Authors: Edna Buchanan
Tags: #"BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/Editors, Journalists, Publishers"
“Don't kill me,” said the young prosecutor, due to be married in ten days. “I'm not going to do anything to interfere with you.”
Zock turned away, put the gun to his left temple, pulled the trigger and crumpled dead to the pavement.
Ray Cullinan, fifty-seven, operated a Phillips 66 station across the street. He saw the young prosecutors waving their badges in the air and shouting for somebody to call police. “They were scared men, plenty scared,” said Cullinan, who dialed 911. “I would have been scared myself.” Cullinan had witnessed violent death in the South Pacific for three years during World War II. “But that” he told me, “was for a reason. These people are crazy. I'd like to see gun control in this townâmaybe in the whole state. I can see a gun in your home or business, but not on your person or in a car. It's too easy to grab and start shooting.”
Oddly enough, Haasen Zock agreed.
When I routinely asked homicide detectives what they had found in Zock's car, they exchanged glances. A suicide note? Not exactly. He had left two handwritten letters. Addressed to?
The Miami Herald
Since I represented the newspaper at the murder scene, I wanted my mailâ
âbefore deadline. Detectives are far more accommodating when the guilty party is dead, and they foresee no courtroom disputes with his lawyer.
Like so many letters to the
, these were irate. In one Zock condemned American divorce law. “Who is a judge to change what God brought together?” he asked piously. Marriage, he wrote, is when “you commit yourself to spend the rest of your life with your partner. In the good or bad and you take a vow to âtill death does us partâ¦'” He meticulously listed character references: friends, neighbors, former employers. He urged
The Miami Herald
to inquire about him. He predicted what they would all say: “I am a hell of a person, always trying to do his best for my family.”
So far, his best efforts had orphaned his only son at age three.
His second letter to the
quite accurately pointed out that everything in the story I was about to write was made possible by Broward County's gun lawsâor lack of them. “Twice I was able to acquire guns instantly.” He waxed indignant.
If there was a cool-off period, I would have calmed down and not have done things impulsively because I was upset.
In Broward you may walk into a gun shop at any time and purchase a hand weapon. Why? What purpose does it serve, except giving a mad person or a criminal the capability of possessing a weapon in the shortest most convenient timeâ¦?
People get mad at times and lose their temper. Making it easy for them to get a gun is a crime in itself.
The letter from a dead man closed with a plea:
Stop the killings. Help people, don't kill them. You could have saved lives. But it is not too late. It is all up to you.
Made sense to me.
Obsessive love can kill innocent bystanders. Sometimes they're not even in the wayâthey are merely the means to an end.
Miami police greeted a tanned and handsome young couple as they disembarked from the cruise ship
. The polite, all-American boy and the pretty, small-town girl he had loved since junior high school had cruised the sparkling waters of the Caribbean first classâto Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.
Detectives said the romantic seven-day odyssey had been financed nine days earlier by a night of murder that had stunned the sleepy gulf town of Destin, Florida.
Boy loved girl, boy promised girl cruiseâand boy had to deliver.
He had been trying to impress her for a long time, but he was financially embarrassed, already three payments in arrears on his flashy customized van. So he robbed a popular seafood restaurant after closing time. He did not deny it. When the night watchman shouted at him, he lost his cool and shot the man. That made the woman cashier-bookkeeper scream and run, so he shot her too. Then he and the twenty-two-year-old woman he loved, she unaware of the murders, drove off to Miami for their cruise. Even murder-weary Miami cops who assisted the out-of-town police were disbelieving.
“He is an all-American boy,” Lieutenant Robert Murphy said, “such a polite young gentleman. His love for this girl must have been overwhelming. I look at this handsome, absolutely clean-cut young guy and it's scary. It makes your blood run cold.”
Love does that sometimes.
Love and hate intermingle and do strange things to people. Strong men go weak, and weak men become raging monsters.
