09262017Tue
Last updateMon, 25 Sep 2017 2pm

Reitz Murder (1985)

The Glenn Reitz Murder: Gay Bar Theory

AN UNSOLVED MURDER IN MADERA: Part 7

MADERA - After the death of Glenn Reitz, Madera Police Captain Andrew Moore went through all of the murdered teacher’s papers and personal effects. In this search, the secret life of the victim was revealed. A private side that even today, some of his family members question and doubt. However after what Captain Moore uncovered there is no question that Reitz was keeping a very dangerous secret. One that could potentially put his life at risk every time he brought some stranger back to his house for company.

Upon finding receipts for video rentals Captain Moore drove to a Fresno adult video store that specialized in "gay porn" called the “Video Box”. The store was a part of a larger complex that also housed two gay bars, The Express and The Backroom. Moore showed a photo of the victim to employees, who recognize Reitz as being a customer in the video store and both bars.

Rory George, an employee of the Video Box, described Reitz as being quiet and very much a loner when he spent time at either of the bars. George advised Moore to check these two adjoining bars and the Red Lantern Bar on 4600 block of East Belmont Street for others that might remember the victim. He then gave the police captain the hours the bars would be open.

In the Backroom, one patron recognized the photo and said he believed Reitz hung out with a man named ‘Scott’ that worked at Valley Medical Center and another subject that he only knew as 'Marcus'. In The Express, Moore interviewed bartender Scott Emerick (a different Scott) who said he recognized the victim as a regular patron who frequented the bar at least once a week during the summer.

Moore and Detective Dale Padgett went to Valley Medical Center to find out more information about this “Scott” who was said to hang out with Reitz. They learned the last name of the subject and that he was an phone operator for the hospital. They also learned that the Tuesday Reitz’s body was discovered, Scott Booth did not show up for work and did not give a reason for not showing up.

When Captain Moore contacted Booth he stated that he got off work the Monday of the murder at 8:00pm. After work he went to The Express with his roommate and another friend. When they left The Express, Booth spent the rest of the night with his roommate. The reason he gave for not showing up for work the next day was that he was looking for an apartment.

The subject denied knowing Reitz and told officers that who ever gave them that information was wrong. However five days after being interviewed by Captain Moore, Booth contacted Madera Police about a Madera phone number he found on his monthly phone bill. He thinks the calls might have been placed by a former roommate of his. The phone number was that of Glenn Reitz.

While the two police officers were still in Fresno they were instructed by radio to contact Madera Police Detective David Foster about another Fresno lead. When they contacted Foster he told them that Mrs. Barbara Fraser might have information regarding a subject named Lawrence Markos.

Captain Moore contacted Mrs. Frazer at her place of employment, The Seaport. She told Moore that she and Markos were talking about the homicide and that the subject knew the victim was gay, which had not been published in the newspapers or television reports at that time. She said Markos appeared to be upset by the murder.

Markos had told Fraser, wife of former Madera Police Officer and now current Madera City Code Enforcement Officer Tom Fraser, that the suspect in this case would claim Reitz picked him up, made a pass at him and furnished him with drugs, at which time he became upset and killed the victim with a machete. Fraser gave the officers an address for Markos.

When the officers contacted Markos at his home, the subject claimed that he had never met Reitz. Markos did offer his opinion that from the photo, he could tell that the victim would be a passive type instead of aggressive. Markos said that he personally did not frequent adult book stores because he knew these places were "known hangouts and pickup places for homosexuals".

Two days after the murder Captain Moore contacted Glenn Webb, bartender for the Red Lantern Bar. He told police that he had worked at the bar the Sunday before the homicide and he recalled Reitz coming into the bar. He said Reitz sat down at a Frogger video game when twenty minutes after he was joined by a Mexican-American male. He stated the subject had three tear drops and a star tattooed next to his right eye.

Webb advised that he had left the bar for a while to supervise a drawing being held at the Palace, a gay bar frequented by women. When he returned Reitz was leaving with the tattooed man he called "Joe". The bartender said he had not seen the man in the bar before that Sunday night and would let Madera Police know if he returned. There was no further entries in the report on this man.

A patron of The Express suggested police look at the Baths located on North E Street. That the suspect with the tattoos might be named "Lapoca" and may have worked there. Moore and Padgett made contact with the manager at the Steam Works. Reitz was known to frequent bath houses in San Francisco when he was in the area.

The manager, who the report did not identify, was shown a photo of the victim but had never seen him before. He was then asked about "Lapoca" and the manager said the man no longer worked there but he did have a last name and phone number for police. No further information was provided in the report on "Lapoca".

