Beverly Duvall stood in the living room of the second-floor apartment she shared with her mother 39 years ago, looking at an alcove, an arched recess between two closets. She remembered the room. The TV was in that alcove, and she remembered sitting on the couch with her mother, eating popcorn out of a green bowl.
The apartment, empty now, didn't appear to have been touched since 1971, when she last set foot in 702 Madison Ave. in York.
The yellowed walls were pocked with nail holes and stained. Wallpaper, long painted over, peeled from the wall. The tiny kitchen, tucked in the middle of the apartment, had changed, wooden cabinets having replaced the old metal ones she remembered. The Venetian blinds looked the same, as did the nicotine-stained curtains hanging in
She paused by the door leading to the outer hallway. The phone used to be on a small table just inside the door. She remembered that. She remembered a lot of phone calls that April morning 39 years ago.
She placed her hand on the door. She remembered sliding the key under the door to let the babysitter's husband and a police officer into the apartment that morning. She remembered her bedroom and the door to the fire escape.
Then, she got to the back bedroom. Her mother's room.
She felt as if she were 3 years old again. She felt hollow inside.
The room is smaller than she remembered. The floor, worn to a deep brown, is stained, an odd-shaped stain pooled in the center of the room, darker than the surrounding hardwood.
She stood in the doorway between her old bedroom and her mother's room. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
She remembered lying on the floor next to her mother's body. She remembered touching her mother's face, trying to get her to wake up.
April 12, 1971.
That date is burned into Beverly Duvall's soul. It is the date her mother, Marian Flaharty, was murdered.
Beverly was there.
She was 3 years old.
Theodore Gotwalt, her mother's lover, stabbed her in the chest and then shot her three times in the head. The autopsy revealed that the stab wound killed her. The three shots to her forehead were superfluous, overkill.
Gotwalt fled and led police on a 30-hour manhunt that
That is the story Beverly Duvall has had to live with. That is what she knew of her mother. What happened in that apartment that morning dominates her life. She has always felt broken.
Now, at 42, she's trying to put the pieces together, to complete the puzzle to get a full picture of her mother, to try to heal the wounds that have remained open since 1971. She has combed police files and court records. She has researched family trees. She has talked to people who were around when her mother was killed.
Every piece of the puzzle reveals other, missing pieces, every answered question prompts others.
Sleep comes hard. And when it does come, it is punctuated by nightmares, horrible visions from her past, still vivid even now.
Marian Flaharty -- they called her Mary Lou -- was born in California, just north of Los Angeles in Glendale. She had a rough childhood. Her parents were alcoholics, Beverly said. Her father, she said, was a professional gambler.
Mary Lou married young and moved to Frisco, Colo., a rural town west of Denver. She was 18 years old. She had a child, a boy, born in January 1965. Beverly didn't even know she had a half-brother until decades later.
By March 1967, the marriage was over. Mary Lou had separated from her husband and met Gerald Flaharty, a construction worker who had been building houses in Frisco. She was working as a waitress at Kate's Café, one of the only restaurants in town at the time. Flaharty was also a musician; he had won banjo competitions and played guitar.
In May 1967, she left Frisco with Flaharty, packing up her Corvair and heading east, to Flaharty's home in York County. They were married Oct. 15, 1967, in Towson, Md. Beverly was born a little more than two months later, Dec. 30, 1967.
The marriage didn't last until the third anniversary. In the divorce filing, Gerald Flaharty alleged that Mary Lou told him that she never loved him.
The divorce was final on Aug. 7, 1970.
In December 1970, Mary Lou Flaharty began seeing Theodore Gotwalt.
Kermit Forbes was an old friend of Ted Gotwalt. He had known him since they were teenagers growing up in York. He said Gotwalt was an easy-going guy. He worked at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Gerald Flaharty had worked at Peach Bottom.
Kermit's wife, Catherine, told police later that Ted and Mary Lou had been living together off and on since December 1970. Ted had been separated from his wife and had told Mary Lou he was going to divorce his wife. He told Kermit that they got along and "they had good times sexually."
But the relationship wasn't going well. In April 1971, Mary Lou had had enough. She told Catherine Forbes that she didn't want Ted living with her. She said she told him not to come around any more.
