by Starks Shrink

Donna Kay Tapani paid three misfits to murder Martha Gail Fulton, the wife of her former lover, George Fulton. That’s the simplest story; the motivations and complexities of this case run much deeper than what’s readily apparent on the surface.

Gail Garza was a devout Catholic girl who grew up in small town Texas. She met George and they dated but she still maintained her college aspirations and completed a degree in speech pathology. In the meantime, George went off to West Point and a career in the Army. He reunited with Gail and they soon married, anticipating a typical peripatetic military existence.

adon9Gail soon had three children, born at different duty stations, including locations in Germany and the US. She was a devoted and doting mother and wife, believing it to be her destiny as sanctioned by her faith. George, however, if rumors are to be believed, had a wandering eye that was followed by other body parts. One documented dalliance occurred when the couple was stationed in Panama which led Gail to return home abruptly to her home town in Texas. During this period, Gail reportedly became very depressed and lost so much weight that her family was concerned she was anorexic. Gail had severe self-esteem issues and her weight loss was always an indicator of unhappiness. Perhaps she thought that exercise and slimness (about which she was obsessive) would make her more attractive to her husband, or more likely, this was her obsessive reaction to the pain she couldn’t seem able to stop.

adon5George eventually retired from the Army and Gail assumed that they would lay down roots amongst her family in Texas, as they had always planned. That was not to be; George, flailing about to find a career after military service, decided unilaterally to move the family to Lake Orion, Michigan, a small community outside of Detroit. Reluctantly, Gail, as always, gave in to her husband’s wishes.

adon2Gail settled into life in that community with her husband and two of her three children. The move was so abrupt that her oldest child opted to remain in Texas with Gail’s mother while she pursued a college degree. Gail’s two younger children — Emily and Andrew, still in high school, made the big trek to Michigan with their parents. It’s fairly clear from Gail’s friends and family back in Texas, and her children, that she was not very happy during that time. Gail always seemed to lose weight and become anxious and stressed when her life presented difficulties, and during this interval she was rail thin and looked old beyond her years. Mostly she dealt with adversity through talking with her priest, praying and doing her nightly rosary beads, convinced that God would see her through the difficult times. Sadly, her life in Michigan would have more challenges than joys and Gail wasn’t always up to the task.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 4.05.14 PMThe job that precipitated George moving his family to Michigan dissolved in a matter of months, and once again, he began seeking the brass ring. He thought he found it in an opportunity in Florida, working with a company called Concerned Care Home Health (CCHH). In truth, however, it was the beginning of disaster. While in Florida on business, George had a chance encounter with a vivacious, outspoken woman, quite the opposite of his wife Gail, named Donna Kay Trapini. She seemed smart, articulate, driven and extremely interested in sex, which presumably after 21 years of marriage, he felt that his wife could or would not provide. He embarked upon a passionate physical affair that was to last nearly two years before his long suffering spouse discovered their relationship.

Gail kept the home fires burning while her husband traveled and worked to keep food on the family table. While she was intelligent and well educated, Gail was guided by her abiding Catholic faith and believed that her place was with her children and her family. However much she tried to maintain her steadfastness through faith, the chinks in her armor showed through, however. Gail often talked of suicide when her husband was away and in her heart, she adon10knew he was unfaithful. She shared these suicidal feelings with her teenage children who lived at home, and as a result, they were constantly in fear for her safety. With their father always gone on business and their mother expressing suicidal ideations, the children had an unsteady and frightening introduction to young adulthood. All these feelings started to come to a head in the late spring of 1999, when George’s mistress and, by this point, boss, began to extend their relationship beyond their adulterous bed and into his family home.

George somehow thought that he could have whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. He actually left his wife, Gail, to move in with his mistress Donna Trapani in Florida in early 1999. He never told Gail, however, that he was moving out; rather, he simply told her that he needed an apartment in Florida to pursue his fledgling business. Somehow Gail bought into this. So George moved in with Donna and soon got to know his mistress, perhaps more than he wanted to. Donna turned out to be a woman of many faces.

Donna Kay Trapani was born in mean circumstances in Louisiana to a mother who hadn’t education or wealth, and a father who’d skipped out before she set foot into the world. Donna struggled with her weight throughout her years in school and finally had bariatric surgery in her early college years. Her ensuing weight loss boosted her self-confidence and she went on to participate in collegiate pep squads as well as the active dating life she had always desired but had been denied in her early years. Even Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 3.13.00 PMDonna’s mother, who to this day believes in her innocence, admits that Donna was obsessed with her appearance and success both before and after her surgery. Narcissism is typically self-loathing and insecurity masquerading as bravado. Donna met and married her husband, an aircraft mechanic, and moved to the Florida panhandle. There are reports that Donna and her husband were unable to conceive a child; perhaps that’s true, I cannot say. However, Donna had ambitions for herself and wasn’t content to simply be the wife of a mechanic. Nursing degree in hand, she started an employment agency for visiting nurses and was determined to become a business tycoon. Reports from many of her previous employees indicate that Donna was volatile with a vile temper, and often lashed out at people over the smallest of infractions. They also indicated that she was a habitual liar, something she demonstrated herself when she took the stand in her own defense at trial. Her stories were wildly improbable, but she would cling to them as though by simply telling them, she could make them true or even believable.

