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The Unsolved Murder of Gary and Stephanie Gillette

A big thanks to Vincent Strange and Erica Lea from Gone Cold Podcast for this fascinating guest post on the unsolved murder of Gary and Stephanie Gillette. For more on this heartbreaking mystery, be sure to check out the coverage of the case on Gone Cold Podcast, which includes interviews with family members, experts, and law officials. 

Gone Cold Podcast focuses on unsolved murders and missing person cases in Texas. The podcast began in July of 2017 with the hopes of drawing attention to cases that have been previously overlooked or forgotten. You can subscribe to Gone Cold Podcast on whatever podcatcher you use, such as Apple Podcasts. You can also follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, and support them on Patreon. 

Gary Gillette

In 1985, Gary Gillette’s company, Aqua-Vert Drilling Fluids, was relatively young, having only started in August of 1982. Gary was the charismatic and hard-working face of the company, which sold water-based drilling fluids—referred to as drilling mud in the industry. Drilling mud’s multifaceted uses are complicated, but simply put, it’s used to lubricate and cool the drill bit while drilling for oil, while also carrying the rock cuttings to the surface of the hole so the mechanism doesn’t get stuck.

Gary had helped start the company, but he was mostly a self-made man. According to Gary’s brother, Mike, Gary had always been smart, fostered friendships with wealthy people, and was a sharp dresser. Having been brought up in modest conditions, he had a strong desire to make something of himself. 

Gary was born on December 20th, 1951. He grew up in San Angelo, Texas, with his two younger brothers, Mike and Larry, and younger sister, Chery; they lived with their mother. Gary had a quick wit and a charisma that drew people to him. His younger brother Mike recalls that when Gary was a kid he was a “natural wit.” Even though Gary was sometimes hesitant to hang out with other kids, when he was social he could be quite the jokester once he felt comfortable. 

Gary left his home in San Angelo at an early age and moved into his father’s home in Corpus Christi. After he’d been there a couple years, his father’s employment would have taken him to South America but Gary didn’t want to go, and fate stepped in. He met Debbie. 

Gary and Debbie ran into each other while shopping, formed a quick connection, and started dating. When Gary’s dad headed to South America, Gary moved in with Debbie and her family. Debbie and Gary were married and had three girls: Shae, Kristie, and Candice. Though the marriage was mostly good, the couple divorced about a year after Gary met Mary Stephanie Smith in 1981.

Mary Stephanie Smith

Mary Stephanie Smith, known to all by her middle name, was born on March 29th, 1961. She was the first born, ahead of her siblings Laura and Ron. Stephanie and her family lived in Richland Springs, Texas: a tiny country town with a peak population in 1950 just under 600. Richland Springs rests dead center between Abilene and Austin. 

It’s difficult to exaggerate the high regard everyone had for Stephanie. Her charisma, no doubt, rivaled Gary’s and her compassion, selflessness, and good nature was unadulterated by any self-beneficial agenda. She was fun, lifting any sullen spirit who dared to challenge her pure, altruistic joy.

On Friday, December 23rd, 1983, Stephanie’s grandfather, Reverend Aubrey Maxted, officiated the couple’s small wedding held at the house of their close friends Gene and Teena Bowman. Family and a close group of friends were present to witness; the star attraction was, surely, Stephanie clad in her ivory gown and antique pearls that had been passed down to every bride in her family, beginning with her great-great-grandmother. 

Gary and Stephanie’s wedding

Murder victims Gary and Stephanie Gillette
Source: Kristie Gillette

By all accounts, Gary and Stephanie were very much in love. It didn’t take Stephanie long to win the hearts of her step-kids. For the next couple of years, Gary and Stephanie began making a life for themselves. Gary’s company, Aqua-Vert, was doing well, even with the fluctuating oil market taking a substantial hit in the mid-1980s.

They rented a three-bedroom house in a nice, quiet community with enough room for Gary to have a home office and space for the kids, leaving behind the apartment they’d been renting.  

Stephanie often accompanied Gary as he traveled, sometimes hundreds of miles a day, to the oil wells he supplied; the business required him to travel, managing the contracted individuals he used to maintain the products he sold. Shae, Candice, and Kristie would also visit the sites with their father on occasion.

The Murders

On the evening of Friday, December 13th, 1985, Stephanie and Gary’s plans for the weekend were slightly altered. Gary’s children, 14-year-old Shae, 11-year-old Kristie, and 8-year-old Candice, were scheduled to spend the weekend at his and Stephanie’s home, but a work-related Christmas party came up and they needed to postpone the kids’ arrival until the following day.

It was rare for Gary to cut his weekends short with them, but the three sisters didn’t think much about it. And, really, there was no way for any of them to anticipate that such a seemingly innocuous change of plans would result in such devastating consequences for the couple. 

That Friday night, December 13th, 1985, Gary and Stephanie arrived at the Tramp Steamer, a bar located in the Hilton Inn on the outskirts of downtown Corpus Christi, in separate cars. They socialized, enjoying themselves at the Christmas party. Kristie’s teacher, who attended the party, reported that nothing out of the ordinary occurred at the Tramp Steamer that evening. 

