Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larry and Danny Ranes: Serial Killers in the Same Family

First Trial

Danny Ranes protested that he was not a killer, but he ended up in a maximum security cell in the same county jail where his brother was awaiting his retrial (having not yet pled guilty).  They were in cells number one and number two.  But unlike Larry, Danny would not capitulate. He continued to insist that he was innocent.  Nevertheless, he went to his first trial in February 1973 for the murder of Partricia Howk, with Koster the chief witness to testify against him.  Koster had not been there at the time, nor had even known Ranes, but he testified that Ranes had described the incident to him, and it fit the physical evidence.  The Gazette covered the proceedings.

During Koster's testimony, reporter Dave Hager wrote, "Ranes sat at the courtroom table...  He smiled to himself and shook his head as if he couldn't believe what Koster was saying."

Kathy Ranes, Danny's former wife, also testified.  She said that a few days after the Howk murder, she had noticed a scratch on her husband's face while they were riding in the car.  He claimed it had happened when he had torn down a garage for his mother and stepfather, but added that it "scared" him.  He also admitted that his mother had suspected him of killing the woman at Topp's and told him he'd better have a good alibi.  Ranes' attorney tried to undermine her by getting her to admit that she had been seen by a psychiatrist and had smoked pot.

Danny Ranes
Danny Ranes

Dr. Daniel Glaster, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified that Patricia Howk had died from a stab wound into her back that was so deep it had gone nearly through her entire body.  He had also documented bruises on many different parts of her body and jaw, and ligature marks around her wrists and neck.  A member of the crime lab, David Metzger, had found traces of semen on her panties.

In addition, in January, a guard found a torn-up note in the toilet bowl of Ranes' jail cell, in his handwriting, that indicated he was trying to find a woman who would lie for him for money and give him an alibi for the night of Howk's murder.  She would also have to say that he already had the Band-aid on his cheek, circumventing any idea that he had been scratched that day.  He wanted a strong woman who would not let the police intimidate her.

Ranes received two convictions in this case: murder in the perpetration of rape and second-degree murder, receiving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

 

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