U.S. Copyright # 1-4992347791-2017
Thomas realized he had become the most wanted man in Shreveport. He liked the cat and mouse game he was living. He knew he could outsmart the cops and rub their noses in his crimes.
He started out attacking women during daylight hours then shifted to early evenings and finally nighttime. I was reading the newspapers and following the T.V. news stories about them. I wanted desperately to catch him. Therefore I put in for a shift transfer to graveyard when the attacks were prevalent.
The lead detectives in the Southfield Rapist case were the famous Lt. Dan Coker and Sgt. Frank Lopez. They were two of the most respected investigators in the Shreveport Police Department. Within a couple of days, I was granted permission to work graveyard. My first night reporting for roll call I was pleased to see Coker and Lopez standing near the podium. They took turns telling our shift about the serial rapist dubbed by the media as the Southfield Rapist . They mentioned his approximate age, appearance, mode of travel and details of his M.O. (Method of Operation.) Each location of the attacks were listed predicting his next strike would be somewhere in southwest Shreveport. I hit the streets that night and focused each moment I was not on a call to search apartment complexes. I was assigned to districts 15 & 16 which in those days were Southern Hills and the South Wood area. My first night was not productive in arresting the rapist. At the end of my shift, I went home a little disappointed.
The next night I hit the streets and heard Coker and Lopez announce on the radio they were getting out for a cup of coffee at the Ramada Inn on Monkhouse Drive. I called my Sergeant and asked if I could swing by and visit with the detectives about the rapist case. Since there was little happening on the streets at the moment, he gave his permission even though the Ramada Inn was outside my beat.
I walked up to Coker and Lopez and asked if I could visit with them about the rapist. Coker asked what did I want to know that hadn’t been included in the roll call briefing. I told him I suspected they knew more than the information that had been given to patrol officers. Coker looked at Lopez and grinned. He turned to me and said, “Well Pat, we do have additional information and will tell you about it. But it can’t be leaked to the media as its very detailed information.”
I promised to keep the information secret and thanked them for trusting me. Coker then told me one of the victims, while being forced to her knees, saw two strange tattoos on the inside forearms of the suspect. One was a very large letter E and the other was a German iron cross. Beyond this they had nothing more to share. I thanked them once again and went back to my beat.
During the first few hours patrolling my beat, I constantly drove from complex to complex. Back then traffic was extremely slow after midnight. When you saw someone out, it was likely a worker heading home from an evening shift job, a newspaper carrier, cabs, cops, people leaving hospitals and of course criminals. I had just checked the Silver Pines apartments on Jewella and moved on to a complex a few blocks north near 70th Street. Nothing there so I headed back to Silver Pines working my complex searches in reverse order. I was about a block away driving south on Jewella when I spotted a light colored, mid-size car slowly exit the south driveway of the Silver Pines complex. As I closed in on the car, we ended up side by side at the traffic light at Jewella and Meriweather Rd.
I was in the far right lane of the four lane street. The small white car in question was stopped in the left lane. A very strange feeling came upon me at that moment. Deep in my soul, I felt strongly something wasn’t right about this car. My senses alerted and adrenaline increased. I was completely on guard now. I looked to my left at the driver of the car. He was in his 20’s with collar length blonde hair. I could see his arms on the steering wheel and noticed the long sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. He slowly turned his head my way and gave me a worried grin and wave. I waved back and continued to stare at him. He leaned forward and made a movement like he was depressing his cigarette lighter. Enough time went by for the lighter to pop out. The man reached in his shirt pocket, withdrew a cigarette and placed it between his lips. It was so strange to watch him. I knew the lighter had popped out but he never reached for it. I never took my eyes off him. I saw him continue to face the red light. He tried to cut his eyes toward me so he could see what I was doing. Just before the light changed to green he took one more glance at me. I was still staring at him and he was getting very nervous.
We pulled away from the traffic light together. I slowed a little allowing him to get a couple car lengths ahead so I could see his license plate. As we approached the intersection of Mansfield Road, another strange thing occurred. Jewella T’s into Mansfield Rd. At the red light there were three lanes. The far left lane was for left turns only, for motorists going north on Mansfield Rd. The center lane, which he was in, required he drive east across Mansfield to the service road and then turn north or south. The far right lane I was in was for right turns only, for motorists going south on Mansfield. The car I was following eased into the right lane. Instead of turning south as required, he went straight across Mansfield to the service road and then left.
