Authors: Barry Siegel
Tensions mounted. Testifying in January 1976, Carol said of Bill: “Many times he accused me of having affairs or wanting to have affairs with friends that we knew—it was just about any man that I came in contact with.” Also testifying that month, Bill said of Carol: “She began staying out later and later every night. The class would end at 9:30, 10. She’d sometimes be an hour or two late, sometimes five or six hours.… It wasn’t too long before I understood what was going on.”
Just how and when Carol left their home remains unclear. After a particularly intense argument—or perhaps without any argument at all—the Macumbers’ marriage finally ruptured and Carol packed up. “The night prior to my wife leaving,” Bill later testified, “she informed the boys that she would be leaving, and I have three children. They are 7, 9, and 11 years old. And my nine-year-old cried and begged his mother to stay. And she never even shed a tear.”
With the boys under Bill’s care, Carol, in late May or early June 1974, rented an apartment on North Fifty-eighth Avenue, sharing it with another clerk in the sheriff’s department, Frieda Kennedy. Carol was thirty-one then, Frieda twenty. Divorce and custody proceedings began, along with all the familiar claims.
* * *
The catalyst for what might be called Bill Macumber’s week of hell came in August 1974. During the first half of that month, he and his parents took his sons on vacation to Oregon. A few days after returning, just past midnight on Thursday, August 22, while home with his sons, Macumber made an emergency 911 call. There’d been a shot fired into his home, he reported.
He’d been in his living room watching television, he told W. H. Rice, the Phoenix police officer who first responded to his call. He went to the kitchen to answer the phone. An instant later, from the alley at the back of the house, someone fired a shot through the kitchen window, narrowly missing him, the bullet slamming into a cabinet just inches from his head. Bill dropped to the floor, grabbed his handgun off a shelf, then stood and ran out the kitchen door. He saw someone climbing over the fence at the rear of the yard. He sank to one knee, braced himself, and shouted “Stop!” before firing one shot. He thought he heard a female voice in the alley cry, “Oh no.”
Rice was dubious—he saw no evidence of blood or disruption in the alley, and the fence seemed too rickety to climb over. He took note that Macumber was in the midst of a divorce and custody battle, though Macumber, he reported, “does not think his wife would do anything like this.”
By the next day, Friday, August 23, Rice’s report had made its way from the Phoenix Police Department to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, apparently because Macumber, as commander of the Desert Survival Unit, carried a sheriff’s badge. For reasons never entirely clear, the file went immediately to the sheriff’s internal investigation unit. When a Phoenix police detective, Joe Rieger, came to retrieve the initial police report that day, he found it there, on Corporal Richard Diehl’s desk. Diehl, in fact, was at that moment interviewing Bill Macumber. Yet this remained a Phoenix Police Department case, so Rieger went in search of Carol—he considered her a suspect and wished to know her whereabouts on Wednesday night, August 21.
Carol, he soon learned, had been at a cocktail party that evening at the Casa Bell Hotel, along with various Phoenix police and Maricopa County sheriff’s officers and employees. The party later moved to Room 715. At around 9:00 or 9:30, the party moved again, this time to Nobo Jones for dinner; then, at around 10:30, it continued at Mr. Lucky’s on Grand Avenue—eight miles from the Macumber home. Carol didn’t hear about the shooting, she told Rieger, until her roommate, Frieda Kennedy, called her from the sheriff’s office near 8:00
the next morning. She didn’t believe Bill’s story. Bill had told her wild tales in the past; here was another. He’d done this shooting himself. Their marital problems went back at least five years. They were in the midst of a divorce.
Rieger’s interview with Carol took place late in the afternoon on August 23. From her apartment, he went next to the Macumber home. There he studied the trajectory of the bullet fired through the window—Bill had a string tied from the kitchen cabinet to a stake at the rear of the backyard. The kitchen light rays were almost in a line with the path of the bullet. Rieger noted that a right-handed shooter would have been positioned in the dark.
Outside, he inspected the back fence. Made of a redwood basket weave, it appeared wobbly, as Officer Rice had noted earlier. Yet Rieger climbed the fence twice, and it did not collapse. And, unlike Rice, he did notice signs of disruption in the alley. He saw a piece of board that matched the fence lying in the alley. He also saw an impression on the ground that appeared to be a heel mark, and a lesser impression of the rest of a foot—size 8. Whoever went over the fence had his or her weight on the heel.
