Sinister Siblings: Robert & Anthony Rowlingson

Teacher imprisoned | Warwick Daily News

Cain and Abel.

Esau and Jacob.

There are several tales, both ancient and modern, which spoke of sibling rivalry that turned deadly. Today’s story details how one such situation shocked a family and community to their core.

The family at the center of our story lived in Pittsworth, a rural town in Queensland, Australia.  They were the Rowlingson’s- John and Wendell, with their three children-one daughter and two sons.  

Pittsworth had a very small and close-knit population in 2007- in fact, as far as I can gather, there were only three homicides reported in the entire Darling Downs district where the town is located.  

This will make what we learn occurred on July 15, 2007, even more unbelievable.

The Rowlingson family lived on a farm in Pittsworth.  Robert was the older of the two sons.  His many friends described him as popular and outgoing.  He was an outdoorsman who loved rugby. 

KILLER TEENS: No motive for brother's execution | Northern Star
Robert Rowlingson

As it sometimes is, Anthony was quite the opposite of his brother.  He was rather introverted and withdrawn.  He and his brother weren’t particularly close.  Robert had a robust social life, but Anthony was more of a homebody.  In fact, he wasn’t close to anyone except his favorite teacher and mentor, Graeme McNeil.  While a lot of alarm bells go off in retrospect- why does this kid spend so much time with his teacher?- I can almost understand why the parents didn’t put an end to this questionable relationship.  Their youngest son was lonely and misunderstood by his peers.  Mr. McNeil was a trusted educator and showed an interest in Anthony- what could possibly go wrong?

Inside Story: Anthony Rowlingson's brutal murder of older brother ...

It turns out, lots.  See, the harmless teacher had some pretty radical ideas.  He shared his ideologies with the young boy.  Was he recruiting him?  Anthony already entertained dark thoughts- it’s said that he fantasized about hurting people.  He had a rather morbid fascination with the Columbine massacre.  This led to him making a “hit list” that included students from his school.  He was entertaining killing them all- including his brother’s friends.

You’re probably wondering what kind of evil thoughts Mr. McNeil could have shared with Anthony.  I’m glad you asked!  Apparently, by day he was a teacher, but off the clock, he became one of the evilest motherfuckers in the world.  Mr. Graeme McNeil was a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan- which I had no idea was a thing in Australia.  

Inside Story: Anthony Rowlingson's brutal murder of older brother ...
Graeme McNeil- KKK teacher

Aside from the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, there have been various attempts to organize KKK chapters outside the United States.

In Australia in the late 1990s, former One Nation member Peter Coleman established branches throughout the country,[243][244] and circa 2012 the KKK has attempted to infiltrate other political parties such as Australia First.[245]

It has also reported recruitment activity in the United Kingdom.[246]

In Germany, a KKK-related group (“Knights of the Fiery Cross”), was established in the 1920s. After the Nazis took over Germany, the group disbanded and its members joined the Nazis.[247] Another German KKK-related group, the European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, organized and gained notoriety in 2012 when the German media reported that two police officers who held membership in the organization could keep their jobs.[248][249]

A Ku Klux Klan group was even established in Fiji in the early 1870s by white American settlers, although its operations were quickly put to an end by the British who, although not officially yet established as the major authority of Fiji, had played a leading role in establishing a new constitutional monarchy that was being threatened by the activities of the Fijian Klan.[250]

In São Paulo, Brazil, the website of a group called Imperial Klans of Brazil was shut down in 2003, and the group’s leader was arrested.[251]

Growing up in the US and Indiana, I always knew the Klan was “too close for comfort”, but I was not aware of the reach this shitty group had.  You learn something new every day.  

After some time, this secret life of McNeil hit Robert’s radar.  Being an inclusive and upright young man, he made it clear to his brother that he would report what he knew to administrators.  This is presumably what set the events of July 15, 2007, into motion.

The Sunday began with the elder Rowlingson’s at church, Robert at a rugby match, and Anthony at home.  After his match, Robert returned home to work on his car.  As he looked under the hood, Anthony quietly crept up behind him.  He brought with him his father’s .243 rifle he had taken from a gun safe inside the house. He raised the weapon and pulled the trigger.  The shot knocked his older brother to the ground.  What happened next is heartbreaking to think about:  Anthony stood over his own brother and shot him in the head.  

