Who Killed Beverly Jean Hope?

A murder can remain unsolved because of no motive, suspects or witnesses. In the Hope case, it was all of that and more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We wish to thank Mr. Grover Hope and Mr. Charles Dhority, Criminal Investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, for their cooperation and assistance in preparing this report.

Beverly Jean Hope had been up for nearly an hour when a neighbor’s Cadillac crackled up the driveway to pick up her three children for school. Carpooling was a fact of life for the Hopes because of the isolation and privacy of their buff-colored brick home at 14755 Noel Road in Far North Dallas. It wasn’t anything palatial, but the home, 125 yards off the main road, was comfortable and definitely private.

At 10 minutes to eight, on October 28, 1970, Grover Hope kissed his wife goodbye and began the five-minute drive to his Addison contracting business. Jean Hope spent the next two hours straightening up the kitchen and performing other household chores before dressing for a luncheon date with her neighbor and best friend.

Mrs. Hope and the neighbor had been good friends for years, but now they seemed even closer. Fourteen months earlier, her friend had been the victim of an attempted rape. A man had entered the house, tied her to a chair and poured gasoline on her body. While her attacker looked for a match, the victim jumped out a window. “Jean had probably been the only one to hear the whole story,” a neighbor said.

Jean took a bath. She had decided to wear a casual outfit, a light plaid skirt in green and yellow (her favorite decorating colors) and a light green blouse with a blue choker necklace. She wore little make-up. At 36, she didn’t need it to look stunning. Her brown hair and eyes and trim figure gave her the appearance of a much younger woman. This morning, she elected to wear a short brown wig. Her natural good looks were enhanced by her constant cheerfulness, “Every day, she seemed fresher and fresher,” a longtime friend said. After 17 years of marriage, Grover and Jean Hope seemed to be a picture perfect couple.

The couple had met in their hometown of Oklahoma City at a church function. They married a short time after Jean graduated from high school, then moved to Texas. Eventually Grover had scraped together enough money to start his own business, which was now doing very well.

So well, in fact, that he was going to move Jean into her dream house soon. Located near Preston Road and Royal Lane, the home was being custom built with high ceilings and the finest furnishings. One of the bathrooms of the home, designed by Jean, was almost entirely enclosed by glass and required curtains to cover a view of the inside. The Hopes were not only selling the old house, but also a few prime acres of land they invested in. They were well on their way to the upper middle-class.

The only grief in the couple’s life had been Jean’s losing two children. It had taken time, but she was over that now. Her youngest child was now 10, and like the other two youngsters, very mature and sensible.

Her luncheon partner today was her best friend, but by no means her only close acquaintance. Jean had developed a string of good friendships through the Park Cities Baptist Church, the carpools and occasional trips to City Hall to fight zoning battles. While she remained a person fond of privacy, she and Grover did their share of socializing too.

At about 10:15 Jean’s twin sister called to chat for a few minutes. They talked only briefly, as Jean seemed in a rush. Within the same hour, two workmen approached the Hope house from their worksite a few hundred yards away to fetch water for their jug. They had done this before. (So many times, in fact, that Jean was becoming irritated by their visits.)

“Mr. Hope noticed his son’s bedroom door shut tight. Intuition sent a chill down his spine.”

The workers brought their water jug to the rear of the home and knocked on the door. No answer. The only sign of life near the home was the family dog, a basset hound, which sat at the end of its chain in the yard staring at the house and whining.

About the same time, Mrs. Hope’s luncheon partner called her. She, too, received no answer. It was totally unlike Jean to be late like this, she thought. She waited nervously. Finally, some time after 11:30, she called Grover Hope at work. Hope, sensing the worry in the voice of his wife’s friend, rushed home.

As he drove up, he spotted Jean’s car sitting in the garage. He entered the house through the front door and called out for Jean. No reply. He spotted a lone piece of firewood leaning against the living room fireplace. His large hand wrapped easily around the log, as he walked stealthily toward the master bedroom.

When he entered the room and looked toward the bed, he heaved a sigh of relief. On the bed were two purses. He knew it was his wife’s habit to leave one purse out and open after transferring needed items to another handbag.

He dropped the log and turned to leave the room. Across the hallway he noticed his son’s bedroom door shut tight. Intuition sent a chill down his spine.

