It takes a film

by Erin M Page

My mother’s 27-year-old murder case has been reopened. There have never been any arrests in her case, and it has set with the Texas Ranger’s Cold Case division for some time. Murder cases do not necessarily close over time; my mother’s case has been reactivated by local police.



Murder cases today are a lot different than 27 years ago. When my mother was strangled to death in 1991; it was 2 years before the OJ Simpson murders. Today the police have better investigative methods, and the media has more tools for sensationalizing a murder. Don’t get me wrong. We had our share of media exposure locally as well as on Unsolved Mysteries, 20/20, and even the National Enquirer.


But now, there has been a movie. It looks like we are going to get some version of a Netflix-style true crime documentary as well. The interest is up and that is good. Unfortunately, now more than ever, rumors are flying around everywhere. Since this is an open murder investigation, there is plenty of information that cannot be confirmed by the police. And honestly, I do not have much information of my own. I was 11 years old at the time of my mother’s murder, and no one spoke to me or my sister about her death. In fact, I believe information was purposefully kept from us because of our age.


So, what IS happening now?


The local police are actively investigating my mother’s murder. That means working it as if it just happened, gathering evidence, and then presenting that evidence to a prosecutor. The next step would be presenting the evidence to a grand jury. This is what leads to an arrest warrant. My mother’s case has never made it past the grand jury.


According to civil case testimony, my mother has a very short timeline between when she was last seen and when she was found. She was last seen alive at approximately 230am and found dead by approximately 430am. That is only 2 hours.


At some point in my life, I thought to myself, what is even possible to have happened to her in that amount of time? I decided to look at the information I could gather objectively as possible.


I have thought of 3 possibilities for her killer to intercept her:

  1. leaving the hotel
  2. stopped for gas/convenience store
  3. at home


I think #2 is highly unlikely because … it was like 3 am and she was headed home. Unless she was about to run out of gas, she wouldn’t have had much motivation to make a stop between the hotel and home. Therefore, if she definitely left the hotel, I think she made it home.


My mom was most likely killed by someone who knew her. The way she was killed tells us this. The way her body was found points to more than a casual acquaintance.


For #1 to be possible, someone she knew would have had to stop her in the parking lot at the hotel. This person would then have to:

  1. Go to another location (unless he kills her in his car in the parking lot),
  2. Get her undressed,
  3. Kill her,
  4. Clean her up,
  5. Redress her,
  6. Phone a friend to help ditch the car,
  7. Get the car to Vidor 100 yards from her house (google maps wasn’t available then)


I think getting to another location, and getting a friend involved would eat up a lot of time.


For #3 to be possible, steps 2-5 still had to happen. But now we are minus time suck of getting a friend involved and another location. And it is possible she even undressed herself and prepared for a bath or bed. The biggest issues here are that the murder would have occurred in the house and cleaned up before people were absolutely in the house by 630am. And no one reported seeing any blood. That includes the Fultons. There would also be an issue of the sound the murder created and why neither my sister or I were awakened. Surely she screamed? I am a deep sleeper, by my sister was not.


I do not know why the man she was visiting in the hotel was cleared. I do not even know what his relationship to her was. This is the source of rumors that she was involved in prostitution. Why was she visiting a man in a hotel for a few hours in the middle of the night?


I have heard rumors for 2 possibilities for the scenario 1 man:

  1. My mom was in a relationship with some local lawyer who was also married. She was taking the relationship too seriously by divorcing my dad. No name has ever been submitted with these rumors. The story here is that she was out with friends the week before she was murdered and told someone about the relationship.
  2. Some guy (still no name) was obsessed with her and wanted to be with her, but she kept putting him off by saying she was married. This person was supposedly talked about by my mom’s youngest sister, Sherry Valentine. This person might also be the “mafioso” Steve refers to.


My mother really did shave her legs in the living room. She used hand lotion and a cup of water. It is weird. She did do it.


