‘A Clue From the Grave’ by Irene Pence Unveils the Military Homicide Investigation of Air Force Spouse Kathleen Lipscomb in Texas (May 1, 1997)

image1-4‘A Clue from the Grave’ by Irene Pence is a fascinating look into the investigation of US Air Force wife Kathleen Lipscomb’s murder in San Antonio, Texas in 1986. Her husband MSgt William Lipscomb, who was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base as a Military Training Instructor, would eventually be accused of her murder and stand trial at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia in 1989. This book shows the difficulties the detectives face when it comes to investigating crimes perpetrated by a transient military member.

If not for the persistence of Kathleen’s mom Nadine and her sister Darlene, Bill Lipscomb almost got away with murder. Kathleen’s family did not want to believe that Kathleen’s estranged husband committed this crime but nonetheless wanted to find out who killed Kathleen. Kathleen was found battered and nude on the side of the road outside the city limits of San Antonio. It appeared that she had been raped and murdered elsewhere and her body was dumped at this location. As a result, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department had jurisdiction of the investigation of Kathleen’s murder. The book revealed that Air Force leadership was not aware that Bill Lipscomb was even considered a suspect by the local Sheriff’s Department. In the meantime, Bill Lipscomb requested a humanitarian transfer to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia so that he would be near his parents who would help him care for Kathleen and Bill’s two children.

After the investigation stalled at the Sheriff’s Department and it looked like no one would be held accountable for Kathleen’s death, Nadine and Darlene decided to hire two private investigators to find out who killed Kathleen. The private investigators carefully went through the list of suspects to rule people out but they could not rule out Bill Lipscomb after what they discovered. These investigators learned that Bill had plenty of motive to kill Kathleen including the fact that Kathleen threatened to turn Bill and his Air Force colleagues in to Air Force leadership for their role in a WAPS test promotion cheating scandal. Bill also wanted custody of the two children so Kathleen used her knowledge of this cheating scandal as leverage in the divorce proceedings so she could keep custody of the two children. In addition, Bill Lipscomb had over $300,000 worth of life insurance on Kathleen, one policy was purchased after Kathleen decided to divorce him. Coincidentally, Kathleen was murdered just days before the final divorce proceedings. Nadine and Darlene began suspecting Bill more and more as time went on because of statements made by Bill and Kathleen’s children and the controlling behavior he exhibited after Kathleen died.

It would be the private investigators that Kathleen’s family hired who convinced the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) to get involved. Bill was no longer in the San Antonio area so no one but the AFOSI had jurisdiction over him. The crime was committed in Texas yet Bill had been conveniently transferred to Virginia. Thanks to the thorough work by the two private investigators, the AFOSI had probable cause to investigate Bill Lipscomb. The AFOSI used both their knowledge of the WAPS test cheating scandal and what they learned from the private investigators to begin their own investigations. They would learn from others involved in the cheating scandal that Bill did in fact cheat on his promotion testing which is how he was able to achieve the rank of MSgt so soon. They would also learn from Kathleen’s date book that she was fully aware of the cheating scandal and knew that Bill was having an affair with another Air Force member he worked with. It would be this date book that gave the investigators involved in the case a reason to suspect Bill Lipscomb of her murder. In the end this information would become ‘A Clue from the Grave’ that helped Kathleen solve her own murder.

Related Links:
Air Force MSgt William Lipscomb Murdered his Wife Kathleen Lipscomb After She Threatened to Expose his WAPS Promotion Cheating Scam (1986)
Scorned, Love Kills: 6 Active Duty Military Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Kathleen Lipscomb Found Dead on Side of Texas Highway; Air Force MSgt Bill Lipscomb Pleaded Guilty to Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (June 9, 1986)

Kathleen & Bill Lipscomb

Kathleen Lipscomb and MSgt William Lipscomb, U.S. Air Force (Photo: Forensic Files)

Air Force spouse Kathleen Lipscomb, 30, was found dead on the side of a highway in San Antonio, Texas on June 9, 1986. She was murdered and the case went unsolved for years. Kathleen was a nurse and she had two children with her husband William ‘Bill’ Lipscomb. Bill, 33, was a MSgt in the Air Force and was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. They were married for eight years but had recently separated. Their arrangement was for Bill to spend time with the two children on the weekends. But one Sunday night, Kathleen never showed up to pick up the children. Bill went to Kathleen’s apartment but she wasn’t there. The next morning there was no sign of her. One of her co-workers contacted a family member because she didn’t show up to work and they were worried. Later that day, Kathleen Lipscomb was discovered nude and dead on the side of the highway. Based on the evidence, police deduced she had been murdered elsewhere.

Bill Lipscomb was immediately called in for questioning. The police wanted to check for any wounds that might be on his body. The children told police their father was with them the entire weekend and confirmed his alibi. An autopsy revealed Kathleen had sex 24 hours before she was found dead. During the investigation, detectives learned Kathleen was dating a married man. His name was Dr. David Pearl and Kathleen was in love with him. Dr. Pearl admitted he was with Kathleen over the weekend but insisted he had nothing to do with her murder. One week after Kathleen’s murder, her car was found in a restaurant parking lot not far from her apartment. Investigators found no useful forensic evidence in the car. Based on the food contents in her stomach, investigators determined she was most likely murdered on Sunday night and dumped in the field during the early morning hours on Monday.

