An Arizona Tragedy


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An Arizona Tragedy

The year was 1967. There was exciting news on radio, television, and in the daily papers. Some of the news was reasonably good, some very bad.

Vladimir Komarov, a Russian cosmonaut, died as his descending spacecraft got entangled in its parachute cords.

Congress was fighting about taxes … okay, not so tantalizing!


n May of 1967, the United States Marines took ‘Hill 881’ (the ‘forbidding twin peaks’) just below the DMZ in Vietnam, and there were many casualties.

A huge segment of the world’s population was all atwitter with the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Presley were on their honeymoon in Palm Springs, California.

Joey Bishop was trying very hard to make it on late night television.

There was a national deficit of some twenty-four billion dollars … could this year have been part of ‘the good old days?’

A. J. Foyt continued to sell a lot of STP by winning his third Indianapolis Five Hundred race.

Bacon was sixty-nine cents a pound.

Ice cream was fifty-nine cents per half-gallon.

Peanut Butter was eighty-nine cents for a two and one-half pound jar.

Instant coffee was eighty-nine cents for a ten-ounce can.

Mass murderer Richard Speck was sentenced to death row for the July, 1966 murders of eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. This very ugly man broke into their townhouse dormitory on the evening of July 13 and methodically, systematically tortured, stabbed and/or strangled his victims, one by one. He also raped his final victim before strangling her. A ninth student nurse, spending the night with her eight friends, managed to hide under a bed during one of the killings. She stayed hidden until dawn, then crawled out of a window onto a roof ledge, screaming: “They’re all dead! All my friends are dead!”

Carl Sandburg, poetic voice of the Midwest, died on July 22, 1967.

Basil Rathbone died at age seventy-five in August of that year.

There were riots in Detroit.

In Selmer, Tennessee, on August 12, Sheriff Buford Prusser was ambushed and wounded. His wife was killed.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, Frank Sinatra was at the Sands Hotel, became angry and threw some chips in the face of Carl Cohen, age fifty-four. Mr. Cohen retaliated, giving the world famous crooner a hardy haymaker.

On May 24 in Washington, D. C. a young and lovely twenty-five year old secretary was found beaten beyond recognition. The coroner stated in his report that the young lady had died as a result of multiple blows of force to the head and face, and, strangulation.

On July 19, 1967, after midnight, a young and lovely twenty-six year old secretary and model disappeared in Phoenix, Arizona. Her body was found on August 12, 1967, in the desert northeast of Phoenix. The young divorcee, mother of two children, had died of multiple rock blows to the head and face.


The ‘Preface’ data above set the stage for An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery – Book 1. This book was inspired by two actual homicides in Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, DC. While the book is fiction I do use actual newspaper accounts and police documents. The Phoenix homicide was particularly close to me as I was a friend of the victim – she was a legal secretary to two of my attorney friends. She was mother to a daughter and a son, while also pursuing an actress and modeling career. She had many dreams for all her tomorrows, taken away on a late Wednesday night in July of 1967 by an evil son of Satan. For the better part of a month her body was not found, ravaged by August heat and denizens of the desert.

An Arizona Tragedy introduces Bailey Crane, a different kind of sleuth, a man who muses about his life and loves while chasing the bad guys. ‘The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ consists of six books – hope you can check them out. Each book stands alone. Here are the six ‘Bailey Crane Mysteries’: 


* An Arizona Tragedy – Book 1 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW

Satan’s Song – Book 2 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW http;//

The Brutus Gate – Book 3 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW

Murder in Pueblo del Mar – Book 4 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW  
A Soul Defiled – Book 5 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW

A Common Evil – Book 6 — AVAILABLE Amazon WW

The asterisk in front of the title denotes book is inspired by true events.

I leave you with a few excerpts from An Arizona Tragedy and links to some of my sites.

 Excerpts —

Running late, Cathy gave her daughter and son a kiss goodbye, embraced her mom, and hurried out the door of the apartment. She dropped her purse while fumbling for keys and mumbled a mild obscenity under her breath. She finally made it to the car and headed for work.

