Authors: Irene Pence
That night, the Dallas County sheriff answered an emergency call from Betty’s apartment at 1:45
When deputies arrived, they found a man lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the apartment’s rear door. He had been shot and had fallen from a small concrete stoop, then down three steps.
Two Dallas sheriff’s deputies walked into Betty’s apartment ready to slap handcuffs on her.
“Okay, who is he and what happened?” a deputy said.
“That’s Bill Lane,” Betty stammered. “He flew into a jealous rage. Here’s what happened. Tonight I was dancing with this man at the Slipper Club.” Betty assumed the policeman would know which bar she meant since it sat on a seedy stretch of broken sidewalk on Industrial Boulevard and the manager frequently called police to squelch brawls.
“I was headed toward the ladies’ room when Billy grabbed my arm as I passed him. He said, ‘You go home and stay away from him, or you’re gonna be sorry.’
“I said something like, ‘What the hell are you gonna do about it?’ and he said, ‘Just remember, I know where the fuck you live.’ He said that if he couldn’t have me, nobody could.”
“He ever threaten you before?” a deputy asked.
“Yes. Once with a gun. So when he got that look in his eye and started talking that way, I knew enough to take him seriously. That’s when I left the club.
“When I got back here to my apartment, my teenage daughter, Connie—” Betty nodded toward the young woman sitting on the other side of the room, and added, “She’s living with me for a while. Connie told me Bill had been calling. Said he was getting to be a real pest.”
“Did he call again?”
“Yes. Just shortly after I got home. He told me he was coming to kill me. I begged him not to come, but he was adamant.
“I guess I got hysterical. I told Connie that Bill was coming over. I said whatever she did, she wasn’t to answer the door.
“That’s when I ran to my bedroom and grabbed my .22 pistol I always keep loaded.” “Where’s the gun now?” the deputy asked.
“I keep it in the top drawer of my nightstand.”
The deputy nodded toward the bedroom, and Betty led him there and opened the drawer. When she reached for the gun, he held out his hand to stop her, then wrapped it in a clean white handkerchief to take with him.
“Go on,” he said.
“So I pulled out the gun and laid it on the bar by the door. Probably only ten minutes later, I heard knocking at my back door. That’s when I screamed for Connie to call the police. At the same time, Bill yelled, ‘Open the door, or I’ll break it down.’ ”
“Why did you open the door, lady?”
“I was afraid he’d turn it into kindling. Anyway, I opened it, and Bill rushed in. I was so scared. I remember yelling, ‘Leave me alone, you son of a bitch, and get the hell out of my life.’
“He said, ‘I’ll never leave you alone.’ Then he backed me up against the bar, and told me he got crazy when he saw me with other men.
“That’s when I reached behind my back and got my gun. He didn’t act afraid. Maybe he thought I was bluffing. He took another step toward me, so I fired at him. Can’t remember how many times, but I kept firing until I saw him stagger out the back door.”
The deputies listened to Betty’s story, then read her her rights. They drove her to their office, where she waived her right to an attorney and gave a statement admitting that she had shot Bill Lane. The officers questioned why they found two bullet holes in Lane’s back if he were coming toward her as she insisted. When Betty had no answer, they charged her with “Assault with intention to commit murder with malice.”
Before Betty had been carted off, a third deputy had arrived, and now stayed at Betty’s apartment to take a statement from a tearstained, nervous Connie. The young woman blew her nose and tried to calm herself, but she still sobbed as she told the deputy what she had heard while listening on a bedroom extension when Lane called.
Between sniffles, Connie said, “When Bill called, he told my mother, ‘I’m coming over to kill you, and Juvenile will come out and get the kids.’ I called the operator and she got the police. Mama told me to get out of the house and she yelled at Bill to leave. That’s when I heard some shots and ran to the kitchen. I looked outside and saw Bill on the ground by the porch.”
Like a rehearsed drama, Billy Lane’s daughter, Barbara, also claimed to have listened on a telephone extension. She told a sheriff’s deputy: “Betty called and Dad answered the phone. She was crying and asked Dad to come over and get his things. He asked how many times are you going to shoot me and she told him none. He also asked how many police would be there and she said none. Dad wanted her to meet him at a different location, but she wouldn’t do it.
“Dad left at 1:10
and told me he’d be back in thirty minutes. At the time I begged him not to go, but he went anyway.”
After the sheriff’s men had arrived at Betty’s apartment and called an ambulance, they ordered the driver to take Bill Lane to Parkland Hospital, where the staff pronounced him in critical condition. The doctors had to perform surgery to remove two bullets.
Lane’s version differed considerably from Betty’s. Because of his injuries, he wasn’t strong enough to give a statement until a week later. He finally told deputies, “I was at my daughter’s home watching television when Betty called and asked me to come over ‘just to talk.’ I thought it was too late and I asked her if it couldn’t wait until morning. She said that if I didn’t come right then, I could just forget it.
“So I climbed into my car and drove over there, but when I got to the back door of her apartment, everything was dark. I called to her to open the door, but she told me to leave. Guess she had changed her mind about having a conversation. Next thing I know she’s at the door holding a gun on me, so I start to leave and she fires the darn thing. I was still able to move, but she fired again and I lost consciousness. Last thing I remember was her saying, ‘If you move, I’ll shoot again.’ ”
Lane spent three weeks in the hospital and several weeks afterward enduring painful therapy. One of the bullets badly damaged a nerve leading to his right leg, leaving him unable to walk.
