Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Suzanne Basso and the Murder of Louis 'Buddy' Musso

The Usual Motive

Police first announced that Musso had been beaten mercilessly after he accidentally broke a Mickey Mouse figurine.

But after a search of Basso's house, they would amend their motive to that most predictable one: money. The Houston Chronicle summarized the case neatly in a headline:

Slaying possibly tied to insurance

Victim's policy paid off extra if he died from violent crime

On September 9, Assistant Chief Pruett led a team of cops serving a search warrant at the Jacinto City house.

A dog, a cat and two ferrets had fouled the place.

The tiny place was packed with stacks of plastic storage containers filled with old clothing, record albums and CDs, stereos and television equipment. A mattress where both Musso and O'Malley were forced to sleep lay on the living-room floor. A computer was set up in one bedroom.

The cops found books on Irish history and surprisingly highbrow magazines, including the New Yorker and a periodical from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The compact disc collection included classical works as well as Irish and pop music. The liquor cabinet was well-stocked.

Amid the clutter, police found a $15,000 life insurance policy, written by the Union Labor Life Insurance Co., on Buddy Musso. A violent-death clause boosted the benefit to $60,000. The cops also found a will signed by Musso and witnessed by Basso and three of her co-defendants that named Basso as sole heir to his property, including the life insurance policy.

A paper copy of the will was dated 1997, but police found the original document file in a computer. It had been created 12 days before the murder.

Police found bank statements and canceled checks indicating that Musso had been turning over his monthly Social Security check to Basso. They also found documents showing that Basso had applied to become payee of Musso's government checks.

A relative may have protested. Musso was out of touch with his son, but he was close with a niece in Virginia, Linda Mras. In the computer was a copy of a restraining order that barred any of Musso's relatives from contacting him.

The Houston crime cabal wanted Buddy Musso for their own purposes.

Although all six suspects pointed fingers at one another in police statements, the other five agreed that Sue Basso was the brains—broadly speaking—behind the murder-for-profit scheme.

Houston prosecutors decided to seek maximum prison sentences for the accomplices and a death sentence for Sue Basso.

"There's a reason we have a death penalty," Harris County Assistant Prosecutor Denise Nassar told reporters. "And this is it."


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