Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MIRANDA VS ARIZONA: THE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICAN JUSTICE

A Rape in Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix

The young woman working at the concession stand at the Paramount Theater in downtown Phoenix watched as the last of the Saturday night crowd filtered out beneath the hundreds of lights on the theaters marquee into the cool March evening. The movie that was playing that night was the World War II epic, The Longest Day, and as a result of the shows extra long running time, she was forced to close down the movie theater and walk home along the darkened downtown thoroughfares much later than she was used to. It was shortly after 11 p.m. on March 2, 1963, and in a few moments the 18-year-old woman would become a central character in a criminal act that would have ramifications far beyond her small world.

Patricia McGee (not her real name) sat next to a male co-worker for much of her bus ride home, but when their bus reached northeast Phoenix, the two separated and Patty transferred to another route. She got off at her normal stop near Seventh and Marlette streets, on the edge of a commercial district and headed up Marlette toward home.

As she walked down the street, a car pulled out from a driveway, nearly hitting her, and headed in the same direction as Patty east. The car stopped about a block in front of her and a man got out and started toward her. Even at 11 p.m. it wasnt unusual for people to be out on Marlette, but this night, just Patty and the tall, slim dark-haired man were on the street. She glanced at him as they got nearer, but paid little attention.

They drew abreast of each other, not making eye contact, and just as she was about to pass the nondescript man, he reached out and grabbed her. His other hand reached over her mouth and he warned her not to make any noise.

Dont scream, he said sternly. Dont scream and I wont hurt you.

Patty begged him to let her go, but the attacker dragged the 18-year-old to his car. He tied her hands behind her before pushing her into the backseat and forcing her to lie down on the floor. The terrified woman did as she was told, and once she was inside, her captor bound her ankles, as well.

As they drove away from Phoenix into the desert, Patty continued to plead for her freedom, and the man replied that he wasnt going to hurt her. He drove for about 20 minutes into the high desert, once he reached his chosen spot, he raped Patty McGee.

After the assault, the rapist asked Patty for money, and she gave him the four dollars she had in her purse. He then ordered the violated girl back into the car, threw his jacket over her head and drove back into Phoenix. About a half-mile from her home, he dropped Patty off and sped away into the night.

Rape was becoming an ever-increasing problem in Phoenix in the early 1960s. There were 152 rapes in the city the year Patty was attacked, up 20 percent from the year before and 33 percent from 1961, according to Liva Baker, the reporter who wrote the definitive book on the Miranda case. By 1970, Baker wrote, the number of rapes in Phoenix would nearly double from the 1963 figure.

Police interviewed Patty shortly after the assault when the hysterical young woman was brought to a local hospital by her distraught family. Physicians told police that Patty had traces of semen inside her, but disputed the girls claim that prior to the assault she had been a virgin.

Based on her statements, police began looking for a 27 or 28-year-old Mexican man with a mustache, a little less than six feet tall, weighing 175 pounds. The rapist was further described as being of slender build, medium complexion, with black, short curly hair. He was wearing denim jeans and white shirt, and wore dark-rimmed glasses, Patty told police.

Her attacker had no accent, she said, and when police pressed her, Patty said he could have been Italian. She was unsure about his heritage, she said, but she would never forget his face and felt confident she would be able to identify him.

Patty gave conflicting stories about the course of the events following her abduction, such as whether or not her rapist had removed her clothes or if she had done it herself. She said she had fought her attacker, but her body showed no signs of bruising or cuts. She also was vague about how many times she had been penetrated. During further interviews, investigators found glaring impossibilities in her story, such as the route she said the man had taken to get out of town. Her evasive answers, reluctance to talk and conflicting accounts of the rape would eventually prompt authorities to give her a lie detector test, which was inconclusive. She may have taken a tranquilizer beforehand, and some of her answers were downright untruthful, the examiner told authorities.

Patty was unable to give many details about the car the man drove, but believed it was a Ford or Chevy. It was green, she told them, and the interior smelled like paint or turpentine. Oh yes, she added. There was a loop of rope hanging from the rear of the front seat like a handrail to give backseat passengers something to grab on to when exiting the car.

Even though Phoenix was above the norm in the number of reported rapes, police were about to file Pattys case away as a possible fraudulent report because of her vague descriptions and evasive answers, when her family approached police with several pieces of information, one of which would break the case wide open.

First, one brother-in-law told investigators, Patty was somewhat emotionally disabled, having a measured intelligence of a 12- or 13-year-old. Second, she was so painfully shy that in the three years he had been in the family, she had spoken maybe three dozen words to him. Police should take that into account when questioning her.

The third, and most important, revelation came from another brother-in-law who was picking her up from the bus stop because of her fear of walking home alone. They had noticed a green car frequenting the area of Marlette Street, and Patty had mentioned it looked like the one her attacker had driven. It was a Packard, the brother-in-law said, and on the second time he had seen it in the area, he noted the license plate: DLF-312.

When police traced the license plate DLF-312, it turned out to be registered to an Oldsmobile that was nowhere near Phoenix on the night of the assault. But the owner of license plate DLF-317 was a woman in Phoenix, and the plate belonged on a green Packard. However, when police went to the address on the registration, they found out that the woman and her mustachioed Mexican boyfriend had moved out two days earlier. No one knew where they moved to, but neighbors did tell police that they had used a produce company truck to move their belongings.

With the help of the postal service, police managed to track down the woman at her new address and went to investigate. Approaching the house, one of the officers peered into the back of the green Packard parked in the driveway and noticed a rope strap attached to the rear of the front bench.

 

 

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