Final conversations between murder victims and the family members they leave behind have a way of becoming the subject of lifelong regret. Words not spoken or last moments wasted on the trivial can harden into a lasting memory of love left unexpressed. John and Linda White were spared that burden.
The middle of their three children, Cathy O’Daniel, had stumbled through adulthood—there was an unplanned pregnancy, a rushed marriage, divorce, struggles with alcohol. But by age 26, she seemed to be righting her course. Cathy confided to her mother that she was expecting her second child and intended to marry the father, a doctor.
When the couple returned from a trip out of state in November 1986, they dropped by the Whites’ suburban Houston home for dinner so Cathy could introduce her parents to her new beau. The four of them sat around the kitchen table for a relaxed conversation. After the young couple left for the evening, the Whites realized a remarkable coincidence. Cathy’s fiancé was the son of the doctor who had been her pediatrician, back when the Whites had lived in Colorado. It was after 11 p.m., but Linda was too excited to wait to tell Cathy of her realization, so she called her. “And that was the last conversation that we had,” Linda said recently. “But we were laughin’.”
Days later, John and Linda sat vigil at the same table, hoping for encouraging news about their daughter, who had suddenly disappeared. One of the many calls the family received during the four agonizing days she was missing was from a 15-year-old named Gary Brown. Brown called anonymously to assure the family that Cathy was safe but needed time alone to sort out some personal issues. The call was a cruel ploy, Brown’s attempt to buy himself time. He and another 15-year-old named Marion “Marvin” Berry had already abducted Cathy, raped her, and shot her to death.
By Mark Obbie June 30, 2015