The Husband Did It: Kathy Page
Kathy’s lifeless body was found at the scene of a car wreck that had been staged. Her husband is the prime suspect in her death.
This writing is part of a continuing series on cold cases linked to domestic violence. Cases are taken from Unsolved Mysteries.
The case of Kathy Page is on season 10, episode 2 of Unsolved Mysteries.
For legal purposes, the husband in this case was not charged with crimes against his spouse. I have no physical evidence, only circumstantial evidence, the narrative given to us by those involved, and extensive knowledge on the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence. I have tried to make it clear when giving my opinion versus stating objective facts of the case.
The narrative according to Robert Stack:
The morning of May 14, 1991, Texas police came across a car wreck and discovered the lifeless body of 34-year-old Kathy Page. At first glance it was assumed Kathy’s death had been an accident, but very quickly it became apparent that her death had only been set up to look like an accident.
Kathy was barely wounded and the car suffered little damage from the wreck, in fact the open sodas in the front seat hadn’t even spilled. Her feet had been pushed back against the seat rather than stretched out towards the pedals and even though she wasn’t wearing a seat belt, her body was leaned back against her seat.
Being no damage to the interior of the vehicle, just to the exterior of the vehicle and the deepness of the ditch — plain to see this was a staged incident, instead of an accident. So, at that point, they thought they had probably a questionable death. — Det. Sgt. Ray Moseley, Vidor Police Dept.
Kathy was a wife and mother and lived at 450 Green Street, just 100 yards from the crash site. Police went to question her husband, Steve Page.
Steve seemed to be quite upset. He began to cry at times, and at times threw himself on the couch crying. But yet he would jump right back up and we would talk, and there would be no signs of tears in his eyes. This seemed strange to me. — Det. Sgt. Ray Moseley, Vidor Police Dept.
Steve soon became the prime suspect.
Of course I did not kill my wife. The evidence clearly shows that the perpetrator was someone other than Steve Page. — Steve Page
The people of his town are convinced that only Steve had both the opportunity and motive to murder Kathy. Her family claims he would be in prison today if personal relationships with police had not dirtied the investigation. Steve insists he is innocent.
At the time of Kathy’s death, she had been married to Steve for almost 13 years and had two daughters. Steve claimed that he and Kathy had drifted apart and she was “no longer happy with her role as Steve’s wife.”
Mainly, she was uncomfortable with who she was, or at least that was what she explained to me, that she didn’t know who she was. She wanted to try to find out who Kathy was. Because of that, we talked about separating for a short period of time and allowing her to hopefully find herself. — Steve
Kathy’s sister disagrees and says that their marriage was beyond repair.
Kathy was definitely moving on in her life at that point because a decision was made for the divorce, and that, in itself, having a decision like that finally be resolved, in itself, was a real relief off her back. And she was making plans for that. — Sherry Valentine, Kathy’s sister
Steve had moved out of the house, but claimed that he and Kathy remained friendly. The next day she allegedly asked Steve to watch their daughters while she went out with a friend.
She said she was going to meet one of her girlfriends after work, and so I went over there. She left at approximately 11:15 to 11:30 to head to Beaumont to meet her friend. Charlotte was the friend’s name. — Steve
Kathy was dead by 4:15 am that next morning. When her body was found she wasn’t wearing any makeup or jewelry. The autopsy showed she had been strangled, her nose broken, and her eye blackened. There were blood stains on her underwear and skin, but nothing on her outer clothing. Sometime before she was murdered she had engaged in sexual activity.
Kathy Page was not killed in her vehicle. She was killed at another location, cleaned up, redressed, and placed back in her vehicle, and after the vehicle had been rolled into the ditch. — Det. Sgt. Ray Moseley, Vidor Police Dept.
Police learned that Kathy had never gone to meet a friend named Charlotte, but had instead spent the evening with a boyfriend in a motel in Beaumont, Texas. The boyfriend confirmed that they had been together that night. The autopsy report stated that there was no evidence of sperm because whoever had sexual activity with Kathy that night had had a vasectomy, however the boyfriend she was with that night did not have a vasectomy. Steve had gotten one a few months earlier.