The next thing on Anthony’s murderous agenda was disposing of the body- his brother’s body.  He got the family’s forklift, using it to place Robert in the trunk of the very car he was working on at his time of death. He then drove around thinking of a site to dump the body.  Upon realizing he might need help, he drove to the only person he could count on- Mr. McNeil.

No one else really knows how the conversation between them went, but it ended with the responsible Mr. McNeil packing Anthony in his car and taking him directly to the police.

Actually, he didn’t.  Remember? Grand Pooba of the KKK? This was his opportunity to prove he was about that life.  With that, Anthony and Mr. McNeil dumped Robert Rowlingson, aged 19, off a bridge near Clifton.  They left his vehicle and Mr. McNeil took the emotionless Anthony home.  

Thank goodness he had remembered to cover up evidence of the murder!  Before dumping his brother over the bridge, he covered the blood with dirt. His mom and dad beat him home and they’re looking for Robert.  He told them he didn’t know where he was.  The parents weren’t too worried at that moment because Robert was a social butterfly.  It wasn’t odd for him to be out- they just knew he was supposed to be working on his car.  Had he changed his mind and decided it could wait?  That is the assumption his parents probably went with at the time.  

Unfortunately, you and I know what happened to Robert.  Now, his parents got their first inkling that something sinister was afoot.  The police had just located Robert’s car.  There were signs of foul play found at the scene.  

KILLER TEENS: No motive for brother's execution | Chronicle

Sunday, July 15, had started, for this family, like any other Sunday.  Sadly, after this Sunday, nothing about life would ever be the same.  Every murder investigation usually starts the same- work from the inside out. Always begin with the closest person or people to the victim.  The police talked to the shocked and grieving parents first.  Mr. Rowlingson answered all of their questions and explained that he did not understand who would want to hurt their son.  Had his wife Wendell answered that question, the response would have been different.  She had an idea of who hurt Robert, but she hoped it wasn’t true.

The police next spoke to Anthony.  He claimed that he hadn’t seen his brother.  After continuing their investigation by speaking to Robert’s friends, they swung back around to Anthony.  He was the only known person who would want to get rid of his brother.  Maybe Robert reminded him of all the things he was not.  Maybe he was consumed by jealousy.  It’s also quite possible that he was just an evil mother fucker.  Everyone pointed back to him as the culprit.

When the police talked to him two days later, they came at him from the angle of knowing he was involved in his brother’s disappearance and death.  Anthony found it funny when they attempted to appeal to his love of his parents as a reason to disclose the location of the body.  He denied and denied until one time he didn’t.

That’s right- he eventually confessed to brutally murdering his brother.  He asked that the police destroy a laptop with evidence of Mr. McNeil’s KKK activities.  Once they agreed he told them where he threw Robert over the bridge.  

Anthony was arrested, leaving his parents reeling.  In three days, they had, in essence, lost two sons.  Sadly, they never got a motive for the murder.  It has been argued that Anthony was attempting to protect Graeme McNeil, but evidence existed that proved the plot to kill Robert began before he found out McNeil’s secret.  The Rowlingson’s  also found out about Anthony’s other murderous plans.  Anthony was sentenced to life in prison.  He is eligible for parole in 2022.  

In 2010, McNeil pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact.  He received an eight-year sentence but was eligible for parole after three years.

Klan connection proves pure hype | Chronicle

In 2013, he was released from prison.  The town wasn’t happy about this, and many were afraid that because of his extreme beliefs, he was still a danger to their community.

I think the biggest threat to the community is still in prison.  If 2020 doesn’t kill us all, he can be out in two years.  

What can we learn from this story?

  • Teacher student relationships
  • Withdrawn kids may need help
  • Be nosy!!

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Betty Gore and Candy Montgomery

Tidings and salutations, bibliophages!  Thanks for joining me on True Crime by the Book.  Every week we will discuss a true crime that has been featured in books, documentaries, or biopics.  I’m your hostess with the most, Tasha Pierce. Today’s book is Evidence of Love, by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson.  Before we jump into that, I want to thank everyone who has left a review for the podcast. I will be giving you all a special shout at the end of the show.  For those of you who haven’t gotten around to it, it’s never too late! In fact, you can go to Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, Facebook- leave a review today. It really helps the show and I can shout you out on a future episode.  

 Now, let’s get into Evidence of Love!  In case you haven’t read the book and plan to I’m issuing a SPOILER WARNING!  I will be describing the case, and a few listeners thought it would be a good idea if I said SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!  With that out of the way, I’ll give you some background about the authors courtesy of their bio.  