At some point, Gary approached his close friend Rodney and told him that he had to head over to another party at the Cantina to make an appearance and asked if he would make sure Stephanie got home safely. When Stephanie decided to leave, Rodney walked her out to the car, she got in, and he watched her drive off.

Although several friends stated that Gary had made plans with them for that Saturday, Gary didn’t make good on those plans. But since he was often pulled away at a moment’s notice to handle business, it wasn’t completely unusual. One friend, though, felt compelled enough to reach out to police that Sunday. He reported to the Corpus Christi Police that he had been unable to reach the couple all day Saturday and Sunday morning. 

Gillette family home

Gary and Stephanie Gillette home
Source: Kristie Gillette

When the first patrol car arrived, the friend and the patrolman entered the residence through the home’s garage entry, which opened into the kitchen. What they found in the Gillette home that sat in the quiet cul-de-sac on the 4800 block of Sweet Briar Circle was nothing short of shocking. 

33-year-old Gary and 24-year-old Stephanie had been slain in the master bedroom of their home. Gary and Stephanie were attacked while they were sleeping, both struck repeatedly in the head with a hatchet and each stabbed multiple times in the torso. 

The Crime Scene

Homicide detectives, crime scene investigators, and the Nueces County Coroner swarmed the scene; the Coroner’s van backed up to the garage, shrouding Gary and Stephanie’s bodies as they were placed in the vehicle to spare neighbors, onlookers, and Gary’s family the gruesome sight.

The slayings, of course, had a tremendous impact on the residents of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas. The entire community was impacted by the rumors of a madman on the loose. 

Though many details of the crime scene remain vague, certain details did leak to the press. Most tellingly, perhaps, was the fact that the Gillette home had been locked tight with no signs of forced entry and neighbors reported no unusual sights or sounds that night or early morning. This caused law enforcement to speculate that Gary and Stephanie knew whoever had perpetrated this horrific act. Little more than that was known to the public. 

A homicide detective for the Corpus Christi police in 1985 explained that although he was off work the day the Gillettes were found, he was called to the scene that day. He recalled that other than the master bedroom, the entirety of the house was generally undisturbed and appeared normal. In fact, his recollection included the assertion that the home was very well-kept and organized. 

The Christmas tree that Gary, Stephanie, Kristie, Shae, and Candice were to trim that weekend was in the house, a somber reminder of the joyous tradition that was to take place had the couple not been slain. Police were quoted as saying that the killer “had the trust of the Gillettes.”

Investigators found one of the murder weapons, the knife, soon after Gary and Stephanie’s bodies were discovered. The perpetrator had attempted to clean the knife, and then put it back in its place in the kitchen. It was a standard home chef’s knife. 

The most unusual sight outside the well-kept Gillette home was Gary’s company car pulled up to the front curb in a way that appeared the driver was either in a hurry or, perhaps, perturbed that that another vehicle was parked in its usual spot in the driveway. 

A newspaper reported that the telephone lines had been cut inside the home; however, this detail provided more confusion than answers. In order for an incoming caller to receive a busy signal, which is what Gary’s daughters heard when they called the house, the phone itself must either be off the hook or, if the line was cut, the internal wires in the line must be crossed or connected, which implies a slightly more involved process than simply cutting the line.

Gary was reported to be a stomach sleeper, and his wounds were to his head and back. Stephanie, on the other hand, was believed to be a back sleeper, and her wounds were to the head and front torso. Gary was wearing green boxer shorts, and Stephanie had on white panties and white socks. The master bedroom itself, apart from the violent and depraved assault against Gary and Stephanie on their bed, also appeared to be undisturbed. This suggests that a struggle had not taken place, solidifying the evidence that the couple was attacked while they slept.

When they were found, though, Gary and Stephanie were both on the floor beside the bed. How they got there is unclear. Some of the theories include the couple being pulled off of the bed after the attack, or perhaps struggling off of the bed just after the attack as if to try to get help. Both Stephanie and Gary’s cause of death was determined to be by stabbing and blunt force trauma. 

On Monday, December 16th, the day after Stephanie and Gary were found, an important discovery was made. Standing in the doorway of the master bedroom of the Gillette home looking out across the hallway, the entrances to two other bedrooms could be seen. On the left was the bedroom where 8-year-old Candice and 11-year-old Kristie slept, and on the right was where 14-year-old Shae slept. The second murder weapon, the hatchet, was found stuffed between the mattress and box springs in Shae’s room. Like the knife, the hatchet was thought to have been owned by the Gillettes. 

Layout of the Gillette home

Gillette House Layout
Source: Kristie Gillette

This tool, or weapon in this case, is what is known as a half-hatchet: one side of its head an axe, the other a hammer. The blade of the hatchet about 4 inches in length, the total length about the same any standard hatchet or hammer, around 14 or 15 inches. 

