The Bookmaker’s Wife
She was a beautiful woman. He was a millionaire many times over. Some of their neighbors in Houston’s exclusive River Oaks knew about his secret life. Almost no one knew about hers—until she was murdered.
AS ALWAYS, SHE LOOKED SO STUNNING THAT APRIL EVENING when she dropped off her twin daughters for their softball game. River Oaks, the most affluent area in Houston, is full of handsome women, but something about the 46-year-old Doris Angleton made people look at her twice. Slender, manicured, and athletic, with flawless skin and slightly highlighted auburn hair that fell to her shoulders, she was regularly hired by a River Oaks—area image consultant to be her model of the “ideal body type” at local fashion seminars. When she stood outside her Suburban in the carpool line at Annunciation Orthodox, her daughters’ elite private school, she’d wave at all the other mothers, seemingly incapable of radiating anything other than affection. “You would start smiling the moment you saw her,” says Mary Hill, who took step aerobics classes with Doris nearly every morning at Body Rock, one of the most popular aerobics clubs in Houston. “It was amazing how many people considered Doris one of their best friends. It wasn’t only that she loved to laugh. She always took the time to talk to you about any problem you were having.”
Doris’ husband, Bob, was already at the ballpark when she and the twelve-year-olds arrived. He was the coach of the girls’ team, the Scream, and he seemed to take his job seriously, clapping his hands briskly and barking orders. A good-looking, slightly burly man with olive-colored skin and eyes that were liquid brown, Angleton was a millionaire many times over. He had purchased a $650,000 Tudor-style house—paid for, it was rumored, in cash—just two blocks from the home where much of Terms of Endearment was filmed. The Angletons belonged to the Briar Club, an exclusive tennis and swim club that had become a haven for many River Oaks residents; at Houston Astros games the family sat in the Diamond Box, just behind the Astros’ on-deck circle.
Compared with the spirited Doris, the 48-year-old Angleton was not particularly friendly. He had no patience for small talk, he didn’t display a great sense of humor, and whenever someone asked what he did for a living, he was evasive, saying that he invested in real estate or that he ran a Houston courier service. Though some of the softball moms and dads were curious as to just what Doris saw in him, they had to admit that Angleton made sure his family got the best in life. “Doris had to stop telling Bob that she liked the jewelry she saw on other women because whenever she did, he would immediately go out and find the same jewelry for her,” says one of the Angletons’ friends, Tommy Hughes. When his daughters got interested in softball, Angleton not only became coach of their team but also bought them the best softball equipment he could find. In fact, when he saw Doris that night thirty minutes before game time, Angleton told her that one of the girl’s softball bats was still at the house. According to what Bob later told the police, Doris told him she was already headed that way to change clothes. Doris smiled, waved, and drove off.
Two hours later, the police found her body. She was sprawled just inside her house by the kitchen door, seven bullets in her head and five in her chest.
THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT, THE ANGLETONS’ neighbors stood on their scrupulously tended lawns, watching as the police wrapped yellow crime-scene tape around the white crepe myrtles that surrounded the Angleton house. Their faces pale in the glare of the camera lights, they gave the obligatory interviews to the television crews about the Angletons’ being such nice people. They said they couldn’t imagine this brutal crime happening in their snug world.
But a few of those neighbors weren’t telling everything they knew. For years they had been hearing a rumor about Bob Angleton, and they were wondering just what that rumor might have to do with his wife’s death. Bob Angleton, it seemed, was no ordinary Houston millionaire: He was the most successful bookmaker in Houston, handling what one police source would later tell the Houston Chronicle was between $20 million and $40 million of sports bets every year. For the nearly fifteen years of their marriage, Angleton and his wife had kept his occupation a secret, telling only their closest friends. He kept a secret office in the back of the house where he lorded over his empire. He kept secret apartments throughout the Galleria area, where his phone clerks recorded the bets called in by his gamblers. To protect himself and his carriage trade clientele, some of whom were Houston’s richest and most prominent citizens, Angleton had even developed a secret relationship with members of the Houston Police Department’s vice squad.
For weeks stories raced through River Oaks that the killing was either the work of a vengeful rival bookie or the desperate act of a despondent gambler whom Angleton had been pressuring to pay up. It was said that Houston’s Asian American mobsters, who wanted to expand their own bookmaking business, were after him. Or perhaps it was the Mafia. There was a story that Bob’s older brother, Roger, a somewhat reckless real estate salesman living in California, had been trying to extort money from Bob. Shortly before Doris’ death, Roger supposedly had written Bob a letter demanding $200,000 and threatening “I will hurt you in a way that will be with you for the rest of your life” if he didn’t pay up. One woman on the Angletons’ block was so terrified by the various rumors that she hired an off-duty Houston police officer for $25 an hour to spend the night at her home for a week in case the killer, or killers, returned to get Angleton himself.
