How CPD Caught A Murderer – Hunches, Luck and Lots of Long Days

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

Above photo: Assistant Police Chief Alfredo Fajardo, CPD Chief Clayton Smith and Captain Blake Gates and their officers struggled and worked for over four years to bring the murder investigation of “Aunt Faye” to a conclusion.

CROCKETT –  The recent guilty verdict in the capital murder trial in the murder of 79-year-old Faye Lynn Paul was the public end to a very long, quiet and unrelenting process. It wasn’t only friends and family of “Aunt Faye” who packed the courthouse to hear the confession of the her great-nephew and murderer. Several Crockett Police Department (CPD) officers who worked the case were there, too. This is the story of their four-year journey to bring justice to a woman who was brutally murdered by someone she was only trying to help. 

As reported in The Messenger, David Wayne Denson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2020 murder of Paul, after agreeing to the deal in exchange for a full explanation of his deeds and the recovery of Paul’s remains. 

As CPD Chief Clayton Smith, Asst. Chief Alfredo Fajardo and Capitan Blake Gates sat down with The Messenger to tell about the long investigation, the case was closed and the facts were all clear. As the events unfolded, however, these men and the others who worked the case, such as Lt. Kerri Bell, along with countless others, including Texas Rangers, were living the investigation day by day, hour by hour, praying one clue might lead to another. 

It was a neighbor who alerted family members they were concerned about Faye Lynn. It wasn’t like her to go on a trip and not let anyone know. A worried family member contacted the police after a second round of knocking and calling produced nothing. Chief Smith came to the residence to assist, after the family member opened the house. The house was clean and neat and there was no sign of an obvious break in. There was no sign of Aunt Faye, either. 

Smith said his senses told him something was wrong, but couldn’t find anything out of place. As they prepared to leave empty-handed, Smith noticed a blood stain on the door going to the garage. He almost didn’t see it, but his instincts had him on high alert. He noticed tools and work gloves thrown into a trash can. He told the others to stop to go and get a warrant and search the house properly. 

Sensing it would be a long search and something was definitely not right, Smith put an officer to secure the perimeter of the house that night and the next morning the search began in earnest. It was a long search, lasting many hours, where CPD found many of the clues they would later use to help put Faye’s murderer away. 

Once they began to look through the home, everything pointed to one conclusion and they feared the worst. They noticed small blood stains in the bedroom – later analysis by blood experts, including Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove, would prove the murder had taken place in that room. They were even able to claim the suspect was left-handed. 

The garage had an odor of bleach and many items were recovered, for example, the work gloves had what turned out to be traces of Faye’s blood on them. The murderer’s DNA would be found inside, in later analyses. As much work had gone into cleaning the garage, there was a small blood stain from a hand print on the garage door. A faint print of a boot was located on the floor. 

In the guest bedroom, men’s clothing was located, along with clothing from jail. Investigators knew someone had been there recently…but who? They located bank and credit card statements and advised these institutions what had happened and began to monitor Faye’s accounts, in case they were used. 

In Faye’s bedroom, a safe had been opened, but nothing of value was left inside. Dust had been recently disturbed on large jewelry cases, but they sat empty. It was at that moment Faye became his Aunt Faye, Chief Smith said, determining then and there to find out what happened, no matter how long the hunt. As they searched through the house, still not knowing what had happened or what might be important later, Aunt Faye had already been dead eight days. 

The investigators had no way of knowing it at the time, but Faye’s murderer was long gone by then. Subsequent evidence shows he had bragged about wanting to kill someone when he got out of jail on a recorded phone call to his girlfriend, Clara Edwards, living in Indiana at the time. 

After committing the murder, the suspect fled in Faye’s car, taking the jewelry and collector coins she planned to leave to loved ones to sell them for money and to buy drugs. Faye’s body was moved temporarily to a spot near Henderson, while the suspect made his way to Indiana to get Clara. 

Along the way both made videos, some for themselves, some sent to friends, with rap music playing, showing off their stacks of cash and hoard of remaining jewelry and coins. There was no sign of remorse, no sign of loss. The two googled information on rivers and other incriminating topics, stopping at a large store to buy concrete cinder blocks and duct tape. 