A man showed up with a birthday cake to surprise his sweetheart, caught her with someone else and killed them both.
A Metro Transit Authority bus driver who had won awards for safety and courtesy emptied a gun at the wife and three daughters who refused to fix him breakfast.
A bruised and irate waitress picked up a rifle and went hunting for the boyfriend who had abused and battered her. Police found her before she found him. When she would not drop the gun, they shot her.
If this is love, I'll pass.
Some people grow radiant in love; others become downright scary. Most frightening are the lovers who refuse to let go. Couples from hell who hate living together but cannot bear to live apart. Each feeds some twisted need in the partner's psyche. Their lives are inextricably tangled, and each torments the other, literally, until death do them part.
Maria Papy Cunard and her ex-husband, Joseph, loved and hated each other. Blond and beautiful, she was a former airline stewardess and the cousin of a prominent South Florida politician.
Married only three months, they had been divorced for three years. They had no children, nothing held them together, yet somehow, they could not remain apart.
Maria, age thirty, was last seen at four
. one morning, by her ex-husband. He had dragged her out of his car, scratching and spitting like a wildcat, he said, after one of their many quarrels. She had scratched his hand and arm in the struggle. He drove off and left her about three miles from her home. Neighbors remembered a man's angry voice and a woman's screams.
Joseph, also thirty, said he saw his 110-pound ex-wife walk down the street into the darkness. No one ever saw her again.
A search of surrounding woods yielded nothing. Cunard, a skilled medical technician who operated a heart-lung machine for a surgeon, refused to take a lie-detector test. “We're very disappointed,” Miami Homicide Sergeant Mike Gonzalez said carefully, in an understatement, “because we're trying to be selective about what area to pursue in this investigation.”
They asked Cunard if crime-lab experts could examine his Lincoln Continental Mark IV, his white Triumph sports car, and a twenty-three-foot motor sailboat moored at his home.
Cunard's lawyer said his client was “thinking about it.”
A prosecutor denied police a search warrant, saying they had no probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed.
His client admitted he was the last person to see Maria, Cunard's attorney said. If she had walked into trouble that night and been raped or mugged by a stranger, she should turn up. He suggested something far different: that the woman had engineered her own disappearance “out of malice or a vendetta.”
Police discounted nothing. A hoax would be especially cruel. Maria, an only child, was close to her parents. They were sick with worry at her disappearance.
There were other ominous possibilities.
Maria had changed her apartment locks on Thursday, saying that two youths had tried to break in the night before. When her father drove her to work that day she had given him her mink coat and expensive jewelry for safekeeping.
The summer before, a serial rapist had stalked the neighborhood. Maria had been accosted by a stranger who fit his description. She had helped police prepare a composite drawing of die suspect, who was still at large. Police looked at everything, including her ex-husband.
Maria was a cocktail waitress at the Mutiny, a swanky. Coconut Grove private club. Thursday night after work she had asked a co-worker to drive her to her husband's home, a guest cottage at the bayfront estate of his heart-surgeon employer. Maria was upset, insisting that she must see her ex-husband, according to the co-worker. She said she saw them drive off together.
Maria had a date with a pharmacist Friday night. She failed to show up. She also failed to appear for work Saturday night. Friends, co-workers, neighbors and the building manager became concerned. They took her apartment door off the hinges.
Lights were on, the stereo was playing and the two pampered pet cats that she loved were hungry, unfed for days. Maria never neglected her pets, including a large turtle, which was roaming the apartment. None of her personal possessions were missing.
The co-worker said that Maria and her ex-husband drove off in his white Triumph sports car. Cunard insisted that he drove Maria away in his Lincoln. He still refused to let police examine either automobile.
I talked to the man. Why wouldn't he submit to a polygraph test? “I know it looks bad not to,” he said, “but it looks worse if you take it and fail.” Made sense. But why did he think he might fail?