Going west on Osborn Road she passed the northern boundary of the Phoenix Country Club. The golf course was hidden by a long row of eucalyptus trees but early morning golfers could be seen through a break in the hedgerow. Later, when the heat reached the one hundred plus mark, there would be very few players on the course.

The temperature was already in the early nineties and promised to reach one hundred ten degrees by mid-afternoon. This was the norm for Phoenix in July. The cloudless sky was sapphire deep and wide, with a slight shimmering haze on the far off western horizon.

People either hated Phoenix or they loved it. There seemed to be no middle ground opinions. For Catherine Gibbs, Phoenix and the desert was her Shangri-La. She did not mind the heat. She loved the constancy of sun and clear skies, found the daily regimen strangely soothing and somnolent. The Southwest climate better suited her senses than the dreary days of clouds, rain, and snow that came to the plains of Kansas. Besides, there were memories she would just as soon forget. As she looked at the hot earth and the various types of cacti, she felt close to some subtle and mysterious awareness of life. The saguaro, cholla, ocotillo, barrel, all the spiny plants of this arid mini-world held a fascination for her, somehow speaking to her in some arcane way of some nebulous truths that she might one day know…


After Midnight on Wednesday, July 19

She seemed strangely out of her body, off in a wispy connecting chamber, floating through a kaleidoscope of sight and sound … lights flashing … and motion.

She was in a car, moving fast, then slow, stopping, starting … she could see the night sky filled with a million bouncing stars, but she couldn’t be sure if her eyes were really open … car slowing down, stopping again, motor shut down, door opening … heavy breathing, cursing, mixed with cricket chirps, all coming through a fog horn of slow motion sound and movement … fingers, hands, arms on her body … tugging at her, pulling her from the car … a soft tinge of fear, anesthetized but it was so far away, this fear, and there was an eerie peace within the connecting chamber, an almost rhapsodic bending and twisting of the past, present, and an inescapable but caressing future …

There came a cacophony of cymbal sounds, a further muting within the connecting chamber, and a light that had begun so dimly now becoming greater … pain was palpable but peripheral, and, while the light grew brighter, micro seconds lingered on the desert air, in her connecting chamber, and she recounted her life … kids, family, school, jobs, friends, loves, hates, joys, disappointments, all coalescing into the awesome, wonderful, totality that was her being …

The scraping sounds … her body dropped yet again to the desert floor, once more the cursing, the heavy breathing …

The final cacophony splintered the light into a dazzling crystal brilliance …

She felt the connecting chamber, her body, her last thoughts of betrayal, beauty, and forgiveness all merging into the warm and timeless cosmos of light.


Sunday, August 13, 1967

It was Sunday, and my hound dog face glared back at me through the bathroom mirror … “Another round, Sam!” my lips wryly opened and muttered, mocking me with a stupid smile. My eyes were not glaring … they were looking like two very weak and damaged headlights on an ugly foggy morning, The cold water splashes were supposed to help, but the desert heat had the liquid running timidly tepid through the pipes.

Somehow, I managed the bathroom chores, got dressed in easy clothes, gray shorts and a red golf shirt, went barefooted to the kitchen, and began the world famous, obligatory coffee phase to a hangover. Outside the front door was my rolled-up, rubber-banded newspaper, its weight feeling like a twenty-five pound barbell … Ah, the awesome heft of advertising!

Before opening the newspaper, smiling smugly, my mind went to some good news already known to me. There was a beautiful house guest sleeping in the very bed from which I just arose. Her name was Connie, a lovely blonde from Los Angeles. A talented singer, Connie had just last night finished her ‘gig,’ her engagement, at ‘The Islands,’ Phoenix’s version of ‘Trader Vic’s.’ Along with the talent, she was a fun lady, and this country boy from the Tennessee hills was just a touch smitten with the lass.

The warm thoughts of Connie were curling around in my head as I sipped my coffee, the rolled up newspaper there on the sofa side table. Connie was not only lushly gifted in the looks and the lovemaking departments, she had a compelling sensitivity and could articulate her thoughts well. We had known each other a few weeks, and she had been my house guest since we met. Her musical performance at ‘The Islands’ ended, she was spending a few extra days with me before returning to Los Angeles.

