(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): Welcome to Missing Pieces. My name is Todd Matthews. Tonight we have Lois Duncan Arquette. Welcome Lois.
LOIS DUNCAN ARQUETTE (Missing Pieces Guest): I’m glad to be here with you Todd.
TODD: Oh, I’m very happy. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while now; we’ve emailed and talked for quite a while. You’re a well-known author, obviously, and we’re going to talk a little bit about that, but you’re also the mother of murdered Kaitlyn Arquette, she was murdered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 16, 1989. Police dubbed the shooting as a ‘random drive-by’ and refused to investigate any other possibility. Is all of that accurate?
LOIS: All of that is absolutely accurate, and after the shooting, we began to discover all kinds of things that pointed to an assassination, and the police simply didn’t want to look at anything other than random shooting and, of course you can imagine, on top of the grief, the great frustration we felt as we were…these people that were supposed to be helping us and solving this and being our friends…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …were becoming just the opposite.
TODD: Now this is 18 years ago and the case has never been solved and you believe that she was killed because she was a potential whistle-blower?
LOIS: Yes. That’s exactly what we think. We discovered after Kait’s murder that…well to begin with, she was chased down in her car and shot to death; two well-placed shots in her head, and she was 18 years old. She was in the process of breaking up with a Vietnamese boyfriend that we later discovered was part of a Vietnamese gang that were involved in a number of different criminal activities, and then the more we did on our own as a private investigation went on, we discovered that some of those activities were linked to renegade cops and we believe that the case got shut down because if it was opened up, it was going open up to something very big.
TODD: Too much, obviously. Well with that being her boyfriend, obviously she had the position to gain information and I’m reading directly from our Missing Pieces page about a number of illegal activities involving dangerous and corrupt individuals, which is what you have just described. She would have been 36 today; she’s approximately my age, so that is…
LOIS: It’s so hard to think of her as 36, to me she will always be 18.
TODD: In your own mind, it doesn’t change. I know, I understand, as I’ve spoken before, I have a deceased brother and sister and to me they remain infants, but they would have been very close to my age and I can certainly understand where you are coming from with that. You’ve done quite a bit; I mean you have been on Larry King Live.
LOIS: Oh indeed I have and it was quite an experience but what happened was, after the point came that the police had dropped off the case, they were not going to do anything else, and because I was a professional writer, I was in a position to write a book about the situation. I wrote a book called ‘Who Killed My Daughter?’ and when that was published, suddenly I was put on this lecture circuit and Larry King was one of the experiences, Unsolved Mysteries, Good Morning America, Sally Jessie, Inside Edition, it went on and on and suddenly Kait’s case was not dead and buried, again it was up in the public eye.
TODD: You’re luckier than most people in this position in that you did have a platform from which you could speak out.
LOIS: Exactly, and once that book came out, you know it sounds so strange to say that we were fortunate, but in this way we were because how many people are in a position to get a book published if the book doesn’t have an ending?
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And because I had been writing for so many years, I had built up a readership, primarily teenagers, but those teenagers were all growing up, and so out comes a book by Lois Duncan, a non-fiction adult book and my readers, my now grown-up teenagers, picked up that book and so the book became a very good seller.
TODD: I think that they wanted to see what happened to Lois Duncan. You know, they began to know you through your other books…
TODD: …so what’s behind the lady?
LOIS: And the strange thing was, this book fell together on the page, just like one of my novels, because here was a teenage heroine in a life-threatening situation and the story is being told in first person, and it read like a novel and I think a lot of people didn’t realize it was true until they got really into it.
TODD: Uh huh. Well I’ve seen so many family members that say this to me, “I want to write a book about my case” and like you said, there’s no ending yet.
LOIS: No, there’s no ending. It was a fluke that this book got published and, once it was published, we began to be contacted by so many other families that were in our same position, their children or their loved ones had been murdered…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …and the cases were being covered up; they were being closed down as suicides or accidents or random drive-by shootings like ours, and these people were not in a position to get a book published or to be on national media, and so my husband and I and a friend Tom Arriola, who has the website Crimescene.com, and together have constructed the website called Realcrimes.com where we help these other people get their stories told.
TODD: I’m looking at the website, real crimes, real cases, real cover-ups and corruption by law enforcement, real families, frustration and heartbreak.
TODD: Wow. I mean this is quite a project to take on.