This was a simple traffic violation but it gave me P.C. (probable cause) to pull him over. As I followed him, he came to a small gas station and turned in. He did not stop but turned back on to Mansfield Rd. traveling north. I flipped on my red lights. He pulled over. I radioed my location, description of the car and suspect, and announced that I was stopping the suspected Southfield rapist.
Every officer on duty heard my announcement on the police radio. One senior officer radioed he was a short distance away and was heading to back me up. As I was getting out of my unit, the back up officer rolled up behind me. We both approached the car. I went to the driver’s side. He rolled his window down and looked over his shoulder at me. I calmly advised the driver of the traffic violation and requested to see his driver’s license. His name was Thomas Gary Murray. He lived in the small town of Mansfield some 30 miles south of Shreveport. I took his license and stood at the rear of his car as I used my hand held talkie to call in his information to the dispatcher. I requested a driver’s license check and any wants or warrants on him.
My skin was tingling all over as the senior officer approached me. I told him the man in the car matched the description of the rapist. The senior officer did not agree. He told me to let him go because he was not the rapist. I respected the senior officer and gave his advice some consideration. I decided against releasing the man and instead called on my talkie for Coker and Lopez to come to my location. Coker announced he was leaving Ramada and would be there in a few minutes. I could tell he was not happy to leave his hot coffee and drive halfway across town to meet a rookie cop who thinks he has stopped the serial rapist. To add pressure, the senior officer repeatedly told me I was making a mistake by calling Coker to my location. He predicted I would regret it. I would be the laughing stock of the department before it was over. Regardless I waited for Coker who soon rolled up and walked over to me and the senior officer. I could tell by the look on his face he thought I was a joke and this was B.S. Before I could tell him about my P.C. to stop the man, the senior officer told Coker he advised me to release the man because he was not the rapist. Coker gave me a hard look and asked why I had stopped the man. I went through every detail of the encounter with Coker.
Coker frowned at me as he told me to ask the man to get out of his car and step to the rear. I did so and Coker began to question him. Coker asked him to show us his lower arms. When we saw the large letter E and the German Iron cross tattoos, Coker never flinched. Coker turned to me and asked if I was going to issue him a citation for the improper turn. I said no sir. I’m going to give him a warning. Coker told Thomas to return to his car as he nodded for me to follow him to the rear of my unit. The senior officer tagged along still saying, “I told him he had the wrong guy Lieutenant.”
Coker ignored the other officer as he spoke to me. “Great job, Pat.” He was smiling as he continued. “This is the guy no doubt. We don’t have enough P.C. to arrest him at this moment but that’s him for sure. Let’s try to get him to let us search his car before we release him.” I agreed and asked Thomas to get back out of the car and step to the rear. He did. I asked him if I could search his car. I could tell he didn’t want to let me but he frowned and said OK.
On the console of the car, was a very expensive ladies watch. In the rear floor board, behind the driver, was a long black knife. It was actually an Army bayonet. Coker asked him about the watch and knife. He replied the watch belonged to his wife and he carried the knife for protection. We put the items back in the car. I called dispatch once again to see if there were any outstanding warrants for Thomas Murray. The operator responded with a negative.
Coker signaled me to release Murray. As we walked back to his driver’s door, I asked if he still lived in Mansfield as listed on his driver’s license. He said no sir. I moved a month ago. Now we live in a mobile home park there. He gave me the new address. I wrote it down on my note pad. I told him to drive safely. He smiled and promised he would. As Thomas pulled off, Coker approached me. He said, “Pat, this is the Southfield Rapist and you did outstanding police work to get him identified. We will place his photo in a line up and see if any victims can pick him out. Write a detailed report on this because this is a major break and this case will end up in court.”
I told Coker I would do my best. The senior officer did a 180. He patted me on my back and told me he knew all along I had the right guy. I looked at him like he was crazy and let it go. Thirty minutes after I released Thomas, the dispatcher came on the air and excitedly asked me if I still had Thomas detained. I told her no. He had been released quite some time ago. She stated they received a response from Mansfield P.D. and there was an arrest warrant outstanding for issuing worthless checks. I became upset at the time but there was nothing to be done. I radioed Coker and told him of the warrant. He stated he would go to the radio room to get a printout of the warrant information and let me know how it went.