What almost no one knew was that Doris’ slaying may have had something to do with another secret life: her own. The year before her death, during the day when no one was at home or at night when everyone was asleep, Doris would sit in front of her daughters’ computer, logging on to the Over 40 chat room operated by America Online. At first it seemed like a harmless diversion. But she found herself “talking” more and more online to a married stockbroker in his early forties who lived in the Northeast. She told him she was desperately unhappy, stuck in an emotionally empty marriage. By December 1996 she and the man were meeting furtively. Two months later she filed for divorce. Two months after that, she was dead.
Homicide detectives immediately suspected that Bob knew more about the killing than he was letting on. With no eyewitnesses and little physical evidence, however, their investigation went nowhere. As the spring and summer passed, many who knew the Angletons began to share the police’s theory. Others remained adamantly convinced that he had no reason to kill his wife. “The idea of him being violent is just impossible to imagine,” says Missy Welsh, a close family friend and well-regarded former Junior League member. “This is a man who wrote exquisite love letters to Doris in hopes of saving the marriage. Does that sound like a murderer to you?”
But as Missy and everyone else in River Oaks know, this is no ordinary murder story. This is a story about secrets—and how secret lives can destroy the people who lead them. “We’re all looking at one another and asking what we might have missed,” says one woman who had been close to the Angletons for more than a decade. “Should we have known that Doris’ life was in danger? Was there some other side to Bob that we didn’t see?” The woman pauses. “It’s a horrible feeling. Maybe there was something we didn’t want to see.”
BOB ANGLETON WAS, IN MANY RESPECTS, a classic Houston success story. He was an entrepreneur, not all that different from the scrappy oil wildcatters and real estate speculators who came to the city unknown but ascended into the rarefied atmosphere of River Oaks life. “What you have to remember is that Houston is far less conservative than, say, Dallas in the way the power structure works,” says well-known Houston defense attorney Michael Ramsey. “It’s more of an oil town than a financial town. Our sense of virtue comes more from the oil patch than the church house. So people here don’t really think of bookmaking as this act of moral turpitude.”
In the early twenties Angleton’s Greek-born father, Nicholas Angletos, jumped ship in Port Lavaca while working as a cabin boy on a Greek steamer. He changed his name to Angleton, moved east, married an American woman, and eventually became a wealthy builder, constructing barracks for the federal government during World War II and garden apartments in New Jersey afterward. Bob and his brother, Roger, who was older by six years, were raised in a large New Jersey home on an acre and a half of land. In the summers the family traveled back to Greece, where they sailed the Mediterranean on their large yacht. During a 45-minute interview (his lawyers won’t let him talk specifically about his bookmaking or any of the events leading up to Doris’ murder), Bob says that Roger was a bright but unruly boy who wrecked the Corvettes his parents gave him, was kicked out of schools, and finally graduated from a military academy in New York. (Roger would not comment for this story.) Bob attended Syracuse, where he majored in philosophy. Although both brothers worked briefly for their father while in their twenties, neither wanted to go into his business. Bob, brash and cocky, often clashed with his father, who cut him off financially because he disapproved of a young woman Bob was dating—a Pan Am flight attendant. Determined to make his own way, Bob moved with his girlfriend to Florida, where he bought a franchise for a 24-hour restaurant. When the restaurant failed, he headed west to make his fortune. Roger decided to join him.
It was the late seventies, the famed boom era in Texas, when oil was $40 a barrel and hordes of Northerners were migrating to Houston to strike it rich. Roger took up residential real estate and was successful enough to manage his own Re/Max brokerage in the Galleria area. Still struggling to find his niche, Bob opened a used-car lot. He married the flight attendant, but they soon divorced. Not happy selling used cars, Bob was intrigued when a couple of bookmakers, whom he had placed a few bets with, asked if he would be interested in joining their organization.
Working weeknights and weekends, Bob answered the phone in an office, quoting the point spread for each game and writing down the bets. It was not a very profitable operation: The two partners, who made book for about 25 gamblers, didn’t have a large enough reserve of cash to cover bets bigger than a few thousand dollars. Still, Bob realized he had found his calling. He made up business cards that read “Robert Angleton, Sports Broker.” Ambitious and hard-working, he never had more than two drinks a night, he didn’t stay out late, he had no hobbies, and he didn’t chase women. Many gamblers who met him were taken aback by his brusque New Jersey manner. He was fast-talking, impatient, and often condescending. Angleton would call a bettor who had just lost a big bet to him and crow, “Hey there, Lucky!” “You’d get so pissed off at him,” says a former Angleton gambler, “that you’d double up your bets the next day just to try to beat him.”
