Smoke, Mirrors, and Murder: And Other True Cases (Ann Rule's Crime Files Series #12)by Ann Rule
Includes Ann Rule's insider commentary on the Mary Winkler murder case
REAL-LIFE MURDER. REAL-LIFE MYSTERY.
In some murder cases, the truth behind the most tragic of crimes crystallizes with relative ease. Not so with these fascinating accounts drawn from the personal files of Ann Rule, America's #1 bestselling true-crime/big>/big>… See more details below
Includes Ann Rule's insider commentary on the Mary Winkler murder case
REAL-LIFE MURDER. REAL-LIFE MYSTERY.
In some murder cases, the truth behind the most tragic of crimes crystallizes with relative ease. Not so with these fascinating accounts drawn from the personal files of Ann Rule, America's #1 bestselling true-crime writer. What happens when the case itself becomes an intractable puzzle, when clues are shrouded in smoke and mirrors, and when criminals skillfully evade law enforcement in a maddening cat-and-mouse chase? Even the most devoted true-crime reader won't predict the outcome of these truly baffling cases until the conclusions revealed in Ann Rule's marvelously insightful narrative: An ideal family is targeted for death by the least likely enemy, who plotted their demise from behind bars.... A sexual predator hides behind multiple fake identities, eluding police for years while his past victims live in fear that he will hunt them down.... A modest preacher's wife confesses to shooting her husband after an argument -- but there's more to her shattering story than meets the eye. These and other true cases are analyzed with stunning clarity in a page-turning collection you won't be able to put down.
Read an Excerpt
Happy Ever After?
Sue Harris and her sister, Carol, who was seven years older, grew up in an upper-middle-class home in Lake Hills, the most popular subdivision in Bellevue, an eastern suburb of Seattle, in the 1950s. Bellevue was like Levittown or a thousand other towns that sprang up after World War II, fulfilling the demand for new homes for young families. Initially it seemed a long way from Seattle, but it really wasn't, and when the first floating bridge across Lake Washington was built, Bellevue seemed only a hop, skip, and a jump away for the dads who continued to work every day. The moms mostly stayed home, waxed their floors once a week, and cooked meals from scratch, and if they had a career, it was probably selling Avon or Mary Kay products part-time.
In many ways the 1950s were an easier time, or maybe it just seemed that way. Couples got married intending to stay together, and the divorce epidemic that lay ahead was only a distant threat.
Along with most of the other fathers in the neighborhood, Sue and Carol's father, Hermann, was an engineer for the Boeing Airplane Company. Sue was born in December 1955, and despite the difference in their ages, she and her sister were uncommonly close as children, and that would continue as they grew to adulthood. If they expected life to be happy ever after, so did other little girls in Bellevue. It was the era of Barbie and Ken and playing dolls while mothers lingered over coffee in somebody's kitchen.
In Lake Hills, the fifties were a halcyon time. In the early sixties, though, couples with young children came close to panic when the Cuban missile crisis loomed. World War II had been fought far away, across oceans, but the Cuban crisis threatened to bring war to America itself. With that menace and the simultaneous anxiety it provoked, a small army of salesmen swarmed over Bellevue offering bomb shelters on the installment plan.
A model home in Lake Hills offered the latest upgrade in housing: a bomb shelter in the basement. And Rod Serling's Twilight Zone featured a memorable episode about neighbors fighting one another to crowd into such a shelter. It was the end of a time when everyone felt safe. Most home owners opted to move forward without shelters, realizing that their consciences wouldn't allow them to survive happily when most of their neighbors had perished.
And then John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and America changed forever.
Hermann Harris had clipped articles on bomb shelters, but his daughters weren't aware of that until after he died -- much too young, at fifty-two -- of a sudden heart attack. Their mother, Lorraine, was only forty-two when she was left to raise her two daughters: Sue was ten and Carol was eighteen. Fortunately, Hermann Harris had been wise in his investments and he left his family well provided for, and there were veteran's benefits from his service in World War II that would pay for his two girls to go to college.
Sue and Carol had seen a happy marriage, and although they missed their father a lot, their mother stepped up to take the reins of responsibility. She was a loving and brave woman and her girls adored her.
When Sue was in the third grade, her parents had bought a house in Newport Hills, a new community where houses and streets blossomed up the hill above the 405 Freeway. It was more expensive than Lake Hills and there was more chance there for individuality and architect-designed homes. Home values in Newport Hills grew exponentially over the decades ahead. They shot up even faster than the giant sequoia sapling that Hermann had planted in the Harrises' front yard when they first moved in.
Just below Newport Hills, adventurous contractors came up with a plan to build another, even more posh community by filling in the shoreline on the eastern edge of Lake Washington. It was called Newport Shores, and Sue's dad had scoffed at the idea, saying, "Who would ever want to live down in that swamp?" For once, he'd been wrong. Although the houses on the hills grew steadily in value, those on the shore tripled and retripled continually in listing prices over the next four decades.
Sue watched her mother evolve from a stay-at-home housewife to a competent head of her household, and Sue admired her more all the time. Lorraine Harris vowed that her daughters would go to college. Carol chose the University of Washington in Seattle, but Sue picked Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, on the eastern side of the state. There, more than three hundred miles away from the Seattle area, the hills of the Palouse roll on endlessly, the soil and weather perfect for fields of golden, undulating wheat. The summers were blazing hot, while the winters brought frigid temperatures and deep snowdrifts. It was another world, and Sue Harris loved it.
Sue was a smart and pretty young woman who majored in business administration. Although she expected to marry one day and raise a family, she was looking forward to having a career first and she wasn't in any hurry to settle down. She had a great deal of confidence then and didn't plan to settle down until she was in her mid-twenties at least.