Ted didn't take her rejection well. At a party the Friday night before Mary Lou's murder, Ted told two people that he would kill her if she broke up with him.
On April 11, Mary Lou had dinner at the Forbes' apartment in Springettsbury Township, leaving at about 8 p.m. to go to the laundromat to wash some uniforms for work; she was a cashier at Memorial Hospital.
That was the last the Forbeses saw her.
Between 4 and 4:30 the next morning, York City Police received a call about a possible break-in at 702 Madison Ave., a three-story duplex with three apartments.
When police officers arrived at 4:43 a.m., the lights were on in the second-floor apartment, but nobody answered the door. Finding no signs of foul play or any evidence of a break-in, the police left.
At about 5:30 a.m., the phone rang in Catherine Forbes' home. It was Ted. She later told police he sounded upset. He told her to call Mary Lou, that it was an emergency.
Catherine called, and when 3-year-old Beverly answered the phone, she asked to speak to her mother. Beverly said her mother was asleep and hung up. Catherine called back three times, and Beverly kept hanging up. The last time, she asked Beverly where her mother was sleeping. Beverly said on the floor. She told Catherine that Ted was sleeping on the couch.
"I thought everything was OK then. I didn't call again," Catherine told police.
Everything wasn't OK.
At about 7:50 a.m., Catherine Forbes' phone rang again. It was Ted, looking for Kermit, who wasn't home from his third-shift job at Caterpillar. When Kermit got home, he called the number Ted had left, and Ted asked Kermit to come get him, that he was at the American gas station in Shiloh. He told Kermit to come alone.
Ted wasn't at the gas station when Kermit arrived. Kermit drove around the area for about 15 minutes, looking for Ted. Not finding him, he returned to the station and called his wife, asking her whether Ted had called. He hadn't.
He left and drove into York, thinking perhaps Ted had walked into town to Mary Lou's place. He got there at about 9:15 a.m. When he rang the doorbell, Beverly came to the door and asked, "Who is it?"
He heard Beverly walking around the apartment. She told him she couldn't open the door. Figuring Mary Lou was asleep, he left.
When he got home, he was concerned -- nothing specific, just a feeling gnawing at him -- and called Mary Lou's. Beverly answered the phone. He asked if Ted was there. The girl said no. He asked whether he had been there. Beverly said no and hung up.
At about 10 a.m., he asked his wife to call Mary Lou's. Beverly told her that her mother was sleeping in bed. Later, Kermit would learn that wasn't true.
At about 10 a.m., Anthony Santos called his neighbor, Don "Dutch" Helm, a city police patrolman, concerned about Mary Lou Flaharty. Santos' wife babysat Beverly, and it was well past the time Mary Lou usually dropped her off.
Santos told Helm that his wife called Mary Lou's apartment, and Beverly had answered. When she asked Beverly to put her mother on the phone, the child said her mother was asleep on the floor in her bedroom.
And then, Beverly told her, "Ted shot mommy, bang, bang."
Beverly began to cry and dropped the phone.
Santos and Helm reached the apartment at about 10:25 a.m. and knocked on the door. Through the door, Beverly told them her mother was sleeping, and she couldn't wake her. Helms asked Beverly to open the door, but she couldn't. She slid the key under the door, and Helms and Santos entered.
Beverly was covered with blood. Helms entered the rear bedroom and saw Mary Lou's body on the floor between the bed and the wall. Her face and chest were covered with blood. There were blood stains on the bed. A butcher knife was on the floor. The autopsy would show that Mary Lou died from a 51/2-inch-deep stab wound to the right side of her chest. She also had three bullet wounds in her forehead. There were defensive wounds on her hands and forearms. Her ring finger was cut deeply.
A short time later, Detective Bill Farrell arrived. It was Farrell's first homicide investigation. He can still see the blood, and he can still hear Beverly saying, over and over again, "Ted shot mommy, bang, bang."
While Farrell began his investigation, Helm gave Beverly two glasses of milk. To this day, Beverly can't drink milk.
She hates it.
For the next 30 hours, police pursued Gotwalt. He surfaced first at Legore's restaurant on Carlisle Road, near Brougher Lane in West Manchester Township. A K-9 officer went after him, and Gotwalt shot his dog, a German shepherd named Fury. The dog died.
