On a night in February of 1991, a brutal act of violence disrupted the peace of a small Michigan community. Thirty-four-year-old Diane Newton King, a newscaster and local celebrity, was gunned down while exiting her car. Her children, an infant and a 3-year-old, were still sitting in the backseat when their mother died in the driveway of their home.
Though Diane had a troop of admirers, she also had her share of stalkers, and fingers immediately pointed to these unsavory hangers-on. An investigation ensued until the culprit’s true identity—nearly as shocking as the slaying itself—was finally discovered after a careless slip-up months later. Contrary to police assumption, the killer had not lived in the shadows, but inside Diane’s own home.
In Eye of the Beholder, journalist Lowell Cauffiel examines the case, reconstructing the days preceding and following Diane's murder. What he unveils is a maze of fatal obsession, fame, and betrayal that demonstrates how people aren't always who they appear the be.
Read on for an excerpt, and then download the book.
The first radio call went to the west car, 11 miles from Marshall near the county’s border: “Unknown trouble. Address: 16240 Division. Subject says he was coming home from a walk and found his wife laying in the driveway.”
Deputy Guy Picketts heard the call and west car response from the hand-held radio he’d taken with him into his house. The address piqued his interest as much as the call. He knew the address well.
“I’m responding,” he said, grabbing his flashlight and heading out the door. “I’m here in town.”
Guy Picketts sped west on Mansion Street, then south on Old 27. The county cruiser leaned through the traffic circle, its lights painting the Greek Doric shapes of the Brooks Memorial Fountain in flashing shades of red, white, and blue. Halfway around, Picketts was headed south again on Old 27. He passed a rescue unit in the first block, its nose just poking out of the Marshall Fire Station. He saw the ambulance in his mirror and surmised it was also heading for 16240 Division Drive, two and a half miles away.
The view out the cruiser’s front window changed quickly. Small bungalows gave way to an old canning plant and light industrial buildings. A set of tracks. A lumberyard. A feed granary. A trio found in many rural Michigan towns. After the Kalamazoo River bridge the horizon flattened. Picketts rocketed past a golf course on the left. A Moose Lodge on the right. At Brooks Field Airport, a yellow wind sock hung limp.
Checkered asphalt and a slice of light on the horizon greeted Picketts as he turned west onto Division Drive. Only a dozen houses lined the mile of road west of Old 27. All but three homes were on the north side. The house at 16240 Division was on the south. It was the second home a half mile down the road.
Guy Picketts was marking his 13th year of police work. Nine years with the county. Four years with Marshall PD. He knew 16240 Division Drive better than any police officer in Calhoun County. He’d lived with his parents in the old, two-story farmhouse in the sixties. He’d spent another three years there in the 70s raising his own. Picketts knew the house. He knew the farm’s red-and-white Victorian barn. He knew the 510 acres that surrounded both and the stream called Talmadge Creek that bisected the back property.
The deputy turned left into the 200-foot driveway, eyeing the yard as he drove up the slight incline, past a stand of cedars and crooked oaks. The Victorian barn on his left, outbuildings and a cement silo straight ahead. A tan station wagon was parked just beyond the barn. A silver Jeep Wagoneer was parked in the branch of the driveway that jutted off toward the house. The Wagoneer’s grill faced the side porch entrance; the passenger side faced the deputy.
Guy Picketts saw the body as he passed the Jeep and parked. She was two feet from the Wagoneer’s left rear tire. She lay on her back, her legs folded under her at the knees. Her dark, straight hair was spread around her head on the gravel. Her arms extended over her head. Her palms faced up.
Approaching, Picketts heard something. A young boy, a preschooler. He was in the last throes of crying himself out. He was in a child seat in the backseat of the Jeep, his upper body restrained. Next to him, in a smaller car seat, was an infant. She was silent, but apparently alive, her tiny limbs assuming the still shape of her little jumpsuit.
Picketts fell to his knees next to the woman. She was in blue-and-white running shoes and baggy powder blue lounge pants and a gray “Operation Desert Shield” sweatshirt. Picketts noticed a wisp of frothy blood near her nostril. He placed his fingertips on the cardioid area of her neck. Her skin was soft and smooth and warm.
There was no pulse.
Now muffled shouting was coming from inside the house, well beyond the facade of the side porch. Picketts jumped to his feet and moved toward the noise, 30 feet away.
More yelling, still muffled. He saw movement beyond the porch door, inside the house itself, in what he knew to be the dining room. A second door on the porch, one that led to the kitchen, was open.
Then Picketts could see the figure of a man silhouetted on the porch.
“Help her,” the man shouted. “Help my wife.”
“They’re on their way,” Picketts shouted back.
Picketts strained to make some kind of identification. It was all happening very fast. The Marshall rescue unit had pulled to a stop in the driveway behind him. Picketts spun around and pointed out the body to two emergency medical technicians as they ran from the ambulance, one carrying a duffel bag of emergency equipment.
The rescue unit later logged its time of arrival at 6:54 P.M. One EMT dropped his duffel bag as he fell to his knees at the woman’s side. The other started searching for a pulse.
The other EMT tried.
“I think I’ve got something.”
Then, he thought he heard a breath. Maybe one faint, desperate breath.
One EMT sprinted to the ambulance to get an intubation kit and a defibrillator. He also sounded a general EMT alarm that the crew had a probable cardiac arrest. The other EMT cut open the woman’s sweatshirt, pulled back the garment to expose her white bra and the skin of her upper chest.
Picketts was heading to the porch now as the man on the porch stepped out the door onto the sidewalk. But the EMT called out.
“My God,” he said. “I think she’s been shot.”
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Featured image: Diane King with her husband, Brad, and daughter, Marler; All images courtesy of Open Road Media.