Details of Disappearance
William and his wife Margaret were last seen at their residence in the 3000 block of Piedmont Drive in El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. A neighbor came to their home to offer them some Girl Scout cookies and stated Margaret appeared to be very upset and William seemed unhappy that the visitor had come over.
That night neighbors noticed "unusual activity" at their home. They apparently left home during the night or possibly early the next morning, leaving their home in disarray with last night's dinner dishes unwashed in the sink and clothing lying out on a bed.
The Pattersons left without disconnecting their utilities, instructing the post office to stop or reroute their mail, stopping their newspaper delivery, storing their fur coats, or boarding their pet cat, whom Margaret cherished. The cat wandered away after its owners vanished and was missing for more than four months before it reappeared at their home, malnourished and filthy.
On March 15, the Pattersons' accountant, Herbert Roth, got a telegram with instructions on how to manage the couple's assets and their business. The telegram was called in to a Western Union office in Dallas from a pay phone near the Love Field Airport. It was signed "W.H. Patterson"; William's initials were "W.D. Patterson."
William ran Patterson Photo Supply, a photography supply store in downtown El Paso. He also had an interest in a high-end boat company, property in the city of Guaymas in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, a boat in his garage, and a Cadillac, in addition to his house.
Roth was told to cancel the hotel reservations the couple had made in Washington D.C. (they had planned to attend a National Photographer's Association there later that spring), rent out the Pattersons' home for nine months, sell a mobile home they owned and use the proceeds to support the store, and hire Doyle Kirkland to manage the store.
Kirkland owned a rival business in El Paso, Duffy Photo Service. He also William's friend and he was the last person to visit their house before the couple vanished.
William was having an affair with 20-year-old Estefana Arroyo Marfin at the time of his disappearance; she lived in Juarez, Mexico. Marfin said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6, the day after he was last seen in El Paso, and he told her he had some important things to tell her and that "when they come for me, I'll have to go in a hurry." She later recanted her statement.
Business associates of the couple told authorities that William and Margaret left for an extended vacation to Florida and later sent word that they wouldn't be returning. A friend reported them missing on August 15, five months after they were last seen.
None of the Pattersons' friends and acquaintances could identify any of Margaret's relatives or anything else about her background. Her six siblings, who all lived in the midwest, were eventually located after her disappearance.
Margaret had been raised on a farm near Owensboro, Kentucky, left home at a young age, and at one point worked as a hostess at the Hotel Vendome in Evansville, Indiana. After her marriage to William she cut herself off from her family, who disapproved of him, and by 1957 they hadn't heard from her in over twenty years and assumed she was dead.
The Pattersons' lawyer got a letter after they disappeared, dated May 29, 1957, postmarked Laredo, Texas with no return address. The letter said William and Margaret were leaving the country and would not be returning, and gave instructions on how William wanted his business and other property disposed of.
It was all left to non-relatives, which was surprising, as William's father and sister were still living at the time and they would be the logical heirs. William left one-quarter shares of his business each to Herbert Roth, Doyle Kirkland, and a 24-year-old employee, Arthur Moreno.
The remaining quarter of the business was to be divided among William's other employees. Moreno was to be given the Pattersons' house and furniture, and Kirkland got their vacation cabin, tools, boats and William's Cadillac.
The letter was typewritten and the handwritten signature read "W.D. Patterson." Handwriting experts compared the signature with known samples of William's writing and although it was similar, they found several "discrepancies" and said they couldn't be sure whether he'd signed the letter.
The document, in any case, had no value as a will because Margaret, who co-owned William's business, had not signed it and William's signature had not been witnessed.
An inquest was convened to investigate their disappearances, but it couldn't come to any conclusion. One witnesses testified at the inquest that he'd lied to friends and said he'd been in touch with William in June 1957; he said he'd done that because William asked him, if he were to ever disappear, to make it sound like he was all right and would return soon.
Kirkland claimed he'd been awakened in the middle of the night of March 5/6 by a call from someone claiming to be William, who said he and Margaret were going away for awhile, but he admitted he'd been so sleepy when he answered the phone that he couldn't be sure that the voice was really William's. The Pattersons' lawyer testified about the letter he'd gotten.
After the couple's disappearances, William's father stated his son "made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks" and had "taken off" before. He claimed he had expected the couple to disappear and thought they were alive. However, after several years passed without his hearing from his son or daughter-in-law, he changed his mind and said he thought William was dead.
There were numerous sightings of Margaret and William in both Mexico and the United States, but none were confirmed.
In 1984, the case was reopened after a witness came forward and said he'd been hired to clean the Pattersons' home after they went missing and found blood around and underneath the water heater in the garage and a piece of human scalp stuck in the propeller of William's boat. He said he also saw one of the Pattersons' associates take bloodstained sheets out of the home and put them in the trunk of a car.
The witness said he didn't come forward sooner because he was an undocumented immigrant and didn't want to come to the attention of the authorities. He died in a car accident two years after giving his statement to police, but what he said is still on file. His account has not been confirmed.
William and Margaret were declared legally dead in 1964, but their case was never closed. After their disappearances, it was rumored that the Pattersons' Piedmont Drive residence was haunted. Their disappearances remain unsolved.