Friday, June 15, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Witness To Murder

From Netflix:
Cheryl Draper (Barbara Stanwyck), without a doubt, witnessed a murder. But when she reports the incident, the police conclude she was dreaming.

From Sgt. Gafford's Report
Sgt [Gafford] learned that there was only one witness at the scene, and determined that this witness had no knowledge of the facts of this case, but had been held being in the area and reporting his wife missing a short time earlier. The male later located his wife and his situation was resolved, however, the police had already been called and were in the area. Officers were flagged down in the Stop-N-Go parking lot by the white male witness, Drew Hartley, and were in the process of looking for the males [sic] wife when they observed as [sic] male named Jamie Hunter taking out the trash at the Fuddruckers Restaurant.
There were no known witnesses to the actual stabbing incident excepting the deceased compls [complainants] and the suspect. The uniformed patrol officers had detained a male, and knew the location of the males [sic] wife, who had called the police a short time before the compls were discovered. These witnesses are known in the area from past incidents, and are known by the area officers to be somewhat unstable, a condition which Sgt observed this date as well. The information provided by these witnesses does not appear relevant to this case, with the most important exception being their call was the one which police police in the area at the time of the discovery of the compls in this case. These male and female [sic] were transported to the homicide division where written statements were obtained, and they were released.
Interview with Witness Drew Curtis Hartley, W/M-29, DOB - 7/27/59
407 LA Branch, Star of Hope Mission
Work: Federal Import Export, 11111 Wilcrest Green
WK#952-1090, DL* None, SS#---------
Drew states he and his wife were on their way from the Lakewood [Village] Apts to the store, and were walking in the wooded area near a car wash. (This area is not the same wooded area that is behind the Fuddruckers where the compls were found, but it is an extension of that same easement). They heard movement in the brush and thought they were being chased and ran to a Stop-N-Go where his wife called police. Drew lost track of his wife at one point near the car wash a short time later, and he began searching for her, enlisting the aid of a civilian and also the officers who were responding to the call, they were able to learn that she had caught a ride with some males in a truck to their friends [sic] apt at the Lakewood project, and it was during this time that the officers were flagged down at the Fuddruckers. Sgt. P.C. Motard obtained a written statement from Drew however he [Drew] would not sign this statement because he thought he was being handled as a suspect in the deaths of the compls.
Interview with witness: Barbara Ann Szekely, W/F-31, DOB - 4/26/57
407 LaBranch, Star of Hope Mission
Work: Federal Import Export, 11111 Wilcreast Green
Wk#952-1090, DL# None, SS#---------
Barbaras [sic] story is much the same as Drews [sic] and she states that after she caught a ride with the males at the car wash, she rode around with them for a while and then asked them to drop her off at the friends [sic] apt at the Lakewood complex. They did so and she was found there later by patrol officers. She was brought to the Homicide Division and a written statement was obtained by Sgt. C.R. Williams. She described a "shape" she observed in the bushes as that of a black male with an afro.

Report of Officer V.L. Cook and Officer C.J. Becker
Officers riding Unit 20G40 were flagged down by a person known as Drew Curtis Hartley regarding his wife missing. The time was approx 2330 hrs and the location was the Stop N Go parking lot at 2303 S. Kirkwood.

Hartley stated his wife had been walking in a car wash bay located east of the Stop N Go. He stated possibly two black had [sic] abducted her and drug [sic] her into the field located south of the Stop N Go: Hartley had a flashlight in his hand and stated he had been looking for his wife for a while.

[Cook and Becker discover the bodies.]

Officer Becker continued to look in the immediate area for any susp(s) or evidence. Becker then went back to the Stop N Go and picked up Hartley from the store and brought him back to the scene. Cook stayed at the scene and observed numerous officers attending to the black female. ...

Officers transported Hartley and wife to homicide division for a statement.

