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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016

41axe blows in self-defence?

She was found dead with 41 brutal axe wounds all over her body. Still, an inexperienced criminal lawyer managed to convince the jury that his client was ‘not guilty’. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the intriguing story.

Allan Gore, a very attentive husband and the doting father of two daughters - Alisa (7) and Bethany (under 1) - kept calling his wife, Betty, in Wylie, Texas, from Minnesota to no avail on June 13, 1980. He was in Minnesota on a business trip along with his colleagues. Betty was prone to depression, and when Allan had left for Minnesota, Betty feared that she was pregnant again, which made things worse for her. Allan was quite worried to start with. And his worries shot up when Betty did not take his call all afternoon. He called his neighbour, Richard Parker, who on Allan's request, checked the house from outside and found everything fine.

Allan called Candy (Cadance Montgomery), who was a family friend and whose daughter was a classmate and best friend of Allan's daughter, Alisa. Alisa was with her for the day so that Betty could attend to her infant daughter better. Candy told Allan that Betty was fine when she had visited her at 10 in the morning to bring Alisa's swimming suit for the pool party. That was a comforting piece of information to Allan. But as the evening approached Allan started getting worried again because Betty was still not taking the call. He called his neighbours again and asked them to check on Betty again.

Parker, along with two other men, entered the darkened house as the front door was not locked. Little Bethany was in the bedroom with her diapers soiled completely. Apparently, she had spent large part of the day unattended to. They crossed the living room, and as they were moving around they saw a freezer smeared with blood in a utility room by the garage. The moment they stepped in the room they could see Betty lying in a pool of congealed blood. The right side of her face had been left disfigured by whatever had killed her - a gunshot, they surmised. Suddenly, the phone rang up. Parker took the call. It was Allan on the other side. He told Allan that the child was fine, but her mother was no more.

Parker also told Allan that it looked like a case of suicide by gunshot. Parker was wrong. It was neither a suicide, nor was it a gunshot that killed Betty. It was an axe with which she was hit as many as 41 times, the police investigation was to reveal after forensic analysis. The murder weapon, a 3-foot-long axe, was found behind the freezer. It had Betty's blood and hair on it.

The blows to Betty's face were struck with such force that one side of her face was almost completely destroyed. It was clear that the killer was furiously enraged while committing the crime. The entry was friendly indicating that in all probability Betty knew the assailant. But from the blood smears on the fridge and the walls it was clear that Betty had not gone down without a struggle. The footprints of the killer went upto the bathroom, where he or she had bathed before leaving. The rug had lots of blood on it and the smudging of the blood smears on the fridge meant that the killer had tried to clean the blood off the fridge unsuccessfully. Fortunately for the investigators and unfortunately for the killer, the assailant had left a clear thumbprint on the freezer door. All that the investigators needed was a suspect to match the print, and they did not have the first clue as to who that could be. Investigators zeroed in on the motive. What made the killer so enraged?

Wylie hadn't seen a murder in a long time. So, Chief Abbot found it more prudent to rope in the experts. Among the experts was Dr. Irving Stone from the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences. He found that the victim was hit 41 times with the axe including the gashes on her arms, thighs and head. The strength of the blows and the way the murder was committed, showed clearly that the killer had to be quite a strong man.

Since infidelity is generally a strong motive, Chief Abbot asked Gore during questioning if he had had an extramarital affair. Gore was quick to answer in the negative. However, Gore could not sleep well that night and decided to give Chief Abbot a call early in the morning. Yes, he had had an extramarital liaison. And the woman involved was none other than Candy.