They rarely did. “Whether you liked him or not, you had to admit that Bob was big-time smart at bookmaking,” says a former associate. “He understood the numbers as well as anyone.” Angleton was a kind of human calculator, able to keep track of the trends in a day’s betting, spread out among as many as forty games. He seemed to know exactly when to adjust the lines—the point spreads that give extra points to underdog teams—to keep the gamblers enticed and the bets ßowing in evenly on both sides. Ideally, a bookie wants the amount paid to the winning gamblers for a certain game to be the same as the amount taken from the losing gamblers so that he has to pay nothing out of his own pocket. A bookie earns money by collecting a standard 10 percent commission from the losers—known in the business as the juice. Angleton also had ways of making his bettors lose more than they won. If he knew, for instance, that one of his less-experienced bettors who always favored a certain team hadn’t yet called to bet on that team in an upcoming game, Bob would change the line for the game, giving a point to the opposing team. “That point in his favor gave Bob a much greater chance of beating that one bettor,” says one gambler. “One thing you had to say about him was that he knew how to make money.”
DORIS MCGOWN WAS A STRIKING, long-legged young woman, and she was incorrigibly convivial. “I don’t think there was a man who met her who didn’t fall a little bit in love with her,” says one longtime male friend. The daughter of a Dow Chemical engineer from Lake Jackson, a town south of Houston, Doris graduated from the University of Texas in 1973 and came to the Houston area. She found a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative and married a young man who worked as a manufacturer’s representative for an office supply company. By the autumn of 1979, her marriage was breaking up. She was approaching thirty years old, “and I think she was feeling the grass growing underneath her feet,” says another friend. “She lived out in a suburb, and I think she wanted to be more part of that life inside the West Loop [the upscale area of West Houston, bounded by Loop 610]. You could tell she was looking for something more exciting.” She found it at a party when she was introduced to a man who, according to a woman who was there, “had this swarthy, masculine look and big old Greek eyes and a reputation for making money.”
For his part, Bob Angleton was so smitten with Doris that he later went up to her husband, who was also at the party, and said, only half joking: “Anytime you decide to get rid of that pretty lady, I want to know about it.” A few months later, when Angleton learned that Doris and her husband were divorcing, he called and asked if she would accompany him to Ruggles, a well-known Houston restaurant.
It didn’t seem possible that the two would find anything in common. “I was rough around the edges, no question about it,” Angleton says. “But she was used to the typical Texans, and she liked meeting someone who was a doer—a nonstop doer.” According to her friends, Doris said that Angleton “chased me until he got me.” “I think it was fascinating to Doris that he did something outside the line, but not too far outside the line,” says her former hairdresser, Larry West, whose clients include some of Houston’s wealthier women. “I think Doris was a little naive. She was so cheerful, so positive, that she didn’t perceive that she could be putting herself into a dangerous situation.”
It is also quite possible that, like many other women, she mistook excitement for love. In 1982 Angleton presented Doris with a carat-and-a half diamond engagement ring (which one friend of the Angletons says came from a gambler who owed Bob a lot of money). They married that May, and two years later Doris gave birth to twins. The Angletons bought a townhouse in a pleasant neighborhood of Houston, but it was clear that they would not be staying there for long. Angleton was too ambitious. Even though he and his partners reportedly were making $30,000 a month in profits, he decided to launch out on his own. “He told me his target market was up-and-coming guys, twenty-five to thirty-five years old, who were making a lot of money and who thought they knew everything about sports,” says someone who knew him. He also did business with University of Texas fraternity kids who came from wealthy Houston families. He knew that their $100 bets would, in the years ahead, grow much larger.
Angleton worked eighteen-hour days. Friends remember that when he went to the beach with them one weekend, he had two pagers attached to his bathing suit. When he’d swim at the Briar Club, he’d put a pager at one end of the pool, which he would check nearly every lap. One former employee guesses there were at least twenty people working for him by the nineties. Angleton’s “recruiters,” some of whom were young men from wealthy families, passed his name around at the city’s better country clubs to known top-dollar gamblers. His phone clerks made a base salary of $2,000 a month, and their furnished apartments, with 27-inch color televisions, came rent free. If a gambler won, either Angleton or one of his most trusted couriers met him promptly to give him his winnings.
Estimates of the number of gamblers using his operation ranged from four hundred to more than one thousand. Some of these were “dime players” (high rollers who bet at least $1,000 a game) whose names would have been familiar to many Houstonians—from corporate lawyers to real estate developers to, according to one former Angleton employee, “a guy whose family had a bunch of things around town named for them.”