CPD investigators were starting to put the pieces together, noticing the charges on Faye’s card and issuing a silver alert for her vehicle. The suspects came right back to Crockett, stealing a dolly and moved Faye’s body to where it would be found, some four years later. 

Smith had to force officers to stop, sometimes, to eat something, to get some sleep. Murders are few in this area, but this obvious evil deed stood out to the men and women on the hunt for this killer and they knew time was vital. Their families saw little of them for the next month as they chased down leads and sorted the hundreds of pieces of evidence. 

The hits on Faye’s credit card led them to get camera footage from stores. They knew now Faye was gone, but what had happened? How and why did it happen? And what had been done with her body? They also knew who the suspect was – he had left his inmate identification in the home. That, plus the video footage – including him with Faye as she bought him clothes and food before the murder – was more than enough. 

Smith now knew Denson had been out of state to get his girlfriend – a violation of his probation. That was enough to hold him while they gathered evidence. But where was Denson now? The silver alert had been meant to locate Faye’s car on one of Texas’ roadways. When the suspect sold the car for $750 cash, somewhere in west Texas, even the drug user he sold it to knew something wasn’t right. He looked up the tags online and seeing authorities were looking for it, called it in himself. 

As the two fled the state, Clara made a mistake. They had gotten rid of their old cell phones somewhere near Amarillo, but she had called home on the new phone to let family know she was alright. That family contacted CPD who traced the phone all the way to Colorado, where the two were arrested at a motel by the local police. 

The local Colorado police, having grown up watching too many movies, told the suspects, “Texas is coming…” They were flattered when Smith showed up with a Texas Ranger, telling them, “You are exactly how we imagined.” While the two didn’t show up on horseback, they told the suspect they knew what he had done and they wanted answers. Telling them Faye probably went on a trip and he knew nothing, the two called him on his lies and the suspect became belligerent, and refused to speak further. 

At the time, Clara was not charged with anything, but traveled back to Crockett with the group. She would later be charged and convicted in her role in the aftermath of the murder, but not before wasting critical hours of investigative time, leading the team on wild goose chases, lying to them about what the two did, trying to cover their tracks. 

The suspects were arrested eight days after Smith first walked into Faye’s house for the first time. The suspect had Faye’s 22-caliber pistol with him. His boots matched those prints in Faye’s garage, perfectly. 

Finding Faye would take years. In the midst of COVID, everything slowed to a crawl. It took time for state investigators to be able to come in with their expertise and assist with the case. The local investigators never stopped, flying over suspected burial sites, digging in remote areas, getting divers in rivers – Smith even contacted other agencies whenever he saw they had found remains, in the off chance those might be Faye. 

The hardest part for the investigators was knowing the suspect knew where she was and wasn’t speaking. Believing the old adage, ‘you can’t have a murder without a body,’ he may have believed he would be in the clear once the case came to trial. 

While no one has said for sure why Denson took a plea deal to take the death penalty off the table, the suspect was present while jurors were being chosen. He listened as they said they would approve of death for someone who was proven to have committed such a terrible and senseless crime. 

When Denson agreed to take them to the site where he left Faye, he immediately became disoriented. Storms had come and gone, time had altered the landscape. Denson took investigators to roughly the area where he had been near Weches, but the large pine tree he claimed to be the marker could not be located. Digging here and there and traipsing through the woods didn’t help. Smith asked Denson to come out a second time. Knowing his own life now depended on investigators finding Faye, Denson became nervous and retraced his steps, yet again. 

On a hunch, Asst. Chief Fajardo ventured a little further than the group had previously thought they needed to go. Noticing a small hole filled with rain water, he dug through the water. Almost immediately, he came across a portion of a maroon colored blanket. He knew from the investigation, Faye had once laid in that blanket. Fajardo cried out and the others ran to him. After almost five years of never giving up, they had been able to bring Faye home. 

The team was proud of bringing the case to a successful conclusion as they sat in the CPD break room, going over power points, pictures, videos and notes accumulated over four years. They showed the handcuffs they used to bring the suspect home from Colorado. Denson was cuffed in the front, so he had to stare at those cuffs on that long ride back to justice. 

Scratched on them by CPD were two simple words. “Faye Paul.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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