Anyone who lived in North Texas in the early 1980’s remembers the murder of Betty Gore, and the murder trial of Candace Montgomery, the woman who killed her with an ax. The petite, non-descript Wylie housewife was acquitted in 1980. She claimed self-defense. I attended her trial as I was working, at the time, for KDFW-TV. Then, as now, the case enthralled me.
Gore, a 5th-grade teacher at R.C. Dodd Middle School, had accused her best friend, Candace,of having an affair with her husband, Allan. I think they also all went to the same church. On June 13, 1980, the 30-year-old Gore was found dead in the laundry room of her home at 410 Dogwood Drive. She had been hacked to death by someone wielding an ax an estimated 41 times. Montgomery was soon charged with murder. She claimed self-defense. At her trial four months later, Montgomery told jurors that Gore came at her with an ax, pledging to kill her over the affair. According to The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 30, 1980, Montgomery testified that the two struggled. Somehow, she wrestled control of the ax, and struck Gore on the head, she said.
“At that point, Mrs. Montgomery told the jury, she fell into a ‘dreamlike state’ and didn’t know she was striking Mrs. Gore repeatedly. “I hit her, I hit her, I hit her and I hit her,” a sobbing Mrs. Montgomery told the jury. “I kept hitting her and hitting her. I stood back and looked at myself and I was covered in blood.”
I remembered the shock I felt, along with everyone else, since I was just a few years younger than the murder victim and the defendant. Is it possible, I thought, that a normal, rational human being could be driven to react in so violent a manner of self-defense? How could a woman, a mother, have done such a thing? And the names of the accused and the victim — you just couldn’t make this stuff up!
Jurors deliberated less than three and a half hours before finding Montgomery not guilty. She went on to move to Atlanta.
Just like today.
When we first heard of the murder, people panicked, as we tend to do. Was it possible that a brutal ax murderer was loose in this sleepy suburban town, prowling the rows of Fox & Jacobs track homes to chop up housewives? I lived in North Dallas at the time, but was still afraid.
Gore’s body was not found until late that night.
Betty and Allan Gore lived in Wylie with their two little girls. Allan Gore was out of town on a business trip. When he couldn’t reach his wife by phone, he had neighbors check the house. They walked into the house and a grisly discovery: the bloodied remains of Betty Gore in the utility room, a baby crying in her crib, left unattended all that time.
There were bloody footprints and fingerprints, including one on the Gores’ freezer. I think they also found hair and other tissue traces in the shower. If I remember correctly, Candy had cleaned herself off in the Gore home after the murder. Soon we learned that this quiet woman had hacked her best friend to death, 28 blows to her head.
It was surreal.
Candace Montgomery and Allan Gore had had an affair that, she testified, ended months before the murder. The couples were “good friends”. In fact, on the day of the murder, the Gore’s child was in Montgomery’s care. She went over to the Gore’s house while the kids played at her her’s to pick up a bathing suit for Lisa Gore, age 5, who had spent the night at the Montgomery house.
What she testified in court was that Betty Gore had confronted Montgomery about the affair. Betty Gore was angry. Montgomery said that Gore went after her with an ax. The two struggled, and somehow Montgomery got control of the ax. She told the court that Betty Gore told her to “Shhhh” — and that triggered a response she didn’t know she had deep inside. Indeed, a psychiatrist testified that the “Shhhh” uttered by Gore unleashed a repressed childhood memory from Gore that made her lose control, fueled an inner rage from her childhood, and resulted in the repeated blows that ultimately killed Gore.
“I hit her. I hit her. And I hit her. She fell slowly, almost to a sitting position. I kept hitting her. And hitting her. … I felt so guilty, so dirty. I felt so ashamed.”
But what about the house where this murder took place? 410 Dogwood Drive. Who lives there? Is it a happy house? According to Weiss’ story, people still drive by it.
The Montgomery’s moved to Atlanta, and she apparently became a counselor; Allan Gore remarried (quickly, which always shocked me) and he also moved away. Apparently, that marriage ended in divorce, and Betty’s parents raised the two daughters, who must be nearing their 40’s now. Sadly, Candace Montgomery’s skilled defense attorney, Don Crowder, took his own life in 1998. At the time, I recall talk that he had a brilliant career before him after her acquittal.
Like I said, you cannot make this stuff up.
Then two Dallas journalists, John Bloom and Jim Atkinson, wrote a book about the murder called Evidence of Love, upon which a movie was made called Killing in a Small Town, starring Barbara Hershey.
Maybe the next thing is to make a movie about that poor house.
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