What made Angleton especially appealing to these men was the bond he had developed with certain vice squad officers. The relationship probably began in 1985, after Angleton was arrested for bookmaking. According to Angleton, a wealthy man who owed him a lot of money and didn’t want to pay called the cops and ratted him out. The charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence, and Angleton was never arrested for bookmaking again. To protect himself, Angleton had agreed to start a second secret life, becoming an informant for Wesley Fielder, the vice squad officer who had originally arrested him. Angleton says that the only work he did for Fielder was to explain various aspects of the bookmaking business. A police spokesman would not comment on the department’s relationship with Angleton except to say he was an “informal informant,” not a paid informant. “I think there was a wink and a nod by the police at Bob because he ran such a clean operation,” says Michael Ramsey. According to others in the business, he didn’t use men known in the trade as muscle or leg breakers—beefy, intimidating collectors hired to recover money from delinquent bettors. If his gamblers didn’t pay, Angleton simply dropped them.
But local bookies say Angleton was so determined to become Houston’s top bookmaker that he set up at least five of them for arrest, including, incredibly, a former partner. (Angleton denies the allegation.) Lawyers who have represented Houston bookies say it became clear in the early nineties that Angleton was giving Fielder other bookies’ private phone numbers, which Fielder would then use to trace calls and compile evidence. To make it appear that he was not a snitch, Angleton reportedly agreed to let Fielder bust one of his own employees. The other bookies remained suspicious—Bob would often call a couple of days after their arrests and offer to take care of their clients until their court cases were adjudicated.
Perhaps—but only perhaps—Angleton’s other life as an informant suggests that he had a far more calculating personality than his most loyal friends might have recognized. When Fielder retired from the police force in 1992, he also went into bookmaking, openly telling other officers that he would never get caught because he knew so much about the business. Less than two years later Fielder was busted. According to Fielder’s attorney, the informant who provided the evidence to convict him was none other than Bob Angleton (Fielder received two years’ probation and deferred adjudication). By then, Angleton had developed a relationship with another officer in the vice squad, Kevin Templeton.
BY THE MID-NINETIES, BOB ANGLETON, his wife, and their daughters struck the portrait of perfect privilege. Bob was making at least $1 million a year from his juice alone, and he and his family had moved to a grand home on Ella Lee, at the edge of River Oaks. (“I think he knew he would look more legitimate to the millionaire bettors if he lived in their neighborhood,” says a longtime acquaintance.) Besides attending Annunciation Orthodox School, the girls took English horseback-riding lessons. Bob and Doris joined a small supper club that included a couple of lawyers and an heir to the Howard Hughes fortune. Angleton also began diversifying, putting some of his earnings into legitimate enterprises. He purchased Roadrunner Couriers, a successful Houston courier service. He bought a golf course west of Houston, a health and tennis club in Doris’ hometown of Lake Jackson, a strip shopping center in north Houston, a beach house in Galveston, and land in Colorado.
Most River Oaks residents, of course, had no idea about the real source of Angleton’s money. Angleton wouldn’t even tell his daughters about his business (although a curious teenage baby-sitter, who had heard rumors about Angleton, spent an evening unsuccessfully trying to pick the lock to the door to his office in the back of the house). Around their closer friends, Bob and Doris weren’t so cautious. While visiting Doris at her Galves-ton beach house, one of those friends asked Doris about Bob’s occupation. When Doris told her, the woman paused and then said, “He makes books? I had no idea he was so literary!”
No one in the Angletons’ circle seemed particularly offended that Bob was breaking the law. A few River Oaks—area residents even went to work for him part-time. “What was he doing that was so different than what the State of Texas does with its own lottery?” one of them asks. “You know, there are a lot of well-known people in this town who bet on football games, and nobody thinks of them as criminals. And nobody thought of Bob as a criminal either.”
By definition, bookmaking is a victimless crime: No one forces gamblers to make bets, and no one gets hurt in the process except the gamblers themselves. But bookmaking is hardly a normal business. A bookmaker can be exposed to any number of threats, and because the police aren’t going to actively intervene on his behalf, he must come up with his own ways to protect himself. Angleton knew other bookies disliked him and wanted to run him out of business. According to one source, an Asian bookmaker threatened Angleton after learning that he had told Officer Templeton and Houston’s FBI what he knew about the rise of bookmaking in Houston’s Asian community.
As it turned out, the most threatening figure of all in Angleton’s life was his own brother. Unlike the meticulous Bob, Roger Angleton, six years older, had a somewhat eccentric personality. He could be whimsical, like the time he showed up one Halloween at the Angletons’ dressed in a bunny suit to entertain Bob’s daughters. But according to Briscoe Swann, an attorney who got to know both Roger and Bob in the eighties, “Roger was the type who liked to act fast and maybe not think things through carefully. He didn’t know always where the lines were drawn, and I don’t think he minded stretching the rules to the limit.” A former employee in Roger’s Re/Max real estate office says Roger regularly changed long-distance services so he wouldn’t have to pay his bills, and he once moved offices in the middle of the night to keep from paying rent. Another man remembers walking with Roger into Rick’s, the famous Houston topless bar, “and within five minutes, Roger had corralled a woman and blatantly propositioned her, offering her money for sex. I think Roger saw himself as a high roller.”