John Bloom- John Bloom is a journalist and entertainer born in Dallas, Texas, who grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now lives in New York City.

While serving as New York bureau chief for United Press International, he was an eyewitness to the events of 9/11 and was nominated by UPI for the Pulitzer Prize. His work for Texas Monthly magazine has been nominated three times for the National Magazine Award, and he has written for dozens of newspapers and magazines, as well as being a columnist for the New York Times Syndicate, the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and Creators Syndicate. He graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, where he was a Grantland Rice Scholar for his work as a teenage reporter and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat.  In 1982 he created the pseudonym of “Joe Bob Briggs,” using that pen name anonymously until he was outed in 1985. He then performed under that name on a number of television shows and at live venues, winning two Cable ACE Awards for a show called “Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater” on The Movie Channel and a similar show called “MonsterVision” on TNT.

Jim Atkinson-Jim Atkinson, a contributing editor for TEXAS MONTHLY, has been a working journalist in Texas for over 40 years. He was a courthouse reporter for the Dallas Times Herald and a political correspondent for Dallas KERA-TV Channel 13.’ during the 1970s. In l974, he helped to found D Magazine, the city magazine of Dallas, and worked there for seven years as an editor and writer. In l981, he began writing for TEXAS MONTHLY and other publications including Esquire, Gourmet, GQ, National Review, the New York Times, Playboy, Self, Town and Country and Travel and Leisure.  He has won numerous awards for reporting and is the author of two books, Evidence of Love, A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs (Texas Monthly Press, l984) and The View from Nowhere (HarperCollins , l987).

For much of his career, Atkinson wrote about crime and the criminal justice system, until he decided to turn his energies to reporting on health and medical science, primarily in the pages of TEXAS MONTHLY and ESQUIRE.  Since then, he has written about everything from the flu to cardiac surgery to sexual addiction, and has won 12 awards for medical reporting.  Most recently, he has turned his journalistic attentions to environmental and travel writing.

In the latter category, he has become a regular contributor to the New York Times travel sections. 

The description of the book from the jacket cover goes like this:

Edgar Award Finalist: The “sensational” true story of two desperate housewives and the killing that shocked a Texas community (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore had a lot in common: They sang together in the Methodist church choir, their daughters were best friends, and their husbands had good jobs working for technology companies in the north Dallas suburbs known as Silicon Prairie. But beneath the placid surface of their seemingly perfect lives, both women simmered with unspoken frustrations and unanswered desires.

On a hot summer day in 1980, the secret passions and jealousies that linked Candy and Betty exploded into murderous rage. What happened next is usually the stuff of fiction. But the bizarre and terrible act of violence that occurred in Betty’s utility room that morning was all too real.

Based on exclusive interviews with the Montgomery and Gore families, Evidence of Love is the riveting account of a gruesome tragedy and the trial that made national headlines. 

Adapted into the Emmy and Golden Globe Award–winning television movie A Killing in a Small Town, this chilling tale of sin and savagery will “fascinate true crime aficionados” (Kirkus Reviews).

Well, in June of 1980 I was a snot-nosed 7-year-old, so this was a brand new case for me.  I listened to the audiobook, which 12.5 hours in length. It was narrated by Charles Constant who did an awesome job.  His cadence was just right and he didn’t miss a beat when voicing the different characters. I was able to simply listen, without the fingernails on a chalkboard cringiness that I sometimes experience when narrators decide to ham it up with the voice-acting.  

If you were around in 1980, you’ll know it was a MUCH simpler time!  If you weren’t you gonna learn today. On the radio we heard Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Kool & The Gang, The Police and of course the Boss- Bruce Springsteen.  On TV it was The Jeffersons, Magnum PI, The Dukes of Hazard, and of course- Dallas!  

Who shot JR was the question on the minds of right around 83 million people that year.  But in one Dallas suburb, the question was “Who butchered Betty Gore?”

