Driven to Murder: The Blood Crimes at the Sam Donaldson Ranch

Driven to Murder: The Blood Crimes at the Sam Donaldson Ranch

by Robert Scott

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TV journalist Sam Donaldson hired Paul Posey as the new manager for his sprawling New Mexico ranch. Paul and his family settled into their new life. Then, in July 2004 Donaldson was stunned to discover that his ranch had become a blood soaked crime scene. The bullet-ripped bodies of Paul, his wife, and stepdaughter were found buried in a pile of manure. Paul's fourteen year old son Cody was soon in custody. But the shocking revelations had only just begun...

The Posey's appeared to be like any other ordinary American family. But did their carefully constructed veneer hide a dysfunctional family with dark secrets? Cody claimed he had suffered years of relentless physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his father, step-mother, and his step-sister...

Witnesses at the trial included Sam Donaldson, as well as neighbours who supported Cody's claims and others who disputed them. Was Cody a cold blooded killer - or separate the lies from the truth - and decide a teenager's fate...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786038527
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 01/01/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 385
Sales rank: 39,838
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Robert Scott discovered that true-crime writing is incredibly interesting, as "You have to be part journalist, part detective and part analytical writer for the true crime market." His books have detailed the lives of killers and victims, police detectives and FBI agents—from California to Iowa, from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. They've depicted stories from a murderous male/female team in the High Sierras to a psychopathic killer on the mean streets of Los Angeles. They've also told the stories of victims, from an exotic dancer, to a beautiful but naive college girl, to a loving and vulnerable ranch wife. "The lives of the victims, and the detectives who brought them justice, are vitally important in these stories," Scott said. "I absolutely believe in a comment related to me by an Assistant United States Attorney, 'To the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe the truth.'"

Scott is currently working on true crime books set in Oregon and Northern California. Robert has been on many television shows on Discovery ID, A&E, E!, and Tru TV.

Read an Excerpt


Sam's Ranch

As a journalist, Sam Donaldson had been all over the world, covering its hot spots and the halls of power in Washington, D.C. He always had a nostalgia for his roots, however, having grown up in the ranch lands of New Mexico. In his later years Donaldson bought three working ranches around Roswell, New Mexico, that ran hundreds of head of cattle and over a thousand sheep. The ranches were generally known by their local names — Slaughter Ranch, Pajarito Ranch, and the main ranch complex known as Chavez Canyon Ranch. Sam's ranch headquarters was located at Chavez Canyon Ranch.

The Chavez Canyon Ranch, located near the small town of Hondo, New Mexico, was reached by a road that ran about a mile and a quarter to the property from Highway 380. In the summer of 2001, Donaldson needed a new ranch manager and he heard from others in the area that Verlin Posey was a good manager on another ranch. Sam contacted Verlin, who mulled over the idea of switching from the ranch where he was working, but in the end decided not to make the change. Instead, Verlin told his brother, Delbert Paul Posey, about the job, and Delbert, better known as Paul, applied for the position. Donaldson interviewed Paul and one other man.

Wanting to make sure about the choices, Donaldson and his wife looked over the two men's résumés and phoned Royce Griggs, manager of the Diamond A Ranch in the Hondo Valley. The Diamond A was owned by longtime friend Robert Anderson, and then later by the ex-president Gerald Ford. The Donaldsons trusted Griggs's opinion, and Griggs had known the Posey family for many years. In fact, the Poseys had lived on the Diamond A Ranch for a period of time. Griggs said that the Posey boys, Verlin and Paul, were "very honest and straightforward. You can rely on them."

With that information, Sam Donaldson hired Paul Posey and his family, which included wife Tryone, son Cody, and stepdaughter Marilea, to come and live on the ranch and manage it. Donaldson was very satisfied by the way they got right to work on the property and tried to improve conditions there.

Donaldson said later, "Paul began to organize the herd. One of our problems was our cows were not on schedule. Paul began to do the kind of maintenance that was necessary — fixing fences, checking the waters, replacing underground pumps, and looking after some of our wells. He did the things necessary to get the ranch back in good operation."

To Donaldson, the Posey family seemed polite, respectful, and very industrious. He would recall later, "Tryone was very hardworking. She did things for us that we didn't ask her to do around our small compound, where we lived across from the manager's house. She was always bright and bubbly. We liked her.

"As for Marilea, she was a sparkler. She was very effervescent. The family would often come out as a family unit when we were in the barnyard or the horse corral, and Marilea was just fine."

