Grover Hope was sitting at home on an unremarkable Sunday afternoon when the phone rang. For decades, Grover was a successful businessman, a title partner in a busy construction firm in North Dallas. His career was built on trust and good decisions. He was active in his Baptist church, raised four children, and built a lifetime of powerful clients and friends. He’s 87 now, long retired and living with his second wife on a tree-lined street between Bent Tree Country Club and the ultra-exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club. His voice is deep, ruminative, and he’s sparing with words. He’s polite but deliberate. He didn’t recognize the number that Sunday, so he didn’t answer the call. The caller left a message, though.
“If this is the Grover Hope who was married to Jean Hope, please call me,” the woman in the message said.
Grover didn’t recognize the voice. But he’d been married to Jean Hope for nearly 17 years—until she was murdered one morning in 1970. The crime drew a lot of local attention when it happened, and for years afterward. Jean was a beautiful, popular young mother of three, the murder was particularly brutal, and the police never made an arrest. Grover had helped detectives investigate, showing up at the station regularly to ask about progress, offering reward money, taking out ads, hiring a psychiatrist to draw a personality sketch of the killer.
When he heard the message that afternoon, he immediately picked up the phone and called the number back. The woman briefly introduced herself, then said this: “Mr. Hope, I know who murdered your wife.”
Angela Hans wanted the world to know something. For years, she was a successful businesswoman, overseeing teams of engineers and controlling large budgets in the oil and gas industry. Her career was built on cunning and ingenuity. She was married twice, had a daughter, and traveled the world. She’s in her 70s now, living in a two-story house on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, not far from where she grew up. She has a timid, sweet voice, but she has strong convictions. She doesn’t like taking photos or being photographed. Because she’s in a wheelchair, she hasn’t seen the second story of her house in more than three years.
She was the youngest of four, with three older brothers, and she keeps meticulous records of certain parts of her life. She has suffered through grievous injuries and surgeries and a catastrophic infection that nearly killed her—but led to a large civil settlement that set her up financially for the rest of her life. She has also lived with a dark secret.
It’s something she’s thought about every day for more than 30 years, something that’s nagged at her. There were times she lay awake all night, wondering. There were times when she’d stay on her computer for what felt like days, clicking through the deep recesses of Google, searching for crumbs of information about people who left her life long ago. Though they both had roots in Oklahoma City—and had actually been related by marriage at one point—Angela had never met Grover before calling him that Sunday last summer. But she wanted to share her secret with him.
Jean and Grover met at a church function in their hometown of Oklahoma City. Not long after she graduated from high school, they got married and moved to Texas. Grover pulled together the money to start a general contracting business that did well.
On October 28, 1970, Jean was supposed to have lunch with a friend at Neiman Marcus. But she didn’t show up, which was not like Jean at all. Her friend called, but there was no answer. Growing concerned, her friend called Grover at work and asked if he had heard from her. Grover drove home—five minutes from his office in Addison—and saw his wife’s car in the garage.
He has told the story over and over. He says his memory isn’t as good these days, but the story he tells now matches perfectly with all the old articles about the crime. Grover normally went in through the garage and into the kitchen, but both garage doors were down. He went in through the front door. He doesn’t remember if it was locked, which is what he told police that day. When he opened the door, he called out his wife’s name. He didn’t get a response, and he got worried and picked up a piece of firewood—2 or 3 inches in diameter—that was leaning against the fireplace.
“If there was somebody in there, I wanted to have something,” he says.
He looked into the master bedroom and saw two of Jean’s purses emptied out on the bed, something she did regularly when she switched bags. He felt a sense of relief—until he turned the other direction and saw the door to their son’s room closed. “That door was always open,” he says.
When he opened the door, he found Jean. She was on the floor, with her dress pulled up around her waist and her head bashed in. Both hands and all of her fingers were broken, and there was blood and splattered tissue in every direction, from the aquarium to the unplugged phone on the other side of the room. The medical examiner would later say Jean had been struck by a blunt object approximately 30 times.
“You didn’t have to wonder if she was dead or not,” Grover says. “She was definitely dead.”
Grover put down the log, walked into the kitchen, and called his office. He told his partner what happened and asked him to come to the house. Then he called the police.
The two detectives assigned to the case were Charles Dhority and Gus T. Rose. Both had been around long enough to be involved with the JFK investigation. Dhority, already a detective by 1963, rode with Lee Harvey Oswald to Parkland Hospital after he was shot by Jack Ruby. He listened to Oswald groan and gasp on the way to the hospital. Rose was one of the only officers to interrogate Oswald, and one of the first police officers to interview Oswald’s wife, Marina.