For two years, investigators searched for Kathleen’s killer. Kathleen’s family suspected her estranged husband Bill had something to do with her murder. Seven months before the murder, Bill had increased Kathy’s life insurance to $300,000. Kathleen’s family hired a private investigator to look into the case. The PI learned of the name Shannon Gilbert from Kathleen’s day planner. She was in the Air Force with Bill and it was rumored she was having an affair with him. Shannon Gilbert would not speak with the PI without an attorney present. The PI also found a note about WAPS (Weighted Airman Promotion System) testing and it said Bill had all the answers to the test. Kathleen was accusing Bill of cheating. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) joined the investigation because it involved allegations of cheating. Dr. Charles McDowell believed the scene had been staged to look like a rape and murder.

McDowell also suspected someone else dumped the body. Kathleen’s daughter revealed another important piece of information to the family. She told family members she thought her father killed her mom because he wasn’t home the entire weekend. One of his friends Anthony ‘Tony’ Barello took them out for dinner on Sunday and when they woke up in the middle of the night, they realized their father was gone. Investigators ordered forensic DNA testing but the biological evidence had been mislabeled then mishandled. Forensic testing was not possible. Investigators needed more than circumstantial evidence to corroborate the children’s story. During the investigation, detectives learned Bill cheated on the military promotion testing and Kathleen knew it. During the divorce proceedings, Bill wanted custody of the children and Kathleen was not going to let that happen. Was Kathleen using this information as blackmail during the custody battle?

At the crime scene, Kathleen’s clothing was neatly rolled which suggested someone with military training dumped the body. When investigators caught up with Tony Barello, he was eager to talk. Tony immediately acknowledged he dumped Kathleen’s body in the field. He told them Bill Lipscomb was the killer. Tony still had evidence directly linking Bill to the crime and investigators confirmed it was Kathleen’s blood in a small chest she was stored in after she was murdered. OSI took over the homicide investigation. Bill’s former girlfriend also admitted that Bill told her he was going to kill his wife. OSI brought Bill Lipscomb in for questioning but Bill denied everything. They believed he sought revenge for Kathleen’s threats to expose him for the military promotion scandal. They believed Bill asked his friend Tony to take the children out for dinner so he could kill Kathleen while they were out.

When Kathleen arrived and noticed the children missing, the two most likely argued. At some point, Bill strangled Kathleen and then stored her in a chest in the house. Once the children were asleep, Tony retrieved Kathleen’s body and dumped her on the side of the highway to stage it as a sex crime. MSgt Bill Lipscomb was charged with the rape and murder of Kathleen Lipscomb in July 1989. Bill Lipscomb pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and in 1990 a Langley Air Force Base military judge sentenced Bill Lipscomb to life in prison. Although under the terms of the plea agreement, Bill Lipscomb will spend no more than 60 years at the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge. In return for their cooperation, Tony Barello and Shannon Gilbert were not charged. Shannon Gilbert changed her name and is now in the federal witness protection program.

“Although his wife was not killed on government property or in Virginia, the Air Force tried Lipscomb here under a law that gives the military authority to handle any criminal transgressions by an active-duty serviceman.” –Daily Press (August 22, 1990)

Source: True Lies, Forensic Files

Forensic Files:

Full episode: Kathleen Lipscomb’s body was found on a deserted street outside of San Antonio. Months passed, then years, and the crime went cold. Then Kathleen’s family hired a private investigator who discovered a diary among her personal effects. Two of the diary entries helped police to piece together what had happened to Kathleen Lipscomb, and why. -True Lies, Forensic Files (S8,E27)

Investigation Discovery:

Preview: When a wife begins an affair behind her domineering husband’s back with a coworker, he soon finds out and begins an affair of his own. Little do they realize that the relationships they have entered into are not what they seem. -Sex, Secrets & Sergeants, Scorned: Love Kills (S5,E5)

While Kathy Lipscomb spends late nights at the hospital with the handsome Dr. Pearle, her husband’s career in the Air Force is taking off, but so is his relationship with a hot young officer. When the affairs are exposed the consequences are fatal. -Sex, Secrets & Sergeants, Scorned: Love Kills (S5,E5)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Charge Filed In ’86 Death
Sergeant To Be Tried By Air Force In Va.
Serviceman Admits Murdering Wife
Air Force sergeant admits killing his wife
Sergeant Gets Life Sentence In Wife’s Death
“A Clue From the Grave” by Irene Pence
William T. Lipscomb raped and killed his estranged wife, Kathleen Lipscomb
Evidence Photos: ‘True Lies’
True Lies | Forensic Files | IMDb
True Lies | Forensic Files | FilmRise (S8,E27)
True Lies | Forensic Files | Full Episodes (YouTube)
True Lies | Forensic Files | Netflix (Collection 4, E10)
True Lies | Forensic Files | Amazon Prime Video (S8,E24)
Two Couples, Two Dangerous Affairs | Scorned: Love Kills (Preview)
Sex, Secrets & Sergeants | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S5,E5)
Sex, Secrets & Sergeants | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (website)
Sex, Secrets & Sergeants | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
‘A Clue From the Grave’ by Irene Pence Unveils the Military Homicide Investigation of Air Force Spouse Kathleen Lipscomb in Texas (May 1, 1997)
Forensic Files Premiered ‘True Lies’: Military Spouse Kathleen Lipscomb Found Murdered on Side of Texas Highway (January 7, 2004)
Scorned, Love Kills Premiered ‘Sex, Secrets & Sergeants’ on Investigation Discovery: Kathy Lipscomb Found Dead on Side of Texas Highway (April 10, 2015)
Scorned, Love Kills: 6 Active Duty Military Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery