Friday, June 22, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Meet the Hartleys

In my previous post, Witness to Murder, I explained that Drew Hartley and Barbara Szekely were in the same overgrown field where Shandra Charles and Marcell Taylor were murdered, and they were there at nearly the same time. In this post, I'll discuss Drew and Barbara. In the next, I'll attempt to re-trace their footsteps that fatal night.

What I know and write of Drew Hartley and Barbara Szekely I gleaned from the police reports, from standard internet searches and a dreadful experience with one of those paid public records search services. (Prepare yourself for expensive upgrade after upgrade before you get a fraction of the records you are promised.)

Drew Curtis Hartley was born on July 27, 1959. He was 29 at the time of the murders. The Houston police classified him as a "W/M", a white male. That classification consistent with his surname. From The Internet Surname Database, we learn about the origin of the name Hartley.
This interesting surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, is a locational name from any of the various places so called. Several, in particular those in Hampshire, Kent and Devonshire, derive their names from the Olde English ... "heort", hart, plus "leah" meaning "wood" or "clearing". ... The surname is widely distributed, but it is especially popular in Yorkshire. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century ... The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Hertlay ... Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax.
Barbara Ann Szekely was born on April 26, 1957. She was 31 at the time of the murders, two years older than Drew. The Houston police classified her as a "W/F", a white female. That's consistent with her surname. From Wikipedia:
Székely is a Hungarian language surname. The word "Székely" refers to Hungarian people from the historical region of Transylvania, Romania.
The surname name Szekely is distinctively Hungarian. Of the 21 "famous" Szekelys listed in the Wikipedia article, 17 were Hungarian, 3 were Romanian, and one was Mexican-American. The Mexican-American was comedian Louis C.K.born Louis Szekely. Louis C.K.'s paternal grandfather was a Hungarian who emigrated to Mexico.

Near the bottom of his police report, Drew affirms that he had 14 years of education / college. A favorable interpretation of that statement is that Drew had two years of college, rather than he was set back twice. Near the bottom of Barbara's report, she affirms explicitly that she had two years of college. It's not clear whether the colleges were community colleges or four-year colleges. Nonetheless, each claimed to be college educated, at least to some degree.

The website reports that the two were married (to one another) on January 23, 1987 in Harris County, Texas. That would be 20 months before the murders. In his police report, Drew identified his wife as "Barbara Ann Hartley". In her police report, she identified herself as "Barbara Ann Szekely". As you will see, they apparently had disagreements beyond Barbara's name. Some of those turned violent.

I refer to the two of them as the Hartleys for convenience, rather than siding with him over her.

In his police report, Sgt. Gafford offered the following insight regarding the Hartleys.
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 on this date as well.
I don't know if "unstable" is a proper description of Drew and Barbara Hartley, though their stories did incorporate some unusual aspects. I note that Sgt. Gafford was passing judgment on them after he had already extracted a confession from Preston Hughes III. Sgt. Gafford may have had a wee bit of bias when he assessed the significance of their reports. Their reports contradicted Preston's confessions.

Drew Hartley certainly did have encounters with the Houston police, but the more serious encounters seem to have occurred after the murders, not before. I see he was fined $250 in 1985 for a DUI, and charged with evading arrest in 1996, but I find no other criminal records dated prior  to the murder. I see at least one drunkenness charge, and at least one burglary, but I have no dates associated with them. They may have occurred prior to the murders, and they may not have.

I note also that Barbara explained in her police report that she and Drew had been evicted from the Lakehurst Apartments, and that she feared arrest if she was discovered in there. The events surrounding the eviction may have involved the police, but I can't say so with any certainty.

Drew's trouble with the law became more serious after the murders. In 1990, he was convicted of trespassing (without forcible entry), failure to identify, possession of marijuana (less than 2 ounces), theft ($200-$700), and assault.

Drew moved to St. Petersburg, Florida sometime thereafter, and matters went from bad to worse. His traffic offenses included DUI, excessive speed, driving a vehicle in an unsafe condition, and driving with a suspended license. His drug offenses included possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine, possession of crack cocaine, constructive possession of a controlled substance, and deliver to minor or hire as agent in sale.Other offenses included grand theft, domestic battery, spousal battery, false imprisonment, and aggravated battery.

Drew Hartley now seems to be in a Florida prison serving some serious time. He is a registered sex offender.

In August of 2003, he was convicted of sexual battery under 794.011(5), to wit:
794.011(5)  Commits Sexual Battery; Victim 12 Or Older And In Process Uses Physical Force Not Likely To Cause Serious Personal Injury
(5)  A person who commits sexual battery upon a person 12 years of age or older, without that person's consent, and in the process thereof does not use physical force and violence likely to cause serious personal injury commits a felony of the second degree, ...
Most of these offenses, as I have already explained, occurred after the murders. Most of them occurred more than a decade after the murders. There's no suggestion that at the time of the murders that Drew was anywhere near as abusive and violent as he would later become.

In their police reports, Drew and Barbara each listed their address as the Star of Hope Mission. Star of Hope is a shelter for the homeless. From their website, I offer the organization's Mission Statement:
Star of Hope is a Christ-centered community dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless men, women and their children. Positive life changes are encouraged through structured programs which focus on spiritual growth, education, employment, life management and recovery from substance abuse.
Drew reported that he lived at the Star of Hope Mission on 407 La Branch. Barbara reported that she lived at the Star of Hope Mission on Main Street. It is not uncommon that homeless shelters house men in a different facility than women and children. I do not know that is what happened in this case. Whatever the arrangements, however, it seems to me that Drew and Barbara were more likely residing with someone in the Lakewood Village apartments than they were spending most their nights at the mission.

Drew reported that they were "visiting" a friend in the Lakewood Village Apartments on the night of the murder. The Lakewood Village Apartment complex is 17 miles from 407 La Branch. Neither Drew nor Barbara reported having a driver's license. (Given Drew's driving record, I'm not surprised he didn't have a license.) Drew reported also that they planned to visit other friends who lived in the Lakehurst apartment complex. It's not clear when they planned to find their way back to the Star of Hope Mission that night.

Both Drew and Barbara reported that they worked at Federal Import and Export located at 11111 Wilcrest Green. Drew reports that he had worked there only two weeks, and that he was in Sales. The listed address is only two miles from the Lakewood Village Apartments. For a couple not having a car, the Lakewood Village Apartment complex is a considerably more convenient residence for someone working at Federal Import and Export than is the Star of Hope Mission.

Drew and Barbara must have lived at least for a bit at the Lakehurst Apartments. Recall that the Lakehurst Apartments are located just north of the Lakewood Village Apartments. From Barbara's report:
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.
Instead of taking the short cut, Drew and Barbara walked through the dark, overgrown field. As they did so, they became aware of one or two shadowy figures, one of them with an afro. The figures were so threatening that Drew and Barbara ran from the scene and called police. Barbara reported also that Drew had seen a black male on the very trail segment where the murders occurred soon thereafter. Drew reported that he heard a female scream from within the area of interest.

The police declared their information to irrelevant to their investigation.

We, on the other hand, will consider their information more carefully, in the next post in this series.

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