Police then questioned him again and he admitted to having sex with Kathy, but said it was before she went out that night.
She was getting ready. She’d just got out the shower. I approached her about sex, and we had sex before she left — before she got dressed, even. — Steve
I personally don’t believe that that happened. She wouldn’t have been with Steve before being with another man. She hadn’t been with Steve in a long time. He was already sleeping on the couch. Him coming over to take care of the kids was more of a kindness gesture for him to be around his kids, not for him to be around Kathy. — Sherry
Kathy’s family believes that Steve murdered Kathy after discovering two phone numbers on a pad at Kathy’s house, one for her friend Charlotte and one for the motel in Beaumont.
I was talking to a sister-in-law of Steve’s, and she said that she knew for a fact that Steve made two phone calls. Steve called this one number and the girl answered, and he hung up. And then the second phone number was called and they said the name of the hotel, and he hung up. And so he already knew where she might be or was. — Sherry
I feel like she came in that night and come in the back door after she done parked the car and he was asleep, sitting in a chair in the front room. And when she went on in the bathroom and changed clothes, took her makeup off, took her jewelry and all off, and he heard her probably in the bathroom. And he got up and demanded sex with her or whatever and got in a fight. — James Fulton, Kathy’s father
Kathy’s family believes that Steve then raped her, strangling her in the process.
Then Steve, realizing what had happened — he wants to redress her. If you look at the violent crime profile, it fits him to a T. The remorse — you want to redress, you don’t want them to be found naked or bloody. So there was an attempt to clean her up and redress her, but things were forgotten — for instance, her jewelry and her socks. — Sherry
The reason it comes down on me is because I’m the husband. I’m the estranged husband, to make it even worse. And because of her actions, I am being blamed for her actions. She was out seeing another guy, so therefore, it could only have been me. I must have found out somehow, according to police, and became enraged and committed murder. — Steve
Steve offered up an alternate theory to Kathy’s death.
I received threats on the phone that the same thing that happened to my wife could happen to me. There is a name of a certain person here in Beaumont that was bandied about as a person who may have been involved. It’s a very prominent family — an Italian family, even — to let you know that they are considered part of the Beaumont mafia. — Steve
The murder of Kathy Page has never been solved, however, Kathy’s family won a wrongful death civil suit against Steve Page. Police still consider him a person of interest in the case.
Since 1991, and the airing of the episode, new information has come to light. Here’s what I found:
Steve and Kathy married when she was 21-years-old.
Kathy’s family claimed police misconduct in Kathy’s case and they have accused police of covering for Steve. They reported that he was good friends with many of the police on the force.
They noted that when crime scene photos of Kathy were taken, there was no film in the camera. Also, it reportedly took police three years to convince the district attorney to issue a search warrant for the Page home… Kathy’s family is convinced that authorities were involved in a cover-up in this case (Source: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki).
When her family sued Steve for wrongful death in 1999, Kathy’s mother, Dorothy Fulton, testified that she had seen him “vigorously washing clothing on the morning after the murder.” Steve denied doing laundry at that time.
Reverend R.J. Ben Bienvenue testified that while it was still dark, he went into the Pages’ kitchen to use the phone. He could hear the clothes washer on the spin cycle (Source: FindLaw, PAGE v. FULTON).
Additionally, multiple family members testified to witnessing Steve clean the carpets that same morning, but he claimed he was just fixing a grease stain. Dorothy further testified that Steve claimed Kathy died from drunk driving and did not want the police to search the home.
Steve said that Kathy had been out drinking with friends the night before and that Kathy had driven off into the ditch and possibly broken her neck. Steve told Mrs. Fulton that he hoped he never found out who killed Kathy, [and] he also mentioned that he did not want the police coming in his house because they may find blood on the carpet in the lounge where Kathy shaved her leg (Source: FindLaw, PAGE v. FULTON).
Sherry Valentine, Kathy’s sister, testified that Steve was abusive to Kathy and that he subjected her to mental abuse.
Neighbors also stated that they heard loud arguments and banging on the walls coming from the Page home (Source: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki).
According to court documents, the Pages had a bad marriage.
According to Kathy’s sister, Sherry Valentine, the Pages had a rocky marriage and Steve slept on the couch. Sherry testified that during arguments Steve would grab or push Kathy. Steve denied ever physically abusing his wife, [and] he also denied ever having a big argument with her.
Sherry testified that Steve and Kathy had an argument on May 6, 1991, eight days before Kathy was found dead. She had asked for a separation and the plan was that on May 12, Steve would begin living at his new apartment. On May 13, Kathy planned to meet her new boyfriend at a motel in Beaumont, and called her friend Charlotte and asked her to cover for her in case Steve called to check up on her, which he often did.
Charlotte Swearingen’s phone rang around 2:30 a.m. The caller hung up without speaking. She had gotten hang-up calls on other occasions, and had assumed it was Steve (Source: FindLaw, PAGE v. FULTON).
When police informed Steve of his wife’s death, he did not ask to see her and he refused to allow an autopsy. Her father James had to authorize the autopsy. “Marks on her neck indicated she had been strangled with a left hand,” and Steve was left-handed.
There was evidence that showed Steve had followed Kathy to the Beaumont motel that night. The court concluded that Steve’s behavior after Kathy’s murder was particularly guilt-inducing.
From his first contact with the police, Steve knew Kathy had been murdered, yet he failed to mention it to her family, instead repeatedly stating that Kathy had killed herself in an automobile accident, something he knew to be false. He also falsely stated that Kathy had been using cocaine. It appears Steve deliberately mislead Kathy’s family about how she died.
Steve also supplied an implausible explanation for why blood might be found in the very spot where he admitted to having had sexual intercourse. His explanation for why his family spent days shampooing the carpet in the same spot is highly suspicious, considering several witnesses testified that he mentioned spilling grease on the carpet days before he claims the spill occurred. Likewise, Steve was washing laundry the morning his wife was murdered, although he did not live there, his daughters were still asleep, and his wife would not need fresh clothing. He and a friend went from room to room putting things in an envelope. All of Kathy’s watches disappeared after it was discovered that the watch she had been wearing in Beaumont was not recovered from her body. The jury also heard evidence that Steve was afraid the police would discover incriminating evidence in the house (Source: FindLaw, PAGE v. FULTON).
The family won the civil suit against Steve.
The jury found there was a “preponderance of evidence” that Steve Page had killed his wife, and a judge ordered him to pay $261,780.82 in damages to [James] Fulton (Source: Emily Foxhall, Victim’s daughter hopes for breakthrough in ‘Three Billboards’ cold case).
Some time before the civil suit, and frustrated with the criminal investigation, James Fulton, Kathy’s father, put up multiple billboards indicating that Steve murdered his daughter and that police botched the investigation. One such billboard read “This is ORANGE COUNTY — City of VIDOR. Here you get by with BRUTALLY MURDERING A WOMAN.” The billboards inspired a filmmaker named Martin McDonagh to take up the cause and in 2017, he released the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won two Oscars.
There was renewed interest in her case after the 2017 movie was released and in 2018, a new witness came forward after Kathy’s case was featured on the show Cold Justice.
[Cold Justice] also found a new witness who reported seeing Steve walking away from the ditch where Kathy’s car was found on the night of her murder. The witness did not come forward sooner because he was with his mistress at the time (Source: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki).
In a 2018 interview with the Daily Mail, Steve, then 86-years-old, “boasted” about having a very young girlfriend that he saw once a month. He says the billboards and publicity around the case ruined his life.
Women are killed by intimate partners — husbands, lovers, ex-husbands, or ex-lovers — more often than any other category of killer… Intimate partner homicides make up 40 to 50 percent of all murders of women in the United States (Source: National Institute of Justice, NIJ Journal).
“The husband did it” is a popular phrase for a reason.
We’ve known for decades that domestic violence is strongly linked to homicide, however we didn’t identify the concrete steps leading up to intimate partner homicide until 2019. In her study, Intimate Partner Femicide: Using Foucauldian Analysis to Track an Eight Stage Progression to Homicide, Dr. Jane Monckton Smith established the eight stage process that most male abusers take before murdering their female partners.
The stages are not necessarily followed chronologically and sometimes couples loop back to earlier stages, for instance if an abuser is able to reestablish control. However, if the relationship culminated in homicide, all eight stages were likely involved.