But that was before she met Bill Jensen. Sandy-haired Bill was six feet four inches tall, with an athlete's muscular build, not an inch of fat on him. Sue was a sophomore when she went to a meeting of the scuba diving club on campus. That's where she met Bill.
She was awed by the way Bill Jensen took over a room. "He was a great talker," she recalled, "and he seemed well informed on so many subjects. He wasn't somebody you could ignore. He really impressed me. He weighed less than two hundred pounds then, and he was in good shape."
Sue was almost twenty, and she assumed Bill was older than she was. She was surprised to learn that he was actually eighteen months younger. She found him quite handsome and she hoped to see him again. It seemed to be fate when she ran into him again when one of her girlfriend's dates had a party in his dorm.
When Sue arrived, she discovered that Bill also lived in that dorm and he was at the party. She was happy when he asked to walk her back to her dorm after the party, and delighted when he asked for her phone number.
"It would have been at the end of October 1975 when we met," Sue said. "I remember because my friends and I went to Spokane the next day -- Saturday -- and when I got back to my room, there was a note from Bill on my door reminding me to set my clock back because daylight saving time was ending. He added his phone number and said there was a chilled bottle of wine waiting, and asked me to call him when I got home."
Bill Jensen launched into a whirlwind courtship, and Sue still thinks of that fall at Washington State University as being a very happy time. Bill struck her as very mature and extremely confident, someone she could depend on. The first time he called her at her home in Newport Hills, her mother handed her the phone, saying, "It's for you. It sounds like one of your professors."
But it was Bill, and his voice did have that air of authority. He seemed such a solid and dependable guy, and Sue respected his determination to finish college even though he didn't have much money. Like Sue, he worked in the dorm dining room to help pay expenses. He also worked for Safeway in their beverage plant as a warehouseman, and later as a store detective. Bill managed to earn good grades -- particularly in any course required for a degree in criminal justice, his major. In those classes, he got As and Bs.
He wrote two outstanding term papers in 1977 and 1978: "Jail Security" and the more ambitious "Socio-Psychological Profile of Becoming a Corrupt Police Officer."
When Sue brought him home to Newport Hills for Thanksgiving, her family welcomed him. And by her birthday, December 8, Bill had asked her to marry him.
To her own surprise, she found herself saying yes.
Bill Jensen's background was very different from Sue's. Born in May 1957, he'd grown up in the area around Bremerton, Washington, and the huge naval station there. There was precious little stability in his early years. From the time he was little, he was bounced from one home to another, moving through a series of relatives' homes and sometimes even foster homes.
Bill's father was fifty-seven when he was born, and he had fathered several daughters by different women. He wasn't around much when Bill was small because he was in the navy and out to sea a lot. He was a mythic, heroic figure to Bill, who bragged that his father's ship had been under siege at Pearl Harbor.
Bill's mother was much younger, but she was an alcoholic, and her parenting skills were sketchy at best. When Bill was five his father died, and his mother wasn't in any shape to take care of him. State social workers stepped in to decide where he should go. He went first to his maternal grandparents, but then was placed in a foster home from the age of seven to eleven.
After that, he lived in California with his mother and stepfather for just two months after his eighteen-year-old sister spirited him away from a foster home and drove him to his mother's house.
"Bill had three full sisters and one half sister," Sue said. "His sisters were a lot older than he was and married young, so they were on their own."
Bill didn't meet his half sister, Wanda, until he was thirty-three. Before that, he didn't even know what her last name was. Because his sisters were much older than he, he lived with his oldest sister, Iris,* when he was in junior high school. He suspected that he was taken in as a live-in babysitter rather than because his sister cared about him.
Being poor was a constant worry for Bill; most of the foster parents he lived with subsisted on a bare-minimum standard of living. He would remember one foster home where meals often consisted of catsup sandwiches.
Although he seldom talked about it to Sue, Bill occasionally mentioned that he had suffered both physical and emotional abuse when he was a child, and it's likely that is true. As soon as he was old enough, Bill went to work. He washed dishes and bused tables at local restaurants to earn a little spending money.
Bill's name wasn't Jensen then; he used his father's surname: Pate. Still, he never really felt that he belonged to his birth family. By the time he was sixteen, he was living with distant relatives. His third cousin was the mayor of Poulsbo, where most of the citizens were Scandinavian.
Bill became very active in the Lutheran church in Poulsbo, where he was a camp counselor and Lutheran youth president.
While the mayor's home was meticulously clean and there was plenty to eat, Bill wasn't happy because the rules were very strict. Once more, he was convinced that he had been accepted out of duty, and not because the mayor and his wife had any particular affection for him. And he chafed at the rules that seemed to have no reasons behind them other than to mete out discipline.
After he'd lived with the mayor and his wife for a year, Bill formed a powerful bond with a complete stranger: he was shooting at targets on a rifle range when he met a man of about fifty, who told Bill that he had just retired from the navy as a lieutenant commander. The two had a long conversation, and the retired navy man was quite taken with Bill.
Despite his rough childhood -- or perhaps because of it -- Bill had developed a charismatic façade, and he made an excellent, very likable first impression. His intelligence impressed his new friend. Bill joked as he complained about his suffocating home life, but the older man, whose name was Chuck Jensen, felt kind of sorry for him. Jensen's background was something of a mystery, but he apparently had no family he was close to. He was on his own when Bill met him. Bill and Chuck Jensen became friends.
After they had known each other for a few weeks, Jensen realized how miserable Bill was in the regimented home of the mayor, and he offered the teenager a home -- no strings attached. Bill accepted quickly.
