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A Warrant to Kill: A True Story of Obsession, Lies and a Killer Cop

A Warrant to Kill: A True Story of Obsession, Lies and a Killer Cop

3.8 37
by Kathryn Casey

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She tried to tell her friends. She even went to the police. No one would believe her—and now she was dead.

Problems had always followed Susan White, but when she remarried and moved to Houston's posh suburbs, she thought the past was behind her—until she met a deputy sheriff named Kent McGowen who would soon become her worst nightmare.

McGowen was an


She tried to tell her friends. She even went to the police. No one would believe her—and now she was dead.

Problems had always followed Susan White, but when she remarried and moved to Houston's posh suburbs, she thought the past was behind her—until she met a deputy sheriff named Kent McGowen who would soon become her worst nightmare.

McGowen was an aggressive cop with a spotty record. When Susan rebuffed his advances, she claimed he stalked and harassed her, using her troubled teenage son as bait. And then, in an act of arrogance and revenge, he made good on his threats, setting her up for the kill.

In A Warrant to Kill, Kathryn Casey meticulously pieces together the tragic shards of the case to create a riveting story of vengeance, fear, and justice—of the terrifying power a badge can have in the wrong hands.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

August 25,1992

"Shots fired, one down," a thin voice crackled over the police-band radio at 12:30 on a muggy Houston night. Immediately the call went out, as it always does when a cop shoots a civilian. Ambulances, squad cars, a crime-scene unit, Internal Affairs investigators, and representatives from the district attorney's office all converged in the quiet neighborhood of expensive brick homes amid towering pines bordered by manicured lawns.

By the time Assistant D.A.s Don Smyth and Edward Porter arrived, Susan White, a forty-two-year-old former mortgage broker, was being barreled through the night in the back of an ambulance, one paramedic pounding on her chest as another forced oxygen into her lungs.

Outside, in the backseat of a squad car, White's son, Jason, watched. Seventeen, but small for his age, he'd awakened to the shrill scream of the burglar alarm. Moments later, the pop of gunfire and two uniformed deputies rousted him from bed and pulled him down the stairs and past his mother's darkened bedroom, where another deputy stood above the outline of her thin body covered by a bloody sheet. Despite the summer heat, the boy shivered, his eyes saucer-wide.

Smyth, a wiry man with a ruddy complexion, glanced at the boy, then cornered the detective in charge. "Who's the shooter?" he asked.

The detective pointed to a uniformed deputy in his late twenties who stood jawing with a cache of others. "Kent McGowen," the detective said. "He was with two other deputies, serving a retaliation warrant. She'd threatened a police informant. The deputies told her they had a warrant, but the woman wouldn't open up. They brokedown the door. She pulled a gun, McGowen shot her."

It all seemed simple enough, but. "Retaliation?" Smyth repeated. Something didn't smell right. He eyed the house and figured it was worth a quarter million, easy. Retaliation, making verbal threats against a police informant, was a third-rate felony, with a bond of $2,000. Where was the urgency? The woman wasn't a flight risk. Why would they break down a door in the high-rent district in the middle of the night to serve a warrant on a trash-heap charge like retaliation?

Smyth pulled Porter to the side. "Cover it like a blanket," he whispered.

Porter nodded and Smyth guessed his gut was acting up, too. They were a team Smyth was chief of the D.A.'s Civil Rights unit. Porter worked under him. It was department policy: When a cop shot a civilian, someone from Civil Rights made the scene. They'd done a lot of these investigations together, too many, and too often irk the middle of the night.

While Porter, a balding man with a round face and brown eyes that appeared perpetually skeptical behind half-moon glasses, interviewed witnesses, Smyth analyzed the scene. On a pad he sketched the layout of the house, noting the back door splintered off its hinges and a black shoe print where someone had kicked it in. He found no signs of a struggle in the kitchen or the den.

In the living room, Smyth noted blood smears on the plush pale gray carpeting and torn, bloody gauze discarded in the adrenaline-pumping -flush of attempting to save a life. Is she dead or alive? the prosecutor wondered.

Smyth made his way past the crime-scene officers into the bedroom. It was a jumble: clothes strewn on the floor; scribbled-on yellow legal pads piled on the desk; a half-empty Burger King drink cup sweating on the headboard; black-and-white photos scattered on the dresser-modeling-type photos of an attractive, tall, blond, athletic woman in her early forties. He noted the name printed across the bottom—Susan White—the shooting victim.

Next Smyth inspected the waterbed, awash in blood; a fine, deep crimson spray fanned the wall behind it. White must have been in bed when McGowen pulled the trigger, sending a bullet careening through her profile. Another sliced through her chest. A third shattered her right arm.

Moments later, Smyth met on the front lawn with Porter, McGowen, and an attorney supplied by the policemen's union.

"Is he willing to tell us what happened?" Smyth asked. He sensed the young cop wanted to talk. He'd been pacing the front lawn, recounting his story for nearly everyone on the scene. Twice Smyth ordered the offier deputies to contain McGowen. "Put him in a squad car and tell him to shut up," he'd cautioned. He wanted McGowen quiet, thinking about what had happened, wbecting his thoughts.

"He's ready," McGowens attorney answered.