Not long after Gary and Stephanie’s bodies were found, police determined that Gary’s 1971 Buick Electra was missing. The vehicle was extremely important to him, as his father had died in 1984 and Gary had purchased it from him not long before that. The Electra had been fully restored and Gary usually kept it covered in the garage, only pulling it out for a leisurely ride or special occasion.

Police were called at approximately 8:10PM to the 6200 block of Wimbledon Drive, a little less than two and a half miles from the Gillette home, on Tuesday, December 17th, 1985, by a man who had read about the missing vehicle in the paper. The man had found Gary’s car there. When a forensic team examined the car, it was determined that the prized Buick Electra had been wiped clean with a cloth, though a single fingerprint was found.

Earlier that day, family evaluated Gary and Stephanie’s home for missing belongings, and it was determined that Gary’s watch and custom-made rings were nowhere to be found. Also missing was a .38 caliber, pearl-handled Smith & Wesson revolver. Police had already been searching for Stephanie’s purse in roadways and drainage ditches in the area, since it was not found in the house, but it, too, could not be located. Though these items were stolen, police did not believe robbery was a motive since many items of value were left in the Gillette home. Rather, it was as if the perpetrator wanted the attack to look like a robbery. 

Gary and Stephanie Gillette

Photo of murder victims Gary and Stephanie Gillette
Source: Kristie Gillette

Heartbroken family and friends filled the Cage-Mills Funeral home to capacity to pay respects to the beloved couple on Wednesday, December 18th, 1985. Mary Stephanie Smith-Gillette and Gary Gene Gillette were laid to rest at each other’s side in the Palms Memorial Garden in Portland, Texas.

Family, friends, and residents of Corpus Christi and the surrounding areas grappled with the fear that the slayings of Gary and Stephanie caused. For almost six months, the community was gripped with utter uncertainty and rumors.  

The Primary Suspect

Gary and Stephanie had many friends—no one that they came across could resist the genuine charm, charisma, and good nature that they both exuded. Of all the folks who cared about Gary and Stephanie, and there were plenty, only one presented himself as worried about their whereabouts enough to call police on Sunday, December 15th, 1985. Oddly, though, he never attempted to first locate the couple through family members or other friends of the couple, many of which he knew well.

Gary had been friends with this individual since high school when they met at the Padre Staples Mall in Corpus Christi where they both worked. He worked full-time as a Nueces County Deputy Constable in Port Aransas between the months of March and September, and since the remaining months only provided him with reserve status as a deputy constable, he supplemented his income with private investigation, mostly helping local attorneys with initial or light legwork. To protect his identity, he will be referred to only as “the Constable.” 

Another close friend of Stephanie and Gary, CP Coker, said that he also shared in the friendship with Gary and the Constable. The men often celebrated holidays together and, in fact, had just spent the previous Thanksgiving together while Stephanie was out of town. The Constable knew the oilfield, too; he had worked off and on for refineries and occasionally accompanied Gary on business trips. And though it was heavily frowned upon, or most likely downright prohibited, Gary sometimes rode along with the Constable on official police business. CP Coker called Gary and the Constable very close friends, saying that they had immense respect for each other, and adding that he never knew them to have a falling out. 

On Friday, December 13th, 1985, while they attended the business Christmas party at the Tramp Steamer bar, Gary left to attend a separate party at another bar, leaving Stephanie at the Tramp Steamer with other close friends. At the second party, Gary met up with the Constable. At some point, Gary and the Constable, along with his date for the evening, decided to head back to the Gillette home on Sweet Briar Circle. Gary arrived at the house first, the Constable and his date soon after. It wouldn’t be long before Stephanie would return home as well.

What happened next can only be speculated; however, it is known that Gary and Stephanie Gillette were murdered in their bed as they slept in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 14th, 1985, each struck repeatedly with a hatchet and stabbed multiple times. The Constable was the last known person to see the couple alive and, of course, he was the individual who alerted the police to check on the couple the following day.

Though the events and a timeline of that night and early morning are indeed vague, court documents and the witness testimony of the Constable’s date that night provide some insight into what transpired. At 12:31AM, Gary’s answering service spoke with both him and the Constable, who also used the service. This is the last time the service heard from Gary. The woman who answered spoke briefly with Gary before he handed the phone to the Constable. She told police that he repeatedly asked about a woman he wished to date, who we’ll call Rachel, and informed the service that he’d be spending the night at the Gillette home.

The Constable’s date that night was admittedly intoxicated, but she did recall one thing in particular. It isn’t difficult to assume that the Constable’s date that night had gone to bed before the 12:31AM call to the answering service, since he had been inquiring about another woman, Rachel, who he was interested in. Asleep in the bedroom that Gary’s daughter Shae occupied when she was at the Gillette home, the Constable’s date was awoken by him when he said to her, “There’s some bad shit going down. We need to leave.” They left the Gillette home, the Constable drove his date to her car, and she drove home.

He returned to the Gillette home sometime after this, he told police, to retrieve a coat his date had left, adding that nothing at all seemed amiss at the home and that the Buick Electra – Gary’s prized vehicle that would be found parked on a street two days later – was still in the garage when he left. 

