana Lynn, whom we must assume is dead although her body has never been found. It’s a pretty good guess that Diana is dead because Jerry admitted to a Riverside Press-Enterprise reporter to killing her and burying her body in a dry creek bed near the town of Manton in Tehama County. The circumstances of her death are anyone’s guess.
 
Jerry has offered to lead authorities to her body if they will set an execution date for him and carry it through because he’s tired of living on San Quentin’s Death Row.
 
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
 
From July 20 to August 11, the day of her death, Cindy Rogers Stanley stayed away from Jerry. After he set fire to her home, Cindy and her family spent the night in a motel in Ukiah. Thereafter Cindy stayed variously with friends and her parents at their resort in Nice.
 
Knowing that he had royally screwed up and was probably going to spend the rest of his life in prison, Jerry launched a feeble attempt at damage control. He convinced his mother, Edna Stanley, to call Cindy’s mom to ask that Cindy drop the sexual assault and arson charges against her son. The plea was unsuccessful, so Jerry went on to Plan B — silence Cindy forever.
 
On July 20 Jerry made an anonymous telephone call to the Shasta County Sheriff’s office in which the caller reported that he had met the man who had introduced Jerry and Cindy and that the man made a threat against Jerry and Cindy. The caller (Jerry) said the man was angry because Cindy had been his girlfriend and that Jerry had married her after knowing her only a few days.
 
That call was Jerry’s way of being clever in a pathetic try to divert suspicion from himself.
 
On the evening of August 11, Jerry, armed with a high-powered rifle and scope, positioned himself behind a tree across the road from the family resort. Just before 10 p.m., Cindy, her father, and a friend moved their lawn chairs from a patio area to a more open location near the swimming pool so they could watch Cindy’s son playing there. Shortly after the three seated themselves by the pool, Cindy’s father turned on the pool area lights.
 
As Cindy’s father sat down again, Jerry fired, shooting Cindy through the heart; she died almost instantly.
 
Once again, thanks to Jerry Stanley, a child had a close-up view of their mother being murdered.
 
After the shooting, witnesses near the site from which the shot was fired saw a man running past their home carrying a gun and wearing a jacket. He disappeared into the darkness. They subsequently saw a car start to move, its lights and engine off. After the headlights were turned on and the engine started, the car turned left onto Highway 20 east toward Lucerne near Clear Lake.
 
The murder weapon, a Browning rifle with a Redfield scope, was later found about 18 to 20 feet out in the lake. Police were able to trace it to Edna Stanley.
 
Shortly before 11 p.m., a car traveling east on Highway 20 approached a police roadblock. The car pulled to the side of the road for a second or two and then made a U-turn and proceeded westbound in the direction from which it had come. Police officers gave chase. They noticed a cloud of dust floating across the highway from a private driveway, indicating someone had turned up the driveway at a high speed. Following the trail, the officers found the Camaro abandoned behind a residence where it had come to a skidding stop due to a log blocking the driveway.
 
The driver was nowhere to be found.
 
A search of the Camaro yielded, among other things, a loaded rifle, an empty rifle case, and binoculars out of their case, a corduroy jacket, a knit cap, a ski mask, along with a spiral notebook containing a letter in Jerry’s handwriting to his parole officer. Jerry’s fingerprints were found on the car trunk and the notebook. The dome light, intact and working when the car was rented, had been removed from the ceiling of the car, thus preventing a light from going on when the car door was opened. An excerpt from the letter to the PO read in part “When you read this I will be dead! Better this way as my life and everything I fought for has been destroyed. My fight for my kids I can never win now.”
 
A search of Jerry’s room in the Stanley residence in Anderson yielded Winchester 30.06 150-grain ammunition consistent with the spent cartridge in the chamber of the Browning rifle and with the lead taken from Cindy’s body, as well as a photograph of Jerry holding the Browning rifle. A spent 30.06 cartridge was found in the living room. The evidence also showed that the Browning had been carried in the empty rifle case found in the Camaro.
 