Grover Hope discovered his wife’s body in a pool of blood near the closet in the bedroom. She had been beaten beyond recognition. He went to the kitchen phone and first called his office, then, at 12:02, the police.

Homicide and Crime Scene Search units arrived quickly at the scene, while he walked to a neighbor’s. Police found undergarments and shoes strewn near the bedroom door. Splotches of blood were discovered near the door too, as well as in the area of an aquarium and a telephone toward the rear of the room. The telephone was yanked from the wall, and the receiver was off the hook. Two bloody footprints, one about 11-and-a-half inches long, the other smaller, were found.

Police quickly ascertained that the murder weapon was the same fire log Grover Hope had picked up for self defense when he entered his home. Just as rapidly, they determined there would be no way of lifting fingerprints from the rough surface of the log, and that was only an omen of the nature of the case on which they were about to embark. For the daylight murder of Beverly Jean Hope was destined to become an uncomfortable statistic that assumes greater proportions as the crime rate grows. It was destined to become one of those crimes police don’t like to think about, one of those crimes you’ve never seen Columbo or Kojak encounter: an unsolved murder.

A murder can remain unsolved for many reasons: no motive, no immediately identifiable suspects, no murder weapon, no witnesses. In the Hope case, it was all of that and more. (Police had the weapon, but because it could produce no prints it was virtually useless.) And with each hour that ticked away, while investigators tried futilely to put their fingers on something, anything, that would crack the case, the odds of the killer ever coming to justice diminished geometrically.

Because the bedroom where the body was found was the only part of the house in disarray, investigators at the scene presumed nothing had been taken by Mrs. Hope’s assailant. They asked Mr. Hope to check a few valuables, just to be sure. He searched one drawer and found some expensive items untouched. In the third drawer from the top, he found a blue jewelry box intact. Mrs. Hope’s billfold was missing, but investigators were sure it would turn up.

The medical examiner’s report was not much more help. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office quickly concluded that Mrs. Hope had not been raped. However, detectives did not rule out a sexual assault. “You can easily have a sexual assault without a rape,” said one investigator. Matters became further confused when the report was resubmitted to the state medical examining facilities. Though both offices gave evidence that Mrs. Hope struggled greatly with her attacker — all her hands and fingers were fractured — the state test did not rule out rape.

Doctors familiar with the findings and methods used by both examining offices are still not unanimous on the question of rape. The reports did give evidence that the skin found under Mrs. Hope’s nails was probably her own. Thus, police could not even conclude her attacker was a Caucasian.

A few days later, following Mrs. Hope’s funeral at Restland, police got their first break. Mourning friends had attended the funeral, stopping to stare at a Gittings portrait of Jean which sat over the guest book. After the services, Mr. Hope went to collect his wife’s property from the funeral home. Sifting through the various valuables, he noticed his wife’s wedding ring was missing. Further checking revealed other jewelry and some cameras were gone. Police quickly persuaded the press not to publish stories about the missing items. They might be short on suspects, but at least they now had a possible motive for the brutal, daylight murder. While pursuing what few leads they had, they could only hope the burglar would try to pawn the goods.

The case was handed to the two crackerjack detectives in homicide, Chuck Dhority and Gus Rose. The two had little in common. Dhority, now an investigator for the DA’s office, was of the old Will Fritz school. “Fritz used to tell us to keep turning those screws tighter until you ran out of room,” says one veteran detective. “There was no more efficient homicide detective than Charlie Dhority,” says another. “He may spit tobacco juice at you and throw cigar smoke in your face, but by God, Dhority took these murders personal.”

Joining the spunky, almost crass veteran was Gus Rose, a tall, handsome, suave type. When a lieutenant calls for a “good cop, bad cop” routine, Rose is a favorite to play the part of the soft and understanding interrogator. Rose is also known as a relentless and thorough detective. “Gus Rose is the best in the world, and I mean that,” says his boss, Homicide Captain Jack Davis.

The Hope case was certainly a match for their talents. Burglary had emerged as a motive, but was there one assailant or two? Was it the work of a professional burglar, a sex criminal or a dope addict? Could it have been a grudge killing, possibly by an estranged lover? What about the workmen in the area?