The specific time he claimed to have gone back to pick up the coat is unknown, though calls by the Constable to the answering service do provide other confirmable time stamps. At 3:45AM, the operator of the answering service spoke with the Constable for “a long time.” She reported that, again, he droned on about his romantic desires for Rachel. This call came from the Constable’s home, where he told the operator he would remain from that point on. His residence received an incoming call at 5:30AM, but that call went unanswered; the answering service operator answered, and the caller hung up.

As mentioned earlier, Gary’s Buick Electra would be found two days later parked in front of a residence a little less than two and a half miles from the Gillette home. This fact alone is hardly telling. In the early morning hours of that Saturday, though, a resident of the house in which the vehicle sat in front observed it there at approximately 2:30AM. That observer was none other than the brother of Rachel, the woman who the Constable had repeatedly expressed his desires for to the answering service operator. 

A fingerprint had also been lifted from the wiped-down vehicle, sitting, court documents say, on top of a dried water stain on the inside of the right passenger side window. A fingerprint expert later determined the print to be recent in origin and that the print was the Constable’s. 

Upon arriving at the scene the day Gary and Stephanie’s bodies were discovered, unaware of what was happening, Gary’s former wife, Debbie, approached the only familiar face she saw…the Constable. Debbie knew the Constable through his friendship with her ex-husband, but he had only ever visited the home she and Gary shared while they were married twice. Gary’s daughters, however, had never even laid eyes on the man before.

Gary’s oldest daughter, Shae, who had arrived at the scene with her mother, was indescribably distraught and overwhelmed by the jam-packed cul de sac that was completely blocked by droves of police vehicles, the coroner van, the local television and newspaper media, neighbors who’d come out of their homes to observe, and passersby who’d stopped to quench their curiosity. However, Shae does recall seeing the Constable there and that he displayed no emotion whatsoever.

After having his statement taken, the Constable was given a polygraph test, which he passed. Investigators, though, were skeptical about the results. According to Gary’s brother, Mike, “He took a detector test and you know every time they asked him specific questions he’d cough. So he knew what he was doing.”

Gary and Stephanie’s joint funerals were not without incident involving the Constable. A close family member of Stephanie’s gave a statement to police describing a bizarre exchange with him as he arrived there. When approached by this individual and Gary’s brother, the Constable told them that he and a girlfriend were there, and that Stephanie and Gary began arguing when Stephanie arrived home a short time after Gary, the Constable, and his date arrived. He told them that he and his date “didn’t have to put up with that,” so they left, the Constable returning to retrieve his date’s coat, noticing nothing unusual. He said he couldn’t discuss the case beyond that, as he was aiding police in their investigation, but he could tell them more later.

When the funerals were coming to an end, Stephanie’s family member once again approached the Constable, who was standing in the hallway of the funeral home looking out the window. He stood next to the Constable and commented on the rain. The Constable turned to him suddenly, violently grabbed his shirt, shivered, and gritted his teeth. The family member just looked at him, presumably shocked, and the Constable let go after a few seconds.

The Constable’s strange behaviour behavior continued. He told Debbie over the phone: “Stephanie did live longer because the murderer heard gurgling noises and went back to finish her off.” Debbie was horrified, and wondered how on earth he could have known that information unless he was there when the couple had died. 

Corpus Christi Homicide Detectives believed the Constable’s statements to them contained many inconsistencies, and, of course, became aware of what he said to Debbie on the phone. According to court documents, the Constable also told another individual what he had told Debbie.

In May of 1986, a news article was released in which police suggested they were stepping-up the investigation. Days after the article was printed, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the Constable, charging him with the murders of Gary and Stephanie.

The Case

The complaint against the Constable included what he said about Stephanie being alive after the first attack and how she was attacked again later. Lieutenant Eddie Garza of the Corpus Christi Police listed on the complaint that it was the opinion of the department that only the killer would have had a belief that Stephanie had lived for several hours after the attack. The warrant affidavit also included where Gary’s Buick Electra had been abandoned, in front of the home of a love-interest of the Constable, and the fingerprint belonging to the Constable on the window of the wiped-down vehicle.

The Constable turned himself in to the police but maintained his innocence in the killings. He was subsequently suspended as a deputy constable without pay. And he lawyered up, of course.

Douglas Tinker wasn’t just any other attorney. Tinker was a former Prosecutor turned private practice attorney, switching his capabilities to defense, which is a relatively common thing for District Attorneys to do. By 1985, Douglas Tinker had already made quite a name for himself; his cases were not only high profile, but also he often represented folks who would be seemingly less-than-desirable to many attorneys. 

Over the course of his career, Tinker’s clients have included a broad spectrum of defendants, from murderers and a police lieutenant accused of playing a role in conspiracy to commit armed robbery to survivors of the Waco Branch Davidian Compound disaster and Yolanda Saldivar, who was convicted for the murder of superstar Selina Quintanilla. Press and colleagues referred to Tinker as “the defender of the indefensible” and the “greatest trial lawyer of our time.” When brought up in any given conversation between locals, the phrase, “He could get the devil off” would almost certainly be said about Tinker.

