Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Know anybody who...??

I wrote this some time ago, have hesitated to put it out there, but since I can name everyone who reads this and they aren't very numerous, decided no harm to tell a story about people who may still be alive.

Most of this is based on hearsay and not on significant research. Just a warning. If anyone reads it and can supplement with additional information, I would be grateful.

Shortly before he died, my brother called me with a bit of glee in his voice I had not heard for a long time. He asked me, “Know anybody been murdered?” “Yes,” I said.

“OK, then, know anybody been stabbed?” Well, he had me there, as, no, I had never known anyone who had been stabbed, but I was willing to bet I was going to discover somebody in the next several minutes.

He was in the Genoa Hospital at the time and he said about 2 in the morning, “All hell broke loose,” and people were bustling all over, a medivac helicopter dropped in and it seems there had been a violent confrontation. This was closer to home than he could have expected as the victim was his former son-in-law and farming partner, Mike. Since Mike survived with no ill effects, we can treat the topic with some levity at this point.

Seems that Mike has a problem with alcohol…and girlfriends, and that is sort of like saying the Titanic had a problem with ice bergs…and lifeboats. There has been DUI’s, jail time, lost jobs for sure, but this time he almost lost his life. His girlfriend apparently has more problems than just alcohol, and she decided (after some term of alienation) to drop by in the middle of the night to get some money and beer. Mike declined her invitation which, to someone on several mind-altering substances at once was not well-received, and she became enraged.

Tore out the phones in the house, threw away the cell phone and left. Only to come back later, grab a kitchen knife and stab him twice in the chest. Once on the left side of the aorta, next on the right side of the aorta, according to hearsay reports which is all I have.

Somehow, someone finally got him to the hospital resulting in the chaos noted by Dick.

Few days later, he was back at work. Don’t know if that cured anything, but I might be a bit pickier about girlfriends? The girlfriend was evidently given some jail time. Mike ended up with jail time later, too, but unrelated.

He then asked who I knew who had been murdered. There are lots of flashes and pictures in my mind and memories associated with this, and I will do my best to not clutter it up too badly, but it is going to be longer than you will like. Plod on through with me.

I grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of Nebraska, I thought Columbus was the big city and rarely visited some place like Omaha. After graduating (in a class of 17, but there was one National Merit Scholar, a smart girl and some pretty smart, successful people, so don’t sneer too much) in the spring of 1963, I made a good decision to attend the University of Nebraska. The reason it was a "good decision" was because good personal decisions have been rare for me and there was an alternative, a football scholarship to tiny Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and for some reason I put my ego aside and acknowledged that I wasn’t good enough. Besides, the Honors Program at the University was a pretty good deal.

So I was naïve and had no idea what college would really entail when I was approached by an older Genoa native, Mark Raemakers, who was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He introduced me to Bill Mowbray who came through driving a new, bright yellow Cutlass convertible. His family owned the Buick dealership on Miracle Mile in Lincoln. Years later, I saw the identical vehicle parked and for sale in Fargo, North Dakota and all that flooded back.

Not bad, cruisin’ in a convertible, drinking a beer and talking about being a college man. I was astounded that the convertible would have air conditioning…who would have thunk it?

Pledging Sigma Nu was concluded long before Rush Week, at least on my part. And as my family and so many of my fraternity friends know, the associations I made there have had lasting impact. Lifelong friends, and the best friends.

That was the 1960’s. Fast forward to 1992. A lot had happened, I was single, working for a $3 billion NYSE company, Midwest Energy (now owned privately by Warren Buffett) and just about to utter my words that I actually said, but usually elicit a laugh, “If I have to work for an idiot, I might as well work for myself.” Well, I hadn’t cut the cord yet, and it was time for our annual company dinner, a tradition that went way back but that didn’t have a lot of emotional weight for me. Other than a couple of folks who I continue to hear from, I didn’t have anyone to sit with, so I asked our pilots if I could join them. I have a private license, I always enjoyed them, and it seemed that I kept them busy with a lot of trips, so I appreciated the invitation.

I sat next to a woman who was from Lincoln, worked at an FBO there, and was dating one of our pilots. We chatted a bit during the meal and program, and one thing led to another when we discovered that she was the first wife of Bill Mowbray. “Oh, how is Bill?” Quite a look. “Perhaps you didn’t know.” And there was a pause, “Bill was murdered.”

That was BIG news to me, and of course the rest of the story about his death, the second wife, Susie, being found guilty of murder, the $1.8 million insurance policy, and her prison sentence where she served nine years. I am not sure when I found out about the second trial, but it must have been later.

So, I decided to do some reading. Bill moved to Brownsville, Texas and set up a Cadillac dealership which was, at the time of his death, experiencing some financial problems. He had quite a large life insurance policy which was not paid to the wife who was the beneficiary, as you can’t profit from criminal acts. She later sued for the money, see below.

As I remember it, the Susie's son from a former marriage went to law school, studied the OJ Simpson trial, and came back with a “put the police on trial” defense that not only succeeded in getting a new trial but got an acquittal.

There was other information, of course. For example, he was facing criminal charges from the IRS, he had told a banker that he would commit suicide if he didn’t get a loan, and he had exhibited poor financial judgment before, like buying a $12,500 shotgun the day before he died.

The newspaper accounts were incredulous that the second trial could overlook one important set of facts—if it were to be a suicide, how could that happen when he was shot in the right temple with a pistol at close range, there was blood all over everything, but his right hand and arm were under the covers and had no blood spatters? There was a hole in his left hand where the bullet hit upon exit from his head. Again, in that dizziness after the OJ Trial, anything can happen. She was acquitted, released, and I have no current information on her situation.

Susie eventually sued the Mowbray family and the public officials who conducted the trial trying to get the money which was paid to Bill’s family. Her suit was dismissed. Again, the similarity with OJ in that the murdered woman’s family sued OJ and basically obtained all his money in a civil suit. The Mowbray family has publicly acknowledged that they believed at the time, and continue to believe that she killed him. It really looks like they are right.

The evening concluded with my discovery that a guy who helped make some formative decisions in my life was not only dead, but the subject of some interesting stories. Now I knew someone who had been murdered. Later, I would know someone who had been stabbed. Haven’t heard the end of that story yet, but I’ll bet it’s going to be a doozie.

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