Macumber told Rieger he had no known enemies and did not think his wife was involved. He would be going camping over the weekend and would return Sunday evening. In his report that day, Rieger wrote, “Due to what assigned officer found at the scene, this report could not be unfounded. Investigation is continuing.”
* * *
It had been near 5:00
when Rieger left Carol and Frieda’s apartment. Carol fumed. Rieger had grilled her, asked for an alibi, and asked to look at her service revolver. Carol believed that Bill was trying to blame her in some direct or indirect way for the shot through the house. “I became angry,” she explained later, “and decided they ought to know what kind of a kook they were dealing with.”
, Carol picked up the phone and called Corporal Diehl in the sheriff’s internal investigations unit. She wanted to talk, she said; she had something to tell him. They made an appointment to meet at the sheriff’s department at 6:45
Frieda came with Carol, and Detective Joe Rieger, from the Phoenix police, joined them. The four were together for one hour. Then Nancy Halas, a sheriff’s department stenographer, received a phone call at 7:45
from Sheriff Paul Blubaum, asking her to come in and take a statement on a sensitive internal investigation. Halas showed up soon after. Carol began to tell her story—this time for the record, Nancy Halas writing it down in shorthand notes.
Approximately three months ago my husband, William Wayne Macumber, and I were discussing [the two of us] starting the MCSD Reserve Academy. Bill and I were discussing the possibility. At that time he stated to me, as he had on previous occasions, that he could not go through the Academy because it required a polygraph and that he could not take the polygraph. He told me that the reason he couldn’t take the polygraph was because he had done things in the Army and had killed people in the Army and that this would be looked on as a crime.… I told him that whatever he did in the Army was alright if under Army auspices. He then started to hint that there was more, and finally said he had killed the two kids from Mountain Bell Telephone that they’d found on Scottsdale Road about 10 years ago.
He said that the Army CID [Criminal Investigation Division] had told him there would be two suspects.… The army had given him a description of the vehicle and that these two subjects would be at the A&W Root Beer out in Scottsdale. He told me that he went out to Scottsdale to the root beer stand and he saw the suspect car—again it sticks in my mind it was a white pickup that the kids were driving. He saw the car that the Army had described to him, and he followed it out on Scottsdale Road and pulled off into the desert and he followed them with his bright lights on. The car stopped and the guy got out and he made some gesture, like he was reaching for a gun or something, so Bill fired. I think he told me that he fired from behind—he said he got out of the truck and was standing behind the door firing through the open window. The kid fell, the girl got out and started to scream and run and he shot her.
As Carol gave this statement, Diehl had the Sterrenberg-McKillop case file and photos spread before them. “Did you ever read these case reports over?” Diehl asked her.
“I am sure that at one time or another I had this thing pulled out.… It is possible that I did see it.”
Carol continued: “I do remember at the time of the killing that the purse had been gone through so I assume from that the door would have to be touched in some way, but that is assumption on my part. I have to be careful about what he actually told me and what I remember about the case. But he did say that he went through the girl’s purse to make it look like a burglary.”
Carol wasn’t finished. She had a second story to tell, about a night Bill left the house to go to a Varmint Callers meeting:
I don’t remember the month, but it was warm—he wasn’t wearing a coat. He had a .45—said he was going to a Varmint Caller’s meeting. He had never been to one before and he was going to go see if he liked it.… He got home between 9 and 10
At that time he was covered with blood and he was white and shaking. He said that he had gone down the freeway to Dunlap, over Dunlap and just on the other side of the freeway there were three kids stopped by the side of the road with the hood up on their truck. He stopped to help them and when he put his head under the hood to see what was wrong, out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the kids lift something to hit him and he came around and hit one of them on the bridge of the nose.… He fought all three, according to him. And this is how he got blood on him. At that time I told him, “For God’s sake, call the Phoenix Police Department and tell them about it,” and he said—no, that they were juveniles and that if he had seriously hit one, we would get sued.
A moment before, Carol had not remembered the month this happened, but now she said: “It was the next day or the day after, I am pretty sure, it was the next day that I heard about the two kids found in the desert near Scottsdale.… At that time I began to wonder because Bill comes home the night before covered with blood.”