Tinker had collected letters from 35 of the Constable’s friends, fellow law enforcement officers, city officials, and other acquaintances showing support for the Constable’s claims of innocence. And he demanded a reduction of the steep $200,000 bond that had been set by the courts. The Constable’s personal physician for nearly 10 years told the court via letter, “Nothing in his past medical history would lead me to suspect any violent personality traits.”

Tinker himself guaranteed the Constable would make good on his bond and not flee prosecution, and on June 6th, 1986, the bond was reduced to $20,000. The Constable made that bond and was released.

A warrant to search the Constable’s home was carried out after his arrest. While it is unknown exactly what that search turned up, family members of Gary and Stephanie have been told that a book titled They Call Me the Catch Me Killer was one item that caught not only the attention of investigators, but also the attention of District Attorney Bill May. The book was written by Robert John Erler, a rookie patrol officer for the Hollywood, Florida Police Department who murdered a 12-year-old girl and attempted to murder her mother, shooting both in the face and neck five times each. Some points in particular in the book might have been what caught the eye of detectives. 

For instance, in the investigation into the murders, after the surviving victim was able to give police an account of what happened, Erler, deemed super cop by his peers, was determined to be the last person to see the victims alive. He also found the girl’s body, secured that scene, and assisted with the investigation. Erler disturbed the scene of the actual shootings by moving the girl’s body to a separate location, not to mention calling the police prior to the mother and daughter being found claiming three victims. When Erler finally stopped proclaiming his innocence and came clean, after he’d been in prison for some time, he contends that something in him just went off…he snapped.

It wouldn’t be until October 1987, almost two years after the violent and brutal slayings of Gary and Stephanie, that movement ceased on the case against the Constable. Because the District Attorney felt that they could not provide proof to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt the charges were dropped. The District Attorney told the press that there is no statute of limitation for murder and that the investigation into the murders would continue. 

It’s said that DA Bill May kept the book by Robert John Erler on a bookshelf in his office. If that is indeed the case, perhaps it sat as a constant reminder to him that the Gillette case remained unresolved. The Constable’s attorney, Douglas Tinker, told the media that his client was willing to aid police in their efforts. A reporter asked the high-profile defender if he had an idea of who the perpetrator of the depraved and senseless murders was, to which he replied, “The truth is, we do.” Tinker wouldn’t identify just who the possible person of interest was, telling the reporter that the suspicions were based upon theory.

The Constable told the papers that his faith in the justice system had dwindled. His perception of that system now was that individuals were “guilty until proven innocent.” He claimed that he was told a position as a deputy constable was again available for him, but he was never reinstated. 

Gone Cold

The families of both Stephanie and Gary were left in limbo as the case garnered less and less police activity and involvement for the next 30 years. It wasn’t long after the murders that DNA technology became available to law enforcement agencies nationwide, and it remains unclear if or in what capacity evidential items taken from the Gillette home and Gary’s Buick were tested.

Considering factors such as population and geography, however, it was probable that at some point Gary’s daughters would someday come face-to-face with the only individual ever publicly known as a suspect in the murders of their father and step-mother. And two of them did, the interactions seemingly as awkward as those involving the Constable and other family members years before. 

Kristie ran into the Constable while out for a drink. She had the courage to approach him and identify herself as Gary’s middle daughter. His face “turned white, ghost white. And he didn’t really have much to say.” Finally, Kristie turned her back on him and walked away. Similarly, Gary’s daughter Candice bumped into the Constable in a grocery store. When he saw her, he looked shocked and all of the color drained from his face. She approached him and introduced herself. The Constable told Candice, “There’s so much that I cannot say because I will be next.” Candice asked him how he could not tell the police everything he knew, as he had been her dad’s friend. The Constable looked very uncomfortable, and Candice realized she might be placing herself in danger, so she said, “Well, it was nice seeing you,” and quickly left. 

Although charges against the Constable were dropped, he still remains the primary suspect. It isn’t clear how the Constable and his attorney can explain away the less-than-wide open window of time in which another individual or individuals could have entered the Gillette home, killed the couple using two weapons, and hid the hatchet between the mattress and box springs of the bed in which the Constable’s date and, presumably the Constable, had been sleeping. It is also unclear who else could have cleaned and returned the second murder weapon, the chef’s knife, to the kitchen in its proper place or driven Gary Gillette’s prized Buick Electra to a location almost two and a half miles away, wiping it clean except for a lone fingerprint: the Constable’s. The killer then returned to the Gillette home and pulled Gary and Stephanie’s bodies off the bed, placing or dropping them onto the floor next to it, and locked the house up tight upon their exit. All of the above occurring between the Constable’s final time to leave the home after returning to retrieve his date’s coat and sun-up, which would have begun in the minutes before 7:00AM.

Roy Gardner, former Corpus Christi Homicide Detective and Commander and who was at the scene the day Stephanie and Gary were found, shared his thoughts on the case and the frustration he felt that their murders remained unsolved: “It was sad to see, the scene and the way they died and when you see something like that, you definitely feel an obligation to want to find out who did it and get it solved. And there’s more frustration, when you kind of find out who did it, but then you can’t…you can’t get him convicted.” 

