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.

As he was led from the courtroom after sentencing, Urick turned briefly to glare in the direction of Gary's father, who was sitting among the crowd.

Young, 49, pled to being an accessory to murder-for-hire and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and received a 20-year-sentence that would be added to the 51 months he still owed South Carolina authorities. Before entering into a plea, he told of Urick driving him from El Paso to Corpus Christi, then taking $180 in cash that had been removed from Patterson's body. Young, still using his twin's passport, then crossed the border into Mexico and traveled back to Honduras.

Federal Judge Walter Smith, after sentencing Urick and Young, noted from the bench that he was "troubled" by the lack of federal participation in the investigation. He made no specific mention of the U.S. Marshals office, but it was, to those on hand who knew the tangled history of the case, a clear rebuke.

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.

Lisa Urick Patterson, having earlier pled guilty to a charge of misprision of felony (knowing of plans to murder her ex-husband and not alerting authorities), received a three-year prison sentence that would be added to the two she was already serving for violation of terms of her parole. She has relinquished parental rights to her daughter, now 9, to her ex-husband's parents.

In El Paso, facing the same charges filed against Lisa, Craig Paulson, insisting he had no idea what the pickup he loaned Urick and Young would be used for, was acquitted.

Last February, Bill Johnston resigned his position as assistant U.S. attorney after becoming the target of national controversy. Upon learning that Justice Department officials had not divulged critical evidence that the FBI had, indeed, fired pyrotechnic tear gas grenades into the Davidian compound during the '93 standoff, he had written a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno alerting her to the matter. Soon thereafter, Johnston found himself persona non grata within his own Western District, stripped of responsibilities and no longer even invited to staff meetings. Today he is a lawyer in private practice in Waco.

Though other cases now occupy the time of detectives Woodruff and January, both stay in touch with Gary Patterson's family.

The .22 pistol that Ted Young had pointed at Gary Patterson that long ago night in the desert was finally surrendered to the authorities by Sam Urick's wife. It had, she said, been a family heirloom. Today it sits on a shelf in the Texas Rangers headquarters office of Matt Cawthon.

No keepsake collector, he refers to it simply as "a reminder."

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5 comments
nancyalfred0089
nancyalfred0089

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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!

 
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