There really was a grease spill in our home at least a few days after the murder. I actually witnessed the spill. My aunt from Tennessee was present, so it was at least 2 days after the murder. I feel like it may even have been after the funeral. People had been in and out of the house since 630am the day of the murder. 2 days later is a little late to clean up blood. And to think that more family members would get involved after the fact is wrong. Some people in that area actually believe my sister and I helped clean up our mother’s blood. My sister was 7 years old. If there was some kind of Tell Tale Heart thing going on with Steve that caused him to spill the oil, I cannot tell you. From my perspective it looked like an accident. And in my logical brain, way too many people had been through and not seen blood there. Maybe they missed the evidence of the initial cleaning.


There is no evidence of forcible rape. Steve definitely had sex with my mom the night she was murdered. The rape claim comes from the Fulton’s because they do not believe she would have consensually had sex with Steve that night.


The police cover up theory, I think, comes from the absolutely terrible job done by the police in the initial investigation. Also, Steve’s grandfather had been a judge… but at the time of the murder, he had been retired and then dead for several years.  I do not think there was a cover up. I think there was just incompetence.


There are a lot of accusations, lies, and rumors in this case and not much actual evidence. As an outsider, it is seems so simple to look at this case and see who the obvious murderer is. People do not realize how difficult it is to believe someone you care about did something so terrible. I was probably 27 before I could even consider my father as a possible killer. Before then, the automatic response was ‘NO WAY’, even though I had had mostly bad experiences with my father. And who are you supposed to believe when you KNOW all the adults are lying about something. SOMETHING. I mean, my mother’s sister Sherry sent a bomb threat to my bus in junior high. NOT TO STEVE.  TO ME. How was I supposed to ever know who to trust?


My sister saw our father as some sort of Greek Tragedy hero. Not only had the love of his life been slain, he had been framed for the murder. How can you judge a little girl who romanticizes her father this way?


I want this case to move forward. I want to know what happened to my mother. I want people to know that what happens after a murder is just as tragic as the murder. My sister and mother will never recover from this trauma. With the help of people that truly loved me, I did survive and even thrive. I believe I will come out of the other side of this investigation even stronger, and hopefully, with some answers.

After my mother died, my father insisted that my sister and I continue to visit her family. I remember an instance where I was made to go with my mother’s little sister to see The Nutcracker the year she died. I was told not to wear jeans, so in typical “teenager” fashion, I wore jean shorts.


The Fulton’s quickly became somewhat adamant about saying anything negative they could. I have distinct memories about two of her siblings, Sherry and Jim, openly speaking to my sister and I about my father being a bad person. After losing one parent, I assure you no child wants to hear anything negative about their other parent. There were several uncomfortable situations leading up to the lawsuit. My sister and I were kept in the dark about most of the goings on concerning my mother’s death.


When the Fulton’s finally sued my father, he didn’t say anything about it to either me or my sister. Instead, he just handed me the document he had been served. I remember sitting on the living room floor, laying on my stomach, perusing the document while my sister looked on and my father made phone calls in angst. I was stunned to see they had thought my father was the murderer. After that, we were no longer required to visit with them.


At one point, my sister and I heard that the Fulton’s were going to attempt to get custody of us. We sat up one night plotting our actions if we were required to stay with the Fultons. We did not want to have anything to do with them. We thought they were crazy and scary.


When people see Mr. Fulton’s billboard, I do not think it occurs to them all of the collateral damage that came with my mother’s murder. Is it awful not to know what happened to her? Yes. But you know what? Even if we solved the case today, it wouldn’t change what my father and the Fultons did in the interim. If Steve were to be found guilty, it wouldn’t change my relationships with the Fultons or Steve; it wouldn’t bring back my sister; it wouldn’t give me a mother; it wouldn’t change the heartache I have suffered over the last two decades.



I believe James Fulton and Steve Page have more in common than they would both care to admit. They both mistreated their children, and they both lost a daughter. To me, this billboard is not about my mother. It is about two stubborn, selfish men with too much guilt to carry. James Fulton gets to pretend he is avenging his daughter’s death, and Steve Page gets to pretend he is some sort of victim. The billboard is a crutch for them both.


Oscar-nominated movie ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is based on the real-life murder of Kathy Page in Vidor, TX. Kathy’s dad, James Fulton, erected billboards along the I-10 freeway accusing Kathy’s husband Steve Page of the murder and the Vidor police department of botching the investigation.
Pictured: Steve Page on his doorstep today.

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