The Aftermath 

There are, of course, two separate families affected by the events of Saturday, December 14th, 1985, since the madman who perpetrated the brutal crime took two lives that early morning. The anguish, no doubt, has been unbearable for both families, who for years have kept up with Corpus Christi Police detectives and the District Attorney demanding results in the investigation. 

The fallout from the murders of Stephanie and Gary stretches far and wide. The impact on Gary’s three daughters, needless to say, has been devastating. They were young when their father and step-mother were senselessly and violently ripped from their lives, and Gary and Stephanie’s slayings still affect them to this day. Though each one of the sisters’ narratives is different, a common thread exists: the difficulty each has had with the lingering effects of their father’s murder, a murder that at this point has impacted three generations. 

If you have any information about the murders of Mary Stephanie and Gary Gene Gillette please contact the Corpus Christi Police Department at (361) 886-2840.


Interviews by Gone Cold Podcast, 2019. 

“Ex-Suspect Harris is Ready to Start Over.” Libby Averyt, November 3, 1987. 

“Murder Charges Dropped Against Deputy Constable.” Libby Averyt, October 31, 1987. 

“Defendant Makes Bond in Gillette Murder Case.” Linda Carrico, June 7, 1986. 

“Suspect Is Out of Jail.” Linda Carrico, June 6, 1986. 

“Friendship of 3 Shattered With 1 Slain, Another Charged.” Gail Fields, June 5, 1986. 

“Port A Constable’s Deputy Charged in Double Slaying.” Port Arkansas South Jetty, June 5, 1986. 

“Lawman Accused of Murders.” The Toast of the Coast Herald, June 4, 1986. 

“Amended Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus.” State of Texas vs. Gary Harris, June 3, 1986. 

“Affidavit.”The State of Texas: County Nueces, May 30, 1986. 

“Double Slaying Probe Is Stepped Up.” Sandra Forero, May 21, 1986. 

“Murders of Southside Couple.” December 18, 1985. 

“Corpus Christi Are Found Stabbed to Death.” December 16, 1985. 

“Stolen Car Is Best Lead in Slaying of Man, Wife.” Greg Fieg-Pizano, December 16, 1985. 

“Lawyer Seeks Release of Ax-Murder Suspect.” Linda Carrico, n.d. 

“Officer Arrested in Hatchet Case. Linda Carrico, n.d. 

“Police, DA, Re-Target Gillette Killings.” Sandra Forero, n.d. 

“Unsolved Murders: Cases Not Closed.” Sara Lee Fernandez and Mike Baird, n.d. 

Interested in unsolved murder cases? Check out the murder of Margaret Sheeler and the Oakland County Child Killer mystery.

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  1. Thanks for sharing great article regarding the unsolved murder. Many people don’t know about this.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi James. Thanks for reading and for your kind comment. This case does deserve much more coverage than it receives!

  2. Bill Bill

    Years ago, I was walking through a grocery store late at night and noticed a book called Stalemate. I had played chess in high school, so the title attracted my attention. I read the back cover, and while I wasn’t a true crime buff, my engineering training in failure analysis had always given me an interest in trying to apply my abilities to crimes.

    The book was written by a guy named John Philbin (or maybe Philpin). I think he was associated with the FBI profiling teams. The book covered the disappearances of several girls in San Francisco Bay area. The victim who received the most attention was a young girl named Amber Schwartz.

    The book painted a guy named Tim Bindner (or maybe Binder) as the primary suspect. They had a good bit of circumstantial evidence against the guy, and the guy did all kinds of odd things that cast himself in a bad light. I came to believe that he was guilty.

    About a year or so ago, I did another search on some of the names and came across more information. I was probably putting the names in a search engine about once over three to five years just to see whether anything had changed. From what I saw, they found that another guy had abducted and killed Amber Schwartz. I don’t know whether they ever solved the other crimes.

    I say all of this to make the point that someone can seem guilty by all kinds of circumstantial evidence but end up not being the killer.

    That The Constable’s fingerprint was in the Buick near the passenger’s side window doesn’t feel all that strong to me as evidence. If the guy was friends with the victim, he may have been in the Buick in the past. He may have even been in the Buick during the week of the murder. Even in 1985, people knew about fingerprints, so the killer wiping down the car doesn’t mean that the killer had any particular forensic expertise. If The Constable were the murderer and stole the car, he would wipe it down, but I’d expect him to have been careful about everything he touched after the murder. I can’t see why he would have touched anything near the passenger’s side window at all. I can easily believe that the fingerprint wasn’t associated with the murder.

    Stealing the Buick only to drive it two miles and leave it somewhere makes no sense. I can’t see how The Constable would think that stealing the Buick and driving to near Rachel’s brother’s house would endear him to Rachel. I can’t see why The Constable would be stalking Rachel’s brother. The last thing I would expect a guy with law enforcement experience to do is kill someone, steal the guy’s car, and then drive the car to the home of someone who was tangentially connected to him.