Chuck Jensen set about teaching Bill manners, bought him some nice clothes, and acted as his surrogate father. Like young Bill, Chuck was something of a loner. He lived in a mobile home surrounded by acres of land. Jensen encouraged Bill in his lifelong ambition to be a cop.
One day, Bill would tell Sue Harris that he couldn't even remember when he hadn't been drawn to police work. At sixteen, he planned to go to college to get his degree in criminal justice, join a police department, and eventually become a special agent in the FBI.
Bill had to budget carefully to pay for college; Washington State University was known for its superior criminal justice curriculum and, indeed, was the only college that offered a four-year program at the time he graduated from high school. He had some veteran's benefits from his father's wartime service in the navy. Chuck Jensen also helped him, and he obtained some student loans. Besides his part-time jobs in Pullman, he worked summers for the Mason County Sheriff's Office on the Olympic Peninsula in an intern program offered there. He wasn't old enough to be a deputy, but he worked as a dispatcher in the mostly rural county.
Although Bill wanted to get married soon after he and Sue became engaged, she didn't want to give up the veteran's benefits that paid for her tuition, which she would lose if she married. She pointed out the wisdom in that to Bill. They both needed their fathers' legacies to finish college.
Reluctantly, Bill agreed that her argument made sense. There were times when they considered getting married before they finished school, but they always concluded they should wait; they were secure in the fact that they loved each other, and neither was jealous or insecure about the stability of their relationship.
Sue graduated before Bill did -- in the summer of 1978, while Bill still had one more semester. She didn't want to move back to Seattle without him, so she continued on at Washington State and earned a second degree -- this time in psychology.
Although she loved Bill, Sue was surprised when she realized that Bill Jensen was not the popular, outgoing guy she first thought he was. He was actually a loner. Despite the way she had viewed him at their first meeting at the scuba club, he really didn't have close friends. When they got together with a group, the others tended to be her friends, not his. She understood why he might not trust people enough to get close to them. After his pillar-to-post childhood, when he never really felt that he belonged anywhere, she reasoned, why shouldn't he take a wait-and-see attitude about people?
Sue saw that Bill could not keep a roommate, that they moved in and out rapidly, but she didn't think much of it. There was very little about him that concerned her; when they were alone, they got along fine, and she didn't find his tendency to dominate conversations a deterrent to their relationship. He might be kind of bossy and even arrogant sometimes, but to her, he was interesting, and he knew so much about many things. She certainly didn't see him then as boorish and oblivious to other people's reactions.
Sue felt sorry for Bill when his mother humiliated him in front of other students in his dorm. "She would get drunk and call him from California, where she was living then," Sue recalled. "It bothered him so much he got ulcers from the stress. I remember once how angry he was when his mother couldn't get him on the phone and she called the resident adviser in his dorm. He was so embarrassed to think of how she must have sounded, knowing that she only called when she had been drinking."
Bill Jensen was struggling to make a better life for himself, one in which he could leave his birth family behind. He felt no particular allegiance to his mother; he had no reason to. She hadn't fought to keep him when he was five and the state's social workers moved in and took him away to a foster home. And she hadn't been very nice to him when Bill lived with her and a stepfather in California when he was in junior high. Beyond his adopted father, Chuck, Bill had never had any stable roots that would make him feel grounded in the world. Sue understood that, and tried to reassure him that he was a special person, successful and smart, and that he had a great future ahead of him. She loved him and vowed to be the kind of wife who would help him find a happy life.
The only disturbing experience Sue had with Bill in college was at his nineteenth birthday party. They had gone out with some friends, and both of them had a little too much to drink. Although she couldn't even remember what they argued about, it was serious enough for him to put his hands on her in anger, and she was left with black and purple marks where he'd grabbed her arms.
The fracas at Bill's birthday celebration had escalated to a point where somebody called the police, and they quickly broke up the party.
Sue would remember a long time later that the grad student who was the resident adviser in her dorm had looked closely at her bruised arms and warned her to be careful, saying, "This may be your first time -- but it won't be the last time he hurts you."
Sue listened to her adviser, but it didn't sink in and she didn't believe it. She loved Bill, and she was anxious to make up with him. "I heard what he was saying -- but I knew he couldn't be talking about Bill. He didn't know him the way I did."
Bill was a young man in a hurry, and he earned his bachelor's degree at Washington State University in three and a half years. When he did, he and Sue moved home to Bellevue.
They set their wedding date for May 5, 1979, right before Bill's twenty-third birthday. Even though Bill was now an adult, Chuck Jensen had legally adopted him in February. From then on, Bill's legal name was Bill Jensen.
Sue knew that his relationship with his family was nothing like her own, and her mother and sister did, too, so they made sure he felt welcome in their family. If only being accepted into a warm and loving clan when one is an adult could make up for emotional abuse and deprivation in childhood, Bill Jensen might well have been a happy and successful man.
Still, it's almost impossible to build self-esteem atop a shaky foundation. Bill Jensen's life during the vital years between one and six, when a child is forming his own view of the world, was one of abuse and abandonment. As gruff and dominating as he appeared, he wasn't a man who felt confident inside.
He hid it well. He often told Sue, "I'm a survivor." Whenever they had problems, he added, "We'll get through this."
In the beginning, Sue found his "survivor" declarations endearing. And she always thought he said, "We'll get through this," although there were times when she wondered if he'd actually meant, "I'll get through this."
Bill had already survived a lot, and there were events that kept reminding him of the turmoil he had come from. His mother died in the summer of 1977, and Sue remembered a bizarre experience when she accompanied Bill to the funeral in California. She was about to meet his family for the first time.
