Death in the Desert

Gary Patterson flew to El Paso for a job interview--and never returned. It took nearly two years for the Texas Rangers and Waco police to unravel the bizarre web of lies and treachery that led to his disappearance.

The "missing person" case, then, was quickly growing in scope and complications. "There were obviously a lot of things going on with the case," Kristina Woodruff recalls, "that were well beyond our jurisdiction. Steve and I were convinced that something bad had happened to Gary Patterson. But to find out what, we were going to need help."

It would come from two nearby sources--but not before unexpected obstacles were thrown into their path.

THE POSSE GROWS

Solving the mystery of Gary Patterson's disappearance required the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies. Clockwise, from upper left: Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon and Waco detectives Kristina Woodruff and Steve January each played key roles in the investigation.
Michael Hogue
Solving the mystery of Gary Patterson's disappearance required the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies. Clockwise, from upper left: Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon and Waco detectives Kristina Woodruff and Steve January each played key roles in the investigation.
Solving the mystery of Gary Patterson's disappearance required the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies. From top: Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon and Waco detectives Kristina Woodruff and Steve January each played key roles in the investigation.
Peter Calvin
Solving the mystery of Gary Patterson's disappearance required the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies. From top: Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon and Waco detectives Kristina Woodruff and Steve January each played key roles in the investigation.

Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon knew nothing of the case until a fellow law enforcement officer mentioned that Patterson was missing. Later, he would visit the McLennan County Sheriff's office where an officer, also aware of the basic facts of the investigation, suggested it "just might turn into one of the biggest cases we've had around here in some time."

Curious, Cawthon decided to visit the Waco police department and introduce himself.

Detectives January and Woodruff eagerly welcomed his interest and spent most of an afternoon outlining what they had learned during the two weeks they had been working the case. Their chief concern, they explained, was the jurisdictional problems they faced. "What we had to determine," January says, "was how we were going to work a case where whatever might have happened took place hundreds of miles away. Basically, we were still working a missing person's case in Waco, and the guy we were looking for had disappeared in El Paso."

Cawthon suggested that a meeting of local, state, and federal agencies might help map out some kind of strategy. It was decided to invite the McLennan County district attorney, assistant U.S. attorney for the western district of Texas, and local representatives from the FBI and U.S. Marshals office.

"What we did at the meeting," Cawthon says, "was go over everything Steve and Kristina had on the case. They detailed the Pattersons' divorce and custody battle, Urick's background, and the link they had made between him and Ted Young. They explained that they strongly felt that Young, the federal fugitive, was the key to determining what had happened to Gary Patterson."

It was when Young's background was being discussed that Cassie Roundtree, a deputy in the local U.S. Marshals office, excused herself from the table and went to a nearby phone. She returned only minutes later, smiling. "We've got him," she announced. "We know all about him and where he is." Adding an impressive litany of details about the search and surveillance her office had been doing on Young, Roundtree said she'd just been given information that "Ted Young just crossed the border into Juarez, pulling a trailer."

Though she said nothing, Detective Woodruff found Roundtree's explanation troubling. Why, she wondered, if they knew where Young was, knew that he was a federal fugitive, had they not taken him into custody, rather than allow him to cross into Mexico? "It just didn't make sense to me," the detective says.

For weeks, while being regularly assured by Roundtree that the search for Young was progressing and should be regarded as the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals, the Rangers and police detectives waited. As patience grew thin, they began to wonder.

Finally, with the anniversary of Patterson's disappearance nearing the three-month mark, they chose to move ahead with their own investigation. A welcomed addition to their efforts was Waco-based assistant U.S. attorney Bill Johnston. Although at the time Johnston was heavily involved in the prosecution of members of the Branch Davidians in the aftermath of their infamous shoot-out with members of the ATF raid team at nearby Mount Carmel, he had made it clear that he was eager to support the Rangers and the police in any way possible.

"The first thing he did," Cawthon recalls, "was to help us solve the jurisdictional problem." The 41-year-old Johnston, a student of the law since his childhood days when his father had served as an assistant district attorney in Dallas, explained that the only way Patterson's disappearance could be viewed as a federal crime was if transportation across state lines was involved. "Finally, after doing some research, he came up with a statute referring to interstate flight that worked to our advantage. The commercial flight that Patterson had taken to El Paso had been scheduled to travel on to San Francisco that same day."

With that legal interpretation, the disappearance of Gary Patterson became a federal case, complete with the power to subpoena witnesses and seek cooperation of authorities in El Paso. In El Paso, the FBI soon joined into the effort, agreeing to open a missing person's case.

BREAKTHROUGH

For the next several months, Cawthon, January, and Woodruff blazed a trail from Waco to El Paso. Although there was no Ted Young to be found, Urick's phone list provided them a roadmap into a netherworld of scam artists and con men, all somehow associated with and obligated to the man who had recorded their numbers.

There was Clark Paulson, who gave his occupation as "house sitter" for Realtors who preferred the high-dollar homes they were attempting to sell to be occupied. Yes, he said, he knew both Urick and Young. Eventually he would admit that Urick had contacted him several months earlier to say that he would need to use his pickup. He'd delivered it to Young at the Red Roof Inn in El Paso and picked it up in the motel parking lot the following day.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
nancyalfred0089
nancyalfred0089

A couple of weeks ago I was in a dark period in my life, the man I love to bits had gone off with someone else, that was when I was told about this Esango Priest. Well he told me he could see that we would get back together that gave me hope, and he was right, because this week we have moved in with each other and we are so happy. A big thank you to Esango Priest. If you are in need of an angel please get in touch with my Esango Priest via email:esangopriest@gmail.com

CEP
CEP

My dad was an amazing man, every day that I wake up I'm thankful to have known him for the little time that i did, and for those people who were supportive and helped out in any way. Nobody truly knows how much it means to have the entire community and then some to come together for one family and help out.Also for books like this that help get my story out. Thank yall

JEM
JEM

I knew Gary, a good guy and hard worker. He used to work the night shift in the convenience store during the week and still get up and go to school.

DJM
DJM

I know a number of people involved in this case and went to school with both Detective Woodruff and Gary. They are/were incredible people of integrity.

I am thankful his story can be told and that Kristina was one of those who brought his murderers to justice.My heart goes out to his parents and especially to his daughter. Gary was well-liked by those who knew him. He lives on in his precious daughter. I pray she knows how much he loved her.

dv
dv

I was the child's teacher during all of this. I experienced the situation first hand. It was devestating to the child and family of Gary. Such a sad story!

 
Loading...