    The hatchet being under the mattress of the daughter’s bed doesn’t seem all that strong a piece of evidence either. If someone has just killed a couple and wants to implicate someone else, I can understand putting the murder weapon under the mattress of a bed that isn’t made. The killer has just killed a couple and wants to point fingers elsewhere. He sees a bed that has been slept in, so he puts the weapon under the mattress to try to tie the weapon to whomever had been in the bed.

    That The Constable was in law enforcement might also lead to him learning some inside information about the evidence and investigation before the detectives fully suspected him. If he was known as a friend of the victim and not initially suspected, people in the police department may have told him some things because he’d been friends with the victim.

    That he acted strangely may have been from grief or may have been because he’s just strange. Once any shadow of suspicion fell on him, other friends and family would be more likely to perceive anything he said or did in the worst light. In that case, their reports might be skewed by that perception.

    I’m not saying that The Constable isn’t the killer, but I can see why the district attorney wasn’t able to take the case to court.

    If I were investigating, I’d also look at other close friends who might have known things about both the victims and The Constable. Someone like that might be more likely to steal the Buick and park it in front of the home of someone associated loosely with The Constable. I don’t know who else would have motive to kill this couple, but if the police developed information about someone else with motive, I can see why they wouldn’t disclose that information.

    • Christine Christine

      Bill Great points! Even though The Constable appears quite guilty on the surface, you have given a convincing argument as to why that might not be the case. I do wonder if the police knew more than they would say. I hope this case is solved one day, but as more time passes I think that it becomes less and less likely. Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to comment. If you haven’t yet, you should listen to the gone cold podcast coverage on this case. There are numerous interviews that weren’t included in the guest post.

  3. Dear Christine,

    This time of year is always bad for me and my family. I think of my sister Stephanie every day, but the time surrounding her death is heart wrenching.

    Stephanie was a light in the darkness for all who met her and she would fill a room when she walked in. She would whisper to me, “why is everybody staring!?”, never comprehending how beautiful she was. Her old soul made her the most beautiful, though. She was unfailingly kind to all ,even the downtrodden of the world. She felt the pain of others and tried to help all she saw.

    She and I shared the same room and often the same bed since I was born. She had night terrors and would often walk in her sleep, sometimes getting herself unwittingly into dangerous situations such as jumping from her loft bed while fully asleep. We shared the same friends, clothes, activities and were on the same teams. When she went away to college when I was 16, it was like I lost half of myself. When she died, the person who knew everything in my soul died too— she is irreplaceable.

    I still have her Christmas card from that year….she mailed them out the morning of her death.

    Thank you for writing this… I’m glad to see her remembered. My parents are still alive and well. I wish whoever did this would come forward, even a deathbed confession or a letter written to be opened after their passing. No punishment that could be meted out here on earth would be sufficient to pay for this evil, depraved deed, but I just want to know why…I would like my parents to know before they pass on as well.

    • Christine Christine

      First off, please accept my best wishes for you and your family. I cannot even begin to fathom the heartache you’ve all been through and I sincerely hope that you one day find answers. My dad died last year and I only bring it up because even though it was a non-violent death and he was 87, his loss left a gaping whole in my heart and life that I’ll never be able to fill. And the holidays are especially hard. Which offers me the smallest glimpse into the depths of grief you must experience. I’m truly sorry. Thank you so very much for your kind words about the post. This case was based on the podcast done by the amazing Gone Cold podcast team. I just nuanced their script so it would be better suited to be read on the site. I’m happy to help in any small way possible, and I’ll continue to shine a light on this case on behalf of your sister and your family. Please take care, and thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. ~ Christine

  4. Paul Thomason Paul Thomason

    Anyone else notice the Rachel wasn’t widely mentioned in the article? Sure the car was posted at her home, and she was there hearing the let’s go message from The Constable, but it seems like with everything, all the details of actions taken, It’s highly unlikely that these two individuals were not involved directly to this murder. There is a number of personal factors in this case that lead me to believe it was The Constable and Rachel together. However this is not evidence and proof, but speculation.

    If you look at these first of all, they are very good looking people which leaves room for high emotions among close friends whether it be Rachel being attracted to Gary or the Constable wanting Stephanie. It also leaves potential for personal disagreements that may have began as a simple domestic dispute that led to a more sinister result in the attempt for revenge or grievance of some sort. Whatever the case may be, it had to have been 2 people to savagely murder these 2 in their sleep, move the bodies on the floor, clean the knife, hide the hatchet, steal the car and wipe it down. That’s a lot to do for one person. It seems very unlikely as killing another person as stated by other killers in prison interviews, is hard work. They have claimed it’s just as hard physically as it is mentally. That’s why it’s my opinion they were both involved deeply in this for some motive that is extremely personal among their friendship. Something happened beforehand here no one has mentioned that led up to this massive boiling point. If it was me, I would have secured warrants for Rachel as well and looked at her as hard as The Constable which I’m sure the police were already on top of, but someone missed something here that was abundantly clear. It isn’t out of context for killers to call in their own murders before anyone else. Several of them have done that. Zodiac has done that with I believe all of his victims.

