Dying For Love

The family of a murdered society matron says she took up with the wrong man

"You had some idea, obviously, how wealthy she was?" Bailey asked.

"But I didn't know how wealthy," Pagano replied. "I knew she was wealthy, yes."

(In an earlier interview, the detective had asked Howard's bookkeeper, Linda Hartrick, if she believed Pagano would have known how "well off [Howard] was financially." Hartrick had replied, "He had to have known. You don't have property in Carmel, you didn't have property on Mummy Mountain, Echo Canyon, and you didn't have a $350,000, $400,000 house, plus buying a new Cadillac or Oldsmobile just because she liked the color of it every couple, three thousand miles, you know?")

Katheryn Howard believed it would be happily ever after with Chuck Pagano.
Katheryn Howard believed it would be happily ever after with Chuck Pagano.
Chuck Pagano and Katheryn Howard at her Scottsdale home.
Chuck Pagano and Katheryn Howard at her Scottsdale home.

Pagano said he'd read Howard's diaries while the civil suit against him was ongoing.

"I presume you read the diary?" he asked Bailey.

"Yeah," the detective answered. "I mean, I got other things than go through 10 years' worth of frickin' diaries."

Bailey asked a few questions about the puzzling drowning death of Chico the poodle.

"I know that they think that I killed the dog," Pagano replied, referring to Howard's survivors. "[They think] Don't you think it's a coincidence that Chuck was there and the dog died, and Katheryn died a couple days after?' I mean, when they told me that, I go, Holy mackerel,' you know."

He then asked the detective a direct question.

"Where do I stand?"

Bailey spent minutes answering, going into details that tipped Pagano to the direction the detective was taking the case -- nowhere.

He pointed out that the medical examiner had reclassified Howard's death "as a homicide and death due to asphyxiation. And obviously we don't believe that she asphyxiated herself. What the bottom line is that somebody is looking at a homicide or a murder, and somebody has to have caused that. Who the hell caused it . . . is what's been dropped in my lap, where do we go from here?"

As much as the detective blabbed, he inexplicably never asked Chuck Pagano what he'd asked the housekeeper -- whether Pagano had seen the bruises on Howard's body in the last hours and minutes of her life.

Whatever Pagano's answer had been would have been enormously important to the murder investigation.

Instead, Bailey seems to have bought Chuck Pagano's claims about having no idea he stood to reap a small fortune from Howard's death.

"Pagano only was aware of the amount of their joint account," the detective wrote in a report, "but it is totally uncertain what he knew concerning specifics of the Howard Trust."

Whether Pagano knew the exact sum coming to him matters little, investigator Joe Soos told New Times in a recent e-mail:

"It's like a bank robber who doesn't know exactly how much he's going to collect from a heist. He just knows he needs the money and he's going to make a bunch. What you had here was a detective whose heart wasn't in it and whose interview techniques were extremely poor. Bad combination."

In police reports completed last fall, Detective Bailey made it clear he'd again concluded he couldn't make a case against Chuck Pagano.

Last October 18, Bailey took about 45 minutes to present what he had to a committee of senior Maricopa County prosecutors. He was assisted by deputy county attorney Noel Levy, a veteran of dozens of murder prosecutions.

According to Bailey's police report, the committee unanimously declined to prosecute Chuck Pagano for murder.

"We determined there was no reasonable likelihood for conviction based on the investigation that Scottsdale presented to us," says Bill FitzGerald, a spokesperson for County Attorney Rick Romley's office. "As you know, there is no statute of limitations in murder cases."

FitzGerald refused to allow Levy to be interviewed for this story about the nature of Bailey's presentation.

Katheryn Howard's survivors say they haven't given up hope that justice will be done in her case. To them, that would mean a successful prosecution of Chuck Pagano for first-degree murder.

"We loved our aunt very much," says Becky Hebert, "and what this guy did to her was so wrong, so evil."

In February, Dr. Mozayani -- the Texas toxicologist -- and Joe Soos will present their take on the Howard case at the prestigious American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual conference in Dallas. They've called their presentation "The Unnatural Death of Katheryn Howard."

Dr. Arch Mosley hopes to attend the conference.

"This case changed everything about how I deal with the elderly," the pathologist says, emphasizing the word "everything."

"I don't get a senior citizen in here with bruises anymore without demanding a satisfactory explanation from someone. Let's put it this way: I don't get the body of an elderly person in front of me without thinking about Katheryn Howard."

E-mail paul.rubin@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8433.

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Sue Haveman
Sue Haveman

Chuck Pagano is still taking advantage of women. I had a gentleman's agreement for him to build a house for me in the Dominican Republic. What a fiasco. Taking my money, buying other property for himself, building is a way that was criminal, he is nothing but a thief. I've practically had to rebuild all of the columns & beams, the walls aren't plumb, it's incredible. He also swindled two other people down there in the village of Luperon. He's a bad man.

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