Dhority headed the investigation, moving in all directions at once. Rose and other detectives during the first week of the investigation interviewed friends, workmen and informants. Files were checked and rechecked to find a similar method of operation. Known burglars and sex criminals were rounded up and questioned about their whereabouts that morning.

Nothing. But if investigators weren’t moving any closer to figuring out what kind of person might have committed this crime, they were whittling away at who couldn’t have done it. The two-assailant theory was rejected early, despite the two different footprints, because as one detective said, “Do you think one burglar is going to just stand there and watch the other guy do that to the poor woman, while he’s in a hurry to get out of the house anyway?”

The grudge killing theory was pursued. Police searched and searched for possible extramarital conflict. Dhority went as far as interviewing Mrs. Hope’s hairdresser. “She was just as clean as you can get,” said one close to the case. “She had no boyfriends, she loved her husband and lived for him and her kids.”

Unable to count anything out, investigators then checked out Mr. Hope himself. After all, he had worked only five minutes from his home, had failed to notice blood on the firewood he picked up, and police were convinced one of the two footprints was his. (Mr. Hope disagrees.) “Believe me,” said one authority, “we checked out the old man good. Every second of that morning was accounted for.”

In fact, at least two persons were with Mr. Hope all that morning, “and when we checked with those clients of his, they couldn’t understand why we wanted to know where he was,” a detective recalled.

Passing thought was given to the possibility of a hired killer. “But what hired killer is going to use a stick of firewood like that?” said one investigator.

So one week after the crime, detectives were already battling what they are still fighting today. “In that Hope case, you’ve never been able to put down a good, solid motive,” says Homicide Captain Jack Davis. “A motive is what it takes to crack a good murder case.”

If Dhority and Rose were known for their relentlessness in pursuit of a murderer, they soon had company in Grover Hope. “He either called or came down here every day for at least the first year after his wife was killed,” said one officer. “He pursued this murder case the same way he pursued his business—full speed ahead and at only one speed,” said a friend. Even though Hope married a young and pretty school teacher within the year, one authority flatly states, “Grover Hope goes to bed at night with that murder and wakes up hoping there’s news of a solution that morning.”

Mr. Hope wasted no time in putting up a reward for information or property involved in the murder. Police pleaded with him not to raise the reward too high. Eventually, he offered a total of $25,000 for information that could lead to conviction. And even though police still worry about a flood of crank calls, Hope says, “I still wish I had offered several times that amount.”

Hope ran reward ads in suburban and city newspapers, and even ran a list of the missing property in Spanish. He soon hired a private eye and pursued leads all over the country. Two neuropsychiatrists were contracted by Hope to draw a personality sketch of the wanted man.

Meanwhile, detectives worked their own avenues. They first reconstructed the crime. They knew from friends that Mrs. Hope was good about keeping the front door locked, especially after the rape attack on her neighbor. The question was moot anyway, since Mr. Hope could not recall if he used a key or not to enter the house that day. They also knew either the doorbell didn’t work, or it was difficult to hear in certain parts of the house. Most importantly, according to Mr. Hope, Jean did not always keep the sliding glass door in the back locked.

The only reasonable deduction, then, was that the intruder rang the front doorbell, received no reply, circled the house, then entered through the unlocked sliding door in the back, thinking no one was home. The only catch was, what kind of burglar would enter a home on that basis with a car clearly in view in the garage?

“If the first blow to Mrs. Hope was a mystery, the next 29 were totally inexplicable.”

Once inside the house, police further theorized, the assailant probably forced Mrs. Hope to direct him to the valuables, a theory based on the fact that a number of items of sentimental value in obvious spots were untouched.

Dhority and Rose could only speculate on why Mrs. Hope was struck the first time. It was possible that the assailant struck her simply to knock her unconscious to make his getaway. Or, the assailant might have heard the workmen knocking at the back door, panicked, and clubbed her. Or, since the phone in the bedroom was ripped out of the wall and blood was found in the area of the phone, the assailant might have struck her when the phone rang and she made a move for it. If the first blow was something of a mystery, the next 29 or so were totally inexplicable.

It was evident that Mrs. Hope had struggled fiercely to ward off the early blows with her forearms and hands. From all indications, police could only conclude that when Mrs. Hope fell to the floor the murderer simply stood over her hitting at her skull. From the bloody footprints they knew the assailant left through the back sliding door.

