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Who Killed My Daughter?

Lois Duncan

  Who Killed My Daughter?

  Lois Duncan

  For Kaitlyn Clare Arquette

  September 18, 1970—July 17, 1989

  with love

  This is a true story. The facts are documented. Newspaper articles and psychic readings have been slightly condensed in the interest of space and to avoid repetition. Several names have been changed to protect sources of information whose identities are not part of the public record.

  “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”




  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29



  A Biography of Lois Duncan

  Psychic Readings

  Listed by Page Number for Easy Reference

  48-54 Betty Muench

  77-84 Betty Muench

  122-24 Betty Muench

  124-26 Betty Muench

  145-47 Betty Muench

  156-58 Betty Muench

  166-72 Betty Muench

  252-55 Noreen Renier

  255-58 Noreen Renier

  265-70 Noreen Renier

  274-82 Nancy Czetli

  284-89 Betty Muench

  295-302 Nancy Czetli

  306 Greta Alexander

  309-10 Greta Alexander

  Author’s Note

  OUR TEENAGE DAUGHTER KAITLYN was chased down and shot to death while driving home from a girlfriend’s house on a peaceful Sunday evening.

  Police dubbed the shooting “random.”

  “You’re going to have to accept the fact that the reason Kait died was because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” they told us.

  But to our family the circumstances didn’t add up to “random,” especially after we made the shocking discovery that Kait had been keeping some very dangerous secrets from us.

  Some of those secrets were exposed by psychics.

  Others by private investigators.

  Others by an aggressive newspaper reporter who followed up on leads the police refused to look into.

  After spending two years investigating Kait’s death our family has managed to accumulate enough information to form a fragmented picture of what may have happened to her, but the jigsaw puzzle still lacks the few key pieces that could nail the identity of her killers.

  It is my hope that reading Kait’s story will motivate potential informants to supply us with those pieces.

  Tipsters can address their letters to:

  Lois Duncan, Author of Who Killed My Daughter?

  c/o Dell Publishing

  Dept. LD

  1540 Broadway

  New York, NY 10036


  ONCE UPON A TIME, in a faraway land, there dwelt a man who was a teacher of things strange and wonderful.

  He taught that the soul could leave the body and fly, and that people could foretell the future, and that healing could be accomplished by love and by touch, and that the spirits of those who moved on to other dimensions could communicate with the living through visions and dreams.

  Such teachings were considered heresy in that time, so the teacher was forced to conduct his classes in secret. He met with a small group of students in a garden by a fountain and continually cautioned them never to reveal what he taught them.

  Among those students there were three strong-willed young men who were very excited about the things they were learning and desperately wanted to share this knowledge with others.

  The first went off to teach in a foreign country so as not to endanger his teacher and fellow students.

  The second absorbed, not only the lessons of the teacher, but his fears and paranoia as well. Cautious and conservative, he monitored the safety of the group and struggled to keep the others under control.

  But the third young man was a rebel who would not be intimidated. He considered himself invincible, but his judgment was poor, and he trusted all the wrong people. His actions brought disaster to himself and his teacher.

  This took place long ago in a faraway land.

  Centuries later it happened again.


  OUR DAUGHTER, KAITLYN ARQUETTE, was murdered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Sunday, July 16, 1989.

  They got her at night.

  I have lived that evening over so often in dreams that by now it has become an extension of myself. When I go to bed it runs through my head like a videotape, the images sharp and precise, the dialogue unchanging, except that with each repetition there are new things I notice.

  The setting is always the same, of course; it’s our family room. Although we no longer live in that house, I can picture it perfectly. The rug, a rich rust color, muted by pet hair, as our cat and cocker spaniel shed in the summertime. The brown-and-white couch and love seat with cushions molded into irreversible slopes and hollows by years of accommodating the bodies of sprawling teenagers. Bookshelves, lined with albums that are filled with photographs chronicling ski trips, camp-outs, Christmases, graduations, and birthday parties. A television set across from the sofa. A Navajo rug on one wall. On another, a painting by my stepmother that depicts my late father—white haired, bearded, shirtless—on the porch of a beach cottage, baiting a fishing hook for a grandson.

  I am a writer by trade and am practiced in recreating scenes. It is easy for me to place myself back in that room again. Beyond the bay window there lies a tree-shaded yard, and, beyond that, an unkempt rose garden. When I peer out through the glass, I can see that it’s raining, and the soft gray drizzle produces a premature twilight.

  Now that I have set the stage, I will bring on the players.

  Kaitlyn, eighteen, comes into the house. I hear the slam of the front door and the sound of her footsteps in the hallway and immediately know this is Kait and not one of her brothers. Her tread is solid and purposeful and distinctly her own.

  My husband Don and I have just settled ourselves on the sofa to watch 60 Minutes. I raise my eyes from the television screen and call, “Is that you, honey?”

