Man Leaves Trail of 3 Dead Wives
DETROIT (AP) _ Like many mothers, Marie Wagner had reservations about the man her daughter was about to marry.
Mrs. Wagner got along with Lowell Edwin Amos just fine when they worked together at an auto plant in Anderson, Ind., and he was a brilliant guy in her opinion, but she also knew that Amos’ first two wives died of unknown causes.
So when Mrs. Wagner got a call notifying her that her daughter, Roberta, had died of a cocaine overdose, she was suspicious.
``No one has that much bad luck,″ she said.
Amos, 52, now stands charged with murder by poisoning in the Dec. 10, 1994, death of Roberta Amos, 37. And Indiana authorities have reopened the investigation into the deaths there of Amos’ first two wives and his own mother in the 1970s and ’80s.
Roberta Amos was found dead in an Atheneum Hotel room in Detroit; the couple had been in town for a Christmas party for Amos’ corporate consulting firm.
Amos told police he and his wife had been drinking at a restaurant and went to their room around midnight, when they began using cocaine, homicide investigator Donald Stawiacz testified Friday in the first day of a preliminary hearing. He said they inserted the cocaine anally and in Mrs. Amos’ vagina.
The former girlfriend of Amos’ business associate Norbert Crabtree testified that the Amoses were with her and Crabtree in their room until 4:30 a.m. Darcy Ann Smith said Mrs. Amos looked tired and like she’d been drinking, while her husband was jumpy and talkative.
Stawiacz said Amos awoke the next morning to find his wife dead in bed next to him. ``I touched her and she was cold,″ he said Amos told him.
Amos said he cleaned up the room to get rid of evidence of cocaine, then called hotel security.
He also called Crabtree and asked him to come to his room. One of Amos’ employees, Daniel Porcasi, said Crabtree called him and the two went together.
Amos met them at the door, shirtless, holding a towel and cigarette. He told them Mrs. Amos had taken cocaine and died in the night, Porcasi testified. ``He said, `She’s laying in the next room _ cold as a mackerel.‴
Porcasi said Amos asked him to hold a bag for him. Porcasi took it home and found inside a syringe with no needle, a sports jacket and a foul-smelling hotel washcloth with a unrecognizable substance on it.
He said Amos picked the bag up the next day and told him the syringe was for saline solution.
According to court records, Crabtree told police he was the one who took and returned the bag; there was no explanation for the discrepancy.
Wayne County Medical Examiner Dr. Sawait Kanluen testified Mrs. Amos had a ``tremendous″ amount of cocaine in her body _ 15 times the amount typically seen in a cocaine overdose. He pronounced her death a homicide.
Mrs. Wagner said her daughter didn’t use drugs.
And prosecutors said in court papers that Mrs. Amos would not have simply fallen asleep or died quietly had she overdosed. Dr. Suzanne White, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wayne State University, said symptoms of a typical cocaine overdose reaction include nervousness and hyperactivity.
Still scheduled to testify are witnesses who say Mrs. Amos feared her husband of two years and was ready to leave him. Other records in the court file indicate Amos was seeing another woman.
Also, Crabtree told police that he and Amos had suffered a $225,000 loss during their first year of business.
Court records indicate Amos didn’t benefit financially from Mrs. Amos’ death. However, records show Roberta Amos and her mother had loaned Amos a total of $45,000.
Amos’ lawyer, Cornelius Pitts, refused to comment on the case.
Amos, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted, was picked up Nov. 5 in Las Vegas, where he moved after his wife’s death. It took Detroit police 11 months to put the puzzle together.
``Obviously, she’s a 37-year-old healthy female that had a completely unexpected death. Then, the following day we started getting calls from these other locales regarding the other wives and the mother,″ said homicide Sgt. Patrick Henahan, ``and that’s what made us delve into it.″
He refused to discuss a motive.
Amos’ first wife, Saundra Heard Amos, 36, died in 1979 in their Anderson home. Amos told police she fell and hit her head in the bathroom. A neighbor said she later found Amos burning her clothes in the fireplace.
The autopsy found Dalmane, a sleep aid, and alcohol in her blood. But the cause of death was undetermined. Amos collected on a $350,000 insurance policy.
A few months later, Amos married Carolyn Lawrence, whom he had dated during his first marriage. She threw Amos out in 1987 after he refused to drop a large insurance policy on her, according to court papers.
He moved in with his mother, Mary Toles, who was found dead a few weeks later. Because she was 77, no autopsy was performed. Amos inherited $1 million.
The day Amos’ mother died, Carolyn Amos took her husband back. In 1989, she died at their home near Middletown, Ind. Amos told police he thought she was electrocuted with a hair dryer while standing at the bathroom sink.
An autopsy found traces of Valium and alcohol in her blood but no signs of electrocution. The cause of death was undetermined. Amos received $800,000 in benefits.
Anderson Detective Michael Williams said investigators dusted off the Indiana case files after the Detroit death.
``When you have one situation, you don’t have a track record. When you have two, you start looking,″ he said. ``When you have three you get into a situation where you may have some kind of pattern.″
Mrs. Wagner comes to Detroit from her home in Phoenix for every court appearance scheduled for her former son-in-law, who once ran for mayor of Anderson.
Because Amos apparently didn’t benefit directly from her daughter’s death, Mrs. Wagner said she is doubly confused: ``It makes me wonder how much did he have to hate her to do this, or did he just think he could get away with it here?″