The first murderer I caught in Texas was an interesting case. I think this was the first one there, but it might have been the second. I can’t remember for sure. If you are indeed used to that kind of thing, it was typical of murders in many ways; if you are not and new to it all, it was shocking. But all murders have many intriguing, classical aspects in the timeless, human drama and trauma of life and death.

After years in patrol and an investigator in the US Army, I was no “first rodeo’ guy when I got to Texas. In my first few months on patrol in in Texas in the 1970s, I was riding shotgun with Officer Ron Atkins. About 4 a.m. one night, we got a call from an angry neighbor in what we once called “shack-town,” the projects, or the “poor” part of our city … you get the nickname; you get the very sad picture. The neighbor reported men fighting in the house next door. I later heard the original call on tape: “They’s fightin’ something horrible next door.They’s young, drinkin’ people, and I don’t know what all is goin’ on over there. They’s yellin.’ They’s screamin’ something horrible. I can’t get a nod of sleep!”

On this street, the walls of those single-story, old, small, wooden houses were very thin; and noise would carry. I reported “10-4” to the dispatcher, and Ron headed that way. As we got close to the block, Ron turned out the headlights to approach the house as quietly as possible. Classic patrol tactics. Then, as now, we boys and girls in blue would get ambushed in route to disturbances with some frequency. Lights out. Never park right in front. All that tactical stuff.

It was pretty chilly as I recall, and it surprised us both to see a nearly naked man alone and busy in motion in front of our target house. He was a tall, thin, black male dressed only in cut-off jeans. We coasted closer and watched him. Ron finally decided we needed to see what was going on; and he pulled on the headlights, high beams, and our takedown lights, powerful light bar beams from our car roof that really turned darkness bright like a movie set.

WELL! This young man was busy working at the trunk of his car. The trunk was open, and he was wrestling with … a lifeless body. The body was as long and lanky as he was; and as quickly as he would shove an arm into the trunk, a leg would roll out and vice versa. The man was covered in swirling blood stains, that is, blood painted in circles and swirls on his skin. In my business, that generally means people were bleeding and fighting.

He froze in the bath of those bright lights. I can still see that picture in my mind today. He was half crouched over, eyes wide. Incredulous and shocked. There was no way he could identify who we were behind our bright lights.

I turned to Ron and said calmly, “I guess we got a murder?”
“Yeah,” Ron, too, said calmly.

I sprang out of the car and pulled my Colt Python .357 magnum and pointed at the man. “Police! Hands up!”
He stood straight up and shoved his hands up high.

Ron and I approached from opposite flanks and handcuffed the man. Ron knew him immediately, “Terry, what is going on?” he asked.
“Ohhhh, MANNN! This mother-fucker tried to kill me.”

Terry was indeed cut by a knife and had multiple slashes. I looked in the open trunk with the help of my Maglite flashlight – the large black male in the trunk was also cut up. He, too, was naked except for cut-off blue jeans. I felt for a pulse. None. It was more than obvious that Terry had put the body in the car planning to dispose of it later. Terry tried a few real Swiss-cheese excuses as Ron walked him back to our squad car and used the hand mike to call for an ambulance, a Sergeant, and for CID. He sat Terry on the ground and started to talk with him and inspect his wounds.

Curious, I walked into the house with my gun up and out. The house was partially furnished and, where so, it was with very old and pitted junk. All made worse, if possible, by the signs of a struggle. The living room was an upturned mess; and where it connected to a dining room, a cheap table and chairs were tossed away and turned upside down. There was an ancient carpet on the floor, and it was covered in a giant bloodstain. And atop this ritual, wet, red site? Two big kitchen knives. I imagined two 6 feet 2 inches lean black guys in matching cut-off jean shorts, no less, ducking, stabbing, and slashing. And yelling loud enough to wake the neighbors.

I saw a dim yellow light on down a short hall; and gun barrel first, I made my way into the room. On an old bed lay a white girl about 20 years old, later I discovered quite drunk, and with long blonde hair. Her shoulders were bare. She clutched a soiled and crusty sheet up to her chin.

They were fighting over me,” was all she said to me. That pretty much told me a lot.
“Get dressed,” I told her. A duel. A duel for the “fair” lady.
She did, and I guided her out to the front of the house. By now, ambulances and supervisors were arriving. With my arms folded and the two of us leaning against a car on the street, I got a preliminary tale from the girl.

The sad story went that the girl was from out of state and attended one of the two big, local universities we had. She met Terry somehow (as Terry was hardly college material) and began this…this so-called affair. Terry then shared his best friend with her, but the sharing became too tense and complicated. Call it love? Territory? Honor, I guess? Call it what you will. And so, Sir Terry and this Sir Friend had to duel it out with kitchen knives over the fair lady in the dingy little dungeon of the castle. Murder ensued.

In the end, it was another torrid love story in the near-naked city of cut-offs, a mythic melodrama as old as the knights of yore. The duel of edged-weapons, as if told by Shakespeare himself. In the end of the courtroom case months later, the third act you might say, the prosecution could not prove who was defending himself against whom? And Terry Raygins received about a six-year sentence. He was out on the street in two and a half years on parole.

Terry was the first or second murderer I caught in Texas, that I can remember (after 50 years). The very least the first one with Ron Atkins. I got to know Terry as the years went on. He stayed out of major trouble after that. These fair damsels can make you do crazy things.

Post Script: And through the years, I also got to know most all of the Raygins family. All was not well at Raygins’ family castle either. They had a huge family and were a colorful bunch of troublemakers and sad sacks. Poppa Raygins was a hard-working factory man whose feisty wife had tossed him out of the house one winter. Tossed him out … to the garage, that is. Daddy Raygins lived in the unattached, dilapidated garage at the end of the driveway for several years. No heat, no air. We used to drive by and look down the driveway and see ol’ man Raygins watching TV in his garage, or showering in boxer shorts by the yard hose, cooking on a hot plate, and sleeping on an old couch. If he sneaked into the house, his wife would beat him and toss him out. A time or two, I had an occasion to walk up the drive and talk to him, because? Because that is what good patrol officers do. They know the people of their beats.

One day Daddy Raygins decided his hot plate was not enough. He needed an electric stove in his garage. With a stove he could cook better than on the hot plate, and he could also leave the oven door open and heat the place in the winter. He bought a used kitchen stove from RayBlevin’s Used and Repaired Used Appliances. He cleared a space in his cluttered garage, plugged it in, turned it on, touched the metal contraption and electrocuted himself. Fried stone dead. His crispy self lain in the garage a few days until someone eventually saw him, found him and called us. Kilt by a stove he was.

His wife said, “Good riddance to that old bastard.”
Sometimes, life ain’t so pretty in the various Camelots we find for ourselves. Things can get mighty rotten in Denmark. Sometimes.

Book 1 coming soon about the patrol years. But get this detective years Book 2 of Hocks Memoirs right now: Click here for it.