During the wake, the mourners imbibed heavily, and most were intoxicated as the day ended. Bill had rented a car and he and Sue offered to give two of his sisters a ride after the wake. Almost from the moment his sisters got into the backseat of his car, they began to fight about which of them had loved their mother more. Their verbal abuse quickly escalated to a physical fight.
"I couldn't believe it," Sue said. "They were actually scratching each other and pulling hair. I looked at Bill and the veins in his neck were just bulging because he was so angry. These were grown women who were almost a decade older than he was."
And then Bill Jensen suddenly whipped his car into a gas station, opened the back doors, and tossed his screaming sisters out. He left them there. How they would get home was anyone's guess, but he didn't care, and Sue couldn't really blame him for feeling that way.
Sue wasn't all that surprised when Bill told her he didn't want her inviting his sisters to their wedding, although she asked him if he was sure he wanted to leave them out.
"They'll just ruin it," he explained. "You saw how they behaved at my mother's funeral."
Indeed she had, and she didn't want their wedding to end up in a free-for-all. Bill's oldest sister was almost as tall as he was, an inch or so over six feet in her stocking feet, and there were some people around Bremerton who nicknamed her "Wild Iris" for her short fuse.
In the end, Bill convinced Sue not to send wedding invitations to any of his birth family.
Sue and Bill's wedding in the Mercer Island Covenant Church was a lovely event, albeit without the presence of his relatives -- except for Chuck Jensen, and Sue thought of him as her new father-in-law. Bill had two friends he'd made in high school, and he asked one of them to be his best man. The rest of the wedding party was made up of Sue's family and friends.
Their marriage started out well. Sue and Bill had a great honeymoon. Bill and Chuck converted an old but sturdy Chevy van into a self-contained camper, and the newlyweds traveled around the United States in it for six weeks. Gas was relatively cheap then, and they cooked on the road and slept in the van. They had both worked hard in college, and their honeymoon was a relaxing and bonding time for them.
"Bill applied at some police departments before we left," Sue said. "He had an outstanding résumé, and while we were on the road, he got a message that his interview at the King County Sheriff's Office had gone so well that they were going to hire him."
But the King County personnel office told Bill he could finish his honeymoon -- he didn't have to come right back to Seattle: he could join the fall class of basic police school in September of 1979.
He was due to graduate in December, and they would start the new decade with Bill's ambition to be a cop realized.
They found an apartment in Lake Hills where the rent was cheap; at least it seemed that way in the summertime. Bill and Sue moved in, but when the weather turned cold they discovered that the heating bill made the low rent seem something less than a bargain.
Still, the young couple were both earning good salaries -- Bill as a deputy with the sheriff's office and Sue in a rather unusual job for a woman. During the summers while she was in college, she worked for Sears in the automotive department as a "tire buster." She got thirty-five cents more per hour than regular clerks. She didn't mind putting on new tires or installing batteries, and she made as much money as any of the male employees.
In her early twenties, Sue Harris Jensen was a confident young woman, happy in her marriage, and solidly behind her husband's goals.
As the Jensens settled in, she took a job with Automotive Wholesalers as a sales representative. She knew what she was talking about as she sold their products to auto parts, hardware, variety, and grocery stores.
"I always liked cars," she said, "and as a commission-only sales rep it wasn't long before I was making more money than Bill was."
Bill didn't seem to mind. He had grown up without money, and he didn't care who made the higher salary; he was glad that Sue was pitching in to build their bank account. In most things, Sue was amenable to doing things Bill's way, although she wasn't a subservient wife. She knew Bill admired her ability to talk to perfect strangers, and to find common interests with them.
Bill and Sue Jensen agreed that they wanted to have children one day, but they decided to wait four or five years. They were young, and they were both happy in their jobs. Bill had reached the first steps of his ambitions as a police officer, and Sue liked her job, too. She ended up working for Automotive Wholesalers for six years. With Sue focusing most of her attention on her husband, their relationship worked. They got along well during the first five years of their marriage.
Sue didn't become pregnant until mid-1984. She was delighted, although their good news was somewhat bittersweet. Lorraine Harris had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and her family all knew that she probably wouldn't be around to enjoy her grandchild for long. Still, Sue's mother was upbeat and optimistic about Sue's pregnancy, and both Sue and Carol tried to spend as much time with their mother as they could.
Bill too seemed pleased that they were going to have a baby. But they began to have serious arguments. In one awful fight, Bill kicked Sue in the abdomen, and she was terrified that he had hurt the baby. She didn't report that to the police; it would have endangered his job. In time, she managed to push the memory of that violence to the back of her mind, making up excuses for him.
When Jennifer was born in March 1985, Bill was very proud of his beautiful blond baby daughter. Sue had worked selling auto parts right up until Jenny was born, and she was happy to retire to be a stay-at-home mom.
In the fall of 1985, Lorraine Harris's doctors told her daughters that she probably didn't have much longer to live, and Sue spent every moment she could with her mother, watching Lorraine with baby Jenny. She was grateful for every day her mother had to enjoy her granddaughter, as brief as their time together was.
Working as a deputy sheriff can be a very stressful occupation, and there were times when Bill seemed tense and anxious. When he struck out at Sue, he blamed it on his job. Even so, Sue was shocked when, as her mother was dying, Bill announced that he needed a vacation. He wanted her to go to Hawaii with him. He appeared to have no perception at all that his mother-in-law was dying, and that she should come first. Instead, he was irritated that Sue thought his need for a vacation wasn't the most important problem they had. Rather than stand by her and her sister as Lorraine slipped away, Bill went to Hawaii with a high school friend instead.
