Author: Meredith

Changing careers and having adventures

TNT’s Cold Justice cuts through the Hayes murders

One night in 1997 in the small town of La Porte, Texas, Charlie and Kathy Hayes were bludgeoned to death in their home while their daughter, Tiffenie, slept in her bedroom. Tiffenie discovered her parents covered in blood, Kathy already dead and Charlie clinging to life, and called 911.

Suspicion surrounded Tiffenie because she slept through and obviously violent attack in a small house, and many found that unlikely. Rumors around town alleged that Tiffenie resented her parents’ interference with her relationship with her boyfriend, but the case went cold.

Earlier this year, the Hayes case was featured on TNT’s Cold Justice, and investigators managed to get Charlie Hayes’ cousin Craig Houser arrested for the murders when they realized that he had no alibi and knowledge of the murders that hadn’t been publicized.

Charlie and Kathy Hayes

Tiffenie Hayes married her boyfriend, Brian Stanczak, in 1999. They are still married, have four children, and live in the nearby city of Pasedena. Both stated that the veil of suspicion has cost them friendships in town. Brian is a member of the band Pirate Radio.

Charlie and Kathy had another daughter, Samantha, who is several years younger than Tiffenie. On the night of the murder, Samantha was spending the night with her grandmother. Today, Samantha lives in the Houston suburbs.

The Hayes’ alleged murderer, Craig Houser, was extradited from Arkansas to Texas earlier this year to face two counts of capital murder.

Lubbock’s suitcase murderer

In 2005, a city of Lubbock solid waste worker discovered a suitcase containing the body of a young woman. This morbid find sent Lubbock detectives on a case compounded by the mystery of the victim’s identity. Through fingerprint records, they identified the young woman as Summer Baldwin. An autopsy showed that she had been pregnant at the time of her murder. Impressive detective work led detectives to Texas Tech student and Marine reservist Resendo Rodriguez.

After Rodriguez was in custody, investigators delved into Rodriguez’s laptop, and found that he had been chatting online with a 16-year-old girl named Joanna Rogers. Rogers had been found dead in a trash dumpster shortly after their chats online had taken place. Coincidence? Oh no. Rodriguez confessed to Rogers’ murder in exchange for having the death penalty waived for Baldwin’s murder (he backed out of this deal at the last second). Rodriguez did receive the death penalty after all, but unfortunately, we can only kill him once.

Joanna’s parents, Joe Bill and Kathy Rogers, plan to attend Rodriguez’ execution.

Rodriguez’ father, attorney Rosendo Rodriguez II, died in 2011 of a “sudden illness” (probably embarrassment). His obituary is here.

Rosendo Rodriguez began serving his death row sentence in 2008 in Livingston, Texas. He is exhausting his appeals process, so he does not have an execution date as of today. All of his appeals have been denied so far. He has developed a voracious reading habit that he describes on a webpage sponsored by a group that opposes capital punishment (it’s quite a missive, although he omits any reference to murdering young women).

Joanna Rogers

Summer Baldwin

Murderous mother: Diane Downs

It is difficult for any normal parent to comprehend the case of Oregon’s Diane Downs. In 1983, the young mother of shot all of her children when she pulled her car over in a rural area during the night. She killed one of her children and permanently disabled the other two. As many would after her, she claimed that a carjacker did it. Diane was having an affair with a co-worker at the time, and lucky fella Robert Knickerbocker made it clear to Diane that he did not want children.

Then, Diane didn’t want kids either.

Diane Downs was sentenced to life plus 50 years, with the sentences to run consecutively. She was denied parole in 2008 and 2010, and is not eligible to be considered for parole again until 2020, when she is 65 years old. Diane has not admitted any wrongdoing in the attack on her children.

Diane escaped from the prison in 1987 and was captured roughly 10 days later. Her escape got another 5 years added to her sentence.

Diane became pregnant before her sentencing and gave birth to a daughter in 1984, which was taken by Oregon’s Family Services Department. The baby, named Rebecca Babcock, was successfully adopted. She found out who her biological mother was at 16, when a boyfriend showed her a made-for-tv movie about Diane’s case.  Rebecca wrote to Diane in prison, but stopped contacting Diane when Diane’s letters became alternately angry and paranoid. Rebecca still lives in Oregon and has a son of her own.

Christie & Danny Downs, the two surviving children, were adopted by a couple who were prosecutors for the state of Oregon. Christie suffers from partial paralysis, and Danny is a quadriplegic. Both graduated from college. Christie married and had a child. Danny works as a computer specialist. They do not participate in Diane’s parole process.

The alleged super-stud Robert Knickerbocker still lives in Arizona.

Ann Rule wrote about this case in her best-selling book Small Sacrifices. It was also made into a TV movie of the same title starring Farrah Fawcett.

 

Lita McClinton Sullivan murdered by husband James Sullivan

Lita McClinton

In 1987, Lita McClinton Sullivan was shot to death in her Atlanta home while preparing to leave for her divorce hearing. She was divorcing her husband of 10 years, James Sullivan, for having numerous affairs (James had come into a large inheritance during his marriage to Lita, but felt that their interracial marriage was holding him back from truly fitting in with Florida’s polo set).

It would take almost 20 years and an international manhunt, but the state of Georgia finally arrested and convicted James Sullivan of hiring truck driver Philip Harwood to kill Lita before their divorce resulted in a large financial loss for Sullivan.

James Sullivan was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He filed an appeal in 1998, requesting a new trial, but that request was denied by the state of Georgia.