  “Who else?” Kait answers, and materializes in the doorway. “I thought I’d stop by and say hi on my way to Susan’s.”

  “The bad penny returns!” says her father. “You were here all morning. We see more of you now than we did before you moved out!”

  “The rain’s depressing, and Dung’s out with his friends,” Kait says. “The apartment feels weird tonight and I don’t like being there.”

  She comes into the room and perches on the arm of the sofa. She is dressed in a short black skirt and a black-and-white striped blouse, and around her neck there hangs a chain with a tiny gold cross. She is wearing the sand-dollar earrings I brought her from Florida the last time I visited her sister, Robin. The earrings are rimmed with gold, the same burnished shade as her hair, which she is still determinedly trying to grow back to one length after last summer’s disastrous asymmetrical cut.

  Each time I rerun the scene, new detai
ls leap out at me. For instance, how perfect her teeth are, straight, white, and even. Her complexion is perfect also, unmarred by the adolescent acne that torments her friends, totally unblemished except for an odd little hollow on the ridge of her left cheekbone. When I caught my first sight of her in the delivery room, I gasped, “My baby has a hole in her face!” but the obstetrician assured me that the dent wasn’t permanent. As it turned out, it was, but we came to regard it as a misplaced dimple and jokingly referred to it as “God’s fingerprint.”

  Kait flashes her mischievous smile, but something doesn’t feel right to me, and I regard her suspiciously. Her eyes are red, and the lids are abnormally puffy.

  “You’ve been crying.” I make it a statement rather than a question.

  “Like I told you, the rain depresses me,” she says defensively. “Besides, I’m pissed at Dung, and I always cry when I’m mad.”

  “Have you two had another fight?”

  “Not another one since last night, if that’s what you mean,” Kait says. “The reason I hung around here so long this morning was because I didn’t want to have to go home and talk to him. This living-together business is a crock. Things were a whole lot better when we were just dating.”

  “Why don’t you move back home, then?” Don asks reasonably. “There’s no sense staying in a situation where you’re miserable.”

  “I’m not about to crawl back into the womb,” Kait responds with characteristic stubbornness. “I love my apartment, I’m just sorry I ever let Dung move in. His weirdo friends are over there all the time. I feel like I’m running a crash pad for half the Vietnamese in Albuquerque.”

  “Ask him to move out,” I suggest. The solution seems so simple.

  “I have, but he won’t,” says Kait. “He says it’s his place, too, but it isn’t because the lease and utilities are in my name. He still doesn’t understand how things work in America. He says that in Vietnam women do what men tell them. I’ve told him I’ll let him stay until the end of the month, but then I want him out so Laura can move in with me.”

  “What’s suddenly gone so wrong between you and Dung?”

  “I don’t want to get into it now, it’s just too heavy. I’ll tell you about it sometime, maybe later tonight even.” She glances at her watch. “Well, I’d better get going. I’ve never been over to Susan’s, and it may take time to find it. I thought I’d stop on the way and pick up some ice cream. She’s cooking the dinner, so the least I can do is bring dessert.”

  “Where does she live?” Don asks.

  “It’s down around Old Town. I’ll either spend the night there or come back here. If Dung calls trying to find me, don’t tell him where I am.”

  “That’s cruel!” I exclaim, shocked by this display of callousness. “You may be breaking up with him, but you’ve been going together for a year and a half, and whatever your problems are, you know Dung cares about you. If you don’t come home, he’s going to think you’ve had an accident.”

  “Mother, you don’t understand—”

  “I do understand! What you don’t understand is how horrible it is to worry about somebody!”

  I consider myself an authority on that subject. Even after our five children were all bigger than I was, I insisted that Don and I dovetail our business trips so that one or the other of us was always home to keep an eye on things. When Kait was an infant, I was chronically reeling from sleep deprivation from checking her crib throughout the night to make sure she was still breathing, and despite the fact that my fears were never substantiated, I didn’t get any better when the children became teenagers. They knew that if they missed their curfew by as much as ten minutes, they could expect to find me pacing up and down in the entrance hall, fighting hysteria as I pictured a blazing car wreck with beloved bodies mangled and strewn across the highway.

  I’d expected my paranoia to diminish once the nest was empty, but now, as Kait starts toward the door, I realize that it is stronger tonight than it has ever been. Here in this familiar room, on a damp, sweet summer evening that couldn’t be less threatening, I am suddenly overwhelmed by such a surge of panic that I can feel the pounding of my heart in my fingertips. I sense the vibrations of a tidal wave rolling toward us as we stand on a peaceful beach with our backs to the ocean.

  “Don’t go out! Something terrible is going to happen!”

  “What did you say?” Kait can’t believe she has heard me correctly.

  “Something terrible is going to happen!” I repeat irrationally, and grasp for some way to make the statement less preposterous. “We don’t even know this girl Susan. Who is she, anyway? Daddy and I haven’t met her. Why hasn’t she ever been over here? She certainly doesn’t live in a good part of town.”

