In a Tarrant County courtroom this month, the wife of a man suspected in the September slaying of a housekeeper in Colleyville told the judge that they are a couple of modest means.
Margaret “Peggy” McDonald testified that she and her husband, Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman, lived in a trailer in a Houston RV park. Gorman supported the family as a contract painter. They had no money in their checking accounts.
Since Gorman was jailed, relatives have scraped together $10,000 — nowhere close to the amount needed to post a bond on the $500,000 bail set for Gorman, who is accused in the death of Anita Fox.
“We pretty much used all of our resources at this point,” McDonald testified during the March 13 bail reduction hearing before Magistrate Gene Grant.
But by questioning Gorman’s wife and his mother, Catherine Mary Gorman, prosecutor Larry Moore painted a different picture of the family.
McDonald drove a red 2014 Mercedes, honeymooned in Aruba, and had recently taken a trip with her husband and young daughter to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Moore also noted that Catherine Mary Gorman is the sole beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy on her late husband, who was also a suspect in the slaying of Fox but died before he could be arrested.
Her husband, Gerard “Joe” Gorman, was found dead of apparent natural causes Jan. 22 in a Houston-area motel room.
The recent hearing gave further insight into the bizarre slaying of Fox, a case that authorities say revolves around greed, a secretive clan and life insurance scams. Although neither side identified the suspects as Irish Travellers in open court, the Star-Telegram has learned that the Gormans are part of the itinerant ethnic group.
‘He is a working man’
Bernard Gorman’s attorney, Steven Rocket Rosen, had requested the hearing, arguing that Gorman was not a flight risk and that his bail was excessive and oppressive.
“Here’s a young man that has never been arrested in 27 years. He’s never before been charged with a crime, never been asked to appear in court,” Rosen argued before the judge, according to a transcript obtained by the Star-Telegram.
“He is a husband, father to a young baby, and he is a working man. There’s not one piece of evidence in here, Judge, other than the fact that this man, since he was probably 10 years old, would get up every morning and go to work.”
Rosen is a prominent Houston attorney who has represented Irish Travellers for decades, including Madelyn Gorman Toogood, who made national news in September 2002 after she was caught on camera beating her 4-year-old daughter outside a store in Indiana.
“I have never, even in a capital murder case where they were seeking the death penalty, had a half-million-dollar bond,” Rosen told the Star-Telegram.
In Moore’s effort to keep the bail at $500,000, the prosecutor pointed out that after talking with Colleyville police in January, Gorman stopped communicating with them and was eventually arrested in Florida.
“Mr. Gorman refused to continue to come in and refused to take his phone calls,” Moore told the judge.
A taped conversation
During the hearing, only three witnesses testified: Gorman’s wife, his mother and Colleyville police Detective Kevin Maddux.
Maddux testified that a taped phone conversation between Catherine Mary Gorman and her jailed son indicated that the two discussed Gorman “bugging out” — or fleeing — to Las Vegas and whether a “lork” was available. Lork is slang for a car.
Maddux said Gorman also seemed to ask about a false identity or a place to hide.
Maddux testified that he talked to Gorman twice, once in Houston and once briefly in a Florida jail.
He said Gorman arrived at the first interview in a white Mercedes. The white Mercedes and the red Mercedes are registered to Gorman’s mother.
Peggy McDonald said her mother-in-law had given the couple the red Mercedes as a wedding present but had recently taken it back and sold it.
Catherine Mary Gorman testified that she sold it for $27,000 cash.
‘He will not run’
When asked about her husband’s insurance policy, Catherine Mary Gorman acknowledged making a claim but said she hasn’t received any money and didn’t even know the amount.
“So you made a claim for the insurance proceeds. You just don’t know how much the policy is?” Moore asked.
“Right. You just told me it’s $1 million,” Catherine Mary Gorman testified. “Like I said, I never checked into it.”
Catherine Mary Gorman and Peggy McDonald assured the judge that if Gorman were released on bail, he would not run.
“I will make sure that he will appear,” Peggy McDonald said. “He will not run. He’s not like that.”
Grant refused to lower the bail and instead added conditions, including that Gorman surrender his passport, remain in Tarrant County and wear a GPS monitor should he be released.
Rosen said he was upset by the ruling and will decide soon whether to appeal.
He said he is also working to help find attorneys for Gorman’s relatives who have been subpoenaed to testify before a Tarrant County grand jury.
A federal prosecutor from Columbia, S.C., was present during the hearing as part of the insurance fraud investigation.
“There is a possibility that there could be federal charges against Bernard Gorman … and other people,” Rosen said.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655