Dying For Love

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

The doctor says he personally contacted Becky Hebert in Virginia to tell her that he'd changed his mind.

"He told me to sit down, that he had some news for me," Hebert recalls. "I had no idea it was coming and I was absolutely amazed."

Mosley's amended opinion meant Scottsdale police had to reopen their own "investigation," which Sam Bailey abruptly had ended months earlier.

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.

Bailey's reports indicate that deputy county attorney Noel Levy instructed him to try to interview key players in the case, especially Chuck Pagano, who still was living in Scottsdale.

Katheryn Howard's family also made the findings in their civil suit against Chuck Pagano available to Bailey. Unsolicited, Joe Soos sent Bailey his own analysis of the case, and made suggestions about how Bailey might bring Pagano to justice.

On August 27, 2002, Bailey interviewed Howard's housekeeper, Mary Mollere, for the first time. In response to a question from the detective, Mollere was adamant she hadn't seen any bruises on Howard in the days before the elderly woman died in June 2000.

"She had no bruises," she told Bailey, according to a written transcript of the interview. "She had good skin. She took very good care of her skin. And I've been an Avon representative for 27 years, and for as old in age as she was, she had the skin of a 60-year-old or lower."

Mollere said she'd seen photographs of Howard's body taken at the crime scene, and "there were a couple of things that weren't quite right."

"Yeah, there were some signs of some bruising and so forth on her arms, her legs . . . ," Bailey interrupted her.

"And she had no bruises [before]," Mollere told him.

This was an excellent piece of information, and one that readily could have been corroborated. But the detective never did interview the valet, waiter, or piano player at the Arizona Country Club, all of whom had interacted closely with Katheryn Howard during her final hours.

Those witnesses could have been very informative in helping Bailey to determine conclusively if anyone had seen the bad bruise on her right wrist or the more subtle red marks on her chin.

On September 3, 2002, Bailey interviewed Joan Pagano at police headquarters. (Pagano left a voice message for New Times last week, claiming that parts of a transcript of that interview -- which the paper had provided to her through her attorney -- were inaccurate. However, she didn't specify which parts, and said she didn't wish to discuss the case or her ex-husband -- "He stole 17 years of my life," she said.)

According to the transcript, Joan Pagano told Bailey she'd allowed her husband to move back in with her after Howard died, but the reunion hadn't lasted long.

Court records show she had filed for divorce just a few days before the interview. Joan told the detective she'd recently discovered that Chuck was having affairs with several Scottsdale women of indeterminate age. (Their divorce was final last February.)

Bailey asked Joan if Chuck had known for sure that he was a beneficiary of the Katheryn Howard Trust.

"He knew he was in her Trust."

"And how did we know that he knew?"

"Because she would tell him."

"And would he tell you?"

"Yes, he told me a couple times."

Joan claimed she'd heard her husband tell an attorney after Howard died that he'd been worried about a possible change in the will.

"I recall [Chuck] saying she was older and very sickly, and I don't think it [the will change] was really going to happen, but he was very nervous about it. . . . I never personally queried him about that."

"But [Howard] never came out in so many words and told anybody in the family," Bailey countered, sounding more like a defense lawyer than a cop.

Joan Pagano then made a curious admission about something she'd told her husband soon after Katheryn Howard died.

"I said, Chuck, while you're back there [at Howard's home], she probably had diaries, I'd get the diaries.' He says, Oh, no, they were just little books.' I said, If I were you, I'd get the diaries. They probably tell a lot of things.'"

Joan said Chuck often bought prescription drugs in Mexico, though she didn't know if he'd ever purchased Darvon there. She volunteered that she had Darvon in her home, but claimed Chuck "wouldn't know where I have it, unless . . ."

The detective never asked unless what?

Instead, he jumped to a big-picture question.

"Do you think he would have had any motive to harm Katheryn?" Bailey asked Joan. "Or could you picture him harming her?"

"Do I have to answer that?" she replied.

The detective didn't reply.

The day after he interviewed Joan, Sam Bailey had the opportunity to interview the only suspect in the murder case -- without attorneys present.

After a feeling-out period, Bailey asked Chuck Pagano if he'd known what Katheryn Howard had left him in her will.

"I didn't know anything about the Trust," Pagano replied, which was the opposite of what his wife had said the previous day.

"I knew that [Howard] was going to give me the car, and I knew that the joint account was mine, and that there may be some cash and the condo. . . . She never discussed the Trust with me in any detail."

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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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