  Kait glances across at her father. Can you believe this?

  “The reason Susan hasn’t been over here is—if you’ll remember, Mother—this isn’t where I live now.” She addresses me with exaggerated patience. “She’s a very nice girl who sells snow cones in front of Pier One. I met her on a lunch break, and we got to be friends. We’ve been trying to get together to see a movie or something, but our plans keep falling through because of my work schedule. And what do you mean about Old Town’s being a bad area? You and Daddy have friends who live there. It’s not like it’s one of those creepy barrios like Martineztown.”

  “I won’t let you go,” I say firmly.

  Then I leap from the sofa and grab her before she has time to take in what I’ve said and flee from the room.

  Kait is a big girl, taller and heavier than I am, but that doesn’t matter; she’s no match for the crazy middle-aged woman who bears down on her. I shove her onto the sofa and pin her arms at her sides with a powerful viselike grip that cannot be broken.

  “Get me some rope!” I shout.

  “Rope?” Don repeats blankly, shifting his gaze from Dan Rather to zero in on the battle scene. He has never seen me like this, and he’s obviously horrified. He is looking at a woman gone suddenly mad.

  “There’s a coil of rope in the garage! I saw it there yesterday! Hurry and get it, I can’t hold her down forever!”

  We’ve been married so long that Don responds automatically. He jumps up from the sofa and takes off at a run for the garage.

  Kait struggles to break my grip, but the same bony, long-fingered hands that buckled her into her car seat and snatched her away from hot stove burners and steadied her two-wheel bicycle when she took off the training wheels have developed incredible strength when it comes to her safety. There is no way in the world that she can break my grip on her.

  “Is this being taped by Candid Camera?” she asks, half laughing, half crying, trying to pretend it is a joke. “It isn’t as if we’re going to be doing something dangerous. We’re going to eat dinner, and then we’re going next door to decorate Susan’s boyfriend’s apartment. He’s out of town, and she wants it to be a surprise for him.”

  “I’m sorry,” I say. “This isn’t the evening for you to do that.”

  Don reappears with the tow rope we use for water skiing and makes an attempt to hand it to me.

  “You’re going to have to help me,” I tell him. “Wind it around her shoulders and work your way down. Make it tight, but be careful not to cut off her circulation. All we want is to keep her from going out tonight.”

  Don takes the rope and starts looping it around Kait’s body, doing his best to ignore her shrieks of outrage. It takes us a while, but the job is finally completed. With our daughter securely cocooned, I test the knots to make sure they will hold.

  Kait lies on the sofa, glaring up at me in impotent fury.

  “I will hate you for this forever!” There is venom in her voice.

  “That’s all right,” I say gently, stroking her hair.

  I sit by her side and guard her the rest of the night.

  That is the way the scene plays when I run it in my dreams. In truth, of course, that is not what happened at all. Common sense took precedence over
instinct, and I confined my admonishments to telling Kait to drive carefully.

  “I always drive carefully,” she said.

  That wasn’t true, and we both knew it. Kait was an aggressive driver, given to risk taking, but traffic was light on Sunday nights, and it wasn’t as if she was going to be driving on the freeway. The easiest route to Old Town was straight down Lomas, an east-west street that ran one block south of our home. There wouldn’t be many drunks on the road on a Sunday, and her plans for the evening were certainly simple and harmless.

  She’s going to be fine, I told myself. I’m being ridiculous.

  Still, I said, “I want you to leave us Susan’s phone number. That way, if you don’t come back, we’ll know where to start looking for you.”

  “Honestly, Mother, there are times when you’re just unreal!” She indulged me by scribbling a number on the back of a magazine. “Now, you do something for me. I want you to promise that if Dung calls here you won’t tell him I’m at Susan’s.”

  “I promise,” I said reluctantly, with the mental reservation that, while I wouldn’t divulge Susan’s name, if Dung did call, frantic with worry, I would tell him that Kait was all right and was sleeping at a friend’s house.

  Kait raised her hand in a comical half salute.

  “Later! I’ll see you guys later!”

  Those were the last words we were ever to hear her speak.

  The call from the emergency room of the University of New Mexico Hospital came just before midnight. The woman who called said Kait was there and had been injured but would give out no further information over the telephone.

  Don and I threw on our clothes and drove to the hospital. I sat in the passenger’s seat with my hands clasped tightly in my lap, the nails of one making gouges in the back of the other, living a nightmare eighteen years in the making. I wanted to pray, but I didn’t know what to pray for. I hated to press my luck by asking God for too much and offending Him with my greediness, so I couldn’t ask for the call to have been made by a prankster or for Kait to have suffered nothing more than scratches.

  I finally decided to confine my prayer to the request that she not have a head injury. Two years ago my stepsister’s teenage son had been in an accident that had left him brain damaged, and Kait had gone into hysterics when she learned about it.