Susie Mowbray cleared of the murder of her husband Bill
Brownsville, Texas is known as a peaceful place. But on the night of September 16, 1987, the serenity was shattered by the explosion of a gun and the call to 911 from a prominent resident.
Susie Mowbray has appealed for help to report that her husband, Bill Mowbray, a respected Cadillac dealer, had committed suicide.
Upon arrival, paramedics found Bill in bed and a bloody scene. He had been shot in the head. The weapon lay in blood beside him.
“It was a very, very powerful handgun, and there were splatter marks on the ceiling and on the ceiling fan,” said former assistant Bill Hagen. District Atty., Cameron County, said “Accident, suicide or murder” broadcast on Oxygen. “Mr. Mowbray, although fatally injured, was still alive and still breathing.”
Despite efforts to save him, Bill was pronounced dead in hospital.
Investigators built a portrait of the Mowbray, who had married and had children before getting married.
“Susie gave the impression that Bill had always had emotional issues, mental issues, issues that never got resolved,” said Cary Zayas, former KRGV-TV reporter.
“Bill loved spending money, there was no doubt about it,” Susie’s friend Sarah Bush told producers. His expenses may have exceeded his income.
Close associates and others in Brownsville were aware of at least one previous suicide attempt by Bill, sources told the producers. Investigators’ initial view of Bill’s death was that it was suicide.
In light of this, Hagen said, “the crime scene was not properly secured.” Susie was allowed to stay in the house.
Investigators returned the day after the shooting to collect evidence. Bill’s daughter was also present. They discovered that Susie and her friends had covered up the evidence, presumably to erase the signs of the tragedy.
While the play was not banned, Susie’s actions prompted investigators to dig deeper. Bill had a sore back, so the couple slept with “a wall” of pillows between them to help solve their problem. After hearing the gunshot, Susie ran to call Bill’s assistant. He asked her to immediately call the police. Why hadn’t she called 911 first?
Authorities also questioned whether Susie’s account of how her husband got off was counted. Susie’s sheets, pillows and nightgown were collected for analysis.
While awaiting the results of the crime lab, Dr. Lawrence Dahm performed an autopsy and came out convinced the death was not suicide. Bill’s death was considered a homicide. Susie was the main suspect.
Detectives investigated the Mowbray marriage. They found out that Bill was having various affairs and that Susie knew about it. Her infidelities had prompted Susie to move with her children to Austin. Susie eventually returned to Brownsville. By one count, Bill begged his wife to come back. In another version, the couple had indeed mentioned divorce and the division of property.
“Bill had a life insurance policy, and a few months before his death she had, for the first time, looked at life insurance policies to see what the amounts were and who the beneficiary was,” Hagen said. .
Susie was the beneficiary of the over a million dollar policy. Susie had been informed that Bill was going to change the beneficiary to be his daughter, but he died before he could.
The revelation that Susie had inquired about the insurance payment and the autopsy results suggested to investigators that they were pursuing a murder. The motive: money.
On November 3, 1987, seven weeks after Bill’s death, Texas blood spatter expert Sgt. Dusty Hesskew, has completed his analysis of Susie’s nightgown and reported his findings. Luminol analysis of the nightgown showed tiny spots of what was believed to be blood.
Investigators concluded that Susie was riding Bill and shot him, which may have explained the evidence of blood spatter and the evidence on his nightgown. Susie was arrested for the death of her husband.
Susie’s children were in shock. Bill’s family believed in the detectives’ theory of their father’s death, according to “Accident, Suicide or Murder.”
Susie’s trial began six months after her indictment. Hesskew’s findings were central to the prosecution’s case. The Mowbray’s bloodstained mattress was presented in court for the jury to see.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, pointed to Bill’s story of emotional issues and previous suicide threats.
On June 9, 1988, Susie was convicted. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
For eight years, Susie lived behind bars. Her son, Wade, enrolled in law school in the hope of proving his innocence, reported the Los Angeles Times in 1996.
He was struck by evidence regarding his mother’s nightgown. Except for what the blood expert found using Luminol, the white robe was immaculate – not a drop of blood anywhere.
It was revealed that another blood spatter expert had analyzed the evidence and could not confirm that the material on Susie’s nightgown was in fact blood.
“From a legal point of view, I think you might consider this a miscarriage of justice,” defense lawyer Eduardo R. Rodriguez told “Accident, suicide or murder”.
Susie “won a new trial in 1996 after an appeals court ruled prosecutors suppressed a blood expert report contradicting the homicide theory,” the Associated Press reported in 1998.
Susie’s second trial began in January 1998, a decade after Bill’s death.
The defense team focused on Bill’s suicidal tendencies and dire financial situation and the fact that the splatter on Susie’s nightgown was not actually confirmed to be blood. Hesskew conceded that his initial testimony at trial was scientifically invalid.
Prosecutors argued that Susie shot Bill from behind the pillow bar, which was why his nightgown was free of visible blood. And there was the heavy lifting of the insurance payment.
And during the defense team’s argument, Hagen said, there was a dramatic explosion. Susie Mowbray, then 49, shouted in court: “I didn’t!
On January 23, 1998, the jury returned with their verdict. Susie was acquitted of all charges.
The outcome of the trial has left a family divided – and questions lingering.
“There is only one person who knows what happened to Bill Mowbray,” lawyer and crime writer Manning Wolfe told producers. “And that’s Susie Mowbray.”
To learn more about the case, watch “Accident, suicide or murder” broadcast on Oxygen, or streaming episodes here.