Dhority was called “crass” and “spunky” but also “efficient,” and other officers told stories of him spitting tobacco juice at people. Rose was taller, quieter, more contemplative. “Gus Rose is the best in the world, and I mean that,” Jack Davis, a homicide captain, told the press at the time.
Investigators quickly determined that Jean was killed with the log Grover had picked up when he walked in the house. Grover says he didn’t see the blood on it: “It was dark, heavy bark,” he says. The surface was too rough to get fingerprints, and there was no DNA testing at the time. They brought out a sketch artist that day and tried to talk to as many people in the neighborhood as possible.
[pull_quote id=”1″]Inside the house, police found what looked like two sets of footprints but presumed one set was Grover’s. The husband said he didn’t think anything was missing, and there were no signs of forced entry. Dallas County examiners said Jean hadn’t been raped, but state examiners wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
“That murder was no accident,” a detective told reporters at the time. “It was committed by a maniac.”
Jean’s twin sister, June, had called around 10:15 am that day, but they didn’t talk long. June told the police that her sister seemed like she was in a rush. There was a construction site a few hundred yards behind the house, and within the same hour, construction workers knocked on the back door, looking for water. Their only answer, though, was the family dog, a basset hound, barking at the end of his chain in the yard. The construction workers did notice a white Chevy parked on the street but said they didn’t hear anything from the house that day. Around 11 am, her luncheon partner called, but nobody picked up. The friend called Grover at work about half an hour later, and Grover called the police at 12:02 pm.
Despite the fact that the husband touched the murder weapon and called his office before calling the police on the day of the murder, detectives cleared Grover pretty quickly. “We checked out the old man good,” an officer was quoted at the time. “Every second of that morning was accounted for.” Grover left for work before the kids went off to school, and his business partners and clients accounted for his entire day up until he got the call about Jean missing lunch.
Grover, then in his early 40s, was one of 11 children in his family, so he always planned on having a lot of kids. They’d had two children die as infants—one before the other three children, and one after—and Jean told Grover that she didn’t want to try for any more. Still, Jean and Grover seemed like such a happy couple. Which meant police also ruled out any possibility of an extramarital affair.
There had been another attack in the neighborhood a year earlier. The woman Jean was supposed to meet for lunch that day had reported that a man had broken in, forced her to show him the most expensive items in the house, raped her, tied her up, and poured gasoline on her. While he was looking for a match, she freed herself and ran to safety. But someone had already been tried and convicted for that crime by the time of Jean’s murder—a black man from a predominantly black neighborhood down the road. During the trial, Jean had gone to the courthouse every day to show support for her friend. At times she was, as Grover puts it, “staring daggers” at people on the other side of the room.
“I wondered for a long time if maybe one of that guy’s friends came up here and did it,” he says.
A few days after the murder, Grover told police that he noticed some things around the house were missing. Among them: a camera, a Swiss watch, a gold bracelet, and Jean’s wedding ring. Police asked reporters—who were buzzing over the story—not to mention what was taken, hoping it would show up at a pawn shop somewhere. When that never happened, Grover took out ads in both English and Spanish looking for the stolen items. He also offered a reward for any information leading to an arrest: $25,000. He told people he would have offered several times that amount, but police worried about attracting swindlers and cranks.
The investigators also looked into burglars. A man known as “Old Bo” had a long rap sheet. He also had a reputation for being such a skillful burglar that victims sometimes didn’t realize anything had been stolen until weeks later, and he often took jewelry and cameras. But Old Bo wasn’t known for being violent. He was hard to track down, too, and escaped custody at least once. Detectives gave him a series of lie detector tests, but each proved inconclusive.
Police also looked into a “dope junkie” named Lenny but found he had a solid alibi for that morning. They looked at a man who lived in an abandoned house a mile or so away, but they decided the rest of the house was left too clean for him to have done it—and Jean might not have opened the door for a guy like that. Dhority and Rose checked out the milkman, the construction workers, and more than 100 others.
They wondered if a hired killer was responsible. But what kind of hired hit man would use a log? And who would hire someone to kill Jean Hope? There was no motive.
Crimes with this level of brutality are almost always committed by someone who knows the victim. But police worried that the killing might have been random. That is exceptionally rare and nearly always involves untreated, severe mental illness, but it happens.