Smyth had conducted hundreds of walk-throughs in his nearly a decade of investigating cops. But this time he looked at Kent McGowen and did something he'd never done before: He pulled out a tape recorder and switched it on. His instincts whispered, Cross every t, dot every i.

The walk-through began at the front door, McGowen detailing for Smyth, Porter, and the others how he'd knocked and ordered the woman to open. up. The woman was a major turd, he charged. Her son was involved with big-time gun dealers who trafficked in automatic weapons. McGowen had arrested the kid two nights earlier, using a C.I., a confidential informant. It was the C.I. White had threatened to kill.

We needed to get her off the street," McGowen said, nodding confidently at Smyth and the others. They were, after all, part of the same club-law enforcement, the good guys. This Susan White, he disdainfully implied, was one of them, one of the bad guys.

Like so much else about the scene, the jowly young deputy's demeanor rang wrong to Smyth. McGowen grinned, bragging, relishing his story, as if he'd saved a school bus full of kids or captured the head of an international drug cartel. Suddenly, McGowen said something that propelled Smyth's curiosity into overdrive: Susan White called 911 when the deputies kicked down her door.

What kind of a criminal calls the cops for help? Smyth wondered.

Just then word came over the radio: Susan White was DOA, dead on arrival at the emergency room. No reason to dispatch anyone to the hospital, Smyth decided when he heard the news. She won't be talking, except ...

What People are Saying About This

Ann Rule
A true crime classic! A chilling study where both the victim and the stalker are bizarre and inscrutable...by one of the best in the true crime genre.
Carlton Stowers
Kathryn Casey has crafted a gripping psychological study--a real-life nightmare wherein the darkest form of evil wears the disguise of a trusted public servant. A book as fascinating as it is troubling.
—(Carlton Stowers, Edgar Award-winning author of Careless Whispers)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Casey is an award-winning journalist, who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Texas Monthly, and many other publications. She's the author of seven previous true crime books and the creator of the highly acclaimed Sarah Armstrong mystery series. Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen network, Biography, Nancy Grace, E! network, truTV, Investigation Discovery, the Travel Channel, and A&E. She lives in Houston with her husband and their dog, Nelson.

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Warrant to Kill 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that totally holds your attention. You feel you get to know the characters and they are easy to relate to. The author did a great job of researching the information and filling you in on what makes these people tick. You cannot put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well written. It holds your attention every minute. I'll give it to friends as a Christmas gift.
Royster More than 1 year ago
After 9-11 the entire country seemed to elevate fireman, police officers and other rescue personnel to God-like statuses. While the vast majority of these professionals are decent, hardworking and honorable, this story reminds us that a very few are something akin not to God, but to the devil. Doubling this tragedy is the complete lack of oversight and downright caring about other people that allowed his past record with other departments to be swept under the rug, only to come blasting out after his senseless murder of this scared and lonely woman. This story must be used as a reminder to less than caring higher-ups at police departments everywhere to at least give a little due diligence when considering the employment of law enforcement officers. Sure, now in hindsight all of these supervisors are willing to share their thoughts and reasoning as to what they did and why they didn't do more. What the hell, it wasn't their family member that was gunned down by an immature braggart behind a badge. Had it been, can you just imagine the type of response the public and the law enforcement community would have had? Sadly, it was a defenseless mother in her nightgown gunned down by a cop who had no business being a night watchman at a candy factory, much less an armed deputy with the authority to kill. I only wish the book would have included an update as to the final outcome of this creep's trial. I had to search the internet for the final result. In a way, it was better delayed because had he just begun serving his sentence the day he was initially convicted, he'd probably be out by now. A great story, too bad it had to be a true story.
KibblesBK More than 1 year ago
I found myself unable to put the book down, the story just grabs you !
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not only very real but prophetic of what my law enforcement ex-husband has promised me. This book was recommended to me by my mother who heard of the story on tv. I may be the next story you read about if my ex's promises come true!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a college student and this book was chilling, a real page turner. I loved the writing but the story was shocking. How could that happen in our society today? I hope this book helps change the way police evaluate siutations - it might save someone's life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'A Warrant to Kill.' How could something like this happen in the US? Aren't there laws protecting people from bad cops? This book kept me up all night, and I loved it. I couldn't put it down. I'm still astounded that this could have happened. The writing is great and the research is remarkable.
BrandyGirl More than 1 year ago
Anyone who enjoys true crime will like this. I could not believe what this officer was able to get away with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked this but its like why did they keep ignoring every bad thing he does...its scary that they keep hiring these kinds of people...also i think the author took too long in describing the backgrounds of the people...but it was overall an ok book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. It took me a little while to get into it, say the first 50 pages or so, but after that I was on overdrive. It was a bit messy, but so is real life. In the end, it exposed problems with the system and made for one hell of a good read. I've been passing my copy around the office and my co-workers are raving about it as well. I'd give it a big thumbs up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got in trouble with my wife because I couldn't stop reading the book. She'll understand after she reads it, it totally keeps your attention.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Really makes you think about the power of the badge. People like McGowen give cops a bad name. Very interesting reading. After reading the previous review, makes you wonder if he was unhappy with the book because he was in it. hum
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Makes you wonder about the men in blue that are sworn to "protect and serve".
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