Dying For Love

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

It's abundantly clear from her diary entries that Katheryn Howard had fallen hard for the contractor. But she learned in 1988 (from her maid at the time) that she wasn't the only wealthy Scottsdale woman with whom Pagano was having sex. Soon after confronting him and the other woman, Howard left for her second home in Carmel, California, writing in her diary that she never wanted to see Pagano again.

The late 1980s were a particularly tough time financially for Chuck Pagano. Maricopa County court records show numerous judgments and liens against Pagano and his business in the late '80s for unpaid bills. In November 1988, the Arizona Board of Contractors revoked his license.

Things got so bad for Pagano that his wife, Joan, insisted he sign a "post-nuptial" agreement. In that 1989 agreement, Chuck Pagano agreed to keep their bills separate from then on, and allowed Joan Pagano to reassume sole ownership of their central Phoenix home.

Pagano and Howard traveled extensively during their 15-year affair.
Pagano and Howard traveled extensively during their 15-year affair.
Katheryn Howard, as a police photographer saw her posthumously in her bed on June 16, 2000. Note the unexplained marks on her chin.
Katheryn Howard, as a police photographer saw her posthumously in her bed on June 16, 2000. Note the unexplained marks on her chin.

It wasn't as if Pagano was committing himself to a monogamous relationship with his wife. According to Howard's diaries, he kept trying to rekindle their connection. She fended him off at first, writing in early 1989 of their relationship: "It's all gone for me."

But Pagano was insistent. He pleaded with Howard in April 1989 to lend him money, which she refused to do at first. That summer, however, she started to allow Pagano to visit her in Carmel -- on her dime -- more than once.

"That man really turns me on," she scribbled in her journal after one visit.

Willingly, Pagano had become a kept man, with a wife on the side.

Though the affair was on again, Howard continued to express profound reservations about Pagano in her diary.

"He's got it made," she wrote after moving back to Scottsdale in the early 1990s. "He comes for dinner and sex with no obligation on his part -- no fun for me. . . . I'd like to end this affair, which has gone on too long."

But she didn't end it.

Though Howard long had enjoyed excellent health, her heart began to fail as she neared her 80th birthday in 1992. That January, she noted in her diary that Pagano had taken her to a hospital after her heart started beating erratically.

The next day, Howard instructed her attorney in a handwritten note to add Pagano as a beneficiary of her estate. He was to receive $100,000 from Howard's estate after she died.

"Such a dear man, and I think the world of him," she wrote in her diary that week.

It's uncertain what Chuck Pagano told his wife about his relationship with Katheryn Howard (he told Sam Bailey last year that Joan hadn't known about the sexual nature of the relationship until after Katheryn died).

What is known is that the lovers took extended trips together over the years, to Europe and around the States, and spent an inordinate amount of time together.

As their relationship endured, Howard included Pagano more and more in her financial plans. That was critical to Pagano, who admitted to Detective Bailey last year, "My business has been up and down all of my career . . ."

Court documents show that by 1996, Pagano had become the primary beneficiary of Katheryn Howard's estate -- which would be valued at $3.4 million before taxes after she died. That May, Howard signed a new will that left Pagano 40 percent of her trust, plus her cars, one of her two Scottsdale condos, and two paintings. And he still was to get her original $100,000 gift in cash.

Also in the mid-1990s, Howard started a joint bank account with Pagano. Each was supposed to fund the account equally, with the survivor -- odds obviously were with Pagano -- getting the money. (There was $102,000 in that account when Howard died, of which records show Pagano had deposited only $3,400.)

Around this time, Howard started paying Pagano $1,200 a month to "manage" her two condos. She did this even though she also was paying a management company to do the same thing.

In May 1997, Howard signed paperwork making Pagano her sole health-care power of attorney.

By then, she had introduced him to several of her closest friends, in Arizona and elsewhere. According to police reports and other sources, those friends considered Pagano a well-mannered, attentive man who treated Howard respectfully.

In July 1998, she made a handwritten addition to her will, saying, "At my final demise (and be sure I'm really dead), I do not want a funeral -- no ceremony, no viewing . . . I do want my remains cremated -- no casket . . .

"The ashes are to be scattered in Denver, Colorado, at Hungarian Freedom Park where my late husband Tom Howard's ashes remain. My dear friend Charles Pagano will direct these proceedings. God bless you all. See you in heaven."

In the months before Katheryn Howard was murdered, her life continued much as it had for some time.

She continued to meet weekly with her longtime bookkeeper Linda Hartrick, played the stock market, kept up with the news (she was a lifelong Republican), went shopping, ate dinners with Pagano and, sometimes, her friends, and doted on her pet poodle, the latest Chico.

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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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