Regarding Cody, Donaldson later said that he was somewhat withdrawn, but many teenage boys acted that way. For the most part, however, Cody was polite and hardworking, like the rest of the Posey family.

On Friday, July 2, 2004, Tryone spoke with Sam Donaldson and told him that she and Marilea were going to her mother's place. Tryone's mom was going to be having a yard sale on the Fourth of July, and Tryone and Marilea wanted to attend. In a previous yard sale, some customers had taken items right off the grounds without paying for them. Tryone and Marilea were going to help keep an eye on things and make sure that didn't happen again.

The next day Donaldson saw Paul and Cody up at one of three guest houses on the property, replacing a board on a wooden porch. Donaldson said hello to both of them and briefly spoke with Paul. As far as Donaldson could see, everything looked fine.

Sunday, the Fourth of July, rolled around, and Donaldson phoned over to the manager's house to remind Paul that he and his wife were going to Santa Fe for the day. Cody answered the phone and Donaldson told him, "Cody, would you please tell your dad, and remind him, my wife and I are going to Santa Fe and we'll be back probably tomorrow, late in the afternoon." Cody assured Donaldson he would tell his dad.

Donaldson and his wife, Jan, met Jan's parents in Santa Fe, and it was a special occasion. Jan had been born on the Fourth of July, so they all had a birthday dinner for her and celebrated in town. The next day all four of them returned to Chavez Canyon Ranch and arrived on the property late in the afternoon.

Donaldson recalled, "After supper we went over to the horse corral, just to see the horses, and it was getting almost dark. The light was on in the manager's house. The ranch truck that Paul used as his vehicle was there, but I noticed that the Poseys' personal truck was missing. Paul did not come out. Normally, anytime we were in the barnyard, if he saw we were there, he would come out and say hello. But he didn't and I didn't think anything of it. We saw the horses and went back home."

The next morning, July 6, 2004, Sam, Jan, and her parents planned on going to the Capitan Mountains for a picnic. Donaldson related, "I was expecting mail from my office, by FedEx, and I noticed that the FedEx truck had gone to the ranch headquarters. On the way to the picnic, we went over there to see if there was a FedEx package for me. I walked up onto the porch, and I was looking at the screen door, and there was a FedEx package there. I went and looked at it, and it had my name on it, so I got it, walked back, and got in the truck, and we left for the mountains."

The Donaldson party picnicked in the Capitan Mountains for the day and returned to the ranch about 4:00 P.M. Sam stopped the vehicle at the main house, and became concerned by this time because he still had not seen anything of Paul or the rest of the Posey family. This was very unusual, and Sam said to the others, "We've got to find out what's going on here!"

Donaldson phoned over to the manager's house, but only received a recorded message. He then climbed into a truck, along with the others, and drove down to the manager's residence. Sam parked the truck and all four of them started up toward the manager's house. There were two entrances to the place, both leading down from a wooden porch. In the morning, when looking for the FedEx package, Sam had approached the house from one entrance, but now he approached from the other side. As he walked up toward the residence, he immediately saw things that he later described as "very disturbing."

"I saw a large reddish swath, which I identified clearly as blood. I'd covered the war in Vietnam, and I'd seen a lot there. At the house I saw a cap and I saw glasses. The glasses were crumpled on the stoop. At that point I said to the rest of my family, 'Stay here. Don't come up!'

"I opened the screen door and walked into the kitchen, and immediately saw the red swath, that was on the porch, was also on the kitchen floor." He noticed a great quantity of congealed blood by the alcove near the washer/dryer. Going from room to room, Donaldson checked to see if any of the Posey family members were there — dead or alive. He saw no one.

Donaldson recalled, "I didn't use the phone in the manager's house, because if there were fingerprints on the phone, I didn't want mine on there. I didn't touch anything. I came out and said to my family, 'There's a big problem here. We've got to go over and call the authorities.'

"We went over to the main house across the arroyo, and I knew Ken Cramer, who is a deputy sheriff at the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. I knew his number. He had investigated a robbery two years previously. Before we had hired Paul, we'd been robbed at our house of two paintings and an odd collection of things. So I called the sheriff's office at that time, and Ken Cramer came out to investigate. None of the goods were ever recovered."

Donaldson couldn't get through to Ken Cramer now, but he did contact the main sheriff's office. Donaldson identified himself and said, "I can't find my ranch manager, but I found a great deal of congealed blood at my manager's house and I want to report it."

