Terrorized with A Tire Iron

— If a San Diego County jury had not acquitted Beau John Maloney of terrorizing his father and younger half-brother in July 1998, a renowned Texas artist might still be alive today. Until her murder, Helen Orman, whose paintings appear online at www.gallery3.net/ frames/orman.html, was also chair of the department of literature at Southwest College in Houston. But as she vacuumed her car in broad daylight at a Houston gas station on Saturday, March 20, of this year, a man shot her dead. The city's police suspect that man to be 34-year-old Maloney. A Texas public safety officer apprehended him at 1:00 a.m. the following Monday morning near Kerrville, beyond San Antonio, west of Houston.

Police also suspect Maloney of robbing a young woman and shooting her through the shoulder and chest in the Rice Village area of Houston. The woman picked him out of a lineup as her assailant after police took him into custody in connection with Orman's murder. But Maloney's attorney is now calling both cases matters of mistaken identity. The arraignment of Maloney on charges of murder and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon has been reset from an earlier date to June 17.

According to Houston television's KHOU News, Houston police described the captive Maloney as "angry with the world." "He's a very irate individual, totally uncooperative, combative," said Houston police sergeant Edward Gonzales, a homicide investigator who questioned Maloney. "When he did say something, it was laced with expletives."

Beau John Maloney's father, Beau Maloney, lives in San Diego. He did not return phone calls in connection with his son's Texas predicament. But Laureen Maloney, his second wife, provided a few details. She says she married the senior Maloney shortly after he immigrated with his son to the United States from South Africa in 1984. A son of their own, Sean, was born to the couple in 1988.

At some point, the Maloneys ended up in Oregon. It was there, "years ago," says Laureen, that she and her husband began receiving restraining orders issued against the unpredictable and hot-tempered Beau John.

In 1998, the young man came to live for several days in a new home his father had acquired on Isabella Avenue in Coronado. Apparently, tensions escalated quickly. What follows in quotations is taken directly from San Diego County Superior Court documents in the case of the People of the State of California vs. Beau John Maloney. The case went to trial in early November 1998.

On the previous July 8, the older man left his son a note asking him to leave the house. The two saw each other later that evening and they argued. "Defendant choked his father, pushed him against a wall, and threatened to kill him," says a court summary of the older Beau Maloney's testimony at the trial. "Defendant said he should be number one and Sean should be number two. The defendant also asked his father for his father's gun so he could 'do it properly.' "

The father then retreated to a bedroom with his younger son Sean, ten years old at the time. Beau John began pounding on the bedroom door. The summary of the father's testimony continues: "The knocking [became] louder. Sean Maloney was afraid. Defendant was yelling, 'Tell him the truth.' [The father and younger son] scrambled quickly to the loft. Maloney was afraid the defendant was going to attack them.... The defendant kicked down the door. The defendant went under the loft."

Beau John produced a tire iron and began wielding it. The court statement is ambiguous about how vigorously he swung it, but it does report his father testifying that he needed to "jump back to avoid being hit." It also says, "The tire iron came six inches from touching [the older] Maloney" and that, as the fury unfolded, "Sean Maloney was screaming and crying in fear." Finally, Maloney Sr. brought an end to his older son's violence, the court summary states, by pulling out a gun, probably the handgun mentioned above. Beau John backed off and left the room, but not before ripping down the stairs to the loft.

In the chaos Beau Maloney Sr. managed to call 911. Coronado police officer T. Lorenzen arrived on the scene at 11:55 p.m. Lorenzen testified in court that he found Beau John Maloney carrying two bags of clothes and walking the sidewalk in front of his father's house. Maloney also had the tire iron, which Lorenzen says he impounded. The officer then entered the residence to see whether the victims had been harmed and to listen to their versions of the evening's events.

Lorenzen testified further that "fresh impressions to the carpet area of the loft" inside the house, damage to the bedroom door, and "pry marks on the outside of the door" all were consistent with the victims' reports that Beau John Maloney had swung the tire iron and had used it to break down the door and destroy the stairs to the loft.

According to the summary of a pretrial hearing, Lorenzen earlier testified, "The defendant [said] he was trying to enter the bedroom to get some of his belongings. The defendant told officer Lorenzen that he thought his father wanted him out of the house and that was why he pried the door open. The defendant stated [that] once the door was open, he grabbed his belongings and left the house without incident." Officer Lorenzen arrested the defendant for a violation of penal code section 245, subdivision (a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon.

Deputy district attorney Patrick Espinoza has only a vague recollection of the case he prosecuted in 1998 against Beau John Maloney for assault with a deadly weapon. He looks up his summary notes on the trial to explain why the jury acquitted the defendant. The jury was influenced, he thinks, by Maloney's claims that "he only broke down the door to get his clothes." Espinoza continues: "The jury also seemed to think that [Maloney] might only have intended to threaten his father with the tire iron, not to hurt him."

And then there was the issue of the father's brandishing a gun against his son. Beau Maloney Sr. did not mention it in his pretrial statements. But Espinoza recalls that Sean Maloney already told police that his father had gotten Beau John to leave the house by pointing the gun at him. When he testified at trial, therefore, Maloney Sr. finally admitted to chasing Beau John away with the gun.

The effect of these considerations in the jury's mind, thinks Espinoza, was to call the senior Maloney's credibility into question. Maloney's credibility was further compromised, says Espinoza, when the defense put his first wife Aileen on the witness stand. The clincher in destroying Maloney Sr.'s credibility, he says, was that Aileen and another witness produced by the defense both testified that Maloney was "a liar."

The jury acquitted the defendant on the charges of assault with a deadly weapon. San Diego County criminal records indicate that Beau John Maloney's altercation with his father and half-brother in 1998 was not his only legal problem during his San Diego stay. Two warrants for his arrest are still outstanding, and when he finally left San Diego, he skipped a bail of $5000.

Laureen Maloney says that her silent husband is the only person who can elucidate his son's additional troubles with local law enforcement. But she does believe that Beau John left San Diego right before a psychiatric evaluation that his probation required he receive. Both she and her husband, says Mrs. Maloney, always believed that Beau John's violent temperament was caused by drugs. Before the assault with a deadly weapon trial, according to the court record, Maloney Sr. told police that his son had "a history of drug abuse" and that "the defendant becomes violent when he uses methamphetamine."

But now, due to her explorations on the Internet, Laureen Maloney is not so sure. After leaving San Diego, according to an April 26 Houston Chronicle article she read, her stepson got into trouble with the law in Florida, North Carolina, and New Mexico before arriving in Texas. He was arrested three times in Texas before killing Helen Orman earlier this year.

The Internet also was the source of Laureen's first learning, she says, that Texas mental health providers had diagnosed her stepson as schizophrenic. The website www.click2houston.com/news reported on March 21, "Harris County records show Maloney was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder during the last several years. The suspect has a long history of mental illness, including treatments at state mental health facilities and being prescribed antipsychotic drugs."

Either the "long history of mental illness" did not extend back as far as Beau John Maloney's stay in San Diego, or someone failed to inform local authorities.

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