Philip Harwood testified against James Sullivan in exchange for a lesser charge of manslaughter. He received a 20-year sentence.

Lita’s father, Emory McClinton, a former U. S. Department of Transportation official, served on the Georgia State Transportation Board until 2013. He is still the president of Corporate Personnel Research, Inc. in Atlanta.

Lita’s mother, JoAnn McClinton, is a democratic representative in the Georgia House of Representatives. She is a board member for the East Lake Neighbors Community Association and the Southeast Energy Assistance program.

In 1994, Lita’s parents won a $4 million wrongful death judgement against James Sullivan in civil court, which was then overturned in 1997 and reinstated in 1999.

The McClintons started a scholarship fund in Lita’s name for collegiate women.

St. Martin’s True Crime published this case in its book The Palm Beach Murder.

 

The cowardly murder of Lori Hacking

Lori Soares with her mother.

In the summer of 2004, a beautiful young woman named Lori Soares Hacking was reported missing by her husband to Utah police – he told them she had gone running and never returned.

Authorities soon discovered that husband Mark Hacking had structured a life of lies to his wife and family, regaling them with tales of a earning a college degree and being accepted to medical school. In reality, he was pretending to leave the apartment to go to school, only to return once his wife was at school to work more diligently on video games.

Lori stumbled upon the truth that Mark had not been accepted to medical school (or applied, for that matter). Only days later, she went missing.

Mark’s brothers wrangled the truth from him and got him to turn himself in. He confessed to shooting his wife while she slept.

This case was detailed in a true-crime book titled Every Woman’s Nightmare: The True Story Of The Fairy-Tale Marriage And Brutal Murder Of Lori Hacking. Ann Rule also covered this in her book Kiss Me, Kill Me.

Mark Hacking was sentenced to life in prison in Utah, though he is eligible for parole in 2034. While he reportedly a well-behaved prisoner, he still enjoys some ill-gotten gains by supplying “murderabilia” sites with his autographs and drawings (at post time, several handwritten items purportedly by Mark Hacking are being peddled at roughly $50-75 each – no information on how these sites acquired these items).

Scott Hacking, one of Mark’s brothers who urged his confession, is a Utah physician. Lance Hacking is an electrical engineer in Austin, Texas.

Mark’s father, Douglas Hacking, is still a popular pediatrician in Utah. He also serves as a medical missionary on relief trips overseas through the LDS church. He is still married to Mark’s mother, Janet Hacking.

Lori’ mother, Thelma Soares, still lives in Utah. She created a scholarship in Lori’s name at the University of Utah for women who need financial assistance for their education. She sometimes speaks to domestic violence charities.

Lori’s father, Eraldo Soares, lives in California (the Soares’ were already divorced at the time of Lori’s murder). Mr. Soares lobbied for the successful Utah bill known as “Lori’s Law”, which requires that those convicted of murder in Utah serve a minimum of 15 years . He returned to Utah in 2006 to assist in the search for missing child Destiny Norton.

The Soares family had Lori’s married name removed from her headstone.

Kristi Koslow – arranged to have step-parents murdered

carenkoslow1

Caren Koslow

Back in the early 90s, teenager Kristi Koslow felt slighted by her step-parents, Jack and Caren Koslow. They were very wealthy, and Jack’s divorce from Kristi’s mother had left Kristi merely upper-middle-class (life is cruel).

Hardly befitting to Kristi’s aspired station in life, she recruited her then-boyfriend Brian Salter and his friend Jeffrey Dillingham to murder her step-parents in their Ft. Worth, Texas mansion. She promised Salter that once she inherited their money, they would marry and live a life of ease. The boys managed to kill Caren when they attacked the couple while sleeping (thanks to Kristi’s house key and security system code), but Jack survived a vicious bludgeoning.

Jack was initially the prime suspect in Caren’s murder. You can read a comprehensive piece on the case at TruTV’s site.

So, where are they now?

Kristi Koslow was convicted of capital murder. Jack Koslow wanted Kristi to receive the death penalty, but she was sentenced instead to imprisonment in Gatesville, Texas when she agreed to testify against Jeffrey. She will be eligible for parole in 2027. In 1997, the Texas court of criminal appeals rejected her appeal. She holds a prison job and takes college classes. Kristi seeks penpals (yes) on Writeaprisoner.com, where she describes herself as a bi-sexual Catholic with a big heart.

Brian Salter also made a deal with prosecutors, and was also spared the death penalty. He is also eligible for parole in 2027. He is also housed at the Texas penitentiary in Gatesville.

Jeffrey Dillingham was executed for his crime in 2000 by lethal injection after all of his appeals for clemency were rejected. This is his Find-a-Grave site,

Jack Koslow, who now is estranged from Kristi, still lives in Ft. Worth, Texas. He sold the home he shared with Caren and eventually remarried. He still bears a visible scar on his throat from the attack. He is the owner of a building supply company and a supporter of the local ballet and the Ft. Worth Zoo. In 2012, he served as a city councilman for the Ft. Worth suburb of Westover Hills. He did not attend Dillingham’s execution.

Paula Haffke, Kristi Koslow’s adoptive mother, pled with the judge at Kristi’s sentencing hearing to spare Kristi’s life. She died of cancer on Aug. 9, 2005

Jeffrey Dillingham’s parents divorced in 1997. His father visited Jeffrey often and witnessed his son’s execution. His mother became active in Texas CURE, and organization seeking prison reforms.