The Mortgage and the Murder
A loan officer's assistant at Countrywide Home Loans, Ron was, by all accounts, a people pleaser. "I wanted to do the best possible job I could for them, every single time," he says.
Co-workers of Ron's say he seemed particularly upset when he learned of the murders. "I was shocked. I was disturbed. It was sad to hear," says Ron.
He says he cried. "I guess I'm an emotional person. I take things serious. When I heard that, it hurt. It was sad."
But Ron had little time to dwell on it. In 2005, before the current loan crisis, business at Countrywide was booming, and Ron had trouble keeping up.
"The pressure was incredible," he says. "I've taken loan applications on holidays, phone calls on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day. We were open 24/7."
Finally, in June 2006, Ron says he just cracked. "I had made a mistake. I'm not hiding from that, I'm not denying that - that's never been a question. Have I done something wrong? I participated in something that was wrong."
What Ron calls a mistake occurred when he was preparing a loan for another couple, Catherine and Matthew Howard.
Ron says the mistake was that he over-promised. "I told them that I can get the loan done within a specific period of time and I didn't. I dropped the ball."
So instead of coming clean, Ron forged two checks totaling more than $240,000, and used them to close the Howards' loan.
Bank officials soon discovered the forgery. Ron, who had never in his life been in trouble with the law, turned himself in to the U.S. Secret Service, the agency that investigates bank fraud.
"I've never done anything illegal in my life," Ron says. "To do something that was stupid, so stupid to do and lose everything because of that stupidity, that's very emotional."
Ron was so emotional that he was taken to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, where he took a welcome break from the hectic mortgage business.
As Brian Nguyen, a federal investigator who was then a Secret Service agent began to investigate, Catherine Howard told him of a very unsettling incident. "Catherine Howard explained to me that on the day that she was supposed to refinance her loan, the brake lines in her husband's vehicle were cut," Nguyen remembers.
And Catherine was convinced that it was Ron who had tampered with those brakes. "This guy tried to kill us. I mean that was my gut reaction," she says.
Nguyen began to dig into Ron's background and learned that one year earlier, Ron's other clients, Greg and Bernadette, had been murdered. Later he found out that Ron at one time had owned a 9mm Ruger handgun. And when Nguyen discovered that the couple had been shot with a 9mm, suddenly Nguyen's forgery investigation became something far more serious.
The Secret Service agent went back to the hospital and questioned Ron about the murders that took place nearly a year earlier. "And right away Ron said it was a Tuesday," Nguyen says, "He knew exactly what day of week August 2nd, 2005 was. And that struck me right away."
Asked how he would remember it was a Tuesday, Ron says, "Well, it was a very dramatic event. I mean again, people that I work with were killed."
Late into the night, Nguyen continued to grill a medicated Ron, who never asked for a lawyer. "I was telling the truth. I denied everything. I had nothing to do with hurting anybody, a murder. I did not, and I answered all their questions," Ron insists.
At the same time, police went to Ron and his wife's home to search for that 9mm Ruger. But Ron says he had traded the gun a year before the murders to a guy named "Robert."
After hours of searching, police found nothing to connect him to the murders until finally they looked in a bag in Ron's garage. There, police say they hit pay dirt: one spent 9mm shell casing.
Asked how the spent shell casing ended up in his bag, Ron says, "That is the whole case. They're saying because that shell casing was in my gun bag in my garage that I was the one that pulled the trigger to kill these people."
And that's what police alleged: investigators said it was a ballistics match to the four casing recovered at the murder scene.
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