LOIS: Well over the years, I’ve done so many interviews with so many people; I was a contributing editor for ‘Woman’s Day’ for a long time.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And I used to write for ‘Ladies’ Home Journal’ and I know how to interview because of all the experience.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: So I was able to talk to these families and help them word their stories and get them into a concise form because you can’t put too much on the website. What we wanted was to use this www.realcrimes.com site as a source for the media, so that people like ‘Dateline’ and other investigative type shows and investigative reporters and all the areas of the media could come to that page and find a story and then they could contact us and we would contact the family and put them together and get some of these stories aired that normally would not have been let out of the closet.
TODD: It’s almost like a public relations firm, so to speak, but you’re helping the people that are in a very difficult position.
LOIS: And the other thing we do with it is, we know that most of these families, nobody will listen to them.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: Because it sounds crazy. We’re all raised in a society where we believe in the system and for families to be saying, “No, the system isn’t working”, people tend to think they’re nuts.
TODD: I have talked to people before, family members that have such long and exhausting stories that they’re almost too complicated for television to use, as far as trying to pair them up with ‘Good Morning America’. Now I’ve been there, I’ve done ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘People’ magazine and it’s hard to put a story down. You have to have a story with twists and turns to interest those types of media outlets, but when they get too complicated, you just can’t explain it.
LOIS: Yes, and to catch the interest of the media, you’ve got to present a very tight, precise thing.
LOIS: Because they are not going to read past the first few paragraphs.
TODD: So you try to boil it down for them.
LOIS: Anything that can hook their interest, then we can put them in touch with the families.
TODD: So you’re using a lot of your writing skills and people skills to help boil these down, these really complicated cases and help to give them a really good paragraph that will catch the attention and somebody can absorb the whole scope of the story without having to read…
LOIS: And then what my husband does, he’s the technical one.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: When people make allegations that don’t sound possible, he links them to documentation. For instance, in the Peter Klunck case, that was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Peter was shot to death by a police officer, Matt Griffin, on January 27th, 1989, and the police chief issued a statement to the media that Peter was armed and Griffin shot him in the chest in self defense. Well, we put that police officer’s statement on there and then my husband links it to the autopsy report that says Peter was shot 3 times in the back. So by using the documentation, we can confront these issues.
TODD: I see that you’ve an entire book ‘The Tallykeeper’…
LOIS: I’m sorry Todd, I missed your question.
TODD: ‘The Tallykeeper’, I’m reading about Peter Klunck and an excerpt from a book ‘The Tallykeeper’.
LOIS: Yeah, well ‘The Tallykeeper’ is still a work in progress because ‘Who Killed My Daughter?’ was published in 1992 and we developed a webpage for Kait with a message board and with an email envelope and that’s how tipsters have been contacting us.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And then we would take the tips and give them to private investigators and they would verify them and, by now, we have built up such a repertoire of new information that wasn’t in ‘Who Killed My Daughter?’ and so we need a sequel and that’s going to be ‘The Tallykeeper’ and that’s what I’m working on now and the Peter Klunck case is going to be mentioned in that book as are many of these other cases.
TODD: So none of the books really have a final end? It’s like an ongoing…because some of these cases, they never end really, you know?
LOIS: In our case, it may be a trilogy. But some of these cases have been solved and we keeping hoping, every time on of the cases gets solved, everybody on there has become almost like extended family helping each other and connecting with each other and sharing information and, that in itself, seems to be helpful to a lot of people.
TODD: Well I met some of your friends on line and they all think very highly of…you’re performing a great service them obviously, because they have all this data and it’s so hard, especially when you have the burden of the crime on your shoulders as a parent or a loved one, it’s hard to even think straight and function during the day with your normal job, let alone try to put something like this together.
LOIS: I also noticed that in many cases, families that have this much pressure on them, the marriage falls apart.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And often it’s…usually it’s the mother that won’t let go, maybe because we carry these children in us and they’re a part of us and it’s the father that says, “We’ve got to get on with our lives” and the conflict there becomes too much to handle. But sometimes the father…there are some very strong fathers who…I’m not saying all of them are like that, but in general, I would say that 80% of people who come to us with cases, are women. They are the mothers and the sisters and the daughters.
TODD: And you, you and your daughter, how did this impact your family? How did…obviously you’re speaking from great experience with this. It was a struggle, I’m sure.
LOIS: It affected our family in different ways. We all crashed in our own different ways. I was the one who could not let go. I was out there nailing posters to trees and writing my book and being on TV shows, and my husband was not resistant to my doing that but it took him a while to become involved himself, and once he did become involved, then he was right beside me with this.
TODD: Everybody has their own time.
LOIS: I also noticed that many times mothers developed severe health problems, often cancer, because the resistance goes down.
TODD: Well this consumes them, you know, this is almost like a cancer in itself.
