For years he'd been successfully stealing large amounts of money from his elderly clients. But now his crimes were catching up with him. Landis knew he had only himself to blame. His lust for women and the good life had caused him to lose all control, so much so that he had completely disregarded the parameters of what he'd believed to be his perfect theft scheme.
Three of his clients were clamoring for the money he'd stolen from them. He knew he would either have to find a way to come up with the money, or he'd have to kill them. It was really just that simple. After all, he'd already killed three of his clients, what was a few more?
Of course there was one other possibility. He was the trustee of the estate of one of his rich, elderly, widowed clients. If she were to have an "accident", he would have the money he needed to pay off the others. One murder instead of three.
But he still had a problem. Witnesses. Four of them. If the police investigations got any hotter, he knew they'd turn him in to save themselves. No question of that, hell, if he could, he'd turn them in for his own protection. Problem was, in every single case he was either the killer or conspirator.
Time to face facts. For his own protection, he would have to murder at least five more people. The only question in his mind this morning,
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Each One Gets a Little Easier
By Gary C. Pangus AuthorHouse Copyright © 2007 Gary C. Pangus
All right reserved.
Chapter One At 6:15 A.M. on July 20, 2004, forty-two year old attorney Wiley Tom Landis lay in bed trying to decide who should be the next person he would kill. Silently he thought of some of the possibilities; Katie Chelsa, Maxine Kelso, Ed Nichols, Bob Salter, or Phil Bradington. Landis considered Bradington the least dangerous; the idiot probably doesn't realize that he has the power to send me to prison, hell, maybe even the death chamber. Then there's Salter and Nichols, if they could just figure out a way to get away with it, they'd kill me in a heartbeat. Ah, I almost forgot Brenda. She watched me kill her husband. If she goes to the cops, it'll be all over for me. But overall, I think right now the most immediate problem is Chelsa. That eighty-seven year old bitch is actually trying to get me sent to prison. I have two choices, I can pay her the money I stole from her or I can kill her. Since I don't have the money....
Or, maybe I should just kill Kelso. She's got the two million bucks I need and she's in her eighties, she could die any day now anyway. What the hell, she won't miss a couple of more years.
Of course, there's also my greedy Carla. As his new wife lay snoring next to him, he felt his anger rise. God, she's no better than Linda. All either of them ever wanted was money. I could kill her and her two bratty kids. I could just reach over and.... No, I have to control myself. I can't have two wives die within a month of each other.
Landis' thoughts turned to his favorite movie character, Tommy, from what he considered to be the best movie ever made, Goodfellas. Now there was a man's man. With Tommy it was simple. He took what he wanted when he wanted it, and if you got in his way, you died. I'm that kind of man. I've proven it time and again. When I started my career, I wanted money, lots of money. That made it simple. Clients who had money died, period. With my brilliance and determination it was almost too easy to impose my will on those senile old people. Heck, it wasn't even hard to kill them. Thanks to my ingenuity, and their stupidity, I've been able to steal millions. Tommy would be so proud.
But I have made one mistake. Although when you think about it, it really wasn't my fault. If my clients hadn't made it so easy for me to talk them into making me both the executor and trustee of their wills, I wouldn't be in this position. All I had to do was advertise that I'm an estate lawyer with low rates and everyone came running. They didn't even know me, yet they trusted me with everything they had. But I still should have stuck with my scheme; I should have waited until they were dead before I stole from them. But I couldn't wait. I wanted, even deserved their money so I took from the living. That's where I screwed up. Shouldn't have gotten greedy.
I suppose I could sell some of my assets to pay Chelsa. Let me think, I've three motorcycles, four cars, a motor home, two airplanes, an apartment building, two town houses and a single family house, all courtesy of my clients. Maybe I should sell some of the real estate and use the money to get Chelsa and the others off my back. No. I've worked too hard to give up what I have. Besides, even if I managed to come up with the million I need to get Chelsa off my back, Bradington, Brenda, Salter and Nichols would still be able to drop the dime on me at any time. I might as well face it; I have to kill at least four people, maybe more. After all, I've already gotten away with killing three others. How much more proof do I need that I'm far more intelligent than those inept cops?
As he got ready for the day, Landis decided it was best, at least for the time being, to stick with yesterday's plan. As he went to the garage and retrieved a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his locked gun safe, Landis remembered stealing the gun from the estate of Allan Berryhill. At least there's no record of me ever having this gun, makes it the perfect gun to use for murder. Placing the gun in his briefcase, Landis thought that it was a shame that he'd have to dispose of it today, but he had no choice. Keeping anything that ties me to both a theft and a murder is an unacceptable risk.