Whether the attacker left the scene on foot or in an automobile was unclear. Dhority and Rose soon discovered from extensive interviews with workers in the area that a white ’61 Chevy had been parked near a temporary gate back of Noel Road, a short distance from the Hope house. It was highly probable that this was the getaway vehicle.

“Detectives checked 100 or more suspects and spent three years of man-hours and still have little.”

For the next few weeks, detectives pursued every lead they could get their hands on. Since the home was near major thoroughfares, transients were tracked and checked. The milkman, who left early that particular day, was under suspicion for a while. One detective fished back into the murder of a prominent physician’s wife 25 years earlier in the same area. A number of professional burglaries that had occurred near the Hopes over the past few years were followed up, but the senseless brutality of the murder always nipped most of these pursuits in the bud. The home had been burglarized, but by a burglar vastly different from the run-of-the-mill North Dallas thief.

Only a month or so after the crime, Rose got on the trail of one of the men who later shot four sheriff’s deputies in February 1971. The man had committed several burglaries in the North Dallas area, and, not long before the Hope murder, had been chased by police after pulling a job and attempting to escape in a taxi.

Rose soon discovered, though, that the suspect could not have been near the Hope home during the hour they had pinpointed as the time of death. Two more leads were followed. From the Drug Abuse Division came word that a known junkie had been in the area at the time. Within a week he was cleared. Then a man who lived in a condemned house about a mile from the Hope home was tailed. He was eventually caught shoplifting at a Target store and questioned. “That guy was an idiot mental case,” said one official. “The house was too clean for his style; he had no fence, no burglary history.”

A few frustrating months after the murder, Dhority developed a major break in the case. That mysterious white Chevy the workmen had told him about suddenly was taking on more importance. He began tracing the trail of a white Chevy used in another North Dallas burglary. The plates on that car had been stolen. An informant told Dhority that “old Bo” stole the plates. Dhority knew old Bo well, as did every cop who’d tried to lay his hands on the slippery professional burglar. Bo had lived his entire life on what he could steal. And despite an arrest record as long as his arm, he was at-large again, having outwitted yet another law enforcement agency. That was nothing new: Bo had escaped from at least three jails in his career and once had even outsmarted the Texas Rangers.

The cleanliness of the burglary on the Hope house definitely made Bo a possibility; spotless jobs were one of his trademarks. Now all Dhority had to do was find the crafty criminal.

He finally pinned down Bo’s latest hideout; predictably, Bo himself was nowhere to be found. Armed with a search warrant, Dhority found antiques and other items strewn around the hideout. That meant Bo was definitely back at work, further solidifying the possibility that he pulled the Hope job.

Dhority launched a full-scale hunt. As was normally the case with the elusive Bo, he surfaced himself rather than being tracked down and nabbed. Bo surfaced when he was arrested in Longview for burglarizing the DA’s office, of all places. After a quick escape and reapprehension, Dhority was finally able to get to him for questioning.

“We got you on a real bad burglary in North Dallas,” Dhority said to Bo.

Without blinking, Bo returned, “I didn’t kill that woman.”

Dhority was now more interested than ever. He continued to press, and Bo eventually gave the name of a man he claimed committed the murder. Dhority followed Bo’s tip straight into a dead end: the “suspect” mentioned by Bo had been at least 100 miles from Dallas the day of the murder. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Bo had taken the opportunity to disappear.

After yet another burglary and escape, Dhority again got his hands on Bo, this time long enough to give him three polygraph examinations regarding the Hope case. The first two tests were inconclusive. While Dhority prepared for the third examination, Bo, locked in an interrogation room with another suspect, tried unsuccessfully to pick the lock on the door with a piece of spring from under a chair.

Certain they now had an index for measuring whether Bo was lying on the previous tests, investigators commenced the third examination by asking Bo point-blank, “Did you just try to escape from that interrogation room?”

Bo answered deadpan, “No.”

The needle on the lie box did not waver. “Of course, that guy’s a pathological liar,” said Captain Davis. Said another investigator, “That man can beat a polygraph hands down.” Unable to pin anything substantial on Bo, Dhority turned quickly to another hot prospect.