Sam Donaldson and the three others waited for sheriff's officers to arrive. Donaldson didn't know what had happened at the Posey family residence, but he knew it had to have been very bad. Someone didn't lose that much blood without there being dire consequences. And one more thing was very disturbing — if there was that much blood, where were the bodies? On the evening of July 6, 2004, there were a lot more questions than answers on Sam Donaldson's ranch.


Slaughter Ranch

Sergeant Robert Shepherd, of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, was on duty on July 6, 2004, when he received a call from dispatch telling him to proceed to the Chavez Canyon Ranch. Shepherd was assigned to the Major Crimes Unit and had more than six hundred hours of advanced training in burglary, sexual assaults, and homicide. Sergeant Shepherd met Sam Donaldson at the entrance gate, and Donaldson told him that he hadn't seen his ranch manager in a while and there was blood at the manager's residence.

Both men proceeded up to the manager's house, and as Shepherd approached the place, he noticed a green coffee mug lying upside down in the dirt. There were only three steps leading up to a porch area, and across the porch there was an apparent blood trail. Sergeant Shepherd told Donaldson to stay where he was, and proceeded to cross the porch up to the front door. The storm door was closed, but near the bottom of the main door, a large pool of congealed blood had collected in the area. Moving inside, Shepherd noticed another large pool of blood in the kitchen area near the refrigerator.

At that point Shepherd backed out of the house and went up to the Donaldsons' main residence, where he phoned the sheriff's office and requested the crime team of Sergeant Kramer and Sergeant Baines. He also told the office to notify the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) mobile crime lab team, as well as the sheriff and undersheriff of Lincoln County. It still wasn't evident what had occurred at the Posey residence, but things didn't look good.

Returning to the outside of the Poseys' home, Sergeant Shepherd noticed a pair of glasses in the area, but he let them stay where they were rather than picking them up. He also spotted a blood-soaked, rolled-up carpet. On the south end of the porch at the bottom step, there was a small pool of blood that had collected. Not far away, two large, wide tire tracks had left their imprint on the ground, and there were two scrape marks between the tire tracks.

Searching for equipment that could have left such tracks, Sergeant Shepherd discovered several pieces of equipment east of the barn, including a John Deere backhoe. As he looked more closely at the backhoe, he noticed there was an apparent blood spatter on the bucket. Shepherd followed the backhoe tracks, making sure not to step on them, and found an area on the ground where someone had tried digging with the bucket. After a few scrapes at the dirt, the person had given up, but there was a small pool of blood there. Searching farther, he noticed that the backhoe tracks led down to a manure pile. Shepherd could tell where the front bucket had dug and removed some material from the pile.

He circled around the manure pile, to a small ravine, wanting to look at the back side of the pile. Once again he made sure not to step on any tire tracks. At that point Shepherd smelled an odor of something that was obviously dead. Further inspection uncovered an aging deer carcass in a nearby ravine, but the odor he was smelling was too new and strong for that. Sergeant Shepherd moved closer to the manure pile and saw several groups of flies hovering around one particular area. They landed on a spot where the odor was the strongest.

Shepherd found a two-foot-long stick and started scraping some of the manure away from the pile. He didn't have to remove much when he discovered a blood-soaked shirt within the manure pile and there appeared to be a person's arm within the shirt.

Not wanting to disturb what might turn out to be a body dump site, Sergeant Shepherd backed out of the area and circled around to the residence. He began taping off the area around the house until Sergeant Kramer and Sergeant Baines arrived.

When those officers did arrive, they all huddled together for a briefing. A short time later, Sergeant Hardy and Agent Norman Rhodes, of the NMSP, arrived on scene as well.

Criminal Investigator Rhodes was skilled at processing crime scenes, identifying evidence, and packaging it for further study. He often processed crime scenes for other agencies, and he had special training in photographing scenes and bloodstain pattern analysis, as well as crime scene reconstruction. By the year 2004 he had been to more than two hundred crime scenes, mostly in the southern part of New Mexico.

Rhodes was assigned as crime scene manager, after a briefing with Robert Shepherd. Rhodes gave tasks to the other officers present, concerning who would draw a diagram, who would videotape, and who would do other tasks. Eventually five investigators made up the team.

One officer went up to the Donaldson residence, while the other officers stayed behind at the ranch manager's residence and started their search for other bodies that might be in the house. The team members didn't find any more bodies in the Posey ranch house, and they didn't touch anything, awaiting a search warrant before they began that procedure. The crime scene was taped off for the night.

