This story is protected under U.S. Copyright #1-4002347791-2017
Under this title, I will share snippets of cases I encountered during my career. If you try to follow my career path, I assure you it is very confusing. I will pause and give you a little insight.
In my first year, I worked patrol and in my 12th month as a cop I was transferred to Organized Crime and Intelligence. I know…. Intelligence and Pat McGaha were never synonymous. I worked vice, organized criminal enterprises under cover, for almost 2 years. Then I made detective in criminal investigations. There I worked all types of felony cases such as robbery, homicide, kidnappings, thefts, burglaries and rapes. I transferred into investigations 5 times in my career. And 5 times back to uniform service or what most called patrol. As a detective, I was always in the full tilt mode, 100% on fire with my cases. I was not able to do as most normal men and women there seem to do. They pace themselves. When they approach the burn out level, they slow down and ride the wave for a while. Being in investigations is almost always a career move. In short I burned out every 2-3 years and sought refuge back on patrol. I know this sounds crazy, but then I am crazy, OK? As a detective / investigator, I was never really off duty. I loved working nights when most major crimes happen. The more action or cases I worked, the more arrests I made and the more times I was called to court to seek convictions of those I arrested. Time and again I worked a night shift, slept between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m., reported to court at 9:30 a.m. I stayed there all day, went home to crash from 5:00 p.m. or so until 9:30 p.m. Then I reported to investigations at 11:00 p.m. and got back to working major cases. Needless to say, this takes a toll on people. It sure did on me and my family. So when I completely burned down to the ground, I requested permission from the brass to be sent back to patrol. They approved it. On patrol I fought crime, made calls and did all the stuff cops do in uniformed service division. It was dangerous at times. As a cop riding Cedar Grove, I was shot on duty once. I digress. That is another story for another time. On patrol I was able to clock off duty and leave S.P.D. behind, go home to my wife and son and forget about it till the next shift. I hope you understand a little better now as to why I moved around so often within the department. The hard part was the unwritten rule. If you make detective and return to patrol, you can never get back into investigations. The reason I was welcomed back 5 times is because they all knew I worked hard and smart and got along well with most good detectives. I easily joined teams of other great detectives and carried my share of the loads.
It was the fall of the year in the late 70’s. The leaves were raining down from our native oak and pecan trees heavily. Gentle breezes caused them to twirl around in circles on the old asphalt streets of Cedar Grove, as we headed to a murder scene on that cool sunny morning.
My partner was George Spriggs. We didn’t have a bro-mance but I have to tell you about him. He was a great guy. Always had a smile on his face. Always had a chuckle or laugh at the tip of his tongue. He was 6’4″, tanned easily, blue eyes, thick black hair and was more or less a player. He was happily married but the gold ring on his hand never stopped women from coming on to him everywhere we went. He was a true “chick magnet” but most importantly he was a damned good detective. He was one of the best interviewers I had the privilege to work with. George and I worked 11-P to 7-A shift or as we called it, “graveyard”. We caught a murder call in the Allen Dale district the night before. We worked the scene and ran down leads. We worked up the name of the shooter and the motive. We worked the case as far as we could take it until something else broke for us. We needed to learn the whereabouts of our suspect. We knew what he was driving and where he would likely be. George called the radio room and put out a broadcast on the suspect. We had his mug shot on file from an earlier arrest and made copies we gave to street officers. They were also given his known associates and address. The street cops searched hard for this armed and dangerous murderer. George and I were dragging and needed something to eat, a fresh shower and change of clothes. We needed to re-charge so made a quick trip to my house to shower and have my wife make breakfast. As we headed south along Linwood, we decided to swing by another murder scene being worked by two other “Day Shift” detectives. We did so to take a break from our case but also to offer any assistance to the other guys working that murder.
Let’s call them Jack and Gill as I don’t want to use their real names. You will understand, I promise. We rolled up to the old wood framed house on the north side of 73rd street, one block west of Linwood Jr. High. A young rookie uniform was protecting the crime scene in the front yard. The two unmarked detective units were on the street in front of the house. We called out to Jack & Gill who were inside the home looking for evidence. We greeted them at the front door. They offered to take us on a walk-through of the murder scene.
