Detective Ann Wright must find the killer of her best friend.
Homicide Detective Ann Wright arrived at the murder scene and took a minute to gather her thoughts. She massaged her temples and took a sip of hot chocolate hoping the caffeine would alleviate the pain. Her headache intensified as her eyes surveyed the gruesome scene before her. Her trained eyes followed the controlled chaos of the fresh crime scene. Yellow tape hung from saw horses borrowed from the street crew from down the street. Several colleagues had arrived and performed their duties with precision. She glanced at her watch and groaned. Murder at 7:30 a.m.
"Wright," Sergeant Joe Foster said. "Looks like the vic's a 26 year old Caucasian female who has been strangled. From all appearances, her body has only recently been dumped."
"Thanks Joe." She turned and approached the body. As her eyes traveled over the dark contusions and abrasions, she fought to keep from gagging. No matter how many times she had seen a scene like this, it always jarred her. Her gaze went up to the victim's face. Broken nose and deep cuts across the cheek of the victim made her feel nauseous. "Mandy?" It couldn’t be. She took a step forward reeling in shock as she saw the earring she'd had made for her friend last Christmas. Only one. The other had been brutally ripped from her ear.
Several officers stopped what they were doing and looked in her direction. She blinked away the tears she knew could get her into trouble. Pushing aside her emotions she went to find the man who found the body, Mandy's husband. She recognized her friend's husband.
"She . . . I didn't know . . . he was standing. . ."
"Phillip." Ann grabbed him by the shoulders. "It's me, Ann."
"Mandy's dead." He collapsed in her arms and she had to brace herself to keep from falling.
"I know." Her hand shook as she patted him on the back. "Sit down and tell me what happened."
Ann guided him to a near-by brick planter. She struggled to keep her mind on her job. Phillip wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
"I didn't recognize her at first, because of the bruises, and the shower curtain over her body." He looked into Ann's eyes. "Why? She never did anything to anybody. Why would they dump her body in my dumpster?"
Ann put her hand on his shoulder, and then reaching into her bag, pulled out her notepad.
"I know how hard this is, but I need you to start at the beginning."
Phillip lowered his voice. "Someone broke into our home a couple of months ago and Mandy got raped." He looked into her face. "I'm sorry we didn't call you." Lowering his eyes, he paused before he continued. "She didn't want anyone to know."
Her body stiffened, and she felt like she was going to vomit. "It's all right. I understand." Ann didn't want to think about her best friend getting raped. But now she couldn't get the picture out of her mind.
"Like I said," Phillip resumed. "She didn't want anyone to know. She had nightmares almost every night. We didn't get much sleep. This morning she was finally sleeping soundly, and I didn't want to wake her, so I left the house and went to a restaurant for breakfast." He began to choke up again. "It took me a couple of hours to get to work and there was . . .there was this van over by the dumpster. After the guy saw me, he got into his van and sped off. That was when I went to the dumpster and saw . . ." He couldn't go on. His shoulders shook. He covered his face as dry racking sobs shook his body.
"Can you describe him?" Ann asked.
He sat staring a moment, then said, "You want to know what the guy looked like?" His eyes were glazed over. "The guy had on a white sweatshirt, and blue-jeans. He was about 6 feet tall, stocky, with blonde curly hair."
"Can you recall anything else?" Ann scribbled in her notebook.
Phillip shook his head and looked away.
"Take some time to get yourself together, and I'll be back to talk to you in a little bit," Ann stood frowning at her notes. She wished this was a big city so she could transfer this job to someone else. As she walked toward the dumpster, she fought to keep her face impassive. After conferring with her colleagues she took a deep breath to steady herself, and began processing the scene.
The deep purple abrasions on Mandy's neck made Ann wonder what kind of a monster would do this to a beautiful woman like Mandy. Her stomach churned. Needing to finish up soon and get away by herself, she wanted to scream, but knew that that wouldn't help. Her friend was gone. Wrapping bags around Mandy's hands to protect any possible evidence, she next bagged the plastic curtain. From the looks of it, she'd put up a good fight before she died. Ann photographed everything and then pulled out her notepad and made sketches.
