Fatal Web

When he spotted the pretty woman standing on the front lawn of a stately home in Highland Park, Alan Rehrig whipped his Bronco into the driveway and climbed out. The former college basketball star shook her hand and asked if she knew anyone who had a garage apartment for rent.

The dark-haired beauty fixed Rehrig with a dazzling smile. "No, but if you come back in 30 minutes, I'll see if I can help you," Sandra Bridewell said.

Rehrig drove down Lorraine Street, saw another woman in her yard and asked her the same question. She had seen Rehrig stop in front of Bridewell's house and warned him not to have anything to do with "that woman." Later he would laugh about the comment and tell his office friends "they're just jealous because she's good-looking."

He returned, and Bridewell climbed into his Bronco. They drove through Highland Park, chatting about which neighbors might have servants' quarters to rent.

It was June 2, 1984, and Rehrig had just moved to Dallas. After the drive, Rehrig rushed to Phil and Judy Askew's house, his temporary home, to shower and shave.

"He said he'd met this gorgeous woman," Judy Askew recalls.

Bridewell picked up Rehrig in her Mercedes convertible and took him to a party at the Dallas Country Club. They made a handsome if somewhat odd couple: the tall red-haired Rehrig with his all-American good looks and aw-shucks smile, and Bridewell, a delicate Southern beauty perfectly groomed and dressed by Neiman Marcus.

He was 29 and single. Bridewell was 36, with three children and alone after her husband's death from cancer. At least that's what she told Rehrig. She was really 41.

Within a few months, they were seeing each other every day. Bridewell adored his youth and handsome looks. Rehrig was impressed by the moneyed circles in which she moved, centered on The Mansion on Turtle Creek, the hotel created by her dead husband, Bobby Bridewell, where she received star treatment.

Rehrig didn't know that when he saw Bridewell on her Highland Park lawn, she was perched on a financial and social precipice. The house was mortgaged to the hilt. Credit cards, loans and gifts from men fueled the lifestyle, and an undercurrent of rumor had cost Bridewell friends and defenders.

Her neighbors whispered about the suicide of her first husband, David Stegall, who had shot himself in the head and slashed his wrists, and the even more mysterious suicide of Betsy Bagwell. The mother of two had been found shot in the head in her Mercedes Benz parked at Love Field after a day of ferrying Bridewell around. They speculated that Bridewell, whose second husband had died of cancer, was after Dr. John Bagwell, his oncologist and Betsy's husband. Death seemed to follow Sandra Bridewell.

Mesmerized by the lovely widow, Rehrig knew next to nothing about her past, and no one volunteered to clue him in. Six months after the start of their courtship, Rehrig and Bridewell wed at The Mansion.

A tumultuous year later they had separated, Rehrig again moving in with the Askews. Some people in Highland Park breathed a private sigh of relief. "At least he's alive," they told each other.

But on December 7, 1985, Rehrig left the Askew home around 4:50 p.m. He told them he was meeting his estranged wife at a mini-storage warehouse; she had requested his help moving some of her belongings stored there. Rehrig told Judy he was nervous because he hadn't seen her in a month.

The Askews were the last to see Rehrig alive. Four days later their friend was found dead in his Bronco, parked in a secluded area near the Oklahoma City airport. He'd been shot in the side and in the head. Freezing weather made it difficult to determine how long he had been dead.

Thanks to several Highland Park women who called the Oklahoma City police and provided detectives with information about the deaths of Stegall and Bagwell, the not-so-grieving widow would be caught in a tangle of lies.

Bridewell, who now goes by the name Camille Powers, remains the only suspect in Rehrig's murder. His death cemented Bridewell's reputation as the "Black Widow."

Twenty-one years later, Rehrig's murder is still unsolved. Bridewell, who received more than $220,000 in life insurance proceeds and Rehrig's estate, remains the only suspect. She left Dallas and embarked on a life hopscotching around the world, allegedly scamming men for money before remaking herself as a "missionary" and targeting gullible believers.

Today, Bridewell's March 2 arrest in North Carolina—her first—has given new life to the Rehrig investigation. While Bridewell remains in jail on $1.5 million bail on forgery and fraud charges after allegedly conning an elderly widow, the FBI is investigating her for possible Social Security fraud, a law enforcement source says.

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Glenna Whitley