Since I’m already familiar with this story that spans over several decades, it’s difficult for me to try to explain it from the beginning–but here’s a go of it. I’m going to try to follow it chronologically as best I can. Please feel free to ask questions.
Let’s start with the victim. Cathy Spann Ulfers, 24-year-old Caucasian, the wife of a New Orleans police officer and the daughter of a retired police Major. Mother of two young boys. Sustained seven gunshot wounds after “apparently surprising a burglar at her home” located at 3973 Downman Road in New Orleans. Pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 10:30 p.m. on the evening of October 7, 1979.
The Times Picayune first reports the murder in a short, 4-sentence article on Monday, October 8, 1979, Section 1, page 5. The blurb states the victim’s name and relationship to the NOPD, along with vague information about the circumstances of the killing. The following day a few more details are given in a longer article located in Section 1, page 2:
“Police were looking for clues and taking inventory Monday inside the house of a New Orleans policeman whose 24-year-old wife was shot and killed Sunday night.
Cathy Ulfers was killed at her home when she apparently walked in on a burglar shortly before 10 p.m., police said. Mrs. Ulfers was the wife of 3rd District Patrolman Ronald Ulfers and the daughter of retired police Maj. John Spann.
The inventory should be complete ‘within a few days’ and investigators are hoping that the results will aid in the search for suspects, said Rick Loumiet, police information officer.
According to reports, the Ulfers and their two children went to his mother’s house for dinner Sunday night. Mrs. Ulfers left in her own car, while Ulfers stayed at his mother’s with the two children.
Police received an anonymous call reporting gunfire at the residence, and when officers arrived, Mrs. Ulfers was found lying facedown on the floor, police said.”
The same day, Ulfers’ obituary is published. It lists only her age, the date and time of death (which is listed as 11:15 p.m.), funeral arrangements and her surviving relatives: her husband, Ronald Ulfers, Sr.; her sons, Ronald Ulfers, Jr. and Daniel Ulfers; her parents, Audrey Sohl and Major John J. Spann, Jr.
…And that’s it. There is no mention of the crime in the paper again until three suspects are arrested almost one year later. And that brings us to…
The next mention of the killing occurs in a Times Picayune article on September 23, 1980, nearly a full year after the murder. Reporter Lovell Beaulieu writes:
“Three men have been charged with murder in the gun slaying of a New Orleans policeman’s wife last year.
The three are accused of killing Cathy Ulfers at her residence at 3973 Downman Road last Oct. 7. Authorities said the woman apparently surprised her assailants, who were burglarizing the house at the time.
Homicide detective Martin Venezia, flanked by Superintendent James Parsons, said at a press conference Monday that two of the murder suspects are in jail while a third is out on bond.
Charged with first-degree murder is Reginald Adams, 28. Adams was in Parish Prison at the time he was charged in the murder. He has no local address.
Charged with second-degree murder were John Dupart, 34, 4314 N. Derbigny St., and Anthony “Suitcase Tony” Calcagno, 46, 9757 West Rockton Circle.
Calcagno was released under a $125,000 bond, but Dupart could not make bond. Bond was allowed in the case of these two because the charge is second-degree murder.
The three are also charged with aggravated burglary. About $3000 in cash, a police radio, a television, a police jacket and a diamond ring were stolen, police said.
Venezia said the arrests ended a year-long investigation. The investigation was a joint effort by city detectives, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, Venezia added.
According to Venezia, who headed the investigation, Adams shot Mrs. Ulfers seven times as she walked through the door. The number of times she was shot and the fact that she was a policeman’s wife led authorities to believe it was an execution-style killing but the investigation failed to show that, Venezia said. “The man (Adams) wanted to make sure she was dead,” Venezia said.
He said the case was broken when Adams told two sheriff’s deputies that he, Dupart and Calcagno planned the burglary. Deputies said Adams admitted firing the fatal shots.
The investigation revealed that Officer Ulfers was unknown to the suspects, Venezia said.
Venezia said police also have linked Dupart and Adams to the burglary of Seafood City on June 20. It was after Adams told authorities he wanted to make a statement about the Seafood City burglary that he confessed to the Ulfers murder, Venezia said.”
I haven’t been able to dig up much information at all about John Dupart, and not a whole lot more on Anthony “Suitcase Tony” Calcagno, but Adams has steadfastly maintained his innocence since almost immediately after giving his confession. The difficulties in finding further information on Dupart and Calcagno is frustrating — all of the articles this far back are only on Microfiche and apparently not of enough importance to be in the reference books, so I’m looking by hand through the crime section of each day’s paper for both two weeks before and two weeks after any dates I’ve identified. When I find a relevant article, I print it, write down the date and location, and follow the thread to the next one. It’s time-consuming and eye-straining work — it makes me incredibly grateful for the later articles that can be found on the internet.
But back to the suspects. Adams, Dupart and Calcagno were arrested in 1980 in connection with a burglary at Seafood City on North Broad. The case against Calcagno was refused by the district attorney’s office for lack of evidence, and both Adams and Dupart were acquitted of the burglary charges related to the Seafood City burglary in the summer of 1982.
However, the fact that they were arrested for the Seafood City burglary had far-reaching consequences for Adams, since it was while he was in custody for suspected involvement in that burglary that he confessed to the murder of Cathy Ulfers. Apparently very soon after his confession, he recanted. But before exploring this any further, we need to review the Times Picayune coverage of the trial that resulted in the first-degree murder conviction for Adams (and no convictions for Dupart or Calcagno) in the death of Cathy Ulfers (next post).