Note: This is Part 5 of Examiner reporter Jack Dennis’s story on the true murder and ghost story that begain at San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel in February 1965. Please notice there is a slide show with this article.
Part 1 Click Here
Part 2 Click Here
Part 3 Click Here
Part 4 Click Here
A police photo taken at 11:05 p.m. in room 536 of the St. Anthony hotel on February 10, 1965 shows Walter A. Emerick (aka Robert Ashley, aka Albert Knox) laying face up on the bed in an undershirt and underwear. His head was cocked to the left with blood dripping out of his temple and down to the pillow, saturating.
Twenty minutes later Dr. Ruben Santos, the Bexar County Medical Examiner noted the official time of death at 11:25 p.m.
While attendants were wrapping the body, detectives were gathering evidence. They found another suitcase with a new pair of black shoes and slacks, various men’s clothing, a black raincoat, and a woman’s cigarette lighter engraved with the initials “C.A.R.”
“Everything matched up with Emerick,” said Detective Frank Castillon, in a 1976 interview. “Gunter Hotel room 636 and St. Anthony room 536—fingerprints matched, the gun, same type of cigars….we even found brown paper grocery bags, and the bank checks….everything.”
“We had our murderer,” he continued. “He butchered someone in that room, but who?”
“Later, we identified the lighter with the initials from a separate blond who had spent some time with Emerick at the Gunter,” explained Castillon. “She was cleared and gave us some helpful information about his demeanor, but really nothing on the cause of killing and butchering someone.”
“Yes, my God, yes…”
Maria Luisa Guerra, the maid who originally saw Emerick with the bloody bundle wrapped in butcher or grocery bag papers at the Gunter, was too sick to return to work the day after the killing.
Police had to search for her to gather more testimony later.
“She spent most of the time in bed,” Castillon said, “but the hardest thing was when we got her to go to the morgue.”
“We needed her to identify Emerick as the man she saw with that bloody package at the hotel,” he explained. “It was cold and rainy and, I will tell you, that woman was scared!”
Although it was warm as Mrs. Guerra walked into the morgue at the Robert B. Green Memorable Hospital, “she was shaking, just terrified,” Castillon described. “I thought she was going to fall over and we had to hold her to keep her up.”
When Guerra saw the dead body of Emerick on the slab, she cried, “Yes, my God yes, that’s him now get me out of here, please.”
As she walked out of the hospital, she passed up a stranger the police were also escorting to the morgue. It was Mike May, the clerk, about to identify Emerick as the man known as Robert Ashley who had checked into the St. Anthony Hotel.
Somehow the chilling early night air provided the comfort and relief Mrs. Guerra needed to prevent her from being sick.
Buried in a cold drizzling rain
Walter A. Emerick was set to be buried, early Monday morning, the day after Valentine’s Day, on February 16, 1965, with full military honors at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Roy Akers Funeral was notified that morning there had been a change.
“There’ll be no flags, nothing,” Jess Akers, Jr. stated at the time.
According to military regulation 290-5, Emerick’s record as a convicted prevented him from being buried there.
Five people were averted and attended the burial of Walter A. Emerick at 2 p.m. that day at San Jose Burial Park Cemetery in south San Antonio.
Reverend Gerald McAllister, a Roy Akers Funeral Home attendant, Emerick’s mother, brother and step-father stood in the cold drizzling rain for ten minutes under the watchful eye of police detective O.J. Meissner.
“San Antonio had one of the biggest crime hunts in history for the next month,” Castillon reflected. “We never found the body or the package.”
“All I know is the forensic evidence showed someone was shot and bled in a chair,” he said. “Emerick’s bloody footprints and dripped Type-A blood went back and forth from the chair, to the bed, to the bathtub and to the toilet. Back and forth. Back and forth in room 636.”
Next: The Haunting Begins
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