Gotwalt disappeared into the field behind Legore's. Later, he broke into a church and then a barn, where, police believed, he spent the night in a corn crib.
The next afternoon, Brenda Eisenhour headed to the barn on her family farm on East Berlin Road. She and her son were supposed to pick up trash by the road, a regular springtime chore on the farm.
Her son spotted Gotwalt first. He was standing by the wall, his gun in his hand.
"Don't be afraid," he told her. "I won't hurt you."
"I know," Eisenhour said.
"All I want is food and water," he said. "Let's go to the house."
Gotwalt was tall and thin. His pants were torn.
He ate cake and drank a pitcher of water. And he talked, mostly about little things. He didn't say anything about Mary Lou or what had happened early the previous morning. He asked Eisenhour whether she and her husband got along. Eisenhour said they had their ups and downs, like any couple. He asked whether she would ever leave him. She said no. He wanted to know whether she loved her husband more than she hated him.
"Yes," she said.
He asked for a pencil and paper. He made phone calls. He never got through to whoever he was trying to reach. He told her to go to the front room of the house and stay there for 15 minutes. He tore the phone out of the wall and left, taking her bluish-green 1962 Corvair.
She watched him drive away on Bannister Street. Then she called her husband in from the field and called police on the phone in the barn.
The killer had been in her home for about two-and-a-half hours.
Beverly went to her father's home in Airville. The day after the murder, he called police to report that his daughter kept saying, "Ted shot my mommy."
That afternoon, Miriam Altland had returned home from work at Pfaltzgraff and was planting geraniums in her Dover Township front yard when Gotwalt came out of the woods across from her home and asked for a drink of water.
She knew immediately who he was. She had read about the murder in the morning paper.
She gave him a glass of water and said, "I know who you are and what you did."
While Gotwalt drank on the breezeway of her home on Paradise Road near Davidsburg, she took her car keys and buried them in the dirt beneath a hedge. She was scared, but mostly she was afraid that Gotwalt would hurt her dog, a beagle-terrier mix named Angie. She had read that Gotwalt, in addition to murdering Mary Lou, had killed a police dog.
A neighbor drove by, and Altland flagged him down. She told him that the man who killed that woman on Madison Avenue was in her breezeway. The man said, "You're out of your goddamn mind." Just then, another neighbor driving by stopped. He took her to his house.
As the police closed in, Gotwalt broke into Altland's house. He drank about half a can of ginger ale. And then he put his .22-caliber semi-automatic in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He died two days later in Memorial Hospital.
Police found a scrap of paper in his pocket. On it, he had written, "Why? Because I loved her and couldn't live without her."
Mary Lou was buried in Greenmount Cemetery. Her mother paid for the plot. Beverly wasn't taken to the funeral. She doesn't know whether anybody went.
The nightmares came often. Beverly could barely get through a night without one. She saw the cigarettes on the table. In some of her nightmares, she saw her mother wearing a white nightgown.
When she was 8, her father sat her down and told her what happened to her mother. Her step-mother said Beverly needed help, but her father resisted the idea. What happens under his roof, he always said, stays under his roof.
Every time she asked about her mother, her father refused to discuss it. When she was 12, he showed her a photo of her mother. He wouldn't let her keep the photo.
All her life, Beverly has wondered about her mother. What was she like? Was she happy? Did she make friends easily? Did she have friends in York? What made her laugh?
"I just want to know her," she said. "It's like spending your whole life wondering who you are and where you came from. I don't know. I just want to know what I did wrong to deserve this. What did I do?"
A few weeks ago, she called her father, who's now out of state, to ask about her mother. Before then, she hadn't spoken to him in a decade. She said he didn't want to talk about it.
Gerald Flaharty lives in Florida now. Reached by phone, he said he didn't want to talk about the murder of his ex-wife or his relationship with his daughter.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Beverly visited her mother's grave for the first time.
She and her husband, Bryce, drove up from their home in Deale, Md., for the afternoon. Bryce works for a Ford dealership in Prince George's County, and Beverly works at a big law firm in Washington, D.C.
Greenmount Cemetery had sent her a map and marked where her mother was buried -- Section 14, Lot 3, Space 5. The groundskeeper marked it with small pink and orange flags. There is no headstone, no sign that Mary Lou Flaharty is buried there.
