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Rick and Suzanna Wamsley were well-loved in their Mansfield, Texas, community. Former high-school sweethearts, they provided their two children with every comfort. But their twenty-year-old son, Andrew, had a bitter, rebellious streak...and resented his parents for making him go to college, for not giving him the title to the sports car he wanted, and for their disapproval of his teenage girlfriend, Chelsea Richardson. She was from the other side of the tracks—and she had a deadly plan in store for the Wamsleys...
On the night of December 11, 2003, Chelsea and two accomplices entered the Wamsley home. Carrying guns and knives, they killed Suzanna instantly. Rick fought his attackers tooth and nail…but couldn't save himself. Later, DNA evidence would link Chelsea's best friend, Susana Toledano, to the crime scene. Then authorities learned that a fourth suspect provided the murder weapon. It was only a matter of time before investigators closed in on the last perpetrator—the one person who stood to inherit almost two million dollars in the event of the Wamsleys' deaths: Andrew, The good SON.
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Stella Sands is Executive Editor of Kids Discover, an award-winning magazine with over 400,000 subscribers geared to children 7 to 12 years old. She is author of three crime books, Murder at Yale, Behind the Mask—both available from St. Martin's Press True Crime Library—and Baby-faced Butchers, as well as other works including Odyssea and Natural Disasters. Her plays, Lou Passin' Through, Black-eyed Peas, and E-me, have been produced in Off-Off Broadway theaters in New York City.
Stella Sands is Executive Editor of Kids Discover, an award-winning magazine with over 400,000 subscribers geared to children 7 to 12 years old. She is author of the true-crime book Baby-faced Butchers, as well as other works including Odyssea and Natural Disasters. Her plays, Lou Passin’ Through, Black-eyed Peas, and E-me, have been produced in Off-Off Broadway theaters in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
The Good Son
By Stella Sands
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Stella Sands
All rights reserved.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly ...
Suzy Wamsley hummed along to her favorite holiday tune as she put the finishing touches on her family's sparkling Christmas tree. The Christmas season was always a jolly time for the Wamsleys. Their home — a sprawling two-story mansion in the Walnut Estates neighborhood of Mansfield, Texas, just south of Arlington — was a veritable Santa's workshop. In truth, the house at 820 Turnberry Drive seemed to have been constructed with Christmas lights in mind — the eaves purposely built to display the hundreds of twinkling white lights that Rick Wamsley painstakingly hung each year; the fireplace expressly fashioned to show off the colorful Christmas stockings; the front lawn perfectly suited to the Santa and sleigh that were brightly lit by a spotlight in the flowerbeds.
Rick and Suzy, both 46 years of age, had spent the day basking in the holiday spirit. Although it was only December 10, they always gave themselves plenty of time to get things just right. Neither wanted the headache of rushing around in the last few days before Christmas. With the tree meticulously decorated, presents beautifully wrapped, and trayloads of cookies baked and placed in the freezer, the couple took a moment to stand back and admire their work. Everything looked festive and cheery. After moving tinsel from one branch to another and rearranging some of the glittering ornaments, Suzy remembered that the brownies she had been baking especially for her son Andrew were ready to come out of the oven, and she dashed to the kitchen. Rick stayed in the living room and repositioned the presents for their children, Andrew and Sarah, and their beloved granddaughter, Brittany.
When everything was exactly as it should be, the couple headed for bed — exhausted. In just a few days, their neighbors the Clarkes and the Leggs would be coming over for their traditional holiday get-together to exchange gifts, enjoy a scrumptious meal, and toast another year of good health and good cheer. This year, it was the Wamsleys' turn to host the party, and Suzy and Rick wanted to make sure that they maintained their five-star rating as fabulous hosts. Then, just a few days after the get-together with the neighbors, the extended Wamsley family would converge on 820 Turnberry to celebrate the holiday, as they did every year. Life was good. Sweet dreams would surely flow easily. It was just before midnight.
Rick and Suzy got undressed and slipped into their king-size bed in the first-floor master bedroom. Rick fell right to sleep. But Suzy was restless. Instead of waking her husband, she shuffled sleepily into the living room, turned on the TV, and stretched out on the plush sofa. Wearing her usual bedtime garb — just a T-shirt and panties — and with a warm blanket pulled up tight to her chin, Suzy eventually fell into a deep sleep.
Sing we joyous, all together
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
* * *
At 3 a.m., a car inched along the deserted streets of Walnut Estates and turned onto Turnberry Drive. The vehicle entered the driveway at number 820, and the male driver turned off the engine. After a few moments, he got out of the car, walked through a gate on the side of the house that led to the backyard, and stealthily entered the house through a back door. Slowly and cautiously, he checked out the rooms and made mental notes of the inhabitants' whereabouts. After a few minutes, he returned to the car and gave his report to the two female passengers: one male asleep in the master bedroom; one female asleep on the living room couch.
With that information, all three silently exited the car and entered the house via the same clandestine route. Inside, everything was dark and silent. They crept down a hallway, past the laundry room, and into the kitchen. The male intruder stopped there, and waved on his accomplices. The two females furtively continued into the formal dining room, where they stood stone still, backs against the wall.
