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Town in Shock After Prominent Citizen Charged With Murder of Banker’s Wife

April 26, 1986

HOUSTON, Mo. (AP) _ Members of this close-knit community say they feel violated after a former salesman for local radio stations was charged with murder in the death of a banker’s wife and the wounding of two others.

″It’s even tougher when we realize this may be one of our own,″ said Bob Davis, editor of the weekly Houston Herald.

Roy White, 40, a salesman for radio stations until last month, was charged Friday with first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault.

Wanda Byler, who had been shot a dozen times, was found dead in her home Thursday in the nearby community of Raymondville.

Her husband, James, president of the Farmers State Bank of Texas County, and a bank executive were wounded when the attacker shot them in the head after they brought only a portion of the $100,000 ransom the gunman had demanded. ″While nearly everyone knew them around here, even those who didn’t feel like we’ve been violated, like our lives have been turned upside down,″ said Clyde Evans, owner of a funeral home.

Several hundred people gathered outside the courthouse in the rural southern Missouri town of about 2,100 residents after White’s arrest. No bond was set.

Authorities initially believed two or more men were involved, but now believe White acted alone, said Lt. Ralph Biele of the Missouri Highway Patrol. He declined to discuss any motive in the case.

According to police accounts, Byler was at a bank branch in Houston early Thursday when a caller said his wife was being held hostage and demanded $100,000.

Byler called authorities, then gathered about $17,000 and asked Loretta Kay Jordan, a bank vice president, to drive him home.

They were met outside Byler’s house by a gunman who ordered them to lie face down in the garage, Biele said. They each were shot once in the head, but managed to get back in their car and drive away.

Authorities found Mrs. Byler’s body in her bed with 12 gunshot wounds from two different weapons. Five shots were clustered over her heart.

Byler and Mrs. Jordan were listed in fair condition Saturday at a hospital in Columbia, Mo.

The Kansas City Times quoted unidentified authorities as saying White became a suspect after police learned he had paid cash for radio advertising, money police believed was part of the $17,000.

White had worked in sales for radio stations KBTC and KSCM in Houston, but resigned last month. He was active in custom-car and motorcycle clubs and had been master of ceremonies for a number of civic events over the years.

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