Part of my morning ritual is to check the internet for the latest news as I drink my first cup — or three — of coffee each morning. This morning was no different. Part of that included an online conversation about the verdict in the Kate Steinle murder case yesterday. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old “undocumented alien” was acquitted of murder and convicted on a much less serious weapons charge. There is another post, or two, in what happened with this case, but this isn’t it. However, the discussion of the jury’s verdict brought to mind another murder case, this one from the DFW area, more than 30 years ago. That, in turn, started the story wheels in my mind turning. In other words, current events led to inspiration for a new story.
And that sound you hear is my head beating against the wall because I do NOT need another plot running loose in my head right now.
The local case made an impact on so many of us living in the area at the time because it was so sensational and, at the same time, something we realized could happen right next door. The set up was simple. Two families had lived next door (or nearby) one another for some time. The wives were supposedly good friends. However, one of the wives, Candace Montgomery, was having an affair with the other husband. When the husband’s wife, Betty Gore, found out, she confronted Montgomery. They argued in the laundry room of one of their houses. During the course of the argument, Gore allegedly went “shh, shh” to Montgomery and that triggered her repressed memories of being abused when she was younger. The defense went on to claim that was why she picked up an ax and gave Gore something like forty whacks. There’s more, but you get the gist. If you want to read more about it, you can find the whole gory details here and here.
Montgomery was arrested and charged with capital murder. When the case came to trial, Collin County District Attorney Tom O’Connell tried the case. If I remember correctly, when it came time to submit proposed jury instructions to the judge in the case, no lesser included offenses were submitted. So, when the jury retired to begin its deliberations, it had one decision to make: did the evidence support the charge of capital murder or not? They decided it did not. Because there were no lesser included offenses included, Montgomery walked. The community was outraged. O’Connell wasn’t DA for much longer and Montgomery was free to leave the area and start her life over, leaving Gore’s family and children to pick up the pieces.
I haven’t thought about this case in years and years. But now, it is alive in my mind and I can feel the muse working to figure out how to turn the circumstances of the case into a story that would be uniquely mine. I hadn’t gone looking for inspiration this morning but a short conversation about one of yesterday’s headlines was all it took. Sometimes, your muse will grab a random encounter and turn it into a story for you.
Here’s the thing. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Learning to recognize it and control it so it doesn’t derail your current work in progress is the key. Here’s hoping I can manage to do just that because I have a feeling this latest bit of inspiration will be fun to write — once I get to it.