Dying For Love

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

In the summer of 2001, they hired a who's who of medical experts -- pathologists and toxicologists with excellent national reputations -- to analyze the case.

What they didn't want, says Becky Hebert, were hired guns who would say whatever they were supposed to say.

"We wanted the truth, not yes-people," she says. "Yes, we had become convinced that Chuck had killed Katheryn. But we wanted to ascertain facts."

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.

The experts included:

Dr. Jerry Spencer -- former chief medical examiner for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and now Lubbock (Texas) County's chief medical examiner.

Dr. Ashraf Mozayani -- laboratory director and chief toxicologist for the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, in Houston.

Dr. Al Poklis -- former chair of the toxicology section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and now a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"This is a fascinating case that grew more and more suspicious as new information came to light," Spencer, one of the nation's most renowned pathologists, tells New Times.

Spencer says he studied the Howard crime scene and autopsy photos, scanned the toxicological test results, and analyzed Mosley's first postmortem report.

Spencer says the bruising and marks would be "extremely suspicious" if authorities could confirm -- which they later did with Katheryn Howard's housekeeper -- that no one had seen those injuries around the time of her death.

Spencer's examination of the crime-scene photos also led him to conclude that someone "very likely" had moved Howard's body after she died.

He says photos taken of the body in her bed show that some pooling areas of her blood -- called lividity -- are inconsistent with how Scottsdale police first saw her on June 16, 2000.

After a person dies, gravity pulls the "loose" blood to the lowest part of the body. If, say, that person dies on his or her back, bluish-purple stains will start to appear there after a few hours.

In Howard's case, the death-scene photos distinctly show lividity on top of her left arm -- which is resting across her body -- instead of under that arm.

"That the body was moved is not a difficult call," Spencer says. "Clearly, Dr. Mosley didn't have the advantage of being at the scene or seeing crime-scene photos before he issued his opinion. I can see how he came up with his first opinion. . . . You have to go with what's in front of you at the time."

Dr. Ashraf Mozayani, an oft-published author from Houston, analyzed the test results of Katheryn Howard's blood.

"Darvon was like cyanide to this person," she tells New Times. "With her condition, it was one of the worst things she could have had. At the very least, it was debilitating her. You can kill someone with a little or a lot. This woman was being poisoned."

The pressure on Chuck Pagano built as the family started to disclose in the civil suit what their experts were saying.

In late 2001, Pagano suddenly agreed to relinquish his rights to the estate's remaining $750,000. He quit the legal fight even though Katheryn Howard's death still was listed as "natural" and the Scottsdale police had stopped investigating the case.

That money later was split among the other beneficiaries, all but two of whom are family members (the other two are an elderly Denver couple), and, of course, the attorneys who had litigated the civil case against Chuck Pagano.

The out-of-court settlement ended that case. But Pagano was terribly wrong if he believed that running from the rest of the money would mean the end of his worries.

"Things can change as new facts and evidence are gathered," says Dr. Spencer. "It does happen. That's usually when the police can get very motivated. I'm not exactly sure what was happening out there in Arizona."

Arch Mosley says he'd known for months that he officially was going to change his opinion on how Katheryn Howard died.

He finally issued his bombshell report on February 21, 2002.

"An avalanche of circumstantial evidence made me rethink my earlier opinion," he says now. "It was very apparent to me that I'd made mistakes in my original examination, and that I had to correct them."

The "avalanche" included finding Darvon in Howard's blood.

"She was reported to have no prescriptions for this drug and a strong aversion to taking medications," Mosley wrote. "Surrepticious [sic] narcotic consumption is particularly suspicious in this case."

He said no one apparently had noticed the very visible bruises on Howard before she was murdered, which led him to conclude that they may have been caused by a "violent struggle" with someone at the time of her demise.

Mosley also backed off his "eye cap" theory of the pinpoint hemorrhages he'd found in Howard's eyes, writing that "after consultation with my colleagues, I now believe that this is not a possibility."

He added that "[The hemorrhages] in a body that also has unexplained bruises are most likely the result of strangulation and/or suffocation. It is more likely that the [little dots] are the result of suffocation."

Mosley tells New Times that his earlier analysis was "asinine and embarrassing. Those little hemorrhages just aren't caused postmortem, and I just should have known better. I was wrong."

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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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