Lorraine Harris passed away on November 18, 1985.
Sue remembered this insensitivity of Bill's, but they were both so happy with their new baby that, once more, she put it out of her mind. She tried to see things from her husband's point of view and thought that he must have been under more stress than she had known. But admittedly, she was less patient with his moods and his pouting now that she had an infant to care for.
Lorraine Harris's will left her assets to her two daughters, and because she had managed her money wisely, both Sue and Carol inherited a surprisingly large sum: hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lorraine left the house to her girls, and Bill, Sue, and Jenny moved into the house in Newport Hills where Sue had grown up. They put the proceeds from the sale of their house into an interest-bearing account -- a joint account. Uncharacteristically, Sue deposited the money from her inheritance into a separate bank account, one in her name only. She did, however, write checks to deposit into their joint account whenever Bill asked her to do so.
Sue deferred to Bill in handling money, and he paid the bills and kept their books. She didn't check on how or where he spent their money. She didn't see any need to.
Bill handled their investments, and he took some dicey gambles in buying technology and computer stocks. Through a combination of luck and clever buying, the Jensens' fortunes rose. Bill bought Microsoft and Intel in the days when those stocks soared, making millionaires overnight. He didn't make that much money, but his buying on the margin appeared to be heading them in that direction.
Because Bill's job kept him on duty for long hours, and sometimes he slept during the day, Sue did all the yard work and painted their house inside and out; as the years went by she would be the Girl Scout leader, room mother, and volunteer for the myriad parent participation projects that needed workers at Jenny's elementary school.
Bill took a real interest in Jenny's involvement in sports. He was pleased when she turned out to be a natural athlete, and he coached her basketball and baseball teams. He took great pleasure in his role as a coach, and Jenny was proud that her friends liked her father so much.
There were some parents at the ball games who found Bill Jensen too critical, too loud, and too competitive for someone who coached youngsters. They thought he took a lot of the fun out of games that were meant for small children.
"Bill Jensen would yell and belittle other coaches and umpires," the mother of one of the girls he coached said. "He would use his size and intimidate anyone who disagreed with him -- to the point that it would embarrass and humiliate the children and the parents."
Bill's size was a factor in the way he was sometimes perceived as an arrogant, almost bullying, man. Sue had liked the way he towered over her when she first met him, but by the seventh year of their marriage, it was no longer much of an attribute. Now he used his height and weight to bully her. He weighed over 250 pounds, and the scale continued to climb. He was given to temper tantrums, and although she usually tried to calm him down, Sue sometimes got mad, too. Shortly after her mother died, Bill had deliberately thrown a cherished figurine that Lorraine had given to Sue and it shattered into a dozen pieces.
"I was so angry," Sue confessed, "that I flung a picture frame at him. I called the King County Police. We lived in the same district where Bill had once worked, and the deputies who came out were the guys Bill had worked with."
Sue was the one who got a citation. Their fights were more frequent, but Sue still hesitated to call the department where Bill worked. Making a domestic violence complaint against a deputy sheriff would jeopardize his career, and being a cop was all Bill Jensen had ever wanted to do. She didn't want to harm Bill's dream job, and so Sue backed off. If she hadn't been so angry that he'd deliberately broken something precious that her mother had given her, she would never have called the police on him that one time.
Unlike most police officers, who have a sense of camaraderie with their fellow cops, Bill Jensen had few friends in the King County Sheriff's Office, and no close buddies at all. He was frequently moved from one unit to another. He had a reputation as a braggart and certainly not as a team player. Winning was his foremost goal in whatever activity he participated in. In law enforcement, it is essential for officers to use teamwork in many situations, but that was one aspect of his job where Bill Jensen failed. That was probably why he was transferred often.
He sometimes patrolled on a motorcycle, and he really enjoyed that. He and Sue both had motorcycles.
Jenny was three and a half years old when the Jensens' son, Scott, was born seven weeks prematurely on September 9, 1988. Scott was very frail and doctors warned Sue and Bill that he might develop cerebral palsy or other problems. At first he seemed to be delicate because of his premature birth, but neonatal specialists tested him for other possible causes. When he was allowed to come home, Scott had to have a heart monitor and both Sue and Bill worried terribly about him, checking on him often to be sure he was still breathing. Scott was ultimately diagnosed with Noonan's syndrome, a disorder that had only been isolated in 1963. It can compromise a number of body systems.
No one was certain that Scott's heart would be affected, and both his parents did their best to give their fragile baby boy the best care possible.
Sue suffered the post-baby blues more than she had with Jenny, but that was to be expected; she was so concerned about Scott. Bill tried to tease her out of what was undoubtedly postpartum depression by threatening to call "people in little white uniforms" to come and take her away. He warned her, teasing her sadistically, that she wouldn't be able to see her kids.
Scott did have some cardiac problems and a few other, relatively minor side effects of Noonan's. He was in and out of Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle, and he developed pneumonia. Sue rarely slept, and she recognized the wisdom of signing herself into Overlake Hospital for a week for help with her depression.
"I just felt as though I couldn't deal with another loss," Sue remembered, "so soon after losing my mother."
For months, it was touch and go whether Scott would survive, but he was a fighter and he made it. He was an adorable little boy, and both his parents devoted themselves to him. Bill couldn't have been a better father for him. If there were things Scott couldn't do, Bill was determined to find activities he could do.
