Mysterous death of blogger mom & child in Texas

I was working on a follow-up piece on an old case, as I like to do, when I came across a new, mysterious, and tragic case in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Here’s what we know so far: earlier this week, police discovered both a wrecked car, and the bodies of Lindsay Groce

Lindsay Groce Gardner

Gardner, 27, and her toddler daughter, Hailey in a field in Ft. Worth. Both bodies were nude. Their clothing was strewn between the car and the bodies. Their injuries do not initially suggest how they were killed and are currently being autopsied.

There is a husband, and he is suspiciously absent from any press on this matter (hoist the red flag, ya’ll).

Lindsay worked at a Ft. Worth church’s childcare center and was quite the artist.

To be the devil’s advocate, there is a weird symptom of advanced hypothermia known as paradoxical undressing. As Texas resident, I can tell you will certainty that temps in Ft. Worth have been literally freezing during the time in question.

Media summary of what we know so far here.

Lindsay’s Pinterest

San Antonio Quad Mom Murderer Dies in Prison, and more updates

In 1997, a Sarasota, Florida mother of 6 was murdered in her home. Her name was Sheila Bellush, and she was the ex-wife of San Antonio millionaire Allen Blackthorne. Sheila had won custody of her two daughters with Blackthorne, and moved with her new family to Florida to put distance between them. She was remarried and had quadruplets with her new husband. Blackthorne also remarried and had two more children.

Blackthorne hired some famously amateur men to commit Sheila’s murder. He received two life sentences, but last November, Blackthorne died in an Indiana prison. The Bureau of Prisons does not list a cause of death. In 2001 he was almost killed during an attack by a prison gang, after which he was segregated from the general prison population.

The actual hit man was a San Antonio man named Jose Luis Del Toro Jr., who received a life sentence for murdering Sheila. Del Toro received two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole (when he fled to Mexico, he was extradited back to Texas once Texas agreed not to seek the death penalty in his case).

Del Toro was solicited to commit the murder by a golf caddy named Samuel Gonzales, who is Del Toro’s cousin.Gonzales took a plea agreement to give the state everything he knew on the case in exchange for a sentence of a maximum of 19 years in prison. That makes his estimated release year 2016.

Gonzales was contacted by Blackthorne’s golf buddy Daniel Rocha. Blackthorne promised Rocha financing for a golf course development. Rocha received a life sentence from the state of Florida for solicitation to commit murder

Jamie Bellush, Sheila’s husband, relocated with Stevie and the quadruplets to (he adopted Stevie and Daryl, Allen’s daughters, in 1997) to New Jersey, and then moved to Alabama. He has remarried.

Blackthorne’s wife Maureen, whom he married after divorcing Sheila, was convicted in 2005 of filing a false tax return and sentenced to serve a year in federal prison. She filed for divorce from Blackthorne in 2004. After serving her sentence, she returned to San Antonio and raised her sons in the Jewish faith.

Three of the Bellush quads, Joe, Frank and Tim Bellush, joined the National Guard after they graduated from high school last year in Alabama. Their sister Courtney attends the University of Miami, Ohio.

Sheila’s daughter Stevie Bellush attended Portland State University and graduated in 2013.

Daryl Bellush attended college in Florida.

Ann Rule wrote extensively about this case in her book Every Breath You Take. Before her death, Sheila told her sister that if “anything ever happened” to her, to ask Ann Rule to write about the case. This became the first book Ann Rule ever wrote at a victim’s request.

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

Kristi Koslow – arranged to have step-parents murdered


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.