Finished what she could do at the scene, walked into Phillip's office to find him slumped in his chair. He looked lost and dejected. She cleared her throat. "I'm going to the house to check things out. I'll do everything I can to find the person responsible for this, I promise."
Phillip handed her the house keys, she hugged him, then turned and walked outside to her car.
Arriving at Mandy's home, Ann sat a moment in the car and stared at the house. She got out and went up to the door. She felt a shiver go up her spine. She hadn't been here since the previous Christmas. It looked darker somehow. Pushing her anger and sadness aside, she vowed to catch this low-life scum and make him pay. She mentally shook herself, and said a little prayer. After putting on some latex gloves, she brushed the doorknob for fingerprints then entered the house.
As she stood in the doorway, memories of her friend jolted her. She swallowed back her tears. At first, she didn't see anything out of order. She glanced at the Danish Modern furniture and noticed the highly polished hardwood floors gleaming under her feet. Ann had been doing this type of work for seven years. They told her it got easier the more she worked on cases like this, but this was the first time for losing a friend who was almost like a family member.
She pulled out her camera and took pictures of the room from all angles. She noticed there was spittle on the floor. That was definitely out of place. After snapping a shot of it, she opened her tool-kit and took a sample. In the bathroom she noticed that the shower curtain had been ripped from its hooks. This is probably the one that was wrapped over the body. Wait a minute, what is this in the tub? She bent over and picked up the shinny gold object. Here was the missing earring. This meant the murder took place here.
When she was sure she had everything from the house, she canvassed the neighborhood asking if anyone had seen anything.
She knocked at the door of a house. After a minute a man in his forties answered. He looked surprised to see her there.
"What is it?"
"I'm Detective Ann Wright of the Salt Lake Police Department. I'm investigating the murder of your neighbor and wondering if you might have seen anything suspicious or out of the ordinary this morning."
"A murder? Here? In this neighborhood?" He stepped out on his porch. "Who?" he asked.
"Mandy Althorp, next door," She answered. "And your name is?"
"Dennis. Dennis White." He sat on the porch swing, starring at her with a confused look.
"Did you see anything out of place?"
"Well," he began. "I get up early to take care of the baby so my wife can sleep in. While I was in the kitchen heating a bottle, I noticed a white van in their driveway, Oh and a BMW parked out front. There was a big muscular guy putting something in the back of the van."
"About what time was this?" Ann asked, her pencil paused over her notepad.
"Oh, I'd say around 5:00 this morning," he said, looking at the rose bushes separating their yards."
"Did you get the license number?"
"I sure did, I'm a member of Neighborhood Watch."
A woman, Ann presumed to be Mrs. White came to the doorway dressed in a short tennis skirt and a cropped tee-shirt and added, "Oh, and he was good looking, with a head full of blonde hair, and muscles out to here."
"You saw a lot of him, did ya?" her husband said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "I thought you were in bed."
"There is a street lamp, honey. I'm married, not dead." She laughed. "I appreciate a good looking man, I married you didn't I?"
"Hum." Ann cleared her throat and the two turned back to her. "Please remember, this is a murder investigation. Is there anything else you noticed?"
"What's the problem?" Mrs. White replied.
"I'll explain later dear," Mr. White said, as he turned back toward Ann, "Yes, I saw the headlights from the bedroom when he pulled into the driveway."
Mrs. White added, "The driver went in through the kitchen door and the van was gone about 10 minutes later. But the BMW had been there quite a while previously. Do you think it's important?"
"Everything is important." Ann pulled out her card and handed it to the man. "Thanks for your help. If you remember anything else, please don't hesitate to call me." Ann flipped her notepad closed and walked across the street.
She paused a moment looking at Mandy's house. This was all too much, but she knew it was now just a matter of time.