During the early morning hours of August 12, Jerry broke into a mobile home on the Spartan Ranch, nine to ten miles from where the Camaro was abandoned. Later that day he walked to Highway 20, where he hitched a ride with a couple returning from a camping trip in Fort Bragg. They dropped Jerry off at his mother’s house in Anderson. The next day, after Edna’s house was surrounded by police, Jerry surrendered.
 
Unknown to anyone at that time, Cindy wasn’t Jerry’s first murder victim that day. In the early hours of the morning, Jerry had murdered Cheryl Renee Wright.
 
After spending the day with her sister, Rhonda, in Sacramento, Cheryl was heading home toward Redding where her boyfriend was waiting for her. Cheryl was dressed in a maroon, strapless pantsuit and driving a broken-down Chevy Vega with less than $50 on her person. Taking I-5 north from the state capital, Cheryl should have been able to make the drive in about 2 or 2 1/2 hours — easily putting her home before 10 p.m. when Rhonda tried unsuccessfully to reach her sister by phone. After meeting with similar results at midnight and 2 a.m., Rhonda called the California Highway Patrol, which began looking for the Vega. They found the car north of Williams at 2:40 a.m.
 
Officers stopped at a gas station in Williams — at the junction of I-5 and Route 20 — and learned that Cheryl had been seen there in the company of a man in a light-colored Camaro. Apparently, one of the rear tires on Cheryl’s Vega suffered a blow-out and the driver of the Camaro was kind enough to give her a lift.
 
Although Stanley had jumped parole and was wanted for a trio of violent felonies, the cops had no reason to suspect that he was in the area; besides, Stanley was known to drive a piece-of-crap brown, tan, and rust pickup truck.
 
They didn’t know that Edna, apparently the queen of enablers, had helpfully rented a silver-gray Camaro for her son to drive because his other vehicles were known to authorities around Shasta County, where she lived and where Jerry was hiding out.
 
The man, whom the employees told police had previously been at the station in a tan and brown pickup, discussed with the men how to fix the tire on Cheryl’s Vega. Jerry claimed he had a friend about six miles out in the country who had a Vega, and that he could get two tires and wheels so she could get her car fixed.
 
The tow service operator had been in the area for 22 years and knew almost everyone; according to him, no one in the area owned a Vega. When Jerry and Cheryl left the station, he drove toward the northbound I-5 ramp, which also led to Highway 20.
 
No one ever saw her alive again.
 
On August 17, 1980, Cheryl’s body was found buried under gravel at an abandoned oil well on Bear Valley Road off Highway 20. She had died as a result of a head wound inflicted by a .25-caliber bullet fired from a semiautomatic pistol. Death had occurred between two days and two weeks earlier; the exact time of death could not be determined due to deterioration of the body.
 
Police collected samples of the gravel that covered the body and of the gravel that covered the floorboards on the driver’s side of the Camaro Jerry was driving.
 
A geologist for the California Division of Mines and Geology and a specialist in rock identification, examined the samples and concluded the gravel from the well site and the gravel from the Camaro were virtually identical. He testified that kind of gravel was not indigenous to Colusa County, being native only to Southern California. The gravel at the well site and in Jerry’s car matched a kind of gravel dug in Bakersfield and delivered to the mine by Coastal Engineering Company of Bakersfield in May 1979. Coastal Engineering Company had never delivered gravel from that source anywhere else north of Sacramento.
 
During the search of Edna’s house police found .25-caliber ammunition in the bedroom Jerry had used, as well as in the garage and master bedroom.
 
In 1983, after several rounds of interviews with psychiatrists who differed on whether Jerry was mentally competent, he went to trial for Cindy’s murder. It was an unusual trial in that it consisted of three distinct phases. In the first phase a jury was asked to determine whether Jerry was mentally competent. Once it did, a second jury was empaneled to determine Jerry’s guilt or innocence. That jury, finding him guilty, also determined whether to impose the death penalty, which it did.
 
Because he was convicted in that case he was not tried for Cheryl Wright’s murder and has not been charged in the case of the disappearance of Diana Lynn.
 
Now an old man in poor health, Jerry Stanley remains on death row in San Quentin where he is reportedly very anxious to bring his 30-year odyssey through the achingly slow 9th Circuit appellate system to a close with a trip to the death chamber.