Dying For Love

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

He said they sat near the piano player at the private restaurant, and Howard had told him during the meal that she felt reinvigorated. She proved it, Pagano said, by engaging in banter with the pianist, also a native Texan.

Pagano insisted that Howard drank just one gin martini during the meal, and ate her favorite dish at the restaurant, the chicken and dumplings.

He said he took Howard home after dinner, and she immediately went to bed, exhausted. Pagano decided to spend the night there on a couch just outside her bedroom -- the guest bedroom where she'd been sleeping during the protracted construction project.

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.

He said he'd left for an hour or so. "I went down to the [condo] and got some underwear," he told Detective Bailey, "and brought back a beer from Circle K, I think, and so I probably got to bed by [midnight]."

Pagano said he'd looked in on Howard before going to sleep, then again in the early morning hours before leaving for a job.

Nothing, he repeatedly has said, seemed amiss.

Pagano said he called Howard twice that morning from his cell phone, and left voice messages, telling her he'd be happy to shop for her (New Times has heard those messages, which confirm his account of the calls).

Concerned that she didn't answer, Pagano said, he drove back to her home shortly after noon and let himself in.

Howard, he said, was lying on her back in her bed.

He could see she was dead.

Pagano said he touched Howard's face briefly with his hand, but never moved her body or attempted CPR.

Knowing a call to 911 would be futile, Pagano said he decided to call the office of Howard's cardiologist, Dr. Gerster.

A nurse told him the doctor was out of town. Scottsdale police reports indicate that she then called the station, and Officer Scott Much was dispatched to Ironwood Drive just after 1 p.m.

Much later reported that Pagano informed him he was a friend of Howard's who helped her with day-to-day needs. Pagano told him Howard had suffered from heart disease and, Much recounted, "had several spells of blacking out three weeks prior."

The young officer noted (it's unclear if Pagano was his sole source) that Howard was on medications for her heart, for bladder control and for vaginal infections.

Finally, Pagano spoke about Chico's recent drowning, and how that had spun Howard into a depression.

Much noted that a sheet covered Howard up to her neck in the bed, and that her right arm was exposed along the right side of her body.

The officer pulled the sheet off the body and saw that Howard's left arm was bent and lying across her chest. She was wearing a pink, short-sleeved nightgown, which, as it turns out, was on inside out.

Much didn't note anything about Howard's feet hanging off the bed, or that a shower cap was tucked between her left shoulder and the pillow.

But another officer, E. Williams, did see those things (he just saw the right foot off the bed). More important, Williams also noted that Howard had deep, dark-purple bruises on her right wrist, her right outer forearm, and both shins.

Neither officer suspected foul play, though they followed procedure by asking a police photographer to document the scene.

Officer Much phoned Dr. Gerster's office from Howard's home. He spoke with the office nurse, who then contacted Dr. Fuad Ibrahim, another Scottsdale cardiologist who was covering for the vacationing Gerster.

According to Much's report, Dr. Ibrahim -- who wasn't Howard's treating physician -- said he'd sign paperwork to indicate that Howard's demise had been caused by her bad heart. Ibrahim did so later that day, even though he wasn't actually treating Howard.

Howard's body was taken that day directly to a mortuary for cremation, just as she'd requested in her will.

Katheryn Howard's survivors flew to Arizona after they learned of her death, coming in from Virginia and Texas.

Howard's great-nieces, Becky Hebert and Michele Russell, went to the Messenger Mortuary on the afternoon after they arrived.

Russell says she immediately noticed the ugly purple contusion on Howard's right arm.

"I didn't have any great suspicions at that moment," says Russell. "We just wondered where in God's name she had gotten such a nasty bruise."

That night, Howard's family took Chuck Pagano to dinner in Scottsdale. Howard's great-nephew Quin Mathews says Pagano spoke of her last hours in a manner he describes as strangely detached and almost rehearsed.

"Even then," he says, "I thanked him there for being such a good friend to Katheryn and how much that we as a family appreciated him."

Despite the compliments, Mathews and the other family members who had flown in (Becky Hebert and her husband David, Michele Russell, and Billie Mathews) had harbored deepening suspicions about Pagano since soon after their arrival.

It started after they noticed that valuable items seemed to be missing from Howard's home, including a prized sculpture of a bull that had sat prominently on a living-room mantel for years. Pagano told family members separately that he didn't know where the bull or any of the other items were, but his accounts seemed inconsistent when they compared notes.

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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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