LA Forensics: West Hollywood Hustle
A Murder with Few Clues
A woman employed at the same firm as interior decorator Patrick Gates went looking for him when he failed to show up at work on October 23. He also had not answered his phone when she called. She arrived at the West Hollywood apartment complex where he lived and did not see his car, but went to knock on his door anyway. She found the screen door unlocked and the inside door fully ajar, so she called his name. When no one answered, she looked for a manager but failed to find one, so she returned to the apartment. She did not think Gates would leave the place with his door standing open, so she decided to enter. What she saw in the second-floor apartment made her call the police. Patrol officers arrived around 1:45 P.M..
Gates had been murdered. The nude body, in full rigor mortis, lay on its stomach across the bed, with a blue robe covering the upper torso and a blue and white comforter across the lower. The hands and feet were bound together with strips of white cloth, and part of a similar white tie cloth, apparently removed from a bedroom shade, lay on the floor next to the bed. Near it were several cigarette butts and an empty ashtray sat on the window ledge.
Underwear and a pair of jeans lay on the floor, but no wallet was found in the pocket. A television and VCR appeared to be missing from an empty stand, as VCR tapes were present.
Although there was no ligature around the victim's neck, bruises and abrasions suggested there once had been. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy assumed that the piece of cloth strip near the bed had been used to strangle Gates. He determined the case of Gates' death to be strangulation, taking from five to fifteen minutes, with moderate blunt force injury to the head and trauma to the pelvic organs that was consistent with anal torture.
The police set out to question Gates' associates, friends, and neighbors. A witness who knew the victim casually said he had seen Gates, who was 45, bring young Hispanic men to his apartment, and he'd had one regular visitor. That person was located and he stated that he had last seen the victim on Saturday afternoon, dropping him off around 5:00. He knew the victim well and was able to say that his preferred brand of cigarette was Merit. A neighbor recalled the numerous young men, between the ages of 20 and 25, whom Gates brought home, and he had the impression they were runaway types, because they appeared unkempt. Another neighbor saw the victim on Saturday evening with a tall white man in his forties, but had witnessed no activity around the apartment at any time on Sunday.
Cigarette butts collected at this scene showed that the smoker was a Type A secretor. The DQ alpha poly-marker test matched biological samples from earlier incidents. The problem was that there was no way to know when the cigarette butts had been left in the apartment, since Gates had often entertained young men who smoked.
Gates' 1986 red Mazda pickup truck was missing, so investigators sent out a statewide broadcast to other police departments to be looking for it, but they would soon add items from another murder when a victim was discovered on November 5.
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