Let’s Talk About It: William and Margaret Patterson

Middle-aged married couple William Durrell Patterson, 52, and Margaret M. Patterson, 42, vanished from El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. They were last seen by a neighbor who dropped by with some Girl Scout cookies. Margaret looked upset at the time and William didn’t seem to want company. That night there was unspecified “unusual activity” observed at the Patterson home. The next day they were gone, and it looked like they had left in a hurry.

William in particular seems to have been involved in some kind of sketchy things. His own father said he “made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks” and he had always expected the Pattersons to disappear eventually.

There are some indications that they left of their own accord, the appearance of the house nonwithstanding. Let’s break it down:

  • On March 15, the Pattersons’ accountant got a telegram with instructions on how to manage their business in their absence. HOWEVER, the telegram was signed “W.H. Patterson” and not “W.D. Patterson.” The obvious explanations I can think of are (1) William did not really send that telegram or (2) William did send the telegram but messed up his initials on purpose as a duress signal.
  • William’s mistress, who lived in Juarez, said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6 (the day after he and Margaret were seen in El Paso) and he told her he had important things to tell her and “when they come for me, I’ll have to go in a hurry.” HOWEVER, she later recanted this statement. What I’m wondering is: if William had important things to tell her, why not just tell her right then, since they were together and all?
  • The couple’s business associates went around telling everyone they were on an extended vacation. No word as to where they were getting this information, but as a result they weren’t reported missing for five months.
  • The Pattersons’ lawyer eventually got a letter, supposedly from William, postmarked May 29. It said they were getting out of dodge and would not be returning, and instructing that their property should be divided up. HOWEVER, the selection of heirs was…curious, to say the least, and handwriting experts were not sure that William had actually signed the letter, and for several legal reasons (starting with the fact that Margaret co-owned the couple’s photography business), it had no actual value as a will.

In 1984, a witness went to the police and said he had been hired to clean the Pattersons’ home after they disappeared and he saw blood in the garage, a piece of human scalp stuck to William’s boat propeller, and someone carrying away bloodstained sheets. The witness was an illegal immigrant and he said he didn’t go to the police at the time because he was afraid he’d be deported. I’ve got no idea if there’s any evidence to back up his statement. I’ve watched Forensic Files; I know they have all sorts of gizmos and experts in all kinds of obscure fields of crime scene analysis and it seems like if the house had still been there, they might have found something.

For what it’s worth, Margaret was completely estranged from her family. They hadn’t heard from her in 20 years and they assumed she was dead, which is an odd assumption if you ask me. She was a young healthy woman and she doesn’t appear to have vanished out of their lives into thin air; she became estranged from them because they disapproved of her marriage to William. So why would they assume she was dead?

Now, it’s been 60 years, and both of the Pattersons would be over 100 years old by now, so it’s a safe bet to assume they’re not alive anymore. What I would like to know is: do y’all think they were alive after 1957?

Let’s talk about it.

13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About It: William and Margaret Patterson

  1. marsyao July 6, 2017 / 10:08 am

    I would think both of them were killed at that night, and they knew they were in the big trouble before they died

    • Meaghan July 6, 2017 / 11:47 am

      From what little I know I wonder about Patterson’s business rival and friend, Doyle Kirkland. It seems weird that Patterson would want Kirkland to manage his shop and that he would leave 25% of the business to Kirkland. I mean, yeah, they were friends, but they were also business rivals.

  2. Sheri July 6, 2017 / 10:25 am

    For some reason it reminds me of the Petit case, where there was a home invasion and the family was held for hours, even forcing the wife to go to the bank and withdraw money. The wife tried to send “clues” to alert people for help.

    I think they were killed that night, that someone was holding them hostage, and that the telegram with the misspelled name was a cry for help. Anyways, so very sad no matter what happened.

    • Meaghan July 7, 2017 / 1:10 am

      And the accountant might have been one of the few people in the Pattersons’ circle who knew his middle name. I mean, I don’t know most of my friends’ middle names. I only know my friend John’s middle name, and only because he says it in his voice mail: “You have reached John P. L., I am unavailable at the moment…” I have to think to remember my own siblings’ middle names, and Michael’s. But an accountant would most likely have that info for the tax paperwork.

      Post-Rollo, I told all my family and friends a duress code for if I am ever taken against my will again. I’m going to mention “someone almost as nice as my brother Colin.” Colin abused me horribly for 25 years.

      • Ori Livneh August 21, 2017 / 3:29 am

        I’m very sorry to hear that, Meaghan. That sounds like an awful thing to live through.

  3. Dara July 6, 2017 / 10:32 am

    I think they knew trouble was coming and were killed the night they disappeared. I wonder what kind of trouble they had gotten themselves into.

  4. Sonya July 6, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    I feel pretty suspicious of the three that were named to have parts of the business in the letter, Arthur Moreno, Doyle Kirkland, and Herbert Roth. It’s hard to read since I’m not a subscriber, but this newspaper article seems to mention that the Pattersons’ boat was found afterwards at Oscar Moreno, who said Arthur Moreno brought it there after the Pattersons’ house was rented out.

  5. Jaclyn July 6, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    This case reminds me of the McStay Family Case. The business associate led police to believe a lot of things about the McStay planning their abandonment of business and family, which were later determined to distract LE and family from the reality that he had killed them and buried them in the desert.

    • Meaghan July 7, 2017 / 12:56 am

      Yes, that was horrific. Especially with the kids and all.

      • Doris Mallonee (@dorisday1961) July 7, 2017 / 7:13 pm

        The police never have figured out anything on the MCStays have they? I think they were mixed up with something also. So unfortunate for the children.

  6. Lyndsay July 10, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    Have you ever done a post/list of missing couples?

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