    Perhaps this individual did this for the added thrill and excitement of killing people he knew intimately. Then, calling in the murders, proclaiming his innocence he can return to the crime scene and watch the events unfold surrounding what he has done, adding more of a thrill. It is also likely that he had forced Rachel to assist in these murders which is similar to past cases with similar details to this one. His no emotion demeanor after the murders about the event also suggests his guilt is apparent, followed by the pale white reaction when the daughters bumped into him. It sort of makes too much sense to deny but it isn’t what you know, it’s what you can prove. I wish them luck in solving this. This is a tricky one.

    • Christine Christine

      This is indeed a fascinating case, Paul. I still have no idea how it will ever be solved. It is a guest post by Gone Cold Podcast. If you like podcasts, give them a try. They do great research and have wonderful in-depth interviews. If you listen to their series of episodes on the Gillette case there are a lot of interviews that provide even more information than is covered here.

      • Paul Thomason Paul Thomason

        I will check that out. Thank you. I agree that this case is so old and with the small amount of inconclusive evidence, it probably will never be solved. Such a shame.

    • Bela Deraj Bela Deraj

      Well imo Gary isnt exactly a looker but as stated here, he had wit and charisma so these attributes made him really attractive. Looks aren’t the only source of attractiveness

  5. Harvey Harvey

    Rachel was a woman the Constable was interested in dating, not his date that night. As the write up says, she (His date) must’ve been asleep when the call to the answering service was placed at 12:31am because he was inquiring about possibly dating a girl who he was interested in named Rachel. Now I don’t know much about answering services But it struck me as odd that he would call his answering service and have a conversation about something like this. He then told the service he would be spending the night at Gary’s house. Some time after this he woke up his date telling her, “There’s some bad shit going down here, we have to leave.” He drove her to her car and she drove home. He returned to the Gillette home sometime after this, he told police, to retrieve a coat his date had left, adding that nothing at all seemed amiss at the home. Later on, 3:45am he called the service from his home and spoke to the same women going on and on about Rachel again then stating he’d be home for the rest of the night. Was this second call made in an attempt to establish an alibi? An incoming call to his house at 5:30 am then went unanswered and his answering service picked up and the caller hung up. A witness across the street from where the Buick was found recalled seeing it there from 2:30 am Saturday until police retrieved it. His lone print on the passenger side could’ve been purposely left throwing off investigators that he’s been in the car before but was a passenger, never driving it. Or, leaving it in front of the brother’s house of a girl he just expressed interest in dating to a living witness (answering service person) his defense to that may be someone’s framing me, i would never leave it there. Again all to throw off investigators. He felt he was smarter than them and would get away with it and unfortunately he was and did. Many killers have purposely injected themselves into police investigations to keep tabs on the info they have and to attempt to throw them off. IDK. I’m new to this and this is my first time posting on anything really but something about this really pissed me off. The fact that this guy is still free and his children have had to see him in public infuriates me. With what I’ve read here I can’t see any other scenario. Although only circumstantial evidence exists in my opinion it is very strong. I hope these families and Gary and Stephanie get the justice they deserve.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Harvey – Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts on this heartbreaking case. This guest post on our site has always been one of the most baffling to me. It seems like it should be so close to being solved but it just can’t quite get past the finish line. I totally agree with your reading of this case and would love to see some kind of justice served. For more information on this case, check out Gone Cold Podcast. They wrote this guest post for us and it’s based on their coverage of the case. They have a lot of episodes on this case that include in-depth interviews you’ll find interesting. Here’s a link to Part 1: Take care and thanks again ~ Christine

  6. Bela Deraj Bela Deraj

    Lets not forget about what he said to Debbie, that the murderer heard Stephanie’s gurgling noise and came back to finish her off. How in the world did he knew that? Maybe thats why he returned, not to retrieve his date’s coat but to make sure Stephanie was dead

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bela. That’s a really good question!

  7. JM JM

    Could it maybe have been his ex-wife, Debbie? She would know where they lived because of the trading off of their kids, and she would have a motive: anger, heartbreak, and revenge. Do you think that is a possibility?

    • Christine Christine

      Hi JM – thanks for reading! I think that’s a possibility. I don’t know much about Debbie, but hopefully the police looked into her and cleared her. This is a guest post, so I didn’t do the research so sadly I don’t know all of the nuances of the crime. But by this point, I’m almost willing to consider any possibility since it’s been so very long that there hasn’t been any justice in this case. Take care ~ Christine

  8. Tom Tom

    Thank you for posting this article. It’s much more detailed than some other write ups. I can’t imagine the horror of being turned on by someone you know and trust. One can only speculate about motive. Did you know a woman who says she is the Constable’s daughter posted this article on Facebook?

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Tom – Thanks for reading and for your comment. This article is guest post by Gone Cold Podcast. They did such an awesome job on this case. If you haven’t already check them out – the podcast episode also has more in-depth interviews than this article. Interesting news about the Constable’s daughter posting it…

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