A year after Jean’s murder, Grover moved the kids into the new house in the nicer neighborhood. He also remarried. “I was lonesome,” he says. “I needed to find a wife.” He agreed to go to a party to meet a friend of some friends, a younger schoolteacher—and she’s still standing next to him today, as he talks about his prolonged search for a killer. Police said he called or showed up at the station every single day for a year. Then he’d still call the detectives every couple of months, then every few years. He was always curious if they had anything new.
“He pursued this murder case the same way he pursued his business,” a friend told reporters in the mid-’70s. “Full speed ahead and at only one speed.”
Grover kept files on the murder, combed newspapers daily for clues, and hired a private investigator to pursue leads across the country. At one point he hired what reports from the time call a “neuro-psychiatrist” to create a picture of the kind of person who would do this.
More than 45 years later, the case is still unsolved. Charles Dhority died in 2002. Gus Rose died in 2009. Grover says the last he heard, the police lost the case files.
Angela Hans was having dinner at a noisy restaurant with Jean’s twin sister, June, in Dallas in 1978. Angela’s brother Everett had been married to June in the ’50s, and they had a daughter. Though June and Everett had a nasty divorce, Angela and June stayed in touch. Until that dinner, however, Angela didn’t know June had a twin. June invited Angela to spend the night at her condo, where they could talk privately. There, June gave her a copy of a D Magazine story from 1975 titled “Who Killed Beverly Jean Hope?”
When Angela got back to Oklahoma City and read the article, she was stunned. She thought about this woman who looked just like June, and she thought about the disturbing details of the crime. The more she thought about it, the more confident she was that she knew who had killed Jean.
“I know someone who had a motive, a maniacal cunning, a hair-trigger, vicious temper, and had easy access to Mrs. Hope,” she wrote in a letter to the magazine late last year. “I am 100 percent certain that my older brother, Everett Dwain Poynter, committed this horrendous crime.”
Everett, seven years older than Angela, was always troubled. She remembers the police showing up at the house often when she was young. She remembers the time when he was a teenager and robbed a rich man at gunpoint, and her father throwing the gun into the river. She remembers the rumors that Everett had shot a man in the back while he was in the Air Force.
After June divorced him, Everett moved to Miami and married a wealthy Peruvian woman. One summer Angela went to visit. She saw firsthand how her brother abused his wife. He’d ridicule her, or snap at nothing and choke her. He took a hammer and destroyed the furniture and walls of their house, the kind of incredible rage that seems a lot like hitting someone 30 times with a log. She remembers him destroying the inside of another house—breaking up the furniture and piling it under a table—once he moved back to Oklahoma, too.
As far as she knows, he didn’t have a job. He’d lie in bed all day, smoking cigarettes and reading paperback novels. When they needed money, he’d send his wife to Peru to sell real estate. And the people around him lived in fear that he might fly into a violent frenzy at any moment over anything.
By 1970, the year of the murder, Everett, his second wife, and their kids were in Oklahoma. He was trying to raise money to start a business that used small airplanes and infrared cameras to search for oil and gas deposits. Angela says that’s when June filed suit against him for 18 years of back child support—something Angela remembers driving her brother crazy.
She thinks it’s possible that Everett came from Oklahoma City to Dallas—he had access to a plane, and Grover and Jean lived barely a mile from the Addison airport—and killed Jean to intimidate June.
“If he’d killed his ex-wife, the police would immediately suspect him,” Angela says. “They always suspect the husband.”
She also thinks it’s possible that he came down to ask for money. Then maybe they argued, or perhaps he was just so infuriated by the sight of his ex’s twin that he went into a violent rage. She would have recognized him and probably invited him in.
A few weeks after the murder, Everett came to Colorado, where Angela was living at the time. She says he seemed to be running away from something. She isn’t sure what happened with his business or his child support suit—or if he was worried detectives were looking for him—but says he ended up staying in an abandoned shack with no electricity or running water. He’d park his car where no one could see it. Angela says he had shown up driving an old white Chevy, much like the one seen around the time of Jean’s murder.
“My brother hurt a lot of people,” she says. “Including me.” That’s another part of the secret. “He sexually molested me for years, starting when I was a toddler.”
She can talk about it now, but it has taken a long time. She talks about the pain she suffered in the darkness of their parents’ walk-in closet. Or in the tall cornfields, where the adults couldn’t see. She talks about fear and humiliation and amplified cycles of self-loathing. And when she gets going, she remembers everything, from the way he once lied about leaving her sheet music on the school bus to the names he called her during fights they had decades ago. For Angela, these things are all linked. She lived with a lot of pain for a long time.
