Son Arrested in Slaying of Millionaire Father

ByABC News

July 20, 2002 -- Four years after the killing of millionaire Texas oilman Charles Mayhew Sr., there has finally been an arrest in the case. Mayhew's son, Charles Mayhew, Jr., was taken in by police in connection with his father's death.

Even before his arrest on July 15, Mayhew had been dogged by rumors and suspicion from neighbors and friends in Sunnyvale, Texas, the small town outside of Dallas where his father once served as mayor. "I don't have a life. I can't go anywhere in restaurants, I can't go to a grocery store without people making snide remarks," Mayhew said.

Mayhew's own sister, Mandy Dealey, was one of those people who viewed him with suspicion. Dealey was so convinced that her brother shot and killed their 81-year-old father that she brought a wrongful death suit against him. A civil jury agreed with Dealey, and awarded her $26 million. Based on evidence brought to light in the civil trial, investigators secured an arrest warrant for Mayhew. But the strength of their case remains unclear. A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence on Tuesday.

A Respected Family Man

The elder Mayhew was highly regarded in Sunnyvale as a "Texas Gentleman." He had made a fortune in the oil-drilling business, and was known by business associates and friends as a trustworthy man.

Family friend Lloyd Whitehead said Mayhew's word was "as good as his handshake," adding, "Whatever he says you can make book on it."

Mayhew and his son were once an inseparable pair. They had traveled the world together. They hunted together. Mayhew and his sister played together as children on the family's Sunnyvale ranch. But the two would grow up to be very different people. Mandy became well-known in Austin social circles, and once married into the family that owned the Dallas Morning News.

Chuck was also well known, not only as his father's business partner, but also as a hard-living, hard-drinking hell-raiser, who, according to some acquaintances, had a dark side.

"Chuck was high-tempered. I mean high-tempered … jump-up-and-down and stomp like a little bitty rooster," said Mayhew friend Gene Brown.

Good With a Gun

Mayhew was also known for another trait — he was very good with a gun. As a young man, Mayhew took one skeet-shooting trophy after another, eventually becoming a world champion.

Mayhew's talents with a shotgun sprang to Dealey's mind following her father's slaying. "The first thing they told me was that Daddy had been killed with a shotgun, which raised hair on the back of my neck, because a shotgun is Chuck's instrument," Dealey said. Despite her initial fears, she said she didn't want to believe that her brother could have harmed her father.

"I knew that he could be violent, but it was impossible for me to believe that he could do anything to Daddy," Dealey said.

Mayhew apparently had a penchant for bragging a bit about his prowess with a gun. Neighbor Linda White said, "He's always bragged that he could kill people and get away with it."

A Grisly Discovery

Charles Mayhew Sr. was discovered dead in his bed at around 1 p.m. on March 1, 1998, by Christopher, his grandson. Christopher called Chuck right away, saying he thought his grandfather had suffered some sort of hemorrhage in bed.

Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Magee was the first of the medical personnel on the scene. Magee said he noticed something unusual about the crime scene. "Somebody had tucked the person into bed, because the covers were actually tucked around the sides of the body. And that's virtually impossible, with your arms underneath the covers."

He also said Mayhew told him he had thought to himself as he drove up to his dad's ranch that he just couldn't believe somebody had murdered his dad. Magee said he found that comment jarring, because Mayhew couldn't have known that his dad was murdered until he arrived at the scene.

Mayhew told police that he did not make any such statement to Magee.

According to police reports, nothing appeared to have been stolen from the house. There was no sign of forced entry, and the shotgun that was used to kill Mayhew's father appeared to have been one from the house.

Mayhew said he was at a local bar on the night of the murder and then at home with his wife. He later passed a polygraph test in which he was asked whether he had shot his father.

Mayhew thinks the killer knew his father and was familiar with his house. The motive did not appear to be robbery, and Mayhew's father had no known enemies.

Mayhew criticized the local authorities' handling of the investigation. He said they never checked his hands for gunshot residue, or searched his home for evidence that might tie him to the crime. Such an investigation, Mayhew claims, would have helped to clear him.

"It's a new technique. It's called don't investigate the murder," he said.

A Daughter's Push for Justice

Nearly two years after her father's murder, Mandy Dealey was frustrated that the police investigation appeared to have stalled. So, she charged her brother, in a civil lawsuit, with causing the wrongful death of their father by murdering him.

Chuck Mayhew said his sister brought the case to cut him out of his inheritance, but Dealey insists that she's just "trying to find out what happened."

In hours of depositions Chuck Mayhew revealed he was a troubled man. He acknowledged that he had a drinking problem, that he'd been diagnosed as being bi-polar, that he'd lied about having "killed people in Africa."

However, Mayhew never changed his testimony on whether he killed his father. "I told them over and over, I have told everybody … I didn't do it. I wasn't there."

Frightening Recordings

New suspicions about Mayhew were raised by Linda White, who lived next door to Mayhew's father and had worked as his assistant. White was digging through old boxes at Mayhew's office and uncovered several audiotapes.

Three years before his murder, Charles Mayhew Sr. had recorded his son talking about problems with their land deal. On the tapes, Mayhew angrily berates his father and makes threats and demands against him.

Mayhew tells his father he wants an apology, and complains that his sister had profited without contributing any work to their business. He threatens his dad, saying, "I'll cut out your … eyeballs out with a butter knife and stick 'em down your throat." He tells his dad, "I can't hate anybody any more than I hate you."

Once she heard the tapes, Dealey said she was convinced that her brother had actually killed her father.

Mayhew admitted that he was verbally abusive toward his father. He said he'd been drinking, and says he's terribly ashamed of his behavior.

Still, as bad as the tapes were, Mayhew said they don't show that he pulled the trigger. "They never did come up with anything that, any hardcore evidence, to attach or associate to me in the murder death of my father."

Mayhew has his own idea of who killed his father: Linda White's husband, Larry.

During Mayhew's civil trial, Gene Brown, one of his several supporters, said that White had threatened Mayhew's father several times and that the elder Mayhew was terrified of White. White denies that too, saying Mayhew and his friends are just trying to deflect blame.

"Maybe it was because we lived so close to him, you know, that they picked us," White said.

When Larry White learned that Chuck Mayhew had said to police that whoever killed his father knew what they were doing because they shot him in the jugular vein, he saw another string that tied Mayhew to the murder. White recalled that Mayhew always told him to shoot deer in the neck, because it killed them quicker.

Mayhew rebuffed the suggestion that the method of his father's slaying matched his own particular style of hunting.

Awaiting the Criminal Trial

Mandy Dealey said she feels ambivalent about her brother's fate. She said she took the civil jury's $26 million verdict as a "a very emphatic statement" about their feelings of her brother's guilt.

"I honestly don't know how I would feel about Chuck being tried and found innocent, based on lack of evidence. … On the other hand, I certainly don't want him to receive a death penalty." Asked what she feels her brother's motive could have been, Dealey said, "I think it had to do with power. I think it had to do with Chuck being able to have his way."

Mayhew, for his part, maintains his innocence. "I don't care if they take the money, if they get all of the money, but dear God, don't let them convict me. I didn't murder my father, I didn't kill him."

Mayhew said, "May my soul rot in hell if I'm lying. There are three people who know for a fact that I didn't kill my father. That's him, my heavenly father and me."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events