For a full breakdown on the stages, read the article below.
The 8 Stage Progression to Domestic Violence Related Homicide
The phrase “the husband did it” is popular for a reason.
Using the eight stage framework provided by Dr. Smith, I think that we can reasonably conclude with near certainty that Steve did it.
Stage 1: Pre-relationship
A pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse by the perpetrator. Unfortunately, we do not have any information on the history of their relationships. It is possible this was the first serious relationship for both of them considering they were pretty young when they married.
Stage 2: Early Relationship
The romance developing quickly into a serious relationship. Kathy and Steve married when she was young, and this can be an indication of a quickly progressing relationship, however, we don’t have further information that can confirm this.
Stage 3: Relationship
The relationship becoming dominated by coercive control. This is where most of the variation of abuse occurs among abusers.
Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour… Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken hostage.
In Kathy’s case we can see evidence of this where her sister Sherry claimed that Steve physically and mentally abused her, and neighbors testified that they often heard shouting coming from the Page apartment.
Stage 4: Trigger/s
A trigger to threaten the perpetrator’s control — for example, the relationship ends or the perpetrator gets into financial difficulty. I think the triggering event was when the two fought and Kathy asked Steve for a separation and for him to move out.
Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim. This is because DV is about power and control. When an abuser realizes he has lost all control of his victim, he will do anything to “gain” that power back, even if it means ending her life. Abusers often resort to an “If I can’t have her, then no one can” mentality.
Leaving can be fatal: In 45% of the homicides in which a man killed a woman, an immediate precipitating factor of the fatal incident was the woman leaving or trying to end the relationship. For clinic/hospital women who were abused on followup, 69% of those who had left or tried to leave an abuser in the previous year but whose abuse continued despite their attempted departure experienced severe incidents compared to 44% of women who had not left or tried to leave (Source: Carolyn Rebecca Block, Risk Factors for Death or Life-Threatening Injury for Abused Women in Chicago).
Stage 5: Escalation
An increase in the intensity or frequency of the partner’s control tactics, such as by stalking or threatening suicide. I think we can see evidence of this where Charlotte claims that Steve often called her to check up on Kathy. I believe this was in an attempt to control her and scare her into behaving how he wanted her to.
Stage 6: A Change in Thinking/Decision
The perpetrator has a change in thinking — choosing to move on, either through revenge or by homicide. I think where Steve made the decision to murder Kathy was when he saw the phone number for the motel in Beaumont and figured out that she had another man in her life.
Stage 7: Planning
The perpetrator might buy weapons or seek opportunities to get the victim alone. I think we can see evidence of Steve’s planning mainly when analyzing the staged crime scene. He planned the scene in an attempt to push suspicion off of himself and he later planned to hide her watches and get the carpets cleaned in order to erase further evidence of his culpability. I don’t think he planned to rape Kathy, I think he acted on that on impulse when she returned home from her date and his suspicions were confirmed. Jealousy is strongly linked to domestic violence, in particular physical violence.
Stage 8: Homicide
The perpetrator kills his partner, and possibly hurts others such as the victim’s children. I think we can assume that Steve raped and strangled Kathy that night after she returned home from her motel date, and then he attempted to arrange her body to make it look like an accidental car wreck. The fact that she was strangled also strongly indicates that her murder was related to domestic violence.
One in four women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime, and of those, up to 68 percent will suffer near-fatal strangulation at the hands of their partner. Of the victims, 97 percent are strangled by hands; 38 percent reported losing consciousness; 35 percent are strangled during sexual assault/abuse; 9 percent are also pregnant, and 70 percent of strangled women believed they were going to die (Source: Steve Albrecht, The Truth About Domestic Violence Murders).
Based on these markers for domestic violence, as well as the evidence provided by police and the civil court, I think that Steve Page murdered Kathy Page on the morning of May 14, 1991, after following the eight stage progression to domestic violence related homicide.
In other words, the husband did it.
A discussion on how and why I use the term domestic violence.
Cyclical Violence at the Hands of a Loved One
Let me explain what I mean by “domestic violence.”
For other information on DV, The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to start.