The murderer arrived at Bob and Doris Angleton's house in the wealthy suburb of River Oaks, Houston, Texas, in the early evening of a warm April day in 1997 and set his deadly trap with smooth precision. He'd obviously been thinking about it a long time. He punched in the code which disarmed the burglar-alarm and stepped into the empty house. He checked his weapons — two silenced .22 semi-automatic pistols — and settled down to wait for his victim. Doris McGowan Beck Angleton, 46, Houston socialite, millionairess, wife of entrepreneur Bob Angleton and mother of 12-year-old twins returned to her home half an hour later.
As she came into the house the killer raised his gun and fired six shots at point black range. Then he changed guns and fired six more. There was little doubt that Doris Angleton was dead. The killer slid his guns into a leather bag and left the house, his job done.
Meanwhile, Bob Angleton and his daughters Ali and Niki were watching a softball game at a park on the other side of Houston and waiting for Doris to join them. She didn't arrive, which was unusual but not particularly worrying — Doris had a wide social circle. She had probably met someone and stayed chatting. At 9.30pm Bob and the girls arrived home in his station wagon and found Doris's car parked in its usual place near the front door. But something was wrong. The front door of the house was wide open. Angleton called the police on his mobile phone and within minutes Patrolman Keith Carr pulled into the drive. Using a powerful flashlight, Carr entered the house. Lying in the hallway was a woman.
She was dead. Bob and his daughters, in a state of shock, went to stay with relatives while forensic experts descended on the house and detectives probed the private life of one of Houston's most successful and charismatic wheeler-dealers. They were in for some surprises — the first was that the apparently happy marriage of Doris and Bob Angleton was not what it seemed. After 15 years of marriage, Doris Angleton was petitioning for divorce.
Bob had over $5 million in safe deposit boxes and Doris wanted half of it. She had already persuaded a court to freeze all movement on the money while a deal was being negotiated. But that wasn't the end of Bob Angleton's problems. His brother Roger, a failed stockbroker, had demanded $200,000 in cash, threatening to make public some of Bob's shadier business deals if he didn't hand over the money.
By now Steve McGown, Doris's brother, had flown in from New York and was able to give detectives details of his sister's lifestyle. "The biggest thing about Doris," he said, "was that when she was around everyone knew they would have fun. She knew how to make people feel good." But the same could hardly be said of Bob Angleton. Detective Dave Ferguson would say later: "Everyone liked Doris. But we didn't find a single person who actually liked Bob..."
Bob, it seemed, didn't like many people either — particularly his brother Roger. He told detectives that since he had refused to give his brother $200,000 Roger had constantly threatened him with blackmail, and worse. Bob Angleton knew he was a prime suspect for his wife's murder. He stood to gain around $2 million from her estate now that she had not been able to complete the divorce, but maintained he knew nothing about the killing, and had been with his daughters when it was committed. He had no hesitation in suggesting that Roger had killed her "out of spite because I wouldn't give him the money he wanted," — a claim given added weight by the fact that Roger Angleton had now disappeared.
He later tried to board a plane from Houston to Los Angeles under the name Frank Tratora, but fled after two guns were found in his luggage. Finally arrested in San Francisco, Roger Angleton was extradited to Houston where he was charged with his sister-in-law's murder. But the case never came to trial. On the morning of February 6, 1998, warders at Harris County Gaol found Roger Angleton dead in his cell. He had bled to death from scores of cuts from tiny disposable razor-blades he had somehow smuggled into his cell. On the bloodstained table was a letter which read: "I killed Doris Angleton in an ultimate attempt to begin an extortion programme based on fear and the threat of further death from Robert Angleton. "Robert owed me money but I realise I was wrong to take a life of especially a good and innocent person. I am in constant emotional agony and so decided to end my life to stop the pain. Although I began an elaborate plan to frame Robert for Doris's death as further leverage to get money, he is innocent."
But if Bob Angleton now thought the authorities would close the case and he would walk away free from suspicion, he would be bitterly disappointed.
A medical examination showed that Roger Angleton was terminally ill and would have only lived a short time. Now police believed that Bob Angleton had done a deal with his brother: "admit to the murder, then commit suicide and I will support your wife and family." It was Bob, claimed the prosecution, who had masterminded both the murder and his brother's suicide for his own financial ends. Which was why the case took a sensational twist in July 1998 when Bob Angleton appeared in Houston before Judge Brian Rains and a jury accused of the capital murder of his wife. Key to the prosecution's case was a tape-recording which Roger Angleton had made secretly, obviously intending it to use it to further blackmail his brother. The prosecution claimed the voices were those of Roger and Bob Angleton planning Doris's murder, but Bob Angleton always denied the voice was his. Defence lawyers would later claim that Roger had hired an impersonator to mimic Bob. Bob Angleton did not give evidence but defence attorney James Wilson declared that all the evidence pointed to Roger Angleton being the murderer. "My client had nothing to do with the killing. He has lost his wife, his girls have lost their mother. Someone shot Doris Angleton 13 times in cold blood. May God wreak his justice on Roger Angleton, and in the meantime it is up to the jury here to make sure that earthly justice is done, too."
It took the jury three days of deliberations before they brought in a verdict of not guilty and Bob Angleton left court a free man. But not everyone thought justice had been done. For instance, Doris's brother Steve McGown was convinced Bob had got away with the gamble of a lifetime.
"Everything Bob did was a calculated speculation," he said. "But hiring your brother to kill your wife and then getting away with it, is to hit the biggest jackpot of all..."