LOIS: It is.
TODD: But you have been able to effectively…obviously you have great talent to be able to put this together and create a positive, you know it’s so hard to take tragedy and turn in around and create positive things for so many other people, including yourself. It’s just wonderful for you to be able to do something like this. When I see some people that are barely able to even function at all and they all need something to do and some of my work that I do, I try to find people something to do and not just mundane tasks just to keep busy but they do need some way of feeling like they’re making a positive impact on things, including their own case.
LOIS: Well some of these cases are so bizarre.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: You want me to talk a little bit about some of them?
TODD: Absolutely. You just pick out one and you tell me about it.
LOIS: Well the John, I’m trying to figure how to pronounce his last name, John Petrazzuoli, I think you’d probably say. Johnny was burned to death in his car at 1:00 a.m. in a deserted parking lot in Garden City, South Carolina, in 1999. The Horry County Police Department closed the case as a suicide although John was shot in the leg before the car was ignited and a forensic expert has told the family that it was arson. The family has found an eyewitness who drove past the scene and told the police that 2 other vehicles were there and he saw a man running from Johnny’s blazing car and, under hypnosis, that witness has provided a description of a man and of the vehicles. The sheriff’s department doesn’t want the witness’s notarized statement because they don’t want to change the cause of death from suicide to murder.
TODD: That’s often something very hard to change.
LOIS: Well when you get something like this, you just wonder, “How do the parents stand it?” Imagine your kid is burned to death in his car. I could go on and on with these but I don’t know how much you can handle but anyone who has an interest, these cases span many different states, we started out just with New Mexico because that’s where Kait was murdered and that’s where we began to be contacted by many people, but then we got contacted by so many people from other states, if you go on that website you can find many stories from many different places.
TODD: So on www.realcrimes.com you can see excerpts from Lois’s book from several of these cases. There are cases there that are just mind-boggling, to read these cases and just not understand why something has not happened, you know when people read it, if you can actually get through the whole thing and read it and take in these twists and turns, you just think, “How can this happen in this day and age?” It’s just unreal.
LOIS: Well it is happening and it’s happening far oftener than the average person thinks because most of us, and this includes our family, we are just a normal middle-class family not getting in trouble; my husband and I didn’t even smoke, you know how naïve could we be? We never imagined these things and I think I blame myself now for never even reading about them when they were in the newspapers because they were unpleasant; I skipped over them. I think that how most of us are.
TODD: That’s easy to do. That’s easy to do.
LOIS: The world comes up and hits us.
TODD: So you were actually at the point where it was just almost thinking, “This couldn’t happen to me. It happens to other people.”
LOIS: That’s true.
TODD: And so many people are like that. The first introduction to this world, people that I’ve known before things happened to them, they’d never really opened their eyes to this until they’re asking for help themselves and then they take in all of this information, you know all of the missing, murdered and unidentified people out there, it’s just an incredible number of things that have happened and so many people were going un-helped. You have a couple of cases on the site, we really don’t have to get into great detail with them: Diane Lynn Harris, Tom Stump, we’re interviewed with these folks before so we can actually look back at them with the archives. We actually transcribe every episode so that people can read back and reconnect the other guests together. Who else do you have on the site?
LOIS: The John Sherman case is a shocker in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, in 1998. This is another Johnny here, John Sherman was found dead in his van behind…the guy who called in 9-1-1 after finding him said that he was scrunched up in a ball in the driver’s seat behind the wheel and there were deep, ragged vertical slash wounds on his arms and his jugular vein was cut and some of his teeth were knocked out, and the Sandoval County Sheriff Department said that it’s a suicide, “Let’s just bag the body and go home.” They didn’t process the van for prints or DNA evidence and the alleged weapon, which was a razor, wasn’t seized as evidence. When John’s mother asked the lead detective about that he said, “Well it was in a pool of blood so I left it in the van.” Scene photos show John stretched out flat in the back of the van. Apparently deputies moved him from the front of the van to the back before they took the scene photos. The mother thinks that maybe they thought the back of the van would be a more likely place for John to have committed suicide so they just moved him there.
TODD: It’s hard to commit suicide scrunched up into a ball, that’s a defensive position.
LOIS: It is indeed and how many people knock out their own teeth while they’re doing it?
TODD: It would take quite a bit of talent to do that. It’s just amazing how some of these come out and I’ve seen similar cases, in fact, I think I’m going to do you a favor and give you some more. Now that we have a good friendship built up, I could probably give you a lot more than you can handle.
LOIS: I’m sure. I’m afraid you will.