After Parkland released him, Betty immediately went back to him. One of Lane’s neighbors told authorities, “I like Billy, but he’s jealous of Betty because she’s so beautiful. I know Betty loves him. You should have seen those two. After he got out of the hospital his right leg was no good. He had to learn to walk all over again, and Betty spent hours helping him. She’d get him on his feet and they’d put their arms around each other. They’d go back and forth on the sidewalk. Quite a thing to watch. She loved that man. You could tell by the way she’d spend whole afternoons just walking him up and down the street.”
The officers didn’t know what to make of the case, but they were more puzzled when just days before the hearing, Lane hobbled up to them on crutches and said, “I’m willing to sign an affidavit that I threatened Betty.”
Without a plaintiff to press charges, the court had no option but to drop the murder charge to a misdemeanor aggravated assault.
In court, Betty gladly pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, and Lane pulled out his billfold and paid Betty’s hundred-dollar fine and fifty-dollar court costs. In addition, she persuaded the judge to return her pistol.
Then, baffling her entire family, Betty and Billy Lane remarried the following month.
The crowd back at the bar where the Lanes usually frequented wondered if Betty had helped Billy learn to walk just to get back in his good graces. They figured she probably promised to remarry him in exchange for his cooperation on her plea reduction.
In any event, their second marriage lasted but one month, and to ensure that the Lane saga had finally ended, thirty-five-year-old Betty packed up Bobby and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ronnie Threlkeld saw her through the smoke-filled haze at Stetson’s, the country-western bar he frequented most Saturday nights because it had live guitar music decent enough to dance to. He sat on a genuine saddle bolted to a metal pole that served as a bar stool. Enjoying his long-neck beer, he kept glancing at her image through the bar’s mirror, squinting as it moved between bottles of bourbon and vodka.
Threlkeld, born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, had never run across this woman before. Surely, he’d remember all the blond hair piled high on the head of that sexy body. He watched her sitting alone at a table, nursing a drink, and shaking her head at every man who came by wanting to dance. As the guitarist plunked out the beat, the country-western music pulsated throughout the room. She kept time by tapping her booted foot against the concrete floor.
Look at that. She wants to dance. What a fox, a cute little blond fox.
She looked authentic in her floral western shirt tucked into a pair of tan, tight-fitting western pants. He particularly liked how the pants hugged her trim figure. A tooled, brown-leather belt matched her boots.
He pulled himself away from the bar and ambled over to Betty’s table. Looking directly into her eyes, he said, “I’m only going to ask you to dance with me one time, so you better say yes.”
A smile curled Betty’s lips as she peered up at the dark-haired man, and a look of surrender softened her face. When the guitar player began strumming the introductory chords of the
Threlkeld extended his hand, and she stood up slowly, placing her small hand in his.
“You’ve got to be new around here,” Threlkeld said.
Betty spun as he twirled her. “Just moved here last week. Don’t have any friends.”
“You’ve got one now,” he said, and smiled, then drew her closer.
She snuggled her cheek to his chest.
“You a single gal?”
“I’m divorced. I have a little three-year-old boy,” she said, not mentioning her other five children, her second marriage or that she had shot Bill Lane.
“Well, I’m divorced, too, but don’t have any kids.”
“So what do you do?” she asked.
“I’ve always been in sales, and for the last several years I’ve been selling automotive parts. Everyone needs replacement parts for their cars.”
“I’m working as a cashier at a local Seven-Eleven,” Betty volunteered. “Everyone needs last-minute items.” They both laughed. “It’s just something to do ’til I find a job I really like.”
“I can’t believe how upbeat you are. You’re so much fun, even though you have a job you’re not crazy about, and a kid to raise.”
“I can pay my bills and I love my son more than anything. Why shouldn’t I be happy?”
Around midnight they walked out into the parking lot on a chilly November night in 1973.
“Look at this new Cordova,” Therlkeld said. “You are amazing, with your beginning job, as you call it, you do very well. I like the maroon color. Kinda hot and sexy, just like you.”
“Don’t say sweet things to me,” Betty cautioned. “I melt easily.” She looked up at him, and he bent down and kissed her lips. She stretched her arms around his neck and kissed him again. “Sure hope you don’t think I’m a fast woman if I invite you to come home with me,” she said.
“Ma’am, that’s an invitation I’ll gladly accept.” From that night on he began living in her little house. Betty was thirty-six, and Threlkeld thirty-three.
Over the next four years, they shared many romantic and happy times. Betty was never without her CB radio and she adopted the handle “Tiger.”
“That name sure fits,” he told her. Whenever Threlkeld came within her CB range, he’d call and ask, “How’s the Tiger in that tank?”
But woven into the happy times, any relationship with Betty was bound to be feisty. This one proved no exception. They had heated arguments when Threlkeld treated her roughly. Betty did not act docilely, but took revenge by slashing all of Threlkeld’s tires. After another confrontation, she went after him with a tire jack.
Betty complained to Threlkeld, “People take advantage of me, especially my own children. They’re always wanting me to do things for them.” A month later, she surprised him by saying, “I want to move back to Dallas. I really miss my kids.”
He saw Betty as a puzzle of contradictions, and the pieces didn’t fit. Within an hour’s time, she’d change her mind and deny what she had told him earlier. But she showed great patience with Bobby, and he knew she worshipped the ground he walked on. That made Threlkeld think she was a good mother.
Being able to put aside the highs and lows of Betty’s personality, Threlkeld wanted to be with her. But he had a decision to make. He had always lived in Little Rock, and his parents, a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, and many friends lived nearby. Nevertheless, he followed Betty. A salesman’s a salesman, he reasoned. He could sell automotive supplies anywhere.
They moved to Dallas and married in February of 1978. Shortly after the wedding, Threlkeld began feeling tied down, and decided he still had wild oats to sow. He drank and shot pool with the boys while Betty stayed home taking care of Bobby.