At the next house there was no one home. She returned to her car and called in the BMW and Van plates for identification. It turned out the plates belonged to a Doctor Thomas Riley. The Van's plates belonged to a Charles King. She needed to find out how these two were connected.
At the examiner's office, Ann steeled herself for what was ahead. She hated this part of the job. This time it would be even worse, but it needed to be done. Taking a deep breath she grabbed a jar from the cart near the morgue's entrance, and smeared Vicks VapoRub under her nose, then pushed open the doors. A blast of cool air dried the perspiration from her brow. Okay Ann. You know you can do this, she encouraged herself. She watched as Deputy Chief Medical Examiner James Thackery stared at the corpse of Mandy Ann Althorp.
"I'm sorry you have to be a part of this Ann. I heard she was your friend. If you'd like, I can get someone else to observe."
Ann stood by the autopsy table. "It's all right. I can handle it. Let's just get on with it."
He switched on the recorder and began the clinical procedure. "The deceased is a female Caucasian measuring sixty one inches, weighing 104 pounds. The hair is light blonde in color, measuring twelve inches from the scalp."
"Blue eyes clouded. The whites of the eyes are covered with petechiae. There are also signs of petechiae on the left side of the face and neck as well as several hemorrhages where hands would have covered the neck. Petechial hemorrhages also on her larynx and vocal cords. The hyoid bone is snapped."
Dr. Thackery clipped Mandy's fingernails, bagged them for the DNA lab, and handed them to Ann.
After finishing up the external observation, Dr. Thackery began the internal investigation. After opening up the twenty-three year old woman's body, Dr. Thackery dictated that most everything inside Mandy seemed normal except for a dead twelve-week-old fetus.
"We need to get a sample from the fetus for a DNA match to the father." Ann turned and wiped tears from her eyes. Again she vowed to catch this creep.
Dr. Thackery's conclusion as to the cause of death for Mandy Althorp was fairly obvious: "Asphyxia due to strangulation."
"There's a DNA lab inJasperCity, Abacus Laboratories. An analyst, Roberta Jones, is top of her field," Captain Pratt told Ann. "We need to send what you found to her. I want you to bring in the owner of the BMW, Doctor Riley, and see what he has to say."
"I'll need a warrant for Riley's body search. Mandy put up a fight, and there will be scratch marks on him. I also want a DNA sample," Ann said.
"I'll get the warrant. You get Riley."
In the interrogation room, Ann waited for Riley to be seated and then let the silence go on for a bit longer. When he squirmed in his chair she knew he was getting nervous. "What was your car doing outside the Althorp home?"
"Mandy is my patient, and I was making a house call," he explained. "When Mandy didn't answer the door, I left."
"At 5:30 in the morning? No doctor makes house calls," Ann said, "at least no doctor in the outskirts ofJasperCity, especially in the middle of winter and at 5:30 a.m." She showed him the search warrant. "Take your shirt off, please."
"Are you arresting me?" he asked, while he removed his shirt.
She picked up her camera and recorded the scratch marks on his arms and face. "If you're not guilty you shouldn't object to our taking a little swab of the inside of your mouth."
He opened his mouth, and she ran a buccal swab, and returned it to the vial. While buttoning his shirt he said, "I want a lawyer."
Ann gritted her teeth, Oh you'll get a lawyer all right. I'll nail you to the wall.
They put a rush on the DNA. Jones at the lab got right to work on the specimens Ann had collected. She forwarded the results to Dr. Hopper, the supervisor in charge of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) at the Department of Public Safety, to check for a comparison.
Two days later, CODIS struck gold. The following morning Jones contacted Captain Jonathan Pratt. Ann was in the office when the call came in. Captain Pratt put the call on speaker phone.
"Does the name Delbert King mean anything?" Jones asked Pratt.
"No," Pratt answered.
"How about Thomas Riley or . . ."
"Yes," Pratt said confidently. He knew the name of Mandy's physician, thanks to Ann. They had his fingerprints and DNA on file.