“My only question about taking the test is that I'm frightened out of my mind that she'll turn up in a ditch somewhere or be another Amy Billig [the missing Coconut Grove teenager who has never been found] and cast suspicion on my head the rest of my life.”
Why wouldn't he allow police to examine his cars?
“My attorneys say I shouldn't do anything,” he told me, reluctant to discuss the matter. He was eager to discuss their short and stormy marriage. Marriage to Maria had forced him into bankruptcy, twenty-five thousand dollars in debt, he said.
He had been wrongly arrested after she maliciously filed an assault complaint against him, he said. Police said he had broken her arm.
Months earlier, he said, Maria had given him her expensive gold wristwatch, then filed a police report accusing him of stealing the timepiece, a gift from her parents. Police had recovered the watch from Cunard's sister.
He said that Maria's phone calls and harassment had wrecked his romancesâincluding a ten-month live-in arrangement with a National Airlines stewardess.
“My entire relationship with her has been a mess,” he told me. About that night he said, “I don't know why I opened the door. I don't know why I didn't call her a taxi.”
Instead, he said, “I got dressed and we got in my car. I backed out, went up the street, and she started screaming, ranting and raving that I didn't have the consideration to call her on New Year's and that I didn't give her a Christmas present.”
He stopped the car and ordered her out, he said, exasperated. She refused. “I took the keys out of the ignition, went around, opened her door, pulled her out by the arms, locked and slammed the door, ran around the car, got in and drove home.”
He last saw Maria “standing in the street, ranting and screaming and pointing her finger, yelling, âYou'll be sorry!'”
He went home, he said, locked his car and his doors and “waited for a brick to come through my window.”
He had been talking at length to Maria's mother. “She gave me a lot of faith,” he said. “Her mom believes Maria is alive out there somewhere. I didn't physically harm her. I'm innocent. I know I'm innocent. I'm scared. I'm frightened. I am in a very serious, precarious position. I'm going through more than any man should go through. She threatened to put me in jail. At first I thought this was one of her pranks. I felt she was still alive, playing hide and seek. Now I'm beginning to doubt it. It'll look bad until she turns up. If this is her idea of a joke, it's a sick joke.”
He sounded sincere, but men have lied to me before.
Maria's mother stayed strong. “I have a devout faith that she's going to come home.”
Mothers always have faith, whether it makes sense or not.
The search for Maria continued. Because of the embarrassing publicity, Cunard and his surgeon boss agreed that he should move. Several times after he did so, the doctor asked Cunard what he planned to do about his Triumph. The sports car, draped with a heavy canvas auto cover, was still parked about a hundred feet from the surgeon's home, about thirty feet from the guest cottage where Cunard had lived.
On a Saturday morning in February, six weeks after Maria's disappearance, Cunard appeared at the doctor's posh home. He said he would return that afternoon to take the Triumph, parked there since January.
A short time later, two pretty young women, one of them the doctor's daughter, the other his girlfriend, detected a foul odor. Laughing and joking, they cried: “What if it's Maria? What if it's Maria?”
One of them playfully lifted the white Triumph's unlocked trunk lid and gasped. It was Maria. She had been there the entire six weeks. Strangled, her body wrapped in plastic, under the tools, the mud flaps and the junk. The coverings, plus cool weather and the fact mat the car was not parked in direct sunlight, kept the smell from being obvious sooner. She was discovered at 12:45
Cunard arrived to take the car at two
. Police were waiting.
Looking for love can be as lethal as finding it. So many of us are lonely in the midst of city crowds.
Anita Babette Greenstein was the only person to bring along her own life jacket on a sailing outing. She also carried tools in her car, in case of trouble. Though lonely, she never frequented bars or talked to strangers. A cautious career woman, she subscribed to a computer dating service.
Police suspect it sent her a killer.
They believe that the man who robbed and strangled the well-known commercial photographer, then drove her body 170 miles north on Florida's Turnpike and dumped it near Yeehaw Junction in Osceola County, was referred to her by a computer-style dating service.