I can vividly remember in 1980 when two movies that defined a genre debuted on the big screen- Friday the 13th, and the Shining.  I’m not certain HOW (possibly a double feature at a drive-in theater) but little sweet and innocent Tasha saw BOTH of these movies.  I also saw The Empire Strikes Back that same year. Understand, kids, this was a hell of a time to be alive. I digress- these movies do show up again in the book, and they provide a backdrop to what occurs later in the story.  The Gore family lived in Wylie, Texas, which I already mentioned was a suburb of Dallas. The family included Allan and Betty with their two daughters. They were a typical family of the era- dad worked in tech, mom was a teacher, and the children were happy and well-adjusted.  They were also active members of Lucas Methodist Church, like many of the families in the community. This was summer in Wylie and the church hosted a vacation bible school to give the children something to do. Betty was off for the summer like the kids, so she sent her older daughter, aged 5, to Bible school with the rest of the children while she stayed home with her infant.  All was okay, her daughter would be well looked after by her best friend’s mother and Sunday school teacher, Candy Montgomery. In fact, her daughter would be spending the night at the Montgomery’s home.  

Candy Montgomery was married to Pat Montgomery and they also had two children.  Pat worked at Texas Instruments and Candy was a stay at home mom. She filled her time with church, housework, and running the children to practices and appointments.  As a young woman, this is the life she imagined for herself. Now that she had it she was -in a word- BORED. She had a very vanilla life. She wanted sprinkles. So she engaged in some extramarital foolery for some time prior to this day- June 13th, 1980.  You know, a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there. But, Pat found out about her infidelity, and with the help of the church, they were recommitted to their marriage. Today, Candy was teaching at Bible school. It was then that she realized that Betty’s daughter needed a swimsuit for swim practice later.  After she taught her class, she would run to the Gore home and pick it up. She also needed to grab a Father’s Day card for her husband, so she planned to stop at Target also. I didn’t know Target was around in 1980. We didn’t have one near me, and I doubt my mom would’ve shopped there because- hell there were 4 of us kids and Target isn’t the CHEAPEST store in the world.  Maybe it was in 1980- but I digress.  

Candy gets to the Gore home and she and Betty began to chat it up.  Just regular shit about the kids until Betty asks Candy if she’s sleeping with her husband.  So, yeah- Candy got bored in her marriage so she decided to have an affair. She realized while playing volleyball with Allan in the church league that she wanted to sleep with him.  So, she approached Allan Gore and asked him if he’d like to have an affair. But, Allan was fighting the good fight. He loved Betty and didn’t want to hurt her, so he turned Candy’s offer down.  She was just like okay- maybe a little disappointed but not the end of the world. I would have been mortified if I was just placing my pootnanny on a silver platter and was turned down, but Candy was just like “On to the next one”.  Now, I’m sure you know that there wouldn’t be a twelve-hour book if that was that. Eventually, Allan gave it some thought and made the decision that he indeed wanted to bang Candy with no strings attached. What followed was a vanilla affair.  Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla. They telegraphed everything- like every aspect was planned. They’d meet up at a shitty hotel while Allan was on his lunch break. She would pack a picnic-style lunch for them and they would vanilla fuck. They did this on certain vanilla ass days and then play coy when they were all at church.  Wasn’t long before Candy got bored of this shit, too, and was on to the next! But now, here is Betty asking about this affair months after candy’s husband found out. Yeah- Pat knew and that’s why he and Candy went to a retreat that the church sponsored to reconnect. Allan and Betty went to this same retreat to strengthen their union and had stayed away from Candy ever since.  But, the affair was rearing its ugly head again. Candy had no choice but to tell Betty the truth. Yes she had slept with her husband. Multiple times. But it’s okay- because she didn’t want him anymore. I don’t know if Candy thought she was being diplomatic with her choice of words. I slept with him but I don’t want him anymore almost implies that if I did want him I would have him.  In fact, the only reason he’s with you is because I don’t want him. That’s what I got out of what she said, and I’m sure that based on what happened next, Betty felt that way, too. We’ll discuss what happened right after a word from a podcast that I think you all would love- it’s not true crime. It follows law enforcement and military topics. I’m happy to introduce you to RuckUp Podcast!