It wasn't until six the next morning, July 7, that the team finally had a search warrant in hand and were back on the property. By that time the area was really filling up with investigators, including a crime team from Las Cruces, New Mexico. After another briefing, a few investigators, including Sergeant Kramer, went inside the residence.

Early on it was decided there were two main locations of the crime scene — the ranch manager's residence and the manure pile. Rhodes and some team members did a walk-through of the residence, starting on the north side steps. They noticed a coffee cup that was lying upside down near the steps and a spent shell casing nearby. There were two trails of blood on the porch area. Also in the area was a brown-colored throw rug with eyeglasses that lay on top of it. One of the lenses was missing from the eyeglasses. There was a large red stain on another throw rug that lay near the first one.

Proceeding inside the house, they discovered a red stain spatter on the south wall of the kitchen area. Rhodes could surmise some directionality of the blood spatter and it seemed to indicate a southward direction from possible arterial spray. Two nails on the wooden outside deck rose above the surface and hair and fiber were wrapped around them.

In the kitchen area, the missing lens from the eyeglasses was found, and a crack ran through the lens. The glasses and lens were collected, and Investigator Rhodes termed this initial walk-through a "raw scene."

Inside the living room they saw a sofa, and upon it there was a dark apparent blood-soaked section. On the couch there was a pillow and a book near it. There was a discoloration on the pillow, red in color, and there were also hairs, fiber, and human tissue on the pillow. In the living room were blood spatters on the west wall and south wall. It appeared that a body had been dragged from the living room through the kitchen and then out across the porch. Blood smears followed this general path.

The investigators checked the other rooms, and on top of a computer desk, there was an open notebook with a note written on it. The note read, Sorry coppers, needed the kid to do the dirty work. Just what that meant was not immediately clear.

In one bedroom there was a pair of work gloves that appeared to be stained with blood. The master bedroom was checked, but nothing of evidentiary value was found there. About this time an office of medical investigators (OMI) team arrived from Albuquerque, as did Investigator Melissa Armstrong.

The investigators did a walk-through of the house with Dr. Colmar, of the OMI team. They noted the apparent areas of blood and certain amount of disarray in the house. Then it was time to dig through the manure pile and recover the body, or bodies. As the investigators began their search, they noticed the arm of one victim and the upper torso of another in the manure pile. As manure was stripped away, the investigators reported, "The victims were dumped there in an erratic commingling." In all, there were three bodies within the manure pile — on the top was Paul Posey, in the middle Marilea Schmid, and on the bottom, Tryone Posey. Their limbs were intertwined in a blanket. Marilea's left cowboy boot had been removed, but it was thrown onto her body. A driver's license in the wallet of his jeans identified him as Paul Posey. The bodies were removed and placed in body bags and sealed with evidence tags. They were sealed to ensure that no one tampered with the bodies from the time the investigators put them in the body bags until an autopsy was performed in Albuquerque, which was almost two hundred miles away.


Excerpted from "Driven To Murder"
by .
Copyright © 2008 Robert Scott.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by Robert Scott,
Title Page,
Chapter 1 - Sam's Ranch,
Chapter 2 - Slaughter Ranch,
Chapter 3 - Young Cody,
Chapter 4 - The Fatal Road,
Chapter 5 - Heaven or Hell,
Chapter 6 - Lincoln County,
Chapter 7 - Girlfriend,
Chapter 8 - Meltdown,
Chapter 9 - Deconstructing Cody,
Chapter 10 - Opening Shots,
Chapter 11 - Foundations,
Chapter 12 - Window into Cody's World,
Chapter 13 - In His Own Words,
Chapter 14 - Cowboys and Teachers,
Chapter 15 - Dark Secrets,
Chapter 16 - A Question of Incest,
Chapter 17 - Mind Games,
Chapter 18 - A Different Mirror,
Chapter 19 - Flying Sparks,
Chapter 20 - Verdict,
Chapter 21 - People for Cody,
Chapter 22 - Killer or Victim?,
Chapter 23 - Light at the End of the Tunnel,
Copyright Page,

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Driven to Murder 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't know why I didn't remember this story.
davec More than 1 year ago
Loaded with "Adolescent Psychology" pertaining to abused children. I enjoyed the book---but it was fairly easy to put down, and I don't know exactly why. It points out that abuse is not always seen.