TODD: Now, your daughter’s case now, after 18 years, what’s the hope you have for this case actually being solved now? And I don’t mean to ask anything hurtful; I’m just trying to help people. A lot of times we have victims here and we try to get their story out but then I try to have people like you that have been through it and actually hope that you can help give people inspiration and guidance, I guess, to what they can do.
LOIS: Well in our case, we have really pretty much given up hope of getting the killer, if by the killer, you mean the person who pulled the trigger because we think that it was a hired hit man…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …they’re a dime a dozen and they come and go and the chances of getting a hired hit man is; at this moment in time, very slim. But what we are uncovering and I cannot divulge that right now in detail, but what we want is to get the reason behind the killing. What did Kait know that she was going to blow the whistle on that was so big and so terrible that somebody would feel that they had to orchestrate her death?
TODD: uh hum
LOIS: And by doing that, we are working our way sort of up a chain of command about the various things that were going on in Albuquerque at that time that could have led to her killing that she was in a position to have learned about. We are getting more and more information to support some of our suspicions. That’s really all that I can say at the moment but people are sending us, I think maybe because so much time has gone by, people who were afraid in the beginning, have lost some of that fear and are contacting us and also because we have guaranteed that we will not reveal their names without their permission and I think they have come to trust that because they see that we are not revealing the names of other people. Also, people, they’re getting older…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …and they’re going to have to face Kait one of these days and I think your viewpoint changes, their loyalties are changing. Girlfriends that were very loyal and supportive and are now ex-girlfriends and they are bitter and they don’t mind sharing things that they learned during pillow talk.
TODD: Things change.
LOIS: So we’re learning a lot and we have very good private detectives, more than one, who are following up on these things and cutting and pasting and a picture is forming but it’s taking a long time and it’s certainly taking a lot out of us.
TODD: Like I said, I’m the same age as she is, since I was 18, I’m grown with children, you know my older son is 15 now, my thought of how murder and homicide, your children being lost to something like this, my viewpoint changes. You know, I always cared but you never really know until it’s your own child until you put yourself in that position as a parent, so maybe actually some of these people are becoming parents themselves and maybe seeing the other side of things. You know if they’ve been silent because they didn’t want to get involved, how would they feel?
LOIS: Well that is exactly what’s happened, Todd, because many of these people who have contacted us were people who knew Kait and knew people that Kait knew and they were walking the narrow edge themselves at that point…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …and didn’t want to get involved and now they are parents, and they’re thinking back, and they’re reading my book, and going to the website and they’re saying, “Oh my Lord” and then they are getting in touch with us.
TODD: Well some of these are probably very good people too; if I was involved, like you said, walking on the edge, maybe I would have been in a little bit of activity I shouldn’t have been involved in and then to actually bring forth information and become a witness, you know they might have put themselves in the same position that Kait was in.
TODD: You know, so a lot of it is fear, a lot of it is growing responsibility and compassion after time. You think about things, you face your own children and your own mortality. You have to think about it. It has to dawn on you eventually that everything comes out in time. It’s going to come out.
LOIS: So, as I say, what we’re looking for really is not revenge, its knowledge. We want to close the book and know the end of the story.
TODD: So Lois has not given up on this.
LOIS: No, and my family hasn’t either. They’re totally supportive. We have 4 other grown children and all their lives have been severely damaged by this; it’s taken a lot for them to pull themselves through because this is their baby sister.
TODD: Absolutely. You seem to have functioned so well. You’ve managed to make some very positive steps but it wasn’t easy for you, I’m sure you’ve had some times; I know you’ve had some dark moments.
LOIS: Absolutely, and I’ve had health problems because you don’t come through unscathed.
TODD: Well you neglect yourself, do you feel?
LOIS: I think your resistance goes down.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And I think you get exhausted and emotionally you are crashing and you don’t eat properly, you know it’s a whole…you don’t sleep well and emotional problems can affect the physical.
TODD: Oh absolutely, it can wear you down at every end; you’re burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, because you still have to live, you still have the other children. Do you have grandchildren now?
LOIS: Yes, we have 6 grandchildren.
TODD: So you have quite a full plate already as a grandmother and you’re still having to do…
LOIS: Well I don’t get to see them that often because one thing that happened after Kait’s murder was that we got death threats to the rest of the family and everyone scattered in different directions, so that our children are scattered all over the place, and we go visit them and they visit us but it’s not that family unit that it was.
TODD: That is should have been.