After Colorado, Everett was in and out of her life, and in and out of psychiatric wards. She remembers visiting him a few times and finding him smoking cigarettes and reading novels. One time, in 2005, they met up and got into an argument that she remembers turning into Everett screaming and cursing at her. After that, she started searching for Grover’s phone number. In 2010, she learned that June, Jean’s twin, had died. In 2014, she actually made the call to Grover. A year later, when she found Everett’s 2012 death certificate online, she faxed a 14-page letter to D Magazine and called to follow up. She was ready to tell the world her secret.
“I wanted to give Grover and his children closure and also clear up the mystery before I pass on,” she wrote in November. “At nearly 75, with many health problems, it won’t be long, and it is both sad and a relief to know Everett has died.”
Angela and Grover talked for an hour that first Sunday. She sent him a detailed letter going over all of her secrets, from the murder to the molestation. She says she finally feels unburdened, and as she talks, she breaks into tears more than once.
Grover thought it was interesting but was less convinced. He told his four adult children about her theory, and together they decided not to take it to the police.
“She doesn’t have anything that substantiates this,” Grover says. “She’s troubled. It sounds like she had a troubled relationship with her brother, and she wants to punish him. But she can’t punish him, so she’s trying to punish his memory.”
Grover had met Everett a few times, while they were both married to the twins. “Everett Poynter was a terrible person,” he says. “There’s no doubt about that. He treated June terrible. I don’t blame her for being mad at him. But unless you’ve got something that can lead to someone being put away, I don’t want to be put through it.”
Every so often he gets a call like the one he got from Angela. They used to be more common—people with theories about the famous murder or would-be heroes looking to crack the case. The last one was more than a decade ago. A cold case detective came and asked a lot of the same questions, walking through the same dark stories. Then the detective called back a few days later and said there was nothing they could do. Grover is tired of it.
Looking through the evidence, to see if Angela’s claims have any validity, there’s something that sticks out, though. Something not mentioned in any of the stories about the crime at the time, something that doesn’t come up in any of Angela’s theories. Something the cops didn’t know. But it’s there in court documents from a 1982 lawsuit with the Internal Revenue Service related to Jean’s estate, which was worth $2.4 million. In May 1970, five months before she was murdered, Jean applied for life insurance: three separate renewable term insurance policies, each worth $100,000. That would be a total of roughly $1.9 million today. The policies were put in a trust for each of their three childen, and the man appointed trustee was Byron A. Whitmarsh, Grover’s business partner and his alibi on the day of the murder. He was the first person Grover called when he found Jean’s body, one of the people who told police that Grover had been working all morning. Those policies didn’t go into effect until Grover deposited $2,100 to pay the premiums. He did that on October 21, 1970, one week before the murder.
Since investigators at the time didn’t know about this, it means that in all the time Grover spent trying to help the police, he never mentioned these very new, very lucrative insurance policies—and neither did his business partner. You could argue that he should have told the police about their existence, if only to allay suspicion.
Today, when he’s first asked about the life insurance and the strange timing, Grover says he doesn’t remember any life insurance at all. As court documents are read to him, it comes back to him, and he remembers that the three policies were part of the estate planning he’d been doing with an attorney friend. He had the same policies on his own life, he says, a way of leaving the children “cash on hand” if anything should happen to either parent. Why didn’t he tell the police this? “It never came up,” he says.
Grover suggests calling the attorney who helped set up the policies, and he offers to dig up old financial records that prove the money went straight to the children. “Each of them are multimillionaires now,” Grover says, “and that’s what started it.”
In all, Grover participates in two long interviews, both of which go into painful detail. He seems honest and sincere. At some point, though, he decides he doesn’t want to discuss the topic anymore. “Too many people could get hurt,” he says. “I just wish everyone would drop it.” If he could go the rest of his life without ever thinking about this again, he says, he would.
“It’s too late to do any good,” Grover says. “I don’t want any more calls.”
The timing of the insurance policy could easily have been a coincidence. If this were fiction, there would be some tidy resolution here. Angela would know that her courage, somehow, led to a closed case. Who wouldn’t want to solve an unsolved mystery? Reality isn’t so pleasant. Some crimes go unsolved. Some questions go unanswered. Sometimes murderers live out long lives without ever being punished.