The Case of the Backwards Shorts

Oct 14, 2009 - by Peter Davidson - 0 Comments

FountainHill PA

Kathleen Foley staged her husband's murder to look like it was part of a robbery, but she left behind one telling detail.

by Peter Davidson 

Kathleen Foley tried very hard to convince cops she didn't kill her husband -- and she almost succeeded, but a backwards pair of shorts undermined her efforts to get away with murder.

With no weapon, no witnesses, and few clues, cops and prosecutors had a very difficult case.

Just before 6 a.m. on July 31, 1998, Kathleen dialed 911. "I need help," she told the dispatcher. "My husband won't move."

Police officer Edwood Buchman was the first to arrive at the couple's modest home in Fountain Hill, Pa. Buchman found a gruesome scene: 39-year- old Joe face down in bed in the upstairs master bedroom, his head bloodied by four bullet wounds, his 400-pound body covered with a white comforter and a maroon pillow.

He was wearing only a pair of gym shorts that were on backwards and not pulled fully up. An empty money clip was on the floor beside the bed.

Kathleen, 38, told investigators she'd spent the night in an adjoining bedroom to escape her husband's loud snoring. She woke-up in the morning, showered, dressed and tried to rouse Joe.

When she couldn't she called for help. Then she went downstairs to wait for police. Kathleen told police that's when she noticed that the front door was open.

She hadn't heard gunshots or any unusual noises during the night, and told detectives that a robber must have followed them home from a local social club where, she said, Joe had been flashing around a money clip containing $1,800.

But police weren't buying Kathleen's story.

"Kathleen staged the murder scene to make it look as if a burglar killed Joe," said veteran Pennsylvania state police investigator Judith Schreiber.

"Witnesses who saw Joe and who watched him pay for drinks said he didn't have a money clip, and he didn't flash any substantial cash," said Schreiber, the lead investigator.

Schreiber said her investigation revealed a more sinister scenario -- and a motive -- which led cops to charge Kathleen with Joe's murder 15 months later.

"After nine years of marriage and no children, Kathleen Foley wanted desperately to leave her husband," said Schreiber.

Kathleen was having an affair with a married co-worker at Allentown State Hospital where she worked as a psychiatric aide and Joe worked as a recreational therapist.

Joe, who founded the local chapter of Project Children -- a program that brought kids from war-torn Northern Ireland for summer vacations in the United States -- was said to have no inkling of his wife's love affair with George Fleming, a custodian at the hospital.

Schreiber characterized Kathleen's relationship with Fleming as "very passionate with numerous and constant trysts, even at work." Schreiber said Kathleen was obsessed with Fleming and had given him money for a down payment on a new car, and even cosigned for it.

And she was planning to leave Joe -- just two weeks before his death she'd been apartment hunting.

"But Kathleen was afraid Joe would find out she was planning to leave him for Fleming," said prosecutor McIntyre. She feared Joe would harm her lover, so to protect him she pumped four bullets into her husband's head from a 9mm handgun while he was lying on the bed sometime between 8 and 10 p.m. on July 30.

Then she left the house during night and got rid of the gun. It was never found.

And to support her story that Joe was shot in his bed while she was asleep elsewhere, she had to remove the clothes he was wearing and put his shorts on.

"Because he was a very large man, Kathleen wasn't able to get the shorts all the way up, and in her haste she put them on backwards," said Lehigh County Assistant D.A. Michael McIntyre, who prosecuted the case. "Kathleen Foley outsmarted herself!"

At her trial a tearful Kathleen Foley denied she murdered her husband. "Joe was my life," she testified. "I loved Joe. I liked what we had together."

Her lover was fun, she said, but not someone to build a life with. But after only three hours of deliberation, the jury of four men and eight women delivered their verdict: Kathleen Foley was guilty of first degree murder. A judge sentenced her to life in prison.

She is serving her sentence at Muncie State Prison near Harrisburg.

"Kathleen Foley is one of the most brazen killers I've ever seen," said McIntyre. "My one regret is she had 15 months of freedom from the day of the murder until she was arrested."

Just minutes before they reached their verdict, jurors asked for one more look at the photo of Joe Foley's body and the backwards gym shorts.

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