And yet, “we finally let it drop” back in 1962, Carol told her colleagues. She and Bill never discussed the matter again until the spring of 1974. “I had forgotten completely about it until that night that he mentioned it three months ago.”
How could Carol forget and “let it drop,” going on to bear and raise three sons with Bill Macumber? Forever after, she would hear and try to answer that question.
AUGUST 23–30, 1974
After Carol gave her statement on Friday, August 23, five days passed with Bill Macumber knowing nothing of it. He went camping that weekend, returning on Sunday night and, as usual, going to work at Honeywell on Monday morning. That evening, he sat in the kitchen of his neighbor Paul Bridgewater’s home, talking about the window-shooting incident. How he went to answer the phone, how he fell to the floor after the shot, how he ran out to the alley with his pistol. He suspected Carol—he allowed as much to Bridgewater. He looked tired and sounded desperate. I can’t believe she’d go to this end, he sighed. Why is this happening?
The next day, Phoenix police detective Joe Rieger visited Macumber at Honeywell to discuss the report he was preparing. Rieger had taken Macumber’s gun for testing, to exclude the possibility that he’d staged the shooting, and had just received his crime lab’s ballistics analysis. Your gun, he advised Macumber, didn’t match the .38-caliber bullet extracted from the kitchen cabinet.
Less can be said about actions in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, given the paucity of reports. For a time during those five days, Carol remained a suspect in the shooting on Wethersfield Road, as did her roommate, Frieda Kennedy. The internal investigation unit called them in more than once. “They were asking questions about it,” Frieda recalled in a deposition. “They were asking where we were at and what we were doing. We had to provide an alibi. I know I was with Mike Moreno that night.… Carol, I don’t know where she was at because I stayed out that night until 4 or 5 in the morning.”
Eventually, Carol and Frieda managed to satisfy or divert the deputies’ questions. It apparently helped that Carol took and passed a lie detector test on August 27, although polygraphs, given their unreliability, were not admissible in Arizona courtrooms. For whatever the reasons, she and Frieda were suspects for a while, and then they weren’t.
on Wednesday, August 28, Bill Macumber had an appointment at the sheriff’s internal investigation office, the stated purpose being to review with Corporal Diehl a six-page Phoenix Police Department report on the shooting at his home. Macumber was thirty-eight then, rail thin with thick eyeglasses, a droopy mustache, and a thatch of brown hair hanging over his forehead. He arrived at the department half an hour early, accompanied by Carl Pace, a close friend, Honeywell colleague and fellow member of the Desert Survival Unit. He’d invited Pace for moral support and because he felt it best to have somebody other than department people present. The window-shooting incident had upset him greatly, as had his separation from Carol. He had not been sleeping much—in fact, he had not slept at all the night before—and he’d been eating irregularly. He had stomach problems, the result of an ulcerated condition in his intestines.
It’s not possible to say with certainty what happened during the next sixteen hours at the sheriff’s department. Anyone poring through the reports and transcripts later could only speculate, for the deputies did not transcribe or tape-record their extended interrogation of Macumber. Nor did they take notes—at least they never shared any notes. What’s known: Around 11:00
, Macumber, after talking to deputies for two hours, agreed to take a polygraph about the window-shooting incident. So they all drove to the Ezell Polygraph Institute, where Tom Ezell questioned Macumber, just as he had Carol the day before. Shortly before 1:00
, Diehl informed Macumber that the results of the polygraph indicated deception.
Diehl then advised Macumber that he wished to talk to him about another allegation, one made against Bill by his wife. After first reciting his Miranda rights, Diehl began to read out loud Carol’s statement of August 23. Macumber soon interrupted him, saying he did not understand. So Diehl handed Carol’s written statement to Bill. “Upon completion of the reading,” Diehl wrote the next day in his brief, two-and-a-half-page report, “Macumber appeared angry and made comments like, ‘She is really out to get me.’” Diehl also wrote that Macumber, asked if he’d confessed to Carol, “hung his head for a moment and, looking at the floor, said ‘yes.’” Asked why he’d confessed, Diehl wrote, Bill “said it was to keep Carol from leaving him.”