Connie had been one of my most promising conquests, and, as previously stated, I could get serious over this one. She had already made it known to me that she was serious about our relationship going forward. In our talks we had spoken of our lives, our mistakes, our love affairs, our ambitions, and our dreams. She knew about the torch I still carried for Pam, a lady with whom I had lived at different stages in our long and tempestuous affair.

Finishing my second cup of coffee, I stopped my Connie thoughts, reached for the newspaper, pulled away the rubber band, and found the front section.

Cathy Gibbs picture was on the front page, with a large bold headline: Battered Body of Model Found. Underneath that headline was a less bold sub-heading: Victim of Brutal Slayer.

Numbing is likely the best word to describe my initial feelings. My God! She’s gone! What a horrible way to go! The terror and agony she was forced to endure! My eyes became misty as the image of her came to me, that image of her on the day we last were together. My simple solitary grief was so real, yet, so inadequate, somehow.

We, her friends, had become reconciled over the three weeks of her missing that she would be found dead. Now, our subliminal thoughts had been realized. Now, it was real and final. Only her mother had visibly and vocally held out hope that she would be found alive. Perhaps that hope at such a moment kept mothers from emotionally imploding. Cathy’s two children were too young to fully realize what was happening … or, were they? Did all the emotions that were around them somehow leave psychological marks so profound that they would follow them the rest of their lives? Rani Gibbs was six years old. Her brother, Spike, was four years old. They simply wanted their mom back.

“Christ!” I blurted aloud, “this happens to people I don’t know!”


It was 8:55 AM when I left the apartment for a 9:30 appointment with one of my neglected suppliers. As a multi-line rep and my own boss it behooved me to keep suppliers happy. In return, they furnished me with ‘lay-down’ leads and a comfortable income. Really, there should be only one mood for me: thankful, happy, positive! It was the best of all worlds … working with attorneys, legitimately playing part-time detective, golfing, and lucky in love. My attitude, mood, had gotten a lot better after that shower, and I was ready to tackle and enjoy the day.

In the car, Tony Bennett was singing Rags to Riches. Turned the car onto a palm tree lined section of 32nd Street. Too relaxed, too inattentive to my known surroundings, hardly noticed the car to the left of me, moving in dangerously close. Finally forced me to jerk my wheel sharply to the right. Hardly noticed the window shattering and a sharp thorn-prick near my left temple. Hardly noticed the palm tree as it came toward me in a mighty rush. Hardly noticed how quickly the unity of hands, feet, and partially dazed mind worked so well in slowing the car, yet not avoiding the inevitable crunch of metal and tree.

Shaken quite thoroughly but still among the living, there was a tingling all over my body and a sticky wetness on the left side of my face. As my dazed head lolled on the back of the driver’s seat, the events around me appeared in seeming slow motion. People peered in at me, their lips moving in incomprehensible gibberish. The car shook as someone tugged at a door that did not want to open. Hands gently touched my forehead, my face, my neck. The loud voices became comprehensible, asking the same dull questions: “Is he okay? Is he dead? What happened?” Then, the siren sounds got closer and closer. The ambulance. The police. The Emergency Room and St. Luke’s.

— End of Excerpts —

The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ (6 books) are intended to be easy and fun reads while addressing serious crime issues. It is my hope you can read and enjoy some of the titles  Each book stands alone, but Bailey ages, tackles other crimes of mystery, suspense, and personal issues in his life. Please enjoy and, if so inclined, write an Amazon review. My best wishes to all.

All twelve of my books are listed on some of the following links – mystery, romance, memoir, et al.

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 29, 2015

Some Links: (My blog) (IAN – Independent Author Network) – (@brchitwood) – Please follow me. profile –

I am flattered and honored to have received nine blog nomination. 

most-influential-blogger-e1364230844577 (1) reality blog award  beautiful-blogger-award booker-award one-lovely-blog inner-peace-award very-inspiring-blogger-award11-1 liebsteraward the-wordpress-family-award 

Do You Know This Man?

