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Authors: Gary M. Lavergne

Tags: #History, #United States, #General, #State & Local, #Southwest (AZ; NM; OK; TX), #True Crime, #Murder, #test

A Sniper in the Tower

BOOK: A Sniper in the Tower
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A Sniper in the Tower : The Charles Whitman Murders
Lavergne, Gary M.
University of North Texas Press
isbn10 | asin
print isbn13
ebook isbn13
Whitman, Charles Joseph,--1941-1966, Mass murderers--Texas--Austin--Biography, Mass murder--Texas--Austin.
publication date
HV6248.W477L39 1997eb
Whitman, Charles Joseph,--1941-1966, Mass murderers--Texas--Austin--Biography, Mass murder--Texas--Austin.
Page i
A Sniper in the Tower
The Charles Whitman Murders
Gary M. Lavergne
University of North Texas Press
Denton, Texas
Page ii
© Gary M. Lavergne
First edition 1997
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
5 4 3 2 1
The paper in this book meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, Z39.48-1984.
All rights reserved.
University of North Texas Press
PO Box 13856
Denton TX 76203
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lavergne, Gary M., 1955
A sniper in the tower : the Charles Whitman murders / Gary M.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-57441-021-0 (cloth : alk. paper). ISBN 1-57441-029-6
(pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Whitman, Charles Joseph, 19411966. 2. Mass murderers
TexasAustinbiography. I. title.
HV6248.W477L39 1997
364.15'0976431dc21                                            96-50411
Cover design by Amy Layton
Interior Design by Accent Design and Communications
Cover photo used by permission
Prints & Photographic Collection #06517 The Center for American History
The University of Texas at Austin
Page iii
For Laura Gwen
Page v
Table of Contents
Prologue: Weathered Metal Plaques
1: Two Very Different Upbringings
2: The Soldier and the Teacher
3: Austin Is Different
4: The Nice Facade
5: Oozing with Hostility
6: After Much Thought
7: The Neat Little House and the Swank Apartment
8: The Glass-Paneled Door
9: Strange Noises
10: Houston
11: Ramiro
12: The General
13: Independent Actions
14: The White Headband
15: To Whom It May Concern
16: APD
17: Why Did He Do It?
18: Who Killed Charles Whitman?
Epilogue: The Writer from Austin
Notes on Sources
Page vii
Weathered Metal Plaques
U.S. Highway 59 in Texas spans both rural and urban areas. Through Houston the traffic can be murderous, but just south of the metro area, near Rosenberg, drivers breathe a sigh of relief. They are safely into the countryside. Rosenberg inhabitants, like many small-town Texans, worry about "planned communities" of deed-restricted, monotonous, brick homes creeping closer. They cling to an agrarian tradition while welcoming vast riches from the oil and gas industry. Crops of all types carpet tracts of rich, dark soil, while oil-searching and oil-producing rigs dot the landscape.
Page viii
Near the exit to Farm-to-Market Road 2218 are the Davis-Greenlawn Funeral Chapel and a large, well-manicured cemetery. Golf carts transport visitors and maintenance personnel. The main entrance is near the access road, but many visitors are attracted to a smaller, less ostentatious entrance on the northeast side. The bumpy path leads to an even smaller drive, where blades of grass struggle to grow through compacted gravel. At the confluence is a large white marble carving of Da Vinci's
The Last Supper
. That portion of the cemetery is nearly full, and unoccupied sites have long ago been sold and await their inhabitants. The graves are marked by weathered metal plaques on small marble slabs. Visitors are seldom distracted by the traffic noise from Highway 59; more noticeable are the chirping birds in a nearby wooded area. Here is peace.
Kathleen Leissner Whitman is buried here. Gothic lettering on her plaque indicates that she was born in 1943 and died in 1966. Far too young to have found the peace of a grave, she lies beneath an oak tree. Nearby, weak and rotted limbs from a towering pine fall to the ground as if to join the dead. The family service director of Davis-Greenlawn Cemetery steps off a golf cart and volunteers, "Hardly anyone ever comes here anymore, and few people around here even know who she is, but many of the old-timers tell me that reporters
Kathleen Leissner Whitman is buried in the Davis-Greenlawn Cemetery in Rosenberg,
Gary Lavergne
Page ix
from all over the world were here for her funeral." Attached to the weathered plaque is a small black vase with nearly-fresh poinsettias. "I see to it that flowers are there, at least most of the time. I kind of adopted her. It just seems right."
Knowing what Kathy Whitman looked like makes the visit more tragic. She was beautiful. Knowing that she chose teaching as an honorable profession brings pointless questions of the lives she could have touched; the world was robbed of her grace, intellect and talent. Knowing that on her last day she fell asleep feeling safe and that her death came quickly and painlessly brings little comfort. She has occupied space five, lot forty-two of section H of Davis-Greenlawn Memorial Park since 3 August 1966.
Approximately 1,200 miles away, via the Eisenhower Interstate System, in West Palm Beach, Florida, is Hillcrest Memorial Park. Across the street from a large, domed silver water storage tank, a life-size statue above a small columbarium depicts a mother and father looking down upon their young son and daughter with gentleness and kindness. At the base of the statue is inscribed "Family Protection." Here, too, is peace.
At Hillcrest narrow asphalt roads wind among the weathered metal plaques. Some of the plaques near the edges of the drive are bent, run over by indifferent and careless drivers. Well-manicured boxwoods and exotic trees dot the ground's rolling hills. In the very center of the cemetery, atop a stainless steel flagpole, the star-spangled banner flaps in a gentle breeze. Nearby, in section sixteen, is buried the man who killed Kathy Leissner Whitmanher husband, Charles Joseph Whitman. On the right lies Margaret E. Whitman, his mother. He killed her, too.
Charlie's plaque is adorned by an engraving of Saint Joseph, his patron saint. A rosary stretches across the top and around an opening where a vase should be. No one has adopted this grave. An engraving of the Virgin Mary and a rosary as well adorn Margaret's plaque. Yet another Whitman, John Michael, whom Charlie playfully called "Johnnie Mike," the victim of another tragedy, lies to the right. An angel with a spear adorns his plaque.
When Charles and Margaret Whitman were buried together on 5 August 1966, the world was only beginning to comprehend the horror of what he had done, and yet his gray metal casket was draped
BOOK: A Sniper in the Tower
7.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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