WHEN I FIRST wrote about the murder of River Oaks wife and mother Doris Angleton (“The Bookmaker’s Wife,” TM, November 1997), the investigation already had enough twists to fill up a mystery novel. Since then, however, the case has taken such an extraordinary turn that many Houstonians wonder if prosecutors can convict the man accused of the murder—Doris’ multimillionaire husband, Bob Angleton—when his trial begins late this month.
After 46-year-old Doris was found shot twelve times near the back door of her home in April 1997, it came out that Bob, who most people thought was a wealthy investor, had been Houston’s most prominent bookmaker, handling up to $40 million in sports bets a year. It also came out that Doris had filed for divorce just before her death, in part because of an affair she’d been having with a married man she’d met on the Internet. The police began investigating rumors that Doris’ death was related to an underworld fight over Bob’s business, that an Internet psycho might have been the killer, or that the married man’s wife might have done it. Bob told the police he believed his ne’er-do-well older brother, Roger, could have masterminded the murder as part of an extortion scheme. In July the police got a break when Roger was arrested in Las Vegas with an audiotape in his possession. On the tape, the police alleged, Bob and Roger could be heard planning Doris’ murder. The police speculated that Bob had hired Roger for nearly $1 million to kill Doris, either because he learned about her affair or because he feared she might one day reveal details of his bookmaking operation; then, to protect himself, Bob double-crossed Roger by ratting him out to the police. (Of course, the only reason Roger might have had to tape the conversation was to protect himself—to make sure he got his money.) The two brothers were arrested for capital murder, and a guilty verdict seemed assured.
But this past February Roger was found dead in his jail cell, his wrists slashed, alongside a note exonerating Bob. “Although I began an elaborate plan to ‘frame’ Bob for Doris’ death as further leverage to get my money, he is innocent,” the note read. Bob’s attorneys were ecstatic—they had long argued that the voice on the tape wasn’t Bob’s—and even Roger’s attorney said he did not believe his client had been coerced into writing the note. In late April, however, the news broke that an Austin writer, Vanessa Leggett, spent several hours interviewing Roger in the days before his death. Leggett will not say what he told her, but a source close to the investigation says Roger confessed that he and Bob had carried out the murder.
Although prosecutors won’t reveal their strategy, they have announced that they are not backing off the case. The trial is already being called Houston’s Blood and Money of the nineties, a reference to the infamous 1971 trial of River Oaks resident John Hill, who was accused of murdering his socialite wife. In that case, a mistrial was called after the jury could not reach a verdict—which is precisely what could happen here. Regardless of the verdict, there are indications that some things will not change: The Houston Chronicle reported that “bets are being taken by the same people and over some of the same telephone numbers as when capital-murder suspect Bob Angleton ran the operation.”