LOIS: We always used to think of it as a family with a capital ‘F’ and that’s no longer the case; everybody still keeps in touch and we all love each other and on the anniversary of Kait’s murder, all over the country wherever we are, at sunset each of us lights a candle to bring light to Kait’s spirit and to bring the light of truth to Kait’s case, and so at that moment we’re all joined together.
TODD: It’s a very positive way…you’re really still trying to hold everything together. Now I’m looking at suspects, of course I’m looking at your page http://kaitarquette.arquettes.com/ and you can get to it through the other website…
LOIS: By the way, the Kait Arquette website does not have a ‘www’ and I can’t imagine why it doesn’t because I thought they all did but it doesn’t, it’s http://kaitarquette.arquettes.com and Kait is spelled K-a-i-t because Kait wanted to be exotic and she changed the spelling of name.
TODD: So that’s not the original way you spelled her name?
LOIS: No, we started out with the normal Kate but when she got into high school, she decided to become very romantic and exotic and put the ‘i’ in, so we honored her love for having that strange ‘i’ in there so her name is spelled K-a-i-t.
TODD: So did she legally it?
TODD: You just allowed her, sort of like a nickname I guess.
LOIS: It’s just what she called herself so that’s what we put on the grave marker.
TODD: So you can get to all of the websites through the Missing Pieces archives. If you want to talk about some of them, I’m looking at some of the possible suspects, the Vietnamese criminal group…
LOIS: Yeah, we have…as you said before, these cases tend to become so complicated and so convoluted because there can become too many suspects and, in Kait’s case, that’s exactly what happened. We started out thinking it’s the Vietnamese boyfriend’s group, she found out that they were involved in a car wreck insurance scam; Kait found out about it, she had evidence against it and that’s why she was killed. So we had a very simple path that we were following in the beginning. Then we found out about all these other activities that Kait had reason to know about.
TODD: Do you think that it could be a combination though?
LOIS: I think it could very well be a combination. I think she probably learned about it initially through her boyfriend that she was breaking up with, but how much did she learn; how much did people think she knew that she really didn’t know? Were they taking her out because they were afraid she would find out more? There are too many questions and it’s driving us and our private investigators crazy because we swing from one possibility to another.
TODD: Had she spoken to you about it or anybody? How did you really learn that she did know something?
LOIS: It started out because she had talked to some friends, girlfriends…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …and then we followed it on from there.
TODD: So you found out a lot of it after the fact?
LOIS: Yes. All of it after the fact; we had no idea of any of this. We thought our little darling was pure as the driven snow and we had no idea that she was walking on the cutting edge of life and was finding out about things that we had no idea of.
TODD: That’s a good lesson for everybody including myself. It never hurts to look in. What advice would you have for somebody with a child this age, that just maybe you think that nothing is going on, what do you do? I mean she was 18 so she was a legal adult, but…
LOIS: Yes and she had graduated and she had moved out and she had gotten her own apartment, and her boyfriend had moved in with her, and so we were not privy to everything in her life the way we were when she was living at home and I think that’s where it went out of control because, when she lived at home, she had a curfew.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: So we pretty much knew where she was and also she was going to school and she had a job after school and the boyfriend would come over to the house in the evenings and when her curfew came, he’d go home, so I think at that point, it was rather naïve.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And then when she got her own place and he moved in and all his friends were there all the time, and I think that’s when, she’d only been in that apartment a couple of months before she was killed.
TODD: You know I think we tend to trust our kids, you know like my 15 year old, I think he’s a good kid, he’s been a really good kid, you know there’s probably things that I don’t know about but I do trust him and I feel like he’s got a good heart but, if I allow him a little room, he always messes up something. You know I tell him, “No cell phone after 9:00, you’re to be in bed”, if I don’t go and take the cell phone out of his room, if I go in there at 10:30, he’s on it…because it’s there…I didn’t come and take it, you know? My word isn’t really enough but he hasn’t done anything; he’s not…as far as needing punishment other than that, I couldn’t ask for a better kid. He doesn’t bother anybody but you still got to check if that temptation is there.
LOIS: Well we couldn’t have asked for a better kid as far as Kait went; she was an honor student, she didn’t use drugs, and she’d never been in trouble with the law, and she was everybody’s favorite babysitter and we had no possible reason to suspect that anything was going on in her life that we didn’t know about and it came as a total shock to find out that she was on the edge of things anyway…that were illegal.
TODD: Do you know of anything that you could have done differently? I know you’ve had 18 years to think about it.
LOIS: Of course, the first thing any mother does is say “What could I have done to have kept this from happening?”
TODD: Self-criticism falls in immediately.