He helped Scott with his manual dexterity with special toys, rode him around on his back, and took both his children to ride the merry-go-round at a shopping mall in Bellevue. Both Jenny and Scott adored their father, and from an early age did their best to please him. As he grew, Scott idolized his father -- this tall, husky man in the police uniform.
This was especially true when Scott watched Bill on his motorcycle, and he and Scott shared a love of the big bikes. As soon as Scott could ride, Bill got him a small motorbike, and he was thrilled. Bill loved his small son and showed him more tenderness than he demonstrated even with his daughter or his wife. Jenny was feisty like her mother, and that sometimes irritated Bill, although he was very proud of her, too, and always enjoyed her company.
As Jenny grew, she was the very epitome of a beautiful, blond girl. And Bill Jensen bragged about his perfect daughter.
Bill Jensen's two children might have been the best thing that ever happened to him. They admired him, loved him without question, and clung to all the good memories they had of their early years with their father. In their eyes, he could do no wrong.
Still, for all positive images the Jensens' marriage exhibited, there were darker events, things that Sue tried to hide. Usually she was able to do that, fearing that if she told anyone outside the walls of their home it would be breaking her commitment to Bill.
But on December 9, 1988, Sue called her sister, Carol, and she was crying. Embarrassed to tell anyone else, Sue confessed to Carol that Bill had pulled hard on her shoulder and twisted her arm behind her back. She had bruises on both hands where he had held on to her, and she had bald spots where he had yanked out some of her hair. Carol insisted on taking Sue to her doctor.
While Sue was being treated, a King County Police car pulled up outside the Jensens' Newport Hills home. Bill had reported Sue as the instigator of their fight, and insisted that she had to be committed to be treated as a mentally ill patient. When Carol explained what had actually happened, the deputies pulled back and drove away.
The next day, Sue discovered that Bill had withdrawn $25,000 from their house-sale account. He hadn't mentioned it to her, and she was troubled that he had taken so much money out without their agreeing to it.
"But Bill always took care of the bills, and our investments," Sue recalled. "If I asked about any financial move he'd made or wondered about our accounts, he told me if I didn't like the way he was handling things, I could take over if I wanted to -- and I always backed down. I knew he was better at it than I could be. That time in December 1988, Scott was only two months old, he was still on the heart monitor, and Bill and I were both nervous. And I wanted so much to have a happy family. I thought we could work it out."
As the nineties approached, Bill was part of a close family. Besides Sue, Jenny, and Scott, he was always welcome at Carol's home. They all got together at Thanksgiving and Christmas. His wife loved him, his children adored him, and his sister-in-law and her fiancé were happy to see him coming.
Sue's main ambition in life was to be the best mother she could be, and she loved being home with Jenny and Scott. She continued to volunteer for any activity they were in where a mother was needed -- from room mother to Scouts.
Bill got Jenny started with basketball in kindergarten and coached her teams all the way to sixth grade. They began baseball when Jenny was in the second grade. Bill was the coach for both sports, and she was proud to have her dad out there coaching. Jenny would remember their winning record, and that her girlfriends really liked her father. "He was a great coach, and it was fun!"
Sometimes, though, the Jensens' marriage was less fun.
In 1986, Sue and Bill had gone to counseling, a requirement after the domestic violence report when Bill had smashed the figurine. That early report said that it was "likely" that Sue was suffering from Battered Woman's syndrome, but Bill's stance in the few sessions he attended was that it was Sue who needed "fixing." Their psychologist felt that she and Bill did need marriage counseling, but it was hollow advice because both of them needed to participate fully if they hoped to save an increasingly combative marriage. But no amount of coaxing from Sue could get Bill to open up in front of a marriage counselor.
Sue and Bill continued to argue, but they always made up. Inevitably, Sue blamed herself, wishing that she hadn't said the wrong thing and annoyed him, or that she hadn't been so quick to argue with him. She was anything but a mousy wife; she was an active combatant. Still, there were a lot of good times between the difficult spaces. The Jensens took family vacations, camped out, and they all enjoyed the kids' sports.
Yet the incidents of physical abuse continued. Each time, after he'd hurt her, Bill told Sue it was her fault. She had made him angry enough to use force on her. Her perception of the world began to change; she looked at happy marriages around her and wondered what she was doing wrong. She began to blame herself for all the problems she and Bill faced.
Being married to a cop is never easy for a wife. There is always the fear that when they leave to go out on a shift, they may not come back. Some officers share what happens on the job with their wives, but most tend to keep it to themselves, trying hard to separate their home life from those things they see out on the streets.
Knowing that their husbands are often the objects of flirtation from other women who are attracted to the uniform, a lot of wives are either jealous or filled with anxiety. Socially, cops are treated differently by "civilians," who approach them at parties to try to get tickets fixed or complain about some injustice they feel they've suffered at the hands of the police. That's the reason cops tend to stick together, socializing with one another in venues where they don't feel as though they're under a microscope.
But Bill Jensen still didn't socialize with his fellow officers. Although there is almost always solidarity in police agencies and cops officially have one another's backs on the job, Bill didn't have any more close friends in the sheriff's office than he had had in college.
There was something about him that turned other deputies off -- perhaps his tendency toward braggadocio, his know-it-all attitude, or his quick temper.
Bill continued to be transferred laterally within the department. After he graduated from the police academy in December 1979, he was assigned to the Burien Precinct near Sea-Tac Airport, where he worked a patrol car for about eight months. Next, he drove a "highway car," where he was on call in a thirty-block area.
"Basically, you're in charge," he explained later in his usual self-aggrandizing manner. "The reason they selected me for that was because I had a very calming effect in situations. I didn't let them get out of hand. As soon as I showed up, I was able to settle things down.
