Disappearances of Texas Rancher, Wife Stymie Investigators BASTROP. Tex. (AP) - It has been almost a year since millionaire rancher John Whatley and his wife vanished from their home on a sprawling Con' tral Texas ranch, but former Bastrop County Sheriff Jimmy Mutt says the disappearance still "bugs the hell out of me." Null, who says investigators arc stymied, said,"... I don't know a damn bit more than 1 did the first night I went out to the ranch." The former sheriff has traveled to Mexico and even employed a psychic in his lengthy, but vain attempts to find the missing couple. Nutt, 56, is so concerned about the disappearance that he almost backed out of his announced resignation from office to pursue the case and now says he will come out of retirement to work in the case if he can find a new lead. Nutt, a deputy and a neighbor found the thick-walled home locked and silent last Jan. 31 after Mrs. Whatley's daughter reported the couple missing. Investigators discovered what appeared to be a bullet hole in a bedroom window and found what was apparently a second bullet mark in the concrete tile interior of the window. Inside, they said they saw an orderly I bedroom with a spotless floor that appeared to have been recently cleaned. A mahogany door to the bedroom was missing, having been lifted from iL hinges, and the locks had been removed from every window. They were found in a jar in the house. There was no trace of the reportedly eccentric 74-year-old rancher and his C-8-ycar-old wife Fay. Days of frustrating search followed. Searchers, sometimes numbering 100, fanned out over the sprawling ranch, dragging the nearby Colorado River. They found nothing, despite using a helicopter. Texas Rangers combed the house, using chemical paper that changes color in the presence of the faintest trace of blood. It failed to react. "You'd really have to clean it up good not to leave a trace that would show on that paper." Ranger Wallace Spillar said. Nutt said a bullet hole in the window shade failed to match the trajectory of the slug that had penetrated the glass and window screen. "Someone had pulled down the shade after the shot was fired," said Nutt. No slugs were found, although authorities said they discovered some bullet fragments under a bed. The rancher's fully-loaded ,22-caliber revolver was in a desk drawer. Nutt said Whatley's wallet, with f t in it, was in the home and nothing of any value was missing. After weeks of futile investigation, Nutt called in a psychic who told the sheriff that Whatley was burled near water, but not the Colorado River. The woman speculated that Whatley had been killed and his wife injured by three people, but provided no real clues. On his vacation last year, Nutt expanded his investigation to Parral, a Mexican mountain town near the former holdings of the Whaticy family, which fled the Mexican revolution. Nutt said he came away from the area convinced that the elderly rancher, who spoke fluent Spanish, Texas County Headquarters For Pot Ring SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (UPI) - A sophisticated operation with as much as 10 per cent of one Texas county's residents on its payroll systematically is moving tons of marijuana worth millions of dollars across the Rio- Grande each week, according lo a grand jury investigation. In the past five years, according to 'the grand jury, the marijuana transportation industry in Starr County on the Mexican border has become so expansive and deeply rooted, the local sheriff's department cannot cope with it without more assistance and better cooperation among federal authorities. The grand jury this month suggested Sheriff Ray Alvarei re-evaluate his officers, hire more qualified personnel and for the first time set up a narcotics division. Arnulfo Guerra, whose two-year term as district attorney ended this month, said Alvarez was not to blame for marijuana trafficking becoming one of the major industries in Starr County -known as Texas' poorest county. "We can recognize what the problem is, but you've got to realize you're dealing with a very specialized problem which cannot be handled with your usual law enforcement agencies," Guerra said. Guerra estimates 2.000 persons in the rural county are involved directly or indirectly in smuggling marijuana across the narrow river separating Texas from Mexico, loading it into trucks and shipping it northward where the weed's price increases every mile it moves undetected toward the interior of the United States. "Some arc loaders. Some are mules (backpackers). Some are occasional loaders. Some arc beneficiaries of the money because they pass information. The figure is not 2,000 people who arc actively selling marijuana as such. -We're dealing in tons. They need truck drivers. They need people to load trucks. They've got mechanics