LOIS: Immediately, and I think I don’t know that we could have done anything else. When I’m being truly honest about it, unless I’d locked her in a cage and thrown away the key, I don’t know that any of us can control our young adult children once they move out of the house.
TODD: The cage thing is very tempting. Of course, as he is 15, I’m looking over the next couple of years, driver’s license, going out at night and him thinking these things are harmless and me, looking back at my age, I got married at 18, and I know he is going to be out driving and he thinks there’s nothing to worry about but I’m thinking about other cars, people running into him, drunk drivers, everything goes through your mind. Every parent goes through this but it’s pale in comparison to having lost a child.
LOIS: Right. I have reached the point where I just think, at a certain point, you have to pray; I mean, put it in God’s hands because I don’t know how we can control our grown children, meaning once they’re out from under our fingers. Even when we think we’ve got a grip, as you say, the cell phone may be under the pillow; I’m just saying that symbolically.
TODD: Well symbolically is real because that’s where I found it last night and, of course, he had no idea how it got underneath his pillow. You hate to say “You’re lying and I’m going to beat you for it” but I mean you’re…you have to say “Just hand it to me” and I have to keep that responsibility, I know I have to go get it because he’s not going to bring it to me.
LOIS: Now some of these cases that you were asking about, I’ll tell you about a couple more because they’re extremely…they’re all different from each other but in several of these cases, the suspect is a police officer whose own department investigated the case…
LOIS: …and immediately closed the case as an accident or a suicide or whatever.
TODD: I see a lot of familiar names.
TODD: I see Ruth Hoffman, I see Ricky Dyer…
LOIS: Well you see the Natalie Wagner case in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Natalie was killed by a shotgun blast to the head in 1994, in the presence of her jealous boyfriend, an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department, and his own department performed the investigation and quickly called the death a suicide. Well Natalie was breaking up with the boyfriend and had been out that night with another man and the boyfriend had been tailing her while on duty…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: …and after the shooting, the boyfriend pried Natalie’s teeth out of the bedroom wall and carried them in his mouth during the funeral. Natalie’s mother said to me, “This doesn’t seem like normal behavior to us. We don’t think Natalie killed herself.” Well wouldn’t you look at this police officer with a bit of a frown on your face, I mean he pried his beloved’s teeth out of the bedroom wall and carried them around in this mouth?
TODD: And why wouldn’t they be with the rest of the remains?
LOIS: Well because the shotgun blast blew them out of her head and where he was when the shotgun went off…
TODD: Well you know when they collect the remains for the funeral…?
LOIS: I have quite a bit of suspicion about that boyfriend whose own department investigated the case.
TODD: Is he still a police officer?
LOIS: I think he’s with a different police department now. He changed his name right after that.
TODD: That’s convenient.
LOIS: If anybody is interested in that they can look up the Natalie Wagner case on the website and see who he is and I think it may tell what his new name is.
TODD: It does. It’s Michael Patrick Austin.
TODD: That’s what he’s changed it to or…
LOIS: And he’s with another department. You’re reading the website and I’m not.
TODD: Yes I am.
LOIS: He’s with another department now.
TODD: I cheat a little bit. I have to stay on top of these things and read ahead.
LOIS: The reason I’m not is because my telephone cord doesn’t stretch over to the computer.
TODD: We’re going to have to get you a wireless phone.
LOIS: I know but they sound so funny. I was afraid I would echo if I used one.
TODD: Wow, you’ve got an enormous website here. I think people are really going to be interested in reading more of this, you know I hadn’t really read into this, these particular cases until I had actually hooked up with you and I’ve been kind of studying you a little bit. Maybe, back to a little bit of your lighter side, your books? I know you find quite a bit of comfort, I don’t think you’d ever thought you’d be writing about this type of thing?
LOIS: No, I’ve always been a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 10, and I started selling them when I was 13. I was obsessed with it.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: And I wrote my first novel when I was 20 and it was a romance, because what else did I know at age 20? And it was for teenagers, because who else did I know to write about at 20?
TODD: And it’s such a creative outlet, writing. You know I’d love to do it. I wish I had more time to do it but how does it make you feel to write these stories where you control everything in the stories? Where you make the characters do…?
LOIS: If only we can control life as well as we can control fiction.
LOIS: Because I’ve never been good at anything else.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: So it’s like my brain had this bulge on one side like a water balloon when you push it on one side, and one side has this ability to write and it was a gift, and the other side is like sunken in the hole and I can’t find my way around the block, so I did the thing that I knew how to do and I wrote. I’ve written 50 books over the years.
TODD: 50 books?