Beverly looked at the grave, tears in her eyes. She wondered what her life would have been like had her mother not been taken from her. She wondered why this happened. She felt guilty for not visiting before.
She stood, silent.
And then, she said, "This is the closest I've been to my mother in 39 years."
Recalling the Flaharty murder case
Bill Farrell has a good memory.
It's a blessing.
And it's a curse.
Today, the former York City detective can remember a lot. And a lot of what he remembers haunts him. One memory in particular gets to him.
It was April 12, 1971. He was called to a second-floor apartment at 702 Madison Ave. Inside, he found the body of 25-year-old Marian "Mary Lou" Flaharty, stabbed and shot.
Flaharty's 3-year-old daughter, Beverly, was in the apartment. She had witnessed her mother's murder.
"That one," Farrell said, his voice halting, "that one stuck with me. I don't like to think about it."
It was his first homicide case. It would be one he always remembered and not because it was his first.
No matter what he did, he could not erase the memory of seeing 3-year-old Beverly, covered with blood. He could not erase Beverly's words that morning: "Ted shot mommy. Bang. Bang."
It was a shocking crime in 1971, front-page news. Flaharty's murder and the subsequent 30-hour manhunt for her killer, 26-year-old Theodore Gotwalt, gripped the community. Nearly every police department in the county was involved in the manhunt. State police called out its helicopter. Route 30 was closed down.
Those who encountered Gotwalt during the manhunt never forgot.
That includes Brenda Eisenhour.
Eisenhour's family still farms. At that time, the family's farm was on East Berlin Road, near Bannister Street. They've since moved to a spread near Wellsville. Her husband, James, and her children run the place, farming some 4,000 acres and raising hogs and beef cattle.
Back in 1971, she was only 23, a young farm wife. She and her son were in their barn when they encountered Gotwalt. He was tall and thin. His pants were ripped. He had a gun.
"It isn't every day somebody holds a gun on you," she said.
Gotwalt spent nearly three hours at her house, holding her and her son at gunpoint. He took her car, a Corvair, when he left.
"The good Lord was looking down on us that day," said Eisenhour, now 62.
Miriam Altland said, "I remember it like it was yesterday."
Gotwalt came out of the woods across the street from her house -- she lived on Paradise Road near Davidsburg then -- and held her at gunpoint. She was able to get away. Gotwalt killed himself in her house as police closed in.
She remembers being scared. She feared Gotwalt would harm her dog, a beagle-terrier mix named Angie. "My baby," she said. She had read in the newspaper that he had killed a police dog, a German shepherd named Fury.
She is 78 now and lives in Dover.
"Every time there's a homicide somewhere, you relive it," she said. "It's not the kind of thing you can forget."
Farrell retired from the police force and was elected a district justice in the city. He retired from that position eight years ago and moved to North Carolina, where he lives on the Albemarle Sound, part of the Inland Waterway.
He remembers all of the cases he investigated as a detective. Some, the details have faded. The Flaharty case, though, he remembers.
He remembers, mostly, the blood.
And the girl.
"I just remember that little girl," he said. "She was covered with blood."
"I can still see it," he said. "It's hard to think about."
Beverly Duvall: Her own words
In an e-mail, Beverly Duvall described how the murder affected her life. Here is part of her e-mail:
In short, what happened back then has affected my entire life in one way or another...
Never truly knowing who your mom is ... leaves a huge void/hole in your life.
A lot of things inside of me have been "broken" throughout my life and I finally decided that it was time to heal.
... I deserved to know about my mother. ...
This is the final step that I have to take to heal and to finally know who I am, who my mother was and find some peace finally.
About this story
This story was compiled from interviews with Beverly Duvall and her husband, Bryce, while accompanying them when they visited her mother's grave and old apartment. Others interviewed included retired Detective Bill Farrell, retired police officer Don "Dutch" Helm, witnesses Brenda Eisenhour and Miriam Altland and Ted Gotwalt's friend Kermit Forbes. Gerald Flaharty declined to be interviewed. Reporter Mike Argento reviewed documents from the police file, including statements by Eisenhour, Altland, Forbes and his ex-wife, Catherine. The file included reports from Helms and other police officers who contributed to the investigation. Argento also reviewed newspaper reports from 1971, birth and death records and the divorce filing of Gerald and Marian Flaharty.