In 1989 Roger, like the rest of Houston, fell on hard times, and Bob agreed to bring him into the bookie business. “I planned to teach him everything,” Bob says. “But he couldn’t do the work. He didn’t have a mind for it.” Roger only worked for Bob from January 1989 to August 1990 before Bob fired him. The two still worked together on a couple of real estate deals, but Roger was far from happy. A Houston lawyer familiar with the situation says Roger believed that Bob, after firing him, should have paid him the equivalent of 15 percent of Bob’s bookmaking business. When Bob refused, Roger decided to get even.
In December 1990 Bob met Roger in a parking lot outside a mortgage company to discuss a real estate closing that Roger was handling for Bob. Bob says that Roger got in his car, aimed a stun gun at him, and demanded the $200,000 in cash he knew Bob was carrying with him for the closing. Bob says he punched Roger and then Roger grabbed a briefcase he mistakenly thought contained the money and jumped out of the car. When he later realized he didn’t get the cash, Roger called Doris and told her that if Bob didn’t pay him, he was going to give the authorities documentation that would get her husband thrown in jail.
Briscoe Swann says that he received a call from Bob after the alleged extortion attempt. “At the time, there is no doubt in my mind that Bob was scared,” Swann says. “He asked me a number of questions about providing security for his family. He was thinking about getting bodyguards and installing a new home security system.” What’s more, after the parking lot incident, Roger began calling some of Bob’s best clients, pretending to be an IRS agent and asking if they could meet to talk about Bob Angleton—a sure-fire method to scare them away. Bob says he had no choice but to pay Roger to save his business.
In return for Roger’s silence, Bob says he agreed to make a $12,000 down payment and then send $2,500 a month from February 1991 until February 1993 to a post office box in San Diego, where Roger had moved. Bob says that he never tried to contact his brother again.
In time, Roger would return to Houston. The question is, Did Roger come on his own or did Bob invite him back to help him kill his wife?
IF DORIS WAS EVER WORRIED ABOUT her safety, she didn’t say anything. She told her friends that Bob didn’t associate with unsavory characters—“He’s too far behind the scenes,” one friend recalls her saying. Doris would always insist that Bob had assured her he would never get arrested for bookmaking.
But as the years passed, her friends couldn’t help but wonder if Doris was still happy being the bookmaker’s wife. “She worked so hard at creating a normal life for her family,” says her close friend Mary Hill. “She volunteered for everything at the school, she threw a back-to-school party every October for the other moms, she decorated her house every holiday, she organized all the Girls’ Nights Out to Carraba’s or Grotto [two popular River Oaks—area restaurants]. Yet all this time, her husband was still a bookie. We all wondered what she really thought about that.”
Despite his move to River Oaks and his association with the society set, Bob barely tempered his coarse, often inconsiderate personality. “I didn’t have the knack of friendship that Doris did,” Angleton admits, “I was to the point, and I didn’t understand friendship. So she was my teacher there, and she had a lot to teach me.”
Many of Doris’ friends thought Bob was beyond help. According to them, he rarely said “please” or “thank you,” and he often snapped at her over minor incidents. One woman recalls that when Doris brought a broken video camera to a school assembly, he barked at her in front of other parents and students. “How stupid can you get?” he shouted. During softball games, he would berate his daughters if they made mistakes, causing other spectators in the stands to wince in embarrassment.
Granted, there were times when he treated Doris and the kids like royalty. One woman remembers seeing a gift box on Doris’ vanity loaded with David Yurman jewelry that Angleton had bought for her. When he took Doris and the kids on a family vacation to Florida and discovered that the water was muddied because of a recent hurricane, he drove them straight back to the airport and ßew them to the Cayman Islands, where the water was clear. He loved spoiling his kids so much that some of the Angletons’ friends in jest nicknamed the girls GAPS—“Greek American Princesses.” “I’m not saying Bob was an easy man to get to know or always an easy man to like,” says Missy Welsh, whose husband, Tex, runs Roadrunner Couriers, Angleton’s courier company. “But he is utterly devoted to those he cares about. If you are his friend, he will do anything for you.”
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1996 Doris told a few close friends that she didn’t know how much longer she could last. The marriage was devoid of passion, she said. She needed more than gifts; she needed intimacy. She had thought she could survive the marriage by focusing her energy on her daughters. But now that they were getting older and no longer needed her constant attention, she felt hopelessly lonely.
