Back in 2003, we published a cover yarn
about the mysterious death of elderly Scottsdale socialite Kathryn Howard: The Maricopa County Medical Examiner eventually called it murder, probably by suffocation.
Entitled "Dying for Love," the desert gothic tale described Ms. Howard's "love affair" with a 50-ish building contractor with a murky past named Chuck Pagano, and how Pagano stood to profit handsomely from Howard's estate of more than $1 million in property and cash.
(The photo shows the then-married Mr. Pagano making out with his octogenarian paramour sometime in the 1990s.)
It was a classic whodunit, or more accurately, a was-there-a-dunnit.
We told of the woman's death, which Scottsdale police and, at first, county pathologists ascribed to heart failure, and how Howard's family implored local authorities to more closely examine Pagano's motive, means, and opportunity to possibly have commited homicide.
Arch Mosley, the assistant medical examiner observed the presence of tiny hemorrhages under Howard's lower eyelids during his postmortem exam. Called petechiae, the pinpoint hemorrhages -- which look like white dots -- often are telltale signs of death by suffocation or strangulation.
This troubled the pathologist upon further review.
Howard also had a fairly strong dose of the sedative Darvon in her system (no one could ever figure where the drug had come from) when she died, as well as a fairly high level of alcohol in her blood.
Dr. Mosley amended the official manner of death from "natural" to "homicide" after reassessing his conclusions in the case.
But the Scottsdale police detective assigned to investigate was unswayed by the pathologist and by the body of evidence that emerged.
As our story suggested, that detective, now retired, basically tanked the investigation, and any possible prosecution of Pagano died with his paltry presentation to the County Attorney's Office..
Howard's demise came after a full life in which she socialized with some of the 20th-century's most iconic figures, including Will Rogers, Jawaharlal Nehru, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Amelia Earhart.
We have wondered over the years what happened to Chuck Pagano, who split the Valley for parts unknown after the Howard case was redubbed a "homicide."
Well, we recently received the following e-mail from a woman in the Dominican Republic:
"If Katheryn Howard's relatives want to know where Chuck Pagano is, he is in Luperon, Dominican Republic, about 30 miles or so west of Puerto Plata. He supposedly designed a house for an acquaintance of mine.
"I wanted to build a house in Luperon so we established e-mail contact after I had bought a lot. He agreed to design the house at no charge if I allowed him to build it, at a price of $1,500 per month.
"Things immediately became strange; in the end, a year later or so, he spent over $100,000 of my hard-earned savings. Everything is built wrong, structural columns, beams, walls, roof, cistern, septic, you name it...The guy did the same thing to two other people I know down there.
"If Ms. Howard's friends want to make his life miserable, I would like to help them. He is a liar and a thief. He is currently living aboard a boat named Satori at the Luperon Yacht Club with an `older' woman who has just come into an inheritance. Hope I can help. I have phone numbers and e-mail addresses."