So when we left off, Candy had just admitted to her and Allan’s affair in the most gangster way possible and Betty was like “is that right?” She then went to get the swimsuit that Candy had come for and, according to Candy, came back with an ax.  The book made it very clear that Betty had a size advantage over Candy. Now she had a weapon. It sounds like she kind of threatened Candy with it saying, “You can’t have him”. Candy reiterated that she didn’t want him- which still sounds oh so fucked up to me.  Then she apologized like, “I don’t want him. I’m sorry”. Then she says, at this point, Betty came at her with the ax. They roughed around for a while, wrestling over this ax. The fight was prolonged with Betty wildly swinging and Candy evading and trying to talk her down.  Then at some point, Betty says “Shhh!” because her baby was asleep. Well, what did she do that for? For some reason, this triggered a full-on rage from Candy. She and Betty again went at it over the ax and somehow Candy ended up with it. At this point, she began to hack at Betty.  She connected over 40 times- bludgeoning this woman who was once her friend, to death. Then in some movie type shit, she went in the bathroom and took a shower. This bitch was truly gangster. Then she grabbed the swimsuit, went home and changed clothes, then went back to the church to get the kids- including Betty’s daughter.  This was probably the most sickening part to me. Well, besides leaving the sleeping baby in the house while Betty lay lifeless on the floor.  

The book dives into so much- like the primitive by our terms investigation, the fact that the newspaper was opened to a page that featured Jack Nicholson’s iconic shot from The Shining.  You know the picture. Him standing behind a hacked up door with an ax. How this murder occurred one month after Friday the 13th debuted in theaters ON Friday the 13th. There were just so many coincidences and idiosyncrasies that led the police and the public to believe there was a psychotic ax killer on the loose who was emboldened by the latest entries into the horror genre.  They refused to believe a woman would be strong enough to commit the crime because- well, it was a simpler time. Women were thought of as the weaker sex- the patriarchy was real. Nowadays we see 82-year-old women beating the stuffing out of would-be robbers. That thought was inconceivable in the “good old days”. It would be three weeks before the authorities accepted that their best suspect (after the husband) was Candy Montgomery.  As for Allan, he was out of town for work when the confrontation took place. In fact, he had continuously called his wife on the house phone because that’s all we had in the 80s to no avail. Betty had been rather upset that he had to leave, so he called a neighbor to go check on her. The neighbor stumbled upon this horrific mess and called the police. The baby was crying and hungry which truly broke my heart. Had no one gone to check on the home, she may have been a second victim of this terrible crime.

So Candy was finally caught and she admitted to killing Betty- in self-defense.  This made for a SENSATIONAL trial. There were so many things uncovered about Candy’s early life and it was also revealed that Betty wasn’t a very sympathetic victim.  Candy also was forced to admit to ANOTHER affair, which really hurt her husband. But the defense- SELF-DEFENSE just seemed like boating without a paddle. I could understand if the attack ended with one swing of the ax.  But once we get to ten, twenty, forty swings that’s overkill. Crazily- more bizarre than anything else- the jury deliberated for three hours and returned a not guilty verdict. So that was it. Candy was free to go, with her family and husband’s support.  

Of course, she moved and changed her name.  And Allan Gore wasted no time in remarrying- that was the thing for widowers to do back then- except in 85 when my mom passed.  My dad became a playboy- but you didn’t ask about that, did you. This story made me sad. Like really, really sad. Because- Betty was a little insecure and she had fucked up in the past and had presently rubbed a lot of people the wrong way but did she deserve to go out like that?  I think she may have pulled the ax to intimidate Candy. If you’re standing in YOUR house with a goddamn ax, I’m getting THE FUCK out of your house. That’s my first thought- run. The facts are that Candy was the smaller woman, Betty had a weapon, and she felt like she had something to fight for.  So, after who shot JR, and who killed Betty Gore, the biggest unanswered question is why didn’t Candy run. We only have her version of events to go by. Also, once Betty was incapacitated, with one or two ax blows why did she cover the crime up? The shower, changing clothes, lying low for three weeks?  If it was self-defense, why not tell your husband, your pastor, the law- ANYBODY- so they could at least tend to the child.  

You absolutely have to read this book because I definitely only glossed over the details.  It was really a sensational story. You may read this and come out on the other side, but I definitely think that Candy should have been found guilty of SOMETHING, even if it was endangering a child.  She was wrong. Her decisions led to a whole world of hurt. Those children lost their mother, Allan lost his wife, Pat Montgomery was destroyed when he found out that Candy had another affair, her kids live with the stigma of having “that” mom.  Just all kinds of fucked up.  

As promised, I’m going to read out the names of the bookworms who left a review- but before that, make sure to check out the show notes so you’ll see my sources and all the places you can find me.  I’m rolling out the red carpet for someone to become my first patreon supporter. Two bucks a month will get you a shout out and you’ll be a distinguished listener. Plus, I’ll be putting out some bomb bonus shit if you decide I’m worth five bucks. 

Next time on True Crime: By The Book

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