The little 2 bedroom shotgun style home was unmistakably the scene of a violent fight and subsequent murder. The victim was an elderly man who lived alone. He was at least in his 70’s. He put up one hell of a fight for his life. Tables, chairs, rugs, lamps were overturned, dishes were destroyed or dumped on the floor. Blood splatters and pools of blood were on almost every surface. The victim fought his attacker first inside the living room, then into the dinning room and then into the rear kitchen before he ended up face down in the center of his back yard. We were present when the parish coroner rolled the victim on to his back. His hands were bloody. Tightly clenched in his left hand were several black colored strains of what appeared to be human hair. We believed they belonged to the suspect. The victim had been beaten and stabbed multiple times in the chest and face. He bled tremendously. In my opinion, he died a slow and painful death.
Beneath the victim was a crushed bottle. It was Chianti wine with the basket wrapping around the base. The victim fell on it during his final struggle. The bottle shattered. At first, the stab wounds were somewhat confusing. Jack and Gill said they searched thoroughly for the knife used to kill this man, to no avail. They had only been on duty a couple of hours. Since they were finished with this part of the investigation, they were going to get something to eat. They left us standing there and headed out for brunch. They were not well-respected within S.P.D. as detectives. Abandoning the case so early was at least consistent with being the slackers they were.
Even though George and I had a heavy case load at the time and were deep into our current murder case, we remained at the scene studying it. I took a better look at the victim’s chest wounds. I noticed the stab wounds were created in strange circular patterns. We realized the suspect had beaten the victim with the wine bottle and it broke. The suspect and the victim struggled on the ground on their knees. We saw dig marks in the grass and soil. Missing was the bottle neck. We envisioned the bottle being held in the hand of the attacker as he beat the victim in the face and on his head. After the bottle broke, the suspect held the neck of the bottle and stabbed the victim multiple times with the shards at the broken end. I stood up and surveyed the back yard still being searched by the crime scene techs.
I summarized, if I had been the attacker, what would I do with the bottle neck after the victim was dead. I looked to the west of the yard. Next door was a vacant lot. Years earlier a house stood on this lot. The lot was now covered with a good carpet of short grass. I hopped the chain-link fence and began to search for the neck. In less than a minute, I spotted it. I leaned down and without a magnifying glass was able to see finger prints. We headed to the police station, along with the crime scene techs, with our evidence. We matched the prints to those of a young white male who was recently released from prison. We searched police arrest and conviction files in the records division for known violent suspects. We learned our suspect and his address was directly behind the murdered victim’s home. The suspect’s house faced W. 72nd street. His backyard touched the backyard of our victim. He had jet black hair and wore it long. With his prints matched to the bottle, and the hair matching as well, George and I went to his house. We chatted with him on his front porch. His knuckles were bloody, his face scratched and a large section of his head hair was clearly missing.
We arrested him and sent him to jail in the paddy wagon. He was booked by a patrol officer for murder and a hold placed on him for Jack and Gill.
We went to the cafe where they were still eating and telling a pretty young waitress all about this big murder investigation they were on. She was clearly impressed with these two detectives as they gave her some of the bloody details of the scene.
George and I walked up to their booth and told them the bottle neck had been found. Prints were matched, head hair was similar, details about the suspect and now their murderer was in jail with a hold for them. They quickly left the cafe for the city jail. There they easily obtained a full confession from the suspect.
By the time they wrapped up the case, it was getting off time so they went home.
The following Monday we attended a standing meeting of all investigators. The chief of detectives awarded Jack and Gill letters of commendation for their outstanding work on their murder case. The chief went on and on showering them with high praise.
George and I worked 3 days in a row without sleep. We were like zombies when we were ordered to report to this meeting and honor the two top investigators. We never spoke in that setting but stood near the door so we could leave as soon as the ceremony was over. One thing about police departments, they all have a well maintained grapevine system. Needless to say, Jack and Gill’s time in the spotlight was not well received by our other investigators. For over a year they were hounded and teased unmercifully.