Chapter Two Early the next morning Landis sat in a corner booth at a Starbucks with his head pounding from a combination of too much Scotch and excitement. After quickly downing a Venti coffee then ordering another, Landis thought about his life trying to come to terms with exactly how he started out as a teacher but ended up as a thief and a murderer.
As he considered the unexpected turns his life had taken, he thought about his upbringing. The third of six children born to poor but loving Kentucky farm parents, Landis had been raised to value religion and hard work. Doing well in grade school, he had reveled in the approval of his mostly female teachers. But by the time high school came around, his primary interest was in girls of his own age. In his first semester in high school, Landis made the honor roll but unlike his teachers, his female classmates were unimpressed with either Landis or his grades instead choosing to pursue the boys who had both cars and money. Thinking back now, Landis believed this was probably when he came to the realization that intelligence alone would never get him what he wanted. He never again bothered to make the honor roll.
After graduating from high school, Landis entered college where he studied to become a teacher. He didn't choose teaching because he had any lofty ideals; he felt no need to positively affect anyone's life. He simply figured the three months off every summer would give him plenty of time for his three passions: hunting, women, and most importantly, coming up with a plan to make him rich. But somewhere along the line something had gone wrong. Instead of a rich man who could chose any woman he wanted, Landis ended up deeply in debt with a wife he could barely tolerate and three sons he hardly knew.
Unable to stand his career or the lifestyle a teacher's salary provided, Landis went back to school earning his law degree. Unfortunately, his career as a lawyer did nothing to change his life until he came up with the beginnings of a plan to steal the money of his rich, elderly clients. Landis was focusing his own practice on Probate Law intending on using Colorado's vulnerable probate system to raid the estates of his own clients.
Landis finalized his plan one 1998 April morning as he watched a sentencing hearing in Colorado's Denver District Courtroom 10, Judge Robert Kelly presiding. At the time he was a thirty-six year old probate attorney with a marginal practice. Landis remembered sitting in the gallery watching as a smug looking Michael Tice, forty-six, was led into the courtroom wearing a tailored suit, monogrammed shirt and Garcia tie. Tice walked in with his head held high, acting as if he were still an officer of the court, instead of a defendant about to be sentenced for his crimes. Tice was accompanied into the courtroom by his well-respected attorney, Gregg Furman and an entourage of friends. Prior to entering the courtroom, Landis watched as Tice and his group of friends gathered in a circle just outside the door to the courtroom, holding hands as they prayed that God would give the judge the wisdom to be merciful today. Landis laughed to himself thinking God might be a little more interested in the fate of Tice's victims rather than Tice.
Landis knew that Tice was a former probate attorney who had been disbarred for stealing large amounts of money from his disabled or elderly clients. Prior to his arrest, Tice had been considered one of the leading probate and estate planning attorneys for not only the state of Colorado, but for much of the nation operating his own law firm where he employed several attorneys and a large support staff . Tice now stood in the courtroom disbarred and disgraced; a convicted felon who had lost not only his practice, but the respect of the community. Landis didn't go to the hearing to offer support; he didn't give a rat's ass about Tice. He was in the courtroom with two thoughts in mind. He wanted to learn exactly how Tice screwed up allowing him to get caught and what kind of penalty would be handed down. He had no intention of being busted for stealing from his clients, but still, just to be safe, he thought it might be best to witness Tice's sentencing to remind himself of what the consequences of getting caught could be. As soon as the hearing was over, he planned on reading the Denver District Attorney's public file to learn as much as he could about the police investigation that led to this moment.
While waiting for the hearing to unfold, Landis thought more about Tice's fall from grace. At the time of his arrest, Tice and his family had lived west of Denver on a large ranch near Evergreen in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Several years prior to his arrest, Tice had been held in such high regard that the Colorado legislature asked him to rewrite Colorado's dated Probate Statutes. Tice did as asked simplifying the statutes for the sake of both the attorneys involved and the overworked employees of Colorado's Probate Courts. Under the new law probate attorneys only had to submit periodic and final reports to the courts without the volumes of supporting documents that typically overwhelmed court staffs. The new law shifted the burden of reviewing the estate documents from the courts to the attorneys who probated the estates. Similarly, heirs of estates were not entitled to review the estate documents unless they had grounds to allege fraud. Colorado's legislature, when adopting the new statute, believed that attorneys, as officers of the court, should be granted a higher degree of trust than most people. The result was that the judges, staff and heirs had only a report to review instead of the boxes of supporting documents that could be generated by a complicated estate.
But Tice's law, as the new statute became known, caused an unforeseen problem. If the heirs to an estate felt they had been defrauded by the attorney probating the estate, the heirs seldom had any evidence or records to substantiate their suspicions. The only person with a complete set of estate records was the attorney who had probated the estate. Since the attorney was under no obligation to allow anyone to review the records, this left the heirs with little chance of gaining access to the records they needed to show evidence of fraud.
