Dying For Love

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

Pagano separated from his wife in late 1999, and moved into one of Howard's condos, where his lover was paying him to live. He wasn't staying the night at her home on Ironwood Court as often as he once had, though the pair continued to see each other almost daily.

In the spring of 2000, Pagano began construction on a new bathroom next to the master bedroom in Howard's home. She told several people he'd promised that the project would take just a few weeks.

But months passed, and the end still wasn't in sight. Howard was a creature of habit who liked her world neat and orderly, and the messy construction project distressed her. For one thing, she had to stay in a small guest bedroom as the project sputtered.

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.
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.

"She was just beside herself," Howard's longtime housekeeper, Mary Mollere, later told Detective Bailey. "[On the Memorial Day 2000 weekend] she was just livid, said Chuck deserted her and . . . she was really, really, really upset."

Howard's heart still was troubling her despite having had a pacemaker installed in 1998.

Says Dr. Josef Gerster, who was Howard's treating cardiologist at the time of her death: "Katheryn really wasn't healthy, with her various heart diseases and other problems, and something could have happened any time. It didn't help that she didn't like to take her medication unless she really had to. But when I last saw her [in April 2000], she seemed okay, a happy, wonderful person."

Howard spoke often to Gerster and to her friends about her beloved dog. Her love of the black dog was palpable. She called 5-year-old Chico "my little boy," and he was always nearby, waiting patiently by the pool as Howard swam, watching television with her, or sleeping in her bed.

About a week before she died, Howard phoned Chuck Pagano on his cell phone in the wee hours, telling him she couldn't find Chico.

Pagano later told police he'd found the dog in the pool, drowned. He said he'd taken Chico to a veterinarian for cremation, even though he recalled that Howard had suspected a neighbor of foul play and wanted an autopsy performed.

Howard wrote in her diary that June 8: "Sad with grief over little Chico's death. C [Chuck] came for egg salad dinner. His favorite. He was in better mood. Last night he talked mean to me. Tonight sweet and kind. Very temperamental man."

The next day, however, she made this chilling observation: "He's in better mood, but I know he's tired of this association."

On June 11, 2000, Howard's sister-in-law Billie Mathews spoke to her by phone from Dallas, as they had most Sundays for two decades.

Later that day, Mathews wrote in her own journal (which she showed New Times) that Howard had asked how she and her children were doing financially, then had implored her to visit as soon as possible.

"Don't know why she asked questions," Mathews wrote. "She said she wanted me to come because she was going to make drastic changes in her life. She wanted me to take her to her lawyer's office when I got there."

On June 14, Howard again asked Mathews in a phone conversation to come to Scottsdale to help her make the unspecified changes.

"She didn't use Chuck's name, but who else could it have been about?" Mathews says now. "He was the biggest part of her day-to-day life, though we didn't know how big until after she died. I do know for a fact that she was very, very upset about how Chuck had messed up the construction at her house."

Katheryn Howard's last diary entry was dated June 14, 2000. "I cooked ham hocks and lima beans for [Chuck]. He came at 8:45. I was annoyed. He is killing himself for that darned construction business that doesn't pay him much. Work on my bath still going on. I'm going crazy."

The following day, June 15 -- the last day of Katheryn Howard's life -- her housekeeper has said she overheard Howard "having words" with Pagano on the phone.

"I was in the kitchen, cleaning," Mary Mollere told Detective Bailey last year, "and she was talking to Chuck on the telephone. . . . And she slammed down the phone, and she said, Damn him.' I said, What's the matter? Are you all right?' And she says, I'm about to divorce Chuck.' And she was so angry."

Mollere said it was the only time she ever heard her employer of 10 years cuss.

The detective asked her, "Did she curse much on the phone or cursed after she hung it up?"

"After."

"So he wasn't like the brunt of anything on the phone. You were the brunt of it because you heard it after she hung up?"

"Yeah, I heard it."


Chuck Pagano has been consistent in what he's told attorneys, police and Katheryn Howard's survivors about her final hours:

He says he got to her home about 6 p.m. for a scheduled date at the Arizona Country Club, and had been surprised when the usually punctual Howard wasn't ready.

Though she told him she wasn't feeling well, the two decided to go out anyway. Pagano said Howard was wobbly as she tried to get out of the car at the private club, and needed assistance from a valet.

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1 comments
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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