It took me an hour to write the detailed report. In doing so, I broke a police report writing rule. I drew small sketches of the Iron Cross and large E tattoos in the body of my report. At the end of my shift, I turned in my reports and headed home for my three days off. Back then we worked four 10 hour shifts with three days off. I lived in Keithville then and the only form of communication was a landline phone. We did have a T.V. and received only three channels in Shreveport. Two days later it was the lead story of the Shreveport Times and local TV news. I caught the major news conference on television. Chief of Police James Kenneth Lanigan, also known as J.K. Lanigan, was a cop’s cop. He served many hard years on the streets in uniform. He caught many criminals; once was involved in a big shoot out with a bank robber near the Municipal Auditorium. He was shot in the face before he shot and killed the suspect. He was well respected as he worked his way up from patrol to investigations and finally chief. He was known nation wide as an outstanding criminal investigator. Standing beside him were Dan Coker and Frank Lopez. The chief told the reporters how Coker and Lopez had broken the case and solved it. They were to be commended and honored for the successful conclusion of this major crime case. I told my wife this was the man I had stopped the other night. Needless to say, I was very happy.
The next day I was to report back to graveyard patrol and pull another four day shift. The phone rang and my wife answered. She looked at me with a worried expression as she called me to the phone. She whispered, “It’s the Chief’s secretary!” “Yes, this is officer McGaha,” I answered. The Chief wanted me to be in uniform in his office at 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. She said nothing more and hung up. I was almost sick at my stomach. I began to worry that I was about to be fired for letting the rapist go the night I had him in custody.
My stomach was in a giant knot when I walked into the Chief’s office. His outer office, where his personal secretary was stationed, was filled with reporters from every news agency in town. The secretary stood and smiled as she instructed me to follow her. She opened the door to the chief’s big fancy office and invited me in. Chief Lanigan rose from his thick padded chair, walked around his desk and shook my hand. He smiled and asked me to tell him about the way I stopped the suspect. It was clear he had read my report but wanted to hear from me in person.
I walked him through each detail and apologized for drawing the tattoos in the body of my report. He smiled and said, “Officer, you did a great job the other night! You obtained vital information on Murray that the detectives did not have. You even got his current address. Coker and Lopez took your report, the new address information and contacted Mansfield P.D. He was arrested and booked on the worthless checks warrant. Coker and Lopez contacted three rape victims and showed them a photo line up. All three picked him out as the man who attacked them!”
The chief pushed an intercom button on his desk and told his secretary to let the media into his office. The second news conference was held by the Chief. He told the entire story how Murray had been identified and arrested. He openly commended me as the cameras rolled and writers jotted down new facts.
A few weeks later, I received my first departmental commendation. It was for Officer of the Month. Once again it was a news event. In addition to the award, I was given a brand new Ford LTD by Bill Hanna Ford of Shreveport to drive.
Thomas had been booked into the city jail. Because he was charged as a felon, he was then booked into the Caddo parish jail. While he was awaiting his first trial, he somehow obtained a syringe. He filled it with his saliva and injected the contents into his lower leg. He intended to cause a leg infection so he would be moved to the state hospital. I felt he was planning to attempt an escape. His plan did not work. In fact, the injection killed him. The saliva went straight to his heart proving to be fatal. Justice was served. It saved taxpayers a tremendous amount of revenue by not having to take all his cases to trial.
Author’s note: This case changed my life in a major way. I learned that God blesses every woman with what is often called a sixth sense, one where she sees a red flag in her mind. Some men learn to develop a similar sixth sense, or gut instinct or whatever you wish to call it. Mine developed that night. Because of it, on 3 separate occasions it saved my life. It also helped me gain numerous confessions and helped me capture many criminals. I am a firm believer in the sixth sense. I worked many rape cases during my stint as a cop. I can’t tell you how many victims told me something deep inside told them not to enter their home that night but they overrode the feeling and entered anyway, only to be brutally attacked. Some others followed the deep feelings and called the cops. They waited in safety until the cops arrived, searched their homes and learned in some cases a rapist had been inside waiting for them. To you current cops, Do your best to develop this tool. To you women, Always follow your instincts. It may save you from an attack. Pat