Empty Promises | Chapter 38 of 45 - Part: 1 of 5

Author: Ann Rule | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2502 Views | Add a Review

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The first-degree murder trial of Thomas Eugene Braun and Leonard Eugene Maine in Superior Court Judge Thomas G. McCrea’s courtroom had been a long time coming. More than three years had passed since the brutal crime they were accused of had occurred. Now, finally, these two young men, their skin faded to a greenish-white jail pallor, were charged with four felonies: first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, grand larceny by possession, and robbery. The jury would not know that they were also accused of other crimes in other jurisdictions. What they would learn, however, was chilling enough.

Deanna Buse was born toward the end of World War II and turned twenty-two on August 19, 1967. Had she not met up with two strangers on that summer day so long ago, she would now be almost fifty-five and probably a grandmother. She was a very pretty young woman with delicate features and a halo of soft brown hair. She was a newlywed, married to Denton Buse, a longshoreman, for less than a year.

Deanna worked for the United Control Company at their Redmond, Washington, location. In the late sixties, Redmond was still a sleepy rural town northeast of Seattle where the residents knew one another and where there were far more pastures for horses than office buildings. No one in Redmond had ever heard of computers or software. The concept that would make Microsoft revolutionize communication had not yet bloomed in the brain of Bill Gates, who was still in grade school. There were no condominiums or shopping malls or fast-food restaurants in Redmond. It was a different world then, a safe place to live and work. So were most of the other little towns in the area—Issaquah, North Bend, Monroe, Snohomish.

Deanna and Denny lived in Monroe, and they both worked hard so that they could one day have the house and family they wanted. During the week, Deanna worked from eight until five, and on Saturdays she went in for an early morning shift. She usually left home at 4:00 A.M. and was through by 2:30 P.M. She always went to her mother’s home after work on Saturdays to do her laundry, and she always arrived by 4:00 P.M.

But on August 19, she never made it to her mother’s house. This was totally unlike her, and her mother began to worry before five. She knew Denny was working, so Deanna couldn’t be with him.

Deanna had gone to work that day, and her co-workers remembered walking with her to her car in the company lot a little after 2:30 P.M. Deanna drove a dark maroon two-year-old Buick Skylark, which she kept immaculate. As far as any of her co-workers recalled, Deanna was happy that day. If she had been worried about anything, she didn’t let it show. She was smiling at them as she drove away shortly before 3:00 P.M.

Denton Buse was a handsome, muscular twenty-six-year-old. He was very concerned when he learned Deanna had not arrived at her mother’s house. When he got home from his job at 9:00 P.M. that Saturday, everything was as they’d left it. Nervously, he waited there for Deanna to come home. She had to be visiting friends or relatives. He tried to tell himself that she must have mentioned it to him and he’d forgotten, but he couldn’t remember that she’d had any plans. Denny Buse called every acquaintance and all of her family but no one had seen or heard from Deanna after she left work.

Surely, if she had been in an accident, someone would have been notified. There were some lonely, heavily wooded spots on the road between Redmond and Bellevue as it meandered along Lake Sammamish, but the road between Redmond and Monroe was well traveled. It seemed impossible that an accident would have gone unnoticed.

“We grew more and more worried,” Denny Buse would recall, “and finally, at 12:15 A.M., after calling all the hospitals and the state patrol and not finding out anything about an accident, we called the sheriff’s office and reported Deanna missing.”

At the first light of day, Buse and his father-in-law drove back and forth over Deanna’s usual route from their home two miles north of Monroe to the United Control plant. They scoured the areas on either side of the road fearing that they might spot the Buick Skylark crashed there. They searched for several hours—and found nothing.

Snohomish County officers, led by Chief Criminal Deputy Russ Jubie, scoured the county for some trace of Deanna Buse. Four days after she had vanished, their hopes for her safety faded. Either Deanna Buse had reasons of her own to disappear—which her family said was impossible—or she was being held captive. Or worse, she was dead.

Susan Bartolomei and Deanna Buse never met; in fact they lived almost a thousand miles apart. Only a terrible kind of synchronicity placed both of them in the path of two strangers within a short time frame.

Were it not for the unbelievable courage of seventeen-year-old Susan Bartolomei, there might never have been an answer to what happened to Deanna Buse.

Susan was supposed to disappear, too, on the Monday night following Saturday, August 19—the day Deanna vanished.

Howardine Mease and her family were driving along Route 120 in the evening of August 21. They had visited their daughter in Clear Lake, California, and then headed south on a meandering vacation path back to their home north of Santa Barbara. They had planned to drive straight through the night, but as the hours wore on, their brakes overheated from the strain of too many hills along the road. Rather than risk a runaway wreck, the Meases pulled over to a wide spot in the road where they spent an uncomfortable—but safe—night, bundled up in sleeping bags on folding lawn chairs. “We woke up about ten minutes to six,” Mrs. Mease recalled. “We packed up our sleeping bags and chairs and drove off. We hadn’t gone more than a mile when we saw a person lying in the road that bisected 120. We stopped, and my husband reached the person and called to me to bring a mat right away. I ran back with the mat and saw that the person was a young girl.”

