Read an Excerpt
Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
’Tis the season to be jolly …
Suzy Wamsley hummed along to her favorite holiday tune as she put the finishing touches on her family’s sparkling Christmas tree. The Christmas season was always a jolly time for the Wamsleys. Their home—a sprawling two-story mansion in the Walnut Estates neighborhood of Mansfield, Texas, just south of Arlington—was a veritable Santa’s workshop. In truth, the house at 820 Turnberry Drive seemed to have been constructed with Christmas lights in mind—the eaves purposely built to display the hundreds of twinkling white lights that Rick Wamsley painstakingly hung each year; the fireplace expressly fashioned to show off the colorful Christmas stockings; the front lawn perfectly suited to the Santa and sleigh that were brightly lit by a spotlight in the flowerbeds.
Rick and Suzy, both 46 years of age, had spent the day basking in the holiday spirit. Although it was only December 10, they always gave themselves plenty of time to get things just right. Neither wanted the headache of rushing around in the last few days before Christmas. With the tree meticulously decorated, presents beautifully wrapped, and trayloads of cookies baked and placed in the freezer, the couple took a moment to stand back and admire their work. Everything looked festive and cheery. After moving tinsel from one branch to another and rearranging some of the glittering ornaments, Suzy remembered that the brownies she had been baking especially for her son Andrew were ready to come out of the oven, and she dashed to the kitchen. Rick stayed in the living room and repositioned the presents for their children, Andrew and Sarah, and their beloved granddaughter, Brittany.
When everything was exactly as it should be, the couple headed for bed—exhausted. In just a few days, their neighbors the Clarkes and the Leggs would be coming over for their traditional holiday get-together to exchange gifts, enjoy a scrumptious meal, and toast another year of good health and good cheer. This year, it was the Wamsleys’ turn to host the party, and Suzy and Rick wanted to make sure that they maintained their five-star rating as fabulous hosts. Then, just a few days after the get-together with the neighbors, the extended Wamsley family would converge on 820 Turnberry to celebrate the holiday, as they did every year. Life was good. Sweet dreams would surely flow easily. It was just before midnight.
Rick and Suzy got undressed and slipped into their king-size bed in the first-floor master bedroom. Rick fell right to sleep. But Suzy was restless. Instead of waking her husband, she shuffled sleepily into the living room, turned on the TV, and stretched out on the plush sofa. Wearing her usual bedtime garb—just a T-shirt and panties—and with a warm blanket pulled up tight to her chin, Suzy eventually fell into a deep sleep.
Sing we joyous, all together Fa la la la la, la la la la. Heedless of the wind and weather Fa la la la la, la la la la.
* * *
At 3 a.m., a car inched along the deserted streets of Walnut Estates and turned onto Turnberry Drive. The vehicle entered the driveway at number 820, and the male driver turned off the engine. After a few moments, he got out of the car, walked through a gate on the side of the house that led to the backyard, and stealthily entered the house through a back door. Slowly and cautiously, he checked out the rooms and made mental notes of the inhabitants’ whereabouts. After a few minutes, he returned to the car and gave his report to the two female passengers: one male asleep in the master bedroom; one female asleep on the living room couch.
With that information, all three silently exited the car and entered the house via the same clandestine route. Inside, everything was dark and silent. They crept down a hallway, past the laundry room, and into the kitchen. The male intruder stopped there, and waved on his accomplices. The two females furtively continued into the formal dining room, where they stood stone still, backs against the wall.
“You can do it,” whispered one to the other.
“Okay,” she replied.
“The sooner you do it, the faster we can go home.”
“I believe in you.”
“I can do it.”
“Do it quickly!”
There was a moment of tense silence.… “No, I can’t.”
“You have to. We’re gonna have to do it tonight.”
“Yes, you can!”
“Yes, I can!”
“Go!” demanded the encouraging female as she pushed her reluctant companion around the corner and into the living room. “Do it!” she urged.
Stumbling into the living room where the unlit Christmas tree stood sentinel, the female stopped between a coffee table and the fireplace—within five feet of the couch. With a gun in her gloved hand and without heeding the gifts and tinsel, she took aim, and fired. Bang! The bullet struck the sleeping woman on the left side of her head.
With adrenaline coursing through her body, the gun-wielding female continued toward the bedroom, all the time hearing the words “The male is in the master bedroom” and “You can do it!” As she got to the door, she saw the man sitting straight up, a startled expression on his face. She headed toward him, firing once, twice—but missed him both times. The man charged out of bed to tackle his assailant as she kept firing, again and again and again. Finally, she hit him directly above the right eyebrow.
But the bullet didn’t stop Rick Wamsley. He lunged forward, rushed toward her, and grabbed her. The two struggled out of the bedroom and into the living room, where they ended up in a heap by the fireplace. Despite having been shot, Rick fought back. He seized his attacker’s hair and pulled as hard as he could. He punched her and pushed her, finally pinning her down by putting the entire weight of his body on top of hers. As they wrestled, the gun came loose from his attacker’s hand and lay on the rug by the hearth, a few feet away.