Early in the investigation it was learned that Reitz had been seeing a psychiatrist named Dr. Lance Boyce between 1975 and 1978. Dr. Boyce stated that Reitz had confided in him that he was a homosexual and that he was having a difficult time coping with what the teacher called “his problem”.

Dr. Boyce told the officers that Reitz had described his habit of picking up subjects at adult bookstores or hitchhikers along the freeway and bringing them back to his home. When Reitz first began seeing the doctor, the teacher was very uneasy about being labeled as homosexual. However, over time he came to accepted this side of himself and began to grapple with how to manage his private life. Dr. Boyce said Reitz was very discreet about “his problem” and it was the doctor's belief that those people closest to him might not even know that he was gay.

Dr. Boyce said that to his knowledge, Reitz had never behaved inappropriately toward any under-age males from school, his Boy Scout Troup or from his drum & bugle corps. However according to the doctor, Reitz did tend to seek out the company of men who were not his equal. Specifically he enjoyed the company of men slightly younger than him.

By Reitz's own confessions to his psychiatrist he would find himself driving around looking for men to pick up. On one such occasion in Merced County he picked up the wrong man and found himself having to explain his actions to law enforcement. Madera Police received a call from law enforcement in Merced County after the murder indicating that Reitz had been detained by police following that incident.

While this was not listed in the police report. One line in the notes of the report mentioned a Lieutenant with the Merced County Sheriff's Department. Upon further investigation it was learned that Reitz had been detained, but not arrested, for solicitation in Merced. Had this information come out before the murder victim's death, it may have resulted in the end of his career as a teacher in Madera, and yet it may have also saved his life.

While Reitz's activities in gay bars and with hitchhikers indicated the difficulty that homosexual men often encountered when seeking out real companionship, the police report does indicate that Reitz did occasionally attempt to seek out committed relationships. Police spoke to one such person, a cheerleader from Fresno State.

Kent Byers, who was from Oakhurst,  told police that he met Reitz at a Fresno State football game. While the subject said that he and Reitz had never been intimate nor had he ever been to his house in Madera, they had on several occasions talked on the phone and met for lunch. He described Reitz as a loner and said the teacher was waiting for the "right" person to come into his life and according to Byers, Reitz thought the young cheerleader was that person.

The young man told Detective Foster that he was not ready for a relationship at that time and turned down the teachers advances. Byers said that he considered himself "bi-sexual", as he also dated women. He said he was not sure why Reitz continued to pursue him, called him repeatedly and said Reitz had given him gifts, including a package of Jockey brand underwear, which he said he thought was very strange.

Foster was interested in a phone call Reitz had made to the Fresno State Sigma Chi Fraternity, where Byers was a member and lived, on the night he was killed. The cheerleader explained that the call was made to the frat house on the fraternities 'meeting' night which meant most of the members would have been in the building and Byers had no idea who Reitz may have spoken to. The cheerleader said that he had not talked to Reitz that night but had spoken with him on Sunday evening.

Byers told police that the person in the composite drawing looked very familiar but that he "could not put a name with it." He gave police a list of other brother's in the Sigma Chi house that he knew were also gay. A copy of the 1985 Sigma Chi phone directory was included in the police report. The subject was photographed and fingerprinted. No further mention is made of this relationship in the file.

After reading through these notes on Mr. Reitz' private life, it's easy to imagine how often it was necessary for him to resort to social situations that could only be considered risky, if not outright dangerous.  The life of a closeted gay man in the middle 80's had to be secretive, especially a man who was trying to build a career as a teacher.  He never had the luxury of meeting and pursuing someone who interested him during his normal activities, in the routine places where he spent his days. His only options were to seek out places where most of the people present were also being unusually secretive about themselves.

I realize there are those who might be tempted to blame Mr. Reitz for his own murder by saying he invited a murderer into his home. But I invite those individuals to imagine how different their own dating and relationships would have been if they had felt the need to hide them. If you could not openly meet an acquaintance for dinner in a restaurant, or throw your arm around their shoulder in a movie theater, wouldn't you have also ended up spending time alone too early?  Time alone with someone you didn't know well enough to trust?

Next week's installment will cover the current status of the murder case, as well as Glenn Reitz' continuing influence on our community through the lives of the students he mentored while working with Boy Scouts, Drum and Bugle Corps and those he taught during his thirteen years as a Thomas Jefferson Junior High School teacher.

 



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