13 | Props

prop 2: something used in creating or enhancing a desired effect. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

wooden gate open on right side of house open – hadn’t been opened for years

gate was flapping – concerned

went into house – Greg – a few feet behind or in front

Handwritten notes of interview of Duane Frye at Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office on June 12, 1973


got home pulled in driveway – gate open

dad noticed gate first – never left open

went in with father –

Handwritten notes of interview of Greg Frye at Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office on June 12, 1973

It’s not unusual to stage a domestic homicide as a burglary-gone-wrong. What’s intriguing is how some of these killers use gates. In Cold Case Homicides: Practical Investigative Techniques, LA homicide detective Richard H. Walton recounts a brutal daytime murder in an upscale neighborhood. There were no forced entry or reports of screams, dogs barking or strangers in the area, but days earlier the husband had removed vegetation from the back gate to make it operational. Because he also left the front door wide open, directing attention to the gate suggests another common characteristic: overkill.

Betty’s murderer used a gate too.

The Frye house and garage were feet from the curb. The backyard was surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence with a gate. The gate was wired shut from the inside with a clothes hanger twisted around a post bolted to the garage. The gate was hard to see from the street because it was made from the same slats as the fence. With no trees or shrubs to provide cover from the street, fumbling with the gate to gain access to the backyard would have increased a burglar’s risk of being seen. The Fryes didn’t lock their doors. The only logical way in and out of the house was the unlocked front door.

Thirteen-year-old Greg told the cops that when he and his father arrived home the day of the murder, Duane remarked that the gate was open. The wooden gate is open, he said; I wonder why it is open, it has never been open before. Cops found the hanger securing it untwisted and pieces of wire on the ground. But there is more to this gate’s story.

Around 11:30 a.m., when Greg’s friend Bret rang the doorbell and Duane answered, the gate was closed. (Bret told the cops he would’ve noticed if it was open because it was never open before.) Ten or twenty minutes earlier, Randy Peterson, a carpenter installing siding at a home cater-corner to the Fryes, saw a man exit the back of the Frye house, cross the yard, and fiddle with the gate from the inside. The man was in no hurry and didn’t look around to see if he was being watched. The clocks with the loot in the garage had been unplugged from the wall right about the time Bret was there and Peterson saw the intruder.

It’s understandable why Duane would draw attention to his gate. But unless the man fiddling with the gate was him, Duane was home while his wife’s killer was roaming his backyard and looting his house.

Can a prop backfire?

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