Some in her circle, including those in her supper club, were disturbed that Doris would seriously consider divorce. It wasn’t that these friends were oblivious to the feelings of dissatisfaction that can emerge after fifteen years of marriage—as one man in the supper club would later say, “Hell, almost everyone our age thinks about divorce every now and then”—but they wondered if Doris was experiencing the standard mid-life crisis. “Every time Doris told us she was going to leave Bob,” says Julie Hughes, another good friend, “we’d ask her, ‘Why?’ We asked her what she thought she could improve on. She had such security and financial comfort.”
When friends heard that she was spending time in the Over 40 chat room operated by America Online—a place for people to send real-time messages back and forth to one another via computers—they figured she was just looking for a way to pass the time: A wrist injury had caused her to stop playing tennis at the Briar Club. But when they heard she was staying online for hours, they were certain that it was a mid-life crisis. They sent her articles about Internet addiction and told her that only “crazies” went in the chat rooms.
Through her daughters’ computer, however, Doris had finally found a world that Bob couldn’t touch. The people online, she realized, weren’t all crazy; many were just lonely or bored like her. She began to develop relationships with a whole new community of people, including another well-to-do Houston-area woman whose husband is an executive with Exxon. The woman says that Doris became the darling of the Over 40 chat room. Doris chose “Dooritoz” as her screen name, and when others in the chat room asked to see a picture of her, she uploaded a photograph of herself standing at a party next to former first lady Barbara Bush. “She was hilarious, she had quick quips, she knew how to banter online with the guys,” the woman says. “I think the chat room was just a fun place for Doris to harmlessly ßirt and forget her problems.”
Aching for some kind of connection, the emotionally vulnerable Doris began opening up more in the chat room, hinting about her frustration with her marriage. A stockbroker who chatted back seemed to understand exactly what she was talking about. He also was married with two children. An amateur musician, he sent Doris a tape of some folk-pop songs that he had recorded, which she played while driving in her Suburban. Soon they began talking in a private chat room. Then they talked on the phone. It was a nineties romance: Right under her husband’s nose, never setting foot outside her own home, Doris began falling for another man.
By late 1996 she and the man were secretly meeting on weekends—at a spa in Arizona, at the Four Seasons in Austin, even at a hotel in Houston. To keep her husband from suspecting that she was meeting someone else, Doris had a childhood friend go with her on some of the trips to act as a cover. “I think Doris truly fell in love with this new man,” says the woman. “She was just overwhelmed that she could have found the antithesis to Bob—a warm, sensitive, open guy.”
But Doris told none of her other friends that she was having an affair. If Angleton was thinking she had met another man, he told no one. His friends say he seemed focused on saving the marriage. He went to a marriage counselor with Doris, he regularly had ßowers delivered to her, he left long romantic notes under the windshield wipers of her Suburban, he asked her to take a vacation with him at spring break to Italy, and he promised her that he would work harder at being less controlling (which was one of the reasons he willingly let Doris leave for weekend trips).
But, as one friend says, “Doris had already checked out.” She hired attorney Thomas Conner, who handles the breakups of many of Houston’s wealthiest marriages, and in February 1997 she filed for divorce. Although his friends say Angleton was distraught at the idea—at one point he sat crying in his car in the driveway of a friend’s home—he decided not to fight Doris. The two agreed that they wouldn’t tell the twins until after the spring semester of school. At that point, Angleton would move out and get a townhouse close by so he could see the girls. The couple’s marriage counselor says that she never sensed Doris was fearful of her husband and that she never saw Bob display any anger toward her. Angleton quickly agreed to Doris’ request to split the money in his safe-deposit boxes, located at six Houston banks. (Sources familiar with Angleton’s business say he probably had half a dozen more safe-deposit boxes that Doris never knew about.) There was $3 million in the boxes, and Doris got half.
She was ready to start her new life. She met a friend for a glass of wine and finally confessed about the new boyfriend, who she said was also preparing to leave his wife. Doris said that when the girls headed to Camp Longhorn for the summer, she was going to travel to the Northeast to visit him. She was so excited she even began talking about marriage.
When the friend asked if Bob knew anything, Doris replied, “He knows nothing.”
AS IF TO PROVE THAT HE WAS WILLING to let bygones be bygones—or perhaps to make one more attempt to win her back—Angleton threw a forty-sixth birthday party for Doris on April 11 at Ruggles, the restaurant where he and Doris had had their first date seventeen years before. Twelve close friends came, and the dinner was an uproarious affair, with everyone laughing loudly and drinking a little too much. Bob sat at one end of the table and Doris at the other, but one guest says, “They seemed so compatible together that I thought that the divorce might be getting postponed.”