Since Tice was the one who had written the laws, Landis was more than surprised when just five months before today's hearing he read that Tice had been arrested after a Denver Grand Jury indicted him for multiple counts of felony theft. Landis thought about the Grand Jury Process, a process that many people thought unfair. Unlike a courtroom trial which was open to the public and thereby subject to scrutiny, a Grand Jury is held in a closed courtroom with all of the participants sworn to secrecy. If anyone in the Grand Jury violates this oath, they become subject to criminal prosecution. The secrecy of the grand jury was put into place to protect the identity and reputation of those falsely accused. The function of the Grand Jury is not to determine guilt or innocence, only to determine probable cause.
The Grand Jury process begins with a prosecutor presenting evidence and testimony from relevant witnesses. Near the end of the process, the prosecutor provides legal advice and offers a proposed indictment. At any time the Grand Jury can order additional witnesses or investigation. Targets of the Grand Jury are usually notified prior to or during the process. Although targets do have a right to appear and testify on their own behalf, they do not have the right to have their attorneys cross examine the witnesses. The Grand Jury can compel reluctant witnesses to testify against others but cannot force them to give self-incriminating statements. If a Grand Jury is convinced that a crime was probably committed and that the target probably committed the crime, then at least nine of twelve members of the jury must vote to accept the proposed indictment. If the indictment is accepted, the indictment and an arrest warrant are presented to a judge for signature. Only then are the targets of the investigations arrested.
Now Tice stood in court with Furman by his side. Furman was a charming grandfather figure, whose kindly nature belied the mind beneath the exterior. He was one of the most respected members of the Colorado defense bar. Furman was known for using his excellent plea bargaining skills whenever it became apparent the prosecution had the evidence to convict his client. From a prosecutor's view, Furman could be your best friend or your worst nightmare, usually in the same case. If forced to trial, Furman leant his considerable charm to his client attempting to convince a jury that the well dressed, polite and demur defendant was incapable of acting as the prosecution alleged.
After Tice's case was called, Chief Assistant Denver District Attorney Phillip Barrett spoke first, making the argument for the prosecution.
"Your honor, Mr. Furman, if it pleases the court. Five months ago the Denver Grand Jury, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, issued a criminal indictment charging Mr. Tice with nine counts of Felony Theft and Theft From An At Risk Adult. The Grand Jury issued the at risk charges specifically because the victims named in this case, all of whom were Mr. Tice's clients, were in one way or another unable to care for themselves. Colorado's At Risk statute, your honor, was specifically written with enhanced penalties in an attempt to protect the very people Mr. Tice was charged with protecting, but instead, chose to victimize. The At Risk statute was designed to protect people, who because of some mental, physical, or age-related disability are unable to take care of themselves or their affairs."
Landis noted Barrett repeating himself. Lawyers often repeatedly state points they consider important during their argument to get their point across, just in case a judge or jury is not fully paying attention.
"In such cases, as the court knows, either Colorado's Probate Courts or a family member, may choose to appoint a Guardian, normally an attorney, to assist adults who need help taking care of both their personal and business affairs. The Guardian, in this case Mr. Tice, is given a very broad Power of Attorney to handle medical, financial, housing, transportation and all other affairs of the at risk adult. The law specifically states the Guardian shall act in the best interests of the client, not in the best interests of the Guardian. The law allows the Guardian to pay themselves a reasonable fee for their services but prohibits the Guardian from converting the assets of the at risk adult to their own use."
"Your honor, in this case that is exactly what Mr. Tice did. Over a period of several years, Mr. Tice was either appointed by the Probate Court or retained by family members, to take care of the affairs of the named victims in this case, specifically Mr. Jake Edson, Ms. Pearl Watson, Mr. Terrance Smith, Mr. Hal Erickson, Ms. Rose Allison, Mr. Scott Roberts, Mr. Christopher Andrews, Ms. Eunice Andrews, and Mr. Ken Sampson. All of these people, your honor, were and are in one way or another in need of help. At the time that Mr. Tice began managing their estates, all of these people had money or some form of income. Unfortunately, Mr. Tice did not care how small that income may have been, nor was he concerned about the size of the estate other than the larger the estate, the more money he could steal. For example, one of Mr. Tice's clients, seventy-four year old Rose Allison, lives on a Social Security disability pension of only $1,482.00 a month, not much money to pay for housing, food, utilities, and any medicines she may need. Despite her meager income and advanced age, Mr. Tice stole from Ms. Allison."
Excerpted from Each One Gets a Little Easier by Gary C. Pangus Copyright © 2007 by Gary C. Pangus. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.