"You can do it," whispered one to the other.
"Okay," she replied.
"The sooner you do it, the faster we can go home."
"I believe in you."
"I can do it."
"Do it quickly!"
There was a moment of tense silence. ... "No, I can't."
"You have to. We're gonna have to do it tonight."
"Yes, you can!"
"Yes, I can!"
"Go!" demanded the encouraging female as she pushed her reluctant companion around the corner and into the living room. "Do it!" she urged.
Stumbling into the living room where the unlit Christmas tree stood sentinel, the female stopped between a coffee table and the fireplace — within five feet of the couch. With a gun in her gloved hand and without heeding the gifts and tinsel, she took aim, and fired. Bang! The bullet struck the sleeping woman on the left side of her head.
With adrenaline coursing through her body, the gun-wielding female continued toward the bedroom, all the time hearing the words "The male is in the master bedroom" and "You can do it!" As she got to the door, she saw the man sitting straight up, a startled expression on his face. She headed toward him, firing once, twice — but missed him both times. The man charged out of bed to tackle his assailant as she kept firing, again and again and again. Finally, she hit him directly above the right eyebrow.
But the bullet didn't stop Rick Wamsley. He lunged forward, rushed toward her, and grabbed her. The two struggled out of the bedroom and into the living room, where they ended up in a heap by the fireplace. Despite having been shot, Rick fought back. He seized his attacker's hair and pulled as hard as he could. He punched her and pushed her, finally pinning her down by putting the entire weight of his body on top of hers. As they wrestled, the gun came loose from his attacker's hand and lay on the rug by the hearth, a few feet away.
Hearing the sounds of this frantic struggle, the male intruder, who had been waiting in the kitchen, raced into the living room. There, he desperately tried to pull Rick Wamsley off the female shooter. But the bleeding man — summoning all his waning strength — wouldn't let go. The three struggled toward the front door. As they did, Rick managed to grab the gun. He lifted it high above his head and brought it down, bashing the male intruder in the head.
Seeing that her friends were now in serious trouble, the third intruder, who had been waiting in the dining room, dashed into the kitchen, grabbed two sharp knives, and ran to the front door. She handed one knife to the male intruder, and with the other knife, she began to stab the victim. Raising his hands against each blow, Rick successfully defended himself time and time again, receiving only superficial wounds to his hands. Realizing that her strategy wasn't working, the female handed her knife off to her girlfriend.
"Go stab the lady," she ordered. "Finish her off! Make sure she's dead!"
Doing as she was told, the original gun-wielding female picked herself off the floor and returned to the living room, seven-inch-long knife in hand. She began stabbing the woman on the couch in a sustained frenzy — one time, two times, three times, four times, five times, six times — sixteen times, seventeen times, eighteen times.
Bang! A shot rang out from the entryway by the front door. Rick had taken a bullet to his back. The bullet exited underneath his shoulder — yet somehow he was still alive. Although he kept fighting, trying as hard as he could not to lose consciousness, Rick's sense of reality was slowly fading.
"Why?" he gasped, looking at his attackers.
"Because I'm pregnant," blurted out the female.
"We can help you," Rick said weakly.
"Shut up, or I'll shoot you," she replied.
Hearing the conversation and realizing that the male still wasn't dead, the knife-wielding female returned to the entryway, and with Rick now facedown by the front door, she began stabbing him in the back — one time, two times, three times ... nineteen, twenty, twenty-one times.
Then there was quiet. Neither Rick nor Suzy moved — or breathed. The three perpetrators stood still for a moment, catching their breaths and surveying the situation. When they felt certain both of their victims were dead, they took one last look around, gathered the knives and gun, and made their way through the formal dining room, into the kitchen, down the hallway, and out a door leading into the garage. Passing a white Jeep Cherokee and an Acura, they continued on to the driveway. There, after popping the trunk to their car, they grabbed a white trash bag they had put there earlier and began shedding their outer clothes. They tossed in sweatshirts, shoes, the knives, and the shooter's gloves. The male closed the trunk, settled into the driver's seat, and started up the engine. One female sat next to him; the other sat in back behind the passenger seat. And just as they had come in — slowly, quietly, stealthily — they drove out, down Turnberry Drive, turning left onto Muirfield, and then out of swanky Walnut Estates.
The driver took back roads, stopping just once to clean the blood that was running down his face. As they drove through the darkness, the three reviewed the events that had just taken place.
"I'm real proud of you," said the female in the front seat to the female in the back seat, who had used the gun on Suzy.
"Congratulations," said the male driver.
"I knew you could do it. You did a great job. Now, we're gonna go home," said the female in the front seat.
"Finally," replied the exhausted female in the back seat.
As they meandered through the silent, unlit streets, past the Christmas decorations adorning darkened homes, the female in the front seat remembered something and grabbed the other female's cell phone. She made a call. "I got in some trouble," she said into the phone. "I need an alibi."
