AN UNSOLVED MURDER IN MADERA: Part 2
MADERA - On Tuesday March 19, 1985 Thomas Jefferson Junior High English teacher Glenn Reitz failed to show up for school. This was something school Principal Ben Barsotti thought was very unusual for the teacher he hired thirteen years earlier.
Phone calls were made to Reitz home, but there was no answer. Being that Reitz only lived a half a block from the Sunset Avenue school on Rotan Street, Barsotti decided to walk over to the teacher's home. What he found was something no one had expected to see in the little town of Madera.
Barsotti had knocked on the front down but got no answer. Reitz's 1976 Toyota Celica was not in the drive way. Reitz was the only one who drove the car. So most of his friends knew if the car was gone, Reitz was not home. For some reason Barsotti decided to go into the backyard and look through a window and saw what appeared to be a body covered with a blanket.
Madera Police Officer Sam Anderson arrived three minutes after receiving the call from the dispatch center. In front of the house were three or four people, including Barsotti. The officer was made aware of what he saw through the backyard window.
The patio in the backyard was screened-in and Anderson determined that the best way into the house was through the rear French doors. The officer was able to get the door open enough to place his night stick in and pry the door open. Once the door popped open the officer realized it was also locked with a chain lock which he was able to break open.
Once he had gained entry Anderson went to the front door where he observed a body that had been covered with a bath towel (which was first thought to be a blanket). Anderson lifted the towel to find the nude bloody body of Glenn Reitz. The officer determined that this was a possible murder and placed the towel back over the body in the way he found it.
He used his radio to call in a request for detectives and case number C85-552 was opened by the Madera Police Department. Soon Detectives Dale Padgett, David Foster and Captain Andy Moore were on scene.
This was not the first time that Madera Police were called out to the Reitz home. Just one year prior Officer Mike Jeffries wrote a report about an attack on Reitz where a suspect pulled a hand gun on the teacher.
Reitz had first met this man in a Fresno bar in February of 1984. On March 10, 1984 he had invited the suspect back to his house and after a few drinks, things started to go bad, At some point the man, "Dennis B.", pulled a hand gun out of his backpack and forced Reitz into his bedroom where he bound the teacher's hands and feet with tape while he laid on his bed..
While Reitz was tied up, the suspect went though his property in the front room. Reitz was able to unbind himself and obtained a small hatchet from his bedroom closet and forced the suspect from the house.
When Officer Jeffries arrived the suspect had left and Reitz wished no formal action be taken at that time. The suspect is still alive and lives in Merced. As far as I can tell from the police reports he was never interviewed in relation to the murder of Glenn Reitz that occurred just one year and eight days later.
The more recent attack under investigation was obviously much worse. This time Reitz had not been as lucky. In fact, this time the tool that saved him one year ago quite possibly may have been the weapon that took his life. That hatchet was never found in the house but thankfully we know it existed because of Officer Jeffries report a year earlier.
According to reports filed by Detectives Padgett and Foster there was no signs of forced entry and all the doors to the house were locked when police arrived. The victim's body was located near the front door on the west side of the house facing east in a sitting position. The head and torso were covered with a bath towel and blood spatter was found on the wall behind the victims head and on the inside of the front door. There was a large pool of blood located on the rug to the right of the victim and between his legs.
Reitz's bedroom was at the northwest corner of the house. The victim's bed was turned down and an electric blanket was turned on. What appeared to be blood was found on the pillow and bed, as well as on the floor between the bed and the nightstand. There was a trail of blood drops on the carpet between the bed and a table located on the west wall of the house. Blood was found smeared along the edge of the table towards the bedroom door. A small spot of blood and what appeared to be soft tissue was also found on the carpet near the table as well as on the bedroom light switch.
More blood was found in the bathroom, in and on the bathtub. The shower curtain and curtain rod were smeared with blood and a partial bloody foot print was found on a small throw-rug on the floor of the bathroom between the bathtub and vanity. The vanity and light switch also had blood on them. Back in the front room bloody hand prints lined the wall towards were the body was found.
According to news reports at the time of the investigation, Madera Police Chief Gordon Skeels speculated that Reitz may have been attacked while in the shower. There were water-diluted spots of blood in the bathroom that police could not account for. However with the amount of blood found in the bedroom, it is far more likely that the teacher was attacked in there and the struggle lead to the front room. Then the killer washed himself off prior to leaving the crime scene.
While the rear door was locked when police arrived and the front door was locked and blocked from opening by the victims body, it is believed the suspect left the house through the door leading out to the garage. According to the police reports there were no blood evidence found outside of the living room, bedroom and bathroom. Skeels also reported that lab tests revealed that all blood samples found at the scene were Type A, which was the victim's type.
One set of unidentified finger prints were found at the scene and as of 2002 had not been sent to the FBI's national finger print database. According to a 2002 letter from a family member to then Detective Sergeant Ken Alley, the family urged Alley to send in those finger prints as soon as possible.
After a preliminary examination of the crime scene, the detectives secured the house for processing by the California Department of Justice Crime Lab. Agents Steve O'Clair and Richard Kinney responded and took control of the scene. The victim's body was transported to the Madera Funeral Home.
Detective Foster also went to the funeral home and witnessed Agent O'Clair take fingernail scrapings and hair samples from the victim. These samples were retained by DOJ for analysis at the crime lab in Fresno. The DOJ also secured the towels found on the victim and the throw-rug with the foot print for analysis.
An autopsy performed the next day showed that Reitz was killed from blows to the head rather than the stab wounds to his neck. The teacher had a 1 1/2 inch "perfect circle" hole in his forehead that exposed his brain, chopping wounds on the top, sides and back of his head and slashing wounds on the front and sides of his neck. Reitz also suffered from a broken jaw. Police believe the weapon may have been a small hatchet possibly with a pick on the opposite side of the weapon.
Madera Police Captain Andrew Moore and Detective Padgett went through the victim's papers and other belongings in an attempt to find names and addresses. Several items were seized including the contents of the kitchen trash can and brought back to the Madera Police Department. The victim's car and wallet seemed to be the only things missing from the house.
It goes without saying that this was one of the most gory crime scenes ever experienced by these seasoned officers in their career in the small town of Madera. This may be part of the reason that the officers involved have chosen not to speak of the case. There may be other reasons we will go over in following articles. Either way, anyone that was in that house that Tuesday morning must have been forever affected by what they saw.