Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder By the Book: Candy and Betty

Ax Murder

Dramatization: Police collect evidence at the crime scene.
Dramatization: Police collect evidence at the crime scene.

When authorities arrived, it didn't take long for a more accurate diagnosis of what had befallen Betty Gore. A cop searching behind the upright freezer found a 3-foot-long ax concealed there, its metal head caked with blood and human hair. Gore had been the victim of an ax murder, among the rarest of crimes. The murder weapon had been taken from a tool pegboard in the Gore's garage. Betty's head had been cleft again and again. She was struck with such violent fury "a fit of rage," Wylie Police Chief Royce Abbott called it that her right eye was obliterated.

Wylie Police Chief Royce Abbott
Wylie Police Chief Royce Abbott

Curiously, another cop found a newspaper in the kitchen that was open to a review of a horror film that had opened that week: "The Shining," starring Jack Nicholson as a tormented writer who tries to kill his family with an ax.

Blood evidence on the freezer door
Blood evidence on the freezer door

The house bore no signs of forced intrusion, so investigators hypothesized that she was acquainted with her killer. Mrs. Gore clearly had had a mighty struggle before succumbing, based upon the blood smears on the freezer and the walls of the utility room. Investigators theorized that the killer managed to knock the woman onto her back then stood over her and delivered blow after merciless blow until she expired.

Dramatization: Forensics people arrive.
Dramatization: Forensics people arrive.

Footprints from rubber-soled sandals led a blood trail to the bathroom, where the killer appeared to have showered, leaving the rug stained with even more blood. The killer then made a futile attempt to wipe off the freezer before leaving.

Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences
Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences

Wylie hadn't had a homicide since the 1940s, and Chief Abbott had the good sense to call in outside experts to help. Among them was Dr. Irving Stone, from the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences, who methodically counted the whacks from the ax that the woman had suffered. He finally stopped counting at 41, including blows to her head, arms and thighs. (The autopsy also revealed that Betty Gore had not been pregnant, after all.) The fury of the attack indicated a passionate relationship between the killer and the victim, and the choice of an ax as the murder weapon indicated spontaneity, not premeditation. Crime scene investigators also found a potentially valuable piece of evidence: a clear thumbprint from the freezer door.

Re-creation of Blood Evidence and Thumbprint on Freezer
Re-creation of Blood Evidence and Thumbprint on Freezer

The investigation seemed simple enough. Police merely needed to deduce who loved or hated Betty Gore so much that he would hack her to death. They were certain the killer must have been a man and a strong man at that.

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