Publication Date: Friday, October 14, 2005
Cops close book on '76 murder
Cops close book on '76 murder
(October 14, 2005)
By Jon Wiener
At first glance, the 1976 rape and murder of Mountain View resident Betty Yvonne Vickers looked like an ideal cold case to reopen.
Detectives immediately suspected Gary Dean Story, and arrested him one month after the crime. Witnesses reported seeing Story, who had recently been released from prison for a rape conviction three years earlier, follow Vickers home from the St. James Infirmary nightclub that evening. Fingerprints tied him to the crime scene, and an entry in his wife's diary questioned his whereabouts at the time of the murder.
But in a state political climate that emphasized the rights of the accused, prosecutors were wary about the evidence and declined to proceed with the case. Police, despite being convinced that they had the right man, moved on.
"We were probably pulling maybe a murder a month," recalled retired Mountain View detective Dennis Healy, who now lives in Idaho. "Most of them were a dope dealer kills a dope dealer. I won't tell you what we called them, but one went to jail and one was dead."
Twenty-five years later, homicide rates have dropped by a factor of 10 and advances in forensic science have given law enforcement new tools. Ray Medved, an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, is assigned to review cold homicide cases to see whether DNA evidence might help resolve them.
Seizing upon a plan to examine a semen stain found on Vickers' bed sheet, Medved reopened the case against Story. But the initial hope quickly faded, as Medved learned that police had lost the sheet, presumably when moving across Villa Street to their new headquarters in 1980.
"We opened up the case only to find the avenue that we thought would be most productive was a dead end," said deputy district attorney John Luft.
But Medved did not give up, and found Story's name connected with several rapes in Arizona during the early to mid-1980s. The police reports led him to Story's ex-wives, one of whom Medved was able to track down in Manteca.
"She was extremely petrified at the thought of talking to anybody about Gary Story," said Luft, who traveled with Medved to interview the woman.
About halfway through the interview, Medved asked if Story had ever acted violent or intimidating. Yes, she said, and then gave investigators the clue they needed.
To a recently divorced mother with two young kids, Gary Story was a well-paid, well-dressed knight in shining armor. But once they became serious, things changed. He became threatening and demanding. At one point, the woman recalled, he told her that if she ever left him, he would kill her. He boasted that he had killed before and gotten away with it.
Medved found similar fear among all of Story's ex-wives. One woman he met in rural Tennessee kept her blinds closed during the middle of the day for fear that Story might one day chance to drive by, look in the window and see her.
Story was arrested in Arizona in late 2001 and held in custody until earlier this month. Four of his ex-wives testified during the two-week trial. At times, they were moved to tears. But in his threats against them, Story had effectively confessed to Vickers' murder. The jury deliberated just a few hours before returning a guilty verdict.
"There are some crimes that can fade into the distance," said Luft. I guess that's why we have statutes of limitation, but when it comes to murder, we have a long memory."
Story will be sentenced Nov. 10.
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