Do You Know This Man?


I knew him, not so well, some forty years ago…he was a devotee of the Phoenix neon night life, searching for parts of himself he lost along the emotional road from Appalachia: lost in an abusive and disoriented childhood; lost in a flawed and impetuous marriage; lost in the glittering promise of booze and lovely ladies. Yes, I knew him, not so well, as he made all his stumbles along the way, losing not only himself but the connections to family and friends, to the people who loved him.

Yes, of course, I’m the man in the photo, and there’s a lot more to the story…hope you’ll read THE CRACKED MIRROR, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, by Billy Ray Chitwood.

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*** Continue reading

The Magic of Words


The Magic of Words

Has it happened to you? A heated argument with the co-worker, the spouse, or a political debate with someone of a different persuasion? When the argument is over and you sit alone still stewing about the words that were exchanged, does your mind then tease you with what you should have said during those moments of verbal intensity? There in that stillness of solitude, just you and your alter ego, do you conjure up all the magical words and phrases that would have established your dominance in the situation?

Well, of course, there are people of confidence and conviction who accept the finality of a discourse and waste not their time in the waffling of details.

So, where is it I’m going with this?

Well, I guess I’m one of those guys who does not think too well on his feet. It is usually after the argument in my quiet place that I find much better responses than were offered in the heat of ‘battle’.

So it is when I write a book, short story, flash fiction. There in my solitude a subtle magic comes to me and words flow smoothly in those rare moments. No, it is not a constant magic that stays with me through an entire writing project. There are times when I struggle to find the right words and phrases to fit my stories. To whatever degree my words find their way to an appreciative audience, I can only precipitate that with establishing my ‘brand’ and marketing to the best of my ability. Some authors market their books better than others, not to say their products are not deserving. As in any endeavor there are those who become masters of their trade. There are those who are working on becoming very good. There are those who love to write but cannot seem to find that ‘magic’ of which I speak. My books are not masterpieces but they are easy, fun, good reads…I would love to write a techno-thriller but it’s doubtful my mind could stay the convoluted course of such books – I do envy the great writers who do pen them.

It is my belief that we become writers because of the magic of words. In my case, when I pen a phrase that conveys a thought so exquisitely I’m like a kid with a new toy. When an entire chapter becomes in my mind cohesive and well structured, I’m silly with delight. And, finally, when all the edits, proofreading are done, there is pure ecstasy…oh, there will still be careless mistakes, noun-verb disagreements, typos, and a missing quotation mark. I’m stubborn and want the entire writing project – re-writes, edits, proofreading – to fall on me…not too professional, I know, but I want to be the one-man publishing house. The point, however, is the magic that occurs in those sessions of solitude, the words and phrases that come from a divine source.

The point is finding some pieces of me in that writing place of solitude…many of the pieces I like…others, not so much!

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 16, 2015

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Three of my twelve books are listed above – all inspired by true events. An Arizona Tragedy is book one of six in the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. The Arizona actress brutally murdered in this book was a personal friend of the author. A Common Evil is Book six of the series. Each book in the series stands alone and four of the books were inspired by true events. The’Bailey Crane Mysteries’ are fast, fun reads with a different kind of musing ‘Sherlock’. Mama’s Madness (not part of the ‘Bailey Crane Series) is a riveting story inspired by true crimes of a California mother…a mother from hell! Try one or all. If so inclined, please leave an amazon review…the author’s life blood. Thank you. My other books can be previewed at

Some Links: (books) (IAN – Independent Author Network)

I’ve been honored and privileged to receive nine ‘Blog Award Nominations’, which I normally show in my posts…in the interest of space, they are are not shown here.

Young Woman on the Grass

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Young Woman on the Grass

The young woman in lavender pants and top outfit walked along the gravel road toward an old red barn. Her steps were slow and her head was down, walking without sense of purpose, her face forlorn, lost in the prison of her mind with an undeniable sadness that softly crunched the gravel on each short step she took. She was a pretty girl with long brown hair, and her soft blue eyes only embellished the anguish she conveyed in these few moments.