Drew Hartley's Statement
Before me, the undersigned authority, on September 27, 1988 at 02:50 personally appeared Drew Curtis Hartley, who, after being duly sworn, upon his/her oath deposes and states:

My name is Drew Curtis Hartley
I am 29 years of age;
I live at Star of Hope, and my phone number is ___-952-1090.
I am employed by Federal Import Export whose address is 11111 Wilcrest Greeen
My driver license number is _ and my Social Security Number is [redacted].
I was born 07/27/59.

My name is Drew Hartley. I am woring at the Federal Import Export Company on Wilcrest Green and have worked there for a couple of weeks. I am in the Sales Dept.

Tonight, I was at Victor Alfeiri's at 17770 Westheimer #2206 at the Lakewood [Village] Apartments visiting. My wife, Barbara Ann Hartley, was with me. Sometime after dark, we walked from Victor's to the woods behind the apartment complex. This short [cut] between the apartment complexes. Barbara and I were going to another friends [sic] apartment. While I was walking through the woods, we heard movement in the brush. We didnt [sic] see anybody at that point, but think that we were being chased. We ran to a nearby Stop-N-Go where my wife told the employees what had happened. The employees called the police. My wife stayed at the Stop-N-Go and waited and I left. I went to the Lakehurst Apartments and visited Gino. I knocked on the door and talked to them briefly and then left. I went back to the Stop-N-Go to get Barbara. Barbara wouldnt [sic] go past the Stop-N-Go unless she knew that Gino or somebody was home. Anyway, Barbara and I started to walk through the car wash. While walking along, we were walking and she walked on one side of a wall and I walked on the other side. When I got to the end of the car wash, Barbara was gone. I went on through the fence opening going into Gino's apartment complex. As I did so, I heard a yell. I thought that it was my wife. I went to Gino's and was frantic. I told Gino, Oscar and Teal somebody took my wife off and she disappeared. We didnt [sic] find anything. I went back to Gino's and ran over to Victor's through the complex's [sic] to see if Barbara was there. Barbara was not there. When I came back, I went the same way that Barbara and I had previously taken. I was running through here. I ran down the edge that seperates [sic] the woods from the plain field. I was going through the car wash and met this white guy that was parked there. I approached this guy and told him that my wife was missing. He and I then went out into the woods. We could hear the woods and weeds moving while looking for my wife. Barbara didnt [sic] turn up. This white guy then gave me a ride to Victor's. She is not there and Victor is not home. I then went out to the bus stop and Barbara is not there. A white boy with a cowboy hat was the security gaurd [sic] gave me a ride over to Gino's. Gino and I went out with the flash light. We didnt [sic] locate Barbara. I sent Gino to the Stop-N-Go to see if the employees knew what happened to Barbara. Gino told me no so I went to the Stop-N-Go and asked them to call the police that my wife was missing. They called the police and an officer came out. The officers is [sic] looking with a spot light driving down the street. Barbara is riding in a pickup truck with three white guys. Barbara said that she was fine and to get into the truck because I was making a scene. I got into the truck. I decided to tell them to drop us out. The truck pulled over and stops. I get out and Barbara wouldnt [sic] get out. They pulled up into a driveway and turned around and drove at squeling [sic] and I ran. I heard them say that they out [sic] to beat my ass. I ran up to where the police officer was at the Stop-N-Go and told him that I had found my wife. The officer told me that there had been some murders out there and he took me to Victors. [sic] I met Barbara there and the officer took me to the scene of the crime.

I have completed 14 years of school / college and can read and write the English language. I have read this statement and it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I have given this statement to Sgt. PC Motard of my own free will. This statement was typed by Sgt PC Motard.

[Not signed]

Barbara Szekely's Statement
Before me, the undersigned authority, on September 27, 1988, at 02:42AM personally appeared Barbara Ann Szekely, who, after being duly sworn upon his/her oath deposes and states:

My name is Barbara Ann Szekely. I am 31 years of age; I live at Star of Hope Mission - Main St., and my phone is ___-___-____. I am employed by Federal Import and Export whose address is unk Wilcrest Green, and their phone is 713-952-1090. My driver license number is _ and my Social Security number is [redacted]. I was born on 04/26/57.