LOIS: And the ones I’m best known for are teenage suspense novels like ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
TODD: I think that is how you are known to people.
LOIS: Well the movie was dreadful but the book wasn’t bad. The movie was so horrible that the first thing I did after I saw it was run to the phone and call my married daughter, Kerry, and tell her not to let the grandchildren see that movie and they are still not allowed to see it and one of them is 20 years old.
TODD: Well it was quite a contrast. I mean you wrote the original book and then the movie…
LOIS: I wrote it in the ‘70s. It was quite a gentle story comparatively and I went to the movies and onto the screen came this insane fisherman carrying an ice hook and I thought, “Who is he? He’s not in my book. What is he going to do with that ice hook?” Then I found out that he was going to decapitate all my characters.
TODD: Well when you first wrote this book, of course, like you said…
LOIS: There was no fisherman. Nobody’s head was sliced off. The whole story was changed to where it was horrifying.
TODD: Well how did you feel when you first were approached? Somebody had to have come and said “Hey Lois, we would love to turn this into a film”. I mean that had to have been a really nice feeling to hear that.
LOIS: Well of course. I was thrilled. A number of my other books had been made-for-TV movies.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: ‘Killing Mr. Griffin’, ‘Summer of Fear’, ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ and ‘Gallows Hill’ and I think there were a couple of others but those were television movies, but this one, oh I was thrilled that it was going to be big screen. I had no idea that it was going to be made into a ‘slasher’ film.
TODD: So obviously you had nothing to do with the script writing process?
LOIS: No. The author of the book is kept as far away as possible.
TODD: And I can kind of understand that in working in some of these things because I know they’re trying to capture a different vision from a director and a producer and I know they don’t want to get the input of the writer too much but to actually completely, change it completely, why didn’t they just start from scratch and make their own?
LOIS: I wondered about that too. I can’t imagine why they didn’t and now they’ve done 2 sequels so evidently people like to see heads slashed off but I certainly didn’t.
TODD: Well if I had written a book and the context that I know was different between the book and the movie, it would be kind of disheartening as a writer. I don’t usually watch those types of movies but it was a pretty good movie for that type of movie, as far as that goes, it was interesting, but I can see your point of view. If you like that kind of film. I know a lot of people that loved that film
LOIS: If you like to see spurting blood, that’s the movie for you.
TODD: I know a lot of people that loved that film.
LOIS: This is why I would not sell movie rights to “Who Killed My Daughter?’ I did not want to risk having Kait’s real story altered in any manner. I could just imagine a Hollywood ending being tacked on to it and I just couldn’t bear that so, I had many offers for that story but other than ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ who did quite a good job with it, as far as they went because, at the time they did that, we had not found out a lot of things, so all they knew about was the car wreck scam, and they did quite a good job, and that still keeps popping up every once in a while on the Lifetime channel. I’ll see myself 15 years ago being interviewed and there’s the case detective and so forth and it is an odd feeling to see that.
TODD: Were there any tips that actually came out of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’?
TODD: Well they obviously didn’t solve the case but do you feel like it helped you?
LOIS: The police didn’t want the tips.
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: They don’t want anything that suggests anything other than a random drive-by shooting and any information we try to give them that indicates something else, they refuse to look at.
TODD: Now do think of going over somebody’s head? I know you had to have tried it.
LOIS: You can’t go over the head…this we found out and this is so startling to most people; it doesn’t work like we think it works. The local police department owns the case.
TODD: uh hum
LOIS: And nobody can get involved unless they are invited in, and if the police don’t want any other agency involved, it stops right there.
TODD: There has to be a reason for it. I mean you have to give somebody an answer when the family is saying “Corruption!” How do they respond to that?
LOIS: They say, “This is our case. This is the way we did it. This is what it is and we’re not looking at anything else.”
TODD: Do they accuse you, the family members, of reading more into it? Because it’s easy to see; I’ve seen family members come up and they have actually fantasized things that you truly find later on, they have truly imagined some of the things that were put in there, but when you know that it’s the truth, you know…
LOIS: And when you see things that were actively covered up…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: When you realize that certain things were removed from the case file that indicates that the case was not random, the shooting was not random.
TODD: A body being moved…
LOIS: Something is going on. When you see a transcript of an interview that has been altered and re-typed in order to put it in the case file to make it say the opposite of what it really said, you see those things and you’ve got to think, “Something’s going on in this department.” Not necessarily the detective in charge of the case…
TODD: uh huh
LOIS: In our case, I really think he’s a pretty good guy and was trying to do his best but he can only do what he’s told to do and the higher people over him get to direct his investigation, and the people over them get to direct what they do then there’s a mayor who gets to appoint the police chief. And who is the mayor involved with? You could go up and up indefinitely, if what Kait found out was bad enough and went high enough; you don’t know where it is going to take you.
