"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Oxygen Thieves

Partly truth and partly fiction, this is a true tale, based on an actual murder that took place in Southern New Mexico.  Any similarities with that case are intentional on my part. 

God Help... those who help themselves.... to the charity of their fellow man

Frenchy Dupree was a rough red haired French-Canadian, who had lost an arm in an industrial accident. He dragged his brood of semi-retarded offspring down from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to New Mexico, having heard that everything was cheaper in Mexico. At first it didn't dawn on him that he had missed the border by thirty miles, he just assumed that most Mexicans spoke English. He wound up staying because here he had found a peaceful burg populated with right minded citizens willing to help out their own kind.

Life in the Dupree household was anything but normal, the older girls had to fight off their father's sexual advances, while the boys suffered regular whippings with a barber's strap. Frenchy's handicap had not affected his libido, his ability to swing the strap and his uncanny knack for rolling and lighting cigarettes with one hand.  (which he could do before his accident)

The Duprees were at the bottom of the totem pole, here they fell below most Mexicans and just above blacks on the economic ladder. In a town where white folks could get anything on credit, the Duprees were blacklisted everywhere except at Raspberry's. A mom & pop store run by a family of Okies, who like the Duprees had been headed somewhere else before they wound up here. On those rare occasions when Frenchy would go in to make a payment he would ask "So, my credit good?" Mrs. Raspberry would eye him with suspicion "Yeah, it's good for now" 

Frenchy would light up a hand rolled smoke and put in his order "Gimme a loaf of bread, a jar of mayo and a pound of baloney" after taking a drag on his homespun coffin nail he would ask "You say my credit good?" Momma Raspberry had played this game before "It's good today, Frenchy" she answered. "Well then make that 2 loafs of bread and 2 pounds of baloney" which was as close as Frenchy ever got to being generous.

See a penny pick it up... all day long you'll have good luck!

His wife was a pale wild haired woman who doted on her red-haired frowners.  They were as miserable and unhappy a bunch as you would ever wish to see. The wildest playground fight I ever saw was between the Dupree siblings. Jimmy Dupree flanked as always by his brothers Joe and John was proudly displaying a shiny penny that he had acquired. He was going on about all the candy they were going to buy at Raspberry's when his sister Arlene came along grabbed it from him declaring "That's my penny you stole it from me"

Within minutes the entire clan was fighting tooth and nail. It was a battle royal, a cry went out across the playground."The Duprees are fighting." A large crowd of kids gathered to witness the astonishing sight of siblings trying to kill one another. Joe and John sided with Jimmy but Arlene was whipping all three, so they switched sides. Now Jimmy was getting pounded, and blood started to flow. Some of the kids watching got squeamish and ran off to call for a teacher to break up the ruckus.

Mrs. Pearson arrived, dragging Arlene off Jimmy while demanding to know "What are you fighting about?" some pipsqueak in the back yelled out "They're fighting over a penny"  Mrs. Pearson's eyebrows went up "A penny?, Good Lord!... all this over a penny!" then she marched them to the principal's office. Joe Peters being a nice guy and a soft touch, promptly reached into his pocket and gave them each their own penny.

The best layed plans, formulated by idiots always go astray

Butch Dupree, Frenchy's oldest son was nothing to be proud of. A mouth breathing vacant eyed punk with the thought process of a lizard. Butch had met up with Loreen Allen in the special education class while in jr.high school. They had been inseparable for four years, much to the consternation of Loreen's family. Together they walked the streets of town hand in hand. Stopping only to browse through the local dime stores, boosting whatever cheap crap they could when the clerks weren't looking.

Wayne Castle was the throwaway son of alcoholics, a borderline sociopath, rife with suicidal tendencies. Butch & Loreen tolerated Wayne simply because his reputation for violent action kept Butchie's tormentors; the town's chicano toughs and shitkicking stomps at bay. Not to mention that like any thug in training he needed a partner in crime. Butch had a heist in mind and he would need Wayne's help to pull it off.  

While sitting at the counter of Rexall Drugstore, the trio of miscreants had met Mac Starr, a retired merchant marine who traveled around the southwest looking for love in all the wrong places. Starr made his first fatal mistake when he paid their tab. As was his custom, he peeled a few dollars off a roll he carried in his pocket. A detail that quickly drew the attention of the ever resourceful Butch.

When Mac cheerfully offered a ride in his brand new two seater MG Midget, Butch took him up on it. Once on the road, Mac wasted no time making a pass at Butch, who  quickly deflected his advances. "Didn't mean to offend you" Mac quickly added, Butch lit a smoke and without showing any emotion replied "No offense, but I do know someone you might like."

Always knew he would kill someone, just reckoned it would be his daddy

Lured to a secluded spot northwest of town by the promise of sex, Mac Starr drove himself into an ambush. He arrived to find Butch, Wayne & Loreen standing around a small campfire, drinking from the same bottle. Starr, wearing his Sinatra hat stepped out of his car and danced a happy jig. "The party can start now, I'm here" he crooned. His mood soured and the smile melted away when Wayne produced a rifle and aimed it his way.  "You have got to be joking" Mac sputtered "Ain't no joke, faggot" Butch stammered excitedly  "Give us all your money." 

