The Murder of Bette Lucas

The Murder of Bette Lucas

Baker Lucas owned a successful real estate business that specializes in residential homes in Tyler Texas. He was extremely well-liked, respected, and loved by the community, so much so that they convinced him to run for mayor and he ended up winning the election and serving as mayor from 1970-1978.

The Baker family was very wealthy, they consistently donated to charities and socialized a lot so much in fact that Bette Lucas was known as the first lady of Tyler! She belonged to the literary club, garden club and so many more.

Unfortunately, on June 28th, 1985 Baker Lucas was killed in a car accident and it was a horrible time for Bette. She loved her husband very much and he loved her, he would wait on her “hand and foot” so when he died she didn’t really know what to do. She would now be living by herself which is something that she hadn't done in years.

Steven Lucas, their son, ended up taking over the family business but it was nowhere near as successful as it had once been. Baker was a social outgoing character and Steven really was no comparison. It was a horrible disappointment and embarrassment for Bette.

Three years after the death of Baker, on June 6th, 1988 Bette fell down a flight of stairs and never woke up. After she fell down the stairs, she was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. The next day they took her off life support and she died. The day after that she was buried, everything happened very fast, her closest friends didn’t even find out about the funeral until the last minute, it was all very strange and rushed.

There was no autopsy because no one had any suspicion that anything had happened was caused by anything other than an accident. Plus, there were witnesses to the fall, her son Steven and his daughter Stefani.

The story was that Bette tried to carry a VCR up the stairs, most of us don’t have VCRs anymore and if we do they are probably part of the TV but the one she was carrying was about 20-30 pounds. Like HUGE! Since she was elderly and relatively frail Steve tried to take the VCR from her and carry it up the stairs for her, but she refused. Steve had followed her up the stairs and at the top, he tried one more time to grab the VCR from her and when he did, she jerked backward and fell over the banister with the VCR in her hands and onto the lower stairs, sliding down the rest of the stairs to the bottom. 

It's hard to describe but the staircase was basically wrapped on itself, so it turned at the top with a balcony parallel to the stairs, when she fell over the balcony she landed on the stairs she had just walked up if that makes sense. There was a picture that was askew on the wall, presumably where she hit it and a mark on the banister from the VCR.

After the funeral, the first responders spoke up about the behavior Steven had been showing at the time of the fall. They said that when they arrived he was acting suspiciously, Steven was outside waiting for them, not inside with his mother. 
Remember, she was still alive at this point, so why was he not with her trying to comfort her?

The police department began to get a lot of calls, encouraging them to look a little deeper into Bette’s death, her friends did not think it was an accident, they believed it was, in fact, a homicide.

One specific call came in, a friend of the family, and they strongly believed that Steve had something to do with it.

So they exhumed her body.

And it was a good thing they did, Bette had six crescent-shaped lacerations on the back of her head. This was crucial. There was nothing on the stairs, the balcony, or the wall that would have created such marks. X-rays showed that she had no bruising and no broken bones which they felt was very suspicious and wouldn't have happened if a woman her age, 66, had fallen.

They did have an idea of what could have caused the injuries though, a candlestick.
When they took a better look at the hand railing they found similar circular marks that matched the injuries to Bette’s head. Upon searching the home they found a pair of candlesticks and one of them was dented, although they could find no evidence of blood. In fact, they couldn't really find any blood anywhere in the home. The EMT’s said that they had seen Stefani and a neighbor cleaning up the blood at the bottom of the stairs. A neighbor mentioned that they had seen a wet spot on Steve’s shirt as if he too was cleaning up.

The investigators felt sure that there was blood, so they sprayed Leuco Malachite Green on to the ground at the beginning of the stairs. They found evidence of a 4-foot puddle of blood.

They decided to interview Stefani and Steve, and they found that their stories did not match.

Supposedly Bette had always been ashamed of Steve because he was never as successful as his father had been. And Steve had a hatred for his mother too, he made fun of her and overall just disliked her very much.  It seemed as though their disagreements also surrounded money, as they usually do and it came to light that Steve had borrowed half a million dollars from his mother and never paid her back. 
Bette’s hairdresser came forward and spoke to the police, she said in the days before Bette’s murder Bette told her she planned to take Steve out of the will. She was fed up with the way he was making the family name look and the fact that he wasn't able to hold down a job. Bette died before she could change the will, meaning Steve and his family would get her 4 million dollar estate.

They knew now that both Steve and Stefani had a motive to lie, so they needed to look further into the forensic evidence to find out the truth of what really happened.

So they looked at that mark on the wall and they discovered that the mark had been made from bottom to top. You see, if the VCR had fallen from the top balcony to the lower stairs, the mark would have been made top to bottom.  Steve and Stefani both said that Bette had fallen over the balcony, however, the balcony was 3 ½ ft and Bette was 5’5 meaning that the railing was higher than her center of gravity that basically means that she couldn’t have fallen over it, at least not on her own.

Another interesting thing is that she didn't fall straight down, which is what should have happened. There was a 3ft gap between the flight of stairs and the balcony parallel and above. Basically for her to have not fallen straight down and for her to have fallen where she did, she would have had to jump up and pull the VCR close to her. What's more, her friends didn’t believe that she would have even carried the VCR at all, they said she wouldn’t have carried a purse if it was too heavy.

With all this information, they knew that the story Steve and Stefani had told was, in fact, a lie. Steve was soon arrested and brought to trial for the death of his own mother. At the time Steve was in severe debt, owing money to friends and banks alike.

Prosecutors believe that on the night of the murder, Steve and Stefani went to Bette’s home to return the VCR they had borrowed. After an argument over money, Bette started to walk upstairs. In a rage, Steve grabbed the closest item, which was the candlestick, and started hitting her over the head with it. After cleaning himself up he started to stage the scene, making the gash in the wall but hitting it with the VCR player.

During the trial, the defense entered a video that showed that it would have been possible for Bette to have fallen up and over the balcony, but since the handrail had no damage, prosecutors didn't believe that the defense's theory would hold up. 
However, the jury was unable to come to a consensus and it ended in a mistrial.

Three years later, Steve was brought to court once again - this time they focused on the wall - the molding of the wall. They even brought the railing of the home to the court to reenact what they believed had happened.

Something else of interest, in this case, is that Court TV recorded and broadcasted the courtroom.

In November 1994, Steve was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Steven tried to appeal, and he felt he had a good reason too. It was discovered that the court had lost important documents from the case, including 4 days worth of footage taken by Court TV.

The appeal was ultimately denied in 2003, the court said it was up to Steven to get the transcription of the tape but he didn’t show any action to do so. 

According to and the blog Forensic Files Now, Steven was released in prison in 2014 and now lives in El Paso Texas. He is 74 years old.


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