TODD: When do you think it could end? One day, sooner or later, a new chief will be in town.
LOIS: The good, clean chiefs get knocked out pretty quickly. They keep changing them every time there is a new mayor, there’s a new police chief. The police chief has much less control than one would think. From what we’ve seen, the police chief is pretty much a figurehead, and a lot goes on that the police chief knows nothing about. So, I don’t know, I’m not behind the scenes in the police department, but we have heard from so many good, clean, honest cops, who are behind the scenes and do know what goes on, that we’ve learned a great deal, and they are not in a position to do anything because then it is taken out on them.
TODD: Now you’ve had tips that have come in from psychics on some of these cases.
LOIS: Yes we have.
TODD: Has that, as a rule, been something positive or negative? I’ve seen it go both ways myself.
LOIS: I think that there are plenty of fake psychics out there, but…
LOIS: Absolutely. We were lucky enough to be placed in touch with very top ones because, at that time, I was a contributing editor to ‘Woman’s Day’ and I was able to get an assignment to do an article on the top psychic detectives in the United States, and so I was able to go to the top, the ones you normally can’t get to, the ones who work with the FBI and police departments around the country. So we weren’t getting gypsies in tents and the things they told us were remarkable in that they all pretty much told us the exact same things and none of them knew about each other.
TODD: Did any of the tips that you received from the psychics ever help, let’s say, further where you were at in things? Your case isn’t solved yet but you have made enormous progress.
LOIS: We have, and what we’ve done is just take the readings from the psychics, the same we would take a tip we got from any tipster who gave it to us. We don’t believe it until we check it out.
TODD: It just all goes into the file.
LOIS: It all goes into the file and, unless the private investigator can verify it, then it’s just a tip.
TODD: What about rewards? How effective have you found rewards to be in some of these cases?
LOIS: So far in our case, it hasn’t helped at all.
TODD: So you still have a standing reward for…?
LOIS: We’ve offered a $25,000 reward through Kait’s college fund for new information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of her killer.
TODD: And that still stands?
LOIS: That still stands.
TODD: I’ve seen them change cases. I’ve seen people that, over time, they think about it, I don’t know if money is the motivator some times but I’ve seen people turn them down in the end. It’s just an amazing process and I know there’s people out there probably feeling guilty in your case, just from simply…
LOIS: I’m sure there are people that know a lot that could help us, who are simply afraid.
TODD: If you could say something to one of those people, to anybody that knows, what would you want to say to somebody that knows and they’ve just been hesitant. They’ve had no personal direct involvement other than knowledge and maybe, for whatever reason, they’ve not shared that data.
LOIS: I would ask them please to contact us. They can contact us through the email envelope on our website. They can, if they want to get our mailing address, and mail us information, we can provide them with our mailing address (P.O. Box 27187, Albuquerque, NM 87125). It’s, whatever, I can guarantee that we will not divulge their identities without their permission.
TODD: And I believe you. I believe you with all my heart and I know that you’ll honor your word.
LOIS: Because the last thing we want is to see somebody else dead.
TODD: No. And you are considering their safety as well so it’s not like you’re just…you just want what you can get and that’s it. You are actually considering this person because it’s understandable that somebody could be afraid, even today, even after all this time there might be some residual fear.
LOIS: Or they might have been involved in some of these activities and now they are out of them but they’re still afraid of what might happen to them because of their past involvement, and that’s a legitimate fear, and we guarantee that we will not do anything to endanger them.
TODD: So even if somebody is feeling guilty…
LOIS: That’s what I can say.
TODD: Well that’s great. Anybody feeling guilty out there, Lois is not holding it against you. Please just make some effort to contact her. If anybody contacts us at Missing Pieces, we’ll definitely put them in contact with you. I want to thank you for being here with me tonight. I really appreciate it.
LOIS: I want to thank you for caring enough to have us on for caring about the people on the www.realcrimes.com site because every one of those stories is just as heartbreaking as Kait’s.
TODD: Well there’s more. I’d love to have you to come back some day and talk about some of the other cases.
LOIS: I’d be glad to.
TODD: I’m going to twist your arm right now and make you commit to that but it’s been a pleasure having you here and I hope to God that you will get some resolution in the near future. You’ve worked so hard and you definitely deserve it. We’ll say “goodnight” to our guests and God bless everybody.
LOIS: Goodnight everybody.
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