Five days later, on April 16, Doris dropped off her daughters at the softball game and didn’t come back. According to the statement that he later gave the police, Bob started looking for Doris in the stands around eight. While standing by the dugout, he pulled out his mobile phone and called her mobile phone, then called the house, then paged her three or four times. He got no response. At the end of the game he and the girls drove home; Doris’ car was parked by the front door. He pulled toward the side carport, where he normally parked, and saw that the door leading into the kitchen was open. He called 911.
Bob said in his statement to the police that the 911 operator told him not to go inside. The police arrived a few minutes later, went inside the house, and found Doris’ body near the back door. “My legs buckled and then I started crying,” Angleton said in his statement. “The officer then told me not to do this in front of my children. He kept holding me up. I then went somewhere around the circular drive and started rolling in the grass.”
THE OUTPOURING OF GRIEF FOR DORIS was astonishing. The funeral at St. Luke’s Methodist Church was standing room only. At least four hundred people showed up, from Doris’ childhood friends to the River Oaks crowd. Members of the Houston Astros who used to smile at her and the kids while they stood in the on-deck circle signed a bat and gave it to the girls. The Over 40 chat room was filled with eulogies. Her new boyfriend exchanged a few sad messages with people, and then he logged off and hasn’t been seen on America Online since. (The Houston police have reportedly interviewed him.)
Haunted by the killing, a group of Doris’ female friends, who would come to be known as the River Oaks Nancy Drews, began meeting almost weekly for dinner to discuss what happened. Most of their questions revolved around Bob. If he was really worried about Doris, wouldn’t he have rushed into the house when he saw the open door? Or was it more logical for him to be cautious since he had the girls with him? Was it possible he told Doris about the softball bat as a way to make sure she went back to the house that night? If so, then why did Bob voluntarily tell the police about the softball bat in the first place? Wouldn’t that story have been something he would have wanted to hide?
The rumors got so thick that Angleton took the extraordinary step of having a letter passed out to parents at one of the girls’ softball games. “Doris and I were living together in a friendly and loving relationship that always kept our children’s best interests foremost in our minds… . I still love my wife very deeply and I am grieving more than anyone can imagine.”
What he didn’t mention was that he had already told the police whom he suspected was the killer: his brother, Roger. Not only did Bob tell homicide detectives the story about Roger’s 1990 extortion attempt but he also told them that, after several years of silence, Roger had suddenly contacted him again in January of this year and asked for a meeting. They met the next month at a Houston Denny’s and frisked each other to make sure neither was carrying a weapon. According to Bob, Roger said that he still had documentation about Bob’s bookmaking business and that he wanted $200,000 in hush money. Bob told the police that he got up and left, but that Roger later sent him a letter demanding the money. The letter said, “If I don’t hear from you agreeing to the 200K, I am coming there and will make you pay dearly… . I will hurt you in a way that will be with you for the rest of your life.” The letter, Bob insists, came six weeks before Doris’ murder.
Angleton turned the letter over to the police, and through credit card receipts detectives discovered that Roger had been in Houston at the time of the killing. But detectives had to wonder about the timing of Roger’s alleged threat. Why had Roger waited until this moment to again demand money from Bob? Was he really so angry at his younger brother that he would brutally murder Doris out of spite? Had Roger even written that letter?
The problem was that they couldn’t find Roger—until late July, when the cops got the kind of lucky break that seems to happen only in bad detective novels. Roger had been arrested in Las Vegas after the police there discovered he was wanted in San Diego on a criminal charge involving the theft of prescription drugs. Houston detectives obtained a search warrant to look at the contents of a briefcase Roger had with him in Las Vegas. Inside they found $64,242 in cash and several paper money wrappers, one of which, they later learned, had Bob Angleton’s fingerprint on it. The police found several notes, including one typewritten page that detailed the gate code, the alarm code, and other information about the Angleton house. The notes seemed to lay out how exactly a murder should be committed: “Let dog out. Wait in kitchen. Subject comes home, hit immediately if with either girl, leave via back entrance … Leave gate open or leave sign in front of house that is done.”
The police also found a microcassette tape recording, on which two men discuss how to disarm an alarm system. The men refer to the same numerical code that is used to disarm the Angleton home. They discuss various hypothetical situations in which a woman, who is at one point referred to by one of the men as “Doris,” comes to the house. Finally, they discuss ways to kill “her.” The first gunshot, one voice says, “has to be on the money. See what I mean?”