Hearing the sounds of this frantic struggle, the male intruder, who had been waiting in the kitchen, raced into the living room. There, he desperately tried to pull Rick Wamsley off the female shooter. But the bleeding man—summoning all his waning strength—wouldn’t let go. The three struggled toward the front door. As they did, Rick managed to grab the gun. He lifted it high above his head and brought it down, bashing the male intruder in the head.
Seeing that her friends were now in serious trouble, the third intruder, who had been waiting in the dining room, dashed into the kitchen, grabbed two sharp knives, and ran to the front door. She handed one knife to the male intruder, and with the other knife, she began to stab the victim. Raising his hands against each blow, Rick successfully defended himself time and time again, receiving only superficial wounds to his hands. Realizing that her strategy wasn’t working, the female handed her knife off to her girlfriend.
“Go stab the lady,” she ordered. “Finish her off! Make sure she’s dead!”
Doing as she was told, the original gun-wielding female picked herself off the floor and returned to the living room, seven-inch-long knife in hand. She began stabbing the woman on the couch in a sustained frenzy—one time, two times, three times, four times, five times, six times—sixteen times, seventeen times, eighteen times.
Bang! A shot rang out from the entryway by the front door. Rick had taken a bullet to his back. The bullet exited underneath his shoulder—yet somehow he was still alive. Although he kept fighting, trying as hard as he could not to lose consciousness, Rick’s sense of reality was slowly fading.
“Why?” he gasped, looking at his attackers.
“Because I’m pregnant,” blurted out the female.
“We can help you,” Rick said weakly.
“Shut up, or I’ll shoot you,” she replied.
Hearing the conversation and realizing that the male still wasn’t dead, the knife-wielding female returned to the entryway, and with Rick now facedown by the front door, she began stabbing him in the back—one time, two times, three times … nineteen, twenty, twenty-one times.
Then there was quiet. Neither Rick nor Suzy moved—or breathed. The three perpetrators stood still for a moment, catching their breaths and surveying the situation. When they felt certain both of their victims were dead, they took one last look around, gathered the knives and gun, and made their way through the formal dining room, into the kitchen, down the hallway, and out a door leading into the garage. Passing a white Jeep Cherokee and an Acura, they continued on to the driveway. There, after popping the trunk to their car, they grabbed a white trash bag they had put there earlier and began shedding their outer clothes. They tossed in sweatshirts, shoes, the knives, and the shooter’s gloves. The male closed the trunk, settled into the driver’s seat, and started up the engine. One female sat next to him; the other sat in back behind the passenger seat. And just as they had come in—slowly, quietly, stealthily—they drove out, down Turnberry Drive, turning left onto Muirfield, and then out of swanky Walnut Estates.
The driver took back roads, stopping just once to clean the blood that was running down his face. As they drove through the darkness, the three reviewed the events that had just taken place.
“I’m real proud of you,” said the female in the front seat to the female in the back seat, who had used the gun on Suzy.
“Congratulations,” said the male driver.
“I knew you could do it. You did a great job. Now, we’re gonna go home,” said the female in the front seat.
“Finally,” replied the exhausted female in the back seat.
As they meandered through the silent, unlit streets, past the Christmas decorations adorning darkened homes, the female in the front seat remembered something and grabbed the other female’s cell phone. She made a call. “I got in some trouble,” she said into the phone. “I need an alibi.”
* * *
After just fourteen miles, the car pulled up to the home where both females lived, and one female went inside and got soapy water and a rag. All three assailants had some blood on them, so they began cleaning themselves up. When they felt satisfied that they had washed away all traces of their brutal exploits, they entered the house. The female who had originally wielded the gun took a shower in the back room. The male went into the front bathroom to take a bath, and the other female, whose house it was, put a load of clothing into the washing machine —including bloody T-shirts and jeans. She then carried the white garbage bag from the trunk of the car to a container and placed it outside to be carted away the next day.
Around forty minutes later, they were ready for bed. They soon fell asleep, worn out from their frenzied fury.
’Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la
* * *
Later that morning, after only a few hours sleep, the female who had shot Suzy Wamsley was awakened by an alarm clock. She crawled sleepily out of bed, got dressed, and set off for high school. She attended her six classes—acting as if nothing unusual had taken place. When she returned to the house, where the other two had lounged the morning away, the three worked together to remove everything from the car and to vacuum it thoroughly. Using Formula 409, they scrubbed anything they thought they had touched, inside and out. They then tackled the trunk, vacuuming and wiping down every inch of it. After that, the original gun-wielding female cleaned the gun, placed it in a bag, sealed it, and buried it in the flower garden.
* * *
At around 9 p.m. that evening, December 11, 2003, the Wamsleys’ neighbor Patty Clarke arrived home from a dinner and was surprised that the Wamsleys’ Christmas lights were not on. They had been shining brightly for the past few days, lighting up the neighborhood, as well as everyone’s spirits. Clarke thought it was odd that the house was dark, but she assumed Suzy and Rick had gone out for the evening and had forgotten to turn the lights on.
* * *
Later that night, the male and one female got back into the car and returned to Turnberry Drive. The female went into the kitchen and picked up the phone and dialed 911. When the operator came on the line, the intruder said nothing, but laid the phone down, off the hook, on the kitchen counter. She then returned to the car and the two drove back home.
Nearly twenty hours after the murders, the two dead bodies in the living room had yet to be discovered.
Copyright © 2011 by Stella Sands