I won't spare you the gruesome details. In the process of robbing him at gun point, Starr was shot twice in the head and stabbed repeatedly. His body was stuffed into the trunk of a large sedan owned by Wade's mother. With Butch and Loreen leading the way in the larger vehicle, Wayne followed in the Midget. Their destination was a cluster of mine shafts at the northern edge of the Cooke's Range. An area Butch was familiar with, having accompanied his father on several fruitless prospecting expeditions. 

The night was pitch black as all three of them heaved the old man's body into the hole. "Won't be enough" Butch told Loreen, so they gathered dry brush and tossed it in after him. Butch then emptied a five gallon metal can full of gasoline into the shaft. He stuffed an oily rag into the spout, lit it and threw it in. An eerie glow radiated from the bottom of the mine, black smoke started to rise up. Momentarily mesmerized by the pulsating light, Butch drawled: "That should do it" 

At daybreak, the last thing rancher Larry Hays expected to see was a foreign sports car on a dirt road to nowhere. The vehicle had gone off the road and was stuck in sand. Larry approached with caution "What in the world are you doing out here at this time of day" he asked the young man sitting on the ground.  Wayne Castle grinned "We got drunk, I got lost and my friends ditched me."

Larry Hays examined the British automobile, it had Nevada plates. "I'll say you're lost, it's a long way to Nevada from here"  Larry was taking mental notes. Wade meekly asked "Can you pull my car out?" Larry looked under the car "Sure" he then went back to his truck to grab a tow chain, "You're going to ruin that vehicle driving it on these roads" he called out to Wayne, who didn't respond. 
Despite appearances Mac Starr carried little cash with him. Butch and Loreen ransacked his motel room but found less than $20. Added to the $88 they had pulled from his pockets, their homicidal effort had barely netted them $100. That was the least of their problems, embers from the fire burning in the shaft had been blown onto the surrounding brush and there was now a full scale wildfire raging north of Montezuma Canyon. On top of that Wade's mother had called in her car as stolen and Wade had been pulled over by the state police who impounded the MG while they attempted to contact the registered owner: Mac Starr.

Murder... and that's all she wrote

While putting out Butchie's unintentional brushfire, firefighters stumbled upon Mac's toasty tomb. The Sheriff's office was called out and the body retrieved (slightly singed but not roasted) A receipt in the front shirt pocket from the Skyline Motel was made out to Mac Starr. When word got back to the State Police, they immediately brought in Wayne Castle for questioning.

With Wayne sitting in a holding cell, Murphy's Law kicked him square in the nuts again. Mr. Larry Hays, having heard of the body found in the vicinity of his ranch, reported his strange encounter with Wayne Castle to investigators. At the same moment, city police found Ma Castle's missing sedan in the parking lot of  the Safeway Supermarket. Detectives examined the trunk and interior of the vehicle, no effort had been made to clean up the now dried blood. 

A bag boy told police that Butch Dupree had parked the vehicle there the night before and walked over to the Baker Hotel, a flophouse preferred by pensioners. Within an hour, both Butch and Loreen were in custody. The new age Bonnie & Clyde stonewalled detectives. Wayne was a different story, for all his reputation and macho bluster, he was afraid of authority figures.

Wayne quickly turned on Butch & Loreen, telling police that Butch in a rage over Starr's sexual advances had attacked him with a knife after which he told Wayne to shoot him at close range. He then went along with the couple, afraid that they would kill him. Wayne further stated that he got stuck in the sand while escaping from Butch and Loreen who were chasing after him with murderous intent.

 The hammer of justice shall come down with a cold, fist-clenching fury

Loreen's family hired an attorney and once a plea deal was worked out, she turned on Butch and Wayne. According to Loreen's account, Butch seething over Starr's advances, had grabbed the older man by the neck and stabbed him numerous times. When Mac fell to the ground, Wayne  walked over and at point blank range shot him twice in the head. Loreen's testimony made it not a robbery gone wrong, but rather  premeditated murder.

Butch Dupree never broke under questioning and didn't utter a single word in his own defense during the subsequent trial. A state police investigator called him "A tough fucking nut" The Assistant District Attorney  stated that "Mr. Dupree has been preparing for this moment his entire life." Both Butch & Wayne were found guilty of first degree murder, Loreen received 3-5 yrs. for her part.

Once settled in to the state prison at Santa Fe, the diminutive Butch quickly gained a reputation for being hard and violent, it served him well. Wayne's testimony had branded him as a snitch, a role he continued behind bars, he spent most of his time in protective custody. Both survived the bloody prison riot of 1980 and were shipped off to correctional facilities outside of New Mexico. Eventually they were paroled and never heard from again. Loreen served three years and then just days after her release died of a drug overdose in El Paso.   

The Dupree clan vanished from town soon after the trial, nobody knows where they went. Could be that Frenchy finally closed that last thirty miles between himself and Mexico. The last time I ran into any of the Duprees was just after Butch had been arrested. I walked into the men's room at the public library only to be greeted by the ungodly sight of Jimmy Dupree  squatting over the lavatory defecating, John was doing the same in the urinal and Joe was taking a dump into a trashcan. They started laughing when Jimmy told me "You can use the toilet... we're not!" I exited to a chorus of howling laughter. I started to tell the librarian, but stopped myself, she would find out soon enough.

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