It is a chilling conversation, and the homicide detectives say that the two men on the tape are Bob and Roger Angleton. The police theorize that Bob hired Roger to do the killing—according to the typed notes, the hit man was to be paid nearly $1 million—and that afterward, unbeknownst to Roger, Bob went to the cops and pointed the finger at Roger to divert suspicion from himself. It appeared to them that Bob had devised a shrewd murder plot: He was getting rid of Doris and Roger at the same time. The only thing he didn’t count on was that Roger—perhaps as a way to ensure that he got his million-dollar payday—would secretly tape one of their conversations. If the police were to be believed, the secret lives of Bob, Roger, and Doris had finally, and brutally, collided. Bob and Roger were arrested in early August on charges of capital murder. They could receive the death penalty if convicted.
THE STORY, OF COURSE, IS FAR FROM OVER. At Bob’s upcoming trial, two distinguished River Oaks couples—Missy and Tex Welsh and Tommy and Julie Hughes—plan to testify that Bob’s lawyers allowed them to listen to the audiotape for several hours and that they do not believe Bob’s voice is on it. “Parts of the tape sound like Bob,” Tommy Hughes says. “But other parts of the tape, when Bob is supposed to be talking, are definitely not him. I am absolutely positive it’s not Bob.”
Bob’s attorneys, Michael Ramsey and George Tyson (Tyson was a former supper club member), will not reveal their trial strategy. But they will certainly try to get the tape thrown out as evidence, either claiming that an improper search warrant was used to obtain it or that there is no conclusive way of authenticating who is speaking on it. If that fails, they must convince the jury that it is Roger who is the evil brother, not Bob. They might suggest that Roger invented those typed notes and doctored an audiotape after Doris’ killing so that he could blackmail Bob for more money. (If so, they are faced with the far more difficult task of explaining why Roger was willing to put his own voice on the tape and implicate himself in murder.) They could also bring out an array of other suspects, asserting that the murder was committed by Asian American bookies or even by a random house burglar Doris accidentally encountered. (After the murder, the police found the safe in Bob’s office open, and according to Bob’s statement, $10,000 to $12,000 was missing.) Courthouse wags say the trial, scheduled for March, could be as dramatic as Houston’s other infamous case involving the River Oaks rich: the 1971 trial of Dr. John Hill for the murder of his socialite wife, a story chronicled in the best-seller Blood and Money.
One of the biggest issues in Angleton’s trial will be motive—a subject that still bafßes everyone involved in the investigation. According to one theory, Angleton was anxious that Doris, once divorced, might reveal the size of his bookmaking operation, perhaps leading to an IRS investigation and a stint in prison if the IRS discovered the extent of his unreported income. Or maybe Angleton did indeed find out about the affair and angrily plot Doris’ murder. He might have believed that because he had operated for so long outside the law, easily avoiding police investigation, he would be able to get away with the murder.
But in a visiting room at the county jail in downtown Houston, where he is being held without bond (Roger is also being held without bond in Las Vegas), Angleton leans forward in his plastic chair and tells me, “Doris stood for everything that was good, okay? She had a knack for dealing with kids, for dealing with people—for being friends with all of them.” Tears fill his eyes. “Everyone who knows me knows I loved Doris. Why would they think I would want to hurt her?”
Angleton insists that he never knew about Doris’ affair until the police asked him about it after her death. “And if Bob had ever accused Doris of an affair, I am certain Doris would have told me,” says a woman who spoke to Doris almost daily in the last months of her life. But the woman also says that Doris had mentioned this spring that she thought she was being followed and that Bob was keeping tabs on her whereabouts. The week of Doris’ death, the woman says, when Doris put on a designer dress and told Bob she was going to pick up her mother for dinner, Bob called her mother just to make sure Doris was headed there. “Doris had always been his prize, his trophy,” says another friend. “It was her social skills that made him far more accepted among the River Oaks crowd. And with her walking away from him, I wonder if he decided to …” She pauses, tries to compose herself, and then says, “Maybe it was one of those things where he loved her too much—where if he couldn’t have her, then he was going to make sure no one else did.”
At this point, no one can say for sure if Angleton is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and no one knows for certain what Roger was doing with those notes and the audiotape. His face close to the bulletproof glass that separates the two of us, Bob looks me straight in the eye and tells me that he believes he would have been able to save the marriage if Doris had not been shot. He says they were communicating much better, and their therapy with a marriage counselor was working. He tells me that he was so in love with her that he would have thrown her an even bigger forty-sixth birthday party that night at Ruggles if she would have let him. (According to a friend, Angleton wanted to book Dwight Yoakam, at a cost of $300,000, to make a surprise appearance at the restaurant.) “I was not reconciled to the idea of divorce,” he says, ßashing me a steely look.
Angleton is about to say something else, but tears fill his eyes again and he puts his hands to his face. To me, it looks almost as if he is embarrassed that he is crying. To someone else, it might look as if he is trying to hide another secret.