"Well," Jones said, "his DNA was in CODIS, and was found under the fingernails of Mandy Ann Althorp. He has several aliases, but his real name is Delbert King. We also have another surprise for you. There is a second match, under the name of Charles King, brother of Delbert King. His DNA was found at the residence of Mandy Althorp and his fingerprints were on the shower curtain."
After the call ended, Ann and Pratt gave a victorious high five.
Ann headed out the door to go get King. Later that afternoon she arrived at headquarters with Charles King in tow. Both of them headed up to the fifth floor to the Homicide Division where they were greeted by Captain Pratt.
"Remove his handcuffs, and take him to interrogation room A," Pratt said.
Once inside the room Ann got down to business.
"I'm going to turn the tape on now. This is Detective Ann Elizabeth Wright, Jasper City Homicide. I'm here in Homicide Division, 2039 E. 9400 S. I'm speaking with Charles Keith King."
Detective Wright pulled a card from her pocket and began to read:
"You have the right to remain silent and if you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney being present and to advise you prior to and during your questioning. If you can not afford an attorney you have the right to have an attorney appointed to you by the state, free of charge. You have the right to terminate this interview at any time. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them?"
"Yeah," King said.
"Do you wish to waive these rights and tell me about what happened?"
"Yeah. Me broder makes me so mad. I gets dis call from Doc about 5:00 a.m." Charles said. "He wants me to take dis broad to da dump."
Appalled at his tone, she said, "Please state the full name of the man you call Doc, as you know it."
"Delbert King. I mean Thomas Riley. I mean. . . "
"How do you know Doc?"
"He's me broder," Charles said. "He ain't really a doc you know. We just calls him that."
"What kind of vehicle did you use?" The detective laced her fingers before her.
"What color is it?"
"Did you take her to the dump?" Detective Wright asked.
"Naw. De dump ain't open dat time of de day." Charles said. "After I tolds Doc da dump ain't open, he laughed and said to go to dis address and put er in da dumpster. She'd be a nice surprise fer his buddy dat works there."
Ann felt drained of emotion. How could this creep sit there so calmly talking about her friend as if she was not human?
Before Charles had finished with his statement she knew that Delbert had changed his name, but not his face, even though he had grown a mustache. He had picked up the name of a deceased doctor fromOregonand opened a practice inJasperCity. They were both killers from out of state.
Ann leaned back and stared at the man across from her. These brothers are not very bright. But why kill Mandy?
As Ann and Sergeant Crockett drove to the Riley home, with their search warrant, Ann commented, "I can't believe they would be this stupid. Something is just not right. I've never met such an ignorant killer before."
After an hour of searching, she went into the den. Going to the desk, she opened the right hand drawer and pushed around its contents. Normal drawer stuff; pens, pencils, paper clips, pad of paper, a few notes, a . . . what was that. She yanked a folder out of the drawer. Several pages fell from the folder and scattered across the floor. As she picked up the papers, her eyes widened and her jaw fell open. A bank statement. She couldn't believe how many zeros were on one deposit.
She flipped open her cell phone and called Captain Pratt. "I need a search warrant for Riley's bank records. Thanks."
They got into her Chevrolet and drove toZion's National Bank. After an hour the warrant arrived. They went inside and showed their badges, requesting Thomas Riley's bank records. What they found shocked them, and made Ann angry. The deposit in question was a check from one Phillip LeRoy Althorp in the amount of $40,000. And as if to add insult to injury, the check had bounced.
After arresting Phillip, they sat in the interrogation room. "Is there something you need to tell us," Ann asked. "The story of the rape was a lie, wasn't it?"
Phillip glared at her. "I trusted her, and what did she do? She cheated on me."
"You sure of that?"
"She's pregnant. That's proof enough."
Ann walked over to the back of his chair and leaned over his shoulder. "The DNA proves you to be the father of her baby."
Phillip's face went white. "That can't be."
"I've had a vasectomy."
"It failed," Ann smiled at how easy this case had been.