Ross and Penny Goodwin sat reading in their ‘sun room’ near the gravel road. The road was on their property, but that was of no concern to them. “There’s a girl walking up the road toward the barn,” he announced.

The wife put her book down and looked out the window. “Does it bother you that she’s on our property?”

“No, that doesn’t bother me…but look at her, the slow steps with her head down. The girl is in misery about something…broke up with a boyfriend, going through a divorce, death in the family…”

The man and wife spent a few moments watching the girl’s slow walk up the rise to the barn. Then, she was out of sight. The couple spent several minutes conjuring up the possible reasons for the girl’s dismay, then went back to their reading.

In a few minutes, the girl reappeared and was sitting on the grass near the couple’s lily pond. The man thought he saw her crying…”I’m going down and see if I can help”, the man said. “This is depressing me!”

As the girl watched the man approach she began to rise. “This your property?” she asked.

“Yes, but you don’t have to leave. Is there anything my wife and I can do to help you? Obviously, you’re in some kind of pain.”

“You’re a kind man… No there is nothing you can do,” the girl muttered.

“I’m sorry, I don’t hear so well. What did you say?”

“Thank you for your concern, sir…”

Then, she was gone, back on the gravel road slow-walking back the way she came.

Back inside the sunroom, the wife asked: “What did she have to say?”

“Nothing, except, ‘Thanks for your concern’. She may not be telling us but that girl is going through something really bad…”

Ross Goodwin could not get the young woman out of his mind, and his wife began feeling annoyance with his constant observations. “My goodness, Ross, you sound like a man possessed. Was she so pretty that you felt some youthful stirrings? Should I be jealous? It sounds like you fell in love with the girl.”

“Don’t be silly, Penny! There was just something eerie about that girl that sticks in my craw. Eat your dinner… I’ll be quiet about it.”

A few weeks passed, and Ross Goodwin spoke no more to Penny about the strange encounter with the young woman. The girl, however, never left his mind…there was an itch he could not scratch and each time he looked at the gravel road and the pond, she came alive in his mind.

One evening while visiting close neighbors for dinner the men sat in the den enjoying cocktails while the women were kitchen-bound with meal preparations. At a lull in the men’s conversation Ross told his neighbor about the young woman and how she had haunted his mind since that day. Ross spent a lengthy time describing the girl and how sad and pitiful she looked, how she was dressed, and how she so soon wandered away.

“Darn, Ross, sounds like you’re describing to a tee Adalee McPhail, right down to her clothes. Her parents were our good friends and lived in the area for years before going to Arizona. Adalee stayed behind, married a man much older, and Adalee gave birth to a premature Mongoloid baby boy. You will never find a more devoted mother than Adalee…she doted on the kid and truly loved the boy. The husband, Eugene, was on the road a lot – insurance sales – and Adalee carried the whole load. The barn road and pond was her favorite spot in the whole area…”

“Was? Sounds like we’re talking about different people. The girl I saw and talked to at the pond was just a month ago.”

The neighbor snapped his fingers… “Wait just a minute. I’ve got an album I want you to see.”

The neighbor placed the album on Ross’ lap and flipped to a few pages near the back of the album. “This is the McPhail family,” and, pointing to a couple, “and this is Adalee and the man she married. This is not the girl you saw, correct?”

Ross Goodwin was stunned. His face suddenly paled. Then, stumbling with his words, he spoke: “Yes, that is the girl I saw… When were these pictures taken?” Ross asked.

“Fifteen, twenty years ago.”

“My God! I’m going crazy! I saw her, Whitley, up close, even talked to her! Penny saw her. This young woman could not have been more than twenty-two, twenty-three years old. But that picture is her!” The men exchanged puzzled stares, and Ross spoke again, “Do you know where Adalee is today?”

“Yes, I’m sorry, Ross, but she’s dead! The awful stress was ultimately too much for the poor woman. She committed suicide…jumped from a bridge into the river below.”