In questioning the neighbor who was to lunch with Mrs. Hope the day she was murdered, Dhority had learned that the assailant who had attempted to rape the neighbor had a particularly violent companion, a junkie “with a record as thick as a telephone book.”

The junkie went by the name of Lenny. Dhority could only hope it wasn’t too long after the crime to pin him.

Like Bo, investigators had little solid on Lenny, but unlike the other suspect, Lenny would not get on the lie box. Furthermore, he had a passable alibi; he said he was first at a methadone center, then at his sister’s that morning, which checked. A search of his house and his sister’s turned up none of the property taken from the Hope home. Finally, the neatness of the Hope job simply did not jibe with the ransacking M.O. of a junkie like Lenny.

Dhority and company then focused on yet another lead that had turned up. It was possible that the Hope murder could be linked to another North Dallas burglar, who had once chased a housewife into the street after she surprised him. This incident had occurred within a two-mile radius of the Hope home and only two weeks after the Hope killing. Moreover, Dhority found the burglar had a habit of closing doors to rooms (the door was closed to the room where Mrs. Hope was discovered). Investigators quickly began pursuit of the burglar. However, as more information on the new suspect came in, it became clear that the rest of his M.O. didn’t fit the crime. Dhority went ahead and released a sketch of the burglar to area patrolmen, but the lead petered out. Detectives had nothing else to go on.

By the end of the first year of investigation, detectives were running out of leads. They continued to check possible suspects, whose total number finally ran over 100. Captain Davis reports that three years of detective man-hours have been poured into the case.

Detectives still disagree about the prime suspects. “I think the murderer is in the penitentiary,” says Dhority. He still believes Bo is a good suspect, though another detective says, “You’ve seen pictures of the body. That murder was no accident. It was committed by a maniac. Maybe he or she is a covert maniac. I mean maybe they only murdered this once. Or maybe it was a burglar with a violent nature. It wasn’t Bo.”

But Dhority says, “The Hope house was clean and that’s a trademark of Bo’s. Hell, he’s burglarized homes where people couldn’t even tell they’d been hit for a week. Also, the property taken was similar to the stuff Bo had been taking.”

At least one detective says Lenny could have been charged with the murder had police found out earlier about his alleged proximity to the Hope home that day. “By the time we got to him, he’d covered his tracks.”

Unsolved murders are to law enforcement what malpractice suits are to the medical profession: facts of life which are increasingly harder to cope with. Since 1968 the number of murders cleared (by arrest and/or conviction) in the United States has decreased from 86 per 100 offenses to 79 per 100 offenses in 1973. In Dallas during 1973 and 1974 a total of 48 murders went uncleared, representing 20% of the total murders committed in those years.

It can be sobering to realize that the long arm of the law is not infinite in its reach. The law of averages, if nothing else, dictates that some criminals, some of the time, will go scot-free. It is too often forgotten that sheer luck, or lack of it, plays as much a part in law enforcement as fingerprints and M.O.’s.

Homicide investigation is mostly a matter of manpower — and the speed with which that manpower can ferret out leads and follow them. The figures on Dallas homicide investigation reveal some interesting comparisons. The Dallas homicide squad currently carries 11 full-time investigators, who are faced with approximately 200 murders a year. Houston, which must cope with an average of 30% more murders a year, has over four times the number of homicide investigators, 51. Baltimore, which runs even with Houston in total murders, has a full-time staff of 30, three times the Dallas force. Indeed, in a check with metropolitan police forces around the country, Denver was the only city with a homicide squad as small as Dallas, and that force had fewer than 50% of the murders Dallas has to deal with.

It can be argued that quantities of policemen never make a difference; it all depends on quality. But a well-staffed homicide force does allow a department such as Houston’s to move forcefully and quickly in response to a crime. Lt. Brock Porter of the Houston Police Department reports that for a major homicide he has the flexibility to pour in “a half dozen pair of detectives if they are needed.” Los Angeles police report that they have in one instance assigned as many as fifty investigators to a murder case. Although the clearance rate in Houston and Los Angeles remains consistent with the national average — and with Dallas — it is possible that a well-staffed homicide squad could flood a bewildering case such as the Hope murder and develop leads before it’s too late.

With the number of murders committed in the United States up 42% in the period between 1968 and 1973, it is clear that cities such as Dallas must give increased attention to halting the trend.

 

 

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