Gary Patterson Disappearance

bill-and-book-death-in-desertA civil engineer from Waco, Texas named Gary Patterson disappeared in El Paso, Texas after traveling there for a job interview.  As it turned out, the “job interview” was a trap.  Gary Patterson had been lured to El Paso to be tortured and killed by his ex-father-in-law, a man named Sammy Urick.  Urick was angry at Patterson over a child custody issue – but Urick was no common criminal.  Years before, two CIA officers in Europe had gone rogue.  Frank Wilson and Edmond Terpil had sold out to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.  In return for millions of dollars, the agents had agreed to provide a large quantity of plastic explosives, special poisons, and other materials to the outlaw Libyan leader.  It was Urick who helped to transship the material to its eventual destination in Tripoli.

The explosives were used to commit a number of terrorist acts, including an explosion at a Berlin nightclub in which a number of American servicemen were killed.  In response, President Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli by U.S. Air Force jets stationed in England.  After their activities became known, Terpil and Wilson tried to flee.  Again, Urick was there.  He assisted the agents in their efforts to hide.

In the Gary Patterson disappearance, Bill Johnston and the Texas Rangers got on the trail of Sammy Urick and his co-conspirator, Theodore Donald Young.  In an historic move, the Texas Rangers went with U.S. Secret Service agents to the country Honduras where they captured Theodore Donald Young.  Young confessed.  A map was drawn depicting the location of Gary Patterson’s body in the desert some 10 miles east of El Paso.  He had been tortured and buried alive.  Johnston prosecuted Young and Urick for the offense of foreign travel in aid of murder for hire.  Urick received a life sentence.

The earlier CIA aspect of the case is chronicled in a book by Peter Maas called Manhunt.   The Gary Patterson disappearance case was the subject of the book Death in the Desert by Carlton Stowers, and was the subject of a docudrama on A&E Network.

The defendants in the case.

The defendants in the case.