They thought at first she must have been hit by a car, and she seemed to be dead. “She was lying facedown on the road. She was motionless, but when I held her wrist, I found she had a faint pulse. My husband stood by the road to flag down a car to go for help. Two pickup trucks came by and they both said they’d call the authorities.”

Helpless to do much, Howardine Mease knelt beside the young woman, and talked to her, assuring her that help was coming. “I asked her her name,” she said, “and she said it was Susan Bartolomei and that she was from Ukiah. She gave me her parents’ phone number. She told me that she and her boyfriend had been hitchhiking because of car trouble.” Ukiah, the injured girl’s hometown, was more than 200 miles from this isolated spot. Mrs. Mease wondered if the girl was delirious.

The girl, Susan, gasped that “they” had killed her boyfriend and shot her, but she said she didn’t know the shooters. “I asked her who they were, and she said they were two teenage youths, about eighteen, named Mike and John and they were driving a ’67 green Mercury with Oregon plates. I asked if they were from Oregon and she said no, they were from Oklahoma. No town. [She just said] ‘all over Oklahoma.’ ”

California Highway patrolman Lloyd Berry got the first call for help at the Moccasin Cut-Off and Highway 120. It came over his radio as an accident call first and was designated “high speed.” Halfway to the site, the radio operator informed him that the “accident” was actually a shooting but that he should proceed as fast as he could because no sheriff’s car from Tuolumne County was available to respond.

Berry got to the lonely spot in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada just before an ambulance arrived. The dark-haired girl had lapsed into unconsciousness; it seemed to have taken the last of her strength to tell Mrs. Mease about the two men who had shot her. She was rushed to Sonora Community Hospital.

Howardine Mease gave Trooper Berry the scant information she had gleaned from the victim about her assailants. Evidently a teenage boy had been shot too, and the girl said he had been killed. Berry picked up his radio microphone and relayed the message to the dispatcher that two white males driving a 1967 green Mercury were wanted as suspects in the shooting of a girl.

For the next two hours, the sketchy description of the assailants was broadcast repeatedly over all California law enforcement channels, alerting officers on both outgoing and incoming shifts. They didn’t know where the victim had encountered the gunmen, or where her boyfriend might be. There were so many roads between Ukiah and Tuolumne County. It seemed an impossible task.

Someone in the Mease family had spotted some shell casings glinting in the early morning sun on top of a steep embankment next to the road. Police investigators recognized them as jackets from .22 caliber bullets. They could have fallen from the injured girl’s clothing, or might have landed there when they were ejected from a gun.

Susan Bartolomei might have been shot on the road and then thrown over the embankment by her attackers. They probably believed she was either dead or so near death that she couldn’t identify them—if indeed she knew who they were. As he looked over the bank, Berry could see the impossible route the grievously injured girl had to take to reach the road and any chance of help. The vegetation was crushed 75 to 100 feet down the incline. Green leaves and wildflowers were stained scarlet along the path where the slender girl had crawled. In this desolate section of the motherlode country, there were no houses. No one would have heard the wounded girl’s faint cries for help. Her only hope had been to pull herself up the steep slope to the road—and she had done just that.

Doctors at Sonora Community Hospital found it hard to believe that Susan Bartolomei had made that climb. She had four bullets in her brain and one in her chest, and her condition was very critical. She was unconscious and unresponsive to treatment and her vital signs were deteriorating.

Susan’s family rushed to her side. They knew who her missing companion was. He was Tim Luce, the son of the district attorney of Lake County, California. The young couple had left Ukiah the previous afternoon, August 21. Tim, age seventeen, had planned to drive to nearby Hopland to purchase parts for an old pickup truck he was rebuilding. Hopland was barely ten miles south of Ukiah on Highway 101. He and Susan should have been home for supper, and when they still weren’t home by dusk, their frantic parents had called the police. Their concern grew as a whole night passed with no word from them.

Where was Tim? The rescuers who had clambered down the bank to where Susan was found didn’t find any sign of him. It was likely he had been pushed out of the abductors’ car or that he was still with them. Susan had been nearly unconscious when she said he had been shot, too. Maybe she was hallucinating. He was a young, strong male. If he had been shot, they hoped against hope that he, too, had survived. If they pass through soft tissue, .22 caliber bullets don’t necessarily do fatal damage; the danger occurs when they strike a bone. Then the small slugs tend to tumble and do terrible damage. Tim could still be alive but injured and trapped somewhere in the more than 200 miles between Hopland and Chinese Camp.

Comments

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Shawna
I'm Teri Depew biological daughter. Her real name is Natha. I appreciate this book because the story given to me by Teri admitted guilt but she painted him as a vulture, abusive to his wife and children. Regardless, he didn't deserve to die like that and those two deserve a spot on world's stupidest criminals.
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