On Monday, September 26, 1988, I was walking with my husband, Drew Hartley, and we were walking down a pathway in front of a vacant field. This field runs the whole length of the block. It was about 7:30PM and it was already getting dark. As we were walking down the path I heard some other footsteps besides our, in the grass. I looked back after hearing the steps for awhile but I didn't see anything. We kept on walking and I kept hearing the sound which was not actually footsteps but it was the sound of feet in the long grass. I looked back a second time and I saw a shape and  it was grouped in someone there. I thought that there was someone on the path and I asked Drew if there was someone behind us and he told me that I was hearing things. And we walked a little further and he looked back and he said that there was somebody there. It sounded like there was somebody in the field itself too, as well as the noise on the path. I just saw the top of the shape and it appeared to be an afro type haircut and that is all the description that I can give on the person. I began to speed up and then the footsteps began to get faster behind us. I then began to run and Drew didn't run right away but then he began to run behind me. I ran to the Stop And Go and when I got to the pavement and I didn't see anybody. I went in the Stop And Go and talked to the girl clerk and a guy that was with her. I told them that someone was chasing me on the path. I looked out the window and I saw Drew outside, but nobody else. I then went out of the store and went to the car wash behind the Stop And Go and I talked to some guys there and I asked them if I could hang around there for a few minutes and they said it was O.K. with them. I saw two police cars pull in the Stop And Go. I then asked the guys to give me a ride to the front Stop and Go, on Westheimer. I rode around with the guys for awhile and then they gave me a ride over to a friend of mine, named Victor, who lives in the Lakewood [Village] Apartments. About an hour later Drew came to the door with a policeman and was saying that someone had gotten murdered down the street and the police wanted to talk to us. Then the officers asked us to come in and make a statement. Earlier, before we went down the path on Kirkwood, Drew was going to take a short cut through the Lakehurst Apartments and I would not go through the apartments because we were evicted from the apartments and I knew that we would be arrested there if the security guard caught us there. After I would not go through the apartments Drew told me that it was just as well because a "nigger" just went down the path. The officer later told me that this path was the area where the girl was found dead tonight.

I have completed 2 years of college and can read and write the English language. I have read this statement and it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I have given this statement to Sgt. C.R. Williams of my own free will. This statement was typed by Sgt. C.R. Williams.

Signed: [Barbara Szekely]

Subscibed and sworn to before me this 27th day of September, 1988

Signed: [illegible signature]
Notary Public in and for the State of Texas


The excerpts from the police reports are from the 41 page HPD compilation here. The added emphasis is mine. There are, as yet, no copies of Drew or Barbara's statements available online.


There should have been no doubt whatsoever that Barbara Stanwyck witnessed a murder. Who, after all, could seriously question the Big Valley matriarch who gave birth to Audra Barkley?

Drew Curtis Hartley and Barbara Ann Szekely, on the other hand, were in no way responsible for Audra Barkley's appearance on my teenage television screen.

Drew's statement and Barbara's statement, therefore, must to be considered with considerable skepticism. Their statements should, however, actually be considered rather than cavalierly dismissed. The Houston Police failed to consider (or even properly report) their statements, so we shall do that here, in this august blog.

It won't be easy. We'll have to read over their statements many times, compare them with the geography of the area, weigh them in light of what we have already learned about the case, and attempt to resolve the obvious conflicts.

In my next post in this series, I will discuss the couple now of interest to us. You will learn that there is plenty of reason for caution in accepting their statements as absolutely, unequivocally true.

Then I will describe why I believe Drew Hartley and Barbara Szekely may have witnessed the prelude to the murder of Shandra Charles and Marcell Taylor.

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