Return of the Black Widow

Page 6 of 13

On Saturday, December 7, Alan told Askew that he was meeting Sandra at 5 p.m. at a mini-warehouse in Garland to get some of his things. Sandra later claimed he never showed up.

Four days later, on December 11, Rehrig's frozen body was found slumped in the front seat of his Bronco, parked about a mile from the Oklahoma City airport, 200 miles north of Dallas. He'd been shot in the head and torso by someone sitting in the passenger seat. The .32-caliber pistol was never found.

Almost as soon as the news reached Dallas, a woman they dubbed the "Highland Park Deep Throat" had called Oklahoma City detectives to fill them in on Sandra's past. Because of her information, Detectives Steve Pacheco and Ron Mitchell caught Sandra in several lies during her initial conversation with police.

Gloria Rehrig was furious when Sandra purchased the cheapest casket available for Alan's funeral. After the service was over, Sandra discovered she'd forgotten to bring her checkbook, forcing his friends and family to pay to close his grave.

After the funeral, instead of meeting the detectives as agreed, Sandra drove immediately back to Dallas. Refusing to cooperate further or to allow her children to be questioned, Sandra hired attorney Vince Perini to keep police at bay. (Sandra has declined all requests for interviews from the press over the years. She could not be located for comment for this story.)

At Sandra's insistence, Perini hired private detective Bill Dear to prove her innocence. The strategy backfired: Dear resigned from the case when Sandra failed two lie detector tests.

Running From Rumors

When Dennis Kuba met the beautiful black-haired woman at a dinner party in Marin County, California, the lawyer and horseman was mesmerized. She could talk knowledgeably about almost any topic--food, art, music, business, even horses. "I thought she was captivating," Kuba told me. "There was this incredible attraction there. You really do get the feeling there's no one else in the room but her."

In May 1987, writers Skip Hollandsworth and Eric Miller had published a story in D magazine called "The Black Widow." Fleeing the gossip, Sandra, then 43, moved to Marin County, a wealthy enclave north of San Francisco similar to Highland Park. She leased a water-front home in swank Belvedere for $3,000 a month, filling it with her expensive antiques, rugs and Limoges china, and enrolled her children in private schools.

Sandra, who'd dropped the name Rehrig in favor of the more aristocratic-sounding Bridewell, had found the perfect place to start over. Society women embraced the brave young widow, who told them both her husbands had died of cancer. If she was cloaked in an air of mystery, it was all the more intriguing.

At several gala events, Sandra asked a society photographer to point out rich men. "I told her that most of them were married, but she said she didn't care," the photographer told me. "She wanted to know how much they were worth and what their relationships with their wives were like."

By 1987, the Rehrig investigation had stalled. Gloria Rehrig had plastered fliers around Dallas and Oklahoma City asking anyone with information about her son's murder to contact police, then filed a lawsuit to prevent Sandra from receiving the proceeds of her son's life insurance policy. Oklahoma City Detectives Ron Mitchell and Steve Pacheco were prepared to testify that Sandra was their only suspect in Rehrig's murder. But after Sandra moved the lawsuit to California, Mrs. Rehrig was forced to settle. Sandra received all the insurance money.

But the whispers followed Sandra to California, fueled by lawsuits alleging fraud against her by Kuba and a California businessman named Thomas Finney. In the midst of her affair with Kuba, Sandra revealed that she was having short-term financial difficulties; she'd spent her twice-yearly trust fund payment, and the proceeds from the sale of some real estate had been delayed. With her promise to repay him as soon as the money came through, Kuba loaned her $5,000. Amid the passion of their relationship, her requests for money began to come more frequently. Sandra always needed more: $8,500 for her son's college tuition, $3,000 for rent, a repair for her Alfa Romeo. The smitten Kuba couldn't turn her down, even borrowing money to accommodate her.

Kuba would later wonder why he was so gullible. "She just exuded vulnerability, like 'Won't you be my knight in shining armor?'" Kuba told me. "And she had all the trappings--a smooth, beautiful package. It never occurred to me she wasn't what she seemed."

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Glenna Whitley