* * *
After just fourteen miles, the car pulled up to the home where both females lived, and one female went inside and got soapy water and a rag. All three assailants had some blood on them, so they began cleaning themselves up. When they felt satisfied that they had washed away all traces of their brutal exploits, they entered the house. The female who had originally wielded the gun took a shower in the back room. The male went into the front bathroom to take a bath, and the other female, whose house it was, put a load of clothing into the washing machine — including bloody T-shirts and jeans. She then carried the white garbage bag from the trunk of the car to a container and placed it outside to be carted away the next day.
Around forty minutes later, they were ready for bed. They soon fell asleep, worn out from their frenzied fury.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la
* * *
Later that morning, after only a few hours sleep, the female who had shot Suzy Wamsley was awakened by an alarm clock. She crawled sleepily out of bed, got dressed, and set off for high school. She attended her six classes — acting as if nothing unusual had taken place. When she returned to the house, where the other two had lounged the morning away, the three worked together to remove everything from the car and to vacuum it thoroughly. Using Formula 409, they scrubbed anything they thought they had touched, inside and out. They then tackled the trunk, vacuuming and wiping down every inch of it. After that, the original gun-wielding female cleaned the gun, placed it in a bag, sealed it, and buried it in the flower garden.
* * *
At around 9 p.m. that evening, December 11, 2003, the Wamsleys' neighbor Patty Clarke arrived home from a dinner and was surprised that the Wamsleys' Christmas lights were not on. They had been shining brightly for the past few days, lighting up the neighborhood, as well as everyone's spirits. Clarke thought it was odd that the house was dark, but she assumed Suzy and Rick had gone out for the evening and had forgotten to turn the lights on.
* * *
Later that night, the male and one female got back into the car and returned to Turnberry Drive. The female went into the kitchen and picked up the phone and dialed 911. When the operator came on the line, the intruder said nothing, but laid the phone down, off the hook, on the kitchen counter. She then returned to the car and the two drove back home.
Nearly twenty hours after the murders, the two dead bodies in the living room had yet to be discovered.CHAPTER 2
At 11:41 p.m. on December 11, 2003, a 911 operator in Mansfield received a call. "Can I help you?" she asked. She received no response. "Hello. Is anyone there?" Still, no one responded. Within seconds, she contacted the Mansfield police. "Open line," she said. "Phone off the hook at 820 Turnberry Drive. Check it out."
Officer Patrick Knotts of the Mansfield Police Department was the first to arrive. While waiting for backup, he stationed himself at the open garage door. He kept vigil, making sure that no one entered or exited 820 Turnberry without his knowledge.
A few minutes later Officer Jeff Ambreit of the Mansfield Police Department, along with Reserve Officer Michael Omlor, pulled into the driveway in a marked car. On the manicured lawn, the two saw a lit Santa and sleigh.
"Merry Christmas," said Ambriet.
"Let's hope," replied Omlor.
The newly arrived officers left Knotts by the garage and walked to the front door. As they passed the windows, they peered in. A spectacularly ornamented Christmas tree along with other holiday decorations filled the room. How festive! they thought. Someone's going to have a merry Christmas. When they got to the front door, they began knocking. There was no response. Then the officers rang the doorbell. Still, no response. Strange, they thought, a 911 call and no respondent. The men were soon joined by a fourth representative from the Mansfield Police Department, Officer Gilbert Martinez. This was turning into a real party.
After walking around the outside of the house and peering in all the windows, Knotts, Ambriet, and Martinez decided to check out the inside. Omlor remained stationed at the front door. With guns drawn and flashlights shining, the three entered the house from the door inside the garage. They first passed a small laundry room before coming to the kitchen. A lovely breakfast nook lay off to the side. There, on the kitchen counter, a telephone lay off the hook. The men proceeded into the living room area, making sure not to touch anything.
Ambriet's eyes immediately rested on the couch, and he gasped. There, he saw the body of a female — reclining and unmoving. Blood covered her chest. Continuing to scan the room, he looked to the right, into the foyer area, and saw a male lying facedown in a pool of blood near the front door. Numerous puncture wounds dotted the man's back. Wasting no time, the officers called the Mansfield Fire Department and asked them to dispatch an EMT to assess both victims and see if any treatment was possible.
As the officers continued to scan the living room, they saw a large amount of blood soaked into the beige carpet in front of the fireplace. Near that, next to a narrow area rug, they saw two bloody handprints marking the floor. Another large pool of blood was visible on the carpet by the formal dining area. And within that pool of blood, the officers saw a blade, with no handle attached.
Stunned and speechless, Knotts and Ambreit began to check the rest of the house. Could there be other victims? Was a killer — or killers — lurking in a closet? Cautiously, they entered the master bedroom. Small woodchips were scattered on the bed. The officers looked at the headboard and observed what appeared to be a bullet hole. As they searched each room, the officers examined the windows and outer doors. No windows were broken; no door appeared to have been pried open; and no items, such as TVs or computers, were obviously missing.
Excerpted from The Good Son by Stella Sands. Copyright © 2011 Stella Sands. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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