When she met George, Donna was CEO of her company CCHH, and was often out on the town at the bars with the single nurses from her firm, despite having a husband at home who disapproved of this behavior. We get the sense that Donna did whatever Donna wanted; she was always in charge and always needed to be the commander. At any rate, she and George inevitably struck up a physical relationship which grew from there to take on epic proportions, which would ultimately cost Gail her life.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 3.13.58 PMDonna was pretty clear about her intentions throughout the affair. She wanted what she wanted, and she wanted it on her terms. She wanted George, sans wife, and she would do whatever it took to get there, including murder. George, on the other hand, did what he had done his whole life; he manipulated, cajoled, lied and did the expedient thing to get what he wanted in the moment. George wanted hot sex on the side and a reverent obedient wife at home. So he told Donna what he believed she wanted to hear and didn’t tell Gail much of anything. Gail wanted what she wanted too, but she prayed to God to give it to her instead of facing her issues and addressing them with her husband. She did resort to threats of suicide and tried to inflict guilt on George in the hope he would change. Clearly, her efforts could not succeed and the situation grew increasingly volatile.

There have been untold numbers of love triangles, with unfaithful husbands, leading to divorces and families shattered by the sins of the flesh, but this triangle was a mix of personalities that seemed doomed to end in tragedy. A prime example of how these three dysfunctional personalities interacted is their behavior over the 4th of July weekend in 1999. What all three of them did adon12is nearly incomprehensible to most people involved in normal relationships. Donna, having been thrown over by George some months earlier, sent him a letter on doctor’s letterhead, stating that not only was she pregnant but that she had terminal lymphoma as well. George, being either completely gullible or wanting to have his cake and eat it too, invited Donna up to Michigan for the holiday weekend so that she could search for an apartment near his home. He said his goal was to be able to take care of Donna and the anticipated child in her time of need. To facilitate this misguided plan, George set up a meeting between his wife and his mistress at Donna’s hotel. This, of course, was a total failure. Gail became hysterically distraught and Donna turned cruel and vicious, and became even more possessive. George decided to spend the night with Donna in her hotel room, had sex with her, and then dumped her the following morning. The fact that Gail let him back into the family home after this is an indication of her complete lack of self-esteem and total dependence upon George. This disastrous weekend turned out to be the trigger that would set the murder in motion.

adonDonna Trapani was infuriated over being dumped and became obsessive about winning George back. She began a torrent of phone calls to his home, letters, emails and faxes in which she first tried cajoling and wheedling, then laid on the guilt trip, and finally resorted to vitriol in order to make George come back. Much of the venom was directed at Gail, whom Donna viewed as the barrier to their relationship. When all her attempts failed, as they were destined to do simply based on the hysteria of the communications, she hired three misfits to take out her rival in a hail of bullets. She enlisted one of her habitually errant employees — 38 year old Sybil Padgett, and Sybil’s 19 year old boyfriend, Patrick Alexander, to plan and carry out the murder. They, in turn, connected Donna to Kevin Ouellette, the intended trigger man, a cold opportunist who would do anything for a fast buck. Promised $15,000 from Donna, the hit squad headed to Lake Orion from their Florida home to execute Gail Fulton. Donna’s big mistake was not realizing that if you hire killers, you probably need to actually pay them. Since she failed to follow through on her part of the bargain, all three of her co-conspirators rolled over on her and she was eventually arrested for first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Kevin and Patrick were offered plea deals in return for their testimony against Donna and Sybil, but the prosecutors had no intention of offering any such deal to the women, both of whom were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Both subsequently lost their appeals.

adon4I believe Donna suffers from Borderline personality disorder with marked narcissistic features. When you analyze her actions with her employees, her ex-husband, her ‘recruits’ for murder, and her behavior afterwards, it’s clear that she is disorganized in thought and deed. She is prone to dramatic mood shifts, outbursts of anger and delusional thought patterns. Her constant self-aggrandizing precludes all feelings of conscience for her actions. She truly feels that any means justify the ends, which in her case are whatever she happens to desire at the moment. In this, she reminds me of Jodi Arias. Both believe that they deserve the object of their desire. Both believe that this “object” will propel their lives beyond the mundane existence they believe they currently have and fantasize that a life with this person will enhance their lives far beyond their current state. Both were devastated when the object of their desire rejected them, and they acted out in the only way they apparently could – with fury and destruction. Both told wild tales about their actions with seemingly no compunction, both on and off the witness stand, and both gave TV interviews over their attorneys’ objections immediately after their convictions. Sadly, both were destined to lose their ‘prizes’ because their intrinsically flawed psyches would ultimately preclude them from any type of successful relationship that would fulfill their needs. It’s a tragedy that people fell victim to them, but it was perhaps inevitable given their manipulative, determined natures.

adon8What made Gail Fulton’s murder even more tragic was her complete innocence and probable naivete. While her death was no one’s fault but Donna and her cohorts, Gail contributed to the situation by not standing up for herself or insisting that George behave in a manner appropriate for a husband and father. By allowing George to mistreat her, disrespect their marriage, and return home forgiven, despite his lack of remorse or apology, she gave him free rein to do as he pleased. George must have thought that he had the perfect situation. His wife would never leave him nor kick him to the curb. He could fulfill his sexual desires and still maintain the semblance of a stable home and family life. George essentially loaded the gun that was Donna Trapani. Did he know that she had severe issues that could turn deadly? It’s not likely that he did, but his willful ignorance when her behavior became obsessive and erratic placed his family in grave danger. The toxic mess resulting from these three personality types being thrown together and placed under extreme duress inevitably exploded killing Gail Fulton and destroying lives and families in both Florida and Michigan.

 

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3 Responses to Two’s Company, Three’s a Deadly Crowd: The Cruel Killing of Martha Gail Fulton

  1. Jo-Anne says:

    Bloody great post

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