"They wanted people to calm situations down," he said, "not to exasperate people."
Bill usually worked Third Watch (11 p.m. - 7 a.m.) or Second Watch (3 p.m. - 11 p.m.). After a year in the highway car, Bill was transferred to the Kent Precinct in the southeast portion of King County, and he worked patrol there in a one-man car for four years. In an effort to penetrate a burglary ring, Bill did some undercover detective work, which he enjoyed. Although he had once hoped to move into a detective unit, that didn't happen, and Bill was transferred next to the North Precinct, where he once again drove a patrol car. He was on call for a number of lightly populated, unincorporated areas in King County.
Beginning in 1992, Bill had an additional assignment with the King County Sheriff's Office: he was an emergency vehicle operations instructor. It was a natural for him, and one that fulfilled his need to be in a position of authority.
"What my duties were was the training via my fellow peers, sergeants, and whoever. I took them out and they learned how to do pursuit driving and defensive driving," he said proudly. "I really enjoyed that. It was a lot of fun, and I was really fairly decorated for that because I did a good job. It was a very intensive course. I think I can honestly say it was one of the most intensive courses I had ever taken, including college. I was kind of surprised how hard it was. Not everybody passed it."
Bill had a kind of blindness about how he came across to others. He was quick to brag and slow to compliment anyone else. He was the center of his own universe, focused only on himself. Even his children were a distant second, and his wife got even less affirmation.
In the first seventeen years on the job, Bill Jensen was never elevated to detective -- or even sergeant. He stayed in his one-man car on patrol. Over those years, Bill gradually but consistently put on weight, so that the lanky youth who graduated from Washington State University disappeared behind added pounds. He weighed more than three hundred pounds now.
In 1997, Bill said he wanted a change of pace, and asked to be assigned as a court security officer in the Issaquah District Court. He had worked that area on patrol for years and wanted to get off the road. Issaquah is a mountain foothills town in the shadow of Snoqualmie Pass, located more than fifteen miles from the King County Sheriff's Headquarters in downtown Seattle. It was an easy commute, however, from the Jensens' home in Newport Hills.
"I thought court duty would be kind of fun," he commented. "I tried to stay on day shift as I got older -- as a matter of it being easier with the family and sleep and everything."
His new assignment began on January 1, 1997. Jenny was almost twelve, and Scott was nearly eight. With their father working a day shift, they hoped to see more of him. Sue, too, wondered if Bill's new assignment could somehow change the dynamics in their home in a positive way. At last they would all be living on the same basic schedule; she and the kids wouldn't have to be alone during nighttime hours, and he could coach on weekends.
The King County Journal, the east side's newspaper, chose Bill Jensen as their "Hometown Hero" about this point in his career. Bill had met an injured ex-cop in Australia ten years earlier when the Jensen family was vacationing there. Bill and Graeme Dovaston became long-distance friends after that, and kept in touch with each other. Ironically (in light of what lay ahead for Bill Jensen), Graeme Dovaston had been struck by a car when he was a working officer, and his leg was broken in seven places. That was in 1973. Infection set in, and after a fifteen-year struggle, his leg had to be amputated. When Bill Jensen learned that a prosthetic leg had failed Dovaston and that his long-awaited trip to America had become a nightmare as he tried to maneuver on a wooden foot fastened with straps that etched wounds into his hips, Bill took action.
Bill lobbied two Washington State firms to donate parts for a prosthetic leg that worked, and then organized a fund drive to raise the rest of the $19,000 needed for the remarkable artificial limb. After twenty years of pain and disappointment, Graeme Dovaston was able to lay down his crutches and walk once more, thanks to Bill Jensen.
Bill, in his King County Police uniform, smiled broadly from the pages of his local paper as he held a picture that showed his Australian friend walking with ease. Once more, Jenny and Scott Jensen were very proud of their dad.
Still, the Jensens' children worried about the conflict in their home. They loved both their parents, and when Bill and Sue Jensen fell into arguments, Jenny and Scott tried to mediate, too young to understand their basic differences and the disappointments each of their parents felt in a marriage that sometimes seemed doomed to failure. Sue, the bubbly optimist, kept trying to bring Bill into a relationship in which they shared responsibility, while Bill, the sullen, self-focused pessimist, resisted -- pulling further away. Sadly, it wasn't a particularly unusual situation in many American marriages.
Sue wasn't afraid of Bill, not at all. She had long since pushed her dorm adviser's warning back into her subconscious mind. She had almost forgotten her injuries at Bill's hands when Scott was a newborn, as well as those that came later.
She knew her children loved their father devotedly, and that Jenny and Scott wanted their parents' marriage to succeed. Bill was still coaching Jenny's teams, and he joined Scott in father/son Indian Guide activities. He and Scott still rode their motorcycles together, Bill on the big "hog" and Scott on one geared to his size.
Every time Sue thought about leaving the man she'd been married to for eighteen years, she felt she couldn't do it -- it would break Jenny and Scott's hearts. There had to be a way to get Bill to join her in serious counseling.
Sue no longer had the self-confidence she once had as a young bride and in the early years of her marriage. Bill told her repeatedly that she was the reason they had problems. By now, Sue believed him. Her parents had been happily married, her sister was in a long-term positive relationship with a fine man, and most of her friends enjoyed solid marriages. Maybe Bill was right -- maybe it was something she was doing wrong.
Sue had always believed Bill and found him intelligent and a man who made sound financial decisions. She was no longer working at a job outside their home, happy to be able to stay home with her children, but in a way, that made her more vulnerable to Bill's steady chipping away at her self-image. She often resented Bill, with his anger and his vacillating moods, but she still respected his opinions, although certainly not as she had done in their college days.