that fix false bottoms in trucks. They've got their own drivers. They've got their own mules. They've got people who arc lookouts on the river. They've got people that go out and decoy. "could live forever down there if he chose without being identified." Only a few days after the disappearance, officers questioned Whatley's only son and sole heir after wolf hunters told Nutt they'd seen a van or camper go toward the ranch and return 45 minutes later on the night the Whatlevs vanished. Barney Whatley, 41, a Jl.OOO-a-month weed inspector for the City of Austin who owned a van, denied being near the ranch that night. The younger Whatley retained an attorney and declined to take a polygraph test. The younger Whatley, who said he was financially independent of his father, added that he refused to take the polygraph exam because of a "disagreement" with law enforcement officials. Fay Whatley's 49-year-old daughter, Mrs. Bennett Blake, who visited the ranch house soon after the dis- appearance, said, "! think definitely that bedroom had been cleaned "up. And there were things arranged on the dresser in such a manner that my mother would never have done. I knew my mother that well." Mrs. Blake, Mrs. Whatley'! daughter by a previous marriage, was named as the missing woman's sole heir. The missing rancher, who had been married five times, had experienced domestic problems with his wife, who had been married twice before, since their 1973 wedding. Nutt said he found a bundle of legal documents in a dry well shortly after the disappearance. He said they were unstained, indicating they had been placed there since the last rain, adding that they included divorce petitions Whatley had filed against Fay just 14 weeks after their marriage. The difficulties had been worked out, Nutt said, and the divorce was dropped. The wealthy rancher, Nutt said, was last seen by some pecan thrashers, who told officers he was accompanied by a man convicted of burglary. The man is wanted in Florida for violating hi: probation and Nutt never got to question him about the missing Whatleys. Mrs. Blake has offered a (10,000 reward for information that would determine the whereabouts of the Whatleys. SUTHERLAND BATH SALE PRICES COOP THROUGH TUESDAY, JANUARY 25ffh, 1977 BATHROOM FIXTURES FROM SUTHERLAND 18"x17"Prefinished VANITY It doesn't cost much to decorate your bathroom with this vanity. Complete with cultured marbletop. Choose fom Classic Antique White, Distressed Walnut Finish. $49 95 K.D. I HURRY... LIMITED QUANTITY FINISHED VANITIES Handcrafted ash fronts. Choose from several finishes and cultured marble tops. SIZi: 19"Â«16" SIZE: 30"*IB" SIZE: 36"x18" $39 $ 69 $79 95 95 95 TUB SHOWER WALL KIT EASY TO INSTALL . . . TAKE IT HOME WITH YOU! AFCO panels give a bright, new look to a bath and shower area. Kit contains 3 panels and matching mouldings for complete job. $ 29 95 Enameled Surface REG. $9.30 4'x8' SHEETS 95 Â»8 8'VINYL MOULDINGS To add the finishing touch. 99 EACH CHECK SUTHERLAND'S LOW PRICES... COMPARE SUTHERLAND'S TOP QUALITY ^ ON PAINT AND PAINTING ACCESSORIES. r. Supreme Quality Golden Glow I' Acrylic Latex House * . Here's what you get.. Â· Eight 2 hour weekly classes Supreme Quality Golden Glow Exterior Primer, White Per Gallon Supreme Quality Golden Glow One Coat Vinyl * f | Q lotex Woll a ^ I T Point. Oollon Supreme Quality Golden Glow Latex Satin Enamel Quart OPEN HOURS MOM. THRU FRI SHOP AND COMPARE SUTHERLAND FOR PRICE, QUALITY, SERVICE! 4717 SOUTH WASHINGTON PHONE 373-3057 TO SATURDAYS TILL 5 P M AMARIUO, TEXAS SIPHON JET TOILET Vitreous China quiet and sanitary. Colors *44* 5 White 95 Wall Hung Lavatory Finest vitreous china construction. Ami- splash rim, Â£ _ f^ftf concealed overflow. 5 | ^Jf ' 5 White If Steel Bathtub 5'Porcelain en steel $"T | 95 Color, *81 "White V*Â» Toilet Seat Several Color* Stain Resistant EnamÂ«l From *3 99 Decorator colors and styles in stock. '27 07 WASHERLESS BATHROOM FAUCETS Acrylic knobs offer decoratort touch. With pep-up drain. Limited 5 year warranty! Do It Yourself School For Homeowners Here's a chance to learn step by step how to do your own home repairs and improvements. OOIMI open for mirt and women. Learn how to do many repairs around lhÂ« home. Painting, Refinithing, Plumbing Repairs, Carpentry and othort. All classroom materials are provided Â· Open question and answer periods each week Â· Advice on individual projects or problem areas Â· Step by step instruction by qualified persons. ENROLL NOW! Clem Sizet Limited ONIY , ., Enrollment Thurs.-Friday, 6 P.M. To 8 P.M. Sat., 10A.M. to 2 P.M. Classes Start Feb. 8th.
What members have found on this page
Get access to Newspapers.com
- The largest online newspaper archive
- 20,900+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
- Millions of additional pages added every month