The disclosure gave a curious turn to the case because the woman Gore had had an extramarital affair was also the last person to see Betty alive. And the investigators decided to pay some attention to that aspect. The Allan-Candy extramarital affair was a rather humdrum thing that went on for a while and died out. Bored in her marriage, Candy wanted to experience some 'fireworks', and she thought Allan could be the thrill she was looking for despite her average looks. She put her desire straight to Allan, and after carefully considering the consequences of their affair, they decided to give it a methodical try. They decided to be careful and also decided that all expenses would be shared. They met at cheap motels on several occasions in business-meeting fashion, went about the 'business', and left. The 'fireworks' did not happen, neither on the first occasion, nor on any other. The affair eventually petered out turning a guilt-driven Allan into an even more caring husband.

The investigators had the story. They called Candy over for some intense questioning. Candy admitted to having an affair with Allan. However, she had nothing to do with Betty's death, she said, insisting that when she saw her last Betty was alive.

Chief Abbot was not very convinced. Candy's thumbprint was matched with the one found on the freezer. And it did match perfectly. Betty was killed on June 13, 1980, and 13 days later her friend, Candy, was arrested for her murder.

Pat Montgomery decided to stand by his wife, Candy. With his considerable resources, he could hire the best lawyer in town and he was prepared to do that. But they wanted to hire someone they could trust. Therefore, they decided to take the services of Don Crowder - the only lawyer they personally knew.

The only problem was that Crowder had never tried a criminal case. He was into civil litigation exclusively. The decision to hire an inexperienced lawyer to defend someone who was so clearly guilty with loads of evidence backing the prosecution's case might appear foolhardy, but it turned out well for Candy though she and her husband both might have themselves been a bit unsure about it initially.

The trial commenced in October 1980 in McKinney, Texas. Anticipating a great deal of interest from the media and the people, Judge Tom Ryan held the trial at the largest courtroom in the county, which could accommodate 250 people.

Defending counsel Crowder started off on the wrong foot with Judge Ryan and on the very first day he was fined for talking to the press in contravention of a court order. But the skirmish between the judge and the defence was by no means the last. They were to carry on throughout the trial. On the prosecution side stood a considerably experienced lawyer, Tom O'Connell, district attorney for Collin County.

In a shrewd and very well thought out move, Crowder put forth the defence in four simple sentences. He said in measured tone:

"Candace Montgomery killed Betty Gore. She did so with an axe. She did so in self-defense. The homicide was justified." This worked very well. The prosecution adduced evidence to prove that Candy had killed. But it was pointless, having already been admitted by the defence.

And then Candy came to the stand herself as the first defence witness and Crowder made her give a complete account of her visit to Betty the day she died. Every single detail of her visit was laid bare. She told the 12-member jury that when she visited Betty that day, after a few moments of small talk, Betty suddenly asked if she (Candy) was having an affair with Allan. Candy said, "No." "But you did, didn't you?" Candy testified that she admitted to having an affair and also told that the affair had been off for quite some time by then. Betty, as per Candy, went into the garage and returned to kitchen door with an axe in hand. Interestingly, they resumed their small talk and it did not occur to Candy that Betty could harm her with the axe. When Candy was about to leave, she apologized to Betty, to which Betty responded by lunging forward yelling, "You can't have him!" "I don't want him!" Candy said. They struggled with the axe in Betty's hand and in this scuffle the axe hit Candy in the head and the foot and bleeding ensued. The sight of blood triggered murderous rage in Candy and as the two women fought, Betty, oddly enough, shushed her - "Shhhh!" Candy went berserk with rage and before she knew she had delivered countless blows to Betty resulting in her death.

Crowder had the murderous rage explained psychiatrically by having Candy examined six times by three different psychiatrists. It was related to a childhood memory when she, a 6-year-old, hurt herself with shards of broken glass and her mother took her to the doctor for the stitches. She was screaming in pain. Her mother, embarrassed by the stares of the strangers, silenced her with a stern, "Shhh!" The dread and pain of that memory lingered and was summoned back when Betty tried to silence her with a 'Shhh!'.

The psychiatric explanation was not all that powerful, and not many people were convinced. The jury was sent to deliberate and come up with a verdict. Within two hours the verdict was in:

"Not Guilty".

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