Even though she had a degree in psychology, Sue wasn't sure what factors were involved in the way Bill jumped from one obsession to another. For a while, he focused on showing champion-class dogs -- Great Danes, to be exact. They had a Great Dane as a beloved pet, but when the dog developed problems with irritable bowel syndrome, Bill ordered that it be put down. Sue begged to have another dog, but Bill agreed only if she promised that he would decide when the next dog would either be given away or euthanized.
Whatever irritated Bill had to go.
No matter how mercurial he could be, few would quarrel with the notion that Bill Jensen was a whiz at finances. And making money was the most pervasive obsession he would embrace. He was one of the first to jump on the future prospects of computer stocks. He became a day trader long before most people had ever heard the term. He was out of bed every weekday at 6 a.m. and began to check the stock market, evaluating, buying, and selling until 1 p.m. Now he bought even more stocks on margin, but as long as the market stayed up, that wasn't a problem.
One day, when it dipped dramatically just before the millennium, Bill was caught short with margin calls, and he lost a lot of money. But for most of the nineties, he held 350,000 shares of prime computer stock.
Bill Jensen continued to be a man who obsessed over one moneymaking scheme or avocation after another. In 1989, for example, during the Washington State Centennial, he found a way to make a lot of money very quickly. Through one of Sue's former bosses, he snagged the fran chise on official State Centennial gold-plated guns. He took time off from his sheriff's duties to sell them at various venues -- including the Washington State Fair. They sold for about $1,700, and $750 of that was pure profit.
Next he set about building the best computer possible, and spent close to $100,000 on computer ware.
He began to buy "collectible currency" on eBay and attempted to sell it at considerable profit. He attended conventions with others who were fascinated by coins and bills that were either history-laden or the result of mint mistakes that had slipped through before production stopped.
One currency convention in Tennessee led to his next preoccupation: genealogy. Bill developed an intense interest in his family's genealogy, searching out the Pate family (that was his birth surname). He traced that name back to Tennessee and a man named John O. Pate, who was thought to be Bill's great-grandfather. In the late 1890s, locals described John Pate as "mean looking, with a handle-bar mustache." Although he had a wife, he was involved with a woman whose last name was Crowder. When his mistress was unfaithful to him, John O. Pate was enraged.
The Crowder woman fled his wrath, only to meet up with Pate on the trail across Tennessee's Big Bald Mountain. In what historians called "a brutal murder and mutilation," Pate killed her. John O. Pate was about fifty at the time. He hid out in a cave on the northwest slope of Big Bald Mountain, and Margaret, his forgiving wife, brought him food. When lawmen caught up with him, he refused to come out until they threatened to toss dynamite into the cave. He was convicted on murder charges and served either nine or twenty years in a Tennessee prison, depending on which genealogy you read. Thereafter, he stayed clear of the law.
Riley Pate, who may also have been related to Bill Jensen, was sentenced to death in 1896 for the shooting of a fifteen-year-old youth who had thrown a rock at him when he was drunk. Mat Hensley, the victim, died of wounds to the "lungs and liver."
Although Bill Jensen had never considered himself a Pate, he was intrigued by his possible connections to the Tennessee Pates.
As Bill Jensen immersed himself in one near obsession after another, Bill and Sue grew further apart. She had come to a place where she simply quit trying to get him to do chores around their home and just did them herself. As far as their children knew, they were still a close family. Some days, Sue vowed to try harder; on others, she tried to cope with the desolate feeling that comes with an increasingly empty relationship. She concentrated on Jenny and Scott.
Bill continued to coach Jenny's teams. Sue worked hard to retain family traditions for her children's sake.
The Jensens hosted their traditional Halloween parties, where Bill invariably dressed up as a homicidal maniac, his skin and clothes stained with fake blood. And everyone laughed.
Bill's gun safe held at least seventeen weapons, a few of them the gold-plated Centennial guns, but most were firearms he'd bought or traded.
If the delicate balance in the marriage could just stay suspended where it was, there was always the chance that the Jensens could stay together in some kind of détente.
And then, on July 23, 1997, their lives changed dramatically and there was no going back. Ever.
Copyright © 2008 by Ann Rule
Meet the Author
Ann Rule is the author of more than two dozen New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. A former Seattle police officer, she knows the crime scene firsthand. She is a certified instructor for police training seminars and lectures frequently to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and forensic science organizations, including the FBI. For more than two decades, she has been a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She has testified before U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittees on serial murder and victims' rights, and was a civilian adviser to the VI-CAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program). A graduate of the University of Washington, she holds a Ph.D. in Humane Letters from Willamette University. She lives near Seattle and can be contacted through her Web page at annrules.com.
- Seattle, Washington
- Date of Birth:
- October 22, 1935
- Place of Birth:
- Lowell, Michigan
- Creative Writing Program, University of Washington
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Ann was the first true crime writer I ever read and she really sets the standard. This book was no exception. I was surprised at the number of typos, but I'm overly observant to such things. Regardless, it was a page turner I couldn't put down and I loved every single moment of it.
As always the case with any of Ann Rule's books that I read I could not put it down until I was finished. If you like true crime this would be a book that I would suggest that you read.
'The craftiest trickery are too short and ragged a cloak to cover a bad heart.'(Johann Kaspar Lavater, Swiss theologian, 1741-1801)Mr. Lavater could have been talking about several of the beating hearts in Ann Rules newest book. I enjoy Ann Rules books because she is so well qualified in her subject and because she is such a talented writer. This is a fascinating book that is hard to put down once you've started it.
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