A palpable silence fell over the room, and, for a moment, both men shivered as a cool breeze passed by them.

The two men looked at each other, their faces blanched. When warmth returned to the room, Whitley carefully replaced the album, then sat next to his neighbor. Each man drank in silence, emptying their highball glasses.

“Damn, Ross, that’s just plain creepy!”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – May 8, 2015

If you like mystery, suspense, crime, romance, thrillers, you would like one of my books – my twelve books are really ‘fun’ reads…some are inspired by true crimes and events…hope you will give them a try, maybe leave a review on Amazon. It is a fact that reviews are an author’s life blood…I’m just saying! You can find my books on, or, on my personal website – – just scan down the ‘home’ page after a short bio sketch.

Some links to my sites: (@brchitwood) (Main page) (Books) (My blog)

Love Summit

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Love Summit

She was going to die!

John was going to die! He was twenty feet above her, and she could hear him weakly calling her name, “Maria,” he threw his head back, mouth agape, willing more air to come. “Maria, we’re almost there…please try…try for me!” He fell from his knees onto his back in the snow, looking skyward, his goggles covered in snow dust, uttering a silent prayer. My God! What have I done? Please help us! His body was in agony but he slowly turned and inched his way down to Maria.

Maria’s mind teased her with contradictory thoughts of warmth, all the many yesterdays of family and love, only to gasp, to remember to breathe the raw, short swooning wisps of air. With some robotic memory tap, she remembered her husband and forced her head to turn up the blinding mountain of snow. She could see a fuzzy gray shadowy figure wriggling snake-like down the slope toward her. Soon she heard the raspy muted voice calling out her name and she knew it was John… Was he just getting home from the office? She should pour their cocktails… She would tell him about Karl and Kristie’s first day at school, the cute ‘grown-up’ expressions the twins used in describing their day… Most of all, Maria wanted John’s lingering embrace and kisses… But, wait! The snow! The white blinding snow of the slope! Remembering to breathe! The Gasping for the thin and uncaring air. She tried to call out his name but no sound would come, only the greedy grasping for another breath of thin air.

Then they were together, side by side, gazing without trying to speak all the words they wanted to say – words of love and ‘forever yours’. Even as their bodies were near the end their nearly frozen lips formed endearing smiles for each other… Their chance meeting at a church social had brought them that rare storybook romance, a union seldom interrupted by harsh words… Family vacations that filled their albums with laughs, loving moments, and discovery… Their dream home where weekends were filled with backyard barbecues, games, movies in the theatre room and all the popcorn the kids could eat… The love making and cuddling when the hectic but wonderful days ended, when they talked about the events shaping their world, until sleep claimed them in sweet embrace…

Now, here on this steep slope, they somehow embraced as the cold and snow was about to claim them, their near-frozen lips almost touching and their half-closed eyes locked in some eternal union…

It was in these final moments that a sound came to John and Maria, low and cavernous like an insect buzz or a lawn tractor mowing the grass on their acre lot. The sound got louder and suddenly stopped. Voices! They heard voices, getting louder, and, in some unknowable place within their beings there came a faint glimmer of hope. Their bodies wanted to move, to greet this possible miracle…yet, they had read and knew the tricks the mind could play – perhaps this was another dimension they were entering, God’s kingdom, that biblical paradise to which they had pledged their faith. They continued to gaze into the other’s benign eyes until their lids could no longer bear the weight of so many thoughts.

As the snow’s bright whiteness filled the space behind their closed lids, they felt their bodies gently lifted and borne away…

Flash fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – May 1, 2015

Should you care to read my novels of mystery, romance, suspense, many of which inspired by true events, please visit my website: – With Amazon buy sites.

Your reviews on Amazon are greatly appreciated — reviews are authors’ life blood.

Please follow my blog… I try to post at least once a week… Eye surgery has made me a little tardy, but I’m back on track. Thank you for following. I’